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Status Quo-Loving Democratic Leaders Are Endangering The Party's Midterm Prospects



On June 10, Paul Waldman wrote that the conservative Democrats-- who, he forgot to mention, completely and utterly control the ability of the Democrats to accomplish anything in Congress-- are winning elections, which is correct. The DSCC and DCCC, not to mention corporate PACs-- make sure of that. He then tried to cheer up progressives by claiming that Progressives are winning the war. Wishful thinking! "Right now," he wrote, "there really isn't much of a debate going on within the Democratic Party between moderates and progressives, because the moderates are in such retreat. You can find them, and they may have some ideas, but there’s no momentum behind them. The party isn’t carefully deliberating about moderate policy solutions and how to get them enacted, as it was 30 years ago when Bill Clinton and his allies shifted its direction to the center."


The problem is that "the debate is largely between progressives and what we might call the ideologically fluid: people such as Biden, McAuliffe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer-- all of whom have liberal impulses but are more concerned with short-term political practicality than any long-term ideological project." Waldman has been in the Beltway hive too long. He is as incorrect in his analysis as he was to call Schumer the Senate Minority Leader, even if Schumer is behaving as though he is exactly that instead of Senate Majority Leader. Schumer has a minority leader mindset and he probably soon will engineer that title for himself again. Nonetheless, Waldman got that wrong as he did that Schumer, Biden and McAuliffe have "liberal impulses." Schumer hasn't had a liberal impulse since he pretended to be a Eugene McCarthy supporter while he was in college. Neither Biden nor McAuliffe has ever had one. He may be right about Pelosi; she was once a progressive. Most of us weren't of voting age at the time. And, like Waldman's folks-with-liberal-impulses crew, she's now all about some kind of a Frankenstein version of what Democrats call "short-term political practicality."


Schumer and Pelosi make sure actual progressives with actual liberal impulses are sabotaged by the party election committees, Schumer being far more heavy-handed than Pelosi in this. That's why the Democrats are either saddled with conservative who win-- like Schumer picks Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Jacky Rosen (NV), Frackenlooper (CO), and Mark Kelly (AZ)-- or, much more frequently, with pathetic losers like Cal Cunningham (NC), Patrick Murphy (FL), Sara Gideon (ME), Barbara Bollier (KS), Katie McGinty (PA), MJ Hegar (TX), Evan Bayh (IN), Jaime Harrison (SC), Ted Strickland (OH), Deborah Ross (NC), Amy McGrath (KY), Theresa Greenfield (IA)... to name just a few. [I've included a 2022 Senate thermometer above in case you want to contribute to the campaigns of non-Schumer candidates running for nominations in states where Schumer has already picked a bunch of 2022 losers.)


Writing for The Hill this morning, Bill Schneider ignores the entire idea of who the candidates will be in the midterms and what they stand for, and instead offers the Democrats the abortion issue as a wild card savior. He wrote that "First midterms are usually setbacks for a newly elected president’s party. In 1994, President Clinton’s first midterm, Democrats lost 54 House seats and eight Senate seats. As a result, Democrats lost their majorities in both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. In President Obama’s first midterm in 2010 (“the tea party election”), Republicans gained a whopping 63 House seats and six Senate seats. How many seats will Republicans need to gain to win control of the Senate next year? Exactly one. How many House seats? Just five. Right now, Republicans control the redistricting process in 20 states, including Texas and Florida. Democrats control the process in 11 states. Republicans aren’t taking any chances. They are busy passing measures to suppress voter turnout and control election administration in red states. Meanwhile Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and President Biden are chasing the chimera of “bipartisanship” in an era of extreme partisan polarization. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has already said that, if Republicans gain control of the Senate next year, it’s 'highly unlikely' he’d allow President Biden to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024, and possibly even in 2023."


Further, Schneider adds that "If both houses go Republican, Donald Trump could get a big boost for 2024. It would mean that Trump’s defeat last year-- apparent to most everyone but him-- did not do any serious damage to the Republican Party... Aside from echoing dire warnings of inflation, Republicans are trying to heat up the culture wars by attacking 'critical race theory' and socialism. Those issues don’t appear to be getting much traction. On the other hand, the sharp rise in crime rates could pay off for law-and-order Republicans, just as it did in the 1980s. So, what we have is Democrats looking vulnerable next year and counting on a popular president, a strong economy and lingering anti-Trump sentiment to save them."


Now Professor Schneider's wildcard:


The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case of a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after 15 weeks. The case represents the most direct challenge yet to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. A decision to uphold the Mississippi law would be widely interpreted as repealing the Roe ruling that gave abortion rights constitutional protection. A solid majority of Americans has long opposed overturning Roe (58 percent this year, with 32 percent in favor of overturning it).
The court-- now dominated 6 to 3 by conservatives, including three Trump nominees-- will very likely rule on the Mississippi law by next June. Just in time for the 2022 campaign.
The politics of the abortion issue has always been explosive. We saw that back in 1989, when the Supreme Court issued its Webster decision inviting states to pass abortion restrictions. 1989 was not a presidential or midterm election year, but the Webster decision provoked a backlash in local contests.
The abortion issue was key to the election of Douglas Wilder in 1989, the first Black governor of Virginia (and the first Black governor of any state since Reconstruction), and to the election of David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City.
According to the New York Times, Wilder “built his campaign around his support for abortion rights to an extent that no major candidate for high office has ever dared before.” The Washington Post reported that “after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Webster abortion case in July, Wilder’s media campaign seized on that volatile issue, casting it in terms of government intervention and personal privacy.” An exit poll revealed that Virginia voters who called abortion the biggest issue went 62 to 38 percent for Wilder.
...The abortion issue faded after 1989, when the Supreme Court reaffirmed Roe in a 1992 decision that accepted some restrictions on abortion rights in Pennsylvania. Next year, however, if the Court hands down a ruling in the Mississippi case that is seen as striking down Roe, it’s likely to create a firestorm that benefits Democrats. The message is simple: You can’t take away people’s rights without creating a fierce political backlash.
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