Democratic state success doesn’t mean national wins

Chris Harrell

Democrats scored key victories across the country in statewide elections earlier this month.

They captured the governorships of Louisiana and Kentucky and flipped the Virginia Senate from red to blue, giving the Democrats control of every branch of government in the state for the first time in decades.

But Democrats should be careful about viewing these wins as a sign of certain victory in the presidential election next November and beyond.

There are three things that stand out to me as reasons for Democrats to avoid drawing conclusions from these races.

1. Medicaid. Sweet, sweet Medicaid expansion was on the ballot for governors races in Kentucky and Louisiana.

Kentucky was probably the most surprising victory for Democrats this November.

Governor-elect Andy Beshear of Kentucky was handed his greatest advantage by current Gov. Matt Bevin’s attempts to roll back Medicaid, according to an Oct. 21 Associated Press article.

The governor attempted to implement work requirements that would have kicked thousands of Kentuckians off their healthcare and roll back the expansion of Medicaid that occurred during the governorship of Bevin’s predecessor, according to the same article.

Beshear, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, both ran heavily on both protecting Medicaid and expanding it, and many analysts have pointed to that support as a key factor in their victories.

Medicaid is extremely popular, boasting a 74% favorability rating in a 2018 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

2. Moderate, “Suburban Blue” is not a sustainable strategy for Democratic accomplishment.

Even though most gains that the Democratic Party made were in higher-income suburban areas with predominantly white populations, according to a Nov. 24 Wall Street Journal article, this pattern won’t repeat itself nationally.

While it is advantageous in the short-term to secure the votes of traditionally Republican-leaning voters disaffected by President Donald Trump, this is not a good strategy for Democrats long-term aims.

These Never-Trumpers are more economically and socially conservative than the base of the Democratic Party, which for years has consisted largely of the poor, working class and marginalized communities.

Bringing the white and wealthy demographic into the party will have one of two effects. Either they abandon the party for post-Trump Republicans once it is socially acceptable again, or they drive the party to the right.

The former would be disastrous and lead to a midterm defeat for Democrats in 2022.

The latter would prevent Democrats from accomplishing anything meaningful in the event they take office by electing more centrist, fiscally conservative Democrats who are the opposite of the party’s growing Progressive energy.

A more sustainable voter strategy would be reaching out to non-voters, which tend to be poor, young and members of racial and ethnic minority groups.

Many are disaffected by a political system which seems to be rigged against people like them, and can be inspired to vote by a party whose platform and priorities serves them over wealthy white suburbanites.

3. Down-ballot disasters in Kentucky and Louisiana should be looked at pretty strongly.

Beshear squeaked out a victory by slightly less than 50%, but every other Democrat running statewide lost, with some getting less than 40% of the vote, according to election results from the New York Times.

The same story was true in Louisiana. Democrats should be wary of assuming success based on a few individually popular governors.