Op-Ed: Five Reasons for Optimism in 2022
The Political Media Industrial Complex convened their annual Crystal Ball Convention – hosted, no doubt, by the Illuminati at an undisclosed location – and concluded that Democrats in 2022 were doomed. It’s going to be a massacre and the only question will be the size of the funeral procession of defeated Democratic candidates.
I’ve spent decades helping prove the Conventional Wisdom wrong and I’m here to tell you that once again, the Beltway Insiders just don’t get it.
Conventional wisdom dictates we take traditional metrics – historical results, the number of Congressional retirements, and presidential approval – as the only indicators by which we should judge the likely outcome of this November’s election. It could happen but when is the last time our politics conformed to any established and predictable norm? More likely this analysis is the result of looking at 2022 politics through a 1962 lens.
This failure of imagination is a frequent guest at today’s political roundtables. Could Republicans turn over their entire party to a man who talks in public about having sex with his daughter? Unimaginable. Would Republican leaders fail to acknowledge that a candidate who won with more votes than any presidential candidate in history was not the actual winner? Impossible. Could a mob of domestic terrorists storm the US Capitol while 147 Republicans voted to end the peaceful transition of power in the world’s oldest democracy? Yeah, well, that happened too.
It’s a different world out there and it would be naive to believe that 2022 will conform to the politics of yesterday. This year – like 2016 and 2020 – could surprise the so-called political experts. Here are some thoughts on why I and my Lincoln Party comrades believe there is hope for democracy and her allies this fall.
1. Redistricting is Largely a Draw
Last fall, redistricting experts predicted that the Republican Party, given its use of extreme gerrymandering, would start the 2022 cycle up 12-14 seats. Now that redistricting has concluded in most states (save those with active legal challenges) it appears that the process will in fact be a wash. As David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report wrote earlier this month, “The surprising good news for Democrats: on the current trajectory, there will be a few more Biden-won districts after redistricting than there are now.”
Given this dynamic, House Democrats should expand their targeting and look at seats that are more of a stretch, but still winnable. These include narrow Republican districts likely to be vacated by the last “moderate” Members of the House GOP after retirements, redistricting, and primaries are completed. They should not solely play defense but be opportunistic where possible.
2. Republicans Will Nominate a Crop of Loons Not Seen Since 2010
In the Tea Party Revolution of 2010, Republicans nominated their first truly radical crop of US Senate candidates including Sharon Angle of Nevada and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware. Unlike 2010, though, this type of fringe candidate is now the norm in the Republican Party. In at least five states, (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Missouri) the GOP will likely nominate a candidate well outside the mainstream of nominal, soft, and moderate Republican voters.
They feature a Big Lie true-believer, a disgraced former governor, an incumbent senator whose conspiracy theories are regularly debunked, a first-time candidate who will be nominated solely because Donald Trump wanted him, and a TV doctor who’s put profit ahead of the health of his viewers for decades. For Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, and their campaign team, these nominees don’t auger well for their desire to recapture the Senate in November. If one (or more) of them does win this year, it will pull the GOP Senate Conference closer to the Trumpist majority of the Republican Party.
Republicans in the US House suffer from a similar, but more difficult situation. Many of the remaining “moderate” Members of the conference are leaving office. Others suffered at the hands of the Redistricting Gods. Those remaining in the fight, though, such as Liz Cheney, Peter Meijer, and Jamie Herrera-Butler will face primary challenges encouraged and funded by the likes of Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
We as the pro-democracy movement will work to drive wedges between various Republican factions, forcing them to spend time, effort, and money on each other, rather than their opponents and further illustrate to voters (the vast majority of them still somewhere on the center-right/center-left fulcrum) their unfitness for office and inability to govern effectively (or at all.)
3. Externalities Will Provide Opportunities
Millions of Americans have left their jobs. Covid-19’s Omicron variant is running rampant across the country and the world. The stock market is volatile. We’re on the verge of a European land war. These are the headlines we hear every day. However, if Covid recedes, people go back to work, public education stabilizes, and Russia relents, these externalities could prove beneficial to pro-democracy candidates in the fall. While President Joe Biden and his administration deal with multiple once-in-a-presidency crises, the Republican Party will continue its efforts to drive wedges into the electorate on cultural and social issues and spread chaos and fear in states they control. Ironically, in the realm of international affairs, Biden has returned the United States to its place as a beacon of democracy. If Trump were still in office, Ukraine would be a parking lot by now.
It is imperative that pro-democracy forces do not allow radical Republican leadership to continue this farce deeper into the year. Governors like Ron DeSantis (FL) and Greg Abbott (TX) are single-handedly responsible for the sickness, death, and educational chaos caused by their refusal to encourage vaccination among residents. Why? Because they fear their political base will turn on them. They may be right, but their actions are disqualifying. We will call them out for it.
4. Democrats Still Have Time to Coalesce
The hour is late, but not too late, for Democrats to unite behind a broad pro-democracy message. Campaign 2022 is about democracy first, second, and always. The policy prescriptions may test well in surveys and focus groups, but they will not energize voters – Democrat, Independent, and Republican, to turn out on behalf of the only pro-democracy party we have left.
Progressives and moderates alike must stop their public, damaging rhetorical battles and focus on the bigger issue at hand: If democracy fails in 2022 and 2024, none of our most pressing issues will ever be addressed. Indeed, though we may not want to believe it, the last truly democratic election may be at our doorstep. As Professor Timothy Snyder writes in On Tyranny, “Any election can be the last, or at least the last in the lifetime of the person casting the vote.”
Victory in 2022 and 2024 will require the construction of the largest, widest, deepest, and most diverse political coalition in American history. This work can and must be done in the states and localities with those groups and individuals who’ve committed themselves to this essential work.
5. There Are More of Us Than Them
For the past two decades, the margin of the popular vote has steadily tilted in favor of the Democrats. Looking back to the Gore years – the margin was still pretty small. Now you’re talking several million more votes. That margin is so big that even in some of these marginal Congressional districts — in a Presidential year, many more Democrats vote than Republicans. Why is that important?
We know their names. Yes, this is an off-year election so turnout will take more work. But we know they’re persuadable and they voted two years ago this November. The result here is that there are more potential voters for us than there are for Trump’s autocratic movement. The historical headwinds are tough. But the numbers are there for us to win.
All of this points to why I believe Democrats have an opportunity to hold the majority in the House and expand it in the Senate this year. It will be a colossal task. It will take all of us from every part of the political spectrum to stop Trump and his MAGA mob. It will take a true pro-democracy coalition.
– Joe Trippi
Senior Advisor, The Lincoln Project