Democrats hoped to win special elections for the U.S. House of Representatives this year. Tuesday in Georgia, Republican Karen Handel won the 6th District House seat.
Republicans have skunked Democrats in 2017. During this year of Trump, they have lost four of four special elections for which the previous House members were Republican.
Georgia was the largest Democratic effort, with $23 million spent by the party’s candidate, Jon Ossoff. He did not help by living outside the district. The fact that much of his funding came from outside the area detracted too.
Indeed, Ossoff’s outsider issues reinforced the impression of Democratic smugness. For instance, no law requires a House member to live in the district represented, but common sense says a representative should. Too often, Democrats lord their view of themselves over their view of Republicans, particularly Trump supporters.
Democrats should turn themselves upside down. They should look upward for inspiration — practically speaking — from Republicans and especially from Trump supporters.
Handel’s victory is proof. She won 51.9 percent to Ossoff’s 48.1 percent, a difference of 3.8 points. This was the most expensive House race in history, with more than $50 million spent.
Never mind that the presidency of Donald Trump has been error-prone and unsubstantial since Jan. 20, when the new president insisted that his inauguration’s crowd size was monumental despite photographs showing the opposite.
Among the president’s real troubles are carrying no legislation of note from proposal to approval; staff turmoil; investigations of impropriety, which include a special counsel; and an early morning habit of writing on Twitter. Even within his core, many wish he would lay off the often-contradictory tweets.
The operative words are “never mind.” Despite an overall approval rating in polls of 40 percent or less for the better part of a month, those who support Trump — his core — do so with dedication and enthusiasm.
They do not want to be told what to think about the president or much of anything else. Many beyond the Trump core characterize this outlook as “don’t confuse me with facts.”
These gazes from above simply stiffen Trump’s supporters. The concrete of their foundation is strong down at ground level.
Such faith keeps the Trump movement rolling like a tank against small arms. Day-to-day Democrats should learn from the president’s core. They should discover that it is they as a broad group — not party tiptops — who need to pull the movement together, set its priorities and make its choices.
The Democrats can argue that their losing streak is explainable. Republicans had held all the seats. In the case of the 6th District, Republicans had held it since Newt Gingrich’s victory in 1978.
The arrogance exposed by Ossoff’s outsider problems, however, is not arguable.
It was an easy target for a Trump tweet in which he stated his view on Ossoff’s positions, then nailed him by saying he “doesn’t even live in district.”
Likewise, Handel’s final-week TV ad “About You” packed a powerful punchline in its final three paragraphs:
“My opponent doesn’t live here, doesn’t share our values.
“He’s raised millions outside of Georgia from Nancy Pelosi and outsiders who just don’t share our priorities.
“He wants to make it about them. It should be about you.”
Democrats think they are the teachers. Instead, they should become students. Rather than looking down on Trump’s supporters and other Republicans, they should look up and learn.
The pendulum will swing, as it always has, but time could drag.
If Democrats hope to speed the movement, they will start at the bottom and construct their future from a foundation of shared strength. Momentum will build, as their opponents have shown.