With Cantor Loss, Liberals Whistling Past the Graveyard Print
By Troy Senik
Thursday, June 12 2014
On even the narrowest of terms, that means that Cantor’s loss provides no net advantage to Democrats.

The Democratic Party may have finally landed on a campaign slogan for 2014: “Any port in a storm.” That’s the only explanation for the glee that some liberals have been expressing in reaction to the news that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th district. They have to have something to bolster their spirits.

Why the left would crow at Cantor’s demise is inexplicable apart from sheer partisan animus. Cantor won the district in 2012 with 58 percent of the vote — a commanding performance, yet the smallest margin of victory he had ever enjoyed. Thus, barring a total implosion, it’s a safe bet that David Brat, the candidate who defeated Cantor, will have an easy path to victory in November.

On even the narrowest of terms, that means that Cantor’s loss provides no net advantage to Democrats. And on broader ones, it surely cuts against them. Cantor, after all, seems to have been undone largely by his support for immigration reform — a priority for President Obama and congressional Democrats. In the wake of his high profile unseating, any future plans to take up that cause are necessarily off the table.

Put in a broader context, what’s most remarkable about where Democrats find themselves today — gloating over a Republican’s defeat even if there’s no concomitant benefit to them — is how pathetically low their standards have fallen over just the course of a few years.

Remember the triumphalism of 2008? With President Obama having taken the White House and Democrats having emerged triumphant in two successive congressional elections, the left was on the march — and they weren’t planning on stopping anytime soon. Democratic political strategist James Carville even wrote a book entitled 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation — and his was far from a minority opinion.

The prevailing theory among Democrats rested on two key assumptions: (1) that George W. Bush and congressional Republicans had so thoroughly discredited conservatism as to make it electorally poisonous for the foreseeable future and (2) that demographic changes — especially the increase in loyally Democratic minority populations and the growing liberal tendencies of young voters — would keep Republicans underwater for decades to come.

The problem with this kind of analysis — which only becomes more acute the further out into the future that you take it — is its assumption that current trends will continue unabated. But what if the voters don’t perpetually prejudge every Republican candidate according to how they felt about George W. Bush? What if minority voters don’t maintain the same partisan allegiances over time? (For some context, it’s worth remembering that Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote only a decade ago — these things can change quickly). And, rather importantly, what happens if voters change their minds on the issues?

A decade ago, for instance, only 47 percent of Americans viewed big government as the biggest threat to America’s future according to Gallup polling. By December of last year, that number had ballooned to 72 percent.

Anyone who thinks they can develop an abstract formula for predicting the political future has another think coming to them. But while long-term trends are extremely volatile, there’s a little more clarity in the short-term; guesses about six months from now can be made with dramatically higher levels of confidence than guesses about six years from now.  Who would have imagined during the Sun King phase of Barack Obama’s first presidential bid, for example, that he’d be a nursing a 44 percent approval rating and a widespread perception of incompetence by the first half of his second term? Those near-term prospects don’t look good for Democrats either.

Consider this year’s upcoming senate elections. Republicans need to capture six seats in the upper chamber to claim an outright majority and take full control of congress. Seven serious races are taking places in states that Mitt Romney won in the 2012 presidential election — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Republicans could fall short of a sweep and still control the senate — without even factoring in the reasonable prospects for potential victories in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire or the long-shot chances in Oregon and Virginia.

That’s partially attributable to the cyclical nature of politics — the triumphalist Democrats of 2006 and 2008 acted as if those seats were theirs to keep. Yet only a political naïf could assume that states like Alaska, West Virginia or Louisiana were secure in perpetuity. In a wave year, those seats are within reach. But when the tide goes out, they’re nearly impossible to hold on to.

Perhaps it’s because Democrats assumed that ironclad laws of history were propelling them to permanent majority status that they became so dismissive of public sentiment — ramming through ObamaCare over popular objections, turning a blind eye as the president bent restrains on executive power to the breaking point and not even bothering to offer serious proposals to deal with the country’s dire economic straits. Why bother responding to the plebs, after all, when the winds of fate are at your back?

Politics is never that simple. Every election requires a new effort to persuade the American people that you’re worthy of their vote. Democrats seem to have forgotten that principle. It’s likely that they’ll be reminded in November.