Mission Accomplished For Democrats, But Not Without Disappointment

Before national progressives fell in love with Rep. Beto O’Rourke and filled his Texas coffers with small-dollar donations, before Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum shockingly won a late August primary in Florida, the Democratic Party had a single goal for the 2018 midterm elections: Win back control of the House of Representatives in order to provide a check on President Donald Trump in the last two years of his term.

And they did.

“People can call it whatever they want,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan told HuffPost when asked if Tuesday night’s results counted as a wave. “Tonight we won the majority back. It’s already approaching 30 seats. It may be better than that. That’s a lot of seats, however you measure it. Tonight was very clear where the American people stood.”

Democrats won big in the House, nearly sweeping the suburban districts they needed in order to obtain a majority, and then pulling off upsets in several districts won by Trump in 2016. 

Some of their most surprising wins came in urban and suburban areas: In Virginia, former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger defeated GOP Rep. Dave Brat in a district centered on the Richmond suburbs, and Navy veteran Elaine Luria defeated Scott Taylor in a district including Virginia Beach. In Oklahoma, nonprofit executive Kendra Horn pulled off a shocking upset in an Oklahoma City-area district held by GOP Rep. Steve Russell. Trump had won the district by double digits in 2016. 

The outcome reflected a growing rural-urban divide in American politics, with the GOP romping in Senate races in North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana, and GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s strong performance in rural parts of Florida powering his victory over Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Those three Senate pickups, along with still undecided races in Montana, Nevada and Arizona, indicate Democrats could face a steep climb to win back control of the upper chamber in the foreseeable political future.

However, if Democrats sweep the three seats still up in the air, they would have limited Republicans to a single net pickup over the course of a cycle — an accomplishment, considering Democrats started the cycle defending 10 incumbents in states Trump won.

The biggest stings for Democrats came in states in the former Confederacy, where progressives were hoping to capitalize on demographic changes and expand the electorate. Gubernatorial candidate Gillum and Senate hopeful O’Rourke both lost by narrow margins, and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was trailing. All three candidates had won admiration from progressives across the country and raised heaps of money online. 

O’Rourke seemed to suggest he could run again in the future. (Some Democrats have suggested he run for president; others hope he will challenge GOP Sen. John Cornyn in 2020.)

“We will see you out there, down the road,” O’Rourke told his supporters. “I’m so fucking proud of you guys.”

And in an early morning speech, Abrams promised voters she would get a “do-over,” indicating she believed enough votes were outstanding to force the race to a runoff. 

There were also disappointments in the Rust Belt and Midwest. Although Democratic senators easily dispatched GOP opponents in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, they didn’t match those results at the gubernatorial level, failing to capture governor’s races in Ohio and Iowa, two states Trump had won easily in 2016.

But here, there were also reasons for optimism: In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers narrowly won early Wednesday, apparently finally ousting GOP Gov. Scott Walker. 

But Walker’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, said early Wednesday morning that the campaign wasn’t conceding.

“I’m here tonight to tell you that fight is not over,” she told supporters, before requesting donations to fund a possible recount. 

There were also other triumphs: Democrat Laura Kelly romped over a favorite of Trump’s, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, by a 5 percentage point margin. Initiatives to raise the minimum wage passed in Arkansas and Missouri, as did Medicaid expansion in a slew of red states. And the Democratic Party made massive gains at the state level, bringing unified Democratic government to Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico and New York. It also ended one-party GOP rule in Kansas, Michigan and New Hampshire.

But the biggest victory was always going to be control of the House, which will give the party the power to investigate every aspect of Trump’s administration and stop all but the most bipartisan legislation. In the past, presidents who have lost the House have appeared apologetic. When George W. Bush lost 31 House seats in 2006, he called it a “thumping.” When Barack Obama’s Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, he labeled it a “shellacking.”

The GOP’s gains in the Senate allowed Trump to make a different claim. 

Two Charts Show Trump's Job Gains Are Just A Continuation From Obama's Presidency

There has been a fair amount of rhetoric about the job growth and lower unemployment rate seen since President Trump took office. Candidate Trump touted that there would be 25 million jobs created over 10 years if he was elected. In January 2017, I wrote that this was a fairly easy campaign promise when you analyze the data and realize that it will only take 2% annual growth of the workforce to hit this target.

This is a review of Trump’s Economic Scorecard before the midterm elections.

President Trump started with a distinct advantage with a workforce of 145.7 million, 9% larger than when President Obama took office. If the workforce were to only grow by 2%, that would add just over 2.9 million jobs a year or 243,000 per month. Over the course of 10 years, there would be over 29 million jobs added.

Additionally, over President Obama’s last six and five years in office after the economy had recovered from the Great Recession, the average employment gains were 2.42 and 2.48 million jobs per year. Pretty much on track to add 25 million over 10 years. So it appears that Trump can reach his 25 million job growth goal even if the economy continued to grow at the pace under Obama .

To provide a monthly comparison, the average employment gain in Obama’s last six years in office (after getting out of the recession's impact) was 201 thousand. And the average for his last five years was 207 thousand, essentially the same as the 208 thousand for the first nine months this year.

Over 2 million jobs added per year for the past 8 years

Below are the employment gains from President Bush’s last four years in office from just before the start of the Great Recession, through President Obama’s and so far through President Trump’s tenure.

Bush’s last four years in office:

  • 2005: 210,000 per month or 2.52 million for the year
  • 2006: 175,000 per month or 2.09 million
  • 2007: 96,000 per month or 1.15 million
    • Last six months averaged 55,000 per month
  • 2008: Negative 297,000 per month (recession takes hold)
    • Lost 3.6 million jobs

Obama’s eight years:

  • 2009: Negative 422,000 per month
    • Lost 5.1 million jobs (teeth of the recession)
  • 2010:  88,000 per month or 1.05 million for the year
  • 2011: 174,000 per month or 2.09 million
  • 2012: 179,000 per month or 2.14 million
  • 2013: 192,000 per month or 2.3 million
  • 2014: 250,000 per month or 3 million
  • 2015: 226,000 per month or 2.7 million
  • 2016: 187,000 per month or 2.24 million

Trump’s through September:

  • 2017: 182,000 per month or 2.19 million
  • Through September 2018: 208,000 per month or 2.5 million run rate
U.S. employment

U.S. employmentGRAPH COURTESY OF JOEL D. SHORE, BASED ON EMPLOYMENT DATA FROM THE U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

Unemployment rate has been dropping for 9 years

The unemployment rate shows pretty much the same progression from President Obama to President Trump . The unemployment rate started to climb the last two years of President Bush’s second term and substantially in Obama’s first year as the Great Recession that he had inherited was having a huge impact.

Bush’s last four years in office:

  • December 2005: 4.9%
  • December 2006: 4.4%, decreased 0.5%
  • December 2007: 5.0%, increased 0.6%
  • December 2008: 7.3%, increased 2.3%

Obama’s time in office

  • December 2009: 9.9%, increased 2.6%(teeth of the recession)
  • December 2010: 9.3%, decreased 0.6%
  • December 2011: 8.5%, decreased 0.8%
  • December 2012: 7.9%, decreased 0.6%
  • December 2013: 6.7%, decreased 1.2%
  • December 2014: 5.6%, decreased 1.1%
  • December 2015: 5.0%, decreased 0.6%
  • December 2016: 4.7%, decreased 0.3%

Trump’s through September:

  • December 2017: 4.1%, decreased 0.6%
  • September 2018: 3.7%, decreased 0.4%

The second graph that shows the U.S. unemployment rate continues on essentially the same path even with a slightly higher GDP growth rate (based on trailing four quarters growth).

U.S. unemployment rate

U.S. unemployment rateGRAPH COURTESY OF JACK WOIDA USING FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF ST. LOUIS, FRED DATA

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Oprah jumps into contentious Georgia race, endorses Democrat Abrams

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Oprah Winfrey plans to lend her star power to Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams' quest to become the United States' first black woman governor at a couple of appearances in the state on Thursday.

After a brief flirtation earlier this year with a run for the White House in 2020, the media mogul, who has long associated herself with Democratic Party causes, has instead thrown her influence into a race that has become a flash point for accusations of voter suppression.

Abrams' Republican rival, Brian Kemp, serves as Georgia secretary of state, a role in which he oversees state elections. Earlier this month, a coalition of state civil rights groups sued Kemp, accusing him of trying to depress minority voter turnout to improve his chances of winning. On Monday, former U.S. President and former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter asked Kemp to step down as secretary of state since he was running for governor.

Oprah Winfrey plans to lend her star power to Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams' quest to become the United States' first black woman governor at a couple of appearances in the state on Thursday.

Saying 'I've been used,' Kanye West distances himself from politics

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Three weeks after a bizarre White House meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, rapper Kanye West said on Tuesday he was distancing himself from politics.

West, Trump's biggest celebrity supporter, also sought to distance himself from a new campaign that encourages black Americans to quit the Democratic Party.

"My eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative!!!" West tweeted, without mentioning Trump, who is a Republican, or any other names.

The singer and fashion designer, who has said he is bipolar, also said he "never wanted any association" with a campaign launched last weekend called Blexit that seeks to draw African-Americans away from their long-standing support for Democrats.

West, 41, was linked to the campaign after its leader, conservative activist Candace Owens, said he had designed the logo for the movement's hats and T-shirts.

"I introduced Candace to the person who made the logo and they didn’t want their name on it so she used mine," West tweeted on Tuesday. "I have nothing to do with it."

West posted his comments just a week before U.S. congressional elections on Nov. 6 and after months of erratic behavior, including describing slavery as a choice.

On Oct. 11, he met Trump in the Oval Office and launched into a rambling 10-minute-long speech carried live on television in which he said Trump made him feel like a superhero, and referenced the existence of an alternate universe.

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Kentucky grocery shootings were 'possible hate crime'

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The fatal shootings of two African-Americans at a grocery store near Louisville, Kentucky are being investigated as a possible federal hate crime, US officials say.

Gregory Bush, 51, has been charged with two counts of murder and 10 of wanton endangerment over Wednesday's incident.

Police say he opened fire on both victims at a Kroger grocery store on the outskirts of Jeffersontown city.

Officials say he also tried to enter a black church shortly before.

Police Chief Sam Rogers said it was too early to confirm if the shooting was racially motivated - but confirmed reports Mr Bush was seen on security cameras attempting to enter the Jeffersontown First Baptist Church about 10-15 minutes before the shooting at the Kroger store.

The church has a large African-American membership,

The two victims of the shooting have been named as 69-year-old Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, 67.

Mr Stallard was shot multiple times inside the Kroger shop, which he had been visiting with his 12-year-old grandson.

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A witness told a local Fox affiliate he had shielded the child, who was uninjured in the shooting, after he ran away shouting for help after witnessing the attack.

Ms Jones was then gunned down in the car park outside the supermarket.

One witness, Ed Harrell, exchanged gunfire with the suspect outside, but he fled and was apprehended by officers minutes later.

Mr Harrell told the local Courier Journal newspaper he confronted the gunman outside, who told him: "Don't shoot me. I won't shoot you. Whites don't shoot whites."

Police have not confirmed the statement, but the FBI confirmed it is investigating the shooting alongside local authorities.

Grab showing the Kroger strore where shooting happenedImage copyrightGOOGLE STREET VIEW
Image captionThe shooting happened on Wednesday, at a supermarket surrounded by other businesses

US District Attorney Russell Coleman in Louisville said Friday that they were looking into potential violations of federal law "which includes potential civil rights violations such as hate crimes."

In his statement, he said the shootings "are not being taken lightly by the United States government."

Bush has a criminal record of violent behaviour and a recorded history of mental illness, local media say.

He had previously been temporarily banned from possessing firearms by a judge, the Associated Press reports.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he was "sick and heartbroken and quite angry" over the attack.

"We are one city - one proudly diverse and welcoming city - and we have one shared future," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"Our city and our future have no room for anyone who looks at their fellow human beings with hate or discrimination," he added.

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