Senate Democrats Defeated
Despite gaining two seats in the senate, 2016 was a loss for senate Democrats. Polls before the election had Democrats picking up four seats maybe even five. Unfortunately, Trump’s strong performance in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had senators Pat Toomey and Ron Johnson narrowly edge out their opponents, which allowed Republicans to barely hold onto their senate majority. The incredibly strong candidate Jason Kander (D) in Missouri despite running 8 points ahead of Clinton ultimately lost to his opponent, Roy Blunt. (On a small tangent, I highly recommend reading more on Jason Kander. He is a much-needed fresh face in a Democratic party, and a great campaigner. Here is an ad he put forward that got national attention.) Moreover, the two seats Democrats did pick up were not, in the grand scheme of things, that impressive.
For one, Democrats didn’t pick up any red states; instead they ousted Kelly Ayotte from the slightly left leaning state of New Hampshire, and ousted Mark Kirk from the deep blue state of Illinois. So, with the dust cleared, the final results are the following: Democrats have 48 seats and Republicans have 51 seats. (I’ve lumped in Independent senators, Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vermont) with the Democrats as King is a moderate Liberal and Sanders is a staunch Liberal). “But wait,” you may be asking, “I thought there were 100 seats in the senate?” You’re right there are 100 seats in the senate, with one still to be decided. In other words, the election of 2016 is far from over.
The Missing Seat in Louisiana
Louisiana, like all states, held their senate elections on November 8th, 2016. Louisiana, unlike other states, has something called a nonpartisan blanket primary, lovingly called a “jungle primary” for the disarray it tends to cause. The way the jungle primary works is that all candidates for a certain political office run against each other at the same time in a sort of mega election. In the unlikely event one candidate in the jungle primary gets above 50% of the votes, they are crowned the winner. More often than not, though, no candidate wins a majority and a runoff election between the top two ensues. For example, if a jungle primary decided our presidency, voters on November 8th would be casting a vote for Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or any other candidate that happened to be on the ballot. Welcome to the jungle I guess.
So, on November 8th, voters in Louisiana were welcomed to the jungle and chose whom, among 24 candidates, they wanted to be their senator. Even David Duke jumped into the fray, winning 3% of the votes. Like in any jungle, though, only the strong make it out alive and when all was said and done the top two candidates advanced to the next round. These two candidates were John Neely Kennedy, Louisiana’s Republican State Treasurer, and Foster Campbell, a Democratic member of Louisiana’s Public Service Commission. The former received 25% of the vote and the latter received 17.5% of the vote. On December 10th, a full month after the jungle primary, these two candidates will appear on the ballot again, the winner among them will be Louisiana’s new junior senator.
David vs. Goliath?
No sugar coating this one, Campbell is likely to lose this election. Recent polls suggest Kennedy has a 14-point lead over Campbell. Louisiana with the rest of the south has been no friend to the Democratic Party recently. A Democratic Presidential candidate has not won a state in the Deep South since Bill Clinton’s landslide victory over Bob Dole in 1996. What’s more, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 20 points in Louisiana, so Campbell has a lot of ground to make up if he is going to turn this election around.
Now, some good news. It is not impossible for Campbell to win. For one, Democrats can win Louisiana, just ask the Democratic Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards. Edwards was a solid candidate, one who could appeal to the conservative base of Louisiana. Edwards is a moderate Democrat with a slight populist tilt. He supports affirmative action, gay marriage, environment protection, and Obamacare. At the same time, Edwards’ is staunchly pro-gun, pro-life, and wants to keep Catholicism in the public sphere. I put this short summary of Edwards forward as an example of what kind of Democrat can be elected in Louisiana.
Campbell is in sync with Edward’s conservative Democrat viewpoints for the most part. Campbell is a Christian, who is pro-gun and pro-life, but is a Democrat on many other issues like Obamacare and the environment. Yes, his gun and abortion stances may be concerning to some Democratic readers, but senators from Louisiana tend to hold that viewpoint regardless of party and anyone who wants a stronger check on Trump’s power should hold their nose and vote for Campbell regardless. So can Campbell win the Louisiana senate election? Yes. Will he? No.
For one, Edwards unlike Campbell graduated from West Point, which helped him woo hesitant conservatives over to his side. While Kennedy is flawed (he’s been regularly attacked for flip-flopping on issues), David Vitter, Edwards’ gubernatorial opponent, had a prostitution scandal. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, an organization dedicated to the election of Democratic senators, has also yet to help with Campbell’s election efforts in Louisiana. One has to admire Campbell’s optimistic outlook, though, as when asked if he needed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s help he responded with, “Nope.”
There is one last concession to make. Donald Trump’s surprise victory on November 8th has shown that in politics the impossible can happen. Look at it this way, if you had asked me who would be our President and what party would win the Louisiana senate race on November 7th, I would’ve told you, Hillary Clinton for the former and Republican for the latter.
For anyone looking to make Trump’s life more difficult and check the power of his Presidency, the election in Louisiana is your ticket to do just that. If Campbell wins this election, Democrats will be only two senators behind the Republicans. This one seat difference is instrumental. For example, with Campbell in the senate, the Democrats (assuming they are unified in opposition) would only need to sway two moderate G.O.P. senators, instead of three, to their side to block any of Trump’s nominations. Furthermore, if Campbell loses, make no mistake, Louisiana will be sending an enthusiastic Trump supporter in the form of Kennedy. Kennedy has run a very pro-Trump campaign and it is unlikely that he will stand up to Trump in any regard.
What can you do to make a difference? The election is 4 days away so there is not much time to have an impact, but you can still donate to Campbell here, and volunteer to make phone calls or canvass for Campbell here. Our country is a two-party system so in the name of fairness one can also donate/volunteer for Campbell’s’ Republican opponent, Kennedy, on his website. I also encourage anyone who may be unsure about Campbell or Kennedy’s candidacy to check out both their websites and make the decision on your own.