Maybe Democrats Should Focus On Expanding And Holding Their Majorities
I know the conventional wisdom is midterms are bad for the incumbent party; I know the Dems also face dual hurdles in Republicans controlling redistricting. New voting rules which are aimed at decreasing turnout out — but that doesn’t mean the Republican takeover of the House is a done deal.
On incumbency, the thing that usually harms a party is failing to keep their voters engaged and energizing their opposition. I’m watching a fairly popular president heading one of the two major parties largely stay out of the fray and focus on governing. All this is happening with the backdrop of a reopening economy and strong job growth, both of which are spurred by multiple stimulus packages and improving coronavirus numbers. I’m also seeing bipartisan deals on a likely-to-pass infrastructure package, and the recently passed U.S. Innovations Competitive Act a 250 billion dollar bill to help us manufacture more of our technology. All of these are great things to run on, but why stop there? Congress is making progress on the George Floyd policing reform, John Lewis Voting Rights, and Equality Act. I know all of these haven’t passed but they are likely to pass in some form or another. More importantly, they make the case for why Democrats should be in power. They show they understand good governance, even if they have to water down the reforms these policies are keeping people engaged.
On redistricting, how often do you think a party won the majority or plurality of the House votes but didn’t win the majority of the seats in congress in the last 30 years? Only once has this happened in the 2012 cycle. Republicans got 47% to the Democrats 48% but got the majority of the seats. If you get to a majority you win the House; if you don’t and it’s on the margins it can be dicey. Gerrymandering or redistricting can impact the margins but there is only so much cracking and/or packing you can do to a map. Cracking is the process of breaking upvoting demographics and packing is the opposite. Both are done to create safe seats for your party or the other party. What’s even more important is while Republicans were able to control 215 seats in 2010, in 2020 they are down to 180 or so because many states switched to independent districting, limiting the partisan nature of this cycle. Just like voter ID, poll location changes, and so on, these rules impact the margins. Dems should work to keep it outside the margins.
All these can be combated by making sure voters know a few things the rule changes, where to vote, what they need to vote, what it will take, and why their vote matters. Democrats should target all 435 seats with a unified message: Messaging around the popular parts of their agenda ending the pandemic, passing new LGBTQ protections in the Equality Act, protecting voting rights in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, making police more accountable with the George Floyd policing bill, and an ever-improving job market with low employment. These messages resonate in all districts. Democrats need a national message beyond that they aren’t Trump. Democrats need deliverables to go home to their constituents with, and a vision for why Americans should not only keep Democrats in charge but expand their majorities.