Democratic Challenges in the Trump Era

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Democratic Challenges To Overcome Trumpism
(Flickr/DonkeyHotey) Democratic Donkey Caricature
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The Democratic challenges to overcoming Trumpism are serious.

Democrats may chuckle over Donald Trump’s squabbles with his own team and party. But they themselves are hardly the picture of unity.

With Trump’s low ratings, this would seem to be a great opportunity for the Democratic party. Some Democrats are hopeful that the 2018 elections will see a reverse of Republican Senate control.

However, Democratic hopes might be unduly optimistic. Chief among the Democratic challenges threatening their prospects are their problems at the state level.

Democratic Challenges at State Level

For many years, the changing demography of the electorate has given Democrats optimism about their future. The theory was that the Democratic party would benefit from a less-white United States.

Unfortunately, the Democratic dreams overlook the location of these demographic transformations.

Most changes are taking place in states that are already Democratic strongholds.
When these shifts in populations happen in places like the Midwest and South, it disturbs traditional residents –- most of whom are white and older. They appear to be moving to the Republican party.

As a result, Republicans now control both legislative chambers in 32 states, while Democrats control less than half. Not only that, Democrats have a “political trifecta” – where they control the governorship and legislature – in only six states. By contrast, Republicans enjoy this trifecta in 24 states.

Republican dominance at the state level often enables them to gerrymander and suppress votes for their own advantage. This depresses and marginalizes Democratic voters.

Without an opportunity to lead at the state level, a leading Democratic challenge is finding inspiring young Democrats.

Democratic Challenges: Doddering Leaders

Both the leading Democratic presidential challengers in 2016 were over 70 years old. So was Trump.

Now, these old candidates did attract many young supporters. But it is hard to see people getting excited about them.

At the House level, the Democratic party has old leaders. Compared to the youthful Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi looks like the grandmother she is.

At least at the Senate level, the gap between Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not so wide. Still, the average Republican Congressional member is about four years younger than their Democratic peers.

In Democratic California, there has been some disquiet about 84-year old Dianne Feinstein’s decision to run again for her Senate seat. Some of Feinstein’s stands have revealed another set of Democratic challenges on policy issues.

Democratic Challenges: Policy Issues

Trump has played brilliantly to the basest fears of a slice of voters. He is forcing Democrats to pay defense on issues like allegiance to the flag, race, and terrorism.

Unfortunately, these cultural issues are deeply divisive across the country. This is particularly true in some of the swing states like my own state of Ohio that Trump handily carried.

Democrats may be better off in Congressional races by concentrating on two non-cultural issues.

First, they should focus on Trump’s legislative agenda favoring the rich. Second, they should draw attention to the Trump administration incompetence and entitlement culture.

Otherwise, not only 2018 but 2020 could be disastrous for Democrats.


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