Last night, the Democrats lost special elections to fill the seats of Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia) and Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina) both of whom were appointed to the Trump cabinet. Democrats with their usual biases dove head first into the Price seat (GA-6) when it became open in February funneling upwards of $25 million towards Jon Ossoff, a former Congressional staffer with extensive Washington DC and party connections. Osoff running as a Clintonian-type candidate in a largely suburban seat bordering a big city fit the Democratic playbook to a tee and the district fits the description of the type the Democrats believe they can flip in the Trump era.
Meanwhile without a big city nearby (well not really, Charlotte NC is just over the border but we wouldn’t expect many Democrats to know that with the growing anti-southern bias of the party) or a candidate with DC connections quite as extensive as Ossoff, the race for Mulvaney’s seat (SC-5) was more less ignored by national Democrats. In one of the quirks of recent American political history, the last two occupants of this seat have both been experts on the Federal Budget. Mulvaney is a die-in-the-wool Paul Ryan type budgetary conservative, but his predecessor, the man he beat in the 2010 tea party wave was Democrat John Spratt, one of the most effective, articulate and intellectually honest members of the House, a man who did chair the House Budget Committee when the party was in the majority. Spratt held the seat under adverse circumstances for Democrats through the years and once the seat was lost in 2010, Democrats simply wrote it off.
Even though the Democrats last held the GA-6 in 1976 when segregationist Democrat John Flynt held off a pesky young Republican professor named Newt Gingrich in the Carter wave locally it was targeted because Hillary Clinton ran well in the district. SC-5 despite its Democratic lineage and never having elected a Republican until 2010 was ignored. Democrats have become a party based around big city-biases, a disdain for the south and the nation’s hinterland in general (while geographically in the south, Democrats have convinced themselves the areas surrounding Atlanta are less “southern” than the region as a whole – they aren’t entirely wrong in this notion but still…) an obsession with local demographics and a bias towards candidates who are connected to elites and on paper look like superstars.
In SC-5, Democrat Archie Parnell raised less than a million dollars and was outspent 2-1. Yet he got a higher percentage of the vote than Osoff did down the road about two and a half hours in GA-6 despite having two minor party challengers in the race. Once again the Democrats talked big, spent big and lost. I’ve recently taken a sabbatical from talking about the failures of the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) and engaging in the personality-driven politics of the state party and its allies. However, that doesn’t prohibit me from giving the national party and its congressional campaign committee scrutiny instead of giving it a pass on clear negligence based on lazy (losing) party stereotypes and the same record of cronyism that has doomed Democrats both here in Florida and across the country
Archie Parnell should be angry at his party today. Democrats across the south should be furious. In fact, Democrats across the country should be raging mad. In a low turnout special election in a seat long held by Democrats, the party more or less took a pass. Meanwhile in a seat not held by Democrats for decades the party poured in a $25 million dollars and lost by a larger margin than in the seat that was given a pass. When it comes to congressional elections, most politics are local and the Democrats attempts to nationalize elections based on a maniacal hatred of President Trump rather than talking local economics has backfired as despite opportunities the Democrats have lost all four Congressional special elections this Spring and Summer. When the GOP captured Congress in 1994, the dominoes began falling in unlikely places in 1993 special elections and kept falling through the fall. Similar patterns can be witnessed in special election victories for Democrats in the 2000’s and GOP in 2009/10 and 2014.
It might soothe the ego of Democrats to claim they are over-performing in these seats. To those with little historical knowledge that might be the case, but the MT, KS, and SC seats that the Dems didn’t contest as seriously as GA-6 were all held by Democrats at some point recently, whereas the seat Ossoff was running in hasn’t been. The Democrats obsession with demographics, candidate profiles, Donald Trump and presidential election numbers in elections which are going to be largely local and low turnout has cost them dearly.
Why should we believe 2018 will be any different?