The Real Lessons from Tuesday's Election; the Iron Rules of American Politics
Pundits from across the ideological spectrum are publishing their take-aways from Tuesday's election, generally in line with their favored political perspective. Republicans argue that it represents a rejection of President Joe Biden's agenda and "woke" social justice initiatives. Progressives warn that Democrats need to move more quickly to address the concerns of middle class workers, younger voters, and minorities.
There is probably a bit of truth in both narratives, but they miss the bigger picture including some of the iron rules of American politics. Those rules provide the real lessons for the 2022 midterm elections.
1. Americans are generally centrists who embrace progressive social justice, environmental, and social welfare programs in small bites, incrementally. Push too far, too fast, and they will snap back toward the middle.
President Biden won a substantial victory, but Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives in 2020. Voters were clearly tired of Donald Trump's chaotic leadership, but less supportive of Biden's ambitious agenda. Despite a tenuous majority in Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders and liberals in the House pushed the President to act on an basket full of progressive bills while also advocating for packing the Supreme Court and abolishing the filibuster. Nobody should be surprised that moderates across the political spectrum signaled this week that they were pushing too far, too fast. Dem. Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia made the point Wednesday speaking of President Biden, “Nobody elected him to be FDR, they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.”
2. Winning breeds lethargy. Going back decades, with few exceptions, the political party that wins the presidency loses seats in the next midterm elections. Winners sit on their laurels [or bask in their victory], while the party out of power in Washington is highly motivated to regain their influence. Republicans got shellacked in the Virginia Governor's race in 2017 and the 2018 midterm elections.
3. Impatience and disappointment. Governing seldom looks exactly like folks imagined during a campaign and watching Congress debate legislation is maddening. Many forget that President Obama suffered large midterm congressional loses in 2010 after passage of the Affordable Care Act, the most consequential social legislation in decades. Part of that resulted from the constant drumbeat of attacks on Obamacare as socialism [see number 1 above], but there were quite a few progressives that were disappointed because the legislation didn't go as far as promised [the public option] to make healthcare insurance available and affordable. Many stayed home in 2010 while Tea Party Republicans voted in record numbers.
4. Older voters who skew Republican are more likely to show up for off-year elections than younger voters. For instance in Virginia this week the electorate was older than it was a year ago when Biden captured the state. Only about one-tenth were under 30, compared with 20% in 2020. That difference alone cost McAuliffe the election and history says it will be true again in 2022.
How can Democrats address these factors in 2022? Obviously, some of these factors are already baked into US politics and are unlikely to change, but Democrats can reduce the scale of their losses in the House and maybe pick up a Senate seat or two.
While Democrats will not pass all of the progressive priorities promised during the 2020 campaign, they must finish up the infrastructure and "Build Back Better" reconciliation packages quickly. Stop squabbling, tout your successes, and focus on how each component of these bills will revitalize the American economy, reduce the ravages of climate change, lower prescription drug prices. and create new, good paying jobs for working class Americans.
These bills alone won't prevent some losses in next year's midterm elections, but their passage will burnish the Democratic brand and set the stage for future victories.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content