The Trump cheer squad in Australia is having a tough time of late. Most of them are establishment rightists, masquerading as populists, so they are firm “free” traders, and the Donald’s heavy-handed protectionism sits ill with them. Then there’s Stormy Daniels, the porn star whose silence he bought, who is now free to talk about their affair — and appears to be a tenacious and strategically minded gal. There are rumours of dick pics floating around, and Trump has chosen John Bolton as new national security adviser — and if that ain’t a dick pic, I don’t know what is.
But what they’ve been utterly silent about is Trump’s greatest setback to date: the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, in the state’s west. The 18th stretches from the southern ‘burbs of Pittsburgh to the West Virginia border; the rural parts of it are, in some way, the northern tip of the South. In its most recent form, the district is part of a state gerrymander, leans Republican by 11 points, and their candidate won it uncontested in 2016. Trump won the district by 19 points in that election.
The seat was designed to keep incumbent Tim Murphy there for life; but the married Christian conservative got his mistress pregnant, she had a termination (the three exceptions for pro-lifers: rape/incest, life of the mother, or if she has to be bullied into it), and so did Murphy. The Democrats decided to run, chose Conor Lamb, an ex-marine state DA, who ran on a strong union/worker, pro-protectionist ticket.
Lamb backed Trump’s tariffs, but opposed his tax cuts, and supported Obamacare. He distanced himself from the Clinton/Pelosi Democrats intersectional palooza, and had Joe Biden as his sole big-name supporter. The Republicans chose Bible-thumper Rick Saccone, who is much as his name sounds. They had Trump, Ivanka and Vice-President Mike Pence come through. To no avail — or even to a contrary effect.
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The Republicans lost the southern white working-class suburbs of Pittsburgh by 15,000 votes (of 100,000 in that county), and only made it a close contest (700 votes) because of a 10,000-vote Republican surplus in the district’s most rural county.
That result, if repeated in 2018, would wipe out the Republican majority in the House, and leave Trump, isolated and unsupported, dealing with a Democrat speaker. But it will only happen if the “18th formula” — pro-tariffs, in favour of working with Trump on them, but opposing him on a whole range of other measures — can be generalised in a party wedded to “free” markets and globalisation.
It underlines the raw truth for the Democrats in 2018: will they commit to being a party of the working-class, and create a new political synthesis, or will they decisively commit to the new social classes, and a globalist, identity politics agenda? America, down to the crossroads again.