These 3 US presidents show why 2024 could be good year for Joe Biden — even if 2022 isn’t

These 3 US presidents show why 2024 could be good year for Joe Biden — even if 2022 isn’t
Joe Biden // CNN
Joe Biden's 'magical thinking' on the filibuster is deeply mistaken

If history is any indication, Republicans have a very good chance of recapturing the U.S. House of Representatives — and perhaps the U.S. Senate as well — in the 2022 midterms. Partisan gerrymandering alone will give Republicans an unfair advantage in House races. Between President Joe Biden's low poll numbers, gerrymandering, voter suppression and a tendency of many voters to punish the party that controls the White House, Democratic strategists and organizers know that keeping the U.S. House is going to be an uphill battle in 2022. But Biden's low poll numbers won't necessarily stay low. And history shows that even if 2022 is a bad year for Democrats, that doesn't automatically mean that 2024 will be a bad year for them as well.

In fact, U.S. history has its share of past presidents who were rebuked at the midterms only to be comfortably reelected two years later — and that could happen to Biden as well. Of course, that assumes that Republicans will actually accept any election results they don't like. The most disturbing part of the voter suppression laws being passed by Republicans in many states is not the ways in which they make voting more difficult — although that's bad enough — but the ways in which they seek to unilaterally control the administration of elections.

Here are three examples of two-term U.S. presidents who were rebuked during the midterms only to be decisively reelected two years later.

1. Ronald Reagan

The 1980 presidential election was a crushing blow for Democrats. President Jimmy Carter was voted out of office, and Ronald Reagan won 489 electoral votes compared to only 49 for Carter — who didn't fare well in the popular vote either, losing by 9% to Reagan. The staff at William F. Buckley's National Review was dancing with joy in 1981, Reagan's first year in office, and loved the fact that liberalism had suffered a major setback. But in the 1982 midterms, Democrats flipped 26 GOP-held congressional seats.

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The state of the economy was a major factor. The U.S. suffered a painful recession in the early 1980s, and unemployment reached 10% during parts of 1982. The dark mood and despair that many Americans felt in 1982 was brilliantly captured by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's political hip-hop classic "The Message" and its cynical lyrics, "It's all about money, ain't a damn thing funny/You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey…. It's like a jungle/Sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under."

After 1982's blue wave, Democratic strategists went into 1984 feeling optimistic about their chances of making Reagan a one-term president. It didn't happen: 1984's presidential election was even worse for Democrats than 1980, with Reagan winning a staggering 525 electoral votes and defeating former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic nominee, by 18% in the popular vote.

2. Bill Clinton

After losing three presidential elections in a row, Democrats unseated President George H.W. Bush when Bill Clinton defeated him in 1992's presidential election — which showed how much a bad economy can hurt a once-popular president. Bush 41 enjoyed stellar approval ratings in early 1991, but the recession that came later doomed his presidency. The fact that Republicans spent so much time talking about "family values" instead of the economy in 1992 certainly didn't help.

1992 was the honeymoon phase for the Clinton presidency, and it was obvious that the honeymoon was over when, in the 1994 midterms, Republicans picked up a whopping 54 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight seats in the U.S. Senate. The late radio host Rush Limbaugh, who was never shy about making idiotic assertions, insisted that the 1994 midterms meant that Clinton's presidency was doomed. But Clinton was reelected in 1996, picking up 379 electoral votes and defeating GOP nominee Bob Dole by 9% in the popular vote.

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3. Barack Obama

When Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, it was truly historic: the U.S. elected its first Black president. The southern states still had racist Jim Crow laws when Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961; in 2008, a Black man ran for president of the United States and won 365 electoral votes, defeating McCain by 7% in the popular vote.

Obama's first term wasn't all smooth sailing, however. Obama inherited the worst U.S. economy since the Great Depression, racist "birthers" like President-To-Be Donald Trump claimed that he wasn't really a U.S. citizen, and Democrats didn't do a very good job of selling the Affordable Care Act of 2010 even though it brought some badly needed reforms to the United States' dysfunctional health care system. And in the 2010 midterms, Republicans flipped more than 50 seats in the House.

That massive red wave of 2010 — or as Obama called it, a "shellacking" — made GOP strategists overconfident going into 2012, but Obama was reelected when he defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney and picked up 332 electoral votes compared to only 206 for Romney.

The lessons of Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are clear: Democrats may have a bad year in 2022, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Joe Biden will be a one-term president.

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