AMAC Exclusive By Daniel Roman
Written By: Daniel Roman
On Saturday, voters went to the polls in Texas’ 6th Congressional district to elect a replacement for Republican Congressman Ron Wright, who died in February. In a contest in which all candidates appeared on the ballot regardless of party, with the top two proceedings to a runoff on May 24th, two Republicans advanced. They were Susan Wright, the widow of the late congressman, who had received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and Jake Elizey, a conservative state representative. The victory of either on May 24th will be a win for conservatives and for Trump, while Saturday’s results represent a defeat for both the Democratic party, which will not even have a candidate in the runoff, and anti-Trump Republicans, whose much-heralded candidate Michael Wood received a mere 3% despite glowing profiles in the national press.
The results portend far more than the mere question of who will fill a single House seat. They provide a challenge to Democratic visions of turning Texas Blue and a sign that Joe Biden’s election has served to demoralize rather than motivate left-leaning voters. Democrats have been quick to scoff at the idea that they needed to win this seat in order to hold the US House, noting that it would be vulnerable in redistricting anyway, for instance.
That is perhaps true, but it misses the point that Democrats need to contest seats like the 6th Congressional district if they want to have any hope of competing statewide in Texas. And much as with what happened in the heavily Hispanic border counties of South Texas back in November, the evidence indicates that Democrats are moving backward rather than forward. However, this time, they are not moving backward in the sort of high-minority, non-urban area that is shifting rightward around the world, but in a high-income, high-education suburb, which in theory should be shifting their way.
The Democrats’ post-2018 House majority is built on districts like the Texas 6th, entirely so after the party lost many of its remaining rural seats in 2020. The Texas 6th District, located in the Dallas/Fort Worth suburbs, is 88.7% urban and only 52% non-Hispanic white. Its median income, at $71,161, is well above the national average, which during the Trump Administration was an indicator of Democratic support, something Joe Biden should perhaps keep in mind when promoting the largest tax increases in decades.
Once safely Republican (the district voted 66%-34% for George Bush in 2004, 57%-42% for John McCain in 2008, and 58%-41% for Mitt Romney in 2012), it begins to shift dramatically in recent years, voting for Donald Trump by 54%-42% in 2016 and by a mere 3%, 51%-48% in 2020. Thus, in this special election, Democrats had no candidate make the runoff in a district where Joe Biden received 48% of the vote in 2020. It was not only Biden who made gains. Democratic candidates for congress in the district won 39% in 2016, 46% in 2018, and 44% in 2020. This Saturday, every Democratic candidate combined earned a mere 37%.
Meanwhile, the combined Republican vote was 62%. Compared to the Presidential race, that is an 11% increase for Republicans since November and an 11% drop for Democrats. Yet, even compared to past congressional results, the Democratic total has been the worst since 2014 when an underfunded Democrat received 36.4% in the district. If Democrats are performing at 2014 levels in 2021, when Joe Biden should still be on his honeymoon, it portends horribly for their prospects in 2022. Nationally, Democrats lost 8 Senate seats that year.
More worrying still for Democrats, this is the sort of seat where the media insists the Republican party has been most damaged by both the Trump presidency and its aftermath, among other things, as a result of Republicans’ opposition to COVID restrictions, a lack of support for “Green” policies, and their social conservatism. So goes the narrative, at least. Moreover, the district is wealthy, multiracial, and suburban, exactly what the media would term “Biden” Country. Except, the evidence is that at least 25% of November 2020 Biden voters are no longer buying in. Perhaps because the Biden Administration has embraced left-wing policies that are deeply alienating to exactly this sort of voter.
Equally embarrassing for the media, though much less significant politically, is the total failure of the campaign by retired Marine colonel Michael Wood, a self-described anti-Trump Republican who was running to “save” the Republican party from itself. Wood received extensive attention in the national media, including interviews with Politico and CBS News and a profile in Texas Monthly. Wood proclaimed that the race was “the first battle for the soul of the Republican party.” If there was ever a seat where an anti-Trump Republican should have been viable, it would have been this one. After all, Mitt Romney of all people won 58%, while President Trump won a mere 51% in 2020.
Furthermore, absent party primaries, Wood had the potential to appeal to Biden voters disaffected with what Biden had done since taking office. In the end, Wood appealed to neither. He won a mere 3.3% of the vote, despite receiving the second most media coverage of any candidate. Of the 11% of voters who cast ballots for Biden in November and then supported a Republican on Saturday, more than 70% preferred a Donald Trump-endorsed option.
Wood’s defeat should rightfully put an end to the belief that a large constituency exists for anti-Republican Republican candidates outside the Beltway.
Democrats, however, have much more to lose than anti-Trump Republicans, who never won elections in the first place. Wood’s failure shows that not only have high-income Biden voters deserted the Democrats but that they are willing to desert them for Pro-Trump Republicans. As the Democratic strategy for 2022 appears not to appeal to voters on their own merits but rather to count on voters finding Republicans worse, these results should be very concerning for them. If it does not work in a seat where a 17% Romney win turned into a 3% Trump win in 2020, where will it work? In seats where 3% Obama wins turned into 15%, Trump wins in the Midwest? On the Mexican Border, where Trump held Democrats to their lowest margins in generations? In South Florida, where Trump racked up margins that helped him win the state by 3.4%?
Democrats worried about the realignment of working-class voters in 2016 consoled themselves with the belief that minority voters would keep trending their way. When those voters revolted in 2020, Democrats felt content that at least the suburbs turned on Trump. Now the suburbs have begun to revolt against the Democratic party as well, and it is hard to see where they have left to go to make up the difference.
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