What conservatives can learn about nationalizing the midterm elections—from (ironically) a top Democrat strategist
Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) is a man conflicted. He thinks he is making the case that "all politics is local," but he really is making the case for nationalizing midterm elections.
(By way of his credentials, former Rep. Israel served eight terms as a Democrat congressman from New York, and was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015.)
The headline for his article in the August 19 issue of The Atlantic is "Democrats Don't Need a National Message." Yet all three examples he gives of midterm election success are examples of campaigns that were nationalized, where the candidates of the winning party emphasized national issues rather than local issues.
His two Republican examples are 1994 and 2010. Both are classic examples of the out-of-office party winning by nationalizing the issues. In 1994 it was Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." And 2010 was the Tea Party insurgency against incumbents who had bailed out the culprits behind the financial meltdown of 2008.
Israel's third example is the Democratic victory in 2006. He notes that the Democratic message was distilled into six messages "reflecting national anxieties at the time" (emphasis added), then adds: "But the real winning message for Democrats that year wasn't even included in the original six planks: It was, essentially, 'Drain the Swamp'… A CNN exit poll from Election Day 2006 found that the most important issue motivating voters was corruption and ethics" [in Washington]. A classic example of a national issue, not a local issue.
Israel does have a point when he writes that the hardest part of devising a winning strategy "isn't writing slogans—it's reading minds. It's discerning voters' hopes, but also their anxieties and fears" (again, emphasis added). Remember those words of advice to Democrats—"discerning voters' anxieties and fears"—when you hear Democrats complain that Republicans are exploiting anxieties and fears by nationalizing the 2018 (or any other) election.
I have emphasized elsewhere that Tip O'Neill's "all politics is local" approach usually works for Democrats because it involves countless promises to voters for more government programs and "free" money, an approach that has worked for them since Tammany Hall to the Clinton-Obama era. But that doesn't work for Republicans—or at least conservatives—because it feeds the destructive growth of government. Also, today, the Democrat Party has lurched so far to the Left that it cannot run on national issues. Who wants to vote for higher taxes, open borders, and sex selection as the new "right"?
For conservatives in 2018 the winning issues are not a local passenger train subsidy but national concerns and anxieties over open borders, leftist extremism and anarchy in the streets, the Democratic constituency's embrace of socialism, the crime wave by illegal aliens, the government takeover of all healthcare, forced taxpayer subsidy of partial birth abortions, and other atrocities of today's far-left Democratic Party.
Conservatives: These are the issues that will lift us to victory in 2018!