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MSNBC: Jason Johnson on Jon Ossoff versus Karen Handel in #GA06 Special Election

On MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, The Root Politics Editor Jason Johnson and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh discuss the issues of the day.

On the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

On Republican Congressional criticism of President Trump

On the USS Carl Vinson, which was thought to be near North Korea but was actually in the Indian Ocean.

On Bill O’Reilly’s impending departure from Fox News.

Special Elections Prove Democratic Resistance Is Still Weak

I got a lot of conflicting messages about winning and losing as a kid. I remember hearing, “It’s not how you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” from my dad when my eighth-grade youth football team lost Every. Single. Game (we actually didn’t score one point all season).

Then, in youth basketball, it was about how you won a game, and whether you could respectfully shake hands with the other team even after blowing them out for four quarters. Finally, in high school track, it wasn’t about winning or losing but about whether you beat your personal best, improving every race, because the wins would eventually come.

A lot of these attitudes informed my views on campaign politics: Be respectful, play fair; a close loss is still respectable. All that applied until Barack Obama got elected, and Republicans turned every election into a foaming-at-the-mouth, postapocalyptic death match. Now in politics, you win or you lose, there is no second place, and sportsmanship is for losers. This ain’t quidditch; it’s rollerball.

Unfortunately, after Kansas’ 4th Congressional District special election this week, it seems like the Democratic Party is still trapped playing youth ball in the park, while the Republicans are Division I.

On Tuesday night, James Thompson—a Democratic, gun-owning, pro-Bernie Sanders civil rights attorney—lost a special election to Republican and vaguely pro-Trump Ron Estes. The special election was set to replace Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, who was tapped by the Trump administration to run the CIA. This was a deeply red Republican district that hadn’t voted a Democrat into office in decades, and in the 2016 election, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by almost 30 points. However, with Trump’s awful approval ratings and overall discontent with his presidency, local Democrats were encouraged. Unfortunately, none of that mattered.

Estes squeaked by with a 53-to-46-percent victory over Thompson, a slim Republican victory in Trump country, to be sure, but a victory nonetheless. Some Democrats are encouraged by the strong showing and see this as a sign of things to come in more competitive races like the Georgia 6th in mid-April, but that enthusiasm is a bit premature.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, led by newly elected Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, really dropped the ball on the Kansas 4th by barely spending any money there, and there’s reason to believe that rather than a true 50-state-fight-for-every-district strategy, Democrats will keep triangulating themselves out of any substantive victories.

The larger problem is that for all of the special elections that have happened in the nation since Trump got into office, most of them have just been a holding pattern for Democrats. Seats were maintained in Delaware and Connecticut, but there aren’t many examples of Democrats actually “flipping” Republican seats to Democratic ones, let alone replacing accommodating Democrats with more Trump-resistant ones.

For “resistance” to actually work, there have to be more tangible victories; you have to advance. Participation trophies are nice, but that won’t stop voter-ID laws, reject a travel ban or stop an encroaching police terror state encouraged by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. Had 80 percent of the Democrats who turned out for Clinton in 2016 turned out for Thompson in 2017, Kansas would’ve given Trump a dark-blue eye right at the end of his first 100 days in office.

The solution moving forward is for Democrats to take on the same no-holds-barred “participation trophies are for losers” attitude of the Republican Party. In the month of April, there are congressional or state Senate-level elections in Georgia (6th Congressional District and 32nd state-Senate District) and Connecticut (District 68), followed in May by half-a-dozen elections in other states. Democrats can no longer be afraid to nationalize every election. Every House and Senate race, every dog catcher or district attorney, should be a referendum on Trump.

Yes, Trump is popular in some districts, but if the failure of health care showed anything, it’s that policy concerns can drive even Republicans to re-evaluate their votes. Will flipping a state Senate seat in Connecticut radically change what’s going on Washington? Of course not. But sometimes it’s just about putting points on the board. Every little victory, be it a state Senate or state’s attorney race, is another notch on the belt of the Democrats. And each victory in a red state or flipped district will embolden even better candidates to come out and run.

Democrats need to get serious about winning, not parsing which Democratic seats are worth fighting for and which are “long shots.” Not worrying about “arousing the GOP base” by nationalizing a local campaign. There is no shaking hands and saying, “Good game, good game” with this current batch of Republicans, let alone this administration. And no amount of orange slices and juice boxes can console voters facing environmental disaster and Russian occupation. At some point, resistance has to turn into victories; otherwise they’re just scrimmaging.
This article originally appeared online at The Root.

The Root: Republicans Hope for ‘Valentine’s Day Surprise’ in Harlem Election for NYC Council Seat

Most people think of Valentine’s Day as a chance to spend time with the one you love, spend money on the one you want to love or console those who don’t have anyone who loves them anymore. No matter which category you’re in, most people don’t associate Valentine’s Day with voting—which is exactly what the Republican Party of New York is not just hoping for, but literally bragging about before Harlem’s special Valentine’s Day election.

Inez Dickens vacated her seat on the New York City Council when she won a Senate seat in the New York State Assembly last year. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a move right up there with planning a romantic getaway the weekend before taxes are due, decided to hold the special election to replace her on Valentine’s Day. A total of nine candidates are vying for one seat in the nonpartisan election.

Municipal elections have notoriously low turnout. Special municipal elections? Even worse. There are more than 100,000 registered voters in the Harlem district, and most officials think the turnout will be somewhere between 8,000 and 13,000 voters, maybe less. That’s what Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan County Republican Party, is hoping for.

At a meeting last week to introduce the GOP’s preferred candidate, Dawn Simmons, Malpass was all but banking on low turnout of traditional Harlem voters to sneak her candidate in. Last week, WNYC New York’s NPR affiliate played a clip of Malpass saying, “Just imagine THEIR [emphasis added] faces on February 15th if a Republican won in Harlem—it would shake the foundation!”

Her words were met with laughter and cheers from the GOP audience. Now, I’m not sure whom she meant by “their” faces in Harlem, but my guess is that she didn’t just mean Democrats. The City Council race is both symbolic and significant in the face of an ever-changing Harlem, and the men and women who want that change not to reflect the local community are salivating at the chance for this seat. When political leaders, usually Republicans, are banking on low turnout in order to win elections, that should light a fire under any local resident to take the extra time out of the day to vote. It’s important to remind elected leaders and party heads who is supposed to work for whom.

So if you happen to be a Harlem voter, before you head out to dinner, go in for dinner or dine alone on Valentine’s Day, make sure you get out and vote.

Valentine’s Day may not always be for lovers, but at least this year it should be for voters.

This article originally appeared online at The Root.