Columnist

Dear Democrats,

You can do this. Stop fretting and second-guessing. Get out of your own way. Concentrate on turning out the vote, and remember you have everything to gain in this midterm election and nothing to lose.

I say you have nothing to lose because that is literally true. Republicans control both chambers of Congress, most governorships, most state legislatures — and, of course, the White House, which isn’t up for grabs this time. The great blues artist Muddy Waters put it best: “You can’t spend what you ain’t got. You can’t lose what you ain’t never had.”

So stop worrying, Democrats, that your House majority might be slipping away. You don’t have a House majority. But the odds of your winning one still look excellent — if you step up and grab it.

And don’t let Republicans convince you that the Senate is already a lost cause. Yes, this year’s battlefields are mostly on GOP turf. But almost every race is close enough to be within reach. Think of it this way: Do Democrats’ chances of threading the needle and somehow snatching a Senate majority look any worse than Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidency looked with 10 days to go before the 2016 election?

Consider Texas. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Democrat Beto O’Rourke, after a stunningly effective campaign, is likely to fall short in his bid to unseat GOP incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz. But if the outcome is already ordained, why did the Republican Party waste so much of its most valuable asset — Trump’s time and effort — on a rally in Cruz’s hometown of Houston? Why did Cruz humiliate himself by sharing the stage with a man who made fun of his wife’s appearance and accused his father of being involved in the JFK assassination?

Much has been made of an uptick in Trump’s approval rating — now at 44 percent, according to Gallup. But in the 2010 midterm, when Democrats lost 63 seats in the House and Republicans took control, President Barack Obama’s approval was 45 percent. And in 1994, when Democrats lost 53 seats and the speaker’s gavel, Bill Clinton’s approval was 46 percent.

In 2014, when Obama’s approval was lower than Trump’s is now, Democrats did manage to hold their losses in the House to just 13 seats. But Republicans took control of the Senate.

The point is that with an unpopular president and a host of unpopular policies, Republicans are at a distinct disadvantage. They have to play defense. Democrats, who have so little to defend, can and should play offense with abandon.

To understate the obvious, much is at stake.

An aberrant, corrupt, out-of-control presidency is widening our divisions, spitting on our values and mortgaging our future. Republicans, who once could call themselves the Party of Lincoln, are now the Party of Trump; they will not lift a finger to constrain the president or hold him accountable. Congress has the power to do both — but will not unless at least one chamber is in Democratic hands.

But obsessing about the fact that the Nov. 6 elections are so consequential does not help. The one thing Democrats can and must do is get their voters to the polls.

It should be no surprise that what once looked like a Democratic landslide now appears, as my friend Dan Rather might say, “as tight as a tick.” Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the country is divided along regional, cultural and demographic fault lines. Republicans were bound to find or manufacture some issue, some reason to claim victimhood, that would incite the party’s base. A bedraggled group of men, women and children, nearly 2,000 miles away in southern Mexico, is apparently the best they could come up with.

But Democratic enthusiasm remains stronger — and, I believe, deeper. We saw that passion at the Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration and across the country after the Charlottesville horror. We saw it in the party’s success at recruiting young, dynamic candidates from coast to coast. The Democratic leadership may be a bit long in the tooth, but when you look at rising stars such as Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida and O’Rourke in Texas, you realize that the future is now.

Don’t be dour and doubtful, Democrats. Be joyous and determined. Stop worrying about losing what you “ain’t got” and focus on winning elections district by district, state by state. Don’t let Republicans bluff you into folding. You’re playing a very good hand.

Sincerely,

A friend

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