Sometimes electoral politics is disappointingly simple. The final argument the GOP must make before the November election has little to do with nuanced policy positions and everything to do with reminding voters that President Biden has been ineffective at solving the problems that worry them most.
Yes, most of us wish we lived in a country where the average citizen was not a low-information voter, where candidate nuance was rewarded, demagoguery was punished, and building meaningful accords of compromise and consensus was the expectation of our elected officials.
But electoral politics in 2022 is not tantamount to wonkery or college seminars, and high-minded cerebral discourse is simply not where we stand in our civic life today.
If Republicans want to triumph in a few weeks, the best advice is extraordinarily straightforward: keep the focus on simple, real-world issues and let the historic winds of normalcy sail the party boat to victory.
I know, I know, I am supposed to beg candidates to talk with subtlety and innuendo about complex public policy positions. Inflation, the war in Ukraine, energy supply shocks, surging crime, and anxiety over public education are supremely complicated issues. Talking about these issues in broad, bumper sticker quotes or in sleek snarky Twitter-speak encourages a form of democratic decadence and adolescent politicking that supposedly signals the end of the republic itself. While the GOP could fairly be accused of being light on its plans for governance — there was no party platform in 2020 and the House’s “Commitment to America” barely lasted a single news cycle before fading into obscurity — simply opposing President Biden’s record and agenda will probably be enough to win a bi-cameral victory come November.
Don’t talk about election fraud in the final days. Don’t denigrate the FBI. Don’t focus on the lives of politicians or the endless grievances of Donald Trump. Don’t prosecute issues that invite outrage. Most Americans aren’t on Twitter. They don’t endlessly watch cable news or live or die by the latest revelations of the Durham Report or the January 6th Committee.
Focus on what average voters know to be true because of their daily life.
- They know their gas prices are out of control and that President Biden is beholden to the agenda of environmental progressivism. They know President Biden was rhetorically hostile to drilling on federal lands (though not in reality) at the same time he begged Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to pump for oil.
- They know inflation seems to know no end. They know the Federal Reserve is concerned enough to raise interest rates at a historically fast clip. They might or might not know inflation is just as bad, if not worse, in England and the European Union, but they definitely know the profligate $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) probably exacerbated the problem, which even the White House admits. It wouldn’t take a lot to remind voters of some recent history, that Biden and his congressional coterie of wild spenders wanted a $3.5 Trillion bill that would have done the equivalent of spend $1,000 per second for 111 years.
- They know crime is bad, especially in progressive enclaves like Los Angeles and San Francisco where even actress Susan Sarandon is posting videos that look more like clips from the apocalyptic scenes of Terminator films than modern day America. Moreover, they know the voices yelling “defund the police” came from Biden’s party.
For better or for worse (mainly worse), the 2022 mid-term election cycle has furthered the nationalization of congressional politics. The paucity of local concerns and regional issues in congressional races subverts the Madisonian hope that national leaders can both reflect the anxieties of local constituencies while working towards the common good of the country. You know House races have become nationalized when they focus more on abortion and the Supreme Court than issues like homelessness and a reliable electric grid.
A nationalized election, however, allows Republicans to keep it simple and speak to the overarching realities of broad economic pain. Republicans can safely wrestle control from Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the House, and maybe even grant Mitch McConnell (R-KY) his dream of becoming the longest-serving Senate party leader in history. Of course, there are anomalies and October surprises. The midterms of 2002 were conducted in the traumatic wake of 9/11 and bucked the near-universal rule of the president’s party losing congressional seats in a midterm election. George W. Bush’s DUI revelation in 2000 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are examples of how last-minute events can change electoral trajectories.
But the data is clear: from 1934 to 2018, the party of the President averaged a loss of twenty-eight seats and four Senate seats during midterm elections. Only three times in the same time span has the President’s party picked up seats in the House. While President Biden’s approval rating is better than it was in July, it remains stuck in the low-40’s, hardly a recipe for broad Democratic Party enthusiasm.
There will be plenty of hysteria in the coming weeks, replete with warnings that this is the “most important election” of our lifetimes and that the Republican Party is a mortal threat to democracy itself.
But just remember: if the GOP triumphs, another stint as majority leader by mellow Mitch McConnell probably will not alter the arc of human civilization itself. And a House of Representatives led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — full disclosure, he is my congressman and a personal acquaintance — is not going to cross any political Rubicons or transform the inner-workings of the institution he leads. His majority will be slight and nothing in his leadership portfolio suggests his reign would bear any resemblance to the centralized speakerships of Joseph Cannon — “Czar Cannon” — Sam Rayburn or Newt Gingrich.
It is both college essay season and midterm election season, but the advice for both activities is the same: keep it simple, keep it real, trust the reader, trust the voter.
Jeremy S. Adams is the author of Hollowed Out: A Warning About America’s Next Generation, recently released in paperback. He has taught American civics for 24 years in Bakersfield, California and was the 2014 California Teacher of the Year (DAR). You can follow him on Twitter @JeremyAdams6.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.