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Saturday, May 26, 2018


Making the winning count

by Tom Sullivan

Martin Longman ponders the midterm elections, citing Charlie Cook's take that the results in November are unlikely to allow either party to get anything substantial done in 2019 and 2020. The best outcome for Democrats, Cook believes, is perhaps a 52-48 Democratic majority, not enough to establish a working majority. But Longman thinks that is underplaying the impact of a shift in control.

Senate Democrats could stop the president's march toward filling the courts with extremist and unqualified judges. They could stop more Betsy DeVoses and Scott Pruitts being confirmed. And make Donald trump more reluctant to dismiss competent officials for fear of getting replacements confirmed:

The number one thing that would change with the Democrats in control of either or both chambers on Congress is that they’d be able to hold committee hearings, call experts, issue subpoenas and compel testimony. This would obviously matter for the Russia investigation and any possibly impeachment, but it would also matter for highlighting the high level of incompetence and corruption we’re seeing across the board from the Trump administration. The Democrats could explore emoluments and stop Trump from using his hotels and golf courses as destinations for everyone on the globe who wants to influence the U.S. government. They’d be able to put a real spotlight on some of the scandals we’ve seen like Pruitt’s soundproof security booth for his personal office and Ben Carson’s fancy dining room set.

They could get conversations started on party base priorities like the behavior of ICE or climate change, and they’d be able to explore things that are weighing on the general public’s mind like possible ways to address the too common occurrence of mass shootings, including in our public schools.
In short, nothing to sneeze at.

But Cook ends his take with this:
To the extent that really big things happen coming out of this election, they are more likely to be on the gubernatorial and state-legislative level. Don’t take your eyes off of those contests; in the long haul, they may matter more.
Indeed, trying to get friends glued to MSNBC to turn their attention to state rather than higher-profile federal races should be easier than it is. The GOP REDMAP takeovers of state legislatures of 2010 (and 2014) resulted in a wave of voter suppression legislation on top of the "surgical" gerrymandering control of state legislatures gave the GOP in the wake of the 2010 census. The 2010 elections gave Wisconsin Scott Walker and the numerical advantage to push his agenda for all he's worth. Flipping control of the U.S. House and Senate won't change that. Voters in Wisconsin have to change that.

Republicans control 31 state Houses and 36 state Senates. Flipping that balance in 2018 and 2010 will change who controls redistricting in the country in 2021. If there is a blue wave in 2018, its impact might be felt strongest at the state level.

In North Carolina, Democrats are fielding candidates in every legislative race in the state. They need a pickup of four state House seats to have the margin to sustain a veto of GOP legislation by Gov. Roy Cooper, sixteen to win a majority. The state Senate is a longer reach with a net of six to sustain a veto. Occupying the governor's mansion is one thing. Being able to govern is another.

Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination for governor this week in Georgia. Winning in this solidly Republican state will be a challenge. While Abrams won the Democratic vote by an overwhelming margin, 55,000 more Republicans voted in Georgia on Tuesday. On Election Night, they don't count turnout percentages, they count raw votes.

Abrams is counting on registering and mobilizing black voters across the state. But she will be crisscrossing the state delivering fiery stump speeches finished with a fist pump and a shout of “Let’s get out the vote!” to many counties with little idea how to do that. (I have a modest tool below for showing them how.) There is a band of over two dozen south-central Georgia counties, for example, whose only digital presence are identical, untended Facebook pages. (Georgia is by no means unique in this.) They will need more than enthusiasm for a telegenic candidate to deliver votes for her. They will need skills.

Should Abrams win, she will need seats in the legislature to make something of her tenure as governor. Again, flipping control of the U.S. House and Senate won't change that. Those changes have to come at the state level.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.