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Est. April 5, 2002
November 08, 2018 - Issue 763

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Midterms Hold Trump Accountable
Tell Us Who We Are

"Since Trump has come out swinging after the midterms,
firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installing a flunky
replacement who will fire or restrict the duties of Special
Counsel Robert Mueller, Democrats must be strategic in
their responses.  They need to be patient and not fall into
Trump’s trap of creating a scenario where he pits himself
as the victim against the radical, left-wing Democrats."

Finally, the midterms are almost over with a few remaining races still to be decided: Georgia’s gubernatorial race where provisional ballots are still being counted; Arizona and Mississippi’s U.S. Senate races, with the latter headed to a runoff; and several House races in California to close to call. Republicans flipped Democratic Senate seats in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota, and still have a pick-up opportunity in Arizona, increasing their majority to 55 or 56. These victories provide Trump with a firmer cushion against impeachment.

The Farrell Report had a mixed record in its midterm predictions, projecting that the Democrats would seize the House (they did), that incumbents Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) would hold on (they didn’t); that Democrats would pick up governorships in Florida and Georgia (they didn’t); that they would win governor’s races in Michigan and Wisconsin (they did); and in several other states (Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico, and Nevada). It had correctly noted that Democrats’ chances of regaining control of the Senate was an outside chance, and appropriately forecasted that Beto O’Rourke (D) would win or run a tight race with Ted Cruz (R) in the Texas Senate race.

Democrats took the House and are projected to win more than 35 seats when the final tallies are completed. Women increased their numbers to 100 in Congress, the largest number of female Congressional officeholders in history. In addition to a record number of females being elected to federal office, we also witnessed two Muslim women and the first two Native American women (one of whom identifies as a lesbian) elected to the House and an openly gay male chosen as Governor of Colorado. But most important is that women powered the Democratic House takeover - powered by teachers - with victories in Republican strongholds of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and upsets of veteran Republicans in California, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and several other states.

Trump’s personally trumpeted his tropes of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, white nationalism, misogyny, black racism, anti-immigrant and anti-Constitutional rhetoric throughout the nation in frenzy during the final month of the midterm campaigns. He also attacked losing Republican House and Senate incumbents in his first press conference in the immediate aftermath because they refused to bow to his will, become his “belly warmers,” or kiss his ring. In a clearly staged show of authoritarianism at that press conference, Trump harshly criticized an African American reporter from PBS News, called her question racist, and a Hispanic journalist from CNN who he personally attacked. The White House later suspended the press pass of the latter to show who is in charge and that it will not tolerate dissent.

But what was refreshing about the midterms, was the overall message that most Americans do not embrace the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Immigrant, misogynistic values that were publicized incessantly by Trump. Yet as the Senate outcomes confirmed, there is a solid tolerance for these attitudes and the way he is running the country. Democrats must more forcefully demonstrate their opposition to these views while at the same time attending to the legitimate concerns of those working middle and upper - class Americans who loudly (the former) and quietly (the latter, middle- and upper- classes) vote for Trump and his Republican allies.

Democrats need to hone their messages as well. It is imperative that they carefully assess why they lost a high profile governor’s race and a U.S. Senate race in in which they were favored in Florida. Clearly, race played a significant role for the African American gubernatorial candidate, but Trump’s reassuring economic policies also played a major part as the state’s large retiree population was attracted to them despite the Republican candidates trafficking of virulent anti-black racism and anti-Semitism.

In Georgia, where the Republican is currently leading the female African American Democratic candidate for Governor, race and egregious voter suppression by her opponent, who is the current Secretary of State and oversees the election process, has manipulated it to his advantage. Democrats need to determine how best to frame their social and economic policies and how to combat racism in electoral practices as their base is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and voter repression will surely escalate.

Since Trump has come out swinging after the midterms, firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installing a flunky replacement who will fire or restrict the duties of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Democrats must be strategic in their responses. They need to be patient and not fall into Trump’s trap of creating a scenario where he pits himself as the victim against the radical, left-wing Democrats. They must also be willing to vigorously confront him as he is likely to deliberately trample on decency, ethics, and the Constitution in order to push his dictatorial agenda.

But most important is that the House Democrats avoid a raucous and divisive debate for the Speakership. Nancy Pelosi is clearly the best choice to continue leading them. Her prodigious fundraising which enabled the Democrats to dominate the midterms by funding candidates who said they would not vote for her to become Speaker again is indicative of her leadership qualities—doing what was best for the team. Pelosi has no peer in the current Democratic Caucus, and not one of the newly elected Democrats is ready to lead the battle against Trump who will pull out all stops to crush them.

Since she has already stated that she will lead a transition to new Democratic House leadership this term, the Caucus should watch and learn.

In the interim, Democrats must place extra effort on cultivating their base—millennials; women, especially teachers; and minorities so that they do not have to make a last minute push or depend on candidates’ ethnicity to drive turnout in future key races, especially as the 2020 presidential campaign is rapidly approaching. We can be certain that Trump will be ready as he will learn from his 2018 mistakes and recalibrate.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 

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