Midterms Reveal Republican Weakness
By João Santos
12th November 2022
PEOPLE FROM ALL age brackets in red, blue, and purple states finally got to form long queues outside poll stations across the United States on Thursday the 8th November. Most polls projected a near-certain Republican victory with over 90% chance of flipping both the House of Representatives and the Senate. But, in the true American fashion, it could not have been so boring. While Republicans are still on a steady footing to control both congressional institutions, the results are too close for comfort, revealing the biggest weakness within the party.
Democrats and Republicans have been fighting for every minute of airtime and every dollar of funding for the past few months, trying to get through to the last remaining swing voters. This year’s midterm elections are especially interesting as they will not only decide the kind of pressure Joe Biden will be under for the next two years, but also showcase the extent of Donald Trump’s remaining influence within the party.
As it stands, with tireless counting happening around the country, Republicans are on the verge of passing the 218-seat threshold to gain control of the House and are on the lead in more congressional districts than they need for a majority.
The Senate battle, on the other hand, now looks like it could go either way, with both parties currently still in the race after the Democrats took over the critical state of Pennsylvania, putting the results on the backs of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Alaska. Should there be a 50-50 spread, much like in 2020, Vice President, Kamala Harris, will break the tie, effectively keeping the Senate in the hands of the Democrats.
Regardless of the result, the Republicans’ slippage in the polls highlights their inability to reach as many voters undecided voters as possible. This is caused by their rather unidimensional approach, mainly due to the constant pressure of GOP straight-ticket voters for Trump-like policies.
In turn, if we compare the Republicans to the Democrats, which have essentially been a coalition since 2020, Biden’s need to appease the more centre-focused members at the same time as those on the more progressive side of the aisle, means that Biden’s approach must be, by definition, multi-layered if he wants to get anything done through the slimmest of majorities.
Allow me to elaborate.
Reports from The Guardian, Aljazeera, Reuters, and Pew have highlighted what Americans’ main concerns are when casting their vote. These include abortion, crime, climate, the maintenance of democracy, and, of course, the economy. It is, therefore, critical to understanding how both parties approach these concerns in order to understand the sudden fall in support for the Republicans.
One of those which stands out, particularly this year after the controversial overturning of Roe v Wade, a case precedent central to women’s rights, is abortion. On the Republican side, the message seems to be that abortion is something approaching a moral sin and, thus, must be completely outlawed—sometimes even in cases of rape and incest. On the other hand, the Democrats, despite clearly running on a pro-choice agenda, are still able to make certain concessions which will capture the vote of more moderate conservatives, such as the implementation of a cut-off in late-stage pregnancies while maintaining the legality of abortion, for example.
Climate change and crime, particularly when it comes to gun laws, are also policy black holes within which Republicans allow for net zero flexibility. In both issues, their ideas are non-evolving and stagnant.
In climate, the conservative claim is one of both scepticism and minimal intervention while democrats champion the idea of being a world leader in the green revolution while keeping up to debate the degree of change that implies.
In gun reform, the same story applies with Republicans refusing any type of new legislation, no matter how small, unless a school shooting takes place, while Democrats are attempting to tighten the regulatory noose while keeping the sanctity of the second amendment of the constitution intact.
When it comes to the maintenance of democracy, the story becomes a tad trickier. This is an umbrella term for the many issues it encapsulates, ranging from voting laws to the January Capitol incident, to even QAnon conspiracies. Most importantly, however, this is where the over-reliance on Trump’s legacy comes into play.
Most political analysts believe that Donald Trump has been teasing at the possibility he will again for the presidency in 2024, even if he must do so as an independent, thereby keeping the party hostage as a result of his stardom within a large chunk of the conservative voter base. This forces the GOP to maintain, or at the very least refuse to deny, the narrative that the 2020 elections were stolen. Hence, combined with the true threat to American democracy of the Capitol attack, it is unsurprising why purple voters might feel discouraged from casting their ballots to the right.
The only major fight the Republicans seem to be completely dominating is the economy which, especially considering the issue’s relevance in the current climate, might just be the reason they aren’t facing a completely disastrous run in the midterms. Here, their claim is the same as it has been in the past: small government and lower taxes. However, the difference in this scenario is each party’s ability to communicate its economic agenda.
Hence, it’s not that the Republicans have managed to integrate swing voters, but rather that the Democrats need to hire a new PR team.
There is a countless range of other, smaller, issues concerning the state of American governance, although the bottom line seems to remain constant: the Republicans are not able to compromise.