Why Dems Could Win This Fall
An uncharacteristically optimistic take on how recent events have upended the midterms
Optimism does not come naturally to me. If I had a family crest, “Prepare for the worst, be surprised by the best" would be the motto emblazoned on it. I have tried to avoid telling people what they want to hear about a high stakes midterm election in this absolutely miserable political environment. Up until recently, Democrats were stuck in a doom loop.. That defeatism threatened to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What activist, donor, or voter wants to sign up for a suicide mission? And to be honest, it’s been hard to make a reasonable, fact-based case that Democrats could upend the historical trends. However, over the last few weeks, the worm has turned. Democrats now have a legitimate shot to outpace expectations dramatically.
I am not devolving into a sunny guy. This is not a prediction. It is not an admonition against bedwetting. I think the odds are still against Democrats. We have an eternity till Election Day. The future looked quite dire three weeks ago, and may look just as dire in three weeks. But as we sit here today, one can make a credible bull case for Democrats.
Reason 1 for Optimism: Success
All political analysis should begin with the fact that America has a growing, diverse, pro-truth, pro-democracy, anti-MAGA majority. Now, of course, this majority is not evenly distributed geographically, which is why the GOP often has an advantage in the Senate and Electoral College. But the bulk of the races this cycle will be conducted in states Joe Biden won in 2020. Simply reconstructing the Biden coalition in composition and turnout will be sufficient to win. Our major problem to date has been disillusion and disappointment among our base and the Independent voters who favor Biden. Less than a month ago, Democrats seemed headed for a legislative disaster. During this period, Jonathan Chait wrote in New York Magazine:
By realistic or even minimal standards of performance, this two-year term, almost certain to be the last period of Democratic-controlled government for the foreseeable future, has been a failure. The ramifications of this defeat — political, economic, and ecological — will reverberate.
And then everything changed.
In rapid succession, Democrats passed legislation on guns, microchips, veterans’ benefits, and the historic Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats now have reasons to be happy, and Independents have reasons to reconsider supporting Republicans. More specifically, the climate change provisions are an opportunity to re-engage young voters. Last week, after the Manchin-Schumer deal was announced, I wrote:
No group of our core Democratic constituency has become more disillusioned or disengaged than younger voters. Passing the most ambitious climate change bill in history creates an opportunity to re-engage this group. People won’t vote this time if they think their last vote didn’t matter. Passing a serious climate change package is proof that every door knocked, text sent, and vote cast in 2020 mattered a whole helluva lot.
Democrats now have a powerful case to convince their voters to keep them in the majority.
Reason 2: Improving Political Environment
Despite this newsletter and other strategy, tactics, and message-focused sources, the biggest factors in political success are often far outside the control of the candidates and campaign operatives. The driving force in this election is inflation — and specifically, the price of gas and groceries. In most polling, 80 to 90 percent of voters listed inflation as a top concern. Most gave Biden (and Democrats more broadly) abysmal marks for their handling of the issue. As gas prices went up, President Biden’s approval rating went down. While the near-term picture on inflation is cloudy, gas prices have been steadily declining for more than a month.
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