A Bottomless Hole
Issue 15, Volume 112
By Muhib Muhib
The 2022 midterm elections are approaching, with the primary elections soon to be in earnest. Republicans are likely to flip the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate after maintaining consistent leads in the generic ballot. Democrats must prepare for the prospects of a red wave this November. The inevitable scapegoating of who is responsible for this loss has already begun.
Democrats have made the fatal mistake of ignoring inflation as rising prices have become obvious to nearly every American. They effectively allowed the Republicans to take advantage of the issue and convince Americans to believe that prices were spiraling out of control. Inflation rates can no longer be corrected without raising interest rates, which will inevitably result in a recession that will further damage the economy and the Democrats.
The current situation is in line with the trend of midterm elections being an opportunity for backlash against the current administration. The Democrats have failed to avoid these trends, and only six months remain for them to somehow change course. The political environment looks grim with a deadlocked Congress. Some Democrats refuse to accept that voters generally do not like one-party control of the executive and legislative branches. They cling to theories that they will not lose seats or even gain seats in the midterm elections.
Republicans holding the keys to the United States Congress, several governor mansions, and state legislatures may reasonably seem like a frightening prospect. Republicans have recently declared war on reproductive rights, LGBT rights, civil rights, and even our democracy. It is quite frustrating that voters value their economic security over their fundamental rights. Our political system has failed to prevent this extremism from permeating our government, but this failure is in line with the global rise of populism. With the likely result of this midterm election, fear and paranoia are justified.
One of the biggest questions about the midterm elections is who is responsible for a likely midterm defeat. Progressives have blamed moderates for refusing to back an expansive and transformative agenda, while moderates have blamed progressives for backing an agenda that goes too far. Compromise is difficult to achieve since certain elements of the coalition refuse to negotiate on particular aspects of their agendas, believing them to be absolutely necessary. One thing is clear: Republicans are united in their opposition to the incumbent administration and their desire to oust the Democrats. It is inevitable that some Democrats will be dissatisfied, since no agenda, if one is passed at all, can satisfy everyone.
The messages that Democrats and Republicans are running on play an essential role in influencing the outcome of the upcoming elections. Republicans have mainly tried to hammer the Democrats on the economy, which has been severely impacted by record inflation. In a March 2022 Gallup poll, 35 percent of the American public said the economy was the most important issue facing the country. Republicans have tried to gravitate toward economic issues and distance themselves from the incumbent administration for its economic policies. Democrats had previously tried to tag Republicans to the January 6 insurrection but then witnessed the victory of Glenn Youngkin, who was attached to the unpopular Trump and the January 6 insurrection by his opponent Terry McAuliffe, but still won.
A midterm defeat does not necessarily mean the electorate has been irreversibly altered. Former president Barack Obama watched his party lose 63 House seats in 2010 and then managed to win reelection somewhat easily in 2012. The electorate is sending a message of disapproval by voting against the party in power, but it has not suddenly changed its values.
Regardless of what the political environment appears to be, the American public should continue to take voting seriously. Turnout in midterms notably drops off from presidential years for several reasons. Not voting only solidifies the result, as disenchantment is often one of the causes of a midterm loss. The size of a wave is determined by who votes in a midterm election, and not voting only endangers elections that are normally safe for a party. Elections are decided by the people, and an accurate sampling of what the electorate thinks can be taken if voter turnout is high.
From this midterm election, Democrats should take away that trifectas are hardly guaranteed to last more than two years. The exceptions to this rule are rare, as polarization makes compromise harder and less likely. Democrats should work to cut their losses and remember that the electorate that gave them power can easily take it away. Blame and infighting result in more division. Democrats should attempt to compromise with a Republican Congress, but in this time of political polarization, it is not mandatory, as Republicans have demonstrated through their reckless breaking of precedents without significant consequences. Compromise is not impossible, but it should not be an expectation with polarization. Rather, it should be seen as the ideal scenario. If Democrats wish to have some ability to govern beyond 2022 and maintain control of the White House, they should take these lessons seriously and prepare for 2024.