Paul Krugman: How Democrats can 'limit the damage' when House Republicans 'behave badly' in 2023
For months, far-right pundits at Fox News, Fox Business and other right-wing media outlets stridently predicted that that the 2022 midterms would bring a massive “red wave” not unlike the red waves of the 1994 and 2010 midterms. There was also talk of a 2022 red wave at CNN and MSNBC, but they were much more careful, data-minded and nuanced in their punditry and nowhere near as strident.
There was no “red wave” in 2022 apart from Florida, where far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis was reelected by 19 percent. Democrats held the U.S. Senate, flipped a GOP-held Senate seat in Pennsylvania, and won gubernatorial races in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maryland and other states. Centrist Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly was reelected in deep red Kansas. Republicans narrowly flipped the U.S. House of Representatives, but not by the 30 or 40 seats they were hoping for.
In his November 21 column, liberal economist and New York Times opinion writer Paul Krugman warns that even though Republicans didn’t obtain a huge majority in the House, one shouldn’t expect any humility from them in 2023. But he also lays out some ways in which Democrats can “limit the damage” if House Republicans “behave badly.”
“Normally, one would expect a political party that suffered severe electoral disappointment — falling far short of typical midterm gains despite high inflation and consumer discontent — to moderate its positions, to seek compromise in order to achieve at least some of its policy goals,” Krugman argues. “But the modern GOP, in case you haven’t noticed, isn’t a normal political party. It barely has policy goals, other than an almost reflexive desire to cut taxes on the rich and deny aid to those in need. It certainly doesn’t have policy ideas.”
The economist/columnist continues, “Republicans spent much of the election talking about inflation. But in a news conference just after securing a narrow majority in the House, top Republicans declared that their top priority would be investigating the Biden family. So, the GOP won’t help govern America. It will, in fact, almost surely do what it can to undermine governance. And Democrats, in turn, need to do whatever they can both to thwart political sabotage and to make the would-be saboteurs pay a price.”
Krugman points out that because Republicans will have only a small majority in the House in 2023, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California — assuming he is chosen as House speaker — will “need support from nearly every member of his caucus.” And that, according to Krugman, will “mean empowering extremists and election deniers” such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
“So, for the next two years, we can expect Republican leaders, such as they are, to wreak as much havoc as they can, both to appease their party’s most extreme elements and to undermine what might otherwise look like successful governance by the Biden Administration,” Krugman predicts. “Unfortunately, Republicans will, in fact, have major opportunities to wreak havoc — unless Democrats use the next few weeks, during which they will retain control of Congress, to forestall them.”
Krugman recommends that during the lame duck session and Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s final weeks as House speaker, Democrats should “lock in” aid to Ukraine and take steps to discourage Republicans from using the debt ceiling to “hold the economy for ransom” in 2023.
“Democrats can and should hammer Republicans for their extremism, for focusing on disruption and fake scandals rather than trying to improve Americans’ lives,” Krugman writes. “Savvy political pundits will no doubt mock such efforts. But these will be the same pundits who insisted that inflation would dominate the midterms and sneered at President Biden for talking about the threat Republican extremists posed to democracy — which turned out to be an important election issue after all. It’s a given that Republicans will behave badly over the next two years, but Democrats can both limit the damage and try to make bad actors pay a political price.”
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