How Democrats finally gave themselves a fighting chance in the 2022 midterms

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If Democrats are to flip historical precedent they need accomplishments to tell voters about, says Andrew Buncombe
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Nancy Pelosi says ‘if you are an American this bill is for you and it is better’
Like lots of stories about politics, this one requires a caveat.
In truth, it requires several, and one of them needs to come at the start of the tale.
The so-called Build Back Better (BBB) Act, passed by the House of Representatives and which would direct as much as  $1.75 trillion to expand healthcare, counter climate change and reconfigure the nation’s social spending infrastructure, did so by the narrowest of margins – just 220-213 – and without a single vote from Republicans.
It must now be passed by the Senate, where, the Democrats’ margin of control is even thinner, and where the support of all its members also cannot be taken from granted.
If either Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema or any other of the several centrist  senators who have strong concerns about the price tag do not agree to it, then it will not become law.
And yet this vote, taken on the last Friday before the Thanksgiving holiday – and less than a year before the 2022 midterms – may become one Democrats look back on as a crucial event in their efforts to hang onto one or both of the chambers of Congress when they make their case to the public.
“It does give us a fighting chance,” says Mike Fraioli, a longtime Democratic strategist from Washington DC.
He says every members of Congress will be heading home to their districts for Thanksgiving, where their constituents will be seeing headlines about the measure being passed by the House, and the process moving forward.
“It gives them something positive to talk about,” he says. “Just as long as they do not get too far ahead of themselves.”
Biden and his party certainly need some good headlines. It is typical that in a president’s first term, the party that occupies the White House tends to lose control of either the House or the Senate.
And, a year after winning the election, Biden’s approval rating is abysmally low – though not as low as that of Donald Trumps – and sits at just 43 per cent, according to an average collated by FiveThirtyEight.
There is a debate among Democrats as to what the party is doing wrong. While the economy is actually doing considerably better than it was, and while 74 per cent of Americans tell pollsters they feel it is a good time to find a quality job, that does not translate to a feeling of economic optimism or confidence.
Party that controls White House tends to lose one chamber of Congress in midterms
Some commentators have argued this is because the individual daily experience of many Americans, of higher prices for food and fuel, of shelves sometimes not being full, and of Covid still devastating communities, does not match with the broader trends of lower unemployment and wage increase.
“Americans’ confidence in the economy continues to weaken, and their mentions of a variety of economic issues as the nation’s most important problem are rising,” Gallup said about one of its polls, which highlighted some apparent incongruities.
The measures contained in the bipartisan infrastructure bill the president signed into law earlier this month are certainly popular, perhaps backed by as many as something as 65 per cent of Americans. Measures in the BBB Act have the support of as many as 60 per cent.
Even the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said he was proud to have been among 19 GOP senators who voted for the infrastructure bill, even as Trump called him an “old crow”, indicating he realises it has support across the nation.
“I watched each of the two previous administrations struggle with the issue of how to meet the infrastructure needs of the country,” McConnell said.
Democrats have spent much of the summer arguing between their progressive and centrist factions, over what should be in these two bills, and what can or cannot be dropped to get it through the Senate. It is unclear if the $1.75 trillion approved by the House, will be the same amount that can be slipped by the Senate. If the sum is different, it will need to go back to the lower chamber for another vote.
If it does reach the president’s desk at such a scale, experts say it would represent the largest piece of investment in the social fabric of the nation since Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty in the 1960s.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke for more than 8 hours to delay a vote on bill
Biden said in a statement: “Today, the United States House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act to take another giant step forward in carrying out my economic plan to create jobs, reduce costs, make our country more competitive, and give working people and the middle class a fighting chance.”
If this second bill does get signed into law, would it be enough to allow Democrats hold onto at least one of the congressional chambers? Nobody knows.
But what is clear, after the loss of the governor’s race in Virginia to a Republican businessman who was able to win over suburban voters, while securing enough of the GOP’s rural base, Democrats need to have a lot more to talk about rather than simply trying to pretend every candidate they are contesting is Donald Trump
Biden campaigned as being someone who could make meaningful, even historic, change to America.
The infrastructure bill and, if also passed the Build Back Better Act, would give Democrats a positive story, an accomplishment to talk about, as they knock on doors, flood the airwaves and take their message to social media.
History tells us that to win next year, they will need to do all of that and more.
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Nancy Pelosi says ‘if you are an American this bill is for you and it is better’
AFP via Getty Images
Party that controls White House tends to lose one chamber of Congress in midterms
Getty Images
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke for more than 8 hours to delay a vote on bill
AFP via Getty Images
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