It is funny how things can turn around in short period of time and what seemed inevitable and what reality brings is a surprise.
A year ago most pundits predicted the Republican party would be in total disarray and some even went as far as predicting the demise of the party as we knew it today. Donald Trump was running for President and attacking primary candidates and the party seemed ready to split along an irreparable divide. The Democrats, on the other hand seemed to be uniting behind Hillary Clinton with a minor annoyance from Senator Bernie Sanders. The Democrats had the incumbent President ready to assume the role of elder statesman and still a massive draw on the campaign and fundraising circuit. In the wings were former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden and unifying forces within the party. The Democrats even predicted they would regain control of the U.S. Senate and some were bold enough to suggest they might even retake the House of Representatives. Everything pointed to a Democrat sweep in November and a Republican collapse.
One year later things look a whole lot different. Donald Trump pulled off a stunning upset by winning the Republican primary and then to the amazement of almost every pundit and pollster he defeated Hillary Clinton in an Electoral College rout. The Republicans retained control the Senate and while losing a few seats in the House they had strong control in the House. The Republicans have their small fissures and there remains some who are critical of President Trump but overall they are marching together in step and implementing a more conservative agenda in the United States.
So what happened to the Democrats? The first real crack in their unity came when Hillary Clinton emails were leaked that showed the Democratic National Committee and Debbie Wasserman Schultz attempting to skew the primary to favor Hillary Clinton in her primary race over Bernie Sanders. Suddenly Bernie Sanders was energizing large crowds, particularly among young people and Hillary Clinton was campaigning with a style the indicated she had everything wrapped up and nothing to lose. She took the whole month of August off, stayed away from any press interviews that were not scripted and Bernie Sanders kept plodding along. He ended up winning 23 primaries and while Hillary Clinton was 34 primaries to clinch the nomination there was damage done to her and Sander’s supporters were left angry and felt betrayed by the Democrat party. As early as May 2016 there was a poll by YouGov that found 60% of Sander’s supporters gave Clinton an unfavorable rating. I don’t think she was ever able to overcome this problem. Even after Clinton clinched the nomination almost half of Sander’s supporters said they could not vote for Hillary Clinton and 22% of them said they would consider voting for Trump. The political schism was wide and getting wider.
It is hard to say how many Sander’s supporters finally moved over to vote for Hillary Clinton but statistics tell us that many of the probably sat out the election and the vote totals in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida tell as the Democrats did not turn out in the same numbers they had to elect and reelect Barrack Obama and that ultimately spelled defeat. That defeat was not just for Hillary Clinton but also for Democrat Senate and House candidates and many down ballot candidates.
Today the Democrats are on the defensive and are attacking each other as they play the blame game. Bernie Sanders, who is not even a member of the Democrat Party, had interjected himself into the Democrat National Committee Chairman race by criticizing former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and even taking a swipe at former Vice President Joe Biden. He supports Cong. Keith Eillison (D-MN) for the position and I can assure you that would be a controversial pick in many areas of the nation.
In the Congress the Democrats are almost powerless (this is normal for any minority party in the House) and in the Senate they seem unable to get together with any cohesive policy efforts. They are using an anti-Trump rallying point but over the long haul this will lose steam and in fact turn voters against them. It hurt Republicans when they tried to be the party of anti-Obama. Boycotting committee votes on nominees may sound like a neat media trick but Middle America just shakes their heads and wonder why these people cannot work together.
Now we have a Supreme Court nomination to deal with and the Democrats in the Senate don’t seem to have a clear strategy on how do deal with Judge Neil Gorsuch. Here is a candidate that on paper is eminently qualified. He writes his decisions with wonderfully clear prose. He has also not had to rule directly on issues like gay rights and abortion, the two major rallying cries of liberals. Some in the Senate, prodded by liberal activists are screaming that he should be blocked simply because the Republicans did it last year. But the fact that he was voted to the appellate court by a unanimous vote in the Senate will make it appear hypocritical now to oppose him. Even his critics acknowledge that he is well qualified but the Court fights have become fierce political battles in the past 20 years. The fact that multiple Democrat Senators are up for reelection in a non-Presidential year will give many of the pause in opposing the nominee.
So where is the leadership for the Democrat Party? Is it Elizabeth Warren who will be 68 this summer? Is it Cory Booker who hopes to duplicate the Barrack Obama coalition? They really don’t have an answer at this juncture in time. The fact that they lost over 1000 state legislative seats during the Obama administration and that Republicans control 68 out of 98 state legislative chambers and now have 31 governors shows the bench for the Democrat party is in shambles.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that everything is great in the Republican Party. They have many issues facing them as they now have a mandate to govern. If you do it wrong the voters can turn on you and vote you out. As the President Donald Trump has the opportunity to unify the party but his personality suggests that he could tear it apart as well.
But for now the predictions by the pundits of the demise of the Republican Party and the ascension of the Democrats proved to be as correct as their predictions for the 2016 elections.
I saw a humorous quote today. “I don’t know (nor do I care) how many attended Trump’s inauguration. But I can tell you exactly how many people attended Hillary’s inauguration. And that’s the only number that matters.”