Journalist explains why a massive red wave isn’t preordained for 2022’s midterms
Countless pundits have noted that if the 2022 midterms go down like the 2004 and 2012 midterms, Democrats can expect to lose control of the U.S. House of Representatives and witness a massive red wave this year. But journalist Jeff Greenfield, in an op-ed published by Politico on April 7, offers some reasons why that fate, although certainly possible, isn’t necessarily written in stone for Democrats.
“The more accurate way to look at midterms is that there is no good way to summarize them,” Greenfield explains. “True, only two elections have seen the White House’s party actually gain seats, but there are several where the losses have been minimal, or non-existent, or where each house of Congress has produced different results. The problem for Joe Biden is that this more nuanced history provides almost no encouraging news. If Democrats are to survive November with their congressional majorities intact, they’re going to have to pray Republicans really step in it in a few key races.”
Greenfield lists examples of years remembered for “huge losses for the party occupying the White House,” including 1994 and 2010. But he adds, “Much less well remembered are the midterms where the president’s party escaped serious damage.”
“There are, of course, the two elections where they actually gained seats — 1998, thanks to a booming economy and Republican impeachment overreach, and 2002, when the post-9/11 ‘rally round the flag’ sentiment was still high,” Greenfield notes. “But many other midterms were effectively a wash.”
Greenfield continues, “In 1962, just weeks after the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy’s Democratic Party only lost four House seats and gained four Senate seats. In 1970, with dissent over the Vietnam War, and with Vice President Spiro Agnew denouncing ‘radical liberals’ and a biased news media, the GOP lost 12 House seats while the Democrats lost three Senate seats — one to Conservative Party New Yorker James Buckley. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter saw Democrats lose 15 House seats and three Senate seats. Meanwhile, 1990 provided the ‘Seinfeld midterms’ where more or less nothing happened.”
Greenfield isn’t saying that Republicans won’t enjoy a major red wave in the 2022 midterms, only that it isn’t inevitable.
“All this is thin gruel for a party facing headwinds as daunting as any in recent campaign seasons,” Greenfield argues. “And sometimes, the terrain is simply too treacherous to navigate. Before Obama’s inaugural in early 2009, the transition team heard a briefing from their economic gurus explaining how slow and weak the recovery from the Great Recession would likely be. Said Obama adviser David Axelrod: ‘We’re gonna get our asses kicked in the midterms.’ It would be wholly unsurprising if similar posterior concerns were overheard in the West Wing on a daily basis.”
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