Young people are inclined to support progressive policies and support candidates who back those kinds of policies. In 2018, 64% of young voters cast their ballots for Democrats. In 2020, 61% voted for Biden. Many weren't voting for Democrats but against the greater evil, dangerous Republicans. In this midterm cycle, however, young voters have discovered what sell-outs the "lesser evil" has been and just 53% cast their ballots for Democrats. Excited by Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, AOC, Cori Bush, Rashida… enthusiasm has waned drastically as voters under 30 have faced up to the reality of Biden-Schumer-Pelosi. Demonstrations of performative politics are tricking fewer and fewer young voters. In fact, many young voters understand better than ever just what empowering corporate whores like Joe Manchin, Jim Clyburn and Hakeem Jefferies means. Maybe the departure of Kyrsten Sinema will help the party’s image, but young voters are going to need a lot more than that to turn out in 2023 and 2024 races.
Young voters don’t see any movement on Medicare for All, for example. Instead they see opponents of Medicare for All, like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem Jeffries over-funding the military and crying poverty when it comes to programs that help people… like Medicare for All. The farce and disgrace of not raising the minimum wage is not strictly the fault of the Republicans, not when Democratic senators Maggie Hassan (NH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Chris Coons (DE), Tom Carper (DE), Jon Tester (MT) and Joe Manchin (WV), plus then-Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Angus King, an independent caucusing with the Democrats, all voters to kill the raise. The last Democrat in the House to oppose raising the minimum wage, Oregon Blue Dog Kurt Schrader, was defeated in his primary this year— but then the Democratic establishment abandoned the progressive victor, Jamie McLeod Skinner, to a MAGA Republican in the general, giving up a. Blue district rather than electing the person who defeated their pal. Some voters notice little things like that.
This morning, Eric Lichtblau, writing for The Guardian, reported that the Biden administration is under pressure to drop charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, which might mean more to progressive voters than aspirational pronouncements from tech administration about “freedom of the press.”
Instead of solutions, voters hear unfulfilled promises of solutions followed by endless DC game-playing, dysfunction and ugly careerism. This morning, for example, Democrats didn’t look especially good in the Politico report on the organization of the 118th Congress. They reported that as McCarthy “struggles to nail down 218 votes to be speaker, chatter of late has turned to the intriguing alternative of a ‘unity candidate’— a scenario where a small group of moderate House Republicans would band together with Democrats and elect a centrist speaker next year.” That would be a very small handful, since almost all the mainstream conservatives (which the media calls “moderates”) have been defeated or decided to retire rather than face defeat. I count maybe, 10 supposed “moderates” in the Republican conference: Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Chris Smith (NJ), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Vern Buchanan (FL), David Joyce (OH), David Valadao (CA), Mike Turner (OH), Bryan Stein (WI), Don Bacon (NE)and Dan Newhouse (WA). That’s it and that’s probably a bigger list than hard reality would dictate. The rest are a bunch of MAGAts. Politico is correct in calling it “a threat,” but nothing more than a threat.
Let’s first acknowledge that, yes, there are moderate Republicans vowing to pursue this should their hard-right colleagues continue targeting McCarthy. We caught up with Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) outside McCarthy’s office Thursday, and he floated soon-to-be-former Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and John Katko (R-NY) as possible alternatives.
“If these five or six will not play ball at all, then I will work across the aisle with Democrats,” Bacon said, referring to the handful of anti-McCarthy hardliners.
Democrats are also stoking speculation about a potential cross-party coalition. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) trollishly raised it two days after the election. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis later floated former Rep. Justin Amash, the Republican-turned-Libertarian, while WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin tossed out the idea of a Speaker Liz Cheney (R-WY).
…[T]here are myriad reasons this is not a serious possibility in Washington:
1- You would need to convince nearly every Democrat to vote for a Republican speaker. We could only find one instance in recent history where a lawmaker backed a leader from the opposite party: In 2001, the late Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) voted for Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL). Democrats immediately stripped Traficant of his committees in what would be the beginning of a parade of horribles for the colorful Youngstowner, culminating in his conviction on federal corruption charges and his expulsion from the House in 2002.
These days, the partisan divide on the Hill is even more pronounced. And for many Democrats, a newly muscular left could make it hard to justify voting for any Republican to lead the House. “It’s primary bait,” one senior Democratic aide told us Sunday night.
Incoming Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries dismissed the idea in an interview on ABC’s This Week last weekend, and most Democrats we spoke to are refusing to even weigh in on this idea on record. If they won’t even talk about this speculatively, how can you expect them to call out a Republican’s name during the Jan. 3 roll call?
2- There’s no real back channel trying to make this happen. Moderate Republicans needed to be laying the groundwork yesterday to convince like-minded Democrats that the political risk is worth taking. But we hear from lawmakers that those conversations aren’t happening.
One Democrat told us they approached Problem Solvers Caucus leader Josh Gottheimer to gauge how serious that chatter was, and the New Jersey Democrat downplayed the idea right away. Upton, we’re told, has also panned this notion privately. If that group of centrist members isn’t engaging, it’s hard to imagine other Democrats following suit.
3- Democrats would want something in return for electing a GOP speaker. Rep Ro Khanna (D-CA), for instance, told Fox News last week that he’d want Democrats to have equal subpoena authority. Other Democrats could reasonably demand committee chairmanships, promises not to impeach Biden or other administration officials or other plums.
4- Centrist Republicans would also be at political risk. Working with Democrats to elect a speaker chosen mostly by the other party is a surefire recipe for a primary challenge— even if the deal didn’t come with the kinds of governing concessions that Khanna and others are discussing.
“Look, Don Bacon is not going to go back to Nebraska and explain why he was only one of fewer than 10 Republicans to vote for a Democrat-majority-chosen speaker,” one conservative aide told Playbook. “I’ll eat my hat.” And finally…
5- Democrats want to see the GOP squirm. As one Democratic lawmaker gleefully told us last week, “Get the popcorn ready on Jan. 3.” The party abhors McCarthy and can’t wait to see him and House Republicans flounder, arguing that they are reaping what they’ve long sown. No Democrat is leaping at the opportunity to short-circuit what could be days, if not weeks of GOP drama.
Now that’s not to say all this “unity speaker” talk is pointless. There’s a reason why McCarthy allies have been promoting it as though it were a real possibility; the thinking is that such a threat could scare conservatives who oppose McCarthy into submission by threatening them with the possibility of a Democrat-blessed, even-less-palatable leader. But conservatives we’ve spoken to say they’re not buying it.
To be sure, crazier things have happened in Washington, and, as one lawmaker said to us, if McCarthy still can’t get the gavel after multiple votes on Jan. 3, all bets are off. But at this point the idea of a “unity speaker” seems no more realistic than a Speaker Andy Bibbgs (R-AZ).