E.J. Dionne advises Democrats on how they can avoid a “thumpin'” in this year’s congressional elections. Notice that Dionne isn’t offering a prescription for retaining a majority in the House. He’s merely talking about how not to “get crushed.”
Dionne thereby exhibits realism. However, the same cannot be said of his strategy for escaping a shellacking.
Dionne says the Democrats’ best hope is to make the 2022 election about democracy. This means pounding home what he sees as the implications of the January 6 riot and passing so-called democracy bills.
If this is how the Dems intend to save the day or minimize their losses, they have little hope of doing either. It’s unrealistic to expect voters to forgive Democrats for inflation, runaway violent crime, the border crisis, failure to deliver on covid-related promises, and failure to deliver the center-left, unifying presidency Joe Biden promised, just because a few hundred people stormed the Capitol and a much smaller number indulged in violence.
Consider this: The man on whose behalf the Capitol was stormed and who still refuses to admit he lost the 2020 election now runs ahead of Biden by three points in national polling. That wouldn’t be the case if voters viewed Trump as a threat to democracy and were swayed by such a perceived threat.
Moreover, Trump isn’t on the ballot in 2022. So even voters who consider him a threat aren’t likely to view their GOP congressman or the Republican challenging their Democratic congressman that way in most cases. Trying to persuade them to see Republican candidates in this light is a fool’s errand.
What about “democracy bills”? They consist mostly of doing away with safeguards against voting fraud. Most voters don’t view ensuring election integrity to be anti-Democratic. They hold the contrary, and correct, view. That’s what polls show.
The Democrats may not be destined for a thumping this year. But if they avoid it, they will do so thanks to events — e.g. a significant reduction in the rate of inflation and a significant receding of the coronavirus — not by portraying Republicans as enemies of democracy.