Monday, January 29, 2018

Buckeyes beware of too much 'Blue Wave Kool-Aid' this midterm election cycle

In just 281 days, the 2018 midterm elections will be over. Will President Trump's low ratings bleed into Republican turnout? Will Democrats, as so many are speculating now, take back the U.S. House or Senate and deliver a mortal blow to Trump World in the nation's capital and in many state capitals across the nation?

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus
Blue Wave Kool-Aid, the tasty, powerful election energy drink Democrats and pundits are ladling out in vast quantities, can make anyone who drinks too much of it too fast drunk with the idea that Republicans are on the ropes this election cycle, due in large part to Trump's unstable, erratic performance one year into his first term that's been captured best so far in Michael Wolff's world best seller, "Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House."

When historical facts are broken down and applied to this year's midterm elections, as Bloomberg has done in "All Signs Point to Big Democratic Wins in 2018," Republicans, even those who have tried to distance themselves from the rhetoric and actions of this White House, should be quaking in their boots after presented with a set of tea leafs that predict their demise or destruction in November.

The Blue Wave Kool-Aid might not be the universal elixir it's being cracked up to be, especially in ruby red Ohio, where Trump decimated Hillary Clinton by almost one-half-million votes, and where Republicans at the state level have ruled the roost for decades, with the exception of the short span of 2006-2010 when all but one statewide seat was won by Democrats and the Ohio House for a short two-year stint (2008-2010) was controlled by Democrats. Aside from this anomaly, Republicans have controlled all gears of Ohio government, including the legislature, where laws are made and executive wishes are dashed even for long-time establishment Republicans like John Kasich, who as governor saw many of his cherished policies and goals summarily ditched when even more conservative legislators showed the prickly, lame-duck governor who was boss.

Bloomberg predicts, based on historical averages and the popularity of the president at the time (above or below 50%), that as many as 33 GOP House seats could be lost. With Dems needing a net gain of 24 seats, Blue Wave Kool-Aid drinkers can already see bright light shinning down on them this year.

In the Senate in Washington, Democrats have to defend 26 seats versus just eight for Republicans. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is among the 26 defenders this year, so as the last Democrat to be elected statewide, Brown's fate could be dicey if Trump voters turnout in numbers not expected while Democrats slack off at the polls, as history shows happens in midterm elections when overall voting dips.

At the state level, Democrats have racked up wins for city mayor in many of its largest municipalities, but Republicans enjoy veto-proof majorities in the state Senate and House. The gift that keeps on giving stems from the Tea Party wave of 2010, when Ohio rebounded from four years of Democratic control of the governor's office and other statewide offices. Every election cycle after 2010, Democrats have been washed away by Republicans, whose control of the legislature guaranteed that redistricting would favor their party of Democrats.

“If a Democratic wave is big enough, I could actually imagine several Ohio seats being potentially vulnerable,” Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said, the Dayton Daily News reported. “But at the moment, the Ohio seats are sort of on the periphery of the national conversation.”

Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, has a message that seems to be on point: “If Democrats are winning congressional races in Ohio, then they’ve already won the majority,” he said, adding the big news that Ohio Democrats don't want to hear because it rings so true: “I don’t think any of the Ohio races are in the first or second tier.” Republicans control 12 of 16 House seats, and districts are so gerrymandered that any one of them losing to a Democrats is only seen by Blue Wave Kool-Aid drinkers who have imbibed too much of the fantasy drink.

And keep in mind the prediction that Ohio will lose another house seat following the 2020 national census. Republican map makers will force another two Democratic congressman to fight it out in a new district not of their making. When that happens, GOP candidates will still control a dozen seats compared to just three for Democrats.

If Sen. Brown can win his third term in the upper chamber in the era of Trump, that will be because his populist economic agenda hits home with average Ohio workers, many of whom voted for Trump two years ago. If Brown should lose, the Ohio Democratic Party just might drift into irrelevance after losing big time in 2010, 2014 and 2016. President Barack Obama won Ohio in 2008 and again in 2012, but even in those years, Republicans kept control by expanding their seats in Washington and Columbus.

Marc Dann served as Ohio's 47th Attorney General for a short time before being run out of office over scandals in his office that brought the wrath of Democrats and Republicans down on him. The leader of the Dann Law Firm, which specializes in protecting consumers from various forms of predatory financing, Dann offers up a glimmer of hope for Democrats searching for a new agenda to attract Trump voters back into the fold this year.

At Working Class Studies, Dann says Democrats may already have their opening, and it "doesn’t involve porn stars, Russians, racism, or tax cuts for the rich, none of which seem to matter much to the president’s supporters." What could work, he says, is recognition of the fact that Trump has abandoned them when "they finally realize that he’s betrayed them by gutting the regulatory framework that really made America great for the working class"

Dann lists his suggestions for where Democrats can make their mark when it comes to the new message many Democrats say they need to beckon back wayward workers.

  • Net neutrality may seem like an arcane issue, but FCC Chair Ajit Pai ‘s decision to roll back Obama-era internet rules will inevitably lead to increased costs for internet access.
  • Betsy Devos, the clueless Secretary of Education, is repealing rules that made it difficult for private universities to rip-off students and making it more expensive for kids and parents to repay student loans.
  • Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who was installed as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), has submitted a “zero budget” for the agency he absolutely loathes, and instituted a hiring freeze and a prohibition on new regulations.  Just for good measure, he’s also decided to make it easier for the vultures in the payday lending industry to prey on the poor and the working class.
  • The Labor Department’s decision to allow pool-tipping and to ditch rules that would have made hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers eligible for overtime pay will cost working families millions of dollars each year.
  • The unrelenting attack on the Affordable Care Act, which survived repeal but has taken a number of other hits, will lead to premium increases and the loss of coverage in the years ahead.
The unrelenting attack on the Affordable Care Act, which survived repeal but has taken a number of other hits, will lead to premium increases and the loss of coverage in the years ahead.
"Every one of these actions will impact working-class Americans disproportionately, especially those who live on the edge of bankruptcy and lack the financial resources to fend off unscrupulous lenders and other scam artists. According to a 2016 Federal Reserve Report 46% of American households could not handle a $400 emergency expense. That makes them prime targets for payday, car title, and predatory mortgage lenders that generate huge profits by exploiting people who barely live paycheck-to-paycheck," said Dann, who served in the Ohio Senate prior to being elected Ohio attorney general in 2006.
In Ohio, where the results of this fall's election may already be baked in, based on some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, and where Ohio media cannot be trusted to speak the truth if it means investigating a Republican ticket they think will ultimately be successful so they can guarantee continued access, Dann believes that "when combined with Trump’s unrelenting attack on the very things that make America a land of opportunity, these bold, state-based initiatives may provide Democrats with the weapon they need to send Trump back to his tower – and actually make America better for the working class."

Another reason Ohio Democrats should beware of drinking the national Blue Wave Kool-Aid that may not have the salubrious effects in Ohio that many think it will have in other states, is the promise by Koch Brothers to spend $400 million in 2018 to tilt the election cycle to Republicans.

Kool-Aid drinkers, drink at your own risk.

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