Republicans win another one


So Ossoff was defeated by Handel in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. Are you getting tired of this? I’m getting tired of this.

Karen Handel is simply a terrible human being, and she wasn’t shy about broadcasting it. She’s a smug conservative Christian who hates gay and trans people, demonstrating once again that the Republicans have a solid base among the bigots. Not only does it not damage her electability among Republicans, but expect the media to tut-tut afterwards about calling the terrible human beings who voted for a terrible human being terrible human beings. And hey, it seems appealing to bigotry is a great way to get out the vote.

The Democrats, as usual, followed their standard strategy: find an upper middle class centrist, typically a white man in a nice suit, and give them lots of money and demand that they follow a cautious, inoffensive, and ultimately uninspiring path. Triangulate tactically to put up the Least Worst Candidate. That simply doesn’t work when you’re dealing with the Bold Candidate from Hell. Shouldn’t we have learned our lesson from Trump?

How about if instead we drew on our base? More black grandmothers who are fed up at seeing their sons shot or thrown into prison. More middle class labor workers who are smart enough to see through the lies of management. Remember the Carrier air conditioning deal? Trump knew that whatever happened would be to the advantage of the people who owned the company, not the workers, and he just lied. If you’re going to promote a white man in a suit, at least make sure it’s one who is willing to align himself with the interests of the working class and the poor, and is willing to say things that antagonize rich donors but might get people to actually turn out and vote.

Oh, well. The bright side of the story is that once again the Republicans have confirmed their solid commitment to evil, with yet another Republican representative who ought to make any decent, humane person sick.

I guess that’s the bright side.

It’s not very reassuring.

Comments

  1. says

    I guess that’s the bright side.

    It’s not very reassuring.

    The bright side is that the Democrats came close to winning after forcing the Republicans to outspend them in a district that hasn’t been won, or come within range of being won, since the 1970s. It’s historically a solidly Republican district. In all of these special elections, which have been in what were considered safe Republican districts, Democrats have carved double digit gains out of the Republican 2016 margins. That bodes very well for them taking the House, given that there are dozens of districts that are more competitive. The expectations for this race were rather stupidly high.

    Every election is a learning experience, but these narrow losses hardly require jettisoning approaches that might be suited to local environments (whether the candidates or messages are closer to the center or further Left – the candidates who’ve lost these special elections are a broad range) or pushing aside the leadership or other Democratic voices because the Right works to demonize them (if it’s not Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi, it’ll be Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Maxine Waters, Tammy Baldwin, Corey Booker,…).

    It’s a difficult loss, but the progress is promising – in the shrunken election margins, the enthusiasm, the organization, and the new challengers. Steve Schmidt (I think it was) called it an “ominous victory” for the Republicans last night, and I think that’s correct.

  2. says

    For a bit more context, in the 2016 Democratic primary Hillary Clinton won every district but one in Georgia. Her margin of victory over Bernie Sanders was 43%.

  3. carlie says

    Bit of cheery-uppy:
    It was really close. It wasn’t supposed to be really close. That district went heavily Republican in November, and was seen as a landslide safe zone by Republicans. The Republican candidate spent over two times the amount spent in the previous election, and barely won. So not a Democratic win, but if the Republicans aren’t quaking in their boots over such a close call, they’re not paying attention.

  4. mykroft says

    Republican gerrymandering may have had something to do with Karen Handel winning as well. This was a narrow loss even with the Republicans cheating.

  5. anat says

    If you want to support strategically, where your money and time would go to democrats in winnable districts that are likely to flip state legislatures or flip congressional districts look at The Sister District Project.

  6. says

    The lesson here, as the lesson has been for the last several months, is that Republican gerrymandering, voter suppression , combined with the right wing propaganda, not to mention good old fashion American voter malice has render the bonds of civil society irredeemably broken. Electoral politics is pointless. The left wasted millions because of its inability to see that we are not all Americans anymore.

    Running a full throated progressive wouldn’t have helped because Americans are to fucking stupid to self-govern and virtually all voters can’t, as a practical matter tell the difference between the various factions of the left and how it impacts policy. *ditto for the right if not more so)

  7. tomh says

    @ #9
    “The left wasted millions because of its inability to see that we are not all Americans anymore.”

    We are not all Americans? What does that even mean?

  8. Usernames! 🦑 says

    The bright side is that the Democrats came close to winning after …
    — SC (Salty Current) (#2)

    In winner-takes-all system, lost by a lot or lost by a little is still lost.

    Lost won’t change policy.
    Lost won’t stop our further slide into oligarchy.
    Lost won’t keep 23 million from losing healthcare and many dying.
    Lost won’t stop the looting of the commons by the rich.
    Lost won’t force dirty industries to stop poisoning air, water and land.
    Lost won’t stop promoting climate-changing activities.
    Lost won’t demand justice and reform for Legal Execution of PoC by Police.
    Lost won’t end wars that destroy lives and burn up treasure.

    Lost by a little is still lost.
    We have to win.

  9. says

    In winner-takes-all system, lost by a lot or lost by a little is still lost.

    I don’t disagree with anything you say here. But see my links @ #2 (under “solidly” and “Republican”) for context that shows the difficulty in these heavily Republican special-election districts. The immediate outcomes are depressing, but the pattern (accompanied by a learning process and continued mobilization) is cause for optimism. (Especially because, in my view, none of the Democratic candidates so far has been ideal, though it’s hard for me to speak about their fit for local conditions, and I’ve seen others announcing across the country who seem very strong.)

    Here are two more pieces of relevant information.

  10. brett says

    I think they were hoping that anti-Trump sentiment would drag down Handel as collateral damage, but that only works if they really, really try hard to tie them together (“Handel = Trump” and so forth) – and even then, it’s no miracle worker. Otherwise Ossoff just didn’t have much to offer, and that left room for Handel to demagogue him with Republican ingroup stuff among the conservative upper-middle class folks in the area.

  11. multitool says

    @ #11:
    I think SC gets that, as do we all.

    Just because the river only reached halfway up a mountain, does not mean we are having a drought. So “almost” in an extreme case may actually mean something.

  12. microraptor says

    SC @2:

    Thanks, that was what I was thinking too. People are making a huge deal out of the fact that Ossoff didn’t win while ignoring the fact that this was a place where up until now it wasn’t a remotely contested district. We shouldn’t be allowing conservatives to get away with the claim that this razor-thin victory is signaling the end of the Democrat party: there’s blood in the water, all right, but it ain’t liberal.

  13. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    to #10 tomh, you said, “We are not all Americans? What does that even mean?”

    Republicans have successfully run on the mantra that the following persons and groups are not actually “Americans”:

    People who live on the East Coast
    People who live on the West Coast
    Women
    Blacks, Hispanics, and anyone else not white
    People with disabilities
    Anyone who is, or was at any time on welfare or food stamps
    Anyone who voted, or who votes Democratic

    I note again and again that Republican commentators, when noting a Democratic win, will always say, “They won because of the X vote.” X referring to any of the groups above. The unspoken assumption being that votes from X-persons shouldn’t really count.

  14. says

    #18: You forgot a few:

    • People who live in cities
    • People who don’t drive a pick-up truck
    • Gay, lesbian, trans people
    • Non-christians

  15. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    Too true, PZ, I missed a few. When you add them all up, they are actually a majority, and would easily defeat the core Republicans, if they would only (be allowed to) vote!

    I define a “superpatriot” as someone who loves their country and hates 90% of the people living in it.

  16. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 7, and a cross-post from the Political Madness All the Time thread.

    Joy Reid also hosted a segment on voter suppression by Republicans in Georgia. 40,000 voter-registration forms were not properly processed (for mostly low-income black residents and students); 10,000 Koreans were also not registered as voters, even though the registration work had been done (the Korean community in Georgia is solidly Democratic).

    Karen Handel (the Republican candidate in the special election in Georgia’s 6th district) backed the use of “Cross Check” to delete thousands of names from the voter roles. Cross Check has been shown to be extremely inaccurate. For example, supposed duplicates of “John Brown” were deleted from the voter roles, even though over 300 men named John Brown were legitimate voters in Georgia alone. It’s just a common name, especially in black communities. Differing middle names and ages were ignored during the purging process. Ditto for the common Korean name, David Kim.

    Jon Ossoff could not overcome such obstacles to win.

    Read more: https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/05/05/discuss-political-madness-all-the-time-2/#ixzz4keenLWeA

    I am really disappointed by Ossoff’s loss, but am trying to see the loss in a broader perspective. Result: I’m still really disappointed.

    In the last few days of the campaign in Georgia, several Republican supporters of Handel said that they thought the shooting on a baseball field (the attack that put Steve Scalise in the hospital) would win the election for them … they claimed that it was proof that Democrats were calling for Republicans to be shot.

    A broader perspective from Josh Marshall:

    […] Republican SuperPacs poured millions into the race […] In the last three elections, Tom Price won this seat by 65%, 66% and 62%. A significant part of those almost 2 to 1 margins was due to the fact that Democrats fielded only nominal candidates who raised little or no money. But these are chicken and egg type questions. It is precisely because this is a strongly Republican district that Price drew no serious contenders. A better measure are the recent presidential results. There John McCain won the district by 62% and Mitt Romney won it by 61%. To use yet another measure, 538 rates it a +9.5 Republican district, which means it’s 9.5 percentage points more GOP than the country as a whole.

    The big exception was Donald Trump who won the district but only with 48% of the vote, less than 2 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, even as Price cruised to a smashing victory. […], it’s made up of just the kind of Republicans who proved most resistant to Trump. The question has been whether that Trump unpopularity would apply to a conventional Republican who, by normal standards, is well suited to the district. The answer from tonight seems to be, yes. Ossoff dramatically over-performed and almost won the seat.

    Almost isn’t a marginal win of course. You have to win to win. But this isn’t the same as saying Hillary Clinton won some moral victory by winning the popular vote. Special elections are preludes to mid-terms and general elections, not the story in themselves. And in this they are being played only in districts that had their representatives plucked away for cabinet appointments precisely because they represented safe seats. […]

  17. rpjohnston says

    Agreed with #18 and #19. The corollary to that is, if THOSE people (the ones who are not us; Rethugs) have decided that the country isn’t big enough for them and us, then we have no choice but to accept their words. This will be their country, or it will be ours; they will not coexist with us, even if us bleeding-heart liberals would want to.

    re discussion further up:

    Lost doesn’t change policy, and a single gained Congressional vote doesn’t either. But a victory shows that we are a force, and a loss shows that we can be safely trampled. Sure, let’s look forward to 2018 – if the GOP doesn’t destroy us, this country, and possibly civilization by then. Look at how much destruction they’ve wrought in just 6 months. And now they’ve been emboldened to go full-throttle.

    My own contribution: I phonebanked for Perriello, who went on to lose pretty decisively to Northam. Northam is a charming man and in any other year I’d be completely enthused by him, but his mantra is, again, “moderation” and being able to work “bipartisanly”. The horrors of the past year have taught me that Republicans don’t give a shit governing and that “being nice” gives them no incentive to jump party lines. We did have a massive turnout in the Democratic primary vs the Republican primary, but will that hold through November? I sure hope so, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that it does. But even if we do finally manage to a victory and beat Gillespie…will Northam just pull an Obama and waste his time trying to “work with” a republican Party whose only goals are the destruction of the Northam and misery to his people? I don’t know that Perriello wouldn’t have done that but at least he didn’t campaign on it.

    Lastly, these elections aren’t about Democrats vs republicans. This is about Good vs Evil. In another election, ya’ll might have a point about huge gains in a deep red district. But in a sane, in a morally GOOD country, Ossoff would have gotten 90% of the vote. All that I’m seeing is that the majority of people who support unabashed Evil has shrunk slightly. That is not comforting.

  18. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Re @21:
    Only consolation (meager one) was how slim the victory margin was. Used to be solid R, now R relies on voter suppression to achieve a marginal victory.
    Cheers Ossoff✌️,
    *raspberry* Handel.🖕

  19. says

    It was more a matter of hoping than of expectation. Disappointing either way.

    I’m starting to think that those who say it’s a city vs rural mindset (that is, as viewed by the Confederates who spell it “Conservatives”). They even hate whatever the next larger town is, for having sidewalks and three restaurants. I’ve been seeing “urban” as a dogwhistle for ethnic minorities, and it may be, but it looks like “urban” all by itself is a curse word for them.

  20. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    they are actually a majority, and would easily defeat the core Republicans, if they would only (be allowed to) vote!

    And/or fucking show up and, as applicable.

  21. Ze Madmax says

    Another data point for the “The Sky Is Not Falling” pile: the other (and considerably less covered) special election was in South Carolina’s 5th district. Ralph Norman, the GOP candidate, won (because, you know… rural Southern district), but did so by a smaller margin than Handel (3.2% vs. GA-6’s 3.8%). More importantly, on the previous two elections, the GOP candidate (Mick Mulvaney) won the district by much larger margins (20.5% in 2016, 21.3% in 2014, and around 10% for 2012 and 2010).

    As for the Democratic candidate (Archie Parnell), he seems… a bit odd? On one hand, his stated platform is fairly progressive (close corporate tax loop holes, support federal funding for education and infrastructure, oppose ACA repeal). On the other hand, he’s worked for the DOJ and the House Ways and Means Committee “under Democratic leadership” (according to his campaign bio), and he worked as a tax attorney for, among others, Goldman Sachs. So he’s not exactly a Sanders-type outsider either (like, for example, Randy Bryce).

  22. archangelospumoni says

    Kevin Phillips, former speechwriter for Nixon, observed correctly in his phrase: “The short but happy history of the USA . . . .”

  23. says

    rpjohnston:

    Lost doesn’t change policy, and a single gained Congressional vote doesn’t either. But a victory shows that we are a force, and a loss shows that we can be safely trampled.

    It’s nowhere near that stark. You’re ignoring all of the context that’s been put forward here.

    Sure, let’s look forward to 2018 – if the GOP doesn’t destroy us, this country, and possibly civilization by then. Look at how much destruction they’ve wrought in just 6 months. And now they’ve been emboldened to go full-throttle.

    No one here is suggesting just sitting back and doing nothing while awaiting success in 2018.

    My own contribution: I phonebanked for Perriello, who went on to lose pretty decisively to Northam. Northam is a charming man and in any other year I’d be completely enthused by him, but his mantra is, again, “moderation” and being able to work “bipartisanly”. The horrors of the past year have taught me that Republicans don’t give a shit governing and that “being nice” gives them no incentive to jump party lines.

    I agree with this completely. It’s essential that Democrats realize that the Republicans are waging an all-out war on democracy and human well-being (and that of other living beings).

    But even if we do finally manage to a victory and beat Gillespie…will Northam just pull an Obama and waste his time trying to “work with” a republican Party whose only goals are the destruction of the Northam and misery to his people? I don’t know that Perriello wouldn’t have done that but at least he didn’t campaign on it.

    That’s where people have to keep the pressure on.

    Lastly, these elections aren’t about Democrats vs republicans. This is about Good vs Evil.

    Yes.

    In another election, ya’ll might have a point about huge gains in a deep red district. But in a sane, in a morally GOOD country, Ossoff would have gotten 90% of the vote. All that I’m seeing is that the majority of people who support unabashed Evil has shrunk slightly. That is not comforting.

    It is horrifying that so many millions of people support this actively evil, sociopathic, dangerous party. It remains almost unfathomable to me that so many people continue to vote for Republicans (and I’m a sociologist, and I study this). But we have to accept the reality as it is and work to change it. There’s just no other choice. Feeling overwhelmed is a temporary option, and unavoidable sometimes (often, these days), but it’s not a path forward. History is open – they’re strong now, but a lot points to their downfall and to a resurgent liberalism and Left. We have the energy, the momentum, the people organizing across the country, and proven ideas about how to make people’s lives better, and we’re facing off against an intellectually and morally bankrupt opponent. We will win.

  24. Holms says

    Dems will lose and lose and lose, and yet claim that they can’t take progressive politics on board because it is political poison. And then they will lose some more.

  25. says

    I heard a small portion of Handel’s victory speech and she made comments about how people on all sides of the political aisle need to come together and be civil when discussing their differences.
    In a word: NO.
    When one side is literally dehumanizing queers, supporting measures that keep African-Americans marginalized, want to strip women of pretty much all their rights (but most especially their bodily autonomy), support torture, oppose accepting refugees, treat Muslims as terrorists, are in bed with white supremacist Nazis like Bannon and Spencer, oppose anything that could be called good for the planet and [insert whatever else I forgot here], I have no interest in discussing things civilly. When one side (that would be the Republican Party and their Libertarian doucheallies) is engaged in willful obtuseness, deliberate denial, and outright evil, they have forfeited any right to be spoken to with civility. On a good day they’ll be lucky to get invective free contempt.

  26. says

    @#25, Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y

    And/or fucking show up and, as applicable.

    Much though I would like to hope otherwise, I am inclined to believe that it is too late.

    The Democrats have, for the last 30 years, basically been telling the base “you cramp our style — we’re all about corporate money now; shut up and go away”. Polls show that, when party names are not mentioned, progressive policy is wildly popular, but the Democrats have been pushing so hard to avoid it — look at Obama’s first two years, where the Republicans had explicitly said, right at the beginning, that they would not cooperate with anything the Democrats did, but where the Democrats threw away chance after chance at accomplishing things by trying to arrange for bipartisan support and refusing to just pass things with a Democratic majority. From Bill Clinton onward, the party has been chasing the “center” continuously — and the thing about the center is that one side moves inward, the center moves away from them.

    Chuck Shumer said outright that the Democratic strategy in 2016 was to alienate the base to try and bring “moderate Republicans” on board (because we know there are so many of them). (That’s merely a logical extension of Rahm Emmanuel’s “who else are they going to vote for” comment — once you believe the base has no choice, there is no reason to listen to them at all.) As a result, a single letter from the FBI was able to destroy the Democrats’ support, because it was based on sweet-talking people who hate Democrats; if the Democrats’ poll numbers had been built up by getting Democrats to vote, that would not have happened.

    It looks to me as though we have reached the end of that road — the people who used to turn out for the Democrats have been taught that the Democrats really, really don’t care about them, and although there is a certain amount of truth to the claim that Democrats and Republicans aren’t the same, with every passing election the differences seem more like nitpicking: Donald Trump bombs a Syrian airfield, Hillary Clinton says in an interview that if she had been President she would have bombed earlier and harder. Republicans want to destroy the environment, poor people, and safety laws, but the Democrats are the ones who push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would do all that. Donald Trump loves coal, Hillary Clinton can’t see why anyone is against Keystone XL. Not all of the Democrats’ base has been alienated, but enough that even though the Democrats ought to have a huge numeric advantage, they can still be wiped out at every level (and were in 2016).

    The party bigwigs don’t even seem to see this as a problem; if anything, it looks like they enjoy being a minority in the government — they can collect “campaign contributions” from everyone on all sides, and have no responsibility because they have trained the electorate to expect nothing at all except empty showboating unless the party has a supermajority, so they don’t actually have to lift a finger. It seems unlikely that the party will have the political will to stop taking its base for granted, particularly in the face of corporate dollars, but even if they did, if that strategy didn’t bear fruit immediately they would immediately stop and revert to the old rightward shift they’ve been pushing for decades now. And if you seriously want the lost base to come back, it’s going to take a lot of time, and the ejection of untrustworthy people like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (and no, I’m not talking about her role as party chair, but rather her undermining of Elizabeth Warren’s attempts at regulation) and Corey “D-Big Pharma” Booker. I just don’t see it happening.

  27. Vivec says

    Whoa, you mean billing yourself as Republican-lite won’t win you elections when you’re running against an actual Republican in a ruby-red district? Color me shocked.

  28. Demeisen says

    @Tony! #30: Whenever a politician says “all sides” I usually just read that as “my opponents.” In this case, I’m pretty sure it means “stop calling out my bigoted opinions and just go along with them!”

  29. says

    @10 tomh

    My meaning is clear. The majority of GA 6th voters and I have such different worldviews, interests and values that despite being compelled by force to share a political structure we are not in unity. We might as well be in different countries and really separation is the only means forward. I don’t care what side gets labeled “American” but the factions are not of one body politic. The sooner people realize this the better. It is irrational to treat Republicans has acting in good faith. They are not. I can’t trust them to meet minimal standards of behavior from fellow citizens. As such, either they are not citizens or I’m not. The difference between us is simply to great.

Leave a Reply