After defeating the Romans at the battle of Heraclea, King Pyrrhus of Epirus is said to have lamented, “One more such victory, and I am finished.”
It may well be that the U.S. presidential election turns into a Pyrrhic victory for the Democratic party.
First, as things stand (and there are several court challenges still ongoing), it appears Joe Biden massively underperformed nearly every polling projection.
Some of that is on the pollsters. Some of it is down to Biden, who ran a nearly invisible campaign.
What does it matter, you might wonder? After all, he won.
Ask his party. The Democrats lost ground in House seats, in races they were supposed to win. As I write this, they also failed to reclaim the Senate, and that counts because judicial appointments are confirmed by that body.
If the Republicans retain control, Biden will have a difficult time getting left-wing judges appointed, and no chance at all of stacking the courts, as some senior Democrats had hinted they would do.
That means the last-minute appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat will stand. The court will move sharply to the right.
It also means some of the more contentious proposals in the Democratic platform, like far-reaching measures to transition away from fossil fuels, open borders, and reinstate Obamacare in its entirety, are now likely off the table.
However, there are more unsettling ramifications to consider. As Rep. Cheri Bustos, chair of the House Democrats’ Campaign Committee exclaimed, “Something went wrong here across the entire political world.”
What she meant was that fundamental planks of her party’s campaign failed to connect with voters.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, Democrat-Virginia, who narrowly won in what should have been a walk-over, spelled it out.
“From a congressional standpoint, [the campaign] was a failure. It was not a success. We lost members we shouldn’t have lost.”
And she went on, “We have to commit to not saying the words “defund the police” ever again. And we have to not use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again. If we are classifying Tuesday as a success and we run this way again, we will get f——— torn apart in 2022.”
Those are fighting words for the party’s activist wing, led by flame-throwers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But AOC, as she’s known, was being heralded just a few short weeks ago as a leading contender for the party’s presidential nomination in 2024.
It also spells trouble for the Democrats’ embrace of identity movements, like Black Lives Matter, to attract minority votes. Donald Trump racked up the highest success rates among Black and Latino voters of any Republican contender since 1960.
In short, the very foundations of modern liberalism, as practised in the U.S. and to a lesser extent in Canada, are in question.
This was not a win for progressive policies. It was a repudiation of Donald Trump, even at the price of electing a man on the margins of mental decay (if not well beyond).
The question then becomes, can the Democrats unload the more unpopular parts of their platform without provoking an internal civil war?
And with the next round of congressional elections due in just two years, can they do it in time?