Fans of the so-called “Resistance” received a subtle piece of good news on Friday. MSNBC, the furthest left of the cable news outlets, won the battle for prime time ratings on Thursday evening, and came a close second to Fox in overall viewers. (CNN was third in both categories.)
That is just one data point, but it is one more piece of evidence that the Democratic base is more active, more engaged, and more willing to sit through agitprop than Republicans.
Democrats defend some of their tactics — such as disrupting town hall meetings — by claiming that they are simply doing what the Tea Party did in 2009-10. That is hardly an accurate parallel. It would have been hard to find a Tea Partier who was paid to leave work to protest, or who attacked innocent people in a riot.
But they do share one thing with the Tea Party: the “Resistance” is a political force somewhat outside the party structure, and hence more effective.
Still, Democrats have a tough hill to climb. They must defend 25 Senate seats (including the two “independent” Senators), ten of which are in states that Donald Trump won. Republicans will only have to defend eight seats.
In the House, Democrats need 24 seats to bring Nancy Pelosi the Speaker’s gavel. But they are still competing on a map that was drawn after the 2010 Republican sweep, which included state legislators and governor’s mansions.
In 2010, Republicans were largely competing on home turf. Many of the Democrats they unseated were moderates, some of whom had been handpicked to run in 2006 by Rahm Emanuel. Unlike the Democrats’ present leadership, Emanuel understood that winning the House meant winning in conservative districts, which meant choosing more conservative Democratic candidates. But forcing them to vote for Obamacare left them vulnerable to the Tea Party.
In 2018, Democrats are not very competitive outside traditionally liberal districts. Their hysteria, and profanity, is alienating the moderate voters they need to reach.
The one place where Democrats may do well is in California, because it was one of the few states to draw its new, post-2010 districts in ways that benefited Democrats. (California used a supposedly non-partisan commission to draw its map, but Democrats found ways to game it.)
Democrats are targeting seven out of the state’s 14 Republican representatives, in districts won by Hillary Clinton. And they have momentum: the Los Angeles Times reports that 800 left-wing activists turned out this week for a “town hall” for Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA), which was held in her absence.
There is no unifying theme to the “Resistance” yet, other than opposition to all things Trump. But that may be enough, unless Republicans can muster enough enthusiasm among their own base.
That may prove to be a challenge. Trump voters still support him, but many are decidedly less enthusiastic about supporting Republicans in Congress who have clashed with the White House, or who seem to be too eager to make “swamp”-like deals with the Democrats.
Rep Darrell Issa (R-CA) illustrates the general dilemma: he is seen as shifting left to counter a Democratic challenge, but may lose the core conservative voters he needs in the process. They may simply stay home.
Democrats are targeting 61 districts nationwide. They have not won a single special election since November, but they are moving closer.
To hold the House, Republicans will need to do more than remind voters of the danger of Pelosi returning to power. They will need to pass major bills on health care and tax cuts. And they will need President Trump to be in fighting form.