Rep. James Clyburn, the Assistant Democratic Leader in the House, is pulling the fire alarm far ahead of the 2018 midterms.
“If we’re still in the minority [after the midterms], all of us have got to go,” the South Carolina congressman told reporters last week.
If the current Democratic leadership — in the House, the Senate and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — can’t figure out how to motivate voters and raise the money to win the November 6 midterm elections, they all should quit.
The problem? Even with President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE’s currently low 41 percent approval rating in the Real Clear Politics polling average, Democrats continue to lag behind the GOP in fundraising.
As of this month, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has $157 million to work with while the DNC only has $79 million.
The money contest is closer between the National Republican Congressional Committee ($58.8 Million cash on hand) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($57 million).
But that’s before big outside donors like the Koch brothers begin to pump money into GOP campaigns.
Despite money troubles, Democrats have been doing well in special elections. There is also an unusually high number of Republicans retiring from Congress, surely out of fear of a coming Democratic wave.
Last week, The New York Times’ Nate Cohn reported that, based on results from elections going back 30 years, the president’s current approval rating fits with “an eight-point victory for the party out of power in the national House popular vote.” That would give Democrats the House majority.
But behind those positive signs, there are recurring signals flashing the message that the Democrats’ high hopes could be a mirage.
One brewing batch of trouble for the Democrats bubbled up in a Fox News poll.
“By a nine-point margin,” Fox News’ polling director, Dana Blanton, wrote last week, “more say the disruption Trump has brought to Washington is a bad thing [46 percent] rather than a good thing [37 percent]. That spread was 14 points last summer [51 bad vs. 37 good]. The shift comes mostly from a drop in the number of Democrats calling the disruption a bad thing — from 85 percent last July to 75 percent today.”
In other words, the fire and fury among Democrats upset over Trump’s 2016 victory remains a fact, but it is not building up. At the moment, it is coming down.
Additionally, polls targeting voter preference for Democrats or Republicans to control Congress are surprisingly close given the constant stream of chaos, name-calling, scandals and staff turnover in the Trump White House.
Last week, Reuters had the Democrats up 11 points in the generic poll on party preference while Quinnipiac University gave the Democrats an 8-point edge. An ABC News/Washington Post poll had them up only 4 percentage points. Not long ago, most polls had Democrats up by double-digits.
Part of the problem facing Democrats is low voter turnout in midterm elections. This is a big threat to Democrats because much of their base — particularly young people, racial minorities and highly educated voters — has a history of not getting out to vote in midterms.
In the last midterm election, 2014, only 36 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Similarly, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll of “infrequent or unregistered voters” found that while 55 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, an incredible 83 percent said they were either “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to go to the polls and vote in the 2018 midterms.
“It’s a chilling story to tell,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Polling Research Center, told USA Today. “These people don’t vote. They could hate Trump, but they could still not vote because they hate political parties, they hate Democrats, they hate the bureaucracy, they hate the infighting, the negativity, all of that.”
These polls are why Clyburn is calling an end to any show of complacency among Democrats about the upcoming midterms.
“Yes, polling data shows a coming ‘blue wave,’ but we’ve gotten overconfident about polling numbers before,” wrote former Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE aide Annafi Wahed in the Wall Street Journal last week.
Questions of over-confidence also come to mind with news that the DNC has launched a massive lawsuit against the Trump 2016 campaign, Wikileaks and the Russian government, alleging that fraud cost Democrats the last presidential election.
It is important to prevent a repeat of election interference by the Russians. But the lawsuit raises the question of whether the party should be putting time and money into relitigating the last election just months before the midterms.
In the weeks before the 2016 election, liberal filmmaker and Michigander Michael Moore warned Democrats against “doing an end zone dance when they were only on the 50-yard line” because “everybody needs to have their game face on and realize that Trump can win, he can pull this off.”
In 2016 Trump pulled off the upset.
The question now is whether Democrats have learned their lesson.
If the Democrats lose this time, their roaring river of regret will be background noise as Trump sails happily into 2020 and beyond.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.