Why the looming Trumpocalypse hasn’t yet put the House in play (and may not ever) – dKos

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I would say this is a more or less correct probably and sadly. Trump could help the Democratic Party with the Senate though….

    The Democratic Party is urbanized and extremely concentrated. Natural social movement/geography combined with gerrymandering makes things very hard for the Democratic Party in the House until 2020 at the earliest probably.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      And the Republican party is basically rural. The population split in the US is, in very round numbers, 25% rural, 25% urban, and 50% suburban. From the Appalachians to the Sierras, and south of northern Virginia, the Dems have largely given up the suburbs, and paid the price in Congress, in governors’ offices, and in state legislatures. Or lost the suburbs, if you buy into the assumption that the coastal elites running the party demand ideological purity. It doesn’t have to be that way; How the Democrats Won Colorado is a pretty accurate description of what happened here.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Am I cynical for taking this information at face value? The Dems quite often strike me as the Cleveland Brown’s to the GOP’s New England Patriots in terms of party management. So it’s no surprise to me that the DNC (and whoever else) wouldn’t plan for a very real possibility (the GOP meltdown) that’s been apparent for the last 6 months.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Besides what Saul said, another problem for the Democratic Party is that running for office is physically and mentally exhaustive. Finding people willing enough to undertake all the pressures and risks of a political campaign is not easy, especially in a district that favors the other party.Report

    • Avatar El Muneco says:

      And supporting the candidate takes some of your finite ground game resources. Especially for the Ds, who have serious issues with organizing at that level in the first place, maximizing the effectiveness of every little bit you have makes a lot of sense. And House races that seem to be demographically determined would get cut first in the triage.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman says:

    With the exception of Still, y’all are far more forgiving than I would be.

    The Democratic Party is urbanized and extremely concentrated. Natural social movement/geography combined with gerrymandering makes things very hard for the Democratic Party in the House until 2020 at the earliest probably.

    This is true, but this is not what may be happening. What may be happening is that they should have a chance to take the House now but didn’t due the leg work. Due to geographic settlement and gerrymandering, the Democrats would need to win by about seven or eight points. That’s tough, but not impossible. That’s a slightly higher margin of victory than Obama in 2008.

    I’ve been saying for at least two months now that the House is in reach. And if I’m sitting here saying that, why isn’t the DNC scrambling to make it a priority? It’s not as though they are putting out fires in a chaotic presidential primary. It honestly looks to me like DWS has put more effort into making sure the inevitable nominee stays inevitable and gets to the general than actually building a party.

    What’s going to happen in 2020? How do they expect to ungerrymander the congressional districts if they’re not going to fight uphill battles in downballot races? Do they think that everything is just going to fall into their lap in 2020? Will they even care about 2020? (Except the presidency, that is. They will obviously care about the presidency. Perhaps to the exclusion of almost everything else.)

    Meanwhile, in 2016 they have what looks like will be a complete cakewalk to the presidency. Taking the senate will require some resources but it looks like it’s not even an uphill climb. Which means that they should be free to spend a lot of resources taking the House, which could conceivably give them the presidency, both houses of congress, and (by extension) the court. With the filibuster being sick, this would be an opportunity to more-or-less govern as they choose.

    But now it’s looking unlikely because they didn’t bother recruiting candidates.

    Holy freakin’ crap. I mean… holy freakin’ crap. If true, this incompetence is the best bit of good luck that the GOP has had in quite a while.Report

    • Avatar Francis says:

      Here in coastal California, the Rs still put in an effort. It utterly boggles my mind that there is not a centrally-supported Democratic Party presence in every single electoral district. Sure, the leftmost electable candidate may be pro-gun and anti-abortion. But the R candidate certainly will be so you’re not losing votes on those issues. In the meantime replacing a R with a D gives a vote on the budget, protecting entitlements, shoring up Obamacare, and other critical issues for the party.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        You might think its not a problem that the most viable liberal candidate isn’t very liberal but growing portions of the Democratic base do. The Republican problem is that large parts of the electorate no longer buys what the Republicans have to sell but the Republican Party as a whole believes in. The Democratic problem is that their primary voters are slowly growing more liberal but political dominance still requires compromising on many issues that the Democratic primary voter feels very strongly on.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I do so hope that Trumpism has passed before they reach the self-immolation stage of their collapse.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            That isn’t exactly what I mean. For decades the Republicans had a lot of electoral success with a combination of social conservatism that usually manifested as being tough on crime, the war on drugs, and abstinence only sex education plus opposition to LGBT rights, free market capitalism in the form of deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy and free trade, and hawkish foreign policy. I think that the Republican Party as a whole sincerely believes in this still even though it is clear that many Americans do not. Its why they keep on insisting on market based solutions to healthcare or opposition to LGBT rights as a whole or why tax cuts get brought up again and again.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I understand all of this, but if the Democrats start applying litmus tests to politicians with conservative constituencies… well we’ve seen what happens. Might end up good ideologically, but electorally… I hope that Trumpism isn’t the alternative at that point.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      It honestly looks to me like DWS has put more effort into making sure the inevitable nominee stays inevitable and gets to the general than actually building a party.

      Ayup. That’s about the best you can say for her at this point.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        I’m reminded of the scene in Komarr where, when Ekaterin was trying to defend her (late) husband, but the best she could come up with was “he never beat me”. And Miles thinking “my God, when I die I surely want my best-beloved to come up with better praise than that”.Report

    • Avatar El Muneco says:

      I think you might have hit on it – that in some modern equivalent of a smoke-filled room, some people looked at maps and thought “We have massive structural disadvantages in the House, so control of the Senate is nice-to-have but nonessential as long as we have the Oval Office. We focus our efforts there, dangle a carrot in front of the TPers to keep fighting us, and gridlock prevents massive damage for a few election cycles. Then demographics – plus two census cycles of redistricting – tip the balance towards us for decades, if not forever.”

      So basically the Ds are being run by the Underpants Gnomes.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    In fairness to DWS, a lot of this is DCCC’s job, so people need to look at BRL.

    It’s possible that ‘getting good candidates’ is overrated when then other side is engaged in self immolation. (But also, counting on the other side to simply just fish stuff up is poor operational art)

    Edit – if any of the 37% of the seats past the filing deadline don’t have a Dem candidate and are R+single digits, then yes, the Dems deserve to lose.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Getting good candidates is good! But really, unless you have some real hope for a particular district, you’re mostly hoping to avoid really bad candidates. The ones it turns out had a family in Dallas they’d abandoned before taking his mother’s maiden name and moving. (This happened.)

      A lot of the time, you’re basically putting somebody up and praying for a wave.

      One thing from the article that is a problem is this:

      But the candidate that Democrats in the district’s largest county endorsed over the weekend is former Obama aide Dave Cole, who ran in 2014, raised just $55,000, and lost the primary 82-18.

      Not sure who Cole lost to, but back home we had a bit of a problem with finding a decent candidate to field only to have some outside jackarse jump in and take the thing based on a combination of some trivial advantage and that the electorate is stupid.

      One time the usurper was a car dealer who had a familiar name and basically used campaign money to push his dealership. One time it was a guy with the same name as a movie star who, as far as we know, never actually left his house. In the other party, there was a case of a solid CPA who lost to another woman who didn’t campaign but had the drawn the lot to appear first on the ballot. It’s unlikely that the preferred candidate was going to win in any event, but it was embarrassing all the same.

      #BanPrimariesReport

  6. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    In the 2012 cycle I had exactly zero Democratic candidates anywhere down-ballot. Granted, this is the red end of a red state, but not even a token candidate? It was all unopposed Republicans except for one Libertarian challenge. So my ballot had exactly three check marks: Obama/Biden, the Libertarian dude, and a local measure to finance a new swimming pool.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      I suspect it’s rather hard to find people willing to campaign for a certain loss. Well, rather people who aren’t crazy.

      And in the cable news world, context is loss. So if Bob the Crazy man is running for a seat as a “Democrat” or “Republican”, nobody is going to mention that the obviously crazy man is only getting to run as a D or an R because the party wrote that seat off because it’s +20 for the other party, so the board was wide open for whatever local nutcase got the 15 votes in the primary needed to run.

      They’re just gonna run with “Democrat/Republican candidate Bob endorsed [horrible thing X]” and try to get major candidates to play the denunciation game, then spin into “Party X in disarray”.

      I see lots of people running unopposed down here in Texas, and it’s entirely because they can’t find candidates willing to put in the time for a certain loss.

      And you can always say something like “Well, we should always run serious candidates up to, say, +10 districts in case of a wave” — but then people will shout that we could have gotten the +11 or +12 districts that year, if we’d just invested early!

      All this against a background of limited resources. (money, staff, time, candidate pools, etc).Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        Oh, I understand the dynamics and I can’t really argue with the logic of putting your resources where they might actually be effective.

        But, on a tangential note, consider this for a moment. In many of the recent elections, due to gerrymandering and natural sorting, it’s been pointed out that the Republicans won the House despite the Democratic candidates receiving more votes in aggregate. That’s actually understated, given that I and my (admittedly few) fellows couldn’t even vote for a Democrat. And while it obviously goes the other way in heavily D districts as well, I think it’s safe to assume that right now, given that Republicans control more state legislatures that it’s worse one direction than the other.Report

      • Avatar Autolukos says:

        As @francis says, the view from safe Democratic districts in California is very different: in my district, where the incumbent has won 9 elections by a minimum of 66 points, the Republicans have still put someone up in 8 of those 9 elections. They don’t put any central resources into the race, of course, but finding someone willing to file the paperwork to get on the ballot as a no-hope candidate doesn’t appear to be all that difficult for them.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        To whatever extent possible, parties should try to have somebody on the ballot even in hopeless districts. It’s… not impossible and they don’t actually require that much investment. In 2000 and 2002, the going rate for a stub candidate was $20,000 for the filing fee and enough to get somebody decent to run.

        The Democrats need to win by about eight points. That’s not impossible. If the party explicitly or implicitly denied that it is, it’s not trying.

        This isn’t about that, though. This is about running candidates where we’re talking R+9 or less. Enough to be able to win back the House if things go favorably. If the party isn’t even doing even that much, the rank and file should be pissed. They’ve decided the House isn’t worth bothering with.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          I don’t disagree, I’m just pointing out that one resource is “Candidates willing to put in the time for an almost certain loss”. That’s…hard to find. Someone you think can handle the office in case he or she wins, but is willing to work hard for a lost cause.

          Furthermore, the more ‘red’ the state the fewer carrots you have to entice the candidate.

          You might get Bob to run in a heavy-R district a few times under the promise that you’ll help him fund a Senate campaign later that he has a chance of winning. Or that if he plays ball and puts in the effort, Tim a district over is retiring in a few years and he’d have the inside track — he just has to move ten miles before hand.

          But when the state itself is mostly red? The party weak with few openings? There’s even less incentive.Report

          • Avatar Francis says:

            States do switch over time. I know absolutely nothing about the state of the Democratic Party machinery anywhere, to be honest. But it really is the job of the DCCC and the State Democratic parties to build credibility for the Party and find candidates who are willing to get out there, knock on doors and repeat the message. The California Republican party is always on the air, in newspapers and on the street campaigning. They are playing a very long game, but they know that and they are willing to invest the resources. If you don’t run TV ads, how expensive is a campaign anyway?

            If there are any legs to Trumpism heading into 2018, then there is certainly the opportunity to build a Southern Democratic party that is pro-gun, anti-abortion, but also pro-Obamacare and pro-progressive taxation.Report

  7. Avatar Art Deco says:

    Why the looming Trumpocalypse hasn’t yet put the House in play (and may not ever)

    There’s a simple reason for that you neglect: there will be no Trumpocalypse. Either he wins by a small margin or loses by a modest one and neither he nor Hellary has much in the way of coat-tails at all.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      It all hinges on turnout. While there are a fair number of Dems that are lukewarm or dislike Hillary, there appears to be a lot of Repubs that won’t turn out for Trump. That could translate into a sort of negative coattails effect that could hurt Rs more than Ds. And then there’s going to be more crossover voters than normal, and do those translate into down-ballot votes? And then the independents…

      Bottom line is that turnout is going to be weird as hell this time around with all sorts of strange effects. For example, I was just reading an article claiming that Trump could cost the Rs Utah just because of how much Mormons appear to despise him. Gonna be interesting to watch.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Right. There is a good chance Trump will turn off a lot of Republican voters, making up for it to some degree perhaps by attracting voters who won’t vote GOP (or at all) down-ballot. A double-whammy.Report

        • Avatar Road Scholar says:

          What makes it so weird is that Trump v Clinton is so… asymmetric. A match up between Clinton and any of JEB!, Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich would be a fairly standard scenario. Even Sanders v Trump would at least be playing for roughly the same voter pool of independent/swings, albeit one with less turnout history.

          The pollsters are gonna be tearing their hair out on this oneReport

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        there appears to be a lot of Repubs that won’t turn out for Trump

        The ones on twitter seem to have strong opinions about him.

        The ones not on twitter (in my circle, anyway) seem to have a fatalist “I don’t like it, but I vote in November because Republicans vote” attitude.

        But I don’t know if my circle is representative or not.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        While there are a fair number of Dems that are lukewarm or dislike Hillary,

        Assumes facts not in evidence. (Polling indicates the opposite, actually).

        I’m not saying there’s a huge excited groundswell either. I’m just saying what polling has been done shows Democrats seem to like Hillary just dandy*, but Republicans generally consider her a step below Hitler. (Which says fun things about what some think about Trump).

        *If you don’t like polling, you can tell by the way she is winning a primary composed mostly of Democrats….Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Fun fact i read a day or two ago. Hillary has got more votes for her then any other candidate so far in the primary. Even Trumpy.

        We all “know” how flawed Hills is. I certainly disagree with her on many things. But maybe there are people out there that dont’ know how much they are supposed to dislike her.Report

  8. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    This is kind of interesting. My dad, a retired civil servant, was strongly considering a congressional run in California’s 1st district. He’s spent a lot of time working on the doomed 2014 democratic campaign for that seat, and felt like someone, anyone, ought to be on the democratic side of the ballot in 2016.

    But from the standpoint of when he learned that the 2014 candidate wouldn’t be running again like she’d originally promised to, he’d basically be required to do about a year’s worth of preparation in three months, and was very relieved to hear that someone at the other end of the district was considering a run.

    But the lack of local orgainization in the northernmost part of the state was pretty terrible. And this is in California, a pretty darned blue state, even if his district was so heavily red.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      I think this gets to an underlying misunderstanding Will might have here. It would be quite easy to revise election laws to allow an established state party’s committee to designate a candidate in the event nobody runs in the primary. I think the reason this has not happened is that the parties are tacitly in agreement that there should be some safe seats, and that a candidate that cannot summon the resources to get enough signatures is a waste of everyone else’s resources.

      Btw/ did your dad consider fraud? I live in a heavily Republican district, moreso because the Democrats made it a sinkhole last redrawing to improve Democrat outcomes in neighboring districts. But 90% of the time there is a Democrat on the ballot. And I’ve come to the speculative conclusion that if one candidate submits pages of signatures from “Alan Scott,” and no competing Democrat challenges this, that candidate will be on the ballot. Fraud may not be the right word, but Kasich was on the ballot in Illinois in districts where he turned in zero signatures and nobody challenged him.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        So, as I understood it, my dad needed only a hundred signatures to file, and those signatures needed to be collected within 2 months of the filing deadline. And I have no doubt he’d have been able to collect those signatures.

        But.

        The filing fee is very very steep, and for every signature you get past the minimum, they knock a dollar off the fee. So it’s a situation where you need either an existing base of support that you can call on, or lots of money–or somewhere partway in-between which is where my dad would have been.

        I mean, I have conflicted feelings about a lot of California politics, but whatever the parties think, we don’t have safe seats here because of the Blanket Primary. With no democrats in the race (or maybe even despite one), the general election would be seeing the incumbent face off against a second republican challenger.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw says:

          I tend not to vote in elections where there is no challenger, its my subtle and probably ineffective signalling. I think a lot of politicians in Illinois hire companies to gather the signatures for them, but its my understanding that some companies are better than others.Report