Both major political parties in the United States are struggling with how to deal with the fringe parts of their supporters. The realists in each party know that unless you can appeal to the moderates and independents in the nation you are not going to keep winning elections. If we learned nothing in the past Presidential election we should have learned that you have to have a message of hope for the middle class and absent that you will be doomed to failure. Like or hate Donald Trump he delivered that message and as a result he won in states that are traditionally blue and that carried him to the Presidency. In the last three weeks he pounded on the theme of bringing jobs back to these economically ravaged states and all Hillary Clinton could muster as a theme was she was the anti-Trump candidate. In other words, she never gave the voters a reason to vote for her.
This week the conservatives held their annual meeting at CPAC. They were in a celebratory mood having won the White House and keeping control of both the House and the Senate. But you always have to beware when you get what you wish because that control can be fleeting if you are not heeding the voting public. Barrack Obama had large majorities in both the House and Senate when he took office in 2009 and after pushing through ObamaCare on a strictly partisan vote he watched the House get decimated in the mid-term elections and eventually he saw Republicans gain control of the Senate. For the Republicans the problem was the ascension of the right wing of the party, the so-called alt-Right, which threatens to undermine the majorities they just won. This group contains some of the extremists like White Supremacists and they really have no place in the Republican Party. You cannot keep them from voting but you certainly can keep them from holding any position or speaking at any official event.
At CPAC one of these people was Richard Spencer, an advocate of white only states, was expelled from the conference. Of course this meant the media would immediately run to interview this purveyor of hate. They hung on his every word eager to create stories that attach him to the conservative movement and at the same time link him to the Trump Presidency. It would be a mistake but I can guarantee you that there will be “journalists” that will attempt to create this story.
On the left the Democrats gathered in Atlanta to elect a new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. There were seven candidates and many pundits predicted a long and drawn out election procedure that might go as long as five or six ballots. The two leading contenders were Congressman Keith Ellison and former Labor Secretary (under Obama) Thomas Perez. Perez was able to prevail on the second ballot after failing by one vote to win on the first. That was enough for sufficient voters to move to Perez from fringe candidates and assure him a victory.
Why is this important to Democrats? It is very simple when you look at the candidates. Ellison was representing the far left of the party. He was one of the first to jump on Bernie Sanders campaign. He is the first Muslim elected to Congress. He had to sever any ties with Louis Farrakahn, a black nationalist he had defended as a law student at the University of Minnesota. Ellison wrote under the name “Keith X Ellison” and denounced affirmative action and demanded that the United States pay reparations to all black Americans as compensation for slavery. Ellison’s campaign wanted to take the Democrat Party further to the left. He wanted to embrace a socialist platform that Bernie Sanders promoted in his run for the Presidency.
Thomas Perez is no conservative but by comparison he seemed the more mainstream candidate. He is a long time activists in the Democrat Party and in the civil rights movement. During his campaign for the position he stressed that the Democrat Party needed to strengthen itself in the suburbs and rural areas. His campaign theme centered on listening to the voters and hearing what they wanted instead of telling them what they needed.
Perez immediately named Ellison the Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party as a mean of trying to unify the two competing factions. It will take time to see if they are successful. The more Ellison is out speaking for the party the more difficult that will be over the long term.
So we see both parties trying to block the fringe parts of their parties from gaining any real power. The Republicans have the easier task since that part of the party is a distinct minority. If they can convince President Trump to take a harder stance with this group and denounce their beliefs they will have made a major step in the right direction of expanding the party to the moderate and independent voters for future elections. The Democrats, on the other hand, have a more difficult task. The far left makes up a more sizable group within their party. These are the young people who are imbued with goals on social issues such as transgender and gay rights. These are the people that demonstrate against wealth inequity and they will not give in on their demands. They are the groups that threaten to deprive the Democrats of their efforts to reconnect with Middle America.
The next major election will be the mid-term elections in 2018. Democrats start out with some major disadvantages. The Republicans have the Presidency and that can cut both ways. Traditionally the incumbent part loses seat but anyone being honest knows that the House seats are hard to swing until there is a new redistricting plan drawn after the 2020 census. In the Senate the Democrats are playing defense as they have 25 seats up for election as opposed to 8 for the Republicans. Some of those Democrat seats on in red states and a lot are in states Trump carried in the last election. North Dakota , Montana, Missouri, Florida, and Indiana will all look like potential pick ups for the Republicans. The Democrats will have to spend money in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Minnesota to defend incumbents. The only Republican seats that offer any chance for Democrats are Nevada and Arizona and both incumbents will start out as heavy favorites.
In addition, Republicans control 68 of 98 state legislative chambers and in 24 of those states they control both houses and the Governors mansion. In total there are 33 Republican governors.
So what is the major take on all of this data? If Donald Trump can raise his numbers to over 50% and deliver on the campaign promises he made of jobs and a better economy the Republicans could deal a major blow to Democrat hopes of revitalizing their party. If they are able to maintain control of the legislatures and Governorships in the next election they will control the redistricting process and all but ensure Republican dominance in the House for another decade.
Should this occur the far left of the Democrat Party would clamor for control and force the party hard to the left. It will appease the factions that are most interested in the social issues and drive them further from the moderates and independents that decide most Presidential elections. The irony of all this is in September and October of last year all the political pundits were predicting the demise of the Republican party and the ascension of the Democrat Party. Now a few short months later the reverse has happened. It is the Democrats that are trying to put their “humpty-dumpty” back together after it shattered in the 2016 elections.