Despite Lackluster Showing at Mid-Terms, Trump & MAGA Republicans Push Ahead

Source: Danae Columbus

A cohesive coalition of young and progressive voters, voters of color and Independents gave Democrats the edge that ensured a healthy balance remains in the U.S. government. Drawn to the party’s defense of abortion rights, climate change, equity, elimination of student loan debt and other issues they consider important, 27 percent of 18-29 year-old voters turned out nationally according to a Tufts University election tracker. These very voters are the base upon which the Democratic Party must build for the future. Despite many heavy losses by candidates he endorsed, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday, November 15 that he will run again for President in 2024. 

Although Republicans won a few elections, their divisive style and overuse of lies and untruths was a turnoff to millions of voters. “The political divisiveness going on in this country – not as much in New Orleans – has basically thwarted the ability for the truth to come out,” veteran journalist Terry Baquet explained to a gathering of the civil rights group Justice & Beyond Monday evening via Zoom. Baquet is currently editor-in-chief of Verite News. He believes that people are in a “constant struggle” to get news that serves their best interest and that some new organizations often consider the little guy “a second class citizen.” 

“Lots of people were surprised that a big red way did not materialize,” said activist Jacques Morial. “The turnout was a rejection of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) agenda,” said Dr. George Amedee, the Emmett Bashful Endowed Chair and Professor of Political Science at Southern University. Amedee believes the MAGA agenda still exists in America and that progressive social justice policies got “hidden” in this whole election under the banner of the threat to democracy. “I do give President Biden credit for the things that he passed and attempted to pass and for articulating the threat to democracy and putting it front and center.” He also thinks that in addition to Biden’s legislative victories, the Republican’s poor mid-term showing was a combination of bad Republican candidates and the potential of rights being denied to which Americans have become accustomed. Making progress on social justice issues still requires “more organization and push,” Amedee explained.

One place far-right Republican candidates did well is in New York’s congressional districts in Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Syracuse where they flipped four seats previously held by Democrats due in part to New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s tough reelection battle. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for heads to roll and a restructuring of the state’s Democratic Party.   

With the wins in New York State, it seems almost certain that Republicans will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives by a thin margin. Louisiana’s First District Congressman Steve Scalise will advance to the coveted spot of House Majority Leader. Scalise’s increased prominence will be good for the region on many issues including rebuilding the coast and high speed rail where he and Congressman Troy Carter agree. Carter is a bridge builder and will be able to work closely with Scalise with whom he has always been friendly. The Democrats will remain in control of the U.S. Senate which will allow for easier approval of judges, U.S. attorneys and cabinet members whose positions require Senate confirmation. Democrats controlling the Senate will help guard the democratic values most Americans still believe in.

U.S. Senator John Kennedy’s easy re-election win against Gary Chambers, Luke Mixon, Syrita Steib and others with 62 percent of the vote could set the stage for his bid for Governor in 2023. With A.G. Jeff Landry already having lined up major endorsements, Kennedy would need a brilliant strategy to push past Landry. Kennedy might feel stymied in a Senate ruled by Democrats but could have the State Capitol and its power all to himself. Funding should not be an issue. Kennedy already has $15 million remaining which he could transfer to a super PAC.

Over the years Louisiana has become a state full of Democrats who vote Republican. Chambers did the best job of energizing Democrats in the U. S. senate race – especially Blacks who make up the majority of Democratic voters in the state – but Kennedy’s folksy style was too much of an attraction for the state’s rural voters. After all, politics is usually a popularity contest. 

It appears that the majority of Louisiana voters are still not ready to elect a person of color to the highest state offices. Outside of metro New Orleans, Black politicians have had little luck winning Congressional seats. That could change if the U.S. Supreme Court forces the creation of a second majority-minority congressional district in Louisiana. Pinckney Benton Stewart (P.B.S.) Pinchback, Louisiana’s first and only Black governor, inherited the office in 1871 after the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, Oliver Dunn, died. Pinchback served almost 13 months and was the only Black governor of any state during Reconstruction. The next Black governor elected in the U.S. was Virginia’s Douglas Wilder who took office in 1990. Elected in 1874, Opelousas bricklayer Charles E. Nash, a Republican, was the first Black to represent Louisiana in Congress. More than 100 years passed before another Black politician from Louisiana, William Jefferson, was seated in Congress. Black Democrat Shawn Wilson, head of Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development, has an eye on the governor’s mansion. Though his odds are long, Wilson should be applauded for even considering next year’s race.     

The national Democratic Party’s come-from-behind wins in so many major elections was a repudiation of extremists on the right and left. It also proved that credible, well-funded Democratic candidates who deliver a compelling message which resonates with voters still win elections. The Democrats did a better job of presenting high quality candidates and convincing voters to support them. 

The Republican Party tried to pigeonhole Democrats as unable to adequately address inflation, immigration and jobs and other bread-and-butter issues. Yet in race after race, Democrats like U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman of Pennsylvania was able to successfully connect with enough independent and blue collar voters who might have previously supported Republicans. 

Though President Biden has a relatively low approval rating that could have led to a plethora of losses nationwide, many voters view former President Donald Trump as polarizing. While some candidates he endorsed won their races, more than a few others did not fare well. It also helped Democrats that the majority of Americans favor abortions at some level and understood the election of more Republicans could open the door to the elimination of other freedoms.  

According to the New York Times, Trump was a “recurring distraction” for Republican Party leaders who were trying to direct a congressional take-over. “He turned the acceptance of his lie about the 2020 election into a litmus test and prized displays of loyalty over political skill, viewing the mid-terms mostly through the prism of what would help him.” The Washington Post reported yesterday that “there are signs that Trump’s hold on the party (Republican) is weakening. There’s a debate over whether and to what degree the party is moving on from Trump, but it’s clear that the fealty to him is slipping.”   Princeton political scientist Lauren Wright said in a Time magazine interview that “Trump is the frontrunner heading into 2024 and he may win the primary but he is the worst possible candidate to win a national election. In fact, he’s the only candidate Democrats know for sure they can beat.”

It appears that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis could be Trump’s main challenger for the Republican Party presidential nomination. President Joe Biden will turn 80 later in November. Many Democratic faithful are waiting for party leaders like him and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make way for the next generation of leaders. Biden won’t leave the White House willingly. He fought too many battles to get there. If he did step aside, other candidates in the wings include Vice President Kamala Harris, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

The stakes will be high in the 2024 presidential race. For the Democrats to win the White House again, young voters, progressive voters and voters of color must focus the next year on voter registration. Stacy Abrams made a multi-year commitment to enrolling and invigorating Democratic voters in Georgia. Though she did not win her last two races, Abrams was able to change the way Democrats thought about their prospects. She transformed Georgia. That empowerment could lead to a run-off victory for U.S. Senator Rachael Warnock against anti-choice candidate Herschel Walker and give the Democrats one extra vote in the Senate.   

“Democrats delivered a lot, but we can do more to make Americans’ lives better,” wrote Sen. Warren in a November 14 New York Times editorial. “Voters rewarded Democrats for protecting the lives and livelihoods of struggling families in a pandemic; modernizing infrastructure, not just talking about it; allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices; capping insulin costs for older Americans; making tax-dodging corporations pau up on billions in profit; lowering carbon emissions and reducing utility bills; and canceling student debt for over 40 million Americans. The 2022 midterms proved that Democrats can best Republican extremism. Instead of capitulating to election deniers, we should keep fighting for working families – because when we fight for working people, we win.”

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