The 2018 Primaries Will Decide the Fate of Democrats this Year

The majority of Congressional Districts are not very “blue.” In other words, most of the districts where the majority of voters are progressive or liberal already have a Democratic Congressman. Considering that Democrats have 195 seats right now, which is a minority of the U.S. House, it’s fair to say that the majority of U.S. House Districts are not all that liberal. It’s not really an opinion, it’s a statistical fact.

There are 18 “Blue Dog,” or what we’d like to call openly moderate members of the 195 “strong” Democratic caucus, which is to say that the current caucus is the most liberal that it has ever been. By comparison, the “Progressive Caucus” has over 75 members. The 177 Democrats not in the Blue Dog Caucus are overwhelmingly representing urban districts where Democratic performance tops 60% regularly.

The 240 seats that Democrats don’t occupy in the House are by and large nothing like most of the Democratic seats. Democrats need 23 seats to flip the House, and yes there are 25 “Clinton Republican” seats that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but many of them were decided by 3% or less, or a margin of roughly 6,000 votes or less in a mid-term. Some of the seats Democrats will have to win in 2018 to forge a majority, like NJ-5 or the new PA-1, are actually narrowly Republican seats (and in some cases, won by Trump). There are exceptions like PA-5, where a strong progressive candidate should be the nominee, but that is not the rule.

If Democrats want to make the kinds of gains they hope to achieve in 2018, they need to realize this election is largely not about their base. This election is largely about people who haven’t been voting Democratic much since 2010, or at least aren’t reliably, and might even have voted for Trump. This election is not about a leftward tug-of-war between economic “Berners” and “identity” Hillary voters, because most of those people already live in a blue district. This election is not going to be won speaking to each other, people who vote Democratic, but by making a direct appeal to more moderate voters, both those Hillary narrowly held onto, and those who bailed on us in 2016.

The 2018 Election will probably be decided by the ability of Democratic primary voters to nominate candidates they consider less than perfect, but who appeal to moderates. This is not what many activists want to do. We’ve seen this story play out in Texas and Illinois already, with mixed results. We will see it play out in the weeks and months to come. If Democrats nominate candidates in D+1 and R+1 type of districts who “excite” them, but largely campaign like they’re running in Downtown Philadelphia, Democrats will have to hope for Republicans to suddenly decide not to vote in November. That’s no pathway to victory. It’s our choice how this ultimately plays out though.

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