Writings and observations

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The wrong Republican Congressman is running for governor. Raul Labrador has thrown his hat in the ring, but I wish it were Mike Simpson making the race.

Simpson and Labrador both represent Idaho in Congress, but the quality of their representation varies greatly. While Labrador, a spotlight hungry member of the so-called House Freedom Caucus, has become an anti-government icon, Simpson represents an ever more rare brand of Republican pragmatism.

Make no mistake. I haven’t forgotten some of Simpson’s more odious votes – like his vote to repeal the ACA. In a great many respects, he is not my perfect cup of gubernatorial tea. But in this ruby red state, Simpson might be the best the Republicans could offer.

To his credit, Simpson has stood apart from his Republican colleagues – Crapo, Risch, and Labrador – in openly distancing himself from the president. Moreover, he has shown a willingness to work with House members on the other side of the political aisle.

Before heading to Congress, both Simpson and Labrador served in the Idaho state House of Representatives. “Served” doesn’t quite describe Labrador’s tenure. A back bencher with a penchant for making headlines but not passing legislation, Labrador had a brief and unremarkable record. In contrast, Simpson was – by most accounts – a very capable, fair-minded state legislator and one of the most adept speakers of the Idaho House.

Anyone who listened to Simpson eulogize his friend Cece Andrus could hear notes of self-deprecating humor, thoughtful reflection, and real humility in his remarks. He gave Cece a lot of credit for the successful passage of his landmark Boulder-White Clouds legislation. I can’t recall Raul giving anyone else, let alone a Democrat, credit for anything.

A few of my friends will be quick to tell me that all Republicans are venal and that Mike Simpson is no exception. I beg to differ. Robert Smylie was a great Republican governor. Phil Batt was too. If he were inclined to run, Simpson would follow in those altogether reasonable footsteps.

Would I prefer a Democrat hold the office? No question about it. And I remain confident that the Democrats will nominate an outstanding candidate. But wouldn’t it be great if the Republicans would do so as well?

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I first met Cecil Andrus in 1966, when I was13. My dad introduced us, and I was impressed. Andrus had kind eyes, took time for everyone, and conveyed real interest in each person he met. Four years later, along with a dozen other Lewiston High School teenagers, I spent a summer knocking on doors working to secure Andrus the Democratic nomination for governor. 18-year-olds had not yet won the right to vote, but we were determined to make a difference.

In those days, state primaries were held in late summer. So it was on a hot August night in a store front headquarters on the low-rent end of Main Street that we celebrated his nomination. Three months later, the “north came in” (which it did back then) and at the ripe age of 39, Cece Andrus was elected governor. When the legislature convened in 1971, I was a page sitting in the House chamber proudly watching our new governor deliver his first state of the state address.

Andrus often quoted from Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” No one listening to that state of the state speech could doubt that Cece Andrus had both insight and foresight. His vision for the state was manifest – excellent public schools, including kindergartens; a healthy and sustainable natural environment, with clean air and clear water; and a vibrant business environment where labor, no less than capital, received its due.

Being well-acquainted with a fair number of politicians, I know that the public persona often differs from the private individual. But Cece Andrus was authentic. Comfortable in his own skin, he was consistent – wise, tough-minded, loyal, and kind.

When our son Jason was just 5 years old, and a year before being elected to his third term as governor, Andrus was the guest of honor at a political event at our home. Jason was thrilled to meet the governor and, afterwards, using his best printing, wrote him a letter: “Dear Governor Andrus, Thank you for coming to our home. I think you are a wonderful governor. Love, Jason – Age 5.”

A few days later, Jason opened our mailbox to find a hand-printed letter addressed to him. It read: “Dear Jason, Thank you for your letter. I think you are a wonderful boy. Love, Cecil – Age 48.”

That kind of personal care and concern was a hallmark of the governor’s interactions with his fellow Idahoans. Many years later, when my dad was in the winter of his life, Cece dropped by the hospital after visiting hours and talked the staff into bending the rules so he could say hello to his “old friend Fred.”

In 1990, in his last run for governor, Cece asked Pete and me to co-chair his re-election effort in Ada County. The governor announced his candidacy at the grade school his granddaughter attended. I was in charge of the logistics and wanted everything to go smoothly. The day was sunny but windy and the podium, flanked by Idaho and American flags, was buffeted by gusts of wind.

As the governor stepped to the podium to speak, the wind picked up and the American flag rapidly unfurled, draping the governor. I was mortified thinking I should have thought to secure it in advance. But Andrus didn’t miss a beat. “You’ve heard of politicians wrapping themselves in the flag,” he said. “But this may be the first time the flag has wrapped itself around a politician!” The crowd roared its approval.

This week, Governor Andrus will again be draped in the American flag. The man may have passed, but his vision endures. I think if he could give us marching orders from the great beyond, it would come in a hand-written note, reading something like this: “Dear friends, Thanks for remembering me. Now get to work and realize our vision. Love, Cecil.”

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One of the most concerning and vague statements made by the president in his speech on Afghanistan was this: “. . . . We are going to participate in [Afghanistan’s] economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.”

This brief comment, coming toward the end of his speech, could be easily overlooked but it bears close scrutiny. Evoking memories of similar statements made during the presidential campaign and after his inauguration, it requires clarification – and the sooner the better.

The repugnant notion that our country should replenish its coffers at the expense of countries in which we are militarily engaged harkened back to a predatory time of conquest and colonization. How can other nations trust our motives when our president has repeatedly lamented, for instance, our failure to take Iraq’s oil?

Almost a year ago, as the freshly minted GOP nominee, Trump argued that the Iraq War was a mistake, but he seemed most frustrated that the U.S. did not take Iraqi oil after invading that country. “The U.S. should have kept the oil. I was saying this constantly and to whomever would listen, ‘keep the oil, keep the oil, keep the oil!”

Then, the day after taking the oath of office, Trump spoke at CIA Headquarters, complaining that our country erred in not taking Iraq’s oil when we had the chance. He longingly recalled the ancient expression “‘to the victor belong the spoils.”

Then, just a month later, in a meeting at the White House with airline executives, Trump again groused that we had not benefitted economically from the Iraq War: “We’ve got nothing. We’ve got nothing. We never even kept a small, even a tiny oil well. Not one little oil well. I said, ‘Keep the oil.’”

With those ill-considered comments still resonant, we find it important to ask: Which of Afghanistan’s resources does he want to acquire? How much tribute would be sufficient to “defray the cost of the war?” How are the Afghanistan people, already so impoverished, to understand the president’s remark? What are the men and women of our armed forces to think about the true purpose of our mission?

Sadly, the president’s statement permits the inference that the U.S. now looks at Afghanistan as a potential source for pecuniary gain. In light of his long-standing obsession over our failure to “take” Iraqi oil, it is not a stretch to think so.

In some respects, this comment would have been less concerning had the president not been reading from a teleprompter. Then we could chalk it up to Trump’s penchant to shoot from the hip and make things up on the fly. But this speech was clearly vetted to a fare-thee-well by the generals, on whose advice he was acting. And that may be the most worrisome thing of all.

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For those of us who recall the duck-and-cover drills of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the president’s recent remarks directed at North Korea were a chilling reminder of a time in which nuclear war seemed an ever-present possibility.

I remember when the family who lived across the street began building a fallout shelter in a vacant lot next to their house. I had only the vaguest idea of the purpose of a fallout shelter, but it seemed like a good idea to have one in the neighborhood.

Adults talked in hushed tones about the missiles in Cuba and discussed exactly how long after a nuclear attack it would be safe to emerge into broad daylight. More often than not adults talked over us, not to us, about the headlines on the evening news.

I remember hearing my mom talking on the phone with a friend. She didn’t know I was listening. “The neighbors said the girls and I could come to the shelter, but Fred wasn’t welcome – because he was born in Denmark. They said he wasn’t really an American.”

I couldn’t make sense of what I heard. Was mom really saying that someone thought my dad, a naturalized citizen who had served in the U.S. Army and loved his chosen country beyond words, wasn’t really an American?

Mom was furious with our neighbors even while wondering aloud if, should it come to that, she should go to the shelter with my sister and me, or stay with my dad in our home. Mom didn’t approve of eavesdropping so I never asked her about what I had heard. But I thought about it – a lot.

In time, the threat of nuclear war subsided. Our neighbors never did build a fallout shelter though they went as far as digging a very large, very deep hole in their vacant lot. And, thankfully, Mom never had to make an impossible choice.
All this has come back to me as I watch coverage of the escalating rhetoric between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. I recall the fear I felt as a child when the possibility of mushroom clouds lingered in the national consciousness.

Hearing the president talk, almost casually, about unleashing “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” was more than unsettling. After all, the world has seen some pretty devastating “fire and fury” We need only remember Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Of course, in WWII, the U.S. was the only nation to have the A-bomb and President Truman ordered it be used to stop a terrible war, not to start one. Imagine if the world had as many nuclear armed nations then as it does now.

As I reflected on these things, it occurred to me that adults who loved me and wanted to spare me worry in fact created more anxiety by avoiding honest and calming conversations. In the 60s, there were only three news channels and the evening news with its ominous headlines played but once a day. In today’s 24-7 news cycle, saturation coverage is the norm.

Whether we know it or not, our children are watching – and listening. And adults need to find age appropriate ways to talk to them, to help them make sense of the news. That’s more easily said that done. It is difficult to explain to a child something that is almost impossible to comprehend as adults. But it is important we make the effort.

We need to teach our children the lessons of history in words they can understand. We must encourage them to ask us questions that they may be afraid to ask. And we must model resilience by showing our children that, in a republic, citizens have agency. We have the power to write letters to the editor and to our senators, members of congress, and other elected officials. We can attend rallies, speak our truth, and campaign for candidates who will work to stop the saber-rattling and promote civil discourse. And we can prepare our children to hear false narratives from people who are ill-informed or indifferent to the truth. We can show them where to find reliable sources they can trust.

When I wrote the first draft of this essay, I was focused on tensions with North Korea. Now, the violence and racism on display in Charlottesville weighs heavily on my mind. It seems that each day’s news reminds us of the danger and destruction so easily unleashed in the world. But this is all the more reason to have those difficult, critically important conversations with our children and, not only with our children, but with each other.

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It seems like just yesterday our nation met the new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. Then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

Scaramucci’s rapid ascent and more rapid descent provide a cautionary tale. His debut interview, filled with vulgarity, was dismissed by some as merely “colorful.” But that benign description didn’t do it justice. It was a profane diatribe, replete with the most repugnant imagery imaginable.

In short order the president grew annoyed that Scaramucci’s mobtalk had eclipsed his own and decided Scaramucci had to go. But Trump knew what he was getting when he hired the guy and, according to initial reports, Trump “appreciated” Scaramucci’s trash talk, finding his shtick “amusing.” Of course he did. As former House Speaker and Trump sycophant Newt Gingrich was quick to note Trump and Scaramucci “speak the same language.” Who can doubt it? Certainly no one who remembers Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape.

And that, of course, includes our children. Trump and Scaramucci modeled behavior that will imprint on millions of impressionable young minds just weeks before the new school year begins. Anyone want to guess what kind of taunts schoolyard bullies will be using this fall?

When I was three years old, I overheard my dad and a couple other mill workers in conversation. One of the men called someone a “no-good S-O-B.” Later, I asked my dad, “What is an S-O-B?” He paused for a moment, and then said, “It means soft old baloney.” Taking him at his word, I adopted the expression and told my mom that the boy next door was a “no-good S-O-B.” “Where did you learn to say THAT?” she asked. “From dad,” I answered. The next thing I knew, dad was getting an earful from mom, and I never used that expression again.

Of course, it’s not news that “little pitchers have big ears.” What is new is that our president is now the Vulgarian-in-Chief. We have in the Oval Office a man who treats our beloved country like a crime syndicate and who, like the mob bosses he strives to emulate, bullies and intimidates his “enemies,” with crass threats. What have we come to when our president himself encourages police brutality, brow beats vanquished opponents in a speech to the Boy Scouts, and enthrones a two-bit hood like Scaramucci in the White House?

Perhaps the most notable takeaway from the Scaramucci affair is this: “The Mooch” wasn’t fired because of what he said or how he said it. He was fired because he had begun to occupy the center stage spotlight the president reserves for himself. Scaramucci’s foul language simply provided a convenient excuse.

Scaramucci may be history, but a narcissistic thug remains in the White House.

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In the early morning hours of July 28th, Senator John McCain came through in the clutch.

On one of the most important votes of his long career, he parted ways with his caucus and cast a vote against an evil, hyper-partisan bill that would have removed access to health care from millions of Americans. I give McCain great credit for having the courage to do so.

One GOP pundit accused McCain of “betraying his party,” but if his vote reflected a lack of partisan fealty, it was cast in service to the country.

I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have cast that same vote had he not recently been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. No doubt that harsh reality brought a measure of clarity and girded conviction.

But whatever the reason he ultimately cast his vote in the negative, McCain stepped up when it mattered most and for that we can be grateful.

John McCain was joined in his opposition by two other Republican senators, Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska. One of the least effective ways to persuade someone to vote a certain way is to bully her. Collins and Murkowski wouldn’t be bullied — not by the White House or McConnell, or other members of the senate GOP caucus. I applaud them as well.

For those who say there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, I would urge them to reflect on the comments made by the majority leader and minority leader after the final tally was announced.

McConnell’s remarks once again showed him to be a petty partisan who, despite his majority, could not marshal a majority and who, true to form, blamed Democrats. His comments were snide and decidedly uncivil. While speaking, McConnell pointedly turned his back on his Democratic colleagues, just as he had excluded them from the deliberative process.

By contrast, Chuck Schumer was a gracious winner who used the moment not to take a victory lap but to express relief. His comments were constructive and forward looking. His focus was on doing what’s right for the American people. We can be proud of his leadership and that of the members of the Democratic caucus.

The president has already begun to attack the three Republican “mavericks” who broke with their party to do what McCain said was “the right thing.” How very short-sighted. I expect this won’t be the last time Collins, Murkowski, and McCain will have occasion to show their independence. And the more Trump berates them the more likely they are to do so.

Now, for a few brief moments, we can exhale.

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In a recent interview with Reuters, the president claimed his administration “had done more in five months than practically any president in history.”

My first reaction was to laugh. But maybe the president is right. I suppose it all depends on what he meant by “more.”

Perhaps by “more,” Trump meant he has done more to alienate and offend our long-time allies, countries like Germany, France, and Great Britain, by equivocating about his commitment to the North Atlantic alliance.

Or maybe he meant he has done more to isolate the U.S. from virtually every country on earth by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Possibly, Trump meant he has picked more unprovoked fights with major U.S. trading partners like China, Mexico, Canada, and South Korea.

And he might have meant he has done more to relinquish the U.S. role as world leader to the benefit of Russia and China.

Perhaps Trump meant he has done more to model petulant and spiteful behavior by never accepting responsibility, always blaming and often bullying others, making ridiculous excuses when things don’t go his way, and treating those who disagree with him as enemies, best dealt with by threats rather than civil discourse.

He could have meant he has done more to move the GOP further away from the once-proud legacy of Lincoln and Eisenhower and closer to the odious views of David Duke.

The president may have meant he has done more to attack the “western values” he pretends to champion by assaulting the First Amendment, attacking our independent judiciary, denigrating minority rights, and ignoring all manner of democratic (with a lower case “d”) norms.

Perchance Trump meant he has done more to dumb-down our national dialog by routinely communicating in unintelligible bursts of 140 characters.

Or perhaps he meant he has appointed more inept and ideologically extreme cabinet members, people like Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

Presumably, Trump meant he has shown more admiration for greedy dictators who suppress dissent, blithely torturing and terrorizing their countrymen, while enjoying the spoils of graft and corruption.

Arguably, Trump meant he has done more to distract and deceive the American people, nowhere more egregiously than as to his ties to Russia, the hostile nation that attacked the heart of our republic by grossly interfering in the 2016 election.
If Trump was referring to any or all of the above “accomplishments,” I would have to agree – no president in history has done more.

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I admire John McCain for his military service to our country but I find his political behavior extremely disappointing. Although McCain is a frequent and outspoken critic of Trump’s abhorrent conduct, he remains a reliable supporter of Trump’s agenda. McCain leads us to think he will call out the president once and for all, and then – at the last moment – scurries back into the party fold, unwilling to draw any line in the GOP sand.

But McCain has been consistently right on one point that bears special focus in light of recent events: Vladimir Putin is a thug and a murderer.

When Trump nominated Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state, McCain critically noted that Tillerson had received Russia’s “Order of Friendship,” award, given to foreign nationals who promote relations with Russia, directly from Vladimir Putin. Tillerson received the award after signing deals with the state-owned Russian oil company to drill in the Arctic. McCain said, “I would never accept an award from Vladimir Putin because then you . . . give some credence and credibility to this butcher, this KGB agent. . . .”
Indeed, in Putin’s Russia, political opponents – those who aren’t fortunate enough to be exiled for decades to Siberian work camps – are simply murdered. There is no concept of minority rights. The territory of neighboring countries is forcefully annexed; and brutal dictators, like Syria’s Bashar Assad, enjoy Russian military support.

Trump’s “bromance” with Putin has long been troubling. Last year, when Joe Scarborough confronted Trump about Putins’s extensive record of atrocities, Trump’s answer was chilling: “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe.” He added, “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader.”

Now, after his obsequious conduct at the G-20 meeting, Trump has shown himself to be much more than Putin’s fanboy: He is Putin’s puppet, an apologist for the Kremlin.

An American president does not say he is “honored” to meet a foreign despot whose hands are dripping with innocent blood. An American president does not denounce another American president and disparage the American media on foreign soil. An American president does not discredit the unanimous findings of American intelligence agencies and instead countenance empty denials from the man who orchestrated an unprecedented attack on our most cherished institutions.

The president has demonstrated time and time again that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. What will it take for the likes of John McCain to stand up to Trump, to urge invocation of the 25th Amendment or call for impeachment?

By even suggesting the U.S. should work with Russia to stop cyberattacks, Trump offers to give aid and comfort to our nation’s adversary, the corrupt regime whose attack on our national election was tantamount to an act of war. Trump will not protect us from enemies foreign and domestic. Instead, he will deliver us to them. If that isn’t grounds for removal, I don’t know what is.

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Independent journalism has been critical to our country’s past; and it is absolutely essential to our country’s future.
  
Today, we have a White House that calls real news fake and fake news real. It was bad enough when a nominee for the nation’s highest office trafficked in conspiracy theories, manipulated the media, and lied with impunity to the American people. Now that the nominee is our president, we have a recipe for disaster. And we – all of us – must rise to the defense of the Fourth Estate.

Unfortunately, the truth does not speak for itself. It is not self-evident. In our modern society, we must rely on ethical and independent journalists to tell us what is happening, to report – not distort – the news.

But this president has put a bull’s eye on the back of every credible mainstream journalist. He calls the media “totally dishonest,” “disgusting,” “corrupt,” “scum,” and – most horribly “the enemy of the American people.” His goal is simple: He wants to bully, silence, discredit, and coopt the media. If a reporter will not sing his praises – he aims to silence them – no matter the cost to our republic, no matter the damage to the First Amendment.

We know what happens in countries where the media is a nothing more than a mouthpiece for the regime. We know what happens to journalists who dare to report facts that reflect poorly on the potentate in power. They are abducted, exiled. They go missing and are imprisoned. They are killed.

In Washington, D.C., there is a place called the Newseum. It is a museum – about news. If you visit this museum, you will see a glass memorial, two stories tall. Etched in that memorial are the names of the 2,291 editors, reporters, broadcasters and photographers who died covering the news.

Not all of them died in global hotspots like Syria, Palestine, Libya, Iraq, Gaza and the Ukraine. But many of them did.

“Alternative facts” are, of course, not facts at all, but lies. Make no mistake, the Breitbart trained brown shirt that holds sway in the White House is a modern and audible echo of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. It is important to remember the lessons of history.

At a rally on the campaign trail, the president – then the GOP nominee – discussed Vladimir Putin’s treatment of the press in Russia. After repeatedly bellowing that he hates journalists, he said he would never “kill” them. But then he seemed to reconsider saying, “Uh, Let’s see, uh, no I wouldn’t. But I do hate them.”

When reminded by Joe Scarborough that Putin kills journalists and political opponents, the response was pathetic: “At least he’s a leader.” It would seem that our president not only admires Putin, but seeks to emulate him.

No, the media is not the enemy of the American people; rather it is the reckless demagogue who stubbornly, stupidly, and wrongly makes that claim.

As the president seeks to undermine our free press, it is more important than ever that we take concrete steps to check his actions and support a diverse and independent media. There is much we can do. Here, in no particular order, are my top ten suggestions.

1. Support public television and public radio.

2. Subscribe to progressive, independent news publications – both local and national, and give gift subscriptions to your family members and friends.
3. Support public libraries.

4. Write and submit letters to the editor and/or reader’s view commentary.

5. On social media, share only stories that you know come from a credible source. If you find that you have inadvertently shared a false story, delete it and note a correction.

6. Support the Committee to Protect Journalists, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Society of Professional Journalists, and/or Common Dreams – Free Press, all non-profits that advocate for the rights of reporters to do their jobs free of intimidation, censorship, arrest, imprisonment, torture and death.

7. Support net neutrality.

8. Encourage public school administrators and trustees to emphasize media literacy at all stages of education. Also encourage public school administrators and trustees to prioritize the humanities and social sciences. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM subjects) are important. But not every student is going to need advanced training in these areas. However, every citizen is eligible to vote at age 18 and needs to be prepared to responsibly exercise the franchise.

9. Contact your U.S. Senators and Members of Congress. Tell them that you strongly oppose the president’s assault on the First Amendment and that you expect them to publicly denounce his authoritarian tactics.

10. Support candidates for public office – local, state and national – who honor the First Amendment and speak out strongly and consistently against those who, like the president, undermine it at every turn.

Make no mistake. The president’s latest tweet showing him beating up a person upon whose head the CNN logo has been superimposed is not, as his apologists assert, simply “a tongue in cheek” joke. It will, in fact, incite violence against members of the press.

It is slowly dawning on him that he will be found out. That is why he has so rapidly escalated the viciousness and frequency of his attacks on the media. He mistakenly thinks that the only way to salvage his presidency is to thoroughly discredit the free press.

In coming days, I expect the First Amendment will be subjected to unprecedented assaults from the White House. The Fourth Estate needs our support now more than ever.

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (the DCCC) continues to suffer from a failure of vision. A month ago, Beltway Democrats conceded defeat in the Montana special congressional election before the race began. Last Tuesday, they did so again – this time in South Carolina.

While the DCCC went all in for Jon Ossoff in his bid to win the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, it did little, if anything, to support Archie Parnell, the Democrat running in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District.

Unfortunately, both Ossoff and Parnell narrowly lost their respective contests; but Parnell, the candidate who was pretty much ignored by the national Democrats, came within 3 points of his Republican opponent while Ossoff, who received millions of dollars in support, lost by 4 points. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Parnell would have won had the DCCC given him anywhere near the same level of support it gave to Ossoff. But he might have. A 3 point margin was far from insurmountable.

Consider this: In the special election, Parnell garnered 42,053 votes — that’s 63,219 fewer votes than was received by the Democrat running in the 2016 general election — and she lost by 18 points! In last week’s special election, Parnell’s opponent won with a slim margin – just 2,836 votes. A well-funded and well-organized Get Out the Vote effort for Parnell could have made up that 2,836 vote difference; after all, more than 60,000 likely Democratic votes were “left on the table.” This was a lost opportunity, another failure of vision.

The DCCC might have anticipated the closeness of the South Carolina race had it focused more on how the district performed in recent congressional elections and not so much on the performance of the 2016 presidential candidates. It seems that national Democrats only invest in “winnable” districts, those where the last Democratic presidential candidate made a good showing. Unfortunately, that narrow view of “winnability” misses a myriad of local factors that can swing a congressional election.

Mesmerized by the fact that Trump had won Georgia’s 6th Congressional District by only a single point, the DCCC saw the district as ripe for flipping. But because Trump carried South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District by 18 points, the DCCC didn’t give that race a second thought.

The DCCC would have done well to note that in 2016 the South Carolina contest was more competitive than the 6th District race in Georgia. In the last three elections, the Republican candidate for Congress in Georgia’s 6th averaged a 28% advantage over the Democratic opponent. But in South Carolina’s 5th, the Republican congressional candidate averaged a 16% advantage over the Democratic opponent. While both districts could fairly be seen as congressional long-shots, South Carolina’s 5th arguably offered more fertile ground.
If you’re looking to win a race for Congress, perhaps that contest – not the last presidential election – would serve as a better guidepost. There’s something to be said for comparing apples to apples.

I am not suggesting the DCCC should have supported Parnell instead of Ossoff. Ossoff deserved the support he received. But both races deserved to be taken seriously, as did the race in Montana.

Beltway Democrats must start looking beyond the presidential percentages from the prior election in assessing a congressional candidate’s chances. If they fail to do so, there will be many more lost opportunities. We need not settle for moral victories, those where we come close to winning but still fall short. I’m all for seeing silver linings in election results, and there are some to be seen when we improve our percentages. But As Republican operatives were quick to point out, “Moral victories do not vote in Congress.”

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