MINOT, N.D. — What are Republicans going to campaign on in 2022?
It's a midterm election, the first of President Joe Biden's term, and historically those go pretty well for the opposition party. In the modern political era, the opposition's candidates pick up an average of 30 seats in the House and Senate combined.
In 2018, the first midterm of Donald Trump's term in office, Republicans lost 39 seats in Congress overall (41 in the House while gaining two in the Senate).
Why does this happen?
A winning president brings a lot of voters to the polls, and those votes are cast for down-ballot races too, but when the president isn't on the ticket a lot of those voters don't show up. But perhaps more important is the reality of governing versus campaigning. By the time the midterm comes around, the new president has governed for a while, and the voters have gotten a taste of just how different that is from how the president campaigned.
There's always disappointment that lends itself to the success of the opposition.
This is why political majorities tend to be cyclical.
It doesn't always work this way. Significant political events can disrupt these trends.
In 2002, under President George W. Bush, the first election after the 9/11 attacks saw Republicans gaining 10 seats in Congress (eight in the House, two in the Senate). In 1998 Democrats benefitted from the backlash against the Republican efforts to impeach President Bill Clinton and gained five seats in the House. In 1934, Democrats picked up 18 seats, split evenly between the House and Senate, amid Franklin Roosevelt's efforts to head off the Great Depression with the New Deal.
Let's get back to 2022.
We've had a significant political event. For the first time in American history, an outgoing U.S. president has disputed the election results. A mob of supporters, inspired by Trump's claims of a rigged election, violently attacked the U.S. Capitol. In the wake of that attack, most Republicans have continued to stand behind Trump and his bogus attacks on the American election system.
The former president's grievances about the 2020 election will almost certainly be a factor in 2022. If his recent rally in North Carolina is any indication, he'll be talking about “by far most corrupt election in the history of our country" (his words) throughout this political cycle.
Republicans have to cut through that miasma of obnoxious, Trump-serving rhetoric if they want to win in 2022.
A platform of policy ideas — articulate positions on policy questions such as health care and crime and federal spending of the sort that propelled them to victory in 1994 and 2010 — would be just the ticket.
Where is that platform?
It's not in evidence.
All we have is Trump's inflamed id and a lot of cowed Republicans who aren't interested in doing anything but follow his lead.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.