Is This 2016 All Over Again?

Many historians do not view World War II as a unique conflict, but rather an interrupted continuation of the issues unresolved by World War I.  In many ways, that is the story of the midterm election of 2018.  It is a replay of 2016.

The most obvious similarity is the election eve polling and predictions.  Democrats and the left-leaning media are consumed with analyses that suggest – often with an unwarranted certainty – that the Democrats will take control of the United States House of Representatives.  If that does not happen, it will take an entire chicken ranch to provide sufficient egg for their collective faces.

Not only will they have suffered monumental embarrassment, but the very viability of the Democratic Party will come into question.  Correct that!  The viability of the Democratic Party will be gone. They will be the comatose remains of a political force propped up by nothing more than a legal skeletal structure.  They have much more to lose than to gain.

The issues of 2018 are much the same as 2016.  Democrats defend their once grossly unpopular Affordable Care Act – commonly known as Obamacare – with the more radical elements of the Party proposing the idiotic socialist notion of taxpayer funded single-payer healthcare.  The remnants of the rational leadership of the Democratic  Party are left with cursing the healthcare darkness without offering any lit candles.  They have no idea what they want to support in healthcare that is different from Republican proposals.

Republicans see immigration as the number one campaign issue — again.  Illegal border crossing is the same scary issue as it was in 2016 – although the caravans working their ways through Mexico have replaced THE WALL as the “flag” to rally round.  It is a better issue because of the optics.  The caravans are real while THE WALL remains a mental vision.

There is a lot of truth in former House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s claim that “all elections are local” – especially the midterms.  While it is impossible to fully nationalize a midterm election, 2018 is as close as they come.  Part, if not all of the reason, is President Trump – just as it was in 2016.

Repeating the strategy of two years ago, Democrats are betting that the myopic attack on Trump will have the affect it did not have in 2016.  The President, himself, could not be more of the central focus of the news coverage if he was on the ballot.  In the Democrat playbook, what ever voters think of Trump, they should think the same of every Republican candidate.

Democrats are betting that two additional years of Trump’s pugnacious personality and his seemingly  shoot-from-the-hip policy development will be just enough to tap into a public weariness – just enough to make Trump, himself, the toxic element in the political cauldron.

Ironically, Trump sees himself figuratively as the man on the ballot – as he has said in so many words.  Like the Democrats, he connects himself to the voting decision – more so than his more popular policies and achievements.  “Think of me when you vote,” is his mantra.  On balance, it is probably not a good strategy.

In making the President personally the issue for voters to consider, the Democrats and Trump cannot both be correct.  In all probability, the miscalculation belongs to Trump.  He should be the defender of his policies not the pseudo candidate.

While this year’s election season looks like a movie we have seen not so long ago, there are notable difference – differences that do not play well for the GOP.

Trump can volunteer himself as a stand in candidate – representing all those other races – but he has no personified opponent.  He has no awful Hillary Clinton, who set that lower bar for Trump to rise above.  It was not difficult for many voters to hold their noses and vote for Trump.  Certainly, all elections are a bit of positive attraction and negative repulsion, but the 2016 election represented a greater degree of the latter than most.  In 2018, Trump is shadow boxing.

With the tradition of the Party holding the White House to lose in Congress in midterm elections as a historic foundation, the focus on the Trump personality may be more effective this time.  We should keep in mind how it almost worked in 2016.  While Trump prefers denial when pondering the 2016 popular vote, any competent political pundit would see that as a humbling factor with real meaning in future elections.  Something to work on.  Trump, however, is not one to be humbled.

Perhaps this sense of déjà vu is based on a sense that this election IS a continuation of 2018.  It is the forces of conservative populism pitted against the bipartisan big government establishment.  It is the America first patriots against the sovereignty surrendering globalists.

With the economy roaring, consumer confidence at modern highs and almost 70 percent of the people believing that the nation is going in the right direction, it is ironic that the party in power would not be receiving a national mandate in the upcoming election.  If it is not the policies and the generally good feeling, what is tamping down Republican popularity?  Maybe better to ask, who.

It has long been my belief that the Trump personality did have a negative impact in 2016.  Had he been just a wee bit less bellicose and vulgar, he would have won the popular vote, in my judgement.  The Republican tsunami that began in 2010 was still in full force.  The GOP numbers in both the Senate and the House would have been greater.  There may not have been enough heat to propel a resistance movement.

I have worked with several candidates who have won longshot elections.  They are more often and not one-termers because they do not understand that they rode into office on a wave that they did not create.  They develop an “it worked last time” attitude, not realizing that what they believe worked, did not.  If Democrats take the House, it will be because of the Trump personality … period.

Trump does have one advantage that he did not in 2016.  He has real accomplishments.  He has a record that many of his previous voters like – and that even the less aligned voters like.  For many, he has performed better than they expected.

Of course, we must also consider the opposite effect his policies have had on those on the left.  Trump has been a wrecking ball to every thing they liked about the Obama years.  He has not tweaked – as the establishment has come to expect of presidents if either party. He has demolished.

The outcome of the upcoming election is impossible to predict because there is no measure by which we can learn if Trump’s accomplishments and potential will trump his own personality.  What we can be sure of is that after Tuesday, this nation will still be deeply divided.  We will continue to hear the unheeded calls for civic civility.  If the GOP keeps the Senate and the House, we will see the continuation of the obstructive resistance movement.  If Democrats take the house, the unfolding political combat will make the past two years seem like an era of political tranquility.

So, there ‘tis.