Conservative columnist Salena Zito sees a conundrum for congressional Democrats representing the GOP-leaning states that voted for then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Over the past year, these red-state Democrats could have made an effort to work with the president and actually get things done for their constituents, according to Zito — a writer who consistently predicted during the 2016 election season that Trump was not getting his fair due in polling
Instead, she wrote in a Washington Examiner op-ed published Sunday, Democrats have decided to appeal to their progressive donors — who would “ditch them in a minute” if they even tried to work with Trump.
Now, with the 2018 midterm elections just months away, some of these Democrats may soon face the consequences at the ballot box.
“Months from now, as the pressures of midterm elections bear down on a handful of Democratic incumbent U.S. senators in states President Trump won in 2016, pundits may start to recall a meeting held at the White House on a cold January afternoon and wonder if they had missed something important,” Zito began.
She was referring to a meeting held earlier this month in which the president discussed immigration reform with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
At the time, pundits did not pay any attention to which lawmakers weren’t present. But Zito emphasized the absence of three Democrat senators up for re-election this year — Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Trump won the states each of those senators represent by wide margins.
“Normally, the lawmakers who represent states that voted for the other party’s presidential nominee, are the most bipartisan,” Zito said.
But not this year. Instead, she thinks those senators have decided they want to count on high-dollar out-of-state donors from California and New York rather than appeal to their voters.
Zito said this is just one instance of how Senate campaigns have become more national, with most campaign contributions coming from “outside the state.”
“The result: They focus on their real constituency, their national donor base. They, in turn, ignore the people in the states they represent,” she wrote.
But it’s a risky calculation.
“There isn’t one of those incumbent Democrats whose voters and members of unions in their states would not love to have them work with Trump on infrastructure,” Zito asserted, as donors are essentially asking the red-state Senate Democrats to “win without doing the things your voters would like you to do.”
What remains to be seen is whether the voters will “hold them accountable.”
“They’re gambling that Trump is so polarizing that there are no Trump voters available to them on a positive scale. They’re thinking they’re going to have to obliterate their opponent, tear their opponent to shreds,” she wrote.
Zito indicated that the logic behind this gamble is flawed, as they would need a significant number of Trump voters to actually refrain from voting, something she thinks “is just not going to happen.”
Now, in the upcoming midterms, Republicans could have a chance to capitalize on Democrats’ stubbornness.
“If Republicans are smart and paying attention to what wasn’t in that scene from the White House this week for the meeting between the president and Republican and Democratic lawmakers, they will cut ads driving the wedge, illustrating that these vulnerable Democrats had the chance to be bipartisan and decided not to,” Zito said.
The columnist concluded by pointing out Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s statement against the GOP-led tax reform bill.
Despite Stabenow’s opposition, Fiat Chrysler announced last week it would invest more than $1 billion in its Warren Truck Plant in Detroit — a move that is expected to add 2,500 jobs. Chrysler cited the tax reform bill as the driving force behind the decision.
Though Zito made it clear she cannot predict the fate of Stabenow — who is up for re-election in 2018 — she did suggest that the Michigan senator should consider the consequences of her “calculation.”
“(I)t is yet another nugget in American politics that is changing: The calculation that what your donors in New York and California want you to say and do carries more weight than what your constituents need you to do to improve your state,” Zito wrote.
Zito’s political warnings have rung true in the past.
In the months leading up to the 2016 election, she continually wrote pieces arguing that states like Pennsylvania and Ohio could go to Trump, who would go on to win both states.
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