Sunday, May 28

Biden seeks to motivate voters from all parties against ‘Maga Republicans destroying politics’ | Joe Biden

Democrats are trying to defy history in November. Since 1934, there have only been two midterm elections – in 1998 and 2002 – when the president’s party gained seats in the House of Representatives. Democrats hope that the pattern will be broken for a third time.

While midterms are generally viewed as a referendum on the sitting president and his party, Biden and other Democratic leaders have instead sought to reframe the upcoming elections as a test of American democracy itself. Democrats believe that, if Americans view the elections as a choice between extremists threatening their fundamental rights and candidates seeking to protect those vulnerable freedoms, then the party may be able to maintain their congressional majorities. In Democrats’ view, a historic election calls for a history-defying result.

Biden has repeatedly hammered the theme of Republican extremism in recent weeks, as the president has turned more of his attention to the midterm elections. In the past month, Biden has compared Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” philosophy to “semi-fascism”, and he has warned that the former president and his allies of him “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic” .

Biden continued his attacks on “extreme Maga Republicans” on Thursday night, as he spoke at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

“We’re in a serious moment in this nation’s history,” Biden said on Thursday. “That’s why those who love this country – Democrats, independents and mainstream Republicans – have to be stronger, more determined and more committed to saving American democracy than the Maga Republicans are to literally destroying American politics. You just have to vote.”

Democratic organizers have similarly embraced issues like voting rights and the protection of America’s system of government as they enter the final stretch of the campaign season before the November elections. They argue that a pro-democracy message can help mobilize voters and carry their candidates across the finish line, despite the significant headwinds that the party faces.

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There is some evidence to suggest that Biden’s pro-democracy messaging is resonating with voters. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken this week, 58% of Americans believe Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement is threatening the country’s democratic foundations.

Fear over the fate of American democracy also appears to be weighing on voters’ minds more, which could negatively impact Republicans’ midterm prospects. One NBC News poll taken last month found that voters now name “threats to democracy” as the most important issue facing the country, outranking “cost of living” and “jobs and the economy”.

“This election is a critical inflection point for American democracy,” said Kim Rogers, executive director of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State. “Because democracy is inextricably linked to other fundamental freedoms and representation, I think it’s an incredibly motivating factor for voters.”

Biden has similarly sought to directly tie attacks on democracy to threats on other rights, including abortion access. In the wake of the supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, ending federal protections for abortion access, Democrats have framed the midterm elections as a vital fight for fair healthcare.

“I want to be crystal clear about what’s at stake on the ballot. Your right to choose is on the ballot,” Biden said on Thursday. “Your right to vote, even our democracy, is on the ballot. Are you ready to fight for these things?”

Since the supreme court issued its decision to overturn Roe in June, Democrats have notched some important electoral victories. Last month, voters in Kansas, which Trump won by double digits in 2020, resoundingly rejected an anti-abortion amendment to their state constitution. Weeks later, Democrat Pat Ryan won a hotly contested special congressional election in New York after touting his support for abortion rights. Democrat Mary Peltola was also declared the winner of Alaska’s special congressional race last week, pulling off an upset in another state carried by Trump in 2020.

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Those developments have forced some election forecasters to reconsider their previous predictions of a shellacking by Republicans in November.

“The reversal of Roe is mobilizing people to either switch parties and also mobilizing millions of people to get off the sidelines and get engaged because they see what’s at stake in this election,” said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president and executive director of the progressive youth voting group NextGen America. “When you take away a fundamental right, you’re going to motivate an entire pissed-off generation, and I think that’s what we’re going to see this election.”

Republicans summarily reject that argument, insisting that this midterm election will follow the traditional pattern of the president’s party losing ground in Congress. They predict that kitchen-table issues, particularly record-high inflation, will drive frustrated voters to the polls and cost Democrats their majorities in the House and the Senate.

“Biden and Democrats are doing what they do best – dividing Americans, dodging questions and ducking blame,” said Emma Vaughn, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. “In two months, the DNC will be hosting a meeting to show Democrats in Congress how to transition to retired life.”

Republicans also have some structural advantages in the race, namely Democrats’ razor-thin majorities in both the House and the Senate. Republicans only need to win five more House seats than they did in 2020 to retake the majority, and flipping one seat in the Senate will be enough to regain control of the upper chamber.

Democrats have some reason to hope they can keep their majority in the Senate, after Republicans nominated vulnerable candidates in key battleground states. But the battle for the House will be painful for Democrats, especially after Republicans notched some important redistricting wins.

“I think the idea of ​​Democrats holding both chambers to me is still far-fetched,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “The Democrats basically have to sweep the toss-ups or come really close to sweeping the toss-ups in order to win [the House].”

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Kondik also noted a key distinction between this year’s elections and those that took place in 1998 and 2002, when the president’s party was able to pick up House seats. Both Bill Clinton and George W Bush had strong approval ratings when the midterms were held those years, while Biden’s approval rating have been underwater for more than a year.

“It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Democrats to hang on to the Senate, even as Biden’s approval is bad,” Kondik said. “I do think it would be odd for them to hold both.”

But, as Kondik acknowledged, history can serve as a guide but not necessarily as a fortune-teller when it comes to American politics.

“Sometimes elections are just different than any election we’ve had before,” he said. “Maybe history is not particularly instructive in this instance.”

Ramirez embraces that argument, insisting that Biden’s approval rating does not tell the whole story about the midterms. After a once-in-a-century pandemic, an attempted insurrection and a monumental supreme court decision, it is hard to say exactly what the 2022 electorate might look like, she said.

“The traditional political wisdom doesn’t go along with the current political state of our country,” Ramirez said. “I think Biden’s numbers will not reflect overall what happens with Democratic voters because it’s beyond just one politician. It’s about saving our country and basic fundamental freedoms, and I think people understand that.”

This article was amended on 9 September 2022 to correct a quote by Joe Biden, and to clarify that, before 2002 and 1998, the previous time a president’s party gained seats in the House of Representatives was 1934, not 1932.

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