Congressman Conor Lamb talking to supporters. Photo: Alan Freed/Reuters
On March 13, 2018, ex-Marine Democrat Conor Lamb won in the Pennsylvania 18th district special election, replacing the disgraced Representative Tim Murphy who resigned after infamously pressuring his mistress into having an abortion, despite professing strong pro-life views. The 18th district is traditionally a Republican stomping ground, with mostly suburban and rural voters, and an electorate that is over 95% white. Few gave Lamb a chance; however, Lamb, a moderate Democrat, was nearly tailor-made for the district. Running on a pro-gun, anti-Pelosi, common sense platform, Lamb brought a safely Republican district into the toss-up category.
These rating changes from pollsters sent shockwaves throughout the GOP. Even the president felt the need to hold a rally in the district to support the Republican nominee, State Representative Rick Saccone. Despite the rally, the popularity of the President in the district, the Republican +11 PVI (Partisan Voter Index) advantage, and amount of funds spent on this race, Lamb overcame the odds and won the district, albeit by less than 1,000 votes.
The Democratic party celebrated as if it had found a cure for cancer and preached the upset as a sure sign of the GOP’s demise in the 2018 midterms. They had found a way to win: play towards the middle. When Democratic candidates played towards the middle against vulnerable GOP candidates, they won everywhere, even Alabama and rural Pennsylvania. Conor Lamb instantly became a rock star within the party. He became the metaphorical Moses, leading the Democrats to the promised land: a majority in the House of Representatives. However, in typical Democratic fashion, that plan was tossed out the window in about a week.
Within days after this massive upset, a new golden blueprint was drafted for the Democrats to take the house. Almost instantaneously, Democrats reverted back toward their old, unappealing, radical left-wing, anti-Trump, anti-capitalist rhetoric. Months after the stunning Lamb upset, it seems like neither party has learned its lesson. Within weeks, Lamb lost his wunderkind status. In fact, it is hard to find Democrats outside of Washington who even know who Representative Conor Lamb is. Lamb’s message of sensible liberalism and a return to rebuilding the working class has fallen upon deaf ears in the party.
Ocasio-Cortez (right) speaking with constituents. Photo: Corey Torpie/AP
Democrats have found a new star and a new game plan. Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the plan is Democratic Socialism. After winning the Democratic primary for New York 14th congressional district over a relatively moderate member of the Democratic leadership, Rep. Joe Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez has become the new “it-girl” of the party. Despite the fact that New York’s 14th district is one of the most liberal in the nation, Democrats have paraded her around the media circuit and are embracing her hard-left message on a national scale.
Ocasio-Cortez has called for the abolition of ICE, open redistribution of wealth, universal healthcare, free college education and the end of Israel’s “occupation” of Palestine. To promote these policies on the national scale would not only do the country a disservice but be a mistake of the highest order for the Democrats. While her message might work in blue New York, it takes to a new extreme the message that allowed Trump to win in 2016. The Democrats are out of touch with reality and have traded in their formed base, blue collar workers, for complete leftist ideological purity that even Lenin would be impressed by. As long as Democrats continue to move to the left, they will continue to lose elections that can easily be theirs.
The simple fact of the matter is that majority of the American populous lies towards the center of the American political spectrum. Running on a message of hyper-partisanship alienates the median voter. This is why the oft-revered Bernie Sanders will never win the presidency. Recent polls have shown that Joe Biden is the candidate with the highest chance of unseating President Trump in 2020. While it is all but set that Ocasio-Cortez will win in the general election, the question is to see how much her ideology and popularity will hinder Democrat’s appeal nationally.
If Democrats are to return to power in 2018 or 2020, it will be by running centrist candidates. Candidates like Lamb have widespread appeal to all voters and build the sense of bipartisanship that this country so desperately wants and needs.
Democrats abandoned the average voter but are finding that a return to the center, not a suicide run towards the left, wins elections. The real question is whether or not the Democrats will pay attention to the data. As of now, the answer is resounding no.