Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who in 2006 helped Democrats capture their first House majority in 12 years, on Sunday cast doubt on the party’s chances of reclaiming the chamber again next year.
“It took us a long time to get this low. It ain’t going to happen in 2018,” the former White House chief of staff during President Barack Obama’s first term said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Take a chill pill, man. This is ― you got to be in this for the long haul,” he said.
Along with Republican Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton last November, Democrats suffered significant losses across the political board during Obama’s eight years in office.
Republicans took back the House in 2010 ― just two years after Obama’s first election ― and have held it easily since then. The GOP, after also losing a Senate majority in 2006, won it back in 2014 and held it last November. Between 2008 and 2016, meanwhile, Democrats lost close to 1,000 seats in state legislatures.
“You’re not going to solve” the party’s decline in 2018, said Emanuel, who is up for re-election in 2019. “The Republicans didn’t do what they did with just one election cycle. You have to have a long horizon, obviously, and work towards that, electing people at the local level, state houses, into Congress.”
Turning around “years of eroding Democratic support” in local races won’t happen “entirely in just one cycle,” Emanuel warned.
“Do I think we’re going to have a good year in 2018? Yes,” Emanuel said. “Do I think everything’s going to be solved in a single cycle? That’s not how we got here, and it’s not going to be how we get out.”
Emanuel was a House member from Illinois and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when the party seized the chamber’s majority for the first time since 1994. Discontent with then-President George W. Bush’s administration and the war in Iraq played a large role in the Democratic showing, but Emanuel’s candidate recruitment efforts also received credit.
Democrats have been hoping to show signs of a comeback in various elections this year. but so far the party has yet to score a signature win.
On Thursday, Republican Greg Gianforte ― despite being charged with misdemeanor assault of a reporter on the eve of the election ― defeated Democrat Rob Quist in a special election for the Montana’s sole House seat. Earlier this month in Omaha, Nebraska, Democrat Heath Mello failed to unseat Republican Mayor Jean Stothert. In April, progressive Democrat James Thompson ran well in special election for an open House seat in heavily Republican Kansas, but still lost.
The Republicans didn’t do what they did with just one election cycle. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
In April, Democrat Jon Ossoff fell less than two percentage points shy of an outright win in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The seat was vacated by Republican Tom Price to become Health and Human Services Department secretary under Trump and was and that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich occupied for years.
The high-profile race, flooded with money by both parties, is scheduled for a runoff election on June 20. An Ossoff win over Republican Karen Handel would re-energize Democrat and potentially boost the party’s prospects in 2018.
Progressives, many aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), blame Democratic Party stalwarts for neglecting down-ballot races outside coastal liberal strongholds.
“It seems clear that Gianforte’s massive edge in early funding allowed him to attack Quist’s character viciously before there were sufficient funds for Quist to respond to the vitriol,” Jeff Hauser, a veteran progressive strategist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Revolving Door Project, told HuffPost ahead of the Montana election.