In the election Democrats had the highest hopes for, Jon Ossoff lost to Handel in GA-6. Out of all the special elections, this one had the least impressive result for Democrats. Meanwhile, in strongly Republican SC-5, Archie Parnell did incredibly well. He did slightly better than Ossoff in a race that nobody was paying attention to.
There are a few important things to consider in light of all this. We can’t just dump money and media attention onto a race, we have to be strategic. Increasing turnout is good in a district that’s majority Democrat, but when we increased overall turnout in GA-6, that helped the Republicans because it’s a Republican district. We need to increase Democratic turnout as much as we can without attracting Republicans’ attention. Of course, no race will get as much attention as GA-6 did in 2018. But maybe we should avoid celebrity endorsements.
It’s also time to give up on this pipe dream that bougie Republican suburbanites will come flocking to the Democratic party. These people don’t have to worry about healthcare, education, or anything else because they don’t have any real problems. All they care about is “do I get my tax cut?” and Republicans are always going to be better when it comes to helping the rich. Some of them will (and did) cross the aisle because of someone as uncouth as Trump, but Trump’s not on the ballot in 2018, normal Republicans are. Even for Trump, Romney voters mostly just complained they didn’t like him and voted for him anyway. There were way more Obama-Trump voters than Romney-Clinton voters. We should campaign hard in Romney-Clinton districts, of course, but we shouldn’t count on them. There’s plenty of Trump districts which are just as winnable or more winnable and we need to focus on them too.
As for Archie Parnell, I was originally surprised he did so well because he seemed boring and he used to work for Goldman Sachs. But then I watched some of his ads. He disses typical Washington politicians, playing to the anti-politician populism that’s so popular with working class voters. He talks about how his history in business prepares him for politics, just like Trump did, just like Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania did. I may not like the trend of businessmen going into politics, but that isn’t true of the people who voted for Trump, for Bruce Rauner in Illinois, or for Matt Bevin in Kentucky. This is a pattern and SC-5 Democrats decided to capitalize on it. Of course, the main reason he came so close to winning is that he flew under the radar and turnout was low. But all those other things are worth pondering.