Organization Trends

The Left’s Hollow Victory: State-Level Wipeout


The Left’s Hollow Victory (full series)
State-Level Wipeout | A Presidential Trickle
Senate Money on Fire | Ballot Measure Warnings

Summary: In late 2020, the Electoral College met to formally elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris president and vice president of the United States in the wake of the 2020 elections. But confusion reigned in what should have been a triumphant moment for an ascendant Left fueled by rising demographics, record turnout, and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which empowered the state to levels previously unseen in America. While the American electorate determined that the Trump administration would end after only four years, its successes led that very same electorate to limit the Left’s congressional power, reject aggressive liberal policies at the ballot box, and give Republicans a strong state-level base from which to build for a post-Trump era.

 

The 2020 elections were not supposed to be like this.

Polling and expert analysis predicted that Joe Biden would not only be elected president but win a majority not seen since Ronald Reagan won in 1980, with a potential “blue Texas” heralding a generation of Democratic ascendancy. Instead, securing Biden’s Electoral College majority came down to just over 43,000 votes in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, as Florida and Ohio stayed in the Republican column and President Donald Trump showed unexpected resilience with Hispanic constituencies. Biden won narrowly by persuading skeptics of Donald Trump as a political figure to lend him their votes, not by riding an inevitable demographic wave to an “Emerging Democratic Majority.”

The handicappers predicted that House Democrats would ride Biden’s landslide coattails to expand their caucus by over 10—perhaps as many as 20—seats, bringing their numbers to levels last seen in the first two years of the Obama administration. But that didn’t happen. Republican women and ethnic minorities won Democratic-held seats in “rising American electorate” strongholds like Miami-Dade, Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Orange County, California while holding seats in suburban Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, and Midwestern suburbs that the handicappers had written off as toss-ups or worse. As of writing, Republicans had won every race the Cook Political Report considered a toss-up for which a winner could be projected. While Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) remains speaker of the House of Representatives, she commands the narrowest Democratic-held majority since 1931 and the narrowest majority held by any party since 2001. This is hardly an auspicious position from which to advance “defunding the police,” a Green New Deal, and major gun control legislation.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats were predicted to thrust ahead of Biden’s coattails, marching the liberal Democratic flag into formerly conservative Republican territory. Maine moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R), whose vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation had proved decisive, was a dead woman walking, and a tidal wave of out-of-state liberal money presaged a wipeout for the last Northeast Republican senator. But liberals would go further, defeating prominent red-state Republicans like Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC), retribution for the confirmations of three Supreme Court Justices under President Donald Trump; Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), a Judiciary Committee member closely tied to that state’s GOP; and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), a Republican rising star and prominent woman in a party sorely lacking in non-white-male faces. The Democratic “blue wave” could even extend as far as Kansas, Texas, or Alaska, giving Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) a stonking majority that could eliminate the legislative filibuster and pass major left-wing wish-list items like court-packing, abolishing the Electoral College, and fully socialized medicine. But that did not happen.

As of writing, Republicans hold 50 seats pending two runoffs in Georgia—what the Cook Political Report considered that the party’s best-case scenario before November 3. Now Schumer’s best-case scenario is supplicating West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) to get a meager agenda through budget reconciliation and compromise under the filibuster. If Georgians return one Republican incumbent, Biden’s liberal agenda could prove stillborn in the domain of Senate Leader “Cocaine” Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

State-Level Wipeout

But even bigger prizes were on offer for the ascendant Left of November 2, 2020. The Cook Political Report considered the battle for control of the Texas House of Representatives—and with it, whether Republicans would retain full control of congressional redistricting in the state—a toss-up. And Democrats hoped to elect their first statewide elected official since 1994, breaking the longest statewide drought for any state-level major party in the country. Beyond the Lone Star State, Democrats were predicted to break unified Republican control in Arizona, seven Republican-held chambers were considered toss-ups, and six more were considered vulnerable but leaning Republican. A state-level blue wave would empower the well-funded efforts of former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, giving Democrats control of the district lines that will determine control of the House of Representatives for the next decade.

But then the election results rolled in, and the impossible happened. Republicans not only did not lose state legislative chambers, but gained total control of the New Hampshire General Court, with control of the Alaska House—controlled previously by a Democratic coalition—undetermined as of writing. Republicans maintained supposedly vulnerable “trifectas” (control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature) in Arizona, Iowa, Texas, and Georgia; they held vulnerable legislative chambers in Democratic-governed North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania; and held the state Senate in Minnesota, denying Democrats a trifecta in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. As a result of the surprising statehouse results, Republicans will control redistricting over an estimated 188 federal House seats to Democrats’ 73.

But at least liberals would enjoy uninterrupted victories in their California strongholds, with all factions of the Left targeting the dead hands of a long-dead purple California in the state’s ballot measure process. Government worker unions grasped the weakest part of the state’s political “third rail,” the “Proposition 13” property tax-limitation measure of 1978, targeting the beleaguered business community for another tax increase. Woke capital—including ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, two health insurance companies, social liberal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Big Labor groups like the California Teachers Association—sought to expunge a ban on affirmative action from the state constitution. The state Democratic Party and the ACLU proposed breaking the seal on minors voting by extending the right to vote in primaries to 17-year-olds turning 18 before the general election. Government worker unions, Black Lives Matter chapters, and other radical-Left associations pushed a measure to expand rent control. And Big Labor and the state’s political establishment pushed a “bail reform” measure that would have replaced conventional cash bail with “risk assessments” for pretrial release.

They all failed. Even in a state that the Biden-Harris ticket carried by just under a two-to-one margin, the Left saw the public say, “This far and no further.” Those weren’t the only losses for progressives in the Golden State: In addition to Republicans taking back four House seats they had lost in the 2018 blue wave, rideshare businesses persuaded voters to pass a ballot measure to clip the wings of Big Labor’s “AB 5” independent contracting ban, and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs—a Mike Bloomberg protégé—was defeated by a Republican, appropriately surnamed “Lincoln.”

 

In the next installment of “The Left’s Hollow Victory,” note that the Biden campaign underperformed expectations and the House Republicans surprised almost everyone.

Michael Watson

Michael is Research Director for Capital Research Center and serves as the managing editor for InfluenceWatch. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he previously worked for a…
+ More by Michael Watson