Daniel Suddeath

We are a competitive society based on winning and losing, but it’s hard to determine who won this election when talking about our major political parties.

It appears Joe Biden will be our next president after garnering a record amount of votes, but this one loss for Republicans hardly means that Democrats won 2020. The argument could easily be made that Democrats have an identity crisis that’s affecting the success of the party in Midwestern and Southern states.

Republicans destroyed Democrats in Clark County and Floyd County, as local races were dominated by the GOP.

At the state level, Republicans blew out Democrats in most contests as the GOP stronghold over Indiana was obviously not affected by President Donald Trump’s defeat. The story was similar in many states as Republicans went into the election holding more state legislature seats than Democrats.

The GOP only strengthened its position in legislatures as Democrats failed to flip any states based on preliminary results. This is a big issue that’s often overlooked as the party in control of a legislature gets to draw the redistricting map, and that can make it pretty difficult to flip congressional seats in a state.

Even at the federal level, there were signs that Democrats have problems after losing multiple U.S. House seats. Democrats still have a chance of flipping the U.S. Senate if they can win runoffs in Georgia, but the election certainly wasn’t the Blue Wave some had predicted.

So what does all of this mean? In short, we are a large nation with many differences, even within our political parties.

The ongoing argument among Democrats is whether to move closer to the middle and find common ground with moderates and Republicans or to push further Left and pursue a more progressive agenda.

When you look at the preliminary results, it’s hard to decipher which side is right. Sure, progressive Democrats do well in progressive cities, but about any candidate attached to a “D” in a sizable chunk of our country can’t win.

Part of this is messaging. What works in bigger cities doesn’t always, if even semi-regularly, appeal to those who live in more rural areas, and vice versa.

Look at the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. There were some who bemoaned Amy McGrath as too moderate to beat Republican Mitch McConnell, suggesting that a more progressive Charles Booker would have stood a better chance at defeating the Senate Majority Leader.

While Booker certainly had the momentum in the final weeks of primary season, Kentucky voters rejected Democrats at a resounding level statewide. The typical GOP strategy was used against McGrath, as she was labeled as a socialist, a liberal and an abortion supporter by her opposition.

If someone viewed as a milquetoast candidate by her own party couldn’t escape that barrage by Republicans, it’s hard to believe Booker would have fared much better.

We circle back to messaging. Republicans are winning that battle in states like Indiana and Kentucky. They label protests as riots, paint Democrats as being pro-abortion instead of pro-choice, and realistically scare people into believing that the Left wants to take everyone’s guns, open the borders and force them onto government-run health care.

Democrats have a sizable struggle ahead with relating to rural voters if they want to win back state legislatures, hold onto the U.S. House and make a run at the Senate in 2022.

On the other hand, Republicans continue to lose the popular vote. It’s obvious that GOP policies aren’t well-accepted in major population areas. The Electoral College is the only thing keeping presidential races close. With the cries growing louder each presidential election cycle to reform the Electoral College, it would behoove Republicans to begin finding some common ground with Democrats.

Biden’s first year in office will set the tone for the midterms. As a former lawmaker, he’s familiar with what it takes to get legislation passed. He also has a better chance of working with Republicans in the Senate than Trump would have with Democrats in the House because he’s not yet viewed as being as divisive as our 45th President.

This is why we could see benefits for both parties. We’ll have a House controlled by Democrats, but one that took some losses in the general election. That same sentiment holds true in the Senate for Republicans if they win the Georgia runoffs. Mix that scenario with Biden, who has said he will work with both sides, and we could see some meaningful legislation passed.

And we need it.

We need more stimulus funding to help us through this mess that COVID-19 has created. We need to figure out a way to provide health care for everyone. We need to rebuild our infrastructure. We need to find a long-term energy solution. We need to make sure our veterans receive adequate medical services.

We need racial equality. We need to take better care of our planet. We need to get back to talking to each other.

First and foremost, we need to get through this devastating pandemic.

These really shouldn’t be politically divisive issues. If our next Congress and President can find some solutions to these problems, they can tout those victories to the moderates and swing voters that so regularly decide elections.

Or, the far Left and far Right will control the message, and we’ll likely see similar results in terms of party control in the future.

So who won and who lost? All of us. We’re all Americans.

Daniel Suddeath is the senior reporter for the News and Tribune and the editor of Southern Indiana Business magazine. He can be reached at 812-206-2152, or by email at

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