Wednesday, June 09, 2021


I'm generally in agreement with Yastreblyansky, but I don't share his optimism about the next few election cycles, or what comes after that.

Yas has high hopes for 2022, citing, among other things,
the end of Covid and, if it works out, the extraordinary job market and visible physical progress of the Biden double infrastructure program, which voters are going to be really aware of early on as it affects life in every community in the country, at least if Democrats manage to get the news out.
Republicans, of course, are portraying the current economic comeback as both tepid and problematic. Workers won't work for the wages offered because they'd rather sit on their asses and collect unemployment! Small business owners are struggling to fill jobs! Inflation is imminent! All of this framing is retransmitted by the mainstream media, which is as offended as the right by the notion that labor might win a few victories at capital's expense.

As for infrastructure, I've seen how bureaucratic permitting struggles can delay the start of big projects. I also saw how Republicans successfully attacked President Obama when signs were posted at infrastructure projects linking them to his stimulus plan.

Maybe the economy will be going at full speed by 2022 -- but Democrats could well agree to far less infrastructure than they want, and will probably be terrible at selling themselves as the party responsible for prosperity and jobs, while Republicans will do their usual first-rate job of creating clouds of suspicion around everything Democrats do.
This ought to be a midterm like 1934 (Democratic gains of 9 Senate and 9 House seats)! I'm really not kidding.
I've also seen others make comparisons to 2002, when Republicans gained seats in Congress. But both 1934 and 2002 were years when a crisis being managed by the party in the White House was ongoing. Voters rewarded FDR's party in 1934 because they thought he was dealing well with the ongoing Depression. In 2002, we still seemed to be under attack from terrorists, and voters thought George W. Bush's GOP was handling that crisis well. If by 2022 the pandemic appears to be well in the past, I think President Biden will get less political benefit than, say, the governors who seemed to be successfully managing the crisis in 2020. (Trump got no benefit in 2020 because few people thought he was managing COVID well.)
The places where they'll have passed the grotesque anti-voting legislation are going to be places that would inevitably have gone Republican anyway.
Um ... Georgia? We're hoping for a Stacey Abrams governorship and the reelection of Senator Raphael Warnock. Can all that happen under the new law?

And here's Yas's most provocative assertion:
... the Republican party that staged a failed coup attempt in 2021 is a dinosaur that has been dying since 1876.... Their 40% national approval isn't getting any bigger, and hasn't over the past four years. Democrats are growing, and ought to be growing more....

The fact that [Republicans] chose Trump as their representative in 2016—dumber than Reagan, less involved than Bush—was a sign of how far they've fallen. I understand that doesn't make them harmless, zombies are dead but they're still a problem. They can do a lot of damage on their way out, but they can't win. They don't have ideas and they don't have people.
Is "They don't have ideas" meant to be a conscious echo of Lionel Trilling? Seven decades ago, he wrote:
... the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.
Those "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas" were enough to give us Reagan, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Grover Norquist, Fox News, George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, the Roberts Court ... in short, a movement that's had a stranglehold on American politics for forty years. Simple-mindedness is a feature, not a bug -- it was for Reagan, it was for first-term George W., and it got Donald Trump 74 million votes.

(And yes, I know that Joe Biden got 81 million. I just wish I could believe that another Democrat would have done as well -- say, Kamala Harris, who could well be the 2024 nominee, and who is becoming the latest in a long series of Democrats said to be widely disliked, the kind of conventional wisdom that feeds on itself, as it did for Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.)

Maybe I'm wrong about all this. Maybe Biden's popularity will sustain itself and spread to the rest of his party. Maybe heartland America will finally see the Republican Party as conspiratorial, maniacal, and extreme.

I just think it's unlikely. We're going to have to fight for every win in 2022 and 2024, and it will be a much tougher fight than 2020. But I hope I'm wrong and Yas is right.

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