2020 was a historic year for the Democratic Party. Not only were they able to control both houses of Congress for the first time in 10 years, Joe Biden, the Democratic Presidential nominee, was able to beat the incumbent president for the first time in 28 years (the last incumbent president to have lost the re-election was George HW Bush in 1992 to then-Governor Bill Clinton). It was a historic election for the Dems; not only were they able to gain complete control of the government (with Georgia’s two senate seats tipping the control of the Senate), but Joe Biden won the usually Republican-safe states of Georgia and Arizona. The last Democratic nominee to win Georgia and Arizona was Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, respectively. So with all the jubilation, why are there alarm bells ringing in the Democratic Party? Let’s see why that is the case.
Worrying Signs for Democrats for 2022 Midterms
One of the main reasons the Democrats are worried about 2022 is Donald Trump and his 74.2 million voters. Yes, Joe Biden did defeat Donald Trump by over 4 percentage points and 7 million votes, but the margin of victory was extremely close in several of the swing states that went for Biden. With the margin of victory less than 1% in Wisconsin, Arizona & Georgia, and the alarming rhetoric by Republicans alleging voter fraud has enabled Donald Trump to remain a major player for the 2022 midterm election.
The voter fraud conspiracy claims sprouted by the Republican lawmakers have kept the Republican voted based energized after their defeat in the 2020 election, with the latest polling showing a significant percentage of Republicans believing the voter fraud claim, even when the claim has been dismissed by several federal and local courts across the country.
Failure to win state legislatures and governorships
Every ten years, the US redraws its congressional districts according to the latest census done by the census bureau. The apportionment of 435 congressional seats is done based on the decennial census, and the result is not looking for House Democrats. The southern states of Texas, Florida, and North Carolina are going to have their quota of congressional seats increased, whereas Democrats-heavy states like California, New York, and Illinois will see their share of congressional seats reduced. This will result in a net gain of 2 seats for the Republicans.
With the Democratic majority already razor-thin (219-211), the democratic party cannot afford to lose any more seats due to redistricting.
Failure to abolish filibuster and pass any meaningful reform
With Dems winning the two Senate seats up for grabs in Georgia on Jan 3 runoff, they were able to gain control of the Senate with the thinnest margin possible, a 50-50 split, with VP Kamala Harris the tiebreaker. This was the first instance since the 107th Congress (2001-2003) that there is a 50-50 split in the Senate, but with a Democratic President and Vice-President, Chuck Schumer is able to serve as the Majority Leader of the Senate, which allows him to table bills on the Senate floor for a vote.
This is a big deal for the Dems. Without a Democratic control of the upper chamber, they would not be able even to table any legislation, no matter what happens in the House. But even the Democratic Majority in the Senate has a limit to their power, and the reason for that is the filibuster. The filibuster allows the minority party to block any legislation presented in the Senate from a vote if there are not 60 Senators supporting the vote.
This, in a crux, hampers the Dems from passing any significant reform, and with moderate Democrats opposing any modification with the Senate procedure regarding Filibuster, Joe Biden could count on few legislative victories going into the 2022 midterm election.
There have been calls from the progressive wing of the democratic party to abolish the filibuster once and for all for quite some time, claiming that it is an antiquated procedural vote, which allows the minority party to hijack any agenda completely and would block any bill that does not have wide bi-partisan support even to be tabled for a vote. But with the balance of power at 50-50 and two Democratic Senators flat out denying any consideration for that, the nuclear option is unlikely.
There is a possible filibuster reform that could happen, which would put the burden of Filibuster on the minority party. At present, any bill in the Senate requires 60 votes to be put on the table, but in the proposed reform, the minority party has to maintain 41 ‘No’ votes to keep the Filibuster going. But even the possibility of such reform seems unlikely.
Republicans: A party in opposition not to Democrats but to democracy
Jan 6 would be remembered as a black day in the history of American Democracy. The day when the myth of American exceptionalism was shattered by the same people that sing praises of it. A peaceful transition of power that is the bedrock of American democracy was gunned down by Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol building. But blaming Trump and his supporters is the easy way out.
The leaders of the GOP have been remiss in their duty since the night of the Nov 3 election when Donald Trump threatened to challenge the result of the election. Their lackadaisical approach to baseless claims made by Trump and his followers has only served to embolden his grip on the Grand Old Party. In a recent Guardian poll, 53% of the Republicans still believe that Trump is the legitimate president, and a majority of Republicans blamed ‘Antifa,’ a far-left group, for the rioting of Jan 6, which resulted in the death of a police officer.
147 Republicans voted against certifying the election on Jan 6, 139 House members and 8 Senators, even after the riot at the Capitol building. And the only reason their efforts in overturning the election were unsuccessful is that Democrats had control of the House of Representatives at that moment, which, if the trends hold, Democrats won’t have in 2024.
A glimmer of hope for the Democrats
The playbook for 2024 is pretty clear for everyone, and it goes through the 2022 election cycle. And with Joe Biden’s approval ratings constantly in the upwards of 50%, and a favorable Senate map, it is possible that Dems might even pick up a couple of seats in the Senate.
In lieu of the Supreme Court’s latest decision to hear a case challenging the validity of Roe v Wade, a highly charged-up political environment could spur 2018-level turnout for the Democrats, enabling them to keep control of Congress.
No matter what happens in the 2022 midterm election, it is something one cannot miss out on!
What India can expect from a Joe Biden Presidency? Read here
How do US Presidential elections work? Click here.
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