Democrats have an impressive winning streak leading up to the November midterm congressional elections. Candidate after candidate has run up big numbers, leaving the party giddy with expectations of miracles to come.
Not to rain on the parade of the giddy, but as harbinger of sunny days to come the votes are not in the most helpful places. Following the election of a Democratic senator in deep-red Alabama, other candidates, both male and female, have indeed had exciting election nights with sugar plums, fairies and blue waves dancing through their dreams.
But too bad for the party, all those victories — save in Alabama — were in Democratic Party primaries, where only Democrats were on the ballot. The Democrats proved in Alabama that when they get to run against a Republican credibly accused of molesting children, a Democrat can usually expect to do pretty well. Intramural success, alas, hardly spells that fearsome blue wave that almost nobody among the professionals any longer sees on the horizon.
Some in the media, where hope continues to spring eternal and certain pundits insist it was a historic day for Democrats. Indeed it was, but history is not a buffet with only pies, cookies and chocolate cake, but a remorseless parade of days, both good and bad. Barack Obama was elected on a historic day, and George McGovern was defeated on another day that was historic, too.
When Lucy, the queen of the “Peanuts” comic strip, was told that life is full of ups and downs, she would have none of it. “I don’t want downs,” she said. “I only want ups.” Everything that happens is part of history, and life is not a party primary.
But there were remarkable days for Democrats in midsummer nonetheless. A transgender candidate, Christine Hallquist, once a man and now is not, was nominated for governor by Vermont Democrats. She’s an underdog against Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican. He’s still all man, and if he, as expected, wins re-election it won’t necessarily start a rush to surgeons with sharp knives by candidates looking for an edge. Mzz Hallquist is said to have a chance only if there really is a Nov. 6 blue-wave blowout.
A more hopeful historic-day Democratic winner is Johanna Hayes, once the National Teacher of the Year, now a prohibitive favorite to be the first black woman to make it to Congress from Connecticut. That’s historic, too.
In further history news, Minnesota State Rep. Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim candidate to succeed a Muslim, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who retired from Congress to run for state attorney general, and won. Mzz Omar is the first Somali-American elected to Congress, and, for further distinction, she will join Rashida Tlaib of Michigan as the first dynamic Islamic duo in Congress. Both are heavily favored because they’re running in heavily Democratic districts. That, too, helps make historic days. Democrats, like Republicans, always do well in these intramural contests.
Democrats elsewhere are excited about Christine Hallquist winning the primary for governor of Vermont. “Christine will be a historic figure, whether or not she becomes governor,” Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston, tells Politico, the political daily. “If she becomes the governor, she has the potential to be a role model for every trans kid in America.” That would be a miniscule number, a very small fraction of 1 percent of the population (and maybe smaller than that in Vermont), but every kid is entitled to a role model, and Democrats are taking hope where they find it.
The mayor of Houston is sexually historic, too. She was not only Houston’s first lesbian mayor and proud of it, she once tried to require the pastors of Houston churches to file their sermons in advance of delivery for inspection by the mayor’s office, to weed out unflattering references to LGBTQ fans or other positive references to traditional morality as taught by the world’s religions. Her Honor, a dishy blonde, apparently had not heard of the First Amendment until her lawyer told her about it.
This has nevertheless been a happy season for Democrats who do not look too closely for the omens of autumn. The latest polls show that Democrats now prefer the socialism that wrecked the economies of Europe to the capitalism that built America. Capitalism is an imperfect economic system, too, as Winston Churchill famously said, but its lasting virtue is that it is better than all the others.
Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may not be Joan of Arc after all. She was hailed as the party savior after she defeated an incumbent in an obscure congressional district in the Bronx, and Democratic pundits painted it as the greatest upset since Truman beat Dewey. Several candidates she endorsed were roundly defeated. Reality always intrudes on fantasy. Sad.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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