As poll after poll shows, raising taxes on corporations is very popular with the American people. Republicans’ opposition to such measures, plus their threat to nix infrastructure legislation if corporate taxes are raised, pretty much eviscerates what is left of their claim to be the party of workers. For Democrats returning to the bread-and-butter agenda aimed squarely at low- and middle-income voters, this admission is manna from political heaven.
Coupled with their unanimous rejection of the overwhelmingly popular American Rescue Plan and the decision by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to oppose a Jan. 6 commission (which has drawn the ire of many Republicans in his caucus), Republicans’ latest pitch on behalf of corporate scofflaws suggests they have no clue how to win a majority of House seats. This is what comes from living inside the MAGA cult and the right-wing media bubble.
Republicans’ agenda, to the extent they have one, is the antithesis of economic populism. In decrying $1,400 checks for Americans, food support for millions, a reduction in child poverty by half and a lifeline for restaurants, they have painted themselves into a corner. They are now reduced to touting the benefits of legislation they opposed.
In McCarthy’s America, disgraced former president Donald Trump calls the shots, white supremacists get a wink and a nod, corporations get a patsy and the “forgotten” man and woman get nothing. Throw into the mix the fear among many women that the GOP is looking to roll back the clock nearly 50 years on abortion rights, and one gets the sense Republicans are systematically trying to alienate large segments of the electorate.
As FiveThirtyEight’s Alex Samuels dryly observes, “The GOP is in a bit of disarray.” To others, it resembles a dumpster fire. Democrats would be wise to follow a few rules to keep the GOP on its heels.
First, make the case that Republicans are unhinged (easy to do, since they are still in denial about Jan. 6) and beholden to Trump, who will effectively run the House if they get a majority. This poses the threat of a true constitutional crisis if a GOP House majority refuses to certify a Democratic presidential nominee’s victory in the 2024 election.
Second, Democrats must deliver on the American Jobs Plan, as they did on the American Rescue Plan, by reconciliation if need be. They can then run on the infrastructure projects and jobs created in each district. Get the GOP on record opposing yet another popular initiative as it chooses instead to go to the mat for big corporations that so often pay no federal income tax. Force Republicans to run on cutting big business’s taxes and stiffing the little guy (whether on the minimum wage, pandemic relief or infrastructure jobs.)
Third, hold state and federal Republicans accountable for voter suppression. This is an extension of the GOP’s attack on American democracy and a blatant attempt to extend white, conservative rule in an increasingly diverse country. Their agenda is unpopular, so they seek to make it hard for their own constituents to vote.
Fourth, target the freshmen members who won in 2020 in swing districts (many that had just flipped from Republican to Democratic in 2018). These lawmakers have largely been complicit in the attempt to gaslight Americans about Jan. 6 and have done nothing to thwart the far-right agenda. Moreover, their reelection runs the risk of making McCarthy (or some equally devout MAGA toady) speaker.
The pattern of the governing party losing seats in the midterms is not an inviolable rule. As Never Trumper Matthew Dowd writes: “In the last thirty years, there has only been two times a president has gone into a midterm with a positive net job approval rating — in 1998 for [Bill] Clinton and in 2002 for [George W.] Bush. And in both cases their party, bucking normal historical midterm trends, picked up seats in the House.” Democrats are likely to do well if the election is a choice between continuation of a successful Biden agenda (if covid-19 and the economic slump are indeed behind us) and a return to the days of crazy MAGA rule. Lucky for them, Republicans are embracing their identity as an unhinged, plutocratic cult.