Republican Debbie Lesko won this week’s special congressional election in the Eighth District of Arizona. In typical fashion, the press is spinning this as an ominous sign for the GOP in November. Lesko beat her challenger by 5 points — a margin that many think is shockingly small in a district that went for Donald Trump by more than 20 points in 2016.
But Lesko’s Democratic challenger, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, would be a dynamic candidate on any ticket. Tipirneni is a former emergency room physician and a cancer researcher. She is an outsider to politics, never having before run for office. She is youthful, telegenic and intelligent, with an “American dream” backstory; Tipirneni’s family arrived from India when she was only 3 years old, and she worked her way through Northeast Ohio Medical University and the University of Michigan.
More to the point, Tipirneni ran on what could certainly pass for a Republican platform. She supports securing the border (although not the construction of a wall), and an immigration policy favoring those who intend to come to the United States to work. Tipirneni also expressed frustration with partisan deadlock in Washington, D.C. In an interview with Fox News, Tipirneni said, “One of the big reasons I decided to run is I’m so frustrated by the lack of forward progress, divisiveness and standing solely on a partisan (ground) … A lot of folks feel alienated. I would fight on their behalf and not fight about ideology.”
And anyone wonders why this impressive woman did well in Trump country?
A brief news blurb on CNN’s website demonstrates the press’ tiresome ignorance about the American voter and their lazy and reflexive resort to stereotypes. As the camera pans the crowd at a Tipirneni rally, the reporter’s voiceover states, “You may notice a little something as you look at this crowd. It’s older, predominantly white…” Similarly, her first comment to Tipirneni is, “Very few of the voters here actually look like you.” Without missing a beat, Tipirneni responds, “Yes, that’s true — but they think like me.”
How refreshing! A Democratic political candidate who focuses on how people think, and not their race, color, age or voter registration.
(Side note: That same CNN piece also displays the media’s dogged determination to influence elections. The segments featuring Tipirneni show her canvassing door-to-door on foot, having serious discussions about health care and Social Security, while Republican Debbie Lesko is shown riding a golf cart, giggling and taking selfies with supporters.)
There’s something of a pattern going on here — but it’s necessarily the one the press is pushing: The Democrats who are winning elections (or cutting into Republican support) post-Trump are running as centrists.
Take Conor Lamb, who won the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Lamb is an ex-Marine and a former prosecutor. In a March 14, 2018 article for Rolling Stone, Bob Moser wrote, “If Lamb made anything clear in his campaign, it’s that he most certainly will vote with Trump on occasion. On guns, for one thing: Lamb opposes a ban on assault weapons, such as the AR-15 he was shown firing in one of his campaign ads. He supports the president’s trade policies, too including the new tariffs. He pooh-poohs single-payer healthcare. He’s as ‘pro-military’ as a person could be.”
These Democratic candidates sound more like Republicans than a lot of elected Republicans do. GOP consultant Mike Murphy was quoted in that same article as saying, “We should be able to elect a box of hammers in (Pennsylvania’s 18th) district.” One of the GOP’s problems is that too many of their preferred candidates have all the appeal of a box of hammers.
In truth, the media’s obnoxious obsession with race and other external attributes skews polls and predictions. Those who insist that American voters — Republican voters in particular — are racist bigots who only vote for people who look like them not only insult the voters, but also they miss the appeal of candidates who run on the basis of ideas.
That kind of thinking loses elections. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
So, do we truly have a new breed of Democrats running for office?
With respect to candidates like Tipirneni, who seems genuine and sincere, I seriously doubt it. If past is precedent, it’s more likely that these candidates will run from the center, and — if they gain control of Congress — will govern from the left. A Congress controlled by Democrats of whatever stripe will quickly become a vehicle for the achievement of “progressive” political aspirations.
Democrats have figured out that the way to win in Republican districts is to run on a conservative platform; it’s astonishing that Republicans haven’t. November will be here before we know it. They’d better figure it out soon.