Scoot: Politics in America today

March 13, 2018 - 11:51 am

It’s Election Day in western Pennsylvania; and it may as well be Election Day across America, too.  The close race in Pennsylvania’s 18th district could be a microcosm for this year’s mid-term elections and the presidential election in 2020.

Pennsylvania’s 18th district in just outside of Pittsburgh; and while there are more registered Democrats than registered Republicans, the district has been bright red in recent elections. 

President Trump carried the area by 20 points in 2016.  The 18th District is also predominately rural, blue-collar and white.  So, why is a young Democrat in a virtual tie with the Republican candidate?

Meet the candidates:

Republican candidate Rick Saccone, 60, has been a conservative PA state representative.  He is retired Air Force with vast experience in counter-terrorism.  Saccone is a religious conservative and claims that he was “Trump before Trump was Trump.”  One of Rick Saccone’s controversial ideas was his support of a bill that would require all public schools to bear the motto:  “In God We Trust.”

Democratic candidate Conor Lamb, 33, is a socially conservative Democrat who is a former federal prosecutor and Marine captain and he opposes abortion and new gun control laws.  Lamb’s campaign slogan has been the “biggest issues facing the 18th congressional district aren’t partisan.”  If he wins, Lamb has vowed not to vote for Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader.

A recent poll shows Lamb leading Saccone 51% to 45%, but other polls have the race even closer.  Why are so many people here and across America paying so much attention to this special election in a district in western Pennsylvania?

Let’s set the mood.

Today’s special election in Pennsylvania is taking place because of the resignation of GOP Rep. Tim Murphy, who admitted he had a sexual affair with a mistress and allegedly told her to have an abortion when he thought she was pregnant.  Murphy maintained a strong anti-abortion position.  Murphy was such a dominate Republican in the 18th district that in 2014 and 2016, no Democratic candidate even ran against him. Trump and Romney, the last two Republican presidential candidates, both carried the district by close to 20 points.

Democrats are looking at this race as a referendum on President Trump’s low approval rating and will tout even a close loss by Lamb as an indication that the President and Republicans are vulnerable in the 2018 and 2020 elections, but that would be a false narrative. 

Candidate Conor Lamb is doing well in an extremely red district, not because he is a Democrat, but because he is a moderate candidate.  The real message being generated from this special election is a strong message from the voters and not the traditional political parties.  If Lamb were a moderate Republican running against a liberal Democrat that closeness of the race would be the same.

Many Democrats have tried to counter the more extreme right-leaning Republicans with the idea that America wants and needs progressive Democrats.  Republicans have made the same mistake by thinking that the answer to progressive Democrats is right-wing Republicans.  Both are wrong.

If Connor Lamb beats Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania tonight, it will not be a Democrat beating a Republican.  It will be a moderate beating a more extreme candidate.  The misconception that the extreme right within the Republican Party elected Donald Trump is a misguided notion that will hurt the Republican Party if it becomes the party’s conventional wisdom.  The Democratic Party will suffer if a win, or close race, is seen as a mandate that Democrats will beat Republicans in the mid-terms this fall.

The truth that neither party wants to recognize is that a moderate Republican or a moderate Democrat is the formula for election success.  The voice of the high school students after the tragic shooting in Parkland, FL reflected a growing attitude across the country that Americans are fed up with the far-right and the progressive left - but will the parties and the politicians get the message?

Every afternoon, the fundamental message of my radio talk show is that moderates with strong convictions now determine who wins an election.  A Democrat like Connor Lamb, who is anti-abortion, opposes new gun control laws and understands the deep flaws of partisanship, is the right candidate. 

This country is in the mood for political stereotypes to be broken.  If the Republican candidate in the Pennsylvania race reflected moderate views relative to the traditional rhetoric of the right - that candidate would be a threat. 

It is not unusual for a Democrat to support new gun control laws, but it is notable when a Democrat opposes new gun control laws.  Conversely, a Republican who supports new gun control laws and is pro-choice, fits the image of a candidate that refuses to be defined by strict party ideology - and that’s the key for success in 2018 and 2020.

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