Republican Karen Handle has won the special election for Georgia’s 6th district over the young Democratic start-up Jon Ossoff. Handle won by 5 points: 52 to 47.
This election was primed by the media as a referendum on President Trump. The district in question (part of greater Atlanta) was once considered a Republican stronghold, and was formerly represented by the current Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. However, due to changing demographics and a rise in the number of young people, this district was targeted by Democratic strategists as a key opportunity to contravene upon Republican territory and spearhead an anti-Trump congressional movement – similar to that of the Tea Party beginning in 2010.
Because the election was seen as symbolic in undermining Trump, an incredible 55 million dollars was spent across the country to try and get Ossoff elected. Ossoff’s campaign itself spent 23.6 million dollars. This election easily broke the record for the most amount of money raised for a House election. By comparison, Handle’s campaign only spent 4.5 million dollars.
The loss was a complete disaster for the Democrats. Their young, fresh and exuberant candidate lost despite record spending. Ossoff projected himself as wanting to be tough on Trump; and his rise was supposed to represent a precursor to a grassroots movement against the president. Despite this, he campaigned as a centrist in order to gain electability in conservative Georgia – promising to work with Republicans in the House if elected.
Ossoff’s loss is indicative of the Democratic Party’s tired repetition of the same failures which led to Trump’s rise. The Democrats have refused to re-constitute themselves in the aftermath of the Trump election. They have become obsessed with ludicrous flat lining Russian conspiracy theories, open calls for confrontational protests, and partisan obstructionism toward the Trump agenda. Instead of targeting an original platform with tangible policy proposals, the Democrats are focusing all of their might on stopping the Trump agenda. Voters want solutions, not pure obstructionism for the sake of opposing the much maligned and demonized president.
So far, there have been four special House elections in 2017, and the Republicans have won all of them. In Montana, the Republican nominee, Greg Gianforte, was accused of body slamming a reporter – but the Democrats still managed to lose. Although the accusation was perhaps salacious, the optics were very damaging. Local news outlets and new papers dropped their support for Gianforte afterwards, and national news outlets deemed it a big blow for Republican hopes to maintain the seat. Democrats all but guaranteed a victory, but Gianforte still managed to win over his Democratic counterpart.
This latest loss and others have projected ominous signs for the Democrats. The party’s entrenchment in corporatism is becoming more and more unpopular. Simultaneously, far left movements in other wings of the party are becoming regressive detractors to the concerns of voters. Preoccupations with identity politics, open borders, subsidizing undocumented peoples, unfettered refuges emissions, higher taxation, failing socialized healthcare and various globalist initiatives are proving to not be so popular.
In all likelihood, the party will need to reform itself if they want to win over voters in upcoming elections. The untenable deception, backhandedness and corporate whitewashing of the parties neoliberal elements will likely not produce a steady enough base in the future to win. The Republican Party partially reformed itself after the Obama victory in 2008, and they have been winning elections at a high rate ever since. The question remains as to which way the Democrats will sway in attempting to reform.
One trend within the Democrat party has been leaning toward progressivism, with figures like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. A turn toward progressivism would reject the corporate neoliberal aspects of the party – something which would be welcomed by both leftists and centrists. However, a full tilt toward the left may not be desirable to the party’s core constituencies. Simply focusing on underemployed young people and the poor would not be enough to consistently gain electability. The modern progressive movement also concerns itself too much with globalist initiatives and the dereliction of US sovereignty – aspects which also detract many voters.
Another possibility for the party is to move to the center and associate itself with patriotism and sovereignty – along the lines of the Trump movement. There are many middle and working class Democrats who believe in centered approaches to policy. Avoiding this voting block should not be an option for the party going forward. Continuing to ignore them will just push them further to Trump in the future.
A true grassroots movement within the Democratic Party will not occur from the injection of external money and institutional corporate might. Rather, it will come from ordinary people who are fed up with the corporatist neoliberal nature of the party. However, because of the gap which exists between the left and center, a singular movement seems unlikely. It would not be all that surprising if the party split in two – into progressive and centrists factions.
If the Democrats learn one thing from this special election, it should be that throwing inordinate sums of money at a contest is not enough. The party will have to significantly change its approach in order to gain grounds against Republicans in the future. The façade of purely anti-Trump politics is warring thin, as the Democrats fail to provide tangible alternatives for voters. It remains to be seen when or if the party will recalibrate itself.