In November 2008, the Democrats elected a president and captured Congress with eight new senators and 21 new representatives. Their party controlled state legislatures in 27 states, including Maine. Pessimistic Republicans prophesied liberty’s retreat, the Constitution’s doom, the erosion of national sovereignty, federal apple-pie inspectors invading every kitchen, and a multitude of other disasters. Optimists looked desperately for a glimmer of hope.
The first glimmer appeared on February 3, 2009. That was the day Lance Harvell won a special election in Maine’s 89th District to replace a liberal Democrat who had just taken over as Maine’s Attorney Journal. Although he won by a two-to-one margin, his victory did not obliterate the Democrats’ 95 to 55 advantage in Maine’s House of Representatives. While no Democrat in Maine or the nation sensed a threat, Charlie Webster, chairman of Maine’s GOP state committee, told me that Lance’s victory got noticed at a meeting of Republican state leaders.
The rest of 2009 did not give further encouragement. The Democrats won the three special elections to replace Democratic representatives chosen for positions in Obama’s new administration. The Republican representative Obama chose as his new Secretary of the Army was replaced by a Democrat. The vacancy created by Kirsten Gillibrand’s appointment to replace Senator Hillary Clinton was filled by another Democrat. It was only in 2010 that Harvell’s victory turned out to be the harbinger of better times for the Republican Party.
Now the Democrats are the ones searching for a glimmer portending a big come-back. In February, Delaware gave them a pin-point flicker with Stephanie Hansen’s 58 percent victory in Senate District 10. She devoted most of her energy to attacking the gold-tipped demon infesting the White House. “This was the first swing election in the country since the inauguration.” Sen. Hansen pointed out in her victory speech. “It was the first chance for voters to rise up with one voice to say we’re bigger than the bullies…What we accomplished together will have implications for our entire state and country…”
Taking note these implications, a February 27 New York Times article, “Primary Tests the Power of the Anti-Trump Train,” told us that Tom Perriello had transformed Virginia’s gubernatorial primary into a test of whether the boiling liberal rage toward the new president can be harnessed to win a state campaign.”
It’s hard to evaluate the relative weight of that boiling liberal rage against other factors that helped Hansen. The candidate and her supporting PAC spent $749,007 to her opponent’s $136,941. Former V.P. Biden, Maryland’s former governor Martin O’Malley and the state’s two Democratic senators all pitched in to campaign for her, while her opponent campaigned alone. District Ten’s Democrats outnumber its Republicans by a wide margin. Hillary Clinton won the district by eleven points. It was a victory, but a weak test of the boiling liberal rage strategy.
An April 11 victory in a Kansas congressional district gave the liberals a far brighter glimmer. The New York Times, NPR, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and other Democratic Party mouth-pieces got quite excited by the news from Kansas. True, this was a Republican victory, but liberal hopes were ignited by the fact that a Bernie Sanders socialist had sharply reduced the usual Republican victory margin. Keeping a normally Democratic state senate seat was pleasing, but offered no hope of regaining congressional control. Eroding the Republican vote in a conservative district was a far more positive sign.
Montana’s special election on May 25 dangled the possibility of a Democratic take-over of a GOP seat by Rob Quist, a folksy kind of a guy with guns, a guitar and a cowboy hat. I know too little about Montana anthropology to say whether body-slamming a reporter is considered folksy in that state, but national media seemed convinced that many Montanards found it either unfolksy or far too folksy when the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, bowled over a liberal reporter. In the event, Quist got just 44 percent of the vote, with 5.7 percent going to a Libertarian. The Republican ruffian’s weak 50.2 percent encouraged Democrats to hope for victory in Georgia’s sixth congressional district.
On April 18 their man, Jon Ossoff, had almost won a special election in Georgia’s sixth congressional district with 48% of the vote against a fractured Republican field. Liberals had already recognized this district as promising territory for winning a Republican seat. Ossoff received $8.3 million in donations, 95 percent from out of state. The loony leftist Daily Kos helped raise over $1 million and the equally loony MoveOn.org launched six-figure television ads touting Ossoff’s support for Obamacare.
They calculated that this was the least Trump-friendly Republican district in the country. All the voters together gave Trump a 40% approval rating, even lower in June then on the day he won the presidency. He had beaten Hillary by just one point, running far behind Mitt Romney’s total. They had a fresh, young candidate without a record for the Republicans to attack.
As it turned out, boiling liberal rage came through big time with a torrent of contributions totaling roughly $30 million. It was believed that voters would flock to the polling places eager to punish the object of their rage (Trump) in the only way available at the time. The merely annoyed Republicans and Independents had to be coaxed by a humble, kind, pragmatic fighter who looked so pure and so good that you had to believe he committed sex by remote control.
Molly Ball of The Atlantic recorded a comic fragment of her interview with Ossoff: “Ossoff called me back into the room. ‘Can I ask you a question?’ he said. ‘Everyone talks about how Ossoff won’t mention Trump, right? But when I give a speech about respect and civility and kindness and decency, am I not talking about Trump? I mean, I think everyone in the room understands the contrast, with perhaps a little subtlety, while building a coalition that doesn’t want hair-on-fire partisanship.’”
Did young Ossoff not understand that the millions of dollars pouring in from San Francisco, Hollywood, and Manhattan originated from liberals with blazing hair and asbestos collars? I believe he did. He doesn’t look that innocent. The non-partisan coalition-building fraud is a recognized strategy with which Democrats can usually rely on the mainstream media to cooperate.
Democrats failed because all those Republicans and Independents repelled by Trump’s vanity, babbling, inconsistencies, and childishness had detected the boiling liberal rage behind the pragmatic moderation rhetoric. Those Republicans and Independents despise Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco more than Donald Trump and the Trump Tower. Karen Handel’s campaign concentrated on giving Ossoff an identity—as a Pelosi Puppet. The defense of President Trump was not a major theme.
And that brings us back to Maine, to the 2nd Congressional District to be more exact. Rep. Bruce Poliquin sent out e-mail alerts immediately after the Georgia Democratic disaster alerting Republicans to Pelosi’s plans of going after his seat next year. It’s certain that the 2nd District is on Pelosi’s target list. The Democrats still believe that it belongs to them by right and its recovery is as much a moral necessity as it is an arithmetical one. It is absolutely a district Pelosi will need to recover the Speaker’s gavel.
Let us anticipate what lies ahead. The Democrats will attack Bruce as an “extremist” unfit to sit in a seat once sat in by Moderation’s Archpriestess, Olympia Snowe. Bruce will attack the Democratic nominee as the tool of an alien invader from a remote and repellent planet called San Francisco.