I always enjoy “analysis” pieces like this one, which says, “Democrats should write off the midterms.” The problem is that Democrats, who admittedly have a predisposition toward pessimism, sometimes turn these silly attacks into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Before the Texas abortion law, I just wanted to hold the House. Now, I want more seats. What I really want is for Democrats to add two more seats in the Senate so we can finally get the desperately needed reform done that Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have prevented. So here are a few things to get excited about:
Gerrymandering is not the slam dunk the GOP is expecting
As far as gerrymandering goes, Democrats are right to be pessimistic but likely blowing the effects way out of proportion. The fact is, the red states being gerrymandered have already been gerrymandered to their breaking points. “There are states that can’t get worse, like Michigan and Ohio,” said Ali Lapp, the founder and president of House Majority PAC. She raised $160 million for the Democrats in the 2020 election cycle. Pointing out states like New York and Illinois, where Democrats have control, she said, “I think the national result of all these states will be a wash.” In fact, the recent Cook Political Report just downgraded the Republican gain by redistricting alone to netting only one or two House seats.
States like Texas, which have been gerrymandered to death for the past 16 years, have to figure out what to do with all those new liberals moving into their cities. They have to go somewhere. However, a state like New York was last redistricted when the GOP was in control of the state Senate. This year, the Democrats are in firm control and could take five to seven seats from the Republicans. New York Governor Hochul has already said she has no problems with gerrymandering the hell out of the Empire State to make up for the GOP assaults elsewhere.
Ironically, the Republicans might have had more seats to play with if not for their blatant racism. The Commerce Department, which conducts the census, did the bidding of Trump’s white nationalists to undercount minority votes—especially with the Latinx population. The thinking here is that counting them would help the Democrats. Unfortunately, this racist strategy meant they undercounted in states like Florida, Arizona, and Texas. This means that these states aren’t getting the seats they deserve, and since the Republicans have the trifecta in these states, they aren’t available for the GOP to gerrymander. Oops.
Voting suppression will backfire
The Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot here as well. The assumption they run with has always been that if you make voting more accessible, it will inevitably benefit Democrats. Donald Trump admitted as much when he stated that allowing early and absentee voting options means “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
Yet that just isn’t the case. When the National Voter Registration Act—known as the “Motor Voter Act”—was signed into law in 1993, Republicans cried that it would kill their party. It didn’t. They won the majority the following year. If you make registration and voting more straightforward, all that happens is that the pool of less partisan people is more likely to vote, which cuts both ways.
The biggest target of the GOP’s war on democracy is getting rid of, or at least significantly curtailing, mail-in voting. Yet, a recent study conducted by a team at the Public Policy Institute of California found that while it increased turnout, it didn’t make electoral outcomes any better for the Democrats. Their models indicated that access to mail-in voting increased turnout for Republican candidates, who did quite well in 2020. It was pretty popular with rural populations, and especially the elderly. Older voters, which have historically trended Republican, used vote-by-mail ballots more than any other group. Gov. DeSantis even begged Trump to lay off attacking voting by mail in Florida, which the Republicans count on. Trump reversed himself, but only in Florida.
However, it was confirmed in Texas as well. Republicans have always used mail-in ballots more than Democrats in Texas, up until last year. If Texas Republicans were smart, they would have studied to see if last year’s election was more of a one-off because of the pandemic before they shot themselves in the foot. But no, Donald Trump told them that mail-in voting is bad, so the Texas legislature is moving to significantly curtail it.
Republicans who are concerned are counting on their base’s white privilege and enthusiasm to counter the obstacles they are putting up for Democratic voters. Still, not everyone is convinced this is a good idea. Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Republican operative who has since left the party, said there’s a real possibility this blows up their faces: “By appearing to intentionally try to keep poor people of color from voting, you will incense them, and you’ll get exactly the reaction you didn’t want.”
There’s already evidence that this has happened. People went ballistic when Georgia passed their ridiculous law targeting African American voters this year, getting so petty as to ban giving bottled water in large voting lines. Thanks to Stacey Abrams and her vast network of Black women organizers on the ground via Fair Fight Action, 95% of Georgia citizens over 18 years old are now registered to vote next year. Again, oops.
Running on what?
Republicans are working overtime to give the American populace plenty of reasons to hate them. In return, the entire national Republican strategy is trying to give Americans reasons to hate Democrats. What they can’t ever do is articulate why anyone should vote for them.
If you ask a Republican what they stand for, you won’t get any good answers. Too much government spending? Oh, that’s rich. The so-called party of limited spending spent almost 4 trillion while in power, not counting the COVID-19 spending, with absolutely nothing to show for it.
In 2020, Republicans banked on the idea of “law and order.” That’s problematic because the party of “law and order” refuses to condemn sedition and has even attacked the cops at the Capitol who defended them. They look utterly ridiculous complaining about peaceful protests in cities while supporting obvious right-wing violence. And make no mistake, the GOP has gone all-in on violence. The former Party of Lincoln has now become the party of “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” as Mitch McConnell put it recently. Thanks to Trump’s influence, white supremacists and Nazis advocating for a “race war” run for office as Republicans. It’s a disturbing trend.
Some Republican lawmakers are trying to say they are all about accountability in places like Afghanistan. Even putting aside Trump’s surrender to the Taliban, everyone has seen that Republicans are incapable of managing a damn thing, whether it’s relief to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico or even just distributing vaccine doses. As you may recall, Trump delegated everything to either incompetent underlings or his unqualified son-in-law, who essentially ran the country.
In contrast, the Democrats took COVID-19 seriously and put scientists back in charge. Vaccinations were made easily accessible, and vaccination sites increased, which means the vaccination rate skyrocketed. There were no more ridiculous conspiracy theories coming from the White House, like telling people to inject bleach. We rejoined the World Health Organization and restored the directorate for global health security. Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan to save the economy.
We repaired alliances and let Russia know they aren’t calling the shots anymore. We got the desperately needed infrastructure bill through the Senate. We are the party that protects women’s rights, while the GOP tries to take them away. Oh, and Biden will be the one remembered for finally getting us out of Afghanistan. The GOP? They opposed all of these things.
So I ask again, what the hell is the GOP going to run on?
Pundits always look at history, even when it’s wrong
The year was 1998. Pundits and pollsters predicted that Republicans would pick up seats during Clinton’s second term. After all, there was the well-documented six-year itch: one would have to go back to 1822, in which a president’s party gained seats in the House during a president’s second term. In addition, House Republicans had a foolproof plan to win: don’t try to pass any laws, but bring up the Monica Lewinsky scandal all the time. The GOP, like always, stayed on message. Then the election happened. Republicans lost five seats, including two of Clinton’s most vocal critics.
The GOP is following the same playbook this year. Don’t pass anything, and bring up a Biden scandal—even if it’s made up. (They were all in on Afghanistan, but lately, it’s been Biden’s dog.)
It’s the Republican motto: If something is proven not to work, keep doing it. I guess that’s why they still promote trickle-down theory.
The June ticking time bomb
If you thought the SCOTUS ruling on Texas’ abortion law was bad, wait until June. The justices will take on Roe v. Wade directly in late June of next year with a Mississippi law that seeks to overturn it. I can’t stress enough the pitfall for the Republicans here. Since no one in politics can see past the next few days, no one is talking about this now. Just wait. Right-wing media, like Fox, is still telling people that young voters are obsessed with Afghanistan. Oh, Fox.
In reality, there is no good way out for the Republicans here. SCOTUS may finally overthrow Roe v. Wade, as the right-wing conservatives are pushing. If they do, I promise you the backlash will be enormous. Younger voters have taken abortion for granted, and most want it legal in all circumstances. If you want every Democrat to come out for the midterms, this is how you do it.
On the flip side, if the conservative justices don’t overturn Roe v. Wade, the backlash from angry conservatives will be just as grave. They have been promised this action for decades, and I cannot stress the betrayal they would feel with a 6-3 majority. There won’t be that enthusiasm that Republican legislators are counting on from their base to overcome the voting obstacles they installed this year, but that certainly won’t be an issue on the Democratic side.
First election since the insurrection
Democracy is on the ballot this year, and that’s not hyperbole, but the truth. The overwhelming majority of Americans were disgusted by the Republican attempt on Jan. 6 to overthrow the 2020 election results, using terms like “shocked, horrified” and “something you would expect to see in a third world nation.” Some in the Republican party desperately want people to forget this even happened. Yet, the fringe that runs the Republican base is making sure no one forgets by holding rallies supporting the insurrectionists. Even worse are the Republican lawmakers who have attempted to downplay or even justify the violence of that day. Everyone knows that if the Republicans were to seize power in the House, things would get much worse.
Not only would what happened in Texas be peanuts if the GOP takes control in the midterms, but our very elections would be in peril. After Jan. 6, no one can say they don’t know the consequences of giving Kevin McCarthy the speaker’s gavel. A GOP-controlled House will not certify the electoral votes for a 2024 Biden win, no matter what.
They will again make baseless claims that the election was marred by widespread fraud and then contest it so McCarthy can assume duties as “acting president” over Joe Biden. The conservative block on SCOTUS, which is now not even pretending to be unbiased, will let this happen.
This is simply a fact and is the case that Democrats need to be making at every opportunity. It’s not left vs. right anymore; it’s democracy vs. fascism. This alone should give people pause before voting for a Republican at any level of government. They are supporting the party apparatus that has declared war on our nation’s very foundations, and they need to be stopped.
Well-deserved Republican funding problems
People are angry, and they are no longer just blaming the politicians who are trying to kill democracy but also attacking those who would fund them. Many corporate PACs vowed not to support the #SeditionCaucus. When Toyota tried to backpedal, it didn’t go well for them.
Among House Republicans who voted for sedition, there were sharp variations in their fundraising attempts. Those who built national profiles as hard-line Trump loyalists made up the difference from corporate PACS with significant fundraising hauls from small donors. This category includes incumbents like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz. Yet, the other seditionists saw a substantial decline in fundraising as compared to last year. The majority of them are small-time industry hogs who screwed themselves. Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican in Oklahoma, had almost $150,000 in his first quarter of 2019. This year? $42,000.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a long history of backing Republican candidates over the past decade, but it’s getting harder and harder. The population has been none too keen on companies who fund legislators who assault democracy and voting rights. The chamber recognized this and is no longer a GOP playground. For the first time last year, the chamber endorsed 23 House Democrats. Tom Donohue, the organization’s CEO for 24 years, resigned after Trump refused to accept the election.
The Republican funding problems go deeper. House Republicans have long depended on funding from the Koch network, but the Kochs announced they are re-evaluating their donations—especially to members of the Sedition Caucus. Other funding avenues have taken a big hit. Their vast corruption has practically demolished the National Rifle Association, and the godawful Sheldon Adelson has finally departed this earth.
On the flip side, Democrats are soaring past Republicans in fundraising. The second quarter of 2021 showed that ActBlue pulled in $289 million in online contributions, far more than doubling the amount that the GOP apparatus has taken in.
Trump is screwing things up, as always
Lastly, there is Trump. Fortunately for us, his colossal screwups are no longer hurting everyone—just the GOP. Right now, he is telling Republicans not to donate to any arm of the Republican party but instead to himself and his PAC directly. He made clear to big donors that he expects them to keep funding him, not other candidates. They’ve listened. He’s amassed $100 million, which I doubt will find its way into too many campaigns since he will need it for his legal troubles and his own failed 2024 run. (That total also includes funds that had to be refunded due to Trump’s questionable fundraising tactics.) Trump has also launched several personal vendettas to many vulnerable members, even though GOP leadership has begged him to stop.
Trump’s bruised ego has also been the launching pad for Republican claims that elections they lose are the result of fraud. The big issue with this mindset is that it makes it easy for Republican voters to stay home since they believe the vote will be rigged anyhow. Fanatical Trump voters staying home will impact certain races, and most experts agree it was at least part of the reason that Georgia gained two democratic senators this year.
Lastly, Trump’s minions in the House are now the face of the GOP. The most ridiculous, conspiracy-driven officials are also the ones who most crave the spotlight. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz are the representatives of the Republican party, along with their racism, antisemitism, and criminal behavior. That’s just the new norm, and the majority of Americans are repulsed by what they see.
Democrats have plenty of reasons for optimism. The backlash the GOP counts on is supposed to happen right after the election. Consider that by June of 2016, the Democrats were overperforming everywhere there was a special election, which foreshadowed the 2018 blue wave. Yet that’s not happening this time for the GOP. Democrats beat our own margins in New Mexico and another Louisiana seat this year and won both Senate runoffs in Georgia. Maybe, just maybe, the GOP’s assault on our democracy, Trump’s refusal to leave the stage, and popular policies that Democrats are fighting for have given us a real chance.
The list below is for nine seats House Democrats lost in the 2020 election that Biden won. I should point out that these don’t even list all of the targets of the DCCC, which is focusing attention on southern Florida’s 26th district, Iowa’s 1st and 2nd districts, New York’s 22nd District, and Utah’s 4th District, just to name a few. However, it’s an excellent place to start for good pickup opportunities:
|State||District||GOP incumbent||District’s 2020 GOP win margin||District’s Biden win margin||
|Ca||21||David Valadao||(R)50.4%- (D)49.6%||
|This is the most Democratic district to be represented by a Republican. Seriously, Biden won by 11 points here. This is even worse since Valadao is an extremist who votes against his constituents’ interests.|
|Ca||39||Young Kim||(R)50.6%-(D)49.4%||10 points||
Democrat Jay Chen is a Taiwanese immigrant who was a Naval Intelligence officer and Harvard grad. He is well known in the community.
In contrast, the GOP incumbent has repeatedly been involved with shady foreign fundraisers under investigation
|CA||25||Michael Garcia||(R)50.0%-(D)49.5%||10 points||
There are too many running in the D primary to list, but Christy Smith was the incumbent who came within a hair of beating Garcia last time.
This is a blue district, and Garcia is a member of the #SeditionCaucus.
|ca||48||Michelle Steel||(R)51.1%-(D)48.9%||1.5 points||
Harley Rouda blames his narrow loss on respecting the national party’s wish to not campaign in person during COVID. He won’t make that mistake this time.
The GOP incumbent apologized to a GOP crowd for working with Katie Porter to pass an anti-Asian hate bill.
|fl||27||Maria Elvira Salazar||(R)51.4%-(D)48.6%||3.3 points||
Janelle Perez is an LGBTQ+ activist and health care business owner in Miami who quit as a GOP staffer over Trump. She has raised a lot in small donations.
Maria Elvira Salazar is a huge Trump fan that is out of place for this district. She rode the wave of socialist hysteria to victory and needs to be defeated now, or she will likely hold this seat for a long time.
|NE`||2||Dan Bacon||(R)50.84%-(D)46.2%||6 points||
Tony Vargas is a popular state legislator who was reelected with 75% of the vote. Alisha Shelton is a mental health worker.
This district used to lean Democrat, but gerrymandering has made it R+1. The GOP incumbent won only because centrist NE Democrats foolishly endorsed him over the progressive challenger last time. Bacon reliably votes with the GOP. Thanks, guys.
|NY||24||John Katko||(R)52.6%-(D)47.4%||9 points||
Steve Holden is a military veteran who has been endorsed by Blue America PAC.
Republican John Katko survives this blue district by being relatively moderate, but is staunchly anti-choice and voted against the COVID relief bills.
|PA||1||Brian Fitzpatrick||(R)56.6%-(D)43.4%||6 points||Open||This district is mostly Bucks county and is the most competitive suburb in PA. It grows more Democratic every year. The Democrats are behind the curve and haven’t recruited anyone yet.|
|TX||24||Beth Van Duyne||(R)48.8%-(D)47.5%||5 points||
Business owner and current state rep Michelle Beckley is making a go of it, as is Marine veteran and attorney Derrik Gay. This is a blue district that is 40% minority, won by both Beto O’Rourke and Biden.
On the other hand, GOP incumbent Beth Van Duyne is the most appalling Republican on this list. She posted a racist image of a Black woman, spreads anti-Muslim propaganda, and was honored by a hate group.
I know Democrats are trying their best to do everything they can before the midterms, which is a tall order. We have to rebuild our nation’s entire dilapidated infrastructure, reverse climate change, save voting rights, fix immigration, fix policing, save reproductive rights, and possibly fill a Supreme Court vacancy. We must do all of this and more with the most razor-thin of margins in both houses. We can and should try.
But if we don’t make it, I’m not prepared just yet to assume that all is lost, and neither should you. There’s plenty of indication that Democrats will hold onto their majorities and possibly even expand them. If Democrats do the right thing and go bold, we can very much make this a reality. We have to: the alternative is too grim to bear.