This morning fivethirtyeight.com shows the Republicans with an 81 percent chance of winning control of the House of Representatives and a very nearly 50-50 chance of controlling the Senate. They might actually outpoll the Democrats in the national popular vote for the House. Even if they win only the House and not the Senate, Donald Trump will immediately become the favorite for the 2024 presidential election, and gridlock, shutdowns, and investigations of Hunter Biden and various Democratic officials will dominate the next two years. The January 6 investigation will shut down at once. I regret to say that the Democratic Party will bear a lot of responsibility for these results.
They are not, to be sure, solely to blame. A lot of people like to claim nowadays that racism lies at the root of Republican success, but I do not agree. Looking at the last 40 years, it seems to me that Ronald Reagan's insistence that government was the problem, not the solution, has remained part of the fabric of American politics. We have seen this political movie before, twice. Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 with a Democratic Congress. He had only one major legislative accomplishment in his first term, his economic plan, whose tax increases allowed him to begin balancing budgets six years later. It passed by a single vote in both the House and the Senate, and it led to a devastating defeat in his first midterm election, in which he lost both Houses of Congress. Barack Obama was elected by a far more decisive margin in 2008 and brought veto-proof majorities in Congress along with him. He too passed just one important piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, without a single Republican vote, and he too suffered a devastating loss in the midterms, in which the Republicans won the House of Representatives. Four years later they added the Senate, and Obama had no more legislative accomplishments to boast of for the rest of his term. Joe Biden got some bipartisan support for a big COVID relief passage, and also for an infrastructure plan, but none for the Build Back Better Act, which some Democratic lunatic--I'd like to know who--disastrously renamed the Inflation Reduction Act. (It had nothing to do with inflation and hasn't reduced it.) Now his house majority appears to be doomed, and with it any hope of future legislative progress. The swing voters in the American electorate appear to react instinctively against any attempt to mobilize economic resources to solve national problems.
Yet the Democrats have their own problems as well. After 2008, strategists like James Carville argued that they had created a new long-term majority of women, black voters, and Hispanic voters--an argument, in effect, that they could rely entirely on identity politics. That view tallied with the feelings of many party activists, who learned postmodern theory in college and had come to believe that greater representation for those groups was in itself a critical political goal. In the long run, however, it has been a political disadvantage in my opinion, because it encourages--and in some cases even requires--Democrats to select candidates from those groups, who may appeal to parts of the Democratic base but whose demographic characteristics will not help them among swing voters. In addition, Hispanic voters in particular have remained far more diverse politically that Carville assumed, and increasing numbers have apparently decided that cultural and economic issues--such as inflation--matter a lot more than solidarity among nonwhites. They are significantly trending Republican.
And this Democratic disease, in a different but related form, may well cost them control of the Senate--which will make it impossible to put any Democrats on the federal bench for two years. John Fetterman, Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, suffered a fairly serous stroke just before he defeated Representative Conor Lamb in this year's Senate Democratic primary contest. It turns out that he had had some heart-related problems for years. I have nothing against Fetterman personally, but party leaders should have made clear to him that the party simply could not take the risk of fielding a candidate with serious health issues in this critical election and forced him to step down in favor of Lamb. Ill or disabled people, however, are among the "marginalized groups" that Democrats are now taught to favor, and they did not. Fetterman in his one debate with Mehmet Oz this week showed very clearly that he has not recovered his ability to understand quickly and communicate clearly. These are skills that ordinary voters very reasonably expect their elected officials to have. Yesterday a new poll showed Oz leading Fetterman 48-45.
Educated Democrats tend to believe that voters today owe their votes to Democrats because the Republican Party has become an irresponsible personality cult. Voters however are clinging to the eternal American right to vote against the party in power when they are unhappy. That is the dynamic, as I tried to show a few weeks ago, that has dominated American politics since 1992. And if they do lose Congress, the Democrats will have to overcome another structural failure of theirs--their reliance on vice presidents and family members as presidential candidates. They are already suffering from this right now. No one ever took Joe Biden seriously as presidential timber for his 36 years in the Senate, and his two attempts to win the Democratic nomination went nowhere. When Barack Obama chose him as running mate, however, he got the name recognition and access to key donors that candidates depend on. He yielded the field in 2016 to another candidate who had become a national figure thanks to her marriage, but returned to win the nomination in 2020 with the help of the party establishment. Then he attempted (on frankly identity politics grounds) to bring Kamala Harris into the charmed circle, even though her presidential campaign had not made it to the first primary vote. Neither Biden nor Harris, in my opinion, will be a strong candidate against Trump or Ron DeSantis in the next presidential election. I can't see now who the alternative will be either.
Another disastrous aspect of the new American politics is also on display. The Watergate investigation dealt with terrible political and legal abuses and justly secured Nixon's resignation, but it became a terrible precedent. Investigations have replaced policy initiatives as political weapons ever since. The Democrats tried and failed to use Iran-Contra to bring down Reagan and Bush. The Republicans used Whitewater--a non-issue--and Bill Clinton's sex life to try to bring him down, but impeachment failed. They revived this tactic against Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 election and it may have worked then. Now the Democrats seem to be relying on various investigations, rather than policy victories, to remove the threat of Donald Trump from our politics. The Deep State is in fact their main weapon in this battle, as it was when Trump was first elected. It's another symptom of the failure of our democracy.