Is Trump the midterm goat or hero?

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - OPINION - Chris Freind

“What’s your pre­dic­tion?” Pun­dits pride them­selves in an­swer­ing that ques­tion. But it’s a fool’s er­rand.

Elec­tion fore­cast­ing was once per­formed with laser-like pre­ci­sion. But now, ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tions are go­ing the way of the dodo, as tra­di­tional as­sump­tions and his­tor­i­cal prece­dents have gone out the win­dow. The re­sult is un­charted ter­ri­tory.

The rea­sons are many: a hyper-par­ti­san so­ci­ety; 24/7 news cov­er­age; un­prece­dented mo­bi­liza­tion via so­cial me­dia; and the all-im­por­tant “Trump” phe­nom­e­non – where cer­tain can­di­dates and is­sues (such as Brexit) un­der-poll but out­per­form.

Let’s be hon­est: De­spite those who “knew” that Mr. Trump would win (a bro­ken clock is right twice a day) vir­tu­ally no one, in­clud­ing Trump him­self, thought he would pre­vail. The les­son: Sur­prises are the new norm.

.Trite as it sounds, the sole fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing tight races is who’s bet­ter at turnout. Easy to plan, but much harder to ex­e­cute.

Democrats of­ten claim “voter sup­pres­sion.” In some re­spects, they are cor­rect. First, felons who served their time should have their vot­ing rights re­stored. Once re­ha­bil­i­tated, they shouldn’t be de­nied that right.

More egre­gious is the vot­ing dis­en­fran­chise­ment of some Na­tive Amer­i­cans be­cause they lack tra­di­tional ad­dresses on their reser­va­tions. Sorry, but that should not be rea­son enough to strip them of vot­ing rights. We put a man on the moon 50 years ago, so it can’t be that hard to en­act a sys­tem where iden­ti­ties and ad­dresses can be ver­i­fied.

Is it a co­in­ci­dence that Repub­li­cans in North Dakota spear­headed this ef­fort? That many Na­tive Amer­i­cans vote Demo­cratic? And that Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Heidi Heitkamp’s vic­tory in 2012 was only by 3,000 votes? This author would love to think yes, but ex­pe­ri­ence says oth­er­wise.

Our hal­lowed right to vote should never be politi­cized! If one side can’t win on the is­sues, shame on them. Re­gard­ing Voter ID, the claim that it dis­en­fran­chises peo­ple is lu­di­crous. In a so­ci­ety where peo­ple must show ID to en­ter of­fice build­ings, air­planes, trains and even buy an­ti­his­tamine, it’s time to give the same im­por­tance to vot­ing. Gov­ern­ment-is­sued IDs are free of charge, so let’s cut the crap. No ID, no vote. End of story.

Early vot­ing should be abol­ished. Not only does this prac­tice add con­sid­er­able ex­pense to lo­cal gov­ern­ments, it is also un­nec­es­sary.

From a com­mon-sense per­spec­tive, what hap­pens when a ci­ti­zen casts a vote weeks be­fore elec­tion day, and sub­se­quently learns some­thing dis­tress­ing about his can­di­date?

Same for straight-ticket vot­ing. Amer­i­cans have be­come far too com­pla­cent when it comes to vot­ing and, as a re­sult, are reap­ing the con­se­quences of a cor­rupted sys­tem. Good pol­icy should never come down to just a “Demo­crat” or “Repub­li­can” one-sec­ond level pull. In­stead, mak­ing cit­i­zens vote for in­di­vid­u­als over party may yet in­spire them to take a more avid in­ter­est in who will rep­re­sent them.

Both sides need a les­son in mes­sag­ing. Democrats ran a cam­paign bereft of ideas save one: vote against Trump. It may have been enough to win the House, but as a long-term strat­egy, it’s a dis­as­ter. Just ask Repub­li­cans who did the same thing to Obama, thus en­sur­ing his re-elec­tion.

On the Repub­li­can side, it’s clear the pres­i­dent un­der­stands cam­paign mes­sag­ing, as ev­ery­one knows his plat­form: hardline on im­mi­gra­tion; lower taxes; tough on China; fewer reg­u­la­tions. But he’s not run­ning.

In­stead, the GOP had Se­nate leader Mitch McCon­nell stat­ing, mere weeks be­fore the elec­tion, that So­cial Se­cu­rity, Medi­care and Med­ic­aid needed to be cut. That may be nec­es­sary, but who in their right mind says that be­fore an elec­tion, es­pe­cially one where your party is al­ready fac­ing dif­fi­cult odds? Truly baf­fling.

And the GOP got the worst of both worlds when it voted to re­move pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion pro­tec­tions from the Oba­macare re­peal bill – but never passed it. They ended up get­ting ham­mered for some­thing that never saw the light of day. Bril­liant.

The Repub­li­cans re­fused to run ad­vo­cacy ads dur­ing the last year out­lin­ing their vi­sion and what they’ve done. In­stead, they chose the cookie-cut­ter ap­proach of run­ning mostly in­ef­fec­tive ads dur­ing the white noise of cam­paign sea­son.

It just goes to prove that, Don­ald Trump not­with­stand­ing, the more things change in Wash­ing­ton, the more they stay the same.

2020, here we come.

Chris Freind Colum­nist

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