The 'here and now' of economic issues are on top of voters’ minds this midterm elections as the Democrats struggle to hold on to their slim majority in the US Congress. With food and fuel prices going up, their chances for maintaining control are going down.
Some voters are souring on the war in Ukraine as they struggle to pay bills. While most Americans want Ukraine to win against Russia, the hard truth is, the war has contributed to their misery. But those concerns can’t be voiced. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party tried this week and wrote to President Joe Biden, urging him to change tack and engage directly with Russia. But they were shut down.
Democrats struggle to hold on to their slim majority in the US Congress with food and fuel prices going up
While most Americans want Ukraine to win against Russia, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party wrote to President Joe Biden, urging him to engage directly with Russia. But they were shut down.
Republicans are hammering away not only on “pocket-book issues” but also on other damaging issues such as the rising crime in big cities and illegal immigration.
The lethal combination of economic and social issues has turned many independent voters away from Democrats and towards Republicans.
US Needs To Weigh In on the Ukraine War
The pushback from the White House and other wings of the party was so severe that Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, was forced to withdraw the letter and blame “staffers” for releasing it without vetting.
There’s no question the war has everything to do with energy prices going up and hurting people all over, including in the US. But so far, there is no sentiment in Washington to use diplomacy as a tool to see if there’s a way out of the protracted conflict.
Immigration, Crime Rates Are Pressing Issues
Republicans are hammering away not only on “pocket-book issues” but also on other damaging issues such as the rising crime in big cities and illegal immigration. Because the Democrats won’t acknowledge those problems, they have left the field open. The immigration issue has festered with hundreds of thousands of people who are coming through the border states of Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico, with no real policy in sight.
The lethal combination of economic and social issues has turned many independent voters away from Democrats and towards Republicans. Even safe, deep blue states such as Oregon are showing signs of trouble and streaks of Republican red. Republicans seem to have the momentum with Democratic margins eroding in key Senate races over the last month.
The latest Pew Research Survey released 20 Oct showed 79% of registered voters said the economy would be very important in their voting decisions while violent crime came second with 61% of voters. Midterm Voting Intentions Are Divided, Economic Gloom Persists
Oil And Energy Prices Plague The World
The stakes are high with the entire 435-member House of Representatives up for election along with one-third of the 100-member Senate. Currently, the Democrats barely control the House 220-212 with three seats vacant while the Senate is split 50-50 with the vice president casting the deciding vote. Not a comfortable situation to begin with, it seems slated to get worse.
President Joe Biden’s attempts to alleviate the economic stress by intervening and releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve hasn’t made much of a difference to the price of gas. He bit the bullet and even traveled to Saudi Arabia this summer to signal a new era in relations. Biden as a candidate had vowed to make the oil kingdom a “pariah” for killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He wanted Saudi Arabia to pump more oil, not less.
But the Saudis dug in their heels and the US-Saudi rift threatens to engulf other countries in crisis, including India. The recent decision by Saudi-dominated OPEC+ countries to cut production starting in November would likely raise prices and hurt one and all. The decision appeared to be aimed at the US and the Democrats in particular—the midterm elections are scheduled for 8 November.
Biden Administration In A Tough Spot
It appears that Biden’s message is failing both at home and abroad. Despite significant legislative victories, a major infrastructure bill, subsidies for health care, billions for computer chip manufacturing, programmes for fighting climate change, his approval ratings remained under water. The latest figure is around 40%, which doesn’t give confidence to Democrats.
American voters, unforgiving as they are, don’t want to hear about achievements recorded even as recently as in August, when Biden had a streak of victories raising hopes in the Democratic camp. The Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade and take away the right to an abortion was working in Democrats’ favour. But no more as abortion rights are a third tier issue at best behind economic worries.
Diversity As Election Strategy
The ground has shifted considerably since the summer and the Democrats are struggling even in once-comfortable Senate races in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Biden has tried to reduce the panic in his party, saying it’s a back and forth and the polls have been all over the place. But realistic assessments by Democratic Party strategists show the House would be lost while the Senate is delicately and dangerously balanced. It might go to Republicans too.
An interesting development this election season is the number of minority candidates the Republicans are fielding. The fact goes against the traditional understanding of the party as being anti-minority. But this time around, the Republicans have 67 Black, Latino, Asian and Native American candidates in the fray. The idea is to dispel the notion that the Republican Party is meant for White voters.
“It may seem counterintuitive, but an increasingly White nationalist GOP does not foreclose the possibility of diversity among its ranks. Republicans are savvily using this reality to their advantage and are eager to weaponise it,” said Zeeshan Aleem, an Op-ed columnist for MSNBC, a lefty channel, and website.
Interestingly, the “diversity” project is developing in tandem with White Republican candidates using racist language to appeal to the “base.” The not-so-subtle messaging about what is called the “great replacement theory” where White politicians invoke fears about being “replaced” by illegal immigrants can be heard.
Republican candidates make the point that immigrant workers are employed at lower wages, reducing the incentive for “true” Americans to work in those jobs, and that the Democratic establishment overlooks the issue.
But going back even to the 2020 election, a trend of minority Hispanic and Black male voters abandoning the Democratic Party was noticeable. Republicans honed in and developed a strategy to attract minority voters under the noses of Democrats who have tended to take minority voters for granted. Late night efforts may not work but the main problem of the Democratic Party seems to be an inability to properly read voter sentiment.
Minorities are not monoliths and they respond differently to different issues, including abortion rights as in the case of Hispanics who are mostly Catholics. And it seems that minority and independent voters will decide this midterm election.
(Seema Sirohi is a senior Washington-based journalist. She can be reached at @seemasirohi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)