By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
A recent network news headline blared “The Democrats could lose 70 House seats.” That was staggering and shocking.
Though extreme and grossly exaggerated, that headline was just another of the steady drumbeat of articles that are writing the epitaph for the Democrats’ chances in the November midterms. That’s a lot of doom and gloom for an election that is still months away.
One in a series of periodic columns based on a forthcoming book, “The Midterms: Why They Are So Important and So Ignored.”
Yet, the incontestable fact is that the Republican Party has a game plan in 2022 for taking back Congress. The plan centers on reviving the cultural wars it used to devastating effect in the 1980s and 1990s.
The contentious issues then were abortion, gay rights and affirmative action. In 2022, the current issues are a surge in crime, critical race theory and transgenderism.
Take critical race theory. Here’s what a June 2021 poll found:
- 86% of Democrats express a favorable view of the critical race theory.
- 94% of Republicans expressed an unfavorable view.
- 76% of independents expressed an unfavorable view.
- 55% of respondents overall said critical race theory was bad for America.
- 75% of African Americans said it was good for the country.
Republicans aim to exploit the political fault lines, polarize and inflame their core voters — the less educated, white rural, blue-collar and evangelicals — prodding them to storm the polls in anger and revolt on Election Day Nov. 8. The Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection gave a bitter and ominous preview of the potential for revving up legions of right-wing voters swinging into political action.
To the GOP’s horror, this also posed a potentially damaging problem for the party in the 2022 midterms. Several GOP candidates for congressional offices either participated in the takeover rally or refused to back away from support of the rally’s stated aims.
Democratic party leaders were unabashed in waving the Jan. 6 insurrection before voters; reminding them that more than a few House Republicans backed the lawless rally that preceded the takeover, and that lots of Republican House members refused to condemn President Donald Trump for inciting the mob.
In May 2021, GOP lawmakers had a second chance to show their disdain for the Trump-incited Capitol riot. House Democrats had gotten what they thought was Republican agreement to fully back the establishment of a select committee to investigate the causes of the pandemonium of Jan. 6.
The deal quickly unraveled when masses of Trump backers voiced outrage at the committee idea. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who initially agreed to name Republican members to the committee, reneged on the agreement.
He didn’t stop there. He publicly thundered that House Republicans would totally boycott the committee. Meanwhile in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators didn’t even bother going through the motions of discussing a Jan. 6 riot investigation. There would be none.
That suited Trump fine. In a tweet at the start of the committee hearings, an unbowed Trump ridiculed what he branded “the unselect committee” and railed that “Jan 6 was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our country to make America great again. It was about an election that was rigged and stolen, and a country that was about to go to hell.”
The good news for Democrats is that in some polls by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have found that Republicans cheerleading for lawlessness has turned off a lot of voters in the must-win battleground states. The polls claim that voters in those states told pollsters that they have serious doubts about Republican lawmakers after hearing that those members “helped spread Trump’s lie about the election.” Let’s hope those polls are right.
Many Democrats hope that the GOP might aid and abet the Democrats in the 2022 midterms by putting up another motley pack of borderline political kooks, cranks and misfits. That would make independents and even some Republicans gag in disgust and stay home or vote for a Democrat.
That happened in the 2010 midterms when Republicans lost Senate seats in Delaware and Nevada that they seemed almost shoo-ins to win. In each state, Republicans brushed aside established party regulars with solid political and vote-gathering credentials and backed Tea Party eccentrics for the Senate races.
Republicans did it again in a special Alabama Senate election in 2017. It backed Judge Roy Moore, whose wacko comments, lascivious conduct and thinly disguised racist rants, assured that a Democrat would do the politically impossible and win a general election race in the deep-red state of Alabama.
It is always possible that Republicans might slip again and do the same in some 2022 midterm races. However, it is risky business to depend on the political enemy to beat themselves. The Trump win in 2016 was the ultimate proof of that.
The 2022 midterms are still months away. Anything can happen in politics and the country to determine how voters will vote. The great peril, though, is that Republicans are working night and day to make sure that the vote is rigged for them. The Democrats have been warned.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He also is the host of the weekly Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show at 9 a.m. Saturdays on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.