Republicans can thank Democrats sliding to the left for 2018 fortunes

Republicans can thank Democrats sliding to the left for 2018 fortunes
© Greg Nash

The rising midterm fortunes of Republicans are due to the rising left of the Democrats. As liberals become more driven within the Democratic Party, the more Americans are driven from it. Ignoring the obvious, which is that the left stands further from our country’s majority than the right do, has not made it go away. Now Democrats are facing the consequences.

The May 30 Rasmussen generic ballot poll showed Democrats leading Republicans by just a single point at 43 percent to 42 percent. This was the narrowest lead for Democrats this year. Just two weeks earlier, they had a much better edge with a margin of six points.

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This closing margin is reflected elsewhere. Real Clear Politics is projecting that the next Congress will have Republicans 206 seats, Democrats 195 seats, and 34 toss-ups. The Senate stands at 48 Republican seats, 44 Democratic seats, and eight toss-ups. If the narrow generic ballot margin means toss-ups split in November, Republicans would hold both houses of Congress with 52 Senate seats and 223 House seats.

While November is still politically far away, this recent evidence is a far cry from the apocalyptic predictions many were making not long ago. What has changed so much so suddenly? Midterms are about the president, and Donald Trump has recovered from his deep negatives in less than a year. However, his recovery still leaves him with negative approval ratings. This is better, but still no “plus” for Republicans.

One political factor that can never be underestimated is the economy. The strong May labor report was symptomatic of its strength, showing 223,000 new jobs, unemployment at the lowest level since 2000 at 3.8 percent, and wage growth up 2.7 percent. While the economy has been basically strong since President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE took office, Republicans were still suffering until recently in midterm prognostications.

One factor that must be considered for the decreased advantage of Democrats is the left’s increase in their ranks. With political primaries occurring nationwide, liberals have frequently taken precedence in them. They scored notable wins in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nebraska. Where they have not won, they have often run strong races and, importantly for the public, defined the race.

To keep them from winning, the Democratic establishment has often taken concerted action. The “left problem” is hardly new. In 2016, the left backed Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV MORE so strongly that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump's exclusive interview with Hill.TV | Trump, intel officials clash over Russia docs | EU investigating Amazon | Military gets new cyber authority | Flynn sentencing sparks new questions about Mueller probe READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV Keeping up with Michael Avenatti MORE never put him away. Sanders consistently won better than 40 percent of the popular vote, and Clinton only secured the nomination through establishment dominated superdelegates. While the same establishment who gave Clinton the nomination also later blamed her for losing the White House, they felt one of their own would still outperform one of the left in the general election. Today’s results appear to be bearing out their concern.

What was last year described as “Democratic energy” is now more clearly “left energy.” That blessing 2016 is now looking far more like a mixed one, as the left’s momentum is frequently coalescing behind candidates of its own, rather than establishment Democrats. While the left may have the greatest energy in the political sphere, it remains the smallest ideological group. Exit polling from 2016 showed, despite Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMcCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination Presidential approval: It's the economy; except when it's not Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation MORE raising its profile for eight years, liberals comprised just 26 percent of the electorate. That means moderates and conservatives accounted for 74 percent of it.

This is not a question as to whether the proverbial glass is half empty. For the left, the glass is three-quarters full. Yet, liberals make up one of the largest and most loyal groups for Democrats. Right now, it is also its most motivated. Democrats therefore cannot abandon the left. Instead, the left appears increasingly interested in abandoning the Democratic establishment. The comparative size and motivation of the left now enables it to pursue its own goals directly, not through the establishment.

While overlooked, the split within the Democratic Party is becoming increasingly clear. What is not missed by the general American electorate is that the left is further from them than the right. As for the distinct disadvantage of the Democrats heading into midterms, their increasingly ascendant left is even further from an electoral majority.

J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 to 2000.