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What Will the Midterms Tell Us?

These midterm elections are never fun. Only in 2018 did Democrats have momentum, as many peole felt that the country was in an existential crisis. We still are, probably a greater one, but somehow the polls aren’t reflecting that. Or maybe it is simply that this time the President is a Democrat.

We know how awful 2010 and 2014 were. A complete rout, which Obama had no ability or effort to stave off. 1994 was bad, too, as the media relentlessly attacked Clinton for policies which led to the greatest period of peace and prosperity in decades. But that’s the media for you.

Now we have what looks to me like a successful Biden Administration: very low unemployment; deficit substantially reduced,; strong federal response to climate crises; eliminating much student loan debt; infrastructure bills which will very likely make a difference, but in the future. Compared to most administrations I have seen, this one has done well. But Biden, while improving his favorability numbers somewhat, is still sitting at 41-45%.

Trump is also at around that number. which is about as bad a sign for the future of democracy in America as one could imagine. His numbers should be at Al Capone level, if such was polled back then. 45% of Americans have a favorable view of this psychotic, sadistic, criminal person? And compared to Biden? However America became that way, it may well be too late to save it. That is a very negative outlook, but how can one wrap one’s head around this reality, that almost half of the population admires the closest thing to Hitler that this country has ever seen?

I look at the upcoming elections, and it is hard to not see them in that framing. Maybe we are all too used to thinking that Americans will do the right thing when it comes down to it. There were so many movies made in past decades with that theme. But maybe now we are not that America, even though there are still some very good and generous people in it. Maybe much of this country now wants what the populace wanted in Hungary, and Italy, and perhaps next in France.

Listen to the rhetoric of the Republican Party. They are vowing to go after the FBI. They will not vote to raise the national debt, thus shutting down the government. They want a national ban on abortions. They want to eliminate Medicare and Social Security. These are not some crackpot fringe people, these are from their highest levels of power; the likes of Rick Scott and Elise Stefanik. They say these things, and either people don’t listen, don’t understand, or don’t care.

Democrats should sweep to massive victories, since they are the party which will protect the safety net, and care about the average citizen. But they are not, not by the polling numbers. And we know that Republicans have literally billions of dollars left to advertise in the last weeks of the campaigns.

I know that polls vary, but I believe that they are usually fairly accurate; except that the polls have recently seemed to underestimate the right-wing vote. Just assuming that the current polls are accurate, how does the idiotic Dr. Oz move to a few points behind John Fetterman? How does the literally mentally-limited Herschel Walker stay within a couple of points of the admirable Senator Warnock? How does Ron Johnson, almost surely a Russian asset, look to be going back to the Senate for another miserable six-year term?

I have an answer to that last one. It would be because Wisconsin had a multiple candidate Democratic primary, and the 16% or so of the voters who are Black, voted in very large numbers for Mandela Barnes. That is something that has been occurring; and of course everyone can vote the way they want; but the ultimate effect is the nomination of a candidate who has less of a chance to win the national election. Some may disagree with this, or take umbrage; but we cannot ignore the reality that bloc identity voting can have the effect of leaving us with a few Democratic candidates who will lose, when we should have won.

That race is not over, but my earlier feeling about it seems now to be occurring, even though the first polls had Barnes ahead, and almost convinced me that I was wrong. The only Democrat who led Johnson in polls taken before the primary, was moderate Sarah Godlewski, the state Treasurer. Barnes looks like he is going to lose; whether it is because he is seen as too liberal in Wisconsin; or maybe there is some racism involved, but the result is the result. Is this going to happen with Cheri Beasley in North Carolina?

It may be that Republicans’ most effective campaign strategy is to tie the Democrats to “urban unrest.” This has won for them in other situations. Does that mean that Democrats should not nominate candidates who are of Black ethnicity? Of course not, but it cannot be completely ignored, that Republicans will run campaigns which subtly or unsubtly try to link the Democratic candidate to “social unrest.” It worked for them in the ’70’s, it worked for them in 1988; and it still works in certain races in certain states.

I don’t see many of the national ads for other state races. I would hope that they are running ads which emphasize that Republicans are determined to eliminate the right to abortion, and to make it a homicidal felony with life imprisonment being possible. That Republicans are determined to take away Social Security and Medicare, they say it plainly. Do people want that? This should be a slam-dunk on both those issues; are Democrats pounding away at them?

Republicans run on their usual two issues, immigration, and urban violence. And of course now inflation, though it should seem obvious, with Germany’s inflation rate at 11%, and Britain’s higher than ours, that this is a worldwide problem. And what is the Republican plan to deal with inflation? They have none, unless it is to get rid of the safety net, and to raise taxes on the poor and middle class, so that they cannot buy anything much.

I do not like to be pessimistic in this area. I was sure that Hillary would win, until the last week, with Comey’s inexplicable actions. I was confident that Biden would win, though I of course always worry. Right now, I have the sense that the momentum is moving toward Republicans; the result of the money they have to pour into races, the intractable bias of the media, and a populace which is either irrevocably dumbed down, or simply unable to separate what will most matter in their lives, from the focus which Republicans try to convince them is more important.

It is due to something; and people can write exhaustive books about it in the next few years, but what good will that do us, outside of academic circles? We’ve got a month to somehow gain control of the national narrative, and get the generic ballot to +5, not a tie, as it mostly is now, because Republican gerrymandering has given them about a 5% advantage going in. That has to be fixed, and that is only a part of what needs to be fixed, if it is possible. We have to believe that it can, somehow, but doing it is clearly an immense and immediate ongoing task.