Local Democrats warn party: Growing republican wave is real

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NEW HOPE, Pennsylvania (AP) – The Democrats of Bucks County, Pennsylvania felt the red wave over the summer as frustrated parents filled school board meetings to complain about masking requirements and an academic theory about systemic racism that wasn’t even taught was in local schools.

They realized the wave grew as concerns, fueled by misleading reports in conservative media, surfaced in independent elections for judges, sheriffs, and even the district clerk. And so they weren’t surprised – but devastated nonetheless – when Democrats in this important district northeast of Philadelphia were wiped out in the local elections on Tuesday.

“This is a bell to watch out for. It’s going on all over the country, ”said Democrat Patrice Tisdale, a Democrat who lost her district judge bid against a Republican candidate with no formal legal training. “The Democrats cannot go on with politics as usual.”

She’s one of the lowly Democrats sending the national party an urgent message: it’s worse than you think.

This suburban area, northeast of Philadelphia, is a major political battlefield in one of the country’s leading swing states. It’s the kind of place where moderate and highly educated voters repelled by former President Donald Trump’s divisive behavior helped Democrats regain control of Congress in 2018 and retake the White House in 2020. That is what makes the setbacks here alarming for many Democrats.

Some in the party privately suspected that they were in trouble in the race for the high-profile governor of Virginia, which they eventually lost. But the Democrats also suffered embarrassing results in the Democrat-minded suburbs of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, where they nearly lost the governor’s office and the state Senate president was deposed by a furniture company truck driver who paid $ 2,300 for had spent his entire campaign.

The focus is now shifting to the even more momentous mid-term election season next year, when control of Congress and dozens of other governor’s posts are decided. High-profile Senate races are already taking shape in states like Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and here in Pennsylvania, where there is reason to believe that the political dynamics may be different in November 2022.

Trump, whom Republicans deliberately avoided in this week’s election, will almost certainly have a much more prominent presence next year. Early Republican candidates in Pennsylvania and elsewhere embraced Trump, his tone, and divisive policies far more than Republicans did in this week’s election. At the same time, Democratic strategists believe their party on Capitol Hill will eventually adopt popular infrastructure and health packages that voters will appreciate.

“There’s just no correlation between what a year’s topics are and the types of people and types of candidates running here in Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a leading Democratic candidate in the state’s high profile elections to replace Republican Senator Pat Toomey, whose resignation offers Democrats one of the best reception opportunities in the country.

Senate Senate Democratic Arm Chairman Gary Peters of Michigan predicted the party would have a strong record of selling voters for the next year when the pandemic ends and the economy recovers.

“It will be a huge contrast to Republicans who are focused on fighting each other in nasty primaries, soliciting Donald Trump for his support, and driving the ultra-rich agenda,” Peters said.

While Virginia’s Republican governor-elect Glenn Youngkin successfully avoided Trump throughout his race, the former president has already backed Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Sean Parnell, who is in the midst of a chaotic public divorce involving allegations of domestic violence. Parnell, a former Army Ranger and a regular on Fox News, is due to testify in divorce court next week.

Trump is also actively interested in Georgia, where his supported Senate candidate, former NFL star Herschel Walker, is facing allegations of domestic violence of his own. And in Arizona, candidates take up his election fraud conspiracy theories. One of the leading Republican candidates, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, recently bowed to pressure from Trump when he announced a new investigation into the 2020 election.

Still, historical headwinds against the party holding the White House – aided by a new Republican focus on education that this week seemed to unite Trump’s grassroots and anti-Trump Republicans – could make the 2022 midterm election the worst choice for Democrats since Doing 2010, they lost 63 seats in the House of Representatives and another six in the Senate.

Bucks County has a sobering story for Democrats everywhere.

President Joe Biden won this overwhelmingly white district of nearly 630,000 northeast of Philadelphia by more than 4 points just last fall, a significant leap from Hillary Clinton’s win of less than 1% four years earlier. The county serves as the microcosm of Pennsylvania, and perhaps the country, with a mix of working-class neighborhoods, rural areas, and affluent suburbs.

Trump’s name was largely absent from this week’s local elections, but a new Republican focus on education helped unite the Republican electorate that was badly broken during the Trump presidency.

“For us it really was last summer when everything kind of turned down,” said Liz Sheehan, Democratic president of the New Hope-Solebury School Board.

People began to raise concerns about an alleged sexual assault on a student in Northern Virginia at local school board meetings. Others took up controversial books and critical racial theory, an academic framework that focuses on the idea that racism is systemic in the country’s institutions and that they serve to maintain white dominance. The approach is not taught in public schools, but has become a political buzzword for any class on race and American history in recent months.

While the alleged sexual assault and debates over critical racial theory were hot topics in the national-conservative media, they had little to do with Bucks County.

“We kind of naively thought, ‘Okay, I think we’re a bit more rational in our area.’ And suddenly we had meetings with people in Trump hats showing up, “Sheehan said.

“A lot is revolving around this concept of parental control in public schools now, and that is the mask debate and the debate on critical racial theory that come together under one heading,” the school board president continued. “And I think that’s what really motivated the local people, and why we’ve seen how many school board members have lost seats, many right-wing extremists have gained seats.”

Sheehan won her race, but many other Democrats weren’t so lucky.

Robin Robinson, Bucks County’s secretary clerk, says she received more votes than any other Democratic candidate in history when she ran for a second term. She lost anyway.

She’s scared of what that means for midterms 2022.

“I was the biggest Democrat voter in the history of this county and couldn’t get a grumpy little crime reporter?” said Robinson. “The problem is bigger than it is in Bucks County.”

Several Democratic Senate candidates were active in Bucks County in the days and weeks leading up to the election to motivate voters behind their lesser-known candidates. The total turnout ended up surpassing 40% of registered voters in the county, an astonishing number for an off-year election.

Bucks County’s Republican Party leader Pat Poprik is optimistic about her party’s future, especially after seeing a surge in the number of volunteers in recent months. The GOP’s success has little to do with Trump, she said.

“Some people absolutely listen to him, but it’s getting less and less,” said Poprik. “When he comes back in 2024 we’ll see, I don’t know, some people say he will, some people say he won’t. I have to tell you, that was the last thing I thought about. “


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