These political outsiders are part of the larger anti-Trump “resistance” that came about in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.
Run For Something, an organization that supports progressive millennials who want to run for office, has gotten over 10,000 applications from potential candidates, said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic political consultant who was the deputy national press secretary and senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“I don’t think you can understate how big an impact this phenomenon’s going to have. In the midterms, the election is mostly about energy and enthusiasm, and right now there is a tremendous energy and enthusiasm to fight back against the Trump administration,” Ferguson said.
“I do think that in politics there is no substitute for enthusiasm, and to have a hard core of devoted activists, you can produce real outcomes that way,” said Molly Ball, a politics writer at The Atlantic.
That was the case with the Tea Party, where an extremely involved group of activists made things happen that didn’t seem politically possible, including defeating established Republican incumbents, Ball said.
“On the other hand, it’s … not sufficient to have that enthusiasm and to have that activism. Because you can have hundreds of thousands of activists, and you still need more votes than that. You need the silent majority of voters also on your side,” Ball said.
“I was in Georgia a couple of weeks ago covering the special election that Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff lost. (There was) an immense amount of volunteers for this campaign, a single congressional district campaign had over 10,000 local volunteers. The amount of energy is really stunning,” Ball said.
But those thousands of people weren’t enough; Ossoff still lost. Part of that may be because the national focus and media attention on the race may have backfired for the Democrats, provoking not just those on the left but also those on the right to vote in the election, Ball said.
There’s also the issue of personal-bubble bias. There was huge enthusiasm for John Ossoff far outside Georgia’s 5th Congressional District that allowed people to believe he would win, said Robert Tracinski, the editor of Real Clear Future and a senior writer at The Federalist.
“He was sort of turned into a nationalized figure. He was going to be the way people expressed their dissatisfaction with Trump. But he was a great way for people in California to express their dissatisfaction with Trump by sending their money to his campaign. But he didn’t actually win in Georgia’s 5th District. I think it’s very easy for those who are on the left, especially those who are in the blue state areas, where there’s this high level of personal disgust and outrage at Donald Trump, think, ‘Wow, this is a huge national movement,'” said said Tracinski.
Whether Democrats will be able to win over that silent majority of voters in key races next year will depend on the candidates.
“I think there is nothing more important than putting the right candidates in races if you want to be successful,” Ferguson said.
Whether outsider candidates will be the right ones for the Democrats remains to be seen.