The adage “there’s nowhere to go but up” certainly applies to conservatives now that 2021 is upon us. No doubt the election gave millions something to worry about, coupled with more than a little righteous indignation. But perhaps it’s best not to pitch a tent there and look ahead at positive things to come.
First, it must be recognized that the Senate still hangs in the balance – and that’s no minor matter. Should the GOP not hold the upper chamber, Democrats are looking at a clean sweep. When one party controls the presidency, the House, and the Senate, it means they rule the roost and can move ahead with their agenda unfettered. But even with single party power, the wheels of government turn slowly. Since members of the House run for office every two years, the loyal opposition won’t have to wait too long before they have an opportunity to take over at least one chamber of Congress.
In 2022, all 435 representatives in the House will run for re-election if they want to retain their seats. The situation is different in the Senate, where a third of those elected run every two years. In 2022, Class 3 senators are up for re-election. There are 34 Senate seats in this class, comprised of 21 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
If there is a way to secure future elections from all the shenanigans that appear to have gone on in November, Republicans can and should make a strong comeback in 2022. This is because it will be a midterm year during which the opposing party of a sitting president historically rakes. A report by NPR backs this up with the assertion, “History tells us that midterm elections are bad — sometimes very bad — for the party that controls the White House.”
Truth be told, it has been ugly for the president’s party for a century. In 2018, the Republicans lost 40 seats in the House but oddly gained two Senate seats. In Barack Obama’s second term, the Democrats lost 13 House seats and nine in the Senate. In Obama’s first term, though, it was close to a wipeout, with the Dems losing a whopping 63 House seats and six senators. Not since 1938, during the second term of Franklin Roosevelt, when voters turned out 72 Democrat representatives, had a president’s party lost so decisively. The only president that suffered more than Roosevelt or Obama for almost 100 years is Warren Harding. Seventy-seven House Republicans failed to hold on to their seats during the Harding administration.
Several theories explain why a president’s party loses during midterm years, generally based on trends rather than hard evidence. The most widely accepted of these is known as the “coattail effect.” Liberty Nation’s Washington political columnist Tim Donner wrote an article about coattails recently. He said:
“When a presidential candidate is elected to the highest office in the land, one of the first questions that naturally follows is designed to assess his candidacy’s relative strength: did he have coattails? In other words, did he drag or propel down-ticket hopefuls – from Congress to local races – with him across the finish line?”
The coattail theory is an oddity that doesn’t make sense regarding Joe Biden’s reported win because the Republicans picked up so many House seats in November. Another theory that is circulated about midterm losses for the president’s party is apathy. Some believe folks vote more in protest, which drives the opposition party to the polls during a midterm. Another speculation is that Americans prefer a divided government; they don’t want too much power in one party’s hands. No matter which of these theories you subscribe to — the bottom line is that if past is prologue — it’s Republicans who will soon control at least one chamber of Congress, if not both.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.
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