Too Close to Call Brings on the Dread

New Orleans   For all of us who lived through the 2016 election, seeing headlines in the paper the day before the midterm elections warning that it is “too close to call,” brings forward feelings somewhere between dread and total depression, along with quick mental notes on how to prepare for the apocalypse.  The major pollsters, perhaps chastened by missing the boat by a mile in 2016, could just be involved in some major league efforts to cover their backsides, but the skinny seems to be that some of the critical races in the House are within a 1% margin meaning that it could easily go either way.  The number of times in my lifetime of voting where “either way,” really translates into “no way it will be my way,” I would rather not have to list.  You don’t have the time, and I don’t have the energy.

Driving last week, I listened to Nate Cohn, the New York Times pollster on many of these issues.  He defended the validity and the practice of polling extensively.  His revisionism in some ways on 2016 is that vast legions of us don’t really understand that polling is an exercise in understanding probabilities.  Even when a Clinton might have a 90% plus chance of winning, a Trump still could have a 50% or better chance as well.  Interestingly, he also argued something that we often have found in union representation elections:  there are few close elections.  Even with the polls this tight, the momentum swings could mean the Democrats taking forty seats as easily as taking only ten, and vice versa.  Little comfort there, if you were planning on praying the polling gods.

Of course, it’s not just polling or momentum.  Hard core gerrymandering after the Republican takeover of the House and numerous state legislatures and governors’ seats, meant that they were able to build some pretty steep walls against voting and voting access after the 2010 census during redistricting.  The frequent court decisions in North Carolina that have held that the state legislature unconstitutionally tilted the balance there are simply one good example.  A Democratic surge in the House would allow some rebalancing of course.

As we read daily about the huge fight in Georgia where the Republican Secretary of State is also a candidate for governor – and in Kansas where Kris Kobach is doing the same thing – being able to attempt to disqualify up to 50,000 voters and new registrants is a powerful tool in conservative strategy.   The motto for these candidates is “preach democracy, don’t practice it.”  A federal judge may have stepped in to allow these folks to vote in Georgia, but these efforts have been embedded in one state after another.  Only four states have NOT restricted voter access in the last eight years.

The only thing certain, win, lose, or draw, is that from the day after the midterms everything will then focus on 2020 and the next round from Trump down.


Ten People Know Scott Pruitt

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9569074a)
A sign criticizing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is seen posted on the base of a utility pole on the corner of H Street NW and 13 Street NW in Washington
Trump EPA, Washington, USA – 06 Apr 2018

Little Rock     The key architect of the Republicans efforts to maintain control of the House of Representatives is 37-year old Corry Bliss.  Times’ columnist, Frank Bruni, description puts him in the thick of the midterm campaign.  “Bliss serves as the executive director of the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a potent super PAC that raises money for, and directs it to, high-priority House races nationwide.”

His interview is interesting as a reminder to anyone who has forgotten how sure they were that Hillary Clinton would be seated as President in the election against Donald Trump, that the Republicans are alive and competing fiercely to hold onto Congress in the midterms, even if they are not completely well and carrying huge White House baggage around their necks.  Bliss scoffs at the notion of a “blue wave” sweeping Democrats into office.  He accurately notes the fact that Republicans in the critical, recent Ohio primaries outperformed the Democrats by 150,000 votes in turnout, challenging the notion that Democratic activism is red hot and can overwhelm predictions.

One of his comments that I found most interesting though was a throwaway line when he was asked about the constant scandals involving Trump secretaries and appointees like the eleven investigations at various levels involving Scott Pruitt, Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  He scoffed that there aren’t “ten people in the country” who even know who Scott Pruitt is.

Scott Pruitt of the luxury flights and free housing, the special $30,000 phone booth, and the wildly expensive, multi-million-dollar security team probably winched at reading that line from a Republican super-organizer, but the more you think about it, there’s some frightening truth to the point.  So, sure, more than ten people do know who he is.  Maybe it’s a thousand or tens of thousands or even a million.  He was a rightwing footnote as Attorney General in Oklahoma who sued the EPA a lot representing the oil and gas industry and found himself nominated by another political unknown to gut the EPA.  But, no matter his mischief, the point Bliss makes powerfully, despite the exaggeration, is that people are not going to vote on whether to retain or unseat their local Congressperson based on whoever the heck Scott Pruitt might be.

When we think about it, we know why.  Every poll is clear that people are not paying attention in class.  They might vote for or against based on Trump and his antics but be warned that this is also a dangerous assumption.  The Republican base has moved across the spectrum on issues like free trade, taxes, and debt largely based on the seismic shifts directed by Trump.  His positions and personal characteristics may be appalling to many, but there is no denying that he is the leader of his band and holding them steady.  Even his general popularity is improving.

People vote for their local folks on local issues as well as holding their ears to the ground to hear which way the herd is running, but progressives can’t win by just running against Trump any more than they have a chance of winning with the hope that more people know Scott Pruitt and are appalled by him and his attempts to destroy the world we live in forever.

To win, they have to stand for something more.  And, everyone has to know where they stand. Standing against something doesn’t equal winning.


Please enjoy Ana Egge’s Girls, Girls, Girls.

Thanks to KABF.