Eight states held primaries this past Tuesday. As with each primary held so far, these are no different in that they offer important information for Republicans, including the political landscape and chances for success in November. The most recent primaries continue to uphold the trend that the Republicans, unlike previously predicted by Democrats, have far better chances in November of holding the U.S. House of Representatives, and other offices nationwide.
California holds primaries in which the two top candidates move on to the general, regardless of their party. It was hoped by some that no Republican would make it to either of those top two spots for any office, meaning that Democrats would assuredly claim or keep those offices. This hope was based on the now-muted anticipation of a national “blue wave” in November, in which the belief that the increasingly unpopular president would undermine and bring down the Republican Party while Democrats took control of local, state and national offices across the country.
President Donald Trump’s approval rating has slowly but decidedly increased, propelled by everything from improved American standing internationally to an economy with an unemployment rate so low even the New York Times has been forced to concede it has run out of positive words to describe it. Confronting such good news, it is difficult to campaign purely on #Resistance to the president. The state of the nation at large helped propel Republicans forward, who avoided being shut out of California’s elections.
Coupled with California’s own struggling economy, Republicans have their best chance in years to begin seeking political gains and revive the state. The potential for such victory does not guarantee it, however; and the effort to turn California red will be a multi-year, multi-election effort, as it was for Democrats turning Colorado blue.
That has to begin with Republicans refusing to write off any state as a foregone conclusion. Remember that President Trump’s election included breaking the “Blue Wall,” claiming states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump refused to accept those states as predeterminedly Democratic, and it paid off.
For the moment, places like California do remain liberal strongholds, but again, this could change. Most new voters are now registering as Independents in California and elsewhere. They are not satisfied with the Democrats, yet they have not warmed up to Republicans. But that does present opportunity. It’s about ideas, policies and being able to translate these into a clear and concise vision. It isn’t merely about persuasion for an election cycle, but a Reaganesque conversion.
While most Americans presently tend to exist toward the center politically, those voters also step toward conservatives on issues such as national defense and the economy. The average American wants a strong economy and a strong military, both backed by the right policies. Democrats themselves appear to be conflicted; they continue to claim they are for the average American, but many of the candidates they have been nominating so far through the primary season are far to the average American’s left. Democrats recognize this, and there is a struggle for the identity of their party.
That progressive insurgency in the Democratic Party continued in this week’s primaries, aiming to move the Democrats as a whole further to the left while the party apparatus supported the establishment. The progressives want to replace establishment incumbents with either progressives or newcomers (or both), but this did not entirely work out. California Sen. Diane Feinstein may have been the top candidate in her race, but in second is a progressive Democrat to her left she will now have to face in November.
Sen. Bob Menendez received what analysts have noted was a vote share far weaker than what should be expected of an incumbent Democrat in New Jersey against an unknown newcomer. In fact, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is so concerned about the internal struggle and November’s election that it backed those it identifies as moderates, such as state Sen. Jeff Van Drew for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Van Drew has voted against minimum wage increases, gun restrictions, same-sex marriage and climate change efforts. This kind of candidate would be unsurprising 15 years ago, but in today’s political climate, it is unexpected.
Additionally, the Democrats will have to spend more time and money in places traditionally considered safe, such as California and New Jersey because there was no shut out and those like Menendez are not as politically popular as they once were. To convince voters that their moderates are better than conservative Republicans, they will have to campaign hard to be competitive. And Republicans will have to campaign hard, back.
A few years ago, many Democrats believed the Republican Party would move left; and they believed that attempts at conservative renewal within the Republican Party were only the last gaps of an antique idea that served a purpose a generation ago, but was irrelevant now. They were wrong. The Republicans have reaffirmed their conservative philosophy, and the evidence, as noted earlier, can be found in very practical ways such as decades-low unemployment and higher wages.