During the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act, then-President George W. Bush talked of “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” a phenomenon wherein teachers didn’t expect much out of children from low-income and minority families, and thus they didn’t achieve much. Today, I’d like to add a new phrase to the political lexicon: “the irrational exuberance of high expectations.”
Since Donald Trump ascended to the Presidency in January, there have been five special elections in the House of Representatives to fill seats that were left vacant by political appointments. The only Democratic win so far has been in California’s 34th, where two Democrats faced each other in the general election after finishing in the top two slots in an all-party primary. Since then, Democrats lost in Kansas’s 4th, Montana at-large, and were expected to lose South Carolina’s 5th district, which Donald Trump won by a huge margin. So all eyes turned to the election in Georgia’s 6th district, a previous Republican stronghold that Trump only carried by a point and a half and that I happen to live in. It turned into the most expensive House race in history, with over $20M spent by both sides blanketing the airwaves with ads and the neighborhoods with canvassers. And yet, Democrats came up short yet again, as Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel by 3.9 points.
Liberal activists the country over lambasted Democrats’ strategy in the wake of the election, saying that given the enthusiasm generated by protests and town hall meetings in a district that was trending Democratic, they should’ve easily won. The Democratic brand was in shambles, and there was no way they would take the House now. Also, no Democrat should run as a centrist ever again.
And this is what I mean by irrational exuberance. Because this was the only election going on in the country at the time, and the only one that could be characterized as competitive, both sides attached a lot of importance to it. Importance that, I believe, wasn’t warranted. The fact is, this was one election in one Congressional district for one House seat out of 435. Let’s stop with the frenzied hot takes, take a deep breath, and unpack a few points from this election.