Wishful thinking and miscalculation by progressives as well as Handel’s simple task of convincing Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District that its Democratic candidate was, in fact, a Democrat led to the defeat of Jon Ossoff.
Of course, some blame bigotry—though I can no longer fathom an instance that does not elicit such a claim—but Karen Handel’s recent victory should come as little surprise in what we have heard a million times over is a Republican stronghold of a district. Inherent in the hopes of Democrat officials, boosters, and PACs alike was the assumption that discontent with Donald Trump equaled a changing tide of partisanship toward the Democratic Party. Well-done but vague advertisements attempted to muddy Ossoff’s partisan leaning with advocacy of ‘accountability,’ ‘cutting wasteful spending,’ and ‘creating high-tech jobs,’ all admittedly canny and attractive moderate positions.
However, his platform, in the end, was simply given too much time to fester. We’ve heard all the facts and figures about the one point margin for Trump in 2016 and the massive margins achieved by Tom Price and Mitt Romney, but progressives and conservatives alike (myself and some colleagues included) seemed all too dismissive of the red-stained history of the sixth.
The reason we all should have seen this coming is this: Handel and Republican PACs had the not-so-incredibly immense task of convincing a Republican district that a Democratic candidate actually held Democratic values.
In the time between the primaries and the runoff, GOP support consolidated and the goal for the Handel campaign was simple: connect Ossoff to the party with which he’d be voting. Tall as the task ahead of him was, Ossoff had no choice but to accept all the money coming his way, and it comes as no surprise that much of that cash flow was linkable to California progressives (hence Handel’s clever quip) and Nancy Pelosi (hence this CFL Super PAC ad). Unfortunately for Ossoff, this offered too straightforward an opportunity for connection and seems to have foiled his plot to appear as a moderate.
Nonetheless, columns abounded after Ossoff’s loss, many of them holding that Ossoff’s campaign was not progressive enough. Jim Galloway, in today’s AJC in print, takes a degree of this stance as well. While there is one thing Ossoff could have done much better—to point out that Handel was purposely avoiding connecting herself with Trump when she really did have some significant instances of connection (see this closed-door fundraiser, for example)—this editorial line is as ignorant as the assumption that discontent with Trump warrants flipping parties. Then again, the progressive line on failures of progressive programs is hardly ever to reassess the program’s viability, but rather to claim it was not progressive enough.
Handel’s victory comes as a sigh of relief for a Republican Party that is having much too difficult a time putting through (or repealing) genuinely worthwhile legislation. Now, it is time to act swiftly.
— Nick Geeslin is Editor-in-Chief of The Arch Conservative.