USA: Can Democrats Beat The Odds In 2022? – Katrina vanden Heuvel | The Washington Post

 OPINION: By Katrina vanden Heuvel | The Washington Post

Would you put big money on Democrats winning big in 2022? Recently, a wealthy progressive donor stated on a Listserv for political junkies that he expected Democrats to sweep the House and Senate by large margins. Conventional wisdom, of course, holds that Democrats are likely to lose control of the House and quite possibly the Senate, putting an abrupt end to the progressive reforms that President Biden is advancing. Can Democrats beat the odds next year?      

The donor’s argument is that the recovery will be in full gear by 2022, with unemployment plummeting and spirits rising. At the same time, former president Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party, dividing it internally, and discrediting it externally with his demand that its leaders and candidates avow his “big lie” about the 2020 election, and embrace the hate and the craziness that he spouts.

The Republican Party has no coherent agenda, offering only obstruction and rants about impending socialism, defunding the police and cancel culture. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is again devoted to blocking anything Democrats support, including even a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.

No wonder then that, according to Gallup, Republican identification is down to 40 percent of adults with Democrats at 49 percent, the largest gap the polling firm has reported in nearly a decade. Supporters of the establishment wing of the GOP announced – intentionally unformed – efforts to challenge Trump for the control of the party. Some corporations have expressed at least passing dismay at Republican efforts to suppress the vote in states.

BUT THE SMART MONEY STILL FAVORS REPUBLICANS TO TAKE CONTROL IN 2022. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election in 1932, the president’s party has lost House seats in 19 of 22 midterm elections and Senate seats in 15 of the 22 contests. Besides the weight of history, Republican advantages at the state level will allow the GOP to gerrymander districts in states across the country, for which the conservative majority on the Supreme Court has given them a virtually free hand.

Republicans are not simply undermining confidence in elections, they are systematically passing measures to suppress the vote in states they control. At the national level, Senate Republicans have vowed to filibuster election reforms — including the For the People Act — that would make voting easier and limit the role of dark money in the elections. Biden is popular, but not as popular as the presidents — Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002 — who managed to pick up House seats in a midterm election. 

The recovery may well be in high gear by 2022 – and Democrats have no chance if it isn’t. But even if unemployment plummets, it may not make much of a difference. Academic research suggests that partisanship trumps performance. The bitter divisions that characterize our politics may limit any political benefits of beating the pandemic and bettering the economy. And while Trump may be divisive, he also mobilizes what is now the base of the Republican Party and, as he demonstrated in 2020, gets them to the polls. Trump has also brought out Democrats in the past, but he won’t be on the ballot in 2022, and traditionally the turnout of key elements of the Democratic coalition — the young, African Americans, Latinos, single women — declines disproportionately in off-year elections. 

Speculating about the prospects of future elections is a parlor sport that will be pervasive as the election approaches. WITH THE ODDS AGAINST DEMOCRATS, a strong economic recovery is necessary but not sufficient. REPUBLICAN DIVISION MAY END UP BEING MORE SOUND THAN FURY. 

To break through, Democrats need to follow through on Biden’s working assumption: ACT BIG AND BOLDLY. That means reforms that make a material difference in people’s lives, counter the efforts to suppress the votes, and limit the effect of big money on our elections.

The House has passed or will pass the For the People Act, and versions of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. Their fate will lie in the Senate. With McConnell demonstrating that he has enough Republicans to obstruct any action on these issues, Democrats will inevitably have to reform or suspend the filibuster.

THE SOONER, THE BETTER: Time spent wooing fainthearted, so-called moderate Republicans is time wasted. It’s smarter to spend that time corralling wayward Democratic senators such as Joe Manchin III and Kyrsten Sinema. 

If Democrats are to buck the historical trends, it is not a question of changing rhetoric or dodging Republican insults, it is about getting big things done.


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  • Dennis Albert  On 05/30/2021 at 6:08 pm

    Trump legitimised conspiracy theories, hate crimes, mass shootings and racial superiority via Russian nationalism.
    Who wants that again?

  • brandli62  On 05/31/2021 at 11:52 am

    I agree with the author that getting rid of the filibuster rule in the Senate is key for the success of the Biden administration and their legislative agenda. Manchin and Sinema’s calls for bipartisanism in the senate was dead from the beginning and Mitch McConnell’s recent statements and actions demonstrate that the minority leader in the Senate has absolutely no interest bipartisan legislation. His only aims are to obstruct, win the 2022 elections and insure that Biden does not serve a second term. Nothing has changed, since he declared that he wants Obama to be a one-term president. He failed at that one miserably. Hence, there might be hope for the Biden administration.

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