I guess in some ways the old coach in me is coming out. While I should be optimistic, I find myself in a very dark pessimistic place when I ponder America’s political future. Recent events and math are even less than promising when I couple them with history.
The 2022 election will be here sooner than anyone thinks. The political calendar is already somewhat full for 2021. June is halfway history. There are several major bills either to be considered or disregarded in July. Congress basically goes on vacation (or as they would like us to believe be back in their districts/states working hard on constituent service) in August. September is the last month of the fiscal years which means other than taking time off for holidays Congress will be taking up budget/appropriation legislation most of the remainder of 2021. The new year makes political compromise (does that even exist in the 21st century or am I showing my age?) almost impossible.
In reality we have about a six week window in which to get major legislation on voting rights, infrastructure, gun regulations, immigration, climate change and equality passed. Oh, and that doesn’t include several important topics I failed to include in the preceding list along with current events, investigating 1/6 and the daily revelation of worsening Trump era scandals.
Close elections always end up being largely turnout affairs. I see absolutely no reason to suspect 2022 will be anything other than close and an argument can be made that America has never before been this politically polarized. Therefore, I challenge anyone to show me reason to believe that 2022 will be anything other than a turnout election. History lesson: the party that controls the White House tends to lose congressional seats in the mid-term and Democrats do a lousy job of turnout in mid-term elections.
Currently the Republicans need a net gain of one seat to gain control of the Senate and a net gain of five seats to accomplish the same in the House. A lot of people sacrificed a lot to vote in 2020 in part in the expectation that if they gave the Democrats control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, they would accomplish a lot including that voter’s “pet project” or two. I think a lot of those marginal voters (super voters aren’t enough for Democrats to win) will feel they haven’t been served and stay home in 2022.
The marginal voter doesn’t care about the sausage making of legislation. They largely don’t understand the separations of power and things like the filibuster. Even if they do, they don’t care about them! They simply want results. I fear that Democrats will not be able to show them enough results to sufficiently motivate them to show up at the polls.
Now let’s consider two other factors. First voter suppression. Some voter suppression tactics will elude law suits and simply make it more difficult for the marginal voters to cast their disproportionately Democratic votes. Another thing to keep in mind is that the final judicial stop is the Supreme Court and its current majority is not exactly friendly to protecting the right to vote. The “Court sub-factor” also applies to the next issue.
The other factor is almost equality as mysterious to John Q. Public – gerrymandering. With a margin of five the House 2020 will start as basically a dead heat (possibly with the Republicans in the lead). Thirteen states need to be redistricted because of the impact of the 2020 census. Republicans will control the process in most of them. I certainly expect them to manipulate (a/k/a gerrymander) five or more seats in their favor. Much of the redistricting will end up in court but that is far from a solution. We have seen multiple elections held under gerrymandered districts; today’s Republicans are so devoid of shame that in many instances they have also had subsequent redistricting plans also thrown out in court but the bottom line is that they controlled seats in the interim doing great damage to America.
With 2010 still fresh in my mind, 2022 terrifies me. In a worst case scenario – which unfortunately is believable – I could see the Senate under Republican control and led by the evil Mitch McConnell, the House under Republican control led by Kevin McCarthy who makes Paul Ryan and George W. Bush look cerebral and is less courageous than either. That would render Joe Biden politically impotent. In fact under that scenario I’d advise him to start working on a memoir for publication soon after he leaves the White House. Heck, I’d probably buy it.
Progressives, and I include myself here, complain that not enough is getting done in Washington today with the thin majorities in Congress. Do you think it would be any better if the majorities were non-existent? Things could quickly get very dark and the only good news is that we collectively have control of the light switch.
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