In a prescient moment from an episode of The Simpsons years ago, there’s a scene of celebration taking place at the Republican National Convention. Above the meeting’s jubilant attendees are two signs – one that reads, “We Want What’s Worst For Everyone” and another that says, “We’re Just Plain Evil.”
These banners capture the spirit of today’s GOP with surprising accuracy.
How else can one explain the heartless mendacity of the House’s Trumpcare bill, the American Healthcare Act, which strips away health security for millions of people in exchange for billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest few?
If there’s any justice in politics, Congressional Republicans will pay a heavy price for their deceitful, dishonorable conduct throughout this entire episode. Even if they are not punished as harshly as they deserve to be, it’s hard not to get the sense that, come November 2018, Republicans will be desperately wishing to erase this loathsome vote from the legislative record.
Already, the double whammy of passing health care legislation that’s about as popular as Ebola, while turning a blind eye to the President’s near-daily impeachment-worthy offenses is setting the stage for significant Republican losses.
What’s going to happen in the 2018 midterm elections?
Conventional wisdom dictates that the incumbent President’s party typically loses seats in his first midterm election. While there have been notable exceptions, and though the most lopsided midterm losses like those in 1994 and 2010 have favored Republicans, the climate appears to be turning against the party of Trump. Polls are showing that Democratic enthusiasm is far outpacing energy on the Republican side, and the special elections so far in 2017 – while not a perfect predictor – are reflecting extraordinary strength for the party in the wilderness, which in turn is bolstering candidate recruitment for 2018.
Caveats aside, the lessons from the 2010 midterm elections – in which Republicans heavily campaigned against the Affordable Care Act that had passed only months before Election Day – are instructive. Nowhere was the net impact of midterm backlash more palpable than in New York State, where Republicans defeated 5 Democratic incumbents and picked up an open seat.
From the northern suburbs of New York City to Syracuse to Staten Island to Utica to the Hudson Valley, Democrats were swept out of office despite fielding strong candidates and deploying a top-notch voter mobilization operation. If the fortunes of health care politics are reversed, New York could be correspondingly catastrophic for Republicans this time around.
Who’s in danger?
A wave election will put relatively new incumbents at the most risk, including Republicans like Reps. Lee Zeldin, Elise Stefanik, Dan Donovan and John Katko who have each voted with Trump between 89 and 96 percent of the time. Even those who opposed the Trump health care bill may not escape its radioactive fallout. After all, two of the Democratic incumbents in New York who voted against the Affordable Care Act were still defeated in the 2010 red wave.
One of the Congressional seats that switched parties that year was NY-19, where Democrat Scott Murphy lost to Republican Chris Gibson. There’s good reason to think that this sprawling Hudson Valley district will flip once again under the right circumstances.
Its current occupant is John Faso, a freshman congressmen who is quickly becoming the poster boy for the Trumpcare train wreck, after putting blind fealty to an unpopular president party above the welfare of his constituents. Faso’s grown so afraid of facing the voters that he’s dodging town hall meetings, leading a neighboring Democrat to hold an event in Faso’s district in his absence.
Faso is also beginning to face strong opposition from a growing Democratic field of candidates who won’t take marching orders from Paul Ryan, or risk destabilizing 20 percent of the nation’s economy to score a hollow political “win” for Mr. Trump. Rising star Gareth Rhodes, a native of Ulster County, is the latest Democrat to take on Faso. Like Jon Ossoff in Georgia, Rhodes is talented and he’s harnessing progressive energy to bring the fight to a Republican who voted to throw his constituents under the bus, and then left them in the ditch with no insurance to cover their injuries.
Can Democrats win in 2018?
It’s districts like NY-19 that will help determine whether or not Democrats take back the House despite the undemocratic obstacles – like extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression laws that Republicans have erected nationwide in recent years. But this is an even more purple seat than the one Mr. Ossoff is seeking. President Obama carried the district twice and it was in Democratic hands (by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and former Rep. Scott Murphy) from 2007 to 2011.
Craven Republicans like John Faso deserve to lose their jobs. It won’t be easy, but the fight is now joined in New York and across the country to make sure these profiles in cowardice are not soon forgotten. Democrats have the energy and can’t let up until we fully repeal and replace the odious Republican majority.