I’m just old enough to actually remember a time when large elements of the American male population had died or risked death in uniform, and just young enough to have legally avoided military service myself. I was lucky, while many of my Vietnam-era peers weren’t, and part of the emotion properly felt on Memorial Day has to do with the recognition of young men and women who wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and paid the ransom for the good luck the rest of us enjoyed. Life and death in modern war are rarely a simple matter of skill or courage; brave individuals often die with no opportunity to actually face their enemies. That was true in the trench warfare of World War I; the Total War of World War II; the jungle war of Vietnam; and the shadow war in Iraq. And that is why in modern war, the System–the government, the generals, the war plans, and the war aims–are so culpable for unnecessary deaths when they occur.So it is entirely appropriate on Memorial Day to remember not only the sacrifices of Americans who died for their country, but to remember the specific reasons they died, and the leadership, good and bad, that sacrificed them, and is sacrificing them today.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
Late in the evening of the special election in PA-18 Tuesday night, before it was clear Democrat Conor Lamb had won, I offered some reflections at New York
While we don’t yet have a clear winner in this election, we do have a clear loser: the Republican Party. This was, as I argued some time ago, the “no-excuses” special election for the GOP. This congressional district is strongly Republican and strongly pro-Trump. Saccone wasn’t a perfect candidate, but he wasn’t a disaster like Roy Moore, either: He had enough outside money and enough get-out-the-vote help from the national party and conservative groups to counteract anything Lamb could throw at him. Plus, he had massive support from the president, his family, and his administration, in an iconic Trump Country district that almost perfectly typified the Rust Belt areas that decided the presidency. If Lamb wins, it will represent a historic disaster for the GOP. If Saccone wins, it will still send a stark warning sign to the majority party in the House as we head toward November.
Republican message-meister Frank Luntz put it plainly this evening:
Make no mistake: It is a leaning Republican district that is leaning no more.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) March 14, 2018
Yes, this is a special election; some might imagine that in a regular election, such as the one in November, more Republican voters will show up. The problem with that hypothesis is that turnout today was at full midterm levels. There’s no reason to think turnout patterns in November will be more favorable for the GOP, particularly given the massive Trump administration attention that this district got during this contest.
Another Republican rationalization we have already heard from the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito is that Conor Lamb is not a real Democrat (because he was nominated by a convention and didn’t have to win the votes of left-bent primary voters), and thus his performance does not show how real Democrats will do in November. But, by any standard, Saccone is a real Republican who ran more than ten points behind the normal GOP vote in Pennsylvania’s 18th district. And Lamb was lifted to parity with Saccone by the very same labor movement — battered and diminished as it is — that will be fighting for Democrats in swing districts all over the country. Dismiss labor, dismiss energized rank-and-file Democrats, and dismiss the ability of the Donkey Party to find suitable candidates like Lamb, and you’re well on the way to underestimating the likelihood of a Democratic wave in November.
Yes, a lot of things can change between now and then. But we are now seeing a regular pattern of Democratic over-performance in special elections — whether they ultimately win or lose — spanning the entire Trump administration so far. This election may just be another data point among many, but put them together and they unambiguously show big trouble for Trump and his party. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, if they can’t make it there (in southwest Pennsylvania), they can’t make it anywhere. And it’s time they woke up and smelled the bitter coffee.
As of this writing, Saccone still hasn’t conceded, despite his cause looking hopeless. But it could be some time before his party recovers from this one.