After last night, lefty Democrats are complaining that Jon Ossoff didn’t run a sufficiently belligerent, sufficiently Trump-hating campaign. The Washington Post’s Paul Kane captures the sentiment in an article called (in the paper edition): “Ossoff chose civil resistance and lost. Do the Democrats need more warriors?”
This reaction reminds me of the story of the psychologist who theorized that new born babies have the innate ability to swim. When he threw his into the water at six-weeks old, she promptly sank and had to be rescued. The psychologist’s conclusion? The baby was too old.
Running an uncivil resister/warrior in a Republican district with an unusually high percentage of college educated voters seems like a losing proposition. Maybe that’s just me, but surely Jon Ossoff had enough money to test the proposition with infinite focus groups.
Not long ago, the Democrats ran a populist in a special congressional election. Rob Quist, a folksy country music singer, was the anti-Ossoff. He brought in Bernie Sanders for five campaign rallies, during which he pushed for affordable health care and railed against “tax cuts for millionaires” and “dark money” in politics.
Quist lost to a bumbling candidate who body slammed a reporter.
Those advocating for uncivil resister/warrior candidates point to the results from last night’s race in South Carolina’s Fifth District to succeed Mick Mulvaney. In that contest, Democrat Archie Parnell came within less than 3,000 votes of defeating Republican Ralph Peters.
This description makes the race sound closer than it was. Norman won by 3 points, 51-48, only a little less than Handel’s margin in the Georgia race. However, Norman’s margin was considerably smaller than most expected.
I don’t know what kind of campaign Parnell waged. It may well have been more warrior like than Ossoff’s. However, Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil employee, doesn’t seem like a fire-breathing populist. On his campaign page he described himself this way:
I’m a businessman, tax expert, and lifelong Democrat. Let’s bring South Carolina values of hard work and civility to Washington. We must eliminate corporate tax giveaways, create jobs, and cut taxes for working families.
The key point about the South Carolina race, though, is that turnout was extremely low. Fewer than 90,000 people voted, about half the turnout in the mid-term election of 2014. In other words, Parnell snuck up on the GOP — the way Ossoff tried to do in the jungle primary, except that it’s tough to sneak up with a multi-million dollar war chest.
I think Jim Geraghty is right to say that if the South Carolina race had received more attention, it probably wouldn’t have been as competitive. “More attention would have likely brought out more unmotivated Republicans and helped Norman cushion his lead.”
So no, the Democrats don’t need more uncivil resisters to run in districts held by Republicans. They need what parties always need — candidates who fit the district or state they run in.
Above all, they need patience. Wishful thinking and media hype notwithstanding, the electorate in Republican districts isn’t looking to overturn or thwart the result of an election held six months ago. A year and half from now, it might be.