Recent developments on the state budget and political fronts have put a focus on New York State politics but, of course, there is a lot more happening beyond New York’s borders. The mid-term election campaigns are moving along everywhere. The pundits are sizing up party prospects.
The effects of gerrymandering in 2022 seem to have gone better than anticipated for Democrats throughout the country so far, although there remain some judicial proceedings that could change that picture. Republican control of redistricting really took off after the 2010 midterm elections when the party won control of a significant number of state legislative bodies. That control was maintained in 2020. The party has fully used it power. In most states that means the Legislature drawing district line, but in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has bullied his own Republican Legislature into letting him draw the congressional maps. Those maps, if they survive court challenges, will wipe out two districts where Black voters are a plurality of total voters.
In New York, with Democratic control of the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature, the currently approved lines leave the party with the opportunity to add up to four more Democrats to the state’s delegation. The state’s Redistricting Commission, which was put in place for the first time this election cycle, proved incapable of drawing the lines in a cooperative bi-partisan manner. Raise your hand if you were shocked by that development. The congressional and state legislative redistricting that was approved by the Legislature in February is still under judicial review, with a decision expected by the end of April.
Mid-term elections are almost always difficult for the party controlling the White House. There is a myriad of complicating national and international issues on the table as of the end of April that will impact the elections, but that mix of issues could change before November 8. The party in control of the White House has lost House seats in 17 of the 19 mid-term elections since World War II.
The result of the various gerrymandered proceedings throughout the country is more one-sided districts than even before. Credible independent reviewers of the congressional election process such as the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball indicate that in 2022 there are less than three dozen truly competitive seats in the nation out of the entire 435, the lowest number in recent history.
The 2022 election climate is a continuation of what has been developing for decades. Most House districts are more or less locked in for one party or the other, leaving very few competitive races. While the next majority in the House of Representatives may flip to the Republicans, they might have a smaller majority than what occurred in past mid-terms when there were many more competitive races available to win. In most House seats the incumbent member is likely of the same political party as the party of the presidential candidate who carried the district in 2020, a recent development.
While majority control of the House might change in 2022, Democratic chances in the United States Senate are better. The party is only defending 14 seats and has a decent possibility of holding onto its majority.
So, what does this mean for government and politics in 2023 and 2024? Probably a lot more politicking and a lot less governing.
The leader of the Senate Republican caucus, Mitch McConnell, says that he will not offer any national agenda for the election. But the leader of the party’s campaigns to retake control of the Senate, Rick Scott of Florida, has proposed a very detailed agenda which includes some headline-grabbing policy changes. That includes requiring all Americans to pay some income taxes; millions of seniors who rely primarily on social security for their income currently do not pay any income taxes. The same is true of low-income individuals and families. Another of Scott’s major proposals is to require that all federal legislation must sunset and either be cancelled or re-approved by a future Congress after five years. That would mean, among other things, that Social Security and Medicare would end after five years, subject to re-approval. That would not be a pretty process.
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House leader, is apparently working on some sort of Newt Gingrich agenda for future congressional action. The party caucus has for many years included the far-right so-called Freedom Caucus; a small group of members that was often able to dictate its terms to the party leadership. Now there is a growing caucus of crazies including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Louis Gohmert, Jim Jordan, and Madison Cawthorn who are prepared to turn the tables over at the drop of a hat; they almost make the Freedom Caucus folks look tame. Sarah Palin is running for the Alaska House seat, ready to sign up for the crazies caucus. McCarthy as a leader compares poorly with former Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan. That’s why McCarthy failed to attain the speakership when Boehner resigned.
It should also be noted that the Republican National Committee is already hard at work on a nihilist approach to 2024. The RNC just last week approved a party policy saying that they would disavow any candidates for presidents who choose to participate in a presidential debate that is not sanctioned by the party. Look for Republicans to be debating Republicans exclusively on Fox and OAN in 2024. There will, by the way, be multiple candidates in the process as Trump’s dominance fades.
American politics over the past thirty years has been in a constant state of turmoil. Elections in 2022 and 2024 will be no different.
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