Wednesday, October 24, 2018


By Dominique Paul Noth 

Even if the most threatened Democrat, Heidi
Hietkamp, has a tough road in North Dakota,
Democrats can still carry the Senate.
In two years, the US has shrunk to a puny shadow of its influential self on the world stage while the economy gallops ahead fulfilling Obama’s vision of slow steady growth but heedless of the warning signals about troubled tariffs, nationalism and ballooning deficits of the Trump regime  that could blow up  a few months after the election.  Many pundits fear that as long as the economic balloon isn’t punctured too harshly, Trump still has weight to throw around, which puts them in the uncomfortable situation of hoping against our economy to block his more outrageous brainstorms.

Yet the president continues to invent rioting in California, middle easterners coming in caravan from Central America (the only Mideast tribe he seems to admire is from the Saudi royal family), evil immigrants invading his golden space and Democrats salivating to impose more taxes – all a clear intent to use fear to reduce his Nov. 6 losses.

It’s a pretty low bar to support a president by comparing him to a broken clock – right inadvertently twice a day.

Yet wisely, the Democrats are ignoring his outrageous behavior while cable media still feels forced to cover his daily ravings,  on a theory I wish the news gods would abandon – that even a president who talks like an escapee from the hospital still merits a ridiculous degree of attention.

There is some evidence that his daily rallies and news gaggles leading into Nov. 6 have more to do with holding up his sinking ratings than any real belief even among supporters.  He’s on the air more than reruns of “I Love Lucy.”

The Democrats have realized that all the invective possible has already been hurled at Trump.   Nor can the Dems  do anything  about the exaggerated right wing hopes that his  Supreme Court picks justify giving the lunatic full rein.  And the Dems don’t want to explore, even if they have reason, billionaire Tom Steyer’s calls for impeachment lest it raise the specter that punishment is more important than better government.

No, the Democrats up and down the ballot are emphasizing what they can actually do for Americans in terms of health care, better roads, livable wages and healthier environment – also pinpointing the areas where Trump and the GOP are letting the citizenry down.

This is the right approach even if we admit the motor underneath.  Up and down the ballot the reason for high turnout is to create a check on Trump’s executive power.

This is the main reason people are voting.  The pundits maintain a somewhat simpleton distinction between the progressive mood of urban America and the built-in conservatism of rural communities, but the  two sides are coming together in curious ways this election year, and Trump is the cause.

With two more years in office and already rumblings that he might try to overturn the Constitution if he doesn’t like the results Nov. 6, the US public has to be determined not to react in fear of what Trump might do but to block any more of what he has done. 

When people stop fearing how he will misbehave, they focus on how they want the US to behave.  Frankly, the common reaction I hear from the public rural and urban is that they don’t want to see again what happened in 2016.

Today’s polls less than two weeks out make it clear the House is likely to turn to Democratic control, but the media loves a good horse race and feels they must give presidential asides attention, even if “diatribes” better describe his ramblings than actual information.  Recognizing that the table was always stacked in 2018 against the Democrats, who have to defend far more Senate seats then the Republicans, the talking heads are emphasizing the difficulty of turning the Senate around as if the Republicans have a real argument to make.

I’m going to disagree with the current warnings that the GOP may keep control of the Senate.  They might, but it’s more than wishful thinking that they will lose this chamber as well as the other one. 

A powerful blue wave still has a strong likelihood of kicking Mitch and his ilk to the curb – and a powerhouse turn in the electorate is essential to truly blocking Trump.

Krysten Sinema given a poll
lead in Arizona.
First there are strong indications of several seats now in Republican hands flipping to the Democrats.  Among them, Jacky Rosen in Nevada beating Dean Heller and  Krysten Sinema in Arizona taking the seat being abandoned by Jeff Flake.  Even Tennessee seems to be coming to its senses, listening to Taylor Swift and recalling how even its retiring GOP senator, Bob Corker, had reservations about Marsha Blackburn, who continues to audition for FOX News more than running for Senate. She is Tennessee’s Leah Vukmir.

The Democratic in that race is male and older, but Phil Bredesen is a proven commodity as a former popular Tennessee governor.

And would you believe that even Mississippi may be in play? At 49-51 the Democrats need only to flip two Senate seats, so a narrow takeover remains in the cards.

Several Democratic defenses are in good shape (Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Amy Klobuchar and the little known Tina Smith  in Minnesota, the latter appointed to fill Al Franken’s term;  Chris Murphy in Connecticut, even Bob Casey in Pennsylvania and the once heavily threatened Sherrod Brown of Ohio, to name a few now indicated as “leaning Democratic”).

But many in states that went for Trump are considered on the bubble. The most threatened is North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, though it is hard to see even conservative voters in that smaller population state endorsing the ugly voter suppression games their GOP has been playing.

Claire McCaskell given a good
chance in Missouri.
Also considered as Democrats bucking their state’s trends are Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, though both are leading their races. (Many Democrats don’t care much about Manchin until they read more about his GOP opponent.)

Voters in Missouri believe Claire McCaskell’s respected individuality will pull out her re-election – she still does smart grassroots things like asking voters at her meetings who is benefiting from coverage of pre-existing conditions. Insiders share similar hopes for Bill Nelson in his Florida race against the well heeled exiting governor, Rick Scott.  Helping there is that Andrew Gillum is leading in the race for  governor,  marking a groundswell for Democrats.

Beto's national attraction not as important
as his good chance among Texas voters.
And there actually remain hopes for Beto O’Rourke in traditionally red Texas, largely because of Ted Cruz’s unpopularity with Republicans and his wimpiness in now embracing the president who once accused his father of treason and his wife of ugliness. Plus Beto has been running a smart and financially impressive campaign.

If you look at the election map in that light, the Democrats could take back the Senate even if they lose a seat here or there. It seems that voters even in reddish states are serious about providing a check on Trump.

That upset in both chambers also relies on traditional understanding of the power of Congress, not its recent temerity.  It was designed to check and balance a president and it could again on many fronts beyond advise and consent on judicial nominations.  You don’t have to be a cockeyed optimist to realize that if Republicans perceive a blue wave taking firm control, there may be enough of them willing to make deals if the Democrats focus less on punishing Trump and his fellow Republicans than on what can be done for the country. They may realize that is what their voters want.

Comprehensive immigration form with a path for citizenship was once as much a Republican idea as a Democratic one. It was even once in Trump’s mind – if you can call it a mind.  Events including his scornful rhetoric may have wiped away his participation but if he sees a two-thirds majority heading his way he could be forced into it. And there may be that super-majority reachable after Nov. 6 if the Republicans left agree with the push to the middle, which many underneath seemed to want, except when they feared bucking Trump.

And though it sounds weird in the current environment, how about a national health care bill that continues Obamacare’s assurance that pre-existing conditions have to be covered?  Before you laugh, yes it is possible, though House Republicans voted more than 70 times to destroy the ACA and its pre-existing coverage, though it took the late John McCain’s thumbs down to stop the Senate from joining the parade, despite Republicans including governors Scott Walker, Rick Scott and others going to court to sue the ACA to eliminate coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Yet as Nov. 6 approaches, No. 1 in national popularity in polls is support for Obamacare, even among Republicans. Republicans are still suing to stop ACA, though now they are pleading with voters to ignore what they are doing in court.  The hypocrisy is stunning, and unbelievable that they really want to support such coverage later. Right now, Trump has proposed allowing private health insurers to return to charging people extra to cover pre-existing conditions, and many Republican state governors including Scott Walker agree.

The Republicans may not be ready for “Medicare for all” but steps in that direction could be possible.  Change is even possible in regions previously considered Republican territory because right now a lot of Republicans seem eager to reclaim their own party as a forward-moving machine.

So, too, could a Democratic wave help a real infrastructure bill, some better consumer protections, less arbitrary spitting fits over tariffs and even some steps to recognize the existence of climate change.

I know, I know, it all sounds impossible given the toxic heat in the days ahead of the election. But such is the power of voters to turn things around.

Even the natural hesitations some voters have about the Democratic Party might be changing. Some Democrats do not seem as strong as others on progressive movement, some seem  too cozy with rich donors. Some Democrats have been accused of continuing marginalization of minorities by the cowardice of their votes. But all now  seem ready to pull together on key issues and the selling point is when the voters start asking which party has been more open to listening  to minorities, the young, the elderly,   the disenfranchised and new ideas to improve fundamentals.

Overall the Democrats have been better at responding on these fronts, and the voters seem to be realizing that.   But it does depend on avoiding petty disputes or petty infighting,  or tying Congress up in investigations rather than actions. 

Certainly the Democrats’ case has been helped mightily by how even Republicans once thought open to reason have proved too willing to hide their heads in the sand over the worst excesses of Trump.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.  

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