We won the House majority. We won districts that we didn’t even think were competitive. Champagne bottles were uncorked, optimism was wild, and hopes were high. But that isn’t yesterday’s news. That was 2006’s news, which was the last midterm election that Democrats won.
Four years after that, we lost it all. Some people bring funeral crepe to a celebration. For those who exalt in the extraordinary success of the Democrats in winning the House majority this time, a note of sobriety: The party needs to avoid repeating that earlier outcome. Here are the top five ways Democrats can turn this victory into more success.
Play the political long game
Democrats shouldn’t play for the next two years, they should play for the next 12 years. The catastrophic mistake we made in the last cycle of success was taking our eye off of state and local elections, particularly relating to redistricting. We thumped our chests on the inaugural platform in 2008, and then Republicans wiped us out in state capitals in 2010 and took control of redistricting. This noxious midterm environment for Republicans could have cost them as many as 60 seats, had they not thought ahead and built a successful redistricting firewall in 2012. Democrats simply can’t afford to make that same mistake twice.
Do a deal on infrastructure
While the economy has recovered and is doing well under this administration, there’s still anxiety about its fundamentals. One of the smartest things to sustainably increase people’s earnings is to build again. Every $1 billion that we invest in infrastructure returns $6 billion to the economy and creates tens of thousands of well paying jobs.
There’s a smart political angle here. Remember when Republicans tried to shut down the government last September? President Trump had a brief love fest with “Chuck and Nancy.” It’s time to rekindle the romance. House Democrats should propose a major infrastructure investment with Senate Democrats and bring it gift wrapped to President Trump. If he truly likes a good real estate deal that includes roads, bridges, tunnels, and airports, he’ll take it. That would leave Senate Republicans isolated and create an interesting Mitch McConnell family dynamic, since the other half of that power couple, Elaine Chao, is secretary of transportation.
Cut prescription drug prices
President Trump emptily promised to lower the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, and Democrats can help him achieve that with their edge on health care. Again, Senate Republicans might balk, but with 20 Republican seats up for reelection in 2020, they’ll balk at their own risk.
Deliver to millennial voters
This midterm election reportedly turned out a significant increase in young voters. Now, the task for Democrats is to keep them engaged. They should pass college affordability initiatives, along with measures that tap into the realities of the modern economy, such as technology, career mobility, starting families later, and incentivizing entrepreneurship.
Resist the impeachment itch
Democrats won this majority in districts where voters talked about everyday issues like Medicare, not Robert Mueller. If there are crimes that truly rise to the level of impeachable offenses, then go for it. But it’s far more important for lawmakers in power to deliver meaningful gains to American households than multiple subpoenas to the White House.
There are other initiatives and ideas that will require consensus by House Democrats, including strengthened background checks for guns and sweeping ethics reform. What I hope will guide my former colleagues is the realization that they won the majority in purple districts and will retain it by reelecting moderate members in those suburban swing districts.
Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and his team did a masterful job of managing the midterm environment by recruiting early, expanding the battlefield, and guiding candidates to fundraise to neutralize big campaign finance assaults.
But now the politics has ended and the governing begins. In a volatile environment with an erratic President Trump, it won’t be easy over the next two years. By sticking to the fundamentals and delivering for voters in places like Kansas, Georgia, and South Carolina, it will be easier.
This article is reprinted from TheHill.com
Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist whose latest book is “Big Guns.” You can follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael and on Facebook @RepSteveIsrael.