DEPUTY & OPINION EDITOR
The GOP has a lot to look forward to, electorally speaking, heading into the 2022 midterms
Joe Biden’s approval rating has seen a steady decline since the embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan. The economy — often the best indicator of whether the incumbent party will retain power — continues to struggle amid supply chain issues, oppressive lockdown measures and runaway inflation.
According to a poll released in November, Republicans have their largest lead in the generic congressional ballot since the poll began in 1981. Fifty-one percent of registered voters said they would vote for the Republican candidate in their congressional district, whereas 41% said they would vote for the Democrat. Additionally, 23 Democrats have announced their retirement ahead of the midterms — traditionally an indication of a lack of confidence in the party’s chances — and there’s still 11 months to go.
Even if the country’s situation improves somewhat, Republicans will most likely reclaim both the House and Senate by comfortable margins.
And many people, pundits and experts alike, seem to believe that this will save the conservative movement and the country as a whole.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer predicted that Republicans could unseat as many as 70 Democrats next year and warned “in this environment, no Democrat is safe.”
RNC Chairwoman, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer are just a few who have predicted a “red wave” that will “take back the country” in the midterms and 2024.
“They’re running for the hills,” GOP pollster Robert Blizzard said about the Democrat retirements, according to The Hill. “I think they see the writing on the wall.”
Even Tucker Carlson forecasted that Democrats’ low polling numbers meant the “end of the Democratic Party as a governing majority.”
Once the GOP has control of Congress, all of the country’s problems will magically disappear. This kind of messianic forecast is pretty typical of the RNC (When it’s not calling you a traitor to Donald Trump for not chipping in your five bucks) and congressional candidates, but even more skeptical commentators and voters have seemingly adopted the faith.
It sure would be nice if that was the case, but, alas, the midterms will not be a miracle cure-all.
A Republican victory in the 2022 midterms will be enough to arrest the leftward slide of the country. No single election will be.
We’ve been promised these kinds of victories before. We were promised a full repudiation of Barack Obama’s agenda if we handed the Senate back to Republicans in 2014. We gave Mitch McConnell a great victory. The party gained nine seats in the Senate and 13 in the House.
2016 carried the same sort of message, but the voters fell short. Trump won the White House, but the election proved to be a minor setback for down-ballot Republicans. Democrats captured two Senate seats and acquired a net six-seat gain in the House, but the GOP majorities were preserved.
But the swamp was not drained. The country’s domestic and international decline was not halted. The wall wasn’t even built. At best, it delayed the letward march by four years, and at worst it enflamed the left’s desire for petty vengeance against those who would dare to oppose them — giving rise to the venomous cancel culture, critical race theory programs and totalitarian lockdowns.
And we have no reason to believe the Republicans will be any better at delivering on their campaign platform after 2022 than they did after 2016.
First, there aren’t enough swing seats in the House and especially in the Senate, for a Republican victory to represent a mandate change.
The Republicans need a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to override Joe Biden’s veto on a bill, but the cohort of Senate seats coming up for the 2022 election only have four or five seats Republicans can reasonably win. They have a shot at flipping Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire, but that’s about it.
Michael Bennet’s seat in Colorado is technically possible, but the state as a whole has transformed from a reliable Republican state to swing state to growing Democratic stronghold at an alarming rate. The other Democrat-held seats are in solid blue states like California, Illinois, New York and Connecticut. The GOP also faces tight races in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
So, at most, the Republicans can hope to secure a 54-seat majority in the Senate. They face a similar prospect in the House — reclaiming the majority but falling far short of the super-majority required to even begin to think about overturning Biden’s policies.
The Republicans currently hold 213 seats in the House. They need only five more seats to win the majority, but they need to win 77 seats to reach the two-thirds supermajority of 290.
No party has captured 77 seats or more since Republicans won 81 seats in the 1938 midterms election, and no party has held 290 seats or more in the House since the Democrats had 292 after the 1976 election.
Without these supermajorities, a Republican Congress will at best be able to operate as a buffer against Biden’s agenda and stall legislative action until 2024 when the Democrats could retake Congress or Republicans could recapture the White House.
Stalling Democratic policies by controlling majorities in Congress became adequate a long time ago, and becomes even more irrelevant as the presidency continues to expand the purview of executive actions and the federal bureaucracy takes on more and more duties from the three traditional branches of government.
And even if the Republican Party, by some miracle, attained a supermajority in both houses of Congress, a victory in 2022 won’t even be able to mend the divisions within the party itself, much less the nation. The same factionalism we’ve seen after other conservative victories in 2014 and 2016 will come back with a vengeance as the party continues to struggle with Trump’s legacy in the lead up to 2024.
When and if Republicans retake Congress in the midterm, they can take some positive steps in the lead up to 2024. They can force moderate choices for agency and judicial appointments and perhaps work with Democrats on a bipartisan bill on Big Tech. The GOP should focus most on its oversight role and focus on the slight conservative advantage in the federal judiciary to thwart Biden policies until it can recapture the presidency. Other than that, the party can only stall Democrats until 2024.
Second, there’s just too much to fix. It’s that simple. Because of incompetent leadership from earlier generations of Republicans and the determination of Democrats to ensure that their vision for the country is achieved, the nation is inundated with monumental challenges. Everything from the debt to health care to the border to the threat from China to a myriad of other issues is building toward a boiling point. Eventually, the accumulated weight of these burdens will become too much to handle.
Political expediency prevents politicians from addressing some of them. No elected official who wants to be reelected will ever seriously talk about scaling back Social Security or Medicare, despite both programs’ deep flaws and impending insolvency. There is no greater gift to your opponent in the next election than to talk negatively about New Deal entitlements. Even many hard core Tea Party-ers get defensive when someone mentions Social Security reform. Other issues like the southern border crisis and the opioid epidemic are important to regular Americans but get lost in the break-neck speed of the media cycle.
But just because it’s no longer in the media limelight doesn’t mean it’s still not there or that it’s still not important.
The clashing interests within the party between moderates and hardliners as well as the sheer logistical feat of tackling all these issues without control over the presidency or the Executive Branch departments ensure that it would be almost impossible for Republicans to deliver the tide-turning win they promise and many believe will come.
Much of it is election year bluster, but regular Americans, who are affected by these issues far more than the people they send to Congress to fix them are, can’t keep sending money or support to politicians who continue to come up empty-handed in the next Congress.
This electoral bait-and-switch can’t last forever.
The reforms now necessary to appropriately address the problems facing this country cannot be achieved in an average political cycle. And, with politics as gridlocked as it currently is, it’s questionable if these problems can be solved through the democratic process at all.