March 3, 2024

the party in power

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Why the party in power may stay in power may stay in power
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — No one can say with any certainty what will happen in the November midterms. The political environment is more confusing and more volatile than anything we’ve come to expect halfway through a new president’s term.
          It almost never looks good for the party in power, which typically loses seats in the House and Senate. Today, Democrats have such a narrow margin that a loss of five seats in the House and one in the Senate would put them in the minority.
          These are tough odds but breaking down the factors at play, from the war in Ukraine to inflation and redistricting, the outlook for the Democrats is better than most analysts are predicting.
          Let’s start with redistricting, that mysterious redrawing of congressional districts that occurs every 10 years. Democrats braced for disaster based on GOP gains in state legislatures, but thanks to some favorable court rulings, Democrats held their own and will not be re-districted out of power by gerrymandering.
          Then there’s the Ukraine factor. Russia’s brutal war is bringing Americans together. Nearly everyone is for Ukraine and voices praising Putin have been sidelined if not silenced. We agree across party lines that the war Putin is waging is outrageous and that the atrocities committed in Putin’s name are war crimes.
          But that war will either soon end through military successes or negotiation, or it will drag on in a stalemate. Either way, it will not be a factor in November.
          The international threat Russia’s brutality posed will be replaced by the collective recognition that the allies must free themselves from dependence on Russian oil and gas.
          This will leave the economy as the dominant issue for voters. It usually is top of the mind. Some economic analysts are warning that the country could plunge into recession next year. But unemployment is down, and wages are rising.
          Still, inflation looms, but there’s an optimistic view on that as well that could cushion Democrats seeking election in the Fall. This is not your grandfather’s inflation. Rising prices are mainly the result of Pandemic-driven supply-side shortages, but the Pandemic is ending, and so will the shortages. Inflation could drop from 7 percent to 2 or 3 percent by election time.
          This is all guesswork of course, and one of the wild cards heading into November is the former president and his hold on a portion of the electorate. Donald Trump’s effort to launch a rival social media site to Twitter is floundering, and his ill-timed comments about Putin being a “genius” and reaching out to Putin for info on his political rival have left Trump looking tone-deaf to the human suffering caused by that Russian dictator.
          Trump has endorsed almost 130 candidates from members of Congress to secretaries of state in key swing states, where he hopes to put in place officials loyal to him should he be on the ballot again in 2024. And this could backfire if those candidates win in their primary elections only to turn off a far more moderate electorate in the general election.
          So, with the war and Pandemic over or on the wane, inflation down, employment and wages up, and gerrymandering blunted, the coming midterms will favor incumbents.
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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