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Democrats Cry the Georgia Blues

Jacob Kornbluh

Jewish Candidate Loses Tight Race to Republican Opponent

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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BATTING 0.000 Democrats continue their losing streak in special elections. The latest defeat was in Georgia, where 30-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff (above) lost an election to fill the seat vacated by Republican Tim Price

D emocrats are 0-for-5 in special elections since Donald Trump was elected president, a losing streak that has party leaders searching for answers.

The Republican’s biggest victory came last week in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, where 30-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff lost an election to fill the seat vacated by Republican Tim Price, whom Trump tabbed to be his secretary of health and human services.

The two parties spent almost $57 million in the Georgia contest, with the Democrats spending more than $30 million of that sum, making it the most expensive House race in history. But all that money apparently didn’t move voters. Republican Karen Handel beat Ossoff by 3.8 percentage points, greater than the 1.5 percent margin that Trump enjoyed over Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.

In the days that followed Ossoff’s defeat, Democratic party leaders and activists engaged in panicky postmortems, trying to understand how a president tarnished by scandal could still push his party along at the polls. Early indications are that the Democrats, the party that once championed the working class, is failing to attract white middle class voters, the kind that supported Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and propelled him to victory. Though historically the opposition party gains in midterm elections, the Democrats now have reason for concern: they will need to flip more than 20 seats to wrest control of the House of Representatives from the GOP.

“It was just an extraordinary waste of time and money, and what this says is that the Democratic Party doesn’t have a message, it needs new leadership, and it has become the very elite structure that they accuse the Republican Party of being,” Democratic campaign strategist Hank Sheinkopf opined in a conversation with Mishpacha.

It was clear from the results, Sheinkopf said, that voters did not see the election as a referendum on Donald Trump. “Donald Trump does whatever he wants. He’s not impacting the policy debate,” he said. “If the Democrats have any hope, it’ll be that the Republicans’ policy, not Donald Trump’s mouth, infuriate enough people.”

Jim Arkedis, president of 4DPAC, a progressive, foreign-policy-focused action committee, thinks the glass is half full when assessing the party’s future chances of winning in vulnerable Republican districts.

“When you look at the larger context of the [Georgia] race, I think that there’s a lot of hope in there for the Democratic Party,” Arkedis told Mishpacha.

“What this says is that the Democratic Party doesn’t have a message, it needs new leadership, and it has become the very elite structure that they accuse the Republican Party of being”
 —Hank Sheinkopf

For one thing, he said, the prior holder of the seat, Representative Tom Price, regularly won the district by 20 percentage points, and Ossoff lost by less than 4 points. “The general point is that if Democrats are on offense with a lot of enthusiasm, and conservatives have to play defense and spread their resources around to spend them in vulnerable seats, I think that’s quite positive.”

New York City Councilman David Greenfield, a Democrat from Brooklyn, echoed the same sentiments, while acknowledging that his party is lacking a compelling message. “It’s easy to run against something, but voters want to know what you’re in favor of,” Greenfield said. “The party needs a clear, positive message about how it sees the future of America.”

Arkedis also cautioned against the Democrats becoming too focused on Trump and the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. “I am one million percent convinced that Donald Trump has a mandate among white working-class voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin,” he explained. “And if he can somehow create jobs or increase wages in those places, then those voters are going to be very hesitant to abandon him.”

The Democrats’ woes have led some to call for a change in leadership. Nancy Pelosi, the 77-year-old House minority leader, has led the Democratic caucus for 15 years, and some now want her to step down from her post. “It’s time for the House Democrats to get a new minority leader and probably get other new leaders and to bring younger people into the polls,” says Sheinkopf.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 666. Jacob Kornbluh is also the political reporter for JewishInsider.com

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