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There was a time not so long ago when the forecast of an
imminent political “red wave” would have alarmed most
Republicans and conservatives --- and pleased some
Democrats and many on the left. But in today’s popular
political lingo, it is the prospect of a “blue wave” that
delights liberals, and a “red wave” that would terrify them
in the upcoming national mid-term cycle ending in
Most in the national media, and its commentators, however,
have been detailing and prophesying recently a likely “wave”
(or tide) in shades of blue for next year, especially after the
upset win by a liberal Democrat in the special election just
held in Alabama --- a distinctly red state.
As I, and some others, have already pointed out, to the
contrary, the defeat of far-out rightwinger Roy Moore was a
victory in disguise for the Republicans who, had Moore won,
would have been forced wear him around their political
necks like the proverbial albatross. Key to Doug Jones’
unexpected victory in Alabama was the large bloc of usually
conservative voters who rejected an inappropriate GOP
nominee --- and sent an important message to their party’s
strategists, i.e., we demand better candidates for high office.
Democrats, caught in a spiral of shocked self-denial about the
2016 election, seemed certain that Moore would be elected,
and so forced one of their own, Minnesota’s Al Franken, to
resign because he also faced allegations of impropriety ---
apparently thinking they could thus embarrass the party of
Donald Trump over the 2018 campaign season.
Mr. Jones, now the senator-elect, promptly rebuked his future
senate leaders by denouncing their recent calls to impeach
the president, and even suggested he might vote with the
Republicans on some occasions. He thus showed a certain
good sense for political survival for the time when he must go
to the voters of Alabama for re-election to the seat. Alabama
is a very, very “red” state.
Mr. Franken was not scheduled to run for re-election until
2020, but now his appointed successor must run in less than
a year --- which puts two senate races on the 2018 Minnesota
ballot, one of which might be a hitherto unexpected pick-up.
Steve Bannon, the self-styled leader of the GOP putsch
against the party’s congressional leadership, placed his bets on
Mr. Moore. Had he succeeded, it might well have precipitated
a “blue wave” in the following months as GOP incumbents
and favorites might have faced ruinous primary challengers
promoted by Mr. Bannon. The former Trump aide, now
rejected by the president, will no doubt keep on trying, but
the conservative party has received a useful early warning
about the mischief looming in such a divisive effort.
Almost immediately after the Alabama special election, the
GOP-controlled senate finally passed a tax reform bill
that already had passed the U.S. house, and after some
adjustments, the legislation was sent to President Trump,
fulfilling a major 2016 GOP campaign promise. This also
ended years of congressional stalemate, and gave the GOP
a vitally needed year-end victory.
At the same time, competitive U.S. senate and U.S. house races
took more and more focus as new retirements were revealed,
and more challengers announced. The Democrats have a clear
advantage in the house races --- with more GOP seats seeming
vulnerable next November. On the other hand, the conservative
party has a distinct advantage in the senate races, with 10-12
more Democratic seats up for grabs.
Had Moore won, and Mr. Bannon been given momentum for
his intra-party putsch --- and the GOP-controlled Congress
failed to pass tax reform legislation by year-end (the bill also
ended the Obamacare mandate, another campaign promise),
--- that advantage might have been erased. Of course, there are
no guarantees about how many senate pick-ups the GOP will
now make, but their prospects have been greatly improved.
Republicans still have a demographic advantage in the U.S.
house, and even have opportunities to pick up a few seats.
Historically, however, the party out of power makes gains in
the first mid-term election after they lose the White House.
This precedent has fueled recent media and Democratic Party
strategists’ anticipations of a 2018 “blue wave.”
This tide in blue might still happen, but the genuine signs for
it are not yet present. In fact, the signs for now point the other
way. Donald Trump not only defied conventional wisdom in
2016, he has continued to do so (admittedly with not a few
political hiccups) in the eleven months since taking office.
With about half a dozen senate pick-ups, and holding
Democratic gains in the house to under 10, the GOP would
break the commonplace precedent, although it has happened
before. For more than that, it would take a now-unexpected
“red wave” in 2018. A “blue wave” would bring back control
of the Congress to the Democrats.
It is too early to tell the color of the approaching wave. All we
can see now is the white of the distant breaking surf.
But a wave is coming --- in one color or another.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.