NEW HOPE, PA (AP) — Democrats in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, felt the red wave building in the summer when frustrated parents held school board meetings to complain about masking requirements and an academic doctrine on systemic racism. fill, which was not even taught. in local schools.
He felt the wave was rising when such concerns, due to misleading reports on conservative media, began to appear in unrelated elections for judges, sheriffs and even county recorders of deeds. And so they weren’t surprised — but all but devastated — when Democrats were wiped out in this major county northeast of Philadelphia in Tuesday’s municipal elections.
“It’s a bell we need to pay attention to. It’s something going on across the country,” said Attorney Patrice Tisdale, a Democrat who fought against a Republican candidate without any formal legal training to become a magistrate district judge. Lost his bid. “Democrats can’t do politics as usual.”
He is among the down-ballot Democrats who are sending an urgent message to the national party: It’s worse than you think.
This suburban area northeast of Philadelphia is an important political battleground in one of the nation’s major swing states. It’s the type of place where liberals and college-educated voters, retreating from the divisive behavior of former President Donald Trump, helped Democrats take back control of Congress in 2018 and win back the White House in 2020. That’s why the setbacks here are so dangerous for many Democrats. .
Some in the party suspected privately that he was in trouble for the high-profile gubernatorial race of Virginia, which he eventually lost. But Democrats also faced embarrassing consequences in Democratic-leaning suburban New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, where they nearly lost the governor’s office and the president of the state Senate was undefeated by a furniture company truck driver, who spent $2,300 on his entire campaign.
Now the focus is on the even more consequential mid-term elections next year, when Congress will take control and decide on dozens more. Already, high-profile Senate races are shaping up in states such as Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and here in Pennsylvania, where there is reason to believe that the political dynamics may be different in November 2022.
Namely, Trump, whom Republicans deliberately avoided in this week’s elections, will almost certainly have a more significant presence next year. The starting slate of Republican candidates in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have embraced Trump, his tone, and his divisive policies much more than the Republicans on this week’s ballots. At the same time, Democratic strategists believe that his party on Capitol Hill will eventually pass popular infrastructure and health care packages that voters will appreciate.
“There’s no relation in terms of what the issues are going to be a year from now and what kind of personalities and what kind of candidates are running here,” said Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. The Democratic nominee in the state’s high-profile election will replace Republican Sen. Pat Tommy, whose retirement gives Democrats one of their best pickup opportunities in the country.
Gary Peters of Michigan, the head of the campaign wing of Senate Democrats, predicted the party would have a strong record of selling voters next year as the pandemic ends and the economy recovers.
Peters said, “It would be a stark contrast to Republicans who are focused on fighting each other in bad primaries, wooing Donald Trump for his support and furthering the agenda of the super-rich.” increasing.”
Indeed, while Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin of Virginia has successfully avoided Trump throughout his race, the former president has already backed Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Sean Parnell, who is in the midst of a messy public divorce involving domestic Includes allegations of misconduct. Parnell, a former Army Ranger and Fox News regular, is due to testify in divorce court next week.
Trump is also taking an active interest in Georgia, where his backed Senate candidate, former NFL star Herschel Walker, is facing domestic violence charges of his own. And in Arizona, candidates are embracing their own election fraud conspiracy theories. State Attorney General Mark Branovich, one of the leading Republican candidates, recently succumbed to pressure from Trump to announce a new investigation into the 2020 election.
Still, the historic headwinds against the party that took over the White House — backed by a new Republican focus on education, which this week seemed to unite Trump’s base and anti-Trump Republicans — pushed the 2022 midterms to the 2010s. This could make for the worst election ever for Democrats. That year, he lost 63 seats in the House and another six in the Senate.
Bucks County paints a grim story for Democrats everywhere.
President Joe Biden won this heavily white county of about 63,000 people northeast of Philadelphia by more than 4 points, a significant jump from Hillary Clinton’s less than 1% victory four years earlier. The county serves as a microcosm of Pennsylvania, and perhaps country, with a mix of working-class neighborhoods, rural areas, and affluent suburbs.
Trump’s name was largely absent in this week’s municipal elections, but a new Republican focus on education helped unite Republican voters, which had been badly broken during the Trump presidency.
“For us, it was really last summer when it all kind of hit,” said Liz Sheehan, the Democratic president of the New Hope-Solebury school board.
People began to express concern at local school board meetings about an alleged sexual assault with a student in northern Virginia. Others took on controversial books and critical race theory, an academic framework that focuses on the idea that racism is systemic in the institutions of the nation and that they serve to maintain the dominance of white people. The approach is not taught in public schools, but has become a catch-all political buzzword for any teaching about race and American history in recent months.
While alleged sexual assault and debate over the Critical Race Theory were hot topics in the national conservative media, they had little to do with Bucks County.
“We naively thought, ‘Okay, I guess we’re a little more rational in our field.’ And all of a sudden, we had meetings where people were showing up in Trump hats,” Sheehan said.
The school board president continued, “A lot of it is now about this notion of parental control in public school, and that mask debate and the important race theory debate are coming together.” “And that, I think, has really inspired the locals, and why we saw a lot of school board members lose seats, a lot of far-right people get seats.”
Sheehan won her race, but many other Democrats weren’t so lucky.
Bucks County Recorder of Deeds Robin Robinson says he earned more votes in his bid for a second term than any other Democratic candidate for that office in history. She lost anyway.
She fears what this means for the mid-term 2022.
“I was the biggest vote-getter for a Democrat in the history of this county and I couldn’t win a little reporter of the works?” Robinson said. “The problem is bigger than Bucks County.”
Several Democratic Senate candidates were active in Bucks County in the days and weeks before the election in an attempt to energize voters behind their lower-profile candidates. Overall turnout eventually exceeded 40% of registered voters in the county, a staggering figure for a year after the election.
Bucks County Republican Party Chairman Pat Poprich is optimistic about the future of his party, especially after seeing an increase of volunteers for the first time in recent months. He said the GOP’s success had nothing to do with Trump.
“Some people listen to that, of course, but it’s getting less frequent,” Poprick said. “If he comes back in 2024, we’ll see, I don’t know, some people say he will, some people say he won’t. I have to tell you, that was the last thing on my mind.”