116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Goodbye Speaker Pelosi. Greetings Speaker McCarthy. That’s the story in January 2023 if today’s conventional wisdom is true: the party with the president in the White House loses seats in the House of Representatives at midterm elections.
Our Iowa Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks asserts unequivocally, ““we will be the majority….” She is not alone. In a recent poll of 158 top Capitol Hill staff of both parties, about four out of five agreed. They may be right, but they may also be wrong. Politics is fluid and early certainty often disappears by Election Day.
The Democrats have only a nine-member advantage now so even a small shift will, indeed, make the Republicans the controlling party in the House. The example most often cited for “inevitable change” is the 1966 election. Two years earlier, when President Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic candidate, clobbered Sen. Barry Goldwater, Democrats won everywhere, including virtually all marginal districts and many normally Republican ones, with 295 Democrats and 140 Republicans elected.
The next two years of Vietnam and civil rights protests, marches, and national distemper made midterm Democratic loss probable. And, indeed, Democrats lost 47 seats. But virtually all were seats that Republicans had ordinarily won. It was more a return to normal than anything more.
Johnson was sufficiently unpopular that he did not run again in 1968. It is unlikely that Joe Biden, reasonably popular now, will be significantly weaker, if at all. If he is not, he will not be a drag on congressional races as Johnson was. Conventional wisdom may not, in 2022, be wisdom at all.
There are two changes going on today which will make a difference. The left-wing of the Democratic Party, an easy target of the Trump years, seems to be weakening. In Virginia recently, for example, more centrist Democrats won. The left lost across the board. The shift seems present in other states as well. The sound of Trump and his surrogates raging about the Socialist menace is likely to be less effective.
The Republican Party is already in some ideological turmoil. There is a growing group of moderate Republicans who have banded together to “renew” their party. They are reasonable Republicans of stature who found the Trump years a nightmare. Some have already said they will not vote for Trump followers in either primaries or in the general election. They may stay home, but political creatures find voting hard to resist. In the worst years, 90 percent of Republicans vote their party election after election. But, for even a few, disgust will have replaced loyalty to party and that can cost seats, including Meeker-Mill’s, that might have been won, including some who have sold their once-moderate souls to save their seats.
If Renewal Republicans stay home, as some have already said they will, or in fact, vote for Democrats, Donald Trump’s PAC with $85 million already in the bank may not be enough.
If it isn’t, we may say: “welcome back. Speaker Nancy; see you later Kevin.” So much for the conventional wisdom.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”