Unpopularity Contest: How Midterm Success Brings U.S. Democrats to a Historic Dilemma

Unpopularity Contest: How Midterm Success Brings U.S. Democrats to a Historic Dilemma
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To hold their ground, Democrats had to make promises that risked alienating their major donors

Photos of a smiling President Biden made headlines in the days following the midterm elections. Democrats’ worst fears — that they will lose both houses of Congress to Republicans in an election debacle that would pave the way for a MAGA Trump presidency in 2024 — have gone unrealized. The dreaded “red wave” had turned into a “red ripple”, and President Biden was already talking about running again in 2024, when he turns 82.

How valid is this assessment? If the results are not yet final, we know that the Democrats will probably continue to narrowly control the Senate thanks to the casting vote of the vice president, and that the Republicans will obtain a small majority in the House.

All of Biden’s praise for not losing more comes from comparisons to past midterm losses of incumbent presidents. However, this ignores recent critical changes which, if taken into account, point not so much to a secure electoral future for Democrats, but to the possibility that Democrats have jumped from the proverbial frying pan of the structure. increasingly complex part of American politics. , in the fire.

Policy scholar William Galston noticed the change. Speaking of the US presidential elections, he observed that “between 1920 and 1984…the competition between the two parties resembles World War II, with a high level of mobility and rapid gains and losses of large swaths of territory. In contrast, the contemporary era resembles World War I, with a single, essentially stationary line of battle and endless trench warfare. Given how few seats have changed hands, it seems that this logic also applies to congressional elections, and despite recent demographic shifts – college education, urbanization, etc. – between 40 and 45% of the American electorate remains solidly Republican.

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Moreover, Biden and his Democrats appear to have lost an unpopularity contest, rather than winning a popularity contest. As President Biden’s approval rating reached new depths, many Democratic candidates avoided him in their campaigns. President Trump, for his part, hasn’t done much better. Although most of the contestants he endorsed won, none of those he endorsed for hotly contested races did. Many commentators blamed this on his insistence on candidates who agreed with his false narrative of the “stolen” 2020 presidential election. unattractive. With Ron DeSantis winning a dramatic victory in Florida, the possibility of him replacing Trump as the Republican presidential nominee is being considered. Even if that happens, the Trumpist policy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

This is evident in many aspects of the voting system. The small gains made by Democrats came largely from women and young people, who typically showed up in large numbers and voted Democrat because they were strongly committed to abortion rights. However, this factor may lose its usefulness for Democrats if, as increasingly seems the case, Republicans also soften their stance on abortion.

The rest of the winnings came from the usual source, money. Not only was it the most expensive mid-term ever, but experts suggest Democrats significantly outspent Republicans. This has returned US elections to the pattern where elections are essentially bought by the top spending party, a pattern that the election of President Donald Trump very briefly reversed.

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File Photo: Then-President Donald Trump And Florida Governor Ron Desantis Are Pictured During A November 2019 Campaign Rally In Sunrise, Florida.
Republicans prefer Trump rival for 2024 – poll

Even with this monetary advantage, however, Democrats have had to move away from their traditional “woke” agenda and towards the agenda that Trump Republicans have been emphasizing: the day-to-day issues of the economy, inflation and employment. Indeed, commentators pointed to how discipline reigned this time among the Democratic candidates.

This necessary change has placed Democrats in a historic dilemma. Since the Democratic Party accepted Reagan’s neoliberal revolution under Clinton, it has acted more or less exclusively as the party of corporate capital. It has compensated for the loss of support from working people and black voters mainly by spending more and more on election campaigns to convince them that the intangible benefits they provide – symbolic recognition of women’s or minority rights when most remain marginalized and disproportionately less well off if not downright poor – suffice. Today, however, the very pressures created by Trump have forced Democrats to make promises that run counter to the interests of the very corporations that fund Democratic election campaigns: fighting inflation, unemployment, or low wages. requires higher taxation and stricter regulation. If the Democrats take these steps, they will alienate the very donors without whom they cannot win the election. If they don’t take these steps, they will alienate their constituents.


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