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Posted on Nov 8, 2018

Election strategies: Column

By Rich Elfers

By the time you read this, you will either be in celebration or in mourning. You will have found out the results of the midterm elections and learned who won the battles for control of the U.S. House and the Senate.
The Democrats and the Republicans and Trump have all used strategies and issues to rouse their bases to vote. A play to emotions, not reason, was the goal. By analyzing the different strategies, we can understand the calculations used by the parties and gain deeper insight into American politics.
The Democrats: The chief issue was health care for the masses. The Democrats accused the Republicans of gutting Obamacare and leaving millions without health care or having to pay very high premiums. Criticism of the potential loss of pre-existing conditions put the Republicans on the ropes on this issue.
The Democrats hammered the December 2017 tax cuts for being gifts to the super wealthy and to corporations. While the economy is booming, most people on Main Street have not seen much in the form of income increases. Most of the money from the tax cuts has resulted in corporations buying up their own stocks to increase their company value, not paying increases to workers.
The Christine Blasey-Ford testimony at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings was the key October volley for the Democrats. Her testimony was all emotion. Women on the left, especially, could relate to her sincere and highly compelling testimony. They convinced many that Kavanaugh should not be confirmed as justice of the Supreme Court. Fear mongering pushed the idea that a conservative court would overturn Roe v. Wade and gay marriage. Their hope, win or lose, was that the base would rise up in anger and vote on November 6.
The pipe bomb mailings and the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, while not planned by the Democrats, were used as proof of President Trump’s inflammatory language causing threats to prominent Democrats, Jews and other minorities, and to the media.
Trump and the Republicans: The key strategy for the Republicans was pumping up the economy, which the 2017 tax cut accomplished. The saying, people vote with their pocket books, has been true in the past. If the economy is good, then the Republicans should fare quite well in the voting, but this time the economy may not play as big a factor. As stated above, the money has not trickled down to the lower classes.
Trump’s idea of giving the middle class a tax cut before November 6 was an attempt to deal with the failure of the 2017 tax cut on average Americans. Trump’s obvious goal, since Congress wasn’t even in session before the election, was to pump up his base with the hope of more money in their pockets if the Republicans won.
(The Democrats also point to the $779 billion deficit that they say is the direct result of the tax cuts. Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, surprised many by stating the deficit could be reduced by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Those entitlements are usually seen as the “third rail” that shouldn’t be discussed just before an election, but any cuts to these programs won’t affect most of the Republican base who are already collecting money from those programs. They’re exempt, and they know it.)
Republicans pointed to the successful confirmation of Kavanaugh and to the lack of evidence against him. They also pointed to fear for their sons from false accusations by lying women.
The big issue that President Trump used to stir his base was immigration. He reduced the number of immigrants to 30,000 in 2019. He sent 5,200 regular army soldiers to beef up the southern border against an “invasion” by the refugee caravans nearly a thousand miles from the border and has plans to send more. That’s fear mongering, but this issue really stirs up Trump’s base.
Trump’s recent talk of issuing an executive order against giving citizenship to illegal immigrant babies, while completely unconstitutional based upon the 14th Amendment, was certain to rouse Trump supporters to action. Facts don’t matter, feelings do. Even his criticism of Republican Speaker Paul Ryan was meant to rouse loyal supporters to action.
President Trump is a master of enflaming his base. If his “gut” was right, then the Republicans won on November 6, and the chance of Trump’s re-election in 2020 is greatly increased. If the Democrats were right with health care and an anti-Trump platform, then they will have won control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate.
Those of you who are reading this column now know which strategy worked the best. In either case, “We the People” will have chosen the nation’s direction.

Rich Elfers is a former Enumclaw City Council member and a Green River College professor. He can be contacted at richelfers@gmail.com.