The leadership of the Republican Party has opted for a strategy that could bring them success in the mid-term-elections of 2022. At the heart of their approach is avid support of Donald Trump’s assertion that the last election was riddled with corruption. To avoid repeating what Trump refers to as a fraud, Republicans have championed strictly amending the present voting system.
Trump has asserted more than once that Republicans cannot prevail if the record mail-in voting rate of 2020 continues. He also acknowledges that Democrats usually prevail when there is a large voter turnout. These observations have led to hundreds of Republican generated bills and legal actions in every state to curtail in-person and mail-in voter turnout.
The risks in this strategy are formidable. Vigorous adherence to the lie about a fraudulent 2020 election could alienate independent and moderate Republican voters. Most prominent Republicans have recognized Biden’s election is valid. Even die-hard Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani so stated while under oath in a legal case. Elected Republican office-holders in Georgia and Arizona have complained publicly that repeated voter recounts waste public funds and divert personnel from actual governance. Some have joined anti-Trump Republican organizations.
Curbing mail-in voting could backfire. Republicans generally carry the votes of seniors, large numbers of which vote by mail. In Florida’s always close elections, the senior vote is crucial. Seniors, who have voted for decades, especially the homebound and disabled, may opt or be forced by their circumstances, to not bother voting.
The shameless creation of bureaucratic restrictions for in-person voting also may have the effect of rousing Democrats to increase the measures that brought them victory in 2020. African Americans in the South, a Democratic voting block that can be a decisive force in any given election, have responded with grass roots organization dedicated to dealing with what they consider a new form of repressing their right to vote.
Republican hopes for victory were boosted when the 2020 census showed growing populations in a number of red states. That finding automatically gives red states more House seats. All other factors being equal, this increase could provide the votes Republicans need to retake the House of Representatives. As most of the affected states have Republican legislatures, traditional gerrymandering will maximize this benefit.
The increase in red state populations is largely due to the arrival of newcomers. Most of them choose to reside in cities and suburbia. Republicans usually lose cities and have seen a steady ebb in their suburban supporters. If the newcomers prove to be moderates or liberals, their votes could offset the large majorities Republicans generate in rural areas.
In all regions of the nation, there is massive support for health care reform and increased taxes on the super-rich, measures the Republican leadership rejects. Voters may also realize that the Republican proposal to increase ‘user’ fees means higher tolls at tunnels, bridges, expressways, and national parks. Paying such taxes will be unavoidable for groups such as commuters, independent truckers, and those who use mass transit daily.
Another questionable Republican proposal is to divert money to infrastructure from funds already allocated for other purposes. This would not save any money and would leave the original projects underfunded.
Clinging to fossil fuel technology will play well in some states but reinforces the image of a party looking backwards rather than embracing state-of-the-art technology. By not actively cooperating with Biden’s vigorous assault on the Covid-19 epidemic Republicans will not share credit for controlling it and the economic boom sure to be generated by the reopening the economy.
All these and other risks are taken on the assumption that even though Trump’s name will not appear on any ballot, he will be able to rally his hardcore supporters in sufficient numbers to win states where winning margins are thin. More skeptical Republicans note that although Trump energetically campaigned in the run-off Senate races on Georgia, his candidates lost. Other Republicans are concerned that the legal actions by New York regarding corruption in Trump’s business organizations may touch him personally. Nor would revelation of how little he pays in income taxes play well with voters.
The results of 2022 will set the American political terrain for at least a decade. If a Trump-oriented Republican Party does exceedingly well, Trump will have secured his power and be the front-runner in the presidential election of 2024. Should the Democrats stave off the Republicans, much less win seats, they will have emerged as the dominant party and can advance Biden’s ambitious agenda. The Republicans, in contrast, will be forced to rethink what they consider priority issues and what constituents they wish to cultivate. If there is the usual pattern of the governing party only losing some seats, the nation will remain immersed for at least two more years in bitter partisan hostility that thwarts basic economic development.