The Republican Party’s scorched-earth politics has resulted in only 29% of America having a favorable opinion of them. Roughly 26% of Americans approve of this “tax bill” that’s simply a giveaway to the rich, and 69% of us under the age of 35 prefer Democrats over Republicans in the 2018 midterms. The Democrats rode this wave of discontent to major victories in last month’s elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine, Washington and this past week’s Senate race in Alabama. By all accounts, it is a good time to be a Democrat, and something resembling an anti-GOP mandate is emerging. For all the grief we have given the DNC here at Paste, it sure looks like they’re learning from their past mistakes.
But some Democratic candidates have not changed at all. Ralph Northam won the Virginia governorship on the back of the youth vote and from those making less than $50,000 per year. The biggest issue for voters by far was health care, as 77% of those voting for Northam did so because of this intractable issue. This was easily the largest constituency in the Virginia election, as health care was the number one issue for 39% of the electorate, with gun policy coming in 2nd at 17% (Northam won 49% of these voters). Many Virginians were no doubt encouraged by promises like this from Northam.
A lot of liberals have come after Paste, calling us stealth Trump supporters because we have the gall to criticize Democrats (and one glance at our history of dunking all over Trump makes you look incredibly foolish, but I digress), and to those folks, I just want to say: this report is why we harp on the Democrats. Unless the grassroots push Democrats to enact popular will, they will not. Per The Washington Post:
Similarly, Northam said he has no plans to try to force Republicans to accept a broad expansion of Medicaid. Instead, he has begun talks with lawmakers in both parties about overhauling the state's Medicaid system to expand access to health care while better defining eligibility to control costs.
Northam campaigned on expanding Medicaid, was elected by an army who supported his cause, and now that he's in power, he's already signaling that he will capitulate to Republican scare-tactics on the issue most responsible for putting him in office. He's even talking about “overhauling” instead of “expanding” Medicaid. That's Paul Ryan talk. After the initial outcry over Northam reversing one of his central campaign pledges, he released an underwhelming statement that did not commit to “put politics aside and do what's right and expand Medicaid for up to 400,000 hardworking Virginians.”
“I will continue to advocate.” YOU'RE THE FREAKING GOVERNOR! Maybe the problem is that Democrats are so bad at winning elections that when they do win, they're not quite certain how to handle it.
This scare-mongering over the budget is complete and utter nonsense that deliberately (consciously nor not) plays directly in to the GOP's hands. Virginia Republicans have already been caught lying on this topic, incorrectly asserting that it would cost the state $1 billion, when the Department of Medical Assistance Services calculated that expanding Medicaid would actually net the state $34 million through 2020. Northam is eschewing a winning argument backed by popular will for an amorphous “bipartisanship” agenda designed to garner the affirmation of non-existent political referees. Politics is not an exercise in finding common ground, but a competition for resources, and the Democrats have proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to claim victories that they have earned.
As Northam is demonstrating, even when Democrats win, they instantly let the Republicans set the terms of the debate—effectively setting themselves up to lose. Ralph Northam the candidate boldly fought to expand Medicaid, yet Ralph Northam the governor is now signaling that he is worried about its impact on the budget—despite the federal agency running Virginia's program stating it would be a net benefit to the state in dollars (let alone the benefit it would have to, you know, human lives).
This myth of “bipartisanship” needs to be exorcised from the Democratic Party. The Republicans have no interest in finding “common sense solutions” with us. They are the party of Trump and they should be treated as such. The GOP wants to win at all costs, and in the process, they portray Democrats as demonic baby-murdering traitors who exist solely to try to destroy the American project. Fox News is throwing around the word “coup” with a lawful investigation, and these are the kinds of folk that Northam wants to “compromise” with. Americans are sick of Republican tyranny, and have spent 2017 electing Democrats while giving Republicans serious scares in safe districts, so now that some Democrats have assumed office, their first move is to try to compromise with Republicans? This is pathetic.
Northam isn't the only Democrat to immediately roll over as soon as he won an election. Doug Jones defeated a pedophile in Alabama and now said “of course I do” when asked if he will think about working with the party that nominated and supported said pedophile. Jones is in a deep red state, and an innocuous answer like that is likely necessary to maintain his hopes for reelection. However, when taken with Jones' other line of “I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues” when asked about President Trump's sexual harassment history, it sure seems like Jones is simply following the standard Democratic playbook of campaigning on the left, then governing towards the right.
The Democrats are not a liberal party. Dianne Feinstein attacking the GOP tax bill for not being deferential enough to California's rich is a perfect example of how the only voices that really make it through to Democratic lawmakers are those coming from their donor class.
The Democrats have a real opportunity here—and from a nuts and bolts perspective, it seems as if they get it. The DNC is empowering the grassroots, and for the first time since 2008, I can safely say that I have real hopes for the future of liberalism in this country. However, if Northam and Jones are any indication of where we’re headed, then we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. The central fissure in the Democratic Party is that it is the Party of Clinton, and most liberals don’t think the Clintons are all that liberal. Bill Clinton correctly read the electorate in 1992, and campaigned on working with the Republican Party to help every day Americans.
In response, Newt Gingrich began the modern GOP scorched-earth tactics in 1994, and Democrats have been trying to work with a party who doesn’t accept their legitimacy for over two decades. They are Charlie Brown, and the Republicans are Lucy—pulling away the football every time a Democrat advocates “compromise.” If the Dems still think they can “compromise” with a party who elected and still blindly supports Donald Trump, then they’re completely hopeless, and are surely on their way to wasting the blue wave sweeping across the country. Asking Democrats to enact the liberal policies they promised us isn’t too much to ask, is it?
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.