The politics of negativism works when the people feel bad about their situations. It worked wonders when FDR lambasted the Hapsburgs and Boubons (meaning the rich) as people saw newsreels of Hoovervilles (shanty towns of poor people) and thought Hoover was clueless. It worked for Reagan when Carter was stuck in malaise with a deep recession going on. It worked similarly for Obama to get elected. But decrying during prosperity only makes you look like Eeyore, or worse, an out-of-touch wacko. And that is the danger for Dems this year. They refused to applaud low unemployment, veterans, and police working against MS-13 when Trump noted it in SOTU. And if they don’t change their tune, it will start to work against them in the midterms.
Already, the generic ballot advantage to the Democrats has fallen from 13% to 5-7% with the passage of the tax reform. In some ways R’s are lucky. When I heard that Obama was going to pass a near trillion dollar infrastructure stimulus in 2009, I thought, “Well, that will provide short-term stimulus and the R’s will look bad.” But it turned out that Obama had no such intents. He handed out the money to unions like the federal workers and teachers to guarantee full employment for 4 years. “No such thing as a shovel-ready project,” he later told us sheepishly. As a result, the US economy didn’t take off like a rocket after the recession, but growth languished, 1.7% after June ’09 while inflation was 2.1%. The public said, we ain’t getting’ ahead, and elected Trump. Trump walked into office preaching lowered regulation, tax reform, and security—a sure bet to spur growth. And he cheer-led the markets to new highs. Then, by doing a tax reform with simply majority for passage, he has brought about 3% growth. This isn’t magic. It’s a time-tested method. Hence the fall in D-advantage in the generic ballot.
The Dems have roused their base with Tweet hatred and a tale of how Trump stole the election by colluding with Russians. But the story grows anemic and false. Now Trump gives a generic but truly rousing State of the Union. He gets away with the less-issues presentation because the D’s have hardly any issues and certainly aren’t talking about them. They are just full of vitriol. (Boys and girls, what sound does the kitty make? Me-ow. What sound does the piggy make? Oink. What sound does the donkey make? Ur RACIST!) With Trump offering compromise on DACA and infrastructure, if Dems won’t talk to him, they run the risk of being perceived as a**holes. Moreover, they drive R’s to emotion, to organize, and to Get Out The Vote against them. When they won’t stand for the flag or the military, many people will conclude “they ain’t us,” just as Trump’s tweets have led D’s to the same conclusion. If this continues, we may see the generic ballot poll drop to neutral.
D’s win when they can pin the racist and unfair label on R’s, when they involve thousands of teachers and union members to campaign in the summer, when they outdo R’s on social media, and when they out-raise in funding. So far the funding has been dismal for them. The R’s are learning to do social media. Private sector unions feel left behind by globalism, and are gradually leaning to Trump and the R’s. They have lost a lot of the fairness narrative and calling half the population racist, a “basket of deplorable” didn’t work too well for Hillary. Their disdain for Christianity has a certain following, but it works against the evangelical vote. Finally, the mid-terms will be about issues, both local and national. Minimum wage might be an issue for the Dems, but with huge layoffs in Seattle and San Fran, this has lost popularity. When people find out about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, billed as free trade, but secretly containing an unelected court that could dictate US policy about environment, copyrights, and health standards, TPP started to look like the EU and a loss of sovereignty. Environmental issues have languished with many folks as dire predictions have not come true. So what’s left? Trying to claim it is Armageddon to let people keep more of their own money via tax reform.
Usually mid-terms occur when the party who elected a President sees some of it’s programs turn sour. People back down from voting for them. It is also a time when traditionally, fewer young and more elders vote. The old-timers are in the habit. The youth have a girlfriend and weekend plans that extend a couple days. And the seniors vote 60-40 Republican. Add to this the fact that we see a growing trend of Republicans to hate and refuse to answer polls. What a lot of people don’t realize is that only about 1 in 3 answers a pollster. The old way of using telephones was easier for someone to answer. If they got bored, they just hung up. Now pollsters must rely on internet polls which cannot guarantee that a robo-device doesn’t vote a million times, knows not what party affiliation. Or they rely on street polling, where respondents are busy, or don’t like the looks of the pollster, or a dozen other things.
All of this paints a very real possibility that if the Dems can’t keep their base steamed up about impeaching Trump, they may not make much gain in November. We’ll all just have to watch.