One of the differences between Democrats and Republicans, especially in the party leadership and the media pundits who support them, is how they differ in the way they react to political developments. Democrats tend to view pretty much anything as a sign that things are getting worse for them and that they will be in trouble in the next elections, while Republicans view any and all developments as helping their chances.
Even though Trump lost the 2020 election by a large margin and Democrats unexpectedly gained enough seats in the US senate to give them the majority, they lost seats in the House of Representatives, though still retaining the majority there. But they tended to view the activism that drove their successes, such as the progressive policies that were advocated and Black Lives Matter protests, as somehow things that will bring them down in the next election and that they need to distance themselves from.
We saw this in the special election that was held on Tuesday in New Mexico for the House seat vacated by Deb Haaland after she became secretary of the interior. Even though she won the seat in 2020 by 16% and Joe Biden won that constituency by 23%, fears were expressed that the margin would drop this time unless the party went in a more ‘moderate’ (i.e., conservative) direction.
Well, the candidate Melanie Stansbury won in a landslide, 63%-33%.
The parties used the district as a way to test their midterm messaging. For Democrats, that meant selling Biden’s recovery packages and a brighter post-pandemic future. But Republicans mostly repeated their 2020 strategy of portraying all Democrats as insufficiently supportive of law enforcement.
Moores’ campaign was centered entirely on that message. And while his lopsided loss suggests it didn’t appeal to Democratic-leaning voters in Albuquerque, the GOP hopes it will still be salient in swing districts.
But Democrats now have a template to follow for warding off their attacks. Stansbury responded to the “defund the police” hit by running an ad starring a law enforcement official praising her commitment to public safety funding. She called for a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform that addresses the underlying causes of crime.
Stansbury, who describes herself as a pragmatic progressive, will be joining the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Her win also pads their margins, though she wasn’t explicitly endorsed by some key progressive organizations, such as the Justice Democrats, who waded into an earlier special election in Louisiana.
On the other side Republicans, at least publicly, always express optimism about the next election cycle, even though the party is in a shambles with Trump definitely an albatross despite (and maybe because of) his cult-like following, and nutcases like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz becoming the face of the party, hogging all the media attention.
The reason for this difference is not hard to understand. The energy of the Democratic party comes from the progressive base while the energy of the Republican party comes from the extreme right wing crazies. The ruling class wants to keep the progressive impulses that are welling up from the grass roots of the Democratic party in check and predicting electoral doom unless they ‘move to the center’ is their way of trying to tamp down their enthusiasm and thus avoid taking more radical measures. No matter how many successes the progressives may notch, such as the increased margin of victory in New Mexico, the message is always that the party must become more ‘centrist’ and the progressives must pipe down to avoid alienating voters. It never changes.
On the other hand, even the Republican crazies support policies that the ruling class likes that benefit the wealthy so the shenanigans of the nutcases are either ignored or laughed off as not posing any serious problem for the party. In fact, they help the ruling class by helping to energize the base and intimidate and sideline those Republicans who think the party is heading over a cliff and needs to change course.