The NYT (try not to laugh) led with a story last week about Republicans being unable to stall the Democrats $1.9 trillion Stimulus bill. The story stated Republicans have laid out a number of attacks on the bill from it being a blue state bailout to funding a number of progressive efforts. None are untrue attacks. But none to seem have gained traction Polling shows virtually every major component of the bill commands strong majorities and close to a majority of GOP support.
The same thing held true in 2009. Both Obama’s smaller Stimulus package, and the smaller Cash for Clunkers program, were just as popular as Biden’s massive package. But a mere year or so later, it did Democrats no good in a disastrous midterm.
But what of the divided GOP? Pro – Trump forces are battling with the “establishment” GOP and polling shows a majority of Republicans would join a pro – Trump party. Nevermind, Trump has said he will not and has little incentive to.
Well, what would one call the GOP in 2009 post – Bush? The Tea Party arose out of opposition to the establishment GOP in a preview of the same divide which is dividing the GOP today. It is likely this divide will not ebb in 2022 just as the divide between progressives and moderates did not during Trump. Rather, Democrats united against a GOP agenda and candidate. While harder to do with a President like Biden not stoking opposition via rhetoric, neither did Obama. Opposition arose around his agenda and there is little reason to see why this won’t happen again.
Already, we are seeing subtle signs of this. Amid the fawning media coverage of the Democrats Stimulus, the most important part of the package to progressives, a $15 minimum wage, seems dead. Progressives and moderates cannot help sniping at each other.
The bigger divides are also becoming clearer. The Biden administration recently unveiled a massive eight year amnesty bill. They are exploring reparations. They are also previewing a multi – trillion dollar infrastructure/green energy bill. The battles along these lines are sure to grow in coming months in much the same way Obamacare split the party and Cap and Trade passed the house but died in a filibuster proof Democratic led Senate a decade earlier.
The largest split in the party to date though is among two of its largest interest groups – unions and suburban parents. I don’t mean to minimize the impact of the Biden administration to curtail the Keystone pipeline but there is a clear divide among union membership voting preferences. The blue – collar members impacted by the Keystone decision already favor the GOP. But it is more service and professional union memberships (NEA, SEIU, etc.) members who give the party their votes.
The decision by the Biden team to try to get schools to reopen has pitted teachers against a growing segment of suburban parents who want/need their kids back in school. The debate over the risks of in – person attendance have largely been put to rest by CDC guidance. Though, since when have liberals not ignored science and data when it suits their biases?
The administration’s inability to effectively provide a plan for making this happen, unlike their COVID efforts, laid by the prior President they supported impeaching, is putting the Biden team in an uncomfortable position. And while these battles are playing out more at the local level as of late, and it is unlikely to magically make partisan Democrats become Republicans and vice – versa, it is disenchanting the base and giving both state and local Republicans a lifeline to hit on.
It also seems to be coalescing opposition to the new administration. While Biden’s approval has hung around 50 – 55 percent for his first month, disapproval has risen from around the low 30’s to mid 30’s. Unlike Trump and Biden at the outset of their presidencies, there are a fair number of voters who do not voice an opinion on Biden’s Presidency. That is starting to change. But, just as we saw in 2009 with the Obama administration, opposition rose before approval truly began to drop. As the Obama administration then started to pursue leftist policies, that approval dropped.
Similarities aside- there are two other factors playing into the midterms. The first is people are far more motivated by fear than by what they support. This has defined every midterm since 2002. Yes, electoral savants will note the GOP gained seats that midterm but fear of a terrorist threat was an undercurrent of the campaign. People shouldn’t need much history to remember 2006, 10, 14 and 18 to figure out what motivated voters.
Secondly, at least in House elections, the GOP should see a modest advantage in the midterms due to redistricting. Add in a number of states like Iowa which use bipartisan commissions to draw congressional lines have shifted to the right and in even a somewhat Democratic leaning environment the GOP could take back the House majority due to redistricting alone (ie. Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, etc.).
Of course, history is made to be broken. But, right now, 2021 is shaping up to be a repeat of 2009 unless Democrats want to break their promises to their base. If they don’t, they will likely anger suburban moderates who might one day be partisan Democrats but still somewhat oscillate between the parties. Democrats might be celebrating right now (okay, unless you are state Democrats), but so were Democrats a decade ago and quickly things changed/