Republicans appear to be on track to make remarkable gains in the US Congress, setting up two years of political trench warfare. Biden has been crisscrossing the country in a last-ditch effort to persuade voters that a Democratic victory is necessary not only for the administration’s legislative agenda but also for the survival of American democracy.
A prospective Republican takeover
Democrats are likewise doomed by history. The ruling party often loses House members midway through a president’s four-year tenure. George W. Bush remarked in 2006 that his Republicans took a “thumping” in the midterm elections. In 2010, Obama referred to his party losing 63 House seats as a “shellacking.” In 2018, two years into Trump’s presidency, the Republican Party lost 41 House seats. In all three situations, the House was flipped.
Republicans need to gain five seats to gain the majority this year. As though anticipating a Republican takeover, 31 House Democrats announced their retirement or candidacy for another office, the most for the party since 1992.
Republicans’ chances have been boosted further by gerrymandering, the practice of one party manipulating congressional district lines to entrench its power during the once-a-decade redistricting process.
Meanwhile, Republicans need to gain one member to regain control of the Senate, which is presently split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. Candidates such as TV doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and retired American football player Herschel Walker in Georgia have proven more formidable than predicted. Campaigns for Democratic-held seats in Arizona and Nevada are also hotly contested.
However, polls have previously been incorrect, and there may still be surprises. Among the concerns, this time, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in June to repeal Roe v Wade’s constitutional abortion protections, which resulted in a surge of protest votes in a Kansas referendum and a rise in female voter registration nationwide.
According to the New York Times, Democrats have spent about $320 million on TV ads promoting abortion rights, which is ten times more than they have spent on commercials about inflation, which has driven up the cost of food and gasoline. However, polls show that the economy remains a greater worry for voters, implying that outrage over the abortion decision will not be enough to save Democrats.
Elaine Kamarck, a former Bill Clinton’s White House staffer, stated at a news conference at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington that there has been a race between inflation and abortion for several weeks. At the end of the summer, it was speculated that abortion would sway votes in this race.
According to Elaine, the conventional view appears to have drifted away from that and toward inflation and economic concerns. The matter is, though, that it is a very close race. The polls in state after state are within the margin of error, and Democrats will have to look at turnout because turnout will determine this race.”
Women’s turnout is critical, Kamarck continued, but if Republicans win, the post-mortems will begin. The Democrats will have to do a lot of soul-searching about their position and how they got into this race. Did they overestimate the power of abortion? Did they underestimate the economic message?
Some analysts believe the answer is yes. Buck, a former Republican staffer now a partner at strategic communications firm Seven Letter, said it should be no surprise that this election is about economic issues – inflation, gas costs – and that Democrats have lost the field to Republicans on this.
Buck remarked that it’s just simple political communications 101 that you need to stick to some messages and hammer them repeatedly, and they’ve been all over the map. Hence, it’s not surprising that whatever they’re trying to get over to voters isn’t getting through.
American democracy scary!
On the left, there is dissatisfaction that Democrats did not properly publicize achievements like the Child Tax Credit, which offered historical assistance to working families during the coronavirus outbreak.
Democrats have also maintained that a climate and healthcare package passed by Congress in August will help cut inflation by making prescription medications more affordable. The White House also sought to eliminate some student loan debt, which might increase turnout among younger voters.
However, 8.5% inflation and worries around a likely recession have been important to Republican rhetoric in the last weeks of the election. They have also substantially invested in sometimes openly racist ads fanning people’s fears about a rise in violent crime, associating Democrats with so-called “defund the police” campaigns.
Critics say this is disingenuous from a party still trying to downplay the violent coup attempt at the US Capitol on January 6. In a prime-time address last week from adjacent Union Station, Biden cautioned that democracy itself is on the ballot, as well as the possibility of voter intimidation and political violence.
Biden said: “That is a path to disaster in America.” He cited estimates of more than 300 election deniers running for every level of office in America and their refusal to accept the outcomes of the elections in which they are competing. It is unprecedented, illegal, and un-American. As I’ve said, you can’t love your country when you win.”
Indeed, just as in 2020, there are fears that a contested election fueled by disinformation and conspiracy theories could split America apart. The recent hammer attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, at their San Francisco home may foretell worse.
A shifting dynamic
Given the current tinder box, John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, believes it is only a matter of time until a high-level political assassination occurs in the United States, which is a terrible situation. According to him, Americans today live in a country that is not accustomed to political killings, a luxury that inhabitants of other countries do not have. But there is a true shifting dynamic and undertone there.
Hudak predicts that several election skeptics will be elected. So what happens when they begin coordinating? He posed. The organized assault on American democracy by elected people is scarier than their mere office.
Their ability to communicate and coordinate through formal forums, such as associations of secretaries of state, or through quieter platforms, such as individual communication, poses great threats to the future vote count and election administration.
But there is no evidence that Republican voters are concerned about democracy. The midterm election campaign has frequently felt like a split screen, with Democrats and Republicans primarily talking over each other.
In a briefing, author and pollster John Zogby stated, “In every election in the past, there is a common set of issues that everybody agrees on, and one party says, this is how we will attack these issues, and the other party says, no, this is how we will attack these issues.” Today’s difference is two different parties, two different sets of issues, two different realities, and two different facts sets to support those realities. It’s like two planets orbiting around the sun but in different orbits.
Whatever the close, talk about the 2024 presidential race is sure to begin even before the last vote is cast in 2022. If Democrats suffer significant losses, Biden may face pressure to announce that he will not run again, particularly from the left. He turns 80 on November 20 and is already the oldest president in American history.
Trump, 76, is poised to announce his candidacy sooner rather than later, even if his chosen candidates have a horrible night. At an event in Iowa on Thursday night in support of Republican candidates, he declared, “ Get ready; that’s all I’m telling you – very soon. Get ready.”