Welcome to the post-election season, when those who won give themselves too much credit and those who lost look for something to blame.
Republicans, especially here in Colorado, have been so depressed this year that any ray of sunshine warms their outlook. The clouds seemed to part on Nov. 2, but to what extent?
That will depend on how Democrats respond.
The party that takes the White House historically loses seats in the next election or two. There were two governor’s races earlier this month. Democrats lost in Virginia and squeaked by in New Jersey.
That's above the historical norm. With President Obama in the White House in 2009, Republicans flipped two governorships: Virginia and New Jersey. In 2001, President George W. Bush's party lost two states: Virginia and New Jersey.
History aside, what was evident in Virginia is that Democrats need a better way to talk about education, race and justice reform. They have to answer bombast in a smarter way.
Republicans play to passion. Democrats play to logic.
Passion usually wins.
A failure to engage the center almost always assures defeat.
“This should terrify Democrats,” wrote Tory Gavito and Adam Jentleson in the New York Times on Nov. 4. “With our democracy on the line, we have to forge an effective counterattack on race while rethinking the false choice between mobilizing base voters or persuading swing voters."
They added: "It will not work to ignore race and talk about popular issues instead. Mr. McAuliffe’s closing message was a generic appeal on infrastructure and other issues that poll well. He was following the strategy known as popularism, which has gained in influence since the 2020 election, when Democrats’ disappointing down-ballot performance was attributed to rhetoric like ‘defund the police.’”
Gavito is the president of Way to Win, a donor network that helps Democrats, and Jentleson is a former aide to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the former top Democrat in the upper chamber.
Democrats must change the way they engage voters or risk driving away the suburban voters they gained under Trump.
"What went wrong is just stupid wokeness,” Clinton presidential adviser James Carville said on "PBS NewsHour" the day after the election. "Don't just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean this 'defund the police' lunacy, this 'take Abraham Lincoln's name off of schools.' I mean that — people see that."
Defunding the police was never more than an impractical talking point, but it's backfiring in Democrats' circular firing squads.
Denver City Councilmember Candi CdeBaca proposed replacing the police force with a "peace force" last year.
Not another member of the council backed CdeBaca’s idea, which says a lot, given its liberal slant.
“You make it feel like it’s us versus you, and I’m telling you it’s not,” Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval told CdeBaca the night it came up. “If we all work together instead of trying to work in silos, we could actually get things done.”
Democrats of every stripe would be wise to think like Sandoval. While the most progressive members stand for their righteous causes, the price of those silos is driving the country to the right.
CdeBaca can retain her young, liberal district, but she’s not helping Democrats in more competitive races, and after redistricting, there will be more of those next year.
Glenn Youngkin won Virginia because of communication. He came off as an affable, suburban dad in a fleece vest. He didn’t throw around rhetorical bombs, the way some Republicans think they have to in Trump's party.
He kept Trump out of his photo ops and out of his mouth. He focused on education, public safety and taxes.
Republican U.S. Senate contenders Eli Bremer, Joe O’Dea and Gino Campana are trying to pull off that balancing act in a state Trump lost by 14.5 percentage points last year.
If Republicans want to fan the flames of Trumpism in Colorado, Democrats will be glad to let them.
And if Democrats want to go completely woke, Republicans will be glad to cheer them on.
Colorado Democrats, then, must speak in the terms that engage voters, not data points.
I saw this play out in an exchange on Twitter over the course of Nov. 4 and Nov. 5. after Democratic state Sen. Chris Hansen announced Denver's first electric school bus has arrived, and though it came with a hefty price tag, it will save the school district $30,000 in fuel costs over the next 15 years.
"This is great news, Denver parents," the Senate Republican Twitter account responded. "As your child is taken to their FAILING school, where they most likely WON'T read or do math at grade level, they'll do so without emitting any emissions!"
Republicans have their own problems that Insights will continue to second-guess, as Colorado politicians try to do the Youngkin two-step around the bombastic ex-president who is loved by the base and whose favor — or at least non-enmity — is essential to surviving the primary, but who is loathed by too many moderates in the middle.
Democrats have to sell their ideas to a mass market, not in silos ranging from socialism to centrism.
Trump won't always be there for Democrats.