When President Donald Trump won the White House, demand for Trump-linked and aligned lobbyists spiked. No surprise there. After all, inside connections are vital to lobbying in general. Now, with the 2018 midterm elections approaching, K-Street lobbying firms are reaching out to Democrats.
Why? Many believe that Democrats will gain either the House or the Senate. If they do, lobbyists are going to have to lobby Democrats. The House, in particular, is drawing lobbyists’ eyes as many believe that’s where Democrats stand the best chance of taking control.
The activities on K Street are a harsh reminder that special interests hold tremendous sway over the American political system. Washington, D.C. has long been home to a revolving door, with staffers and sometimes even disposed or retired politicians taking their talents to the many lobbyist firms nestled inside the Beltway. Then, they use their connections to push through and shape policies to favor their clients.
Open Secrets notes that there are about 9,550 lobbyists and that total spending on federal lobbying weighed in at nearly $870 million in 2018. Much of that money is spent trying to influence the votes of just 535 people. Broken down to members of Congress, that amounts to about $1.65 million a head.
If Democrats do seize the house, K-Street firms are going to need to spend this money efficiently to influence Democratic votes. And that means adding people with ties to Democrats to the payroll.
Lobbyists Might Be Jumping the Gun
So are Republicans going to lose their majorities in the House and/or Senate? It’s hard to say. President Trump has seen his approval ratings stabilize to around 45 percent, and the congressional candidates he backed during primaries were often successful. Trump also pushed several Republican foes out of office, including Jeff Flake from Arizona and Mark Sanford from South Carolina.
Midterm elections are often a matter of energy. Whose voter base is more amped-up and willing to hit the polls? Turnout is generally low, so the candidate with the most motivated base tends to win. For some time it appeared that Democrats could be shaping up for a “blue wave,” with Democratic voters pouring into voting booths to block Trump’s agenda.
Then something curious happened. After the crushing defeat in the 2016 Presidential race in which Trump steamrolled the establishments of both parties, many expected major changes from the Democratic leadership. But that change never materialized.
When progressive Keith Ellison looked poised to seize the DNC leadership spot, establishment Democrats sidelined him. When and where progressive and Berniecrat Democrats have tried to make their presence felt, machine Democrats have often resisted. Berniecrat James Thompson nearly won a House special election in Kansas, and some speculate that he would have secured the seat if the Kansas Democratic Party had thrown its weight behind him. Instead, the Party gave him a cold shoulder.
These repeated snubs may be de-energizing the Democratic base. It seems that the Democratic base is as sick of machine politics as Trump’s base. A poll by Zogby Analytics found that support for Democrats among millennials was dropping while support for Republicans was growing. Support from African_Americans has also been in decline. Without these two groups, Democrats could struggle to build momentum.