Why democratic panic would be the wrong answer to elections

In June, New Mexico held a special election to Congress, which Republicans saw as an important opportunity. GOP officials not only expressed cautious optimism about the outcome, they also believed they had crafted a partisan message that could serve as a model for the party midway through 2022.

They failed spectacularly: the Democratic candidate won by a larger margin than expected. Perhaps, political observers have said, the Democrats are in good shape.

Three months later, California held a recall election for governor, which many Republicans also saw as an important opportunity. GOP agents nationwide hoped to turn this race into a barometer: The more Gov. Gavin Newsom struggled in the nation’s largest blue state, the more Republicans could credibly claim that Biden-era Democrats are in serious trouble and face dramatic elections. headwinds.

They also failed spectacularly: the outgoing governor won by a wider margin than expected in September, which has left observers wondering again if the Democrats could be in good shape.

It turns out that the prevailing political winds can change at an extraordinary speed. The Democratic confidence that existed after the races in New Mexico and California was replaced by “panic” following the races in Virginia and New Jersey. As the New York Times sums it up:

The menacing thunder couldn’t be much louder for Democrats. Few of the party members had high hopes that their era of rule in Washington would last beyond next year’s midterm elections. But the Republican resurgence on Tuesday in Virginia – a state President Biden won by 10 percentage points last year – and the surprising strength of solid-blue New Jersey offer a clear warning of cloud accumulation. storm as Democrats gaze suspiciously on the horizon.

Granted, Democrats are Democrats, which means they’re prone to panic, with or without cause. Moreover, given yesterday’s results, the party would be crazy to revel in the near future.

But I would recommend keeping a few things in mind.

First, examining recent history reminds us that there is something oddly familiar about these circumstances. During George HW Bush’s first year in office, his party lost the gubernatorial races of Virginia and New Jersey. During Bill Clinton’s first year as president, his party lost the gubernatorial races of Virginia and New Jersey. In George W. Bush’s first year as president, his party lost the governorate races of Virginia and New Jersey. In Barack Obama’s first year as president, his party lost the gubernatorial races of Virginia and New Jersey. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, his party lost the gubernatorial races of Virginia and New Jersey.

Let’s not pretend that Joe Biden’s path is some sort of rebuke on a historical scale. Yesterday’s results conform to a predictable pattern. (New Jersey results remain too close to be announced, but incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy could still win.)

Second, I am struck by the degree to which Republicans did not panic under similar circumstances. In 2017, GOP candidates lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as a US Senate race in Alabama. In 2018, Republicans lost the House and several gubernatorial races in the Red and Blue states. In 2019, GOP candidates lost gubernatorial races in Kentucky and Louisiana, says Donald Trump won easily (twice).

In response, the party leaders have not changed much. The idea that the party is degenerating into hysteria never occurs to them. Indeed, if Terry McAuliffe had won the victory yesterday, would Republicans have spent the day wringing their hands, wondering how to recast their national strategy? It seems unlikely.

And third, let’s not forget that a lot can happen in a year. Obviously, Republicans have new reasons to be optimistic about 2022, but it’s also fair to say that 2021 is not a normal year. The Covid-19 crisis will likely be very different 12 months from now. The same will be true for the effects of the pandemic on the economy. The supply chain too. With any luck, Democrats might even have an improved legislative record to run before the next election day.

Chris Hayes from MSNBC make a point on Twitter yesterday which resonated with me: “My unified theory of American social and political life is that we have lived and are experiencing a unique trauma / disruption in a century and the results of this are going to reverberate throughout almost. all facets of politics for a while. “

Law. And it’s likely that this once-in-a-century trauma / disruption has affected this year’s election results in many ways. But as the United States enters a different phase a year from now, the political landscape will likely be very different.

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