Coming Elections And The Avoidance Of Unforced Fumbles [Opinion]

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In today’s volatile political environment, a realm where partisan fervor and runaway ideological polarization seem to control the nation’s discourse, we seldom witness a given political machination that isn’t firmly-tethered to the midterm elections of 2018 and the presidential election of 2020. For Democrats, the two incoming electoral bouts are, without question, must-win affairs.

For those inclined to possess a leftward ideological lean, the horizon provides a glaring glimpse of a fertile valley almost predisposed to spawn substantial ballot box success. After nearly a year in undisputed control, the Republicans’ proverbial legislative win column appears to be decidedly anemic at best, and embarrassingly barren at worst.

After their first stanza of holding Washington’s reins of power, Republicans have squandered precious political capital in a failed push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and have alienated nearly two-thirds of the populace through the strong-arm passage of a toxic tax reform bill. Now, in an effort to balance the future federal budgets they willfully hobbled, the GOP stands poised to hack away at universally popular healthcare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

The prize for Republicans after such a remarkably disastrous year is not simply an unobstructed view of their party’s descent into the damning abyss of unpopularity, but an inescapable journey to the treacherous grounds of their political Waterloo. Yet, despite the unintentional generosity of the GOP and a groundswell of public support, Democrats in their disjointed clamoring seem determined to commit a series of unforced fumbles.

A mere 11 months out from the 2018 midterms, DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison, tweeted a picture of himself holding a copy of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, with a caption that appeared to imply his endorsement of a wildly unpopular fringe entity within the liberal community, as the Pioneer Press reported. In short order, national conservative media outlets ran with the story, rushing to paint Democrats as ideological extremists, a trend certain to serve as a precursor to GOP attack ads, narratives guaranteed to be paired with graphic images of Berkeley set ablaze.

Rep. Keith Ellison speaks during a news conference.
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It’s entirely possible that this move pleased a miniscule polar element of the Democratic base, but it undoubtedly did little to cement the confidence of the party’s mainstream supporters, much less the moderates and moderate conservatives Ellison’s party must flip in order to wrestle congressional control from the opposition. While such an ill-advised stunt certainly won’t doom Ellison’s bid for reelection in the deep blue Minnesota 5th, it’s rather unclear as to how it’ll help Democrats capture hotly-contested congressional districts such as the: California 49th, Minnesota 2nd, Nebraska 2nd, or Texas 23rd.

Meanwhile, numerous celebrities and even liberal pundits are hyping Oprah Winfrey as a viable presidential candidate in 2020, as the Washington Post reported. Without question, Winfrey is a cultural icon, but as the last year has unequivocally demonstrated, fame and fortune do not substitute for experience, and in no way qualifies one to hold the most complex and consequential job in the world. Moreover, it’s difficult to fathom that Winfrey could do any better in non-deep blue bastions than other rumored celebrity hopefuls like Mark Cuban or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, much less the Republican incumbent. It’s even more straining to envision a scenario in which she’d best the likes of Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Joe Biden, in a star-studded primary race.

Oprah Winfrey addresses a crowd in 2016.
Featured image credit: Paras GriffinGetty Images

In the end, if Democrats are serious about engineering successive landslide victories over the next several years, the party’s leadership and its influential members need to rapidly embrace disciplined action and calculated thought. If they don’t, they’ll find themselves spending the next half-decade on the outside looking in.