The Democrats have yet to realize they are in free fall, dragged down by the anchor that is the unsuccessful reign of Barack Obama. Despite evidence to the contrary from all across the country, where the president’s party and its allies continue to suffer unexpected electoral defeats and are frequently on the losing end of battles to reverse policies in place since Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and even Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Democrats and progressives in the nation’s capital are digging in their heels.
The latest example comes from Pennsylvania where on Tuesday 26-year-old Republican financial advisor Martina White posted an upset victory in a special election for a seat in the state House of Representatives. GOP voters in that district are outnumbered by Democrats 2-to-1, and Obama carried it in 2012 with 57 percent of the vote.
White knocked on nearly 6,000 doors on her way to victory in this northeast Philadelphia district, proving once again that when it comes to boots-on-the-ground and grassroots campaigning there is no substitute, especially at the local level. Her decision to focus on taxes — she said repeatedly she’d fight to keep property taxes in check while a member of the state Legislature — and education funding were an important part of her formula for victory.
She also benefited, it should be noted, from a serious split among the Democrats over which candidate the party would nominate, with ward heelers and elected officials playing favorites. In the end, the split was enough to earn White the backing of several local unions including the Fraternal Order of Police.
Now it is always a mistake to draw too many big conclusions from the outcome of a single special election, especially one for a seat in a state legislature. But Pennsylvania’s 170th House District is Democrat country, Obama country, Clinton country — and no Republican should ever be expected to win there. That one did is reason enough for people to sit up and take notice that the internal divisions among progressive Democrats — who back the current president — and more traditional party hacks — who tend to back folks like the last president who was a Democrat and his wife (who wants very badly to be the next Democrat in the White House) are not figments of the GOP imagination. They are real and they matter.
Before George Herbert Walker Bush lost the presidency in 1992, Pennsylvania voters sounded the alarm that he was in trouble when they sent an unknown Democrat, Harris Wofford, to the U.S. Senate in the place of Republican Sen. John Heinz, who had been killed in a plane crash. GOP leaders chose to ignore it, preferring to blame the defeat on the imperial campaign run by former governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, whom most people assumed would simply walk into the seat without really having to work for it. It would be a curious accident of history if those now in charge of the Democratic Party fail to ignore another warning from voters in the Keystone State that may have serious implications for campaign 2016 and its ultimate outcome.
To read the entire column by Peter Roff, please click here.