Democrats Will Never Beat Republicans at Their Own Game

Illustration for article titled Democrats Will Never Beat Republicans at Their Own Game
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Amy McGrath, a Democrat, is running a fairly uphill Senate campaign in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell. Her genius plan to beat him is to...outflank him on the right. I feel like I’ve heard this one before.


For those not familiar with McGrath, she’s a retired Marine fighter pilot who ran against Republican incumbent Andy Barr in a central Kentucky-area House swing district in 2018. Because of her profile as a veteran and the Democrats’ aggressive self-loathing—McGrath was an independent before deciding to run for office—she was one of the Democrats’ most prominent House candidates in 2018. McGrath trimmed Barr’s margin down to just a few points, but still lost by about 10,000 votes.

Now, she’s running for Senate, and apparently willing to do whatever she can to be the only Democrat in the race: The Intercept alleged in a report last month that her campaign manager had bragged about getting a potential primary opponent, sports radio host Matt Jones, fired from a television gig. (The campaign and the station both deny that.)


In an interview with Newsweek published on Tuesday, McGrath was asked, “How do you convince conservative McConnell voters to vote for you?” Now, this is a patently dumb question—the question Democrats should really be asked is, “How do you pull together all of the many, many people across Kentucky who think Mitch McConnell is a sack of shit, and build a winning coalition out of them?”

Still, McGrath’s answer was straight out of the Democratic campaign playbook, which was written decades ago, has now turned a weird shade of yellow, and is probably missing a few pages. Emphasis mine:

Mitch McConnell has been unpopular for a long time. I think there’s this narrative that he likes to put out there that he has to be reelected because he’s so powerful, “Look at me, I’m the Senate majority leader and I bring so much power to Kentucky.” It’s very simple for me. I say if he’s so powerful, look at what he’s done with that power. He didn’t secure the border, he didn’t fix the immigration system, he didn’t do anything that we need to get done on infrastructure. Not only fixing roads and bridges, but 21st century infrastructure to revitalize places like Eastern and Western Kentucky and all these places where we really need roads. He didn’t fix the opioid crisis which we’re being ravaged by in this state. He didn’t fix the health care system, the plan he put together to repeal and replace Obamacare was so bad that even President Trump said it was mean. My message to people is: Do you think that if you reelect him then all of a sudden he’s going to change? It’s been 34 years, he’s not going to change.

Out of all of the many, many horrible things that Mitch McConnell has done over the course of his career, you pick “he didn’t secure the border” as the one way to reach McConnell voters? Kentucky isn’t even a border state. You might as well say, “Let’s start with the racists.”

Doing the “strong on immigration” routine isn’t the only way McGrath is trying to out-McConnell McConnell, as she’s also said she would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh had she been in office during those hearings both before and after saying she wouldn’t have voted for him. She’s also made the case that, actually, Mitch McConnell shouldn’t be re-elected because he’s hamstrung Trump’s agenda too much.


Despite all of the available evidence, Democrats have managed to convince themselves that the only way to beat Republicans in the South and in the Midwest (or really in any district or state that isn’t the brightest shade of blue) is to run Democrats like Amy McGrath and Dan McCready and Phil Bredesen—people who spend roughly half of their time explaining how they’ll work with the horrible president to Get Things Done and the other half of the time arguing that they’re not like those other Democrats. They still didn’t win.

This is not just a bad recipe for winning elections, but also for governing. Even if Democrats do ride a wave into power next year, we can firmly expect McGrath to join the wing of the party that considers Donald Trump more of an ally than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—the same one that doesn’t consider accountability for ICE a priority whatsoever. There’s already a party for people like that; it’s called the GOP.

News editor, Splinter

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