Viewpoint: Democrats will lose midterms, but don’t blame Biden

Karen Rubin
Karen Rubin, Columnist

How should Democrats take the 2021 election results? Are the elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Long Island harbingers for 2022? Are progressives vs. centrists a circular firing squad killing off Democratic turnout? Pundits are saying that Democrats lost because Biden and congressional Democrats couldn’t get infrastructure passed fast enough; pundits also are saying that Democrats lost because they are going too fast on infrastructure. Which is it?

Why is a delay over passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act fatal to Democrats, but Trump’s and Republicans’ sabotage of public health so that 750,000 Americans died of COVID-19 not fatal? Or for that matter, why do mask and vaccine mandates qualify as tyranny but not abortion bans, voter suppression and election subversion?

Are you telling me that white suburban Virginian women looked at Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and said, “Give me more of that,” but were gunning for Democrats Terry McAuliffe and Biden because they believed Republican Youngkin’s Critical Race Theory boogeyman was coming to consume their child’s brain?

How is it that Democrats didn’t get credit for passing the American Rescue Plan that provided states and localities money to make their schools safe to reopen, but Republicans aren’t penalized for undermining public education as liberal propaganda farms, firing teachers and principals, withholding funding for schools and school board members and calling for book burning?

The pundits keep saying that Democrats will lose because they don’t care about kitchen table issues or blue collar workers or rural voters – as if access to affordable child care, universal pre-K, health care, clean air and drinking water and a tax system where the richest individuals and corporations pay their fare share don’t impact every family. Or as if $1 trillion to rebuild crumbling bridges and roads, replace water pipes, bring broadband to the countryside won’t improve the lives of every working family.

People are upset with higher prices (compared to 2020’s economic lockdown) because of unleashed demand, shortages of produce due to climate/weather disasters and supply chain interruptions still impacted by COVID that is prolonged by Republicans. At least Biden is taking immediate action – getting more truckers on the road, ports to operate 24/7 – and addressing climate crisis that impacts everybody’s kitchen table. But these talking points are drowned out by hysteria over Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas presents.

“It’s the economy, stupid?” Really? If that were true, which party is responsible for repeatedly pulling the nation out from the depths (11 of 12 past recessions under Republicans), for the fastest rate of jobs creation (5.4 million in 10 months), lowest unemployment since the pandemic began, higher wages, record highs on Wall Street, cutting childhood poverty in half, and putting the nation back on a path of prosperity that is shared by all, not just a handful of billionaires who have socked away $1.8 trillion worth just during the pandemic (untaxed!). And Biden’s Build Back Better will not only bring down costs (health care, prescription drugs, internet, energy) but create millions of well-paying jobs.

The media refers to the “remarkable upset” in Virginia. But was it, really? Democrat contender McAuliffe was consistently within 1 point in the polls and would have overcome history to win re-election at all as a former governor. Rather, Youngkin’s success showed what a drag on Republican candidates Trump has been  and will be the model for Republicans to keep Trump at bay while using culture wars to keep Trump voters fired up.

And didn’t that trope about Democrats get pushed back when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy won re-election (by 70,000 votes), going against New Jersey’s long history in becoming the first Democrat to be re-elected in 44 years?

Crime on the rise? Why aren’t Trump and Republicans blamed for the record gun deaths and hate crimes in 2020 or that insurrectionists carrying Trump’s banner not only attacked police but tried to overturn the Constitution.  Or that Trump’s entire presidency was one criminal act after another, from campaign finance to obstruction of justice, to extortion, Emoluments, to an attempted coup and defiance of the Rule of Law.

What 2021 shows is the success of Big Lies, culture war and the media – mainstream and not – that magnify and abet them.

A Washington Post-ABC poll (Nov 7-10), puts Biden’s approval at 41 percent; 63 percent said Biden has accomplished “little or nothing,” 70 percent rate the economy as “not so good” or “poor”; 51 percent \ of registered voters said they preferred a generic Republican for Congress.

Yet 63 percent support the Bipartisan Infrastructure deal and 58 percent support spending $2 trillion to address climate change, and expand preschool, health care and other social programs – none of which would happen if Republicans were in control.

The fact that so few Republicans voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is evidence that the Republicans have only one goal, one agenda or policy: to defeat Democrats and get back control of Congress and the White House (if Trump  were restored, all the better – he can pardon everyone).

Democrats always make the mistake of fighting the last election and allowing themselves to be defined by Republicans. They constantly allow Republicans to dominate the messaging, force them on the defensive embroiled in fabricated boogeymen and culture wars, instead of the headlines touting historic, landmark successes (infrastructure, health care, climate action, jobs creation, cutting poverty). And let’s not forget: the infrastructure plan is a 10-year investment – voters won’t see new roads, bridges immediately.

Yes, Democrats must have a mega-strategy akin to going to war if they are to hold Congress in 2022. But they still are likely to lose control of the House and Senate in 2022.

Because besides historical trends and the slimmest of margins to begin with, Democrats are up against the most outrageously blatant, undemocratic gerrymandering, voter suppression and election subversion policies and practices, all aided and abetted by a radical right-wing Supreme Court that seems intent on rubber stamping their push toward White Christo Fascist autocracy. On top of that, Republicans have found that intimidation and violence are effective tools to force politicians and officials to do their bidding or drive out those who don’t.

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