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We Are All First Losers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Democrats and Republicans have more in common than once thought. They both succeed at losing and are good at doing so.

The SEALS have a very simple expression for second place in any competition: first losers. And this expression seems truly apt for both political parties. Look at major US cities. Almost all are under Democratic control and have been so for decades. I grew up north of Chicago and had I stayed any longer I might have been asked to canvass a couple of the local cemeteries. All of the big cities—New York, Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, Baltimore and more—suffer from the same problems:


*Growing violence including carjackings, public transport attacks and shootings

*Increasing homelessness to the point of losing large swaths of a city

*More drugs and drug-related crimes and death

*Poorer outcomes from public schools

*Flight of those who can afford to get out

*Businesses leaving for safer and lower tax locations

One would expect that if such trends were to go on for years and only got worse, the local population would throw out its leaders and demand new ones who would address some or all of these problems. But nothing could be further from reality. Big cities go Democratic both for local leaders as well as for representatives sent to Washington. Sure, there is the occasional surprise and if one goes back far enough, he can dig up a Michael Bloomberg here or there. But Democratic voters, for however terrible their cities are, simply continue to vote for the same thing over and over again. The brave Republicans who give it the old college try promise safer neighborhoods, better schools, more police on the trains, etc. It all sounds right and one would expect the citizenry to choose the Republican candidates by landslides but it does not happen. One can blame habit, one can say that voters are bought off with handouts or that their politics are so far to the left that there is no hope of their changing. But we have seen in the last few cycles that significant pluralities of Hispanic voters have voted for Republican candidates both locally and nationally. So the idea that the Black vote will always be north of 80 percent for the Democrats would seem something that can be addressed. But in point of fact, the cities and the big blue states continue to keep in office the same people who have managed the decline of their surroundings. Has Maxine Waters done much to make her failing district safer and more prosperous? And still, how many times has she been easily reelected? Sixteen times.


When CVS, McDonald’s and Starbucks shut shop, you know that the situation on the ground is bad. In all documented cases of such closings, the firms have reported increased crime and decreased safety for customers and staff as the reasons for the closings. How many garbage bags of goods have to be shoplifted out of a Walgreens before its management simply gives up and closes the location? How terrified do baristas have to become before Starbucks pulls the plug on a formerly profitable store? How can Republicans not offer something that would finally dislodge this Democratic stranglehold on failure? How can it be that a person gets up in the morning, hears bullets fly by his apartment, reads about a neighbor’s kid being gunned down, walks over a bunch of discarded needles and then pulls the lever for the Democratic candidates? Are these zombies or voters? When the big political machines in the past provided a quid pro quo for their power—clean neighborhoods, safe streets, good schools, the deal worked in both directions. But every Democratic city is a mini war zone with very little to show by way of success. And even so, the Republicans cannot make any significant headway in such locations.

And as for the Republicans, the reelection of Ronna McDaniel has shown that the Republicans are going for the safe path back to being first losers. Sure, Ron DeSantis might run and win the whole thing or maybe even Donald Trump can stop complaining about 2020 to focus on the future and beat a barely there Joe Biden. But elections are won on the ground, and the RNC has shown that it does not know how to play the new ground game. The Democrats have very little to offer on policy—we’ll encourage your boy to be a girl, we’ll force you to buy a car you do not want, we’ll raise your taxes and take away your gas stove and gun—but they keep winning. They blunted a “red tsunami” and turned it into a red cup of water. They fairly or otherwise got Joe Biden vote tallies never seen in history. Whatever they are doing, the Republicans need to learn it and do it better. If it is picking up ballots or making sure that Republican voters have voted early, then that is the job to do. Vote curing? We’re on it. Reelecting the same RNC leadership that has not gotten the job done in the last batch of elections does not instill confidence that anything will be different heading into 2024. Joe Biden is all but a shoo-in if he can avoid the minefields that his party is setting for him so as to get rid of him. If he can overcome the documents scandal, then he will face a Republican who will be a better candidate but will not have the ground forces to get huge early turnout that seems to be the key to victory. And McDaniel’s victory confirms that—like the Democrat voters who dodge bullets and needles to vote for Democrats—Republicans also enjoy the status quo, even though since 2020 it is failure writ large. Just try to imagine the damage not done if the party had won just one of the two Georgia Senate runoffs to keep a 51 person majority in the Senate. Think of those gargantuan spending bills that would have died in the Senate and the improved dollar and economy that would have resulted. But the goal was not to win but rather to be right. And so the Republicans lost twice and this past November lost again in the fairly conservative Peach State. One has to admire consistency.


Until Democratic voters get fed up with the demise of their cities or Republican voters get sick of losing when all indicators are in their favor, they will have to get used to the expression "first losers" because the politicians who do get elected definitely keep their voters in second place.

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