by Robert Stacy McCain
How much money did Democrats squander on hopeless campaigns based on the foolish expectation that Joe Biden would lead a “blue wave” landslide sweeping Republicans out of office at every level? While we must wait for final vote counts to know who won the presidency — this takes time, considering that some Biden voters have been dead for more than 30 years — we can begin to tabulate the cash total Democrats threw away on other campaigns that were inarguably doomed from the outset.
Start with South Carolina, where Democrats poured unprecedented sums into the campaign of Jaime Harrison, who challenged Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. If you know anything at all about South Carolina politics, you know that it is one of the most staunchly Republican states in America. Even when the GOP picks a guaranteed loser as its presidential candidate (as in 2008 when they nominated Sen. John McCain), that loser will still carry South Carolina by a 10-point margin. The people who threw money at Harrison obviously didn’t know anything about South Carolina, and perhaps didn’t care. Graham was the most televised face of the GOP majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approved three Supreme Court nominees for President Trump, and Democratic donors were so afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome that they turned Harrison into the best-funded Senate candidate in American history.
Brace yourself for this number: $130 million. That number for Harrison’s campaign doesn’t include all the spending by outside groups that “resulted in wall-to-wall television and digital advertising” against Graham in South Carolina. Despite this expensive ad blitz, Democrats bought themselves barely 44 percent of the vote in South Carolina, as Graham cruised to reelection by a double-digit margin — about the same margin as his reelection six years ago, when his Democrat opponent was a state senator who raised about $500,000. It is unlikely any South Carolina Republican will ever again face anything like the money Democrats wasted against Graham, as state GOP chairman Drew McKissick told the Associated Press: “I don’t think they’re going to be able to find people stupid enough to invest $120 million and try it again. That’s a lot of money to flush down the toilet and get beat by 10, 12 points.”
Much the same could be said for Kentucky, where Democrats poured $90 million into Amy McGrath’s campaign to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If you have paid attention to Kentucky politics, you know that the Bluegrass State has been steadily trending toward the GOP for decades. While Kentucky has not yet attained South Carolina’s status as an impenetrable bastion of Republican strength, Democrats seeking office there face an uphill battle in most parts of the state. Republicans control five of Kentucky’s six U.S. House seats, no Democrat has represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate since 1999, and the last time a Democrat carried the state in a presidential election was 1996, when Bill Clinton squeaked past Bob Dole, 46 percent to 45 percent. But because Democrat Andy Beshear managed to get elected governor of Kentucky last year, by a razor-thin margin of about 5,000 votes, there seemed to be reason to hope that McGrath might pull an upset against McConnell this year.
False hope is a seed from which grows a tree of folly that yields fruit of bitter disappointment. In politics, this crop is usually fertilized by misleading polls like the Quinnipiac University poll of Kentucky voters in August that claimed McConnell’s lead over McGrath was a mere 5 points, 49 to 44 percent. (Quinnipiac, once a respectable polling outfit, had some of the most erroneous polls this year; their final Ohio poll, for example, had Biden leading by 4 points in a state he lost by 8 points.) Bolstered by such encouraging signs, Democrats sent a tsunami of campaign cash flooding into Kentucky. Every quarterly report from the Federal Election Commission triggered new headlines about McGrath’s record-breaking fundraising. During the third quarter (July through September) of 2020, for example, McGrath’s campaign collected nearly $37 million, which was more than twice what McConnell raised in the same quarter. She entered the final month of the Senate campaign with about $20 million cash on hand, and Democrats, believing they had finally found the formula to defeat their arch-nemesis McConnell, ultimately funded McGrath’s campaign to the tune of $90 million.
Alas, false hope! McConnell mopped the floor with McGrath, beating her by a margin of 20 points, 58 to 38 percent. In her concession statement, McGrath boasted of her “grassroots campaign” despite the fact that it was funded by tens of millions of dollars mostly from out-of-state donors. McGrath’s campaign was so obviously a waste of money that she was mocked by the satirists at the Onion as spending lavishly on her “Concession Bonanza” with “dozens of Playboy bunnies passing out Dom Pérignon” while the candidate drove away from the party in “a brand-new yellow Bugatti as $2 million worth of fireworks spelling out ‘Resist!’ exploded in the sky.” This was just satirical humor, of course; in reality, the people who get rich from campaigns are the consultants. Who do you think lives in all those McMansions in Northern Virginia?
Speaking of Northern Virginia, the Fifth Congressional District there was the scene of another expensive Election Day flop for Democrats. Everything seemed to be working against Republicans in the district, where incumbent GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman lost his party’s nomination to a little-known challenger, Bob Good. Democrats meanwhile poured money into the campaign of Dr. Cameron Webb, a black physician who emphasized health-care issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By October, Webb was setting fundraising records and reportedly had a 4-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over the Republican, while polls claimed to show Webb leading Good by a 3-point margin. Instead, the Republican won by nearly a 6-point margin, and Good issued an Election Night statement calling his win “a victory for the conservative values that founded and sustain this nation.”
It was a long, sad Election Night for Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats, who had hoped to expand their congressional majority, only to watch in horror as it instead began shrinking. By late Thursday, with some races still in doubt, it appeared House Democrats were facing a net loss of at least five seats, and a conference call with Pelosi and other leaders turned into a furious round-robin of recrimination. At least one defeated member, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who lost her South Florida seat to Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez, reportedly broke down crying during the call. Certainly she and other defeated Democrats couldn’t blame their losses on a shortage of campaign cash. In October, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) crowed in a press release that they were setting new fundraising records:
Today, the DCCC announced its best fundraising quarter in committee history — raising $70.5M between July and September. The committee closed that quarter with its best ever September — bringing in $29.5M for the month….
With record fundraising from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the DCCC has raised $278M during the 2020 cycle.…
The DCCC entered September with $35M more cash on hand then the NRCC and outraised the NRCC by $57 million throughout the 2020 cycle.
The DCCC’s chairwoman, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, boasted in October that her committee would be “using that money to reach deep into Trump territory.” That didn’t happen for Democrats, neither “deep” nor shallow in “Trump territory,” as they instead lost seats in districts that had gone for Clinton four years earlier.
While disappointed Democrats were pointing fingers at Pelosi and pollsters, no one in the party stepped forward to accept responsibility for their overpriced defeat. Indeed, this is a metaphor for the Democratic policy platform, the core message of their progressive ideology being that no one is ever responsible for their own failures. If you’re a woman, your misfortunes are blamed on the “patriarchy”; if you’re black, it’s “systemic racism” holding you down. Whoever you are and whatever your problems may be, according to Democrats, everything is always the fault of some external scapegoat — you can never be held responsible for anything that goes wrong.
This victimhood narrative has so deeply embedded itself in progressive thinking that it never occurs to any Democrat to acknowledge their own errors or to question their core beliefs. Whether it’s the Florida congresswoman weeping on a House conference call or the contributors to Amy McGrath’s Kentucky campaign wondering what the hell she did with that $90 million, no Democrat ever ponders the possibility that they have suffered the natural consequences of their own folly.
Who was to blame, after all, for their foolish belief that Joe Biden was headed toward a landslide victory that would bring with it a “blue wave” of Democratic victories in down-ticket races? Powerline blogger Steven Hayward compiled a stack of pre-election headlines prophesying a massive Biden victory, including “Prepare for a Biden landslide” (Josh Kraushaar, National Journal, June 23) and “Most Democrats are Scared to Say So, but Joe Biden Is Poised for a Landslide Win” (Eleanor Clift, Daily Beast, Oct. 28). Those prestigious journalists have not admitted error, but neither have the pollsters nor the Biden campaign itself, for that matter. Being a liberal means never having to admit you were wrong.
Could we further delineate the causes of the Democrats’ post-election misery? Yes, but why help them figure it out? Better they should continue chasing after figments of their own imagination — “Russian collusion,” “systemic racism,” or whatever — and keep throwing away good money on bad candidates. Fools deserve to lose and lose badly. The road to political hell is paved with squandered campaign cash.
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Robert Stacy McCain is the author of Sex Trouble: Essays on Radical Feminism and the War Against Human Nature. He blogs at TheOtherMcCain.com.