During her first extended interview since last month’s election, Wendy Davis told the San Antonio Express-News that there’s one campaign decision she completely regrets.
“There is one thing that I would do differently in that campaign, and it relates to the position that I took on open carry. I made a quick decision on that with a very short conversation with my team and it wasn’t really in keeping with what I think is the correct position on that issue.”
It doesn’t come as a surprise that her decision to supporting open handgun carry was a simple political one. But it was also not a surprise that taking the position didn’t help her at all. In 2014 especially, Democrats across the country made the mistake of adopting Republican Lite positions. And they all lost terribly.
The idea of violating your base’s core principles to win in a difficult state is the kind of obvious, unscientific thinking that anyone could do. But it’s entirely untied to the reality of what it takes to win. Luckily, the open carry stance was the only such position Davis took during the campaign. And it’s undeniably good to see her take it back.
Unfortunately, Democrats across the country took Republican Lite a whole step further. Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu fought on behalf of the Keystone pipeline. She got slaughtered by her Actual Republican opponent. In Arkansas, Democrat Mark Pryor made an embarrassing bible-thumping ad and railed against federal agencies. He got slaughtered by his Actual Republican opponent. In Kentucky, Democrat Allison Grimes refused to say whether she voted for President Obama and made an awful ad in which she both shoots guns and reiterates her opposition to Obama. She got slaughtered by arguably the most corrupt politician in Washington, Mitch McConnell.
It turns out that Democrats always lose in red states when they try to be red. Voters smell the falseness immediately. In red state Democratic victories (think Jon Tester’s consecutive Senate wins in Montana), the candidate makes clear that there’s a real choice in the election.
Of course, these losing candidates almost never admit to their mistakes. Maybe Davis’ public regret can change that. But there’s no evidence it will. For the time being it looks like most of the Democratic machinery will continue making this silly, consequential error.