Democrats once again pulled off a triumph in off-year elections, this time with a victory in Louisiana. John Bel-Edwards clearly defeated a candidate who tried to make it a referendum on Donald Trump. Edwards, a Democratic Conservative and pro-business governor, proved along with Andy Beshear’s victory in Kentucky that being pro-commerce is no hindrance.
But, it also presents a challenge to national Democrats, a signal that a hard-left position might not be desirable. Elizabeth Warren’s “medicine for all” proposal may have to be ditched in favor of an improvement on Obamacare. Indeed, Democrats may have to reconsider their views on regulations in order to end the Republican hold on the South and border states. Louisiana, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina have moderate Democratic governors. All are sober, well spoken and prudent and represent business progressivism at its best.
Certainly in Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin tried a bad imitation of an insult comedian and lost even though his party did well. In Louisiana, Republican Sen. John Kennedy, a former Democrat, tried to equal Trump and George Wallace on the stump. He failed, even though he tried to act the role of a populist his elitist roots were exposed. No doubt Trump would be hard to defeat in either Kentucky or Louisiana — but his imitators were simply not up to the occasion.
However, Democrats still have an uphill climb in the South. But these steady victories strengthen the hand of center-right elements within the party. It also gives some pointers on how to weaken the GOP. Focus on economic growth and technological progress. Force the hand of conservatives and Tea Partiers on issues of health care, Social Security and the protection of the safety net.
Instead of trying to subtract voters, think about adding more to the party. Blue-collar voters alienated by political correctness, perhaps might be persuaded to drop their social conservatism for opportunity based economic policies.
This is the soft-underbelly of the Tea Party which feeds off resentment not contentment. Trump recognizes this — but the bulk of his party refuses to acknowledge this potential vulnerability.
But given the Democratic voter “base,” it is probably not going to happen. Environmentalism and other social priorities do not take in account the more traditional Democratic agenda. Joe Biden may be boring, but he stands a far better chance in defeating Trump than the rest o the 2020 field. He could ease the social issue divide, make conservatives seem exotic and out of date, instead of creating a controversy-a-minute agenda.
Indeed, Bevin tried to destroy Obamacare in Kentucky, a high enrollment state. He lost quite a few counties in the Eastern part of the state — coal country. They may have their prejudices but they could not stomach Bevin’s efforts to end Obamacare in the bluegrass state. Even Mitch MCconnell did not seem to mourn the loss of the choleric Bevin.
The return to consensus-oriented democracy might create a solid road back to dominance, while aspirational programs may be left for another day.