Republicans have always been good at framing an issue in a way that generates anger, disgust, shock – and votes. Tax cuts that go primarily to the wealthy are successfully dubbed “tax relief” and the medical term “intact dilation and extraction” becomes “partial birth abortion.” The Democratic Party does not appear to have a similar skill set.
Democrats generally try to appeal to voters’ common sense. The republicans come up with some claim and the democrats spend most of their time on defense saying, “That’s not the full story” or “They’re lying.” For many voters, the democrats may seem a little bit like the Wizard of Oz. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” Democrats who offer detailed explanations in response to short republican phrases or statements of questionable accuracy come across as not believable to many voters.
A good example comes from Michigan’s 6th House district. Ads approved by Rep. Fred Upton (the 32-year incumbent) during the mid-term election’s climax: Matt Longjohn is not a real doctor, he only plays one on TV.
Longjohn’s response: I received my M.D. and Masters of Public Health from Tulane and was the first National Health Officer for the YMCA. I have published seventeen medical articles and have taught medical students at Northwestern and the University of Wisconsin. I initiated a program that cut new cases of diabetes by 71% and led anti-childhood obesity programs in several states.
Upton was reelected earlier this month.
The midterm elections, however, did suggest that democrats may have finally found that short phrase that appeals to enough voters: “We are not Trump.”
This became more evident with the counting of absentee ballots. While the president and republican candidates complained and filed lawsuits as republican vote leads shrunk or reversed with absentee ballots, it appeared to be a nationwide phenomenon – in red, blue and purple districts – that early and absentee voters favored democrats.
One theory is that early voters are more likely to be single-issue voters so they don’t have to spend a lot of time researching each candidate. The historic early voters are anti-abortion ones; that is the only issue that matters and their votes go only to that cause.
In 2018, however, another single-issue voter class appears to have emerged. They are the voters who so disapprove of President Trump that they voted for democrats across the board or close to it. As the absentee ballots were counted, the democrats pulled within range of their republican opponents, or took the lead.
Yes, democrats talked about healthcare and knew that was a pressing concern for the electorate, but healthcare became a confusing issue. Many republican candidates claimed to be defenders of health insurance coverage even after voting to repeal Obamacare (Fred Upton included). If people were really voting on healthcare issues with all the confusing and contradictory claims flying about, they probably would not have been able to vote early.
Should the democrats conclude that their 2018 success was due to the anti-Trump vote, the 2020 presidential election will be an all-Trump, all-the-time campaign. I fully expect to hear “Reckless pro-Trumper” ads from democratic candidates and “President Trump is a true American hero” ads from the republicans.
Remember how the Trump Organization was looking into a business venture dubbed Trump TV? It’s looks as if it may be coming whether we want it or not.