The 2018 mid-term elections are still more than a year and a half away, but the outlook does not look very promising for the Democratic Party. There is a laundry list of reasons the Democratic Party is in trouble. To start, there is a shortage of 2018 Senate races in states where the Democrats have a chance to win a new seat. The American left is also deeply divided. Many progressives still do not forgive the Democratic Party establishment for its treatment of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary. There are also a number of Senate Democrat incumbents whose seats could be in serious danger. To say the Democratic Party should be worried is a gross understatement.
According to The Hill, Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator from Missouri, is already voicing concerns that she could face a primary election challenge by a progressive running on the idea that McCaskill has been too unwilling to take a stand against Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments.
“Many of those people are very impatient with me because they don’t think I’m pure. For example, they think I should be voting against all of Trump’s nominees and of course I’m judging each nominee on its own merit,” McCaskill said.
McCaskill could very well be right. Many Bernie Sanders supporters are wholly disgusted with the Democratic Party establishment of which McCaskill can be counted as a member in good standing. These progressives and others on the left want Democrats who are willing to take a bold stand for things like single-payer healthcare, getting corporate money out of politics, and ending what many see as out-of-control military interventionism. The left-wing of the party, and many who have “Demexited” for the Green Party or to become independents, do not have faith in Democrat senators like McCaskill, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, all of whom are from red states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. It’s hard to imagine these folks beating Republicans without a broad coalition of voters that includes anti-establishment types on the left. And if progressives mount heated primary challenges, as McCaskill predicts, it could spell doom for their chances to retain their seats.
Even Democrats once thought to be fairly secure in their jobs have reason to be concerned. Take Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, for example. According to Boston Globe, a January poll found that 46 percent of Massachusetts voters thought it was time to “give someone else a chance” in the 2018 election, while only 44 percent want Warren to win reelection. Her top potential contender, current Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, scored a 56 percent approval rating in the same poll. Warren’s approval rating was 51 percent in the poll.
Warren was once adored by the left wing of the Democratic Party, but her unwillingness to endorse Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election lost her a fair amount of support. She is now viewed by some on the left as someone willing to make bold statements but not put herself on the line when push comes to shove. A primary challenge, or perhaps even a bid for her Senate seat by Jill Stein of the Green Party, could be the nail in the coffin for her Senate career. And if the DNC is forced to spend tons of money to try and keep her seat, that will mean less funds allocated to other Senate and House elections across the country in 2018.
According to Roll Call, there are 33 Senate races in 2018. Of those races, 25 feature Democrat incumbents hoping to win another term, leaving only eight Republican incumbents whose seats are up for grabs. Of those 25 Democrat incumbents, 10 are from states won by Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
- Bill Nelson of Florida
- Jo Donnelly of Indiana
- Debbi Stabenow of Michigan
- Claire McCaskill of Missouri
- John Tester of Montana
- Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota
- Sherrod Brown of Ohio
- Robert Casey of Pennsylvania
- Joe Manchin of West Virginia
- Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
Aside from these 10, as with the example of Elizabeth Warren above, the other 15 incumbent Democrats can not just rest on their laurels and assume a cakewalk back into their Senate seats in 2019 given divisions on the left and the apparent rightward momentum of the electorate. The House doesn’t look much better. All 435 House seats are up for re-election in 2018. According to the official House website, that means 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats will be fighting for their seats. It’s reasonable to think a fair amount of those 193 Democrats will first have to contend with primary challengers from the left before they face challengers from the right. It remains to be seen how effective the coalition of independents, Greens, and progressive Democrat Bernie supporters will be in unseating incumbent Democrats and winning primaries to go against Republican incumbents.
Despite this harsh reality, the Democratic Party establishment seems to be content with moving forward under the assumption that Donald Trump will be so awful that they’ll be able to continue business as usual and coast to victory simply because they’re not the right. This strategy has failed for years now, so it’s not really clear why it’s being tried again. The party has only worked to further ostracize people who already felt shunned by the party establishment. Perhaps the outcome will be a wholesale failure of the Democratic Party in 2018 elections so the progressive Bernie supporters, left independents, and Green coalition continues to grow, though it’s probably not the kind of “resistance” the Democratic Party is hoping for.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]