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Friday, October 15, 2021

Perspective in Politics: Democratic Party must fix weak turnout, infighting for 2018 elections

SHEREEN LEE / AGGIE

The party can come together in opposition against the president

Just last week, the Democratic Party successfully won various elections across the country, especially in Virginia and New Jersey. In both states, the governor’s race ended with resounding majorities in favor of the Democrats. The tide now seems to be turning against the Republican Party, while the Democrats seem very confident in victory in the coming years.

The Trump factor seems to be a significant influence in the high turnout in places like Virginia. If the Democratic party can take advantage of heightening disdain towards this presidency, then they can get people out to vote on election day. According to polling data released by The Washington Post, 51 percent of respondents in Virginia said that the president influenced how they voted, with two-thirds of these people voting Democrat to counter Trump.

Turnout will be critical to any Democratic success next year, even more so considering how midterm elections traditionally have much lower turnout than presidential elections. In last year’s election, Hillary Clinton lost in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, five states that voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Rather than seeing a major surge of people voting Republican, four of these five states witnessed either a decrease in the Democratic vote tally or a very slight increase. The inability to even reach Obama’s popular vote in these states guaranteed Trump’s close victory in all of them.

But ever since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has repeatedly garnered widespread disapproval from the public. A 20-point gap in approval now exists, with 55 percent of people disapproving and just 35 percent approving — surpassing Obama’s previously bad ratings. This predicament discourages Republicans who don’t see Trump as an electoral asset from seeking the president’s endorsement.

Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, tried to distance himself from the president while appealing to as much of the population as possible. Despite how many political commentators argued that Gillespie would win with the strategy, his efforts fell short, and he still lost the election. Had it not been for the widespread disapproval of the president, the governor’s race could have been a lot closer. The Democrats can therefore tie Republican candidates nationwide to Trump, regardless of their views toward the president, as they did in Virginia last week.

Yet in many ways, the infighting in the Democratic party continues on — not just in the party’s leadership, but also among its candidates throughout the country. Marked divisions continue to show in the presidential race or Congress and even between candidates running in local and state offices.

Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, faced some challenges in her district in eastern San Francisco. A candidate named Preston Picus aligned himself with Bernie Sanders last year, running on a progressive platform in an attempt to beat Pelosi. Although he lost in a landslide, the Bernie versus Hillary fight still rages on.

In Virginia, Democratic voters chose Ralph Northam over Tom Perriello to run for governor against the Republicans. Here as well, Perriello, the candidate whom Sanders supported, eventually lost to the mainstream candidate supported by the Democratic leadership and many of its state lawmakers.

The Democratic party must also find a way to reconcile these differences between the left and moderate wings of the party. The best approach is for everyone in the party to find common ground in opposing all Republican candidates. This is easily understandable in the eyes of regular people but less so in the eyes of Democrats at all levels of politics.

Considering how the president creates his own negative press, the Democratic political machine doesn’t have to do much. A coalition just has to be created between usual Democratic voters, independents who ended up voting for Trump and those who stayed home on election day last year.

 

Written by: Justin Chau — jtchau@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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