A Bright Spot … Maybe?

Could you use a little ray of hope for the upcoming November mid-term elections?  I think we all could.  Dan Pfeiffer was a senior advisor to President Barack Obama for a number of years, and is the author of three books about politics in this new, uncharted “Maga Era”.  His newsletter on Substack is called The Message Box and today’s was an astute assessment of why there is hope for the Democratic Party to maintain a majority in the House and Senate after the mid-terms.  Read on …

Why Dems Could Win This Fall

An uncharacteristically optimistic take on how recent events have upended the midterms

Dan Pfeiffer

Optimism does not come naturally to me. If I had a family crest, “Prepare for the worst, be surprised by the best” would be the motto emblazoned on it. I have tried to avoid telling people what they want to hear about a high stakes midterm election in this absolutely miserable political environment. Up until recently, Democrats were stuck in a doom loop.. That defeatism threatened to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What activist, donor, or voter wants to sign up for a suicide mission? And to be honest, it’s been hard to make a reasonable, fact-based case that Democrats could upend the historical trends. However, over the last few weeks, the worm has turned. Democrats now have a legitimate shot to outpace expectations dramatically.

I am not devolving into a sunny guy. This is not a prediction. It is not an admonition against bedwetting. I think the odds are still against Democrats. We have an eternity till Election Day. The future looked quite dire three weeks ago, and may look just as dire in three weeks. But as we sit here today, one can make a credible bull case for Democrats.

Reason 1 for Optimism: Success

All political analysis should begin with the fact that America has a growing, diverse, pro-truth, pro-democracy, anti-MAGA majority. Now, of course, this majority is not evenly distributed geographically, which is why the GOP often has an advantage in the Senate and Electoral College. But the bulk of the races this cycle will be conducted in states Joe Biden won in 2020. Simply reconstructing the Biden coalition in composition and turnout will be sufficient to win. Our major problem to date has been disillusion and disappointment among our base and the Independent voters who favor Biden. Less than a month ago, Democrats seemed headed for a legislative disaster. During this period, Jonathan Chait wrote in New York Magazine:

By realistic or even minimal standards of performance, this two-year term, almost certain to be the last period of Democratic-controlled government for the foreseeable future, has been a failure. The ramifications of this defeat — political, economic, and ecological — will reverberate.

And then everything changed.

In rapid succession, Democrats passed legislation on guns, microchips, veterans’ benefits, and the historic Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats now have reasons to be happy, and Independents have reasons to reconsider supporting Republicans. More specifically, the climate change provisions are an opportunity to re-engage young voters. Last week, after the Manchin-Schumer deal was announced, I wrote:

No group of our core Democratic constituency has become more disillusioned or disengaged than younger voters. Passing the most ambitious climate change bill in history creates an opportunity to re-engage this group. People won’t vote this time if they think their last vote didn’t matter. Passing a serious climate change package is proof that every door knocked, text sent, and vote cast in 2020 mattered a whole helluva lot.

Democrats now have a powerful case to convince their voters to keep them in the majority.

Reason 2: Improving Political Environment

Despite this newsletter and other strategy, tactics, and message-focused sources, the biggest factors in political success are often far outside the control of the candidates and campaign operatives. The driving force in this election is inflation — and specifically, the price of gas and groceries. In most polling, 80 to 90 percent of voters listed inflation as a top concern. Most gave Biden (and Democrats more broadly) abysmal marks for their handling of the issue. As gas prices went up, President Biden’s approval rating went down. While the near-term picture on inflation is cloudy, gas prices have been steadily declining for more than a month.

Costs are still elevated, and families still feel financial pressure, but the trajectory is good. The Biden Administration continues their valiant efforts to focus the public’s attention on the steady decline. Voters are historically forward-looking. They are willing to give politicians credit for progress even if the present is still suboptimal. If gas prices continue to drop, it’s more likely that the electorate will give the Democrats credit for the historic number of jobs created since Biden took office.

Reason 3: Backlash Towards GOP Policies

Presidents usually get shellacked in their first midterm. Reagan, Bush #41, Clinton, Obama, and Trump all lost many seats. The primary theory for this occurrence is called the “Thermostatic Model,” which Andrew Prokop described in Vox as follows:

This theory holds that the public functions essentially like a thermostat, kicking in when it’s either too hot or too cold to restore the preferred temperature. Voters could conclude things are too conservative under a Republican regime and elect a new Democratic president. But then they could quickly conclude things have become too liberal, and swing back toward Republicans in the midterms. Then after Republicans regain some power, perhaps opinion will swing back toward Democrats and get the president reelected. (The Obama and Clinton presidencies both followed this trajectory.)

Under this theory, the Republican Wave of 2010 was a response to large-scale Obama initiatives like the stimulus plan and Obamacare. Both of these bills were underwater in the Fall of 2010. Obama’s numbers bounced back when the public saw the dangerous extremism of the new Republican majority.

Like every other recent president, Joe Biden’s numbers took a big hit. His approval rating is now at or below where Donald Trump’s was at the same time. This is not great. Trump is sort of the “Mendoza Line” for Presidents. What’s unique about Biden’s political challenges is that they are not a response to his policy agenda. Every one of his major initiatives was popular when it passed and remains so today. The initial polling on the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS bills show broad, bipartisan support. To the extent policy backlash exists in this election, it’s a response to the extremist policy agenda of MAGA Republicans embodied by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case. A Supreme Court rigged by Republicans ripping a constitutional right from millions of Americans combined with a series of Orwellian Republican laws like book bans have put the GOP on defense. The public is concerned about overreach from Republicans, not Democrats. We saw the power of abortion as an issue in the recent Kansas referendum. The anti-abortion side lost by double digits in a state Trump won by 15 points. Most notably, 100,000 Independents who could not vote in the party primaries turned out to vote on the abortion initiative.

Reason 4: Candidate Quality

With the help of Donald Trump, Republicans nominated a uniquely vulnerable slate of candidates. This group of criminal, incompetent carnival barkers give Democrats a slight advantage in states they would lose under more normal circumstances. The Republican gubernatorial nominees in Pennsylvania and Michigan were active parts of the insurrection. The Republican nominee for Attorney General in Arizona is an actual member of the Oath Keepers — a Right Wing terror group. Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign has been one disaster after another. This recent (and devastating) ad shows Walker’s unique vulnerability:

Dr. Oz has flopped so badly that the Republican Party is exploring ways to replace him on the Pennsylvania ballot. J.D. Vance in Ohio is such an obvious fraud that he is in danger of losing Ohio — a state Trump won by more than 10 points twice. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Being a great candidate is rarely enough to win in a tough year, but a bad candidate can lose in the best year.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…?

Look, we have miles to travel between now and Election Day. The political environment changed dramatically once and could change again. To that point, the FBI raided Mar-A-Lago in the three hours since I finished the last draft of this piece.

If gas prices tick back up or President Biden’s approval ratings don’t rise with his fortunes, Dems could still be in heaps of trouble. The House is A LOT tougher than the Senate, but this election is now winnable if, and only if, we all dig in and double down on the hard work that delivered us the House, Senate, and White House in the last two elections.

12 thoughts on “A Bright Spot … Maybe?

  1. Thank you for sharing!!.. there will be many Republicans who will publicly defend Trump simply because for 4+ years they supported him ( and there are those that still do) and are trying to protect their image, who knows what they are thinking privately… 🙂
    In history’s past, the Trump’s of this world could get by with a lot of things, technology and communications being what it were, in today’s world not so much…. 🙂
    That being said, though there will be those who will not listen, the best thing to do is use the technology and share with others the reality of today’s world and will no doubt be able to reach out to others, using patience and being careful to not over react, and hopefully wisdom will lead… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true, my friend. One of the hardest things for humans to do is admit they were wrong. The communication technology you mention does make it significantly harder for the politicians to hide their evil deeds, but on the other hand, it makes it easier for people to form a group to perform their own evil, such as the way the right-wing extremist groups used social media to communicate and plot the January 6th attempted coup. Like anything else, technology can be used for good, or for evil. Ahhhh … human nature … it’s mostly an enigma to me these days.

      Many thanks for sharing the Irish Saying, Dutch … much needed today!


  2. Jill
    I hate the Republicans with a vengeance. But since Trump’s short reign they seem to be more focused on local American shit nobody else cares about.

    While the crew manning the Dem white House today is not only stupid but dangerous. The whole world is just waiting – rather fearfully – for the moment when either Blinken or Pelosi, or the bossman himself, will go too far with their provocations and then … BIG BØØM! We all be dead. Not a good strategy they are following.

    For example Blinken in South Africa: Ramaphosa will be friendly with him but make him no promise. Africans know that China/Russia are far better friends … and that they are winning. On the Ukrainian battlefield and in the hearts of the people. And who doesn’t wanna be associated with the winning team? South Africa is also the S in BRICS, they’ve made clear on which side they are. So Blinken is just wasting everybody’s time. Same as Pelosi did in Taiwan.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Whoa, hold on there young lady, the BIG GUY did just signed the bill for the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022! I’ll have some fish sticks with mayo on the side w/ that order 🙂


    • I think you are delusional, my friend. The danger of such an escalation as you ponder was a thousand times greater under the last administration than it is today. I have no idea where you get your information, but it is wrong.


  3. Jill, the Dems need to keep passing bills that address issues like they are doing. People like things getting done and not stalled. I did leave a message for my two GOP Senators on my disappointment that no GOP Senator voted for the climate change bill and initially that they voted against the PACT Act to help wounded veterans. One of them did change his mind on the second vote.

    As for the raid, it was under warrant by a judge and for yet another alleged crime by the former president. I believe this a precursor to some indictment. But, GOP Chris Christie, a former DA noted it appeared to be in order. I shared my disappointment with Kevin McCarthy and my GOP congressman for grandstanding implying something was wrong. We need to get the facts.

    My endless question to Republican allies of Trump is what will you have to defend next week, next month, next year? And, you have no idea whether he had already committed the sin.


    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ever the optimist-who-worries, I think Dan Pfeifer’s assessment is spot on. (I posted my own governmental good news stuff earlier today.) But the Democrats must be out there selling the hard-won accomplishments, which have now reached historic proportions for two years into a president’s term, especially with a 50-50 Senate.

    And I do worry about the press’s obsession with tfg—it threatens to stifle all the positives.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I will definitely check out your post later today … I got overwhelmed and waaaaaaay behind on everything today! I agree with you … the Democrats are going to have to do a much better job at marketing! We can bring dignity, integrity, and values back to Congress, but it’s not an easy path and is going to require hard work. Also, the media is going to at least give the Democrats a fair shot!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Give me two more days … the immediate fallout may not be representative of the long-term. Yes, I’m sure the article was written before the raid, but I think it still holds true … at least I hope so.

      Liked by 1 person

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