Democrats

Hello, is anybody home? What voters keep trying to tell Senate Democrats

David Avella

Hello, Senate Democrats seeking re-election in 2018 in states won by President Trump. It’s the voters of 2018 calling to alert you that you should be very worried. And here is why: There are not enough progressive Democratic voters in your state to win re-election.  Even more damaging to your prospects is the new way Democrats are blurring the lines between victory and defeat to cope with losing.

Results in 2017 special elections for the U.S. House are proof that there is no hope in strictly offering a unified, progressive agenda and simply turning out those voters.  

Thus, the challenge for the ten Democratic senators facing re-election in 2018 --  and for those in states won by President Trump, in particular -- is to prove to Republicans and independents that they heard the message of 2016. They will be tested on whether or not they worked with Republicans to get something done.

For those keeping count on the Democratic Senators facing re-election in 2018 in states won by President Trump, five represent states that candidate Trump won by nearly 20 points or more: Claire McCaskill in Missouri (19 points), John Tester in Montana (20 points), Joe Donnelly in Indiana (20 points), Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota (35 points), and Joe Manchin in West Virginia (41 points).

This week’s consideration of replacing the worst parts of ObamaCare is the first opportunity these five Democratic senators have to join with President Trump and Republicans to address a public policy concern pushed by then-candidate Trump that led to his victory in their states. More on this in a minute.

But first, let's note that in every one of the House special elections this year, the coalition of voters who elected President Trump largely held together and Republican candidates were victorious.

Further, it’s laughable -- to the point of delusional -- to suggest that this coalition is losing faith given the simple fact that President Trump and the Republican National Committee received $41.5 million in contributions in this year’s first three months and continued earning supporters’ donations with $10.8 million contributed in May.

These five Democratic senators must decide whether or not sipping soy lattes in the safe spaces of San Francisco is better than serving in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. 

It does not require an advanced degree in political science to understand that demonizing Donald Trump, much less the voters who support him, is not the path to victory for any of these five.

Moreover, it is Civics 101 to understand that representing your constituency does entail some degree of actually getting results on what those voters care about. 

With votes on replacing the worst parts of ObamaCare now occurring after the July Fourth recess, one of these five most vulnerable Democratic senators -- let's take Senator Manchin, who faces the biggest gap, as an example -- should be pounding on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office door until agreeable legislation can be presented to the full body and he is added as a sponsor of the legislation.

Outside of Congress, there is agreement on a roster of ideas by health policy researchers who hold diverse political views that would improve the current system.

For example, Lanhee Chen and Ron Pollack wrote for The Wall Street Journal: “We agreed that states should be given greater authority to configure and redirect revenue streams from Medicaid, CHIP and private insurance; that the existing tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health benefits should have reasonable limits; and that states need new authority to simplify their insurance markets and develop fiscally sound and affordable coverage options for their most vulnerable citizens, providing more help to those who can least afford the premiums.”

The five Senate Democrats facing the 2018 electorate have a choice. They can put out a strident, progressive message or they can get with the program and provide a record of working with Republicans to achieve meaningful legislation on critical issues like health care. 

For anyone who learned to count in the first grade, that should not be a hard choice.

David Avella is chairman of GOPAC and a veteran Republican strategist. Follow him on Twitter @david_avella