It was great to see President Barack
Obama in Richmond, Virginia, campaigning with former governor and
current gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, on October 23. He
reminded me of a college pep rally cheerleader in some ways,
encouraging people to get out and vote for McAuliffe and do it now
since Virginia has early voting. The cheerleader description is not
meant to be disparaging. Except for the gray hair he joked about,
Obama appeared youthful and energized as he moved around the stage,
voice booming. He also seemed wise as he talked about what is at
stake in Virginia, nothing less than our democracy.
Obama’s enthusiasm overcome Virginia’s historical
pattern? Their odd-year elections usually yield a governor in the
opposite party of the presidential winner, which means that
McAuliffe’s opponent, an acolyte of the former President, is
giving the former governor a run for his money. Virginia went blue in
2020, with President Biden carrying the state by 10 points. Since
then, though, Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted. That,
combined with the historical pattern, suggests that the race is a
toss-up. If Democrats lose governor’s races in Virginia and New
Jersey on November 2, both of which pollsters describe as close, that
may bode ill for 2022 congressional elections.
already hold a very narrow margin in the House of Representatives.
Historical patterns suggest that the President’s party is
likely to lose seats in mid-term elections. If Democrats lose more
than 2 seats, they lose control of the House. The 2022 electoral
outcomes hinge on turnout, which is why redistricting is a matter of
extreme concern and why the voter suppression measures Republicans
are introducing in state after state may influence electoral
outcomes. Voter turnout will make the difference between whether
Democrats can maintain majorities in the House and Senate, but
Democratic enthusiasm, over the top in 2020, may be muted in 2022.
Biden made big promises during the 2020 campaign. Among other things,
he told Black voters that he had our backs. What can activists tell
Black voters in 2022? Will people who yearn for economic security,
better jobs, and voting rights be satisfied if all Biden and his team
can say is that “we tried.” Republican intransigence and
the rigidity of Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and (WV) and Krysten
Sinema (AZ) have resulted in alterations to Biden’s ambitious
Build Back Better legislation. The free community college proposal
has already been withdrawn. Will voters be left with enough to
motivate them to vote in 2022?
Obama came into office in 2009 with lots of legislative ideas. He
pushed the Affordable Care act hard, and it passed, expanding health
care opportunities for tens of millions of our citizens. But he
advocated for that legislation during a recession when many were more
eager for jobs than for health care (the two go together, but jobs
are a priority in the middle of a recession). The result? Flawed
Republican messaging combined with general electoral malaise turned a
Democratic Congress into a Republican one. Obama spent the next two
years fighting folks who promised to make him a one-term President.
He got much less done than he might have, and Republicans set the
stage, with their opposition, for the victory of the 45th President.
That former President would love to
make a comeback, and although Republicans know better, many are
rallying around him. Will the 2022 elections set the stage for a
recidivist comeback? Our nation seems hopelessly divided. Republians
are increasingly extremist; Democrats are both apathetic and
estranged. Progressive Democrats have allowed the great to get in the
way of the good, insisting on things that have no possibility of
passing in the Senate, tanking legislation before it is even
aren’t entirely wrong to insist on a higher minimum wage,
expanded health care, child tax credits, and economic relief. Still,
politics is the art of compromise. How do we compromise on our
fundamental rights, like our voting rights? Bravo to Biden for
backing off his embrace of the filibuster, but have his comments (not
actions) been too little, too late?
the electorate is not motivated by these first months of the Biden
administration, will they be inclined to vote in 2022? If they
aren’t, we are dealing with 2010 déjà vu. And if
that déjà vu returns the former grafter and morally
bankrupt President to office, the entire nation will suffer.