By: Ryan Kirby, Columnist
On March 13, 2018, Pennsylvania voters from the 18th congressional district went to the polls to pick who would hold the seat after Rep. Tim Murphy resigned. Murphy, a pro-life Republican, resigned on October 21, 2017, after it was revealed that he asked his mistress to have an abortion. The 18th congressional district is incredibly safe for Republicans. Trump won the district by 20 points in 2016. Murphy went unopposed in the past two elections, and he crushed the last opponent he had by 28 points in 2012. One would expect that Republicans should hold on to the seat without any problems.
Spoiler alert: Democrat Conor Lamb was able to overcome the 20 point Republican advantage and win the district by just 627 votes. So what can we learn from this election?
First of all, this is yet another case of how every vote counts. I cannot stress this enough. It doesn’t matter if you live in a Republican stronghold like I do. Your vote counts and your vote matters.
This election also showed that Democrats need to have a 50 state strategy. There are 119 districts held by Republicans that are more liberal than PA-18. We won’t win all 119 races, but if we don’t fund them, give them access to resources and volunteer our time for them, then we won’t be able to take back the House.
A lot of Republicans have tried to spin the election as a fluke because Lamb was a conservative and Saccone ran a terrible campaign. Lamb ran against Nancy Pelosi, against the Republican tax scam, and for universal healthcare. Sure, he wasn’t Bernie Sanders, but he definitely wasn’t a conservative. Both candidates were well within the range of normal candidates. Any attempt by Republicans to declare this race as insignificant is just spin.
My biggest takeaway from the election is actually not the result, but the strategy that the GOP used. For the weeks of Feb. 4 and 11, two-thirds of the ads the GOP aired mentioned taxes. However, during that time Lamb continued to make up ground on Saccone, and polls showed a dead heat. The tax message became less frequent and by March, were nonexistent. Instead the GOP decided to air ads about sanctuary cities and MS-13 crime. For the record, PA-18 has no documented crime related to MS-13.
According to Paul Ryan, the tax cuts were supposed to save the Republican majorities. The PA-18 election shows that the GOP tax cuts are not going to be as helpful as they would have liked. Instead, the new rallying cry of the GOP seems to rely on stoking fears about crime and immigration. To me, this signals a dramatic shift away from traditional Republican orthodoxy as Reaganism disappears and Trump reshapes the Republican party in his image.
Republicans had better prepare themselves for the 2018 election. Democrats are fired up and ready to vote. There are a countless races that are more liberal than PA-18 and Democrats are planning to fight in every single one (I’m looking at you, Governor Hogan). It is time we put candidates in office who will fight for progressive values.