An opinion piece in the Washington Post by Katrina Vanden Heuvel jolted me into a gnawing fear. Our Party is failing to face up to the hardening Republican opposition to any action to address such as infrastructure needs, the economic position of middle-class families, and protecting the integrity of our election systems (in the face of Republican-led state legislatures to torque them in favor of Republicans).
I have seen this play before. In 2009, the Obama Administration and the feckless leadership in the Senate failed to portray the Affordable Care Act as an essential step toward better health care. I watched the Republicans run the table on them in the 2010 off-year elections in 1994 when the Democrats lost control of Congress to the likes of Newt Gingrich and the “Texas Twosome,” Dick Armey and Tom DeLay.
I am very concerned that it could happen again next year. The problem now is that our democracy has been shaken as never before by a Republican trifecta of:
- An ex-president without morals or values but with a crafty talent for self-preservation.
- A growing segment of the electorate has transferred their economic insecurity into feelings of being marginalized and being encouraged by the Republican Party to believe they are indeed being disparaged.
- Leaders in the U.S. Congress who are interested only in actions to weaken the federal government and financially reward special interests.
Dead in the water
If we Democrats fail to add seats in both the House and the Senate next year, our chances of getting anything done will be slim to none. Our Party’s chances of increasing our majorities in the House and Senate next year will be dead in the water, if our majority doesn’t pass at least the voter protections bills (S1/HR1 and HR4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) a meaningful infrastructure program, and the American Families bill.
In the meantime, our Republican leaders in Phoenix are working overtime – not to improve our schools or strengthen our state’s economy. Instead, the Republicans squandered our state’s wealth by rearranging the tax structure to benefit wealthy citizens and commercial enterprises, and stacked our elections systems against voters most likely to support our Party’s candidates.
Several coming events will significantly shape our Party’s fortunes in the coming months.
- Passage of federal legislation will render much of the Republican state Legislatures’ damage moot. However, if federal legislation fails, we will face the consequences in 2024.
- Redistricting for our U.S. House seats and the state legislative districts will begin in August. Although the process is supposed to be non-partisan, Democratic observers are criticizing some bias in early actions by the Commission. A truly unbiased process will result in fair district maps and is likely to benefit Democrats as the state’s population grows and diversifies.
- Watch for Republican opposition to the Commission’s work. That opposition would signal a fair redistricting job by the Commission.
- Finally, a delay in redistricting will affect Congressional and state legislature races as incumbents sort out their new districts and organize to campaign to new constituents.
So the struggle continues. The fight for our democracy may have begun in 2018 with a reaction to the first years of the Trump autocracy. It won a very mixed victory in 2020 when voters well and truly repudiated Trumpocracy but left Democrats with narrow majorities in both Houses of Congress and very mixed results in governors’ races and state.
We must now prepare to reverse the long trend that says that parties with incumbent presidents don’t do well in off-year elections at the national level. Doing well in 2022 will entail building our congressional majorities, not losing seats and our thin majorities, and taking back control in state legislatures from one end of the heartland to the other.
Accomplishing this feat will entail some critical simultaneous campaigns.
The first campaign involves the passage of the For the People and John Lewis voting rights Act and fair elections legislation that gives the federal government unambiguous authority to call an end to state actions to make it harder for minorities to vote and voters in general to have access to the vote, and to prevent clearly biased state officers or legislators to overturn election results.
The second campaign will make sure that state actions to redraw election districts for state legislators and House districts will be fair and unbiased. Arizona is ahead of the country with our Independent Redistricting Commission, but its actions and decisions must be made transparently. As I have said before, if you hear the Republicans complain, it probably means that the Commission is truly unbiased. In many other states, it is less clear, with many Republican-dominated legislatures with much greater control of the process.
The third campaign is to find solid candidates for both federal and state legislative posts. Objectives in 2022 will be to replace a strong incumbent in what is now Congressional District 2, with Ann Kirkpatrick retiring and reelecting Senator Mark Kelly to a full six-year term. At the same time, we will need to mobilize in new legislative districts that will come out of the redistricting sausage machine with precious little time for organizing election campaigns.
The final campaign is an objective effort to investigate the causes, incubation, and actions of the insurrection of January 6. Republicans have shown no stomach for such an undertaking and even promise to undermine the House’s effort to do the job. Anyone who truly believes that this was an overblown activity carried out by a bunch of poorly dressed but sincere freedom-loving citizens on a tour of the Capital is delusional.
Combined efforts by the Department of Justice and Congress need to be taken so we all have a clear understanding of the who, what, where, when, and why of this terrible event to avoid other events in the future. We also need to know who and when government officials conspired with and enabled the perpetrators of this insurrection, and hold them fully responsible and accountable.
Finally, we need to dispel the myth that those identified and arrested for felonious activities during the insurrection are “political prisoners.” They are felons and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
We have a lot to do, my fellow Democrats. Pick a cause, choose your competence and get to work.