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Obama's Legacy: The Total Destruction Of The Democratic Party

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect changes in the Louisiana Senate race.

A day after the election, CNN’s Amanda Carpenter aptly noted that while the rest of the Democratic Party’s confidence that their Obama coalition could bring about consistent wins in national elections, Republicans were eating Democrats alive up and down the ballot.


“Who thought Obama’s legacy would be the destruction of the Democratic Party,” she said after President-elect Donald J. Trump’s upset win over Clinton.

Folks, again, I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong about President-elect Donald J. Trump. For those who were on the Trump train from day one, congratulations on a great victory over Lady Macbeth, also known as Hillary Rodham Clinton. At the end of the day, when all the primary shenanigans were over, Trump was infinitely better than Clinton, which is why I voted to Make America Great Again on November 8. Yet, I was worried that Trump would be an albatross around the GOP’s necks. It could put the House in play, we could lose the Senate, and we might lose the presidency. I was wrong.

In fact, it was the reverse between the two candidates. Hillary Clinton’s character issues, her email fiasco, and the alleged unethical dealings occurring at her nonprofit ensured that she couldn’t hold the Obama coalition together to the point where Democratic gains in either chamber were dragged down to embarrassingly minimal levels. Democrats just needed five seats (technically four with a Clinton win) to retake the Senate. GOP incumbents were defending their seats in states where Obama won in 2012. It was a tall climb. In the end, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) survived a daunting re-elect challenge, facing his former rival Russ Feingold. In North Carolina, Sen. Richard Burr was able to hold off a strong challenge from Deborah Ross. And Pat Toomey won vital Bucks County to clinch another six-year term in Pennsylvania. Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) was able to prevent former Sen. Evan Bayh from reclaiming his former seat in the Hoosier State. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) handily defeated Rep. Patrick Murphy. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, another race thought to have been competitive and a possible pick-up for Democrats, easily beat former Gov. Ted Strickland.


The House was an even taller order for Democrats and it was pretty clear a month from Election Day that the lower chamber would remain in Republican hands. Right now, ballots are still being counted for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). And Louisiana’s third and fourth congressional districts might be heading to a runoff since neither candidate there earned 51 percent of the vote. So far, Democrats only gained seven seats in the House and two in the Senate. Nine seats total! (Net of seven since the GOP flipped two House seats) That’s it! Concerning the Senate, the GOP has a 51-48 majority. The Republican in the Louisiana Senate runoff is heavily favored to win, so it’ll be 52 seats before the 115th Congress is sworn in the following year.

So, we have a united Republican government heading into January. What about the races that don’t get as much attention as the national races in the news? What happened at the state and local level? Well, let’s just say that Democrats didn’t fair much better. In fact, it was a total and complete disaster. Jason noted how Democrats control the fewest number of state legislatures in history. Ellie Hockenbury of the Republican State Leadership Committee had the full report for the GOP gains in these elections, which included the fall of the last southern bastion of power for Democrats: the Kentucky State House. These elections are important since they form the pool for which the party can pick new national leaders. They also draw the congressional districts that determine control of Congress. Here’s a recap of the Democratic killing fields:

Republicans today hold 31 out of 45 lieutenant governor offices – with three open-seat victories and two re-elections on Tuesday.

Voters reelected Dan Forest as lieutenant governor in North Carolina -- the first time a Republican has ever been re-elected to this office in state history.

Spencer Cox was elected as Utah’s lieutenant governor, to continue leading in this role in the state, alongside Governor Gary Herbert.

State Auditor Suzanne Crouch was elected as Indiana’s next lieutenant governor, alongside Governor-elect Eric Holcomb, currently the state’s lieutenant governor.

Mike Parson, an Army veteran and current state legislator will succeed Republican Lt. Governor Peter Kinder as Missouri’s next lieutenant governor.

Alongside Governor-elect Doug Burman, Brent Sanford was elected as North Dakota’s next lieutenant governor.


Republicans will hold as many as 31 out of 50 secretary of state offices after four pickups, with one reelection still pending a final call.

Oregon voters elected Dennis Richardson as secretary of state last night, marking the first time in 14 years a Republican will hold a statewide office in Oregon and the first time in 20 years that a Republican will hold this secretary’s office.

Voters flipped the secretary seat in West Virginia, electing Republican Mac Warner and ousting Democrat Secretary Natalie Tennant from the position.

Jay Ashcroft was elected Missouri’s next secretary of state, winning the seat back from Democrat control.

The secretary’s seat in Montana flipped from blue to red with the election of Corey Stapleton.

Although the race has not yet been officially called, Kim Wyman is in the lead to be reelected as Washington state’s secretary of state for four more years.


State Legislative Chambers:

Just seven weeks ago, Democrats staked a claim projecting a net pick up of a dozen chambers. So far today, Republicans have flipped three new chamber majorities and brought the deep-blue Connecticut Senate to a split chamber, depriving Democrats of that outright majority. We currently remain at 69 of 99 legislative chamber majorities – an all time record for the party. Results in many chambers are still being finalized.


Kentucky House: Republicans won the majority for the first time in nearly 100 years, to now give Republicans complete legislative control in all Southern chambers. Republicans also defeated longtime Democrat Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, who had been in office since 1980. Now the GOP holds the trifecta in Kentucky: the governor, state House and state Senate.

Iowa Senate: Republicans also completed a trifecta in Iowa, flipping the state Senate for the first time for outright control in 12 years. They also defeated Democrat Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, chair of the DLCC who had been in office since 1983, with a superior candidate in Dan Dawson.

Minnesota Senate: Republicans gained six seats in the chamber and will take control of the chamber. They will now serve as a legislative partner to the state House, also under GOP control, to provide balance to the governor’s liberal agenda.


Alaska House

Alaska Senate

Arizona House

Arizona Senate

Arkansas House

Arkansas Senate

Colorado Senate

Florida House

Florida Senate

Georgia House

Georgia Senate

Idaho House

Idaho Senate

Indiana House

Indiana Senate

Iowa House

Kansas House

Kansas Senate

Kentucky Senate

Maine Senate: Republicans defended the majority in a chamber heavily targeted by national Democrats, where the GOP was outspent 2-1.

Michigan House: This chamber was heavily targeted by Democrats as a top-10 offensive pickup opportunity.

Minnesota House: This chamber was heavily targeted by Democrats to flip, including endorsements in local races by President Obama.

Missouri House

Missouri Senate

Montana House

Montana Senate

New Hampshire House

New Hampshire Senate

New York Senate

North Carolina House: Republicans maintained a chamber supermajority.

North Carolina Senate: Republicans maintained a chamber supermajority.

North Dakota House

North Dakota Senate

Ohio House: Republicans gained enough seats in the supermajority to reach an all-time party high.

Ohio Senate

Oklahoma House

Oklahoma Senate

Pennsylvania House

Pennsylvania Senate

South Carolina House

South Carolina Senate

South Dakota House

South Dakota Senate

Tennessee House

Tennessee Senate

Texas House

Texas Senate

Utah House

Utah Senate

Washington Senate

West Virginia House

West Virginia Senate: Democrats heavily targeted this chamber which Republicans won for the first time since 1931 in 2014, but could not deliver the voters.

Wisconsin Assembly: Republican gains will give the party its largest chamber majority since at least 1956.

Wisconsin Senate: Republican gains will give the party its largest chamber majority since at least 1970.

Wyoming House

Wyoming Senate


GOP control of 69/99 of the state legislatures (Nebraska’s is unicameral) is an all-time high, and after the 2014 midterms, Republicans had the most state-elected lawmakers in office since 1920. With the results of the 2016 elections, the Republican Party is the dominant political force in the country. President-elect Trump will preside over unprecedented levels of Republican power in office.

Democrats seem to know this, as Guy noted they’re willing to use the last of their positions in power to hold the line on Obamacare, which certainly contributed to Clinton’s defeat. That, and not being able to inject enthusiasm into the Obama coalition, couple with scores of Obama voters flipping for Trump. The collapse of the Democratic Party could be a brutal ordeal, according to Huffington Post’s Zach Carter:

Optimistic Democrats have long believed the voter coalition behind Obama ? young people, brown people, lower-income people and a sprinkling of white professionals ? was a stable and growing majority that could always put Democrats over the top. Instead, it’s success in 2008 and 2012 may have had more to do with a uniquely talented politician who also happened to be the first black president.

Obama also glued together two otherwise hostile ideological factions within the Democratic Party. Time magazine hailed him as the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while he declared himself a member of the corporate-friendly, free-trading New Democrat coalition. Millions of Americans who love Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also love Obama. So do well-heeled technocrats who admire President Bill Clinton and economist Larry Summers.

This was reflected in Obama’s policy achievements. He expanded access to health insurance for millions of people and signed trade deals that undermined workers and enriched CEOs.

That same duality permeates Congress, where New Democrats have been battling New Dealers for 45 years. It is simply not clear that another politician is capable of keeping that team united.


The Clintons have been on the national stage for nearly a quarter of a century. An entire generation of Democratic operatives has grown up in a world in which it was always understood that the family would be a nexus of political power. This cohort expected to inherit the levers of government and is now without a patron. That fact, for the moment, gives progressives the upper hand in directing the party’s future. But because Democrats are certain to suffer devastating policy defeats under Trump and a GOP Congress, there will be no legislative victories that either faction can point to as proof its worldview can work. And further electoral losses are on the horizon. The 2018 map is terrible for Democrats ? five of their senators are up for re-election in Republican-dominated states, and four more in swing states. The losing side in the party leadership battle will be pissed off for a long time.


As the Democratic Party enters a long, lonely road out of power, it should be a lesson and a warning to Republicans. Never build a party apparatus and voter coalition so firmly behind a single, term-limited president. It’s dubious as to whether a successor can keep that winning coalition in place. For Clinton, she failed. In the end, Trump was expected to torpedo GOP gains; that didn't happen. And Barack Obama will have to watch hopelessly as congressional Republicans–now working with a Trump White House–will undo most of his signature domestic achievements. 

Thank God.

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