Tammy Anthony Baker / Flickr LAGOP GOTVR Dec2016 176...
Tammy Anthony Baker / Flickr

#16 UMBC  74   #1 Virginia   54

This. Is. Why. You. Play. The. Games. In the illustrious history of the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament, #16 seeds had lost 135 straight times without a victory. Shit, Even I never got slapped that many times in a row in a singles bar without scoring. Conor Lamb is the UMBC of politics. So was Doug Jones. And so will be plenty of others in a few months.

Look, the GOP keeps missing the point of the stunning defeat Tuesday night in PA-18, and too many people are going along with them. The GOP keeps trying to say that Conor Lamb was a “miracle candidate” for the district, a test tube lab experiment that can never be reproduced. This is bullshit. PA-18 was gerrymandered to make it impossible for any Democratic candidate to win for 16 straight years! The GOP should have been able to run a sea slug (which they did actually), and still win going away.

When people hear the word “gerrymander,” they automatically think “uh-oh, that means GOP 80 and Democratic 20.” This is not true. You can’t draw circles around two Democratic strongholds 20 miles apart, and then connect them by a 1 block corridor like a giant dumbbell. The Supreme Court will tell you, “Nice try Johnny, now, go do your homework again, and bring it back to me.” It’s happened in North Carolina, Texas, PA-18 itself, and quite possibly soon in Wisconsin.

In order for a gerrymander to be successful, it has to be at least “possible” for a Democrat to win the seat. PA-18 itself is a perfect example of this. On paper, the registered party affiliation in PA-18 is 52-48 Democratic. What?!? It’s true, but the Republicans discovered that many of the Democrats in the district had started voting for the GOP back in the 90’s, but just hadn’t gone through the trouble of switching their party affiliation. Conor Lamb didn’t win just because of Democratic enthusiasm against Trump, hell, he hardly mentioned him. He won because he tailored his message to the district, and brought home just enough of those wayward Democratic voters to turn the tide.

Gerrymandering is by its nature a subtle thing. The outcome has to be rigged, while still giving the appearance of a “fair fight.” I read somewhere a while back, I don’t remember the exact publication, that the average GOP gerrymander was anywhere from 53-47 to 55-45. In a scenario like that, it’s the stability of your votes that is critical.

This is where Trump is going to tip over the apple cart. Conor Lamb didn’t woo back those wayward Democratic voters because he built a better mousetrap, although he did, he got them back because Trump broke the GOP mousetrap everybody had been voting for. People who voted for Trump voted for change, not the wanton destruction of the federal government.They voted to “drain the swamp,” not to build a hardwood deck around it for Stevie Munchkin and his buddies to sit around on, sipping mimosas, and laughing at the swimmers getting chased around by crocodiles.

Trump’s base was not enough to win, as the national vote totals show. He won by dragging along GOP mainstream voters looking forward to sane GOP rule after 8 years in the Obama wilderness, and independent and disillusioned Democratic voters who wanted Washington to work again. But since befouling the bible with his greasy hand print, Trump has done nothing but play to his most rabid base.

The people who put Trump over the top didn’t vote for him to get a big, beautiful goddamn wall built, hell, most of his rabid base didn’t even believe it will ever be built. And they didn’t vote for him to ban all Muslims either. They voted for him to get rid of what they thought was a terrible healthcare bill, blind to the fact that it actually benefited them the most, lower taxes to put more money in their pocket, and create better paying jobs. The ACA is still there, the wall is still an adolescent wet dream, job creation is no better than it was under Obama, and most of them are low paying jobs, and their tax cuts are so paltry that the GOP had to stop running on them in PA-18.

Look, civilizations wither and die when a sense of entitlement, and complacency set in. The GOP has grown fat and lazy with complacency in their belief that their districts are so perfectly gerrymandered that no Democrat can successfully rise up to beat them. And now the barbarians are at the gate. Virginia looked past UMBC, and right now the GOP appears to be making the same mistake going into November, resting on the security of their gerrymandered “wall.”

Democratic candidates don’t need to hold Trump and the GOP up to scorn, just hold them up to the light. Trump and his merry band of freebooters run the entire government, and they can’t get a single thing done that’s worth doing. Trump’s lies will kill him. Being caught admitting that he had no ideas of what the actual trade deficit numbers with Canada were shows a total disregard for even caring about getting the job done, just fake it. Personally, nobody really cares if Trump performed mattress aerobics with a pron star, that’s between him and Melania, but to lie so brazenly about it invites speculation about what more critically important things he’s willing to lie about. People are used to be lying to by their politicians, but that doesn’t mean that they like those same politicians pointing their fingers and laughing at them afterwards.

This is why the Democrats will win back the House in November, if they just put the donkey work into it. Trump has done everything in his power to hang onto his rabid 35-40% base, but in doing so, he has driven away the other 10-15% he has to have to win, at least in the midterms, when he’s not on the ballot to drive that Trump base out. Democratic candidates talking about fixing potholes and improving schools beats talking about Mexican rapists and shifty Muslims every day of the week. And as Conor Lamb proved, in districts, where you only have to swing 3-5% of the votes to win, it’s easier when Trump is doing the heavy lifting for you. Let the games begin.

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