Biden has one mandate: don't be Trump. His Warren G. Harding 1920-era "back to normalcy" campaign appealed to educated suburbanites who may have been ready to dump Trump but not necessarily ready to hand the whole government over to a Big Tent Democratic Party that has no clear message and doesn't seem to stand for much of anything any longer. The GOP had plenty of success defining Democratic candidates because the party has lost its own identity as a party that stands up for working families against their enemies in corporate America. Bernie tried-- but the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- Biden's wing-- was too strong for him, and too entrenched.
Writing for The Atlantic this morning, Ron Brownstein predicted a shaky future for House Democrats. "Biden," he wrote, "marked an unexpected and unwanted milestone this month when he won a clear popular-vote majority in the presidential election but saw his party suffer substantial losses in the House of Representatives. That unusual combination of results-- the first time it’s happened in more than 120 years-- crystallizes the core challenge Democrats face in translating their consistent victories in the popular vote into congressional power. In geographic terms, their coalition is deep but narrow. The party has consolidated its hold on the nation’s largest metropolitan centers, which allows it to amass substantial popular-vote victories, but it has systematically declined in the smaller places beyond them-- a dynamic that’s intensified during Donald Trump’s polarizing presidency."
Aside from 2 North Carolina seats handed to the Democrats by a district-drawing court, the party managed to pick up one miserable red district (the empty GA-07 seat) with an inconsequential and pointless candidate, New Dem Carolyn Bourdeaux. She beat Republican Rich McCormick 190,900 (51.4%) to 180,564 (48.6%). The DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC spent close to half a billion dollars boosting House candidates and instead of winning dozens of seats, all they got was Bourdeaux... plus at least 11 seats (probably 14) lost seats-- 2, probably 3, seats in California, 2 in Florida, 1 or 2 in Iowa, 1 in Minnesota, 1 in New Mexico, 1 or 2 in New York, 1 in Oklahoma, 1 in South Carolina and 1 in Utah.
All of the losers were from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, conservatives, political cowards, careerists, new Dems, Blue Dogs, dogshit. Not one real Democrat lost his or her seat. It was basically a bunch of corporate whores who should have never been in Congress to begin with. No one, for example, who backs Medicare-for-All lost; they all won.
With 3 seats still up in the air (IA-02, NY-22 and CA-25), the House will probably begin the 117th session with 223 to 212. (I'm betting NY-22 goes blue, IA-02 flips red and CA-25 starts red.) One House member with a reputation for knowing all the rules inside and out, told me earlier today that "We ultimately decide contested House elections and it is not required to go along with a court ruling on ballot counting."
Brownstein wrote that "It’s unusual for a president’s or president-elect’s party to lose House seats while he wins, but it’s hardly unprecedented. Based on official House statistics, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Grover Cleveland (twice) won elections while losing ground in the House. But each of those Democratic presidents won with less than half of the popular vote, well below the 51 percent Biden has captured at last count. Republicans Ulysses S. Grant and William Howard Taft won a majority of the presidential popular vote but lost a handful of House seats (two and four, respectively). The most recent president to win a majority of the popular vote and lose a substantial number of House seats was Republican William McKinley in 1896. (His 48-seat loss came after a landslide two years earlier in which the GOP won nearly three-fourths of the House.) The juxtaposition between Biden’s substantial popular-vote win and the GOP’s substantial House gains captures the geographic sorting that is reshaping American politics. Growing advantages in the biggest places are the key reason Democrats have now won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections, something no party had done since the formation of the modern party system in 1828. Based on the latest data, Biden won fully 91 of the nation’s 100 largest counties. That’s more than the 87 Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, and far beyond the 69 that Bill Clinton took in 1992."
Generally speaking Trump lost the counties with educated and productive people and industries and Trump, once again, won the moocher counties that don't create much of anything but poverty, deficits, grievances and trouble. "Biden," reported Brookings, "captured virtually all of the counties with the biggest economies in the country... including flipping the few that Clinton did not win in 2016. By contrast, Trump won thousands of counties in small-town and rural communities with correspondingly tiny economies... Biden’s counties tended to be far more diverse, educated, and white-collar professional, with their aggregate nonwhite and college-educated shares of the economy running to 35% and 36%, respectively, compared to 16% and 25% in counties that voted for Trump. In short, 2020’s map continues to reflect a striking split between the large, dense, metropolitan counties that voted Democratic and the mostly exurban, small-town, or rural counties that voted Republican. Blue and red America reflect two very different economies: one oriented to diverse, often college-educated workers in professional and digital services occupations, and the other whiter, less-educated, and more dependent on 'traditional' industries" [like making moonshine and corncob pipes and existing of welfare while angry that racial minorities also are allowed to get welfare].
Biden flipped seven of the nation’s 100 highest-output counties, strengthening the link between these core economic hubs and the Democratic Party. More specifically, Biden flipped half of the 10 most economically significant counties Trump won in 2016, including Phoenix’s Maricopa County; Dallas-Fort Worth’s Tarrant County; Jacksonville, Florida’s Duval County; Morris County in New Jersey; and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida’s Pinellas County.
Brookings identifies this as a problem because this growing economic rift dividing the nation "underscores the near-certainty of both continued clashes between the political parties and continued alienation and misunderstandings... [as well as gridlock in Congress. "Democrats represent voters who overwhelmingly reside in the nation’s diverse economic centers, and thus tend to prioritize housing affordability, an improved social safety net, transportation infrastructure, and racial justice. Jobs in blue America also disproportionately rely on national R&D investment, technology leadership, and services exports. By contrast, Republicans represent an economic base situated in the nation’s struggling small towns and rural areas. Prosperity there remains out of reach for many, and the party sees no reason to consider the priorities and needs of the nation’s metropolitan centers. That is not a scenario for economic consensus or achievement."
Brooking's report concludes that "Trump’s anti-establishment appeal suggests that a sizable portion of the country continues to feel little connection to the nation’s core economic enterprises, and chose to channel that animosity into a candidate who promised not to build up all parts of the country, but rather to vilify groups who didn’t resemble his base. If this pattern continues-- with one party aiming to confront the challenges at top of mind for a majority of Americans, and the other continuing to stoke the hostility and indignation held by a significant minority-- it will be a recipe not only for more gridlock and ineffective governance, but also for economic harm to nearly all people and places. In light of the desperate need for a broad, historic recovery from the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, a continuation of the patterns we’ve seen play out over the past decade would be a particularly unsustainable situation for Americans in communities of all sizes."
Back to Brownstein, who wrote that "Democrats face a natural disadvantage in the House, even before factoring in gerrymandering... Through the late 20th century, it was common for a large number of districts to support House candidates from one party and presidential nominees from the other... But as more voters have treated congressional elections as choices between competing parties rather than competing individuals, the number of split districts has dwindled, reaching a modern low of 26 in the 2012 election and rebounding only slightly to 35 in 2016. This year could set a new record for the fewest split-ticket House seats. Depending on the final vote tallies, it’s possible that each party will win only about 10 seats that voted for the other side’s presidential candidate."
The bulk of the Democrats’ House losses came in districts that Trump carried in both 2016 and 2020; the party has lost eight such seats already, with two still undecided. Democrats expected to lose some of those districts with Trump himself on the ballot. But they were surprised-- and disappointed-- by two trends.
One was the victories by Republican House candidates in several urban and suburban districts that Biden carried, including seats around Miami; Omaha, Nebraska; Dallas; Philadelphia; and Orange County, California. The clear implication of those results is that some college-educated, suburban voters who rejected Trump supported Republicans for the House, perhaps because they did not want to give Democrats a free hand to advance their agenda. (The share of college graduates exceeds the national average in almost all of the Biden districts that elected Republicans to the House.) “We have voters who didn’t want to vote for Trump but wanted to be able to support the kind of Republican House candidates who they traditionally supported,” Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told me.
The second disappointment for Democrats is that Biden did not win more Republican-held suburban seats that voted for Trump last time... [A]gainst the headwind of Trump’s continuing strength in these new targets, Democrats could not capture any of them in the House contests. “Trump was sneaky strong-- not enough to win, but he was not the albatross that we expected him to be” for down-ballot Republicans, the GOP communications consultant Liam Donovan told me.
...Adding to the Democratic challenge, Republicans this month maintained control of legislatures in states such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, which will give the GOP the upper hand in the redrawing of congressional-district maps next year, following the 2020 census.... [I]n states where Republicans control redistricting-- and they will control the redistricting of more congressional seats than Democrats-- the GOP may be able to draw Republican-leaning seats that submerge those newly blue suburban areas into immense tracts of red rural terrain.
Brownstein thinks that the surest way for the 2022 Dems to defend their House majority "may be to rebuild their capacity to compete in at least a few more small-town and rural districts. That proved impossible with Trump polarizing the electorate so sharply along cultural lines. The future of the House Democratic majority may depend on whether Biden succeeds in his uphill quest to lower the temperature of partisan conflict and narrow the nation’s gaping political divides."
OK, and how? Obviously, the solution that keeps evading elitist DCCC chairs: appealing to working class families' self interest. But is the Democratic Party even capable of that any longer? This past cycle the Florida Democratic Party refused to endorse the state's minimum wage initiative-- which won with 61% of the vote... while Biden took 47.9% statewide, New Dem Debbie Mucarsel-Powell took just 48.3% in a D+6 district and equally unhelpful Donna Shalala won just 48.6% in a D+5 district. The Florida Democratic Party flopped miserably in state legislative races the Democrats failed to flip even one congressional seat, despite drastically outspending Republicans in several of them.