Lessons from the South for 2020

New Orleans      It may be too early to make a definitive list of lessons learned from the off-year elections in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky, but the one thing that seems crystal clear is that the Democrats have some hope, the Republicans have some deep worries, and to the degree President Trump makes these elections all-about-me, he’s a loser.  Nonetheless, there are some trends worth noting one year before the 2020 US electoral sweepstakes.

When Trump heats it all up to boiling to pull his base out of the woods, he also pulls out his opponents, and those in the middle, as heavily.

In Louisiana for example, 385,000 more voters came to the polls in 2019, than 2015.  John Bel Edwards was reelected as governor at the head of the Democratic ticket with 28,527 more votes out of Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with New Orleans, with a surge of black votes, but also taking some Lakeview and Uptown precincts that are typically Republican.  He pulled 66000 more votes cumulatively from East Baton Rouge Parish and Orleans.  He won suburban Jefferson Parish which is nearly the size of Orleans and was the original landing spot of white flight, and the heart of Representative Steve Scalise’s congressional district and the legislative district that was represented earlier by Scalise and KKK stalwart, David Duke.  Early turnout and significant effort by African-American churches were also key.

Moderate, suburban voters outside of Louisville and Lexington were key to a Democratic governor winning narrowly in Kentucky as well.  The closeness of the race in Mississippi was also partially due to suburban voters outside of Jackson and in the northern Mississippi counties that include Memphis suburbs, where many voters had leaned and loved Republican candidates from top to bottom.  Observers in Mississippi have argued to me that Jim Hood could have won had the party been more united behind his candidacy, so there may be some stories beneath the headlines there as well.

Here’s another takeaway:  The Affordable Care Act is an election winner.  I heard Eddie Rispone’s ads over and over every time I was at the gym on an elliptical machine, and they were nasty about healthcare giveaways and money to illegal immigrants in Louisiana.  Edwards campaigned on extending Medicaid coverage in Louisiana, and it mattered.  Andy Beshear, the Kentucky winner, was also clear that he would do his darnedest to expand Medicaid under the ACA there as well.  Medicaid for All may not be a good political sell yet, but fix and expand the Affordable Care Act offerings definitely delivers votes and turnout.

Make sure to remember the fact that women have the ability to hold up more than half the sky when it comes to the 2020 election, and educated, suburban and urban women, have not changed their mind about Trump and his apologists should be on every list.  The impeachment circus may not yield much, but few women are going to miss the point of a former ambassador being bullied and intimidated by Trump or the courage of the women professionals willing to stand up and speak out about the president’s foreign policy narcissism.

So far Trump is doing a better job at pulling out votes against him than we are at pulling out votes for anybody else.  There’s no comfort in that conclusion, but it gives us hope and some paths to travel.

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