Chuck Schumer incensed his base last week when he said he could work with Trump. The liberal blogosphere went crazy, particularly here, arguing that working with Trump is a recipe for disaster for Senate Democrats.
Of course, if you look at the Senate map for 2018 the map is downright horrific. Ten Democrats sit in states Trump won and only a single Republican sits in a Clinton state. By default, you would think this means some of these Democrats, particularly in MO, MT, WV, IN and ND would want to distance themselves from the party’s national brand.
Running counter to this belief is Democratic dominance from the 50s to the 90s in Congress. For the most part Republicans worked with moderate GOP Presidents and a Democratic Congress to pass major legislation. The result was permanent minority status. But, as soon as Newt Gingrich and his “revolutionaries” came around in the early 90s the GOP gained continual power power in Congress for a decade. Indeed, since 94 the GOP has held the House in 9 of the last elections and the Senate 6-11.
This cycle for the first time in modern electoral politics, not a single Senate D/R candidate won a state of the opposite party’s Presidential nominee. Democrats came up short in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Florida (just to name a few) while Republicans lost in Nevada and an agonizingly close race in New Hampshire.
It is the New Hampshire race that stands out though and shows how electoral history can be made by a few hundred votes. Flip 250 votes in New Hampshire and Ayotte would have won reelection and a state Trump lost. So despite the argument politics is increasingly polarized there are signs a good candidate can still win or at least be competitive.
Not more than 4 years ago we witnessed a Presidential contest that featured plenty of ticket-splitting. Democrats won Senate contests in Missouri, West Virginia, Montana, Indiana and North Dakota. All states Romney won by hefty margins. Republicans won an open Nevada Senate seat. A state Obama won.
These candidates all had things in common. They ran away from their national party’s worst tendencies and showcased their best. Admittedly, many of these candidates had the luxury of running against flawed opponents but still.
All this is a round-about way of saying that having a party leader who stresses pragmatism, as Reid once did, and Schumer does now, is not necessarily a bad thing for a party facing a daunting Senate map. If Trump is popular come 2018 at least vulnerable Democrats can say they worked to make the system better. If Trump is not, they are sure to benefit from voters turning out against him. They might even get a few 2016 Trump voters to boot.
Contrary to the belief that undying opposition to the incumbent party in the White House stands the Democrats of 2006 and 2008. Believe it or not, Democrats worked with Bush in 05 to pass immigration reform. It was Republicans who derailed it. Meanwhile, Democrats were smart and attacked Bush on corruption and reforming Social Security. In 2007 and 2008 Democrats, even while in control of Congress, again worked with Bush to provide funding for the War in Iraq and domestic programs.
Ironically, this might be the only route available for Democrats to avoid losing seats in 2018. Undying opposition to a Trump Presidency might make liberal voters swoon and GOP voters sour on Trump but if you are sitting in a Trump +20 state you need a lot of liberals to vote and a lot of sour Republicans not to. And I hate to break it to Democrats but the odds of that happening are really, really small.