Harrop: Republican over-reach may be key to Democrats’ success

The convention wisdom about midterm elections may not hold if Republicans keep this up.

By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s massive victory in California’s recall election should spray some water on overheated predictions that Democrats will lose big in the 2022 midterm elections. And that’s not the only source of hope for the Democratic Party.

Newsom’s win surprised few in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2 to 1, but the size of the win — 64 percent to 36 percent — did. And of special interest to Democrats everywhere was Newsom’s ability to nationalize the election. California was reeling from hideous fires and the relentless onslaught of covid-19, but Newsom spent the last days of the campaign railing against the new abortion law in Texas.

The law virtually bans abortion. More astounding, it offers $10,000 bounties to any creep who reports anyone deemed to have helped a woman end a pregnancy past six weeks. So offensive is the law’s slippery attempt to avoid federal judicial review that many right-wingers condemned it.

“Sometimes we wonder if Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (a Republican) is a progressive plant,” a Wall Street Journal editorial board lamented.

Small wonder that Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat trying to get his old job back as Virginia governor, now vows to be a “brick wall” against any Texas-style abortion restriction. His Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, is waffling on this issue.

This is the kind of thing that could energize Democrats to show up in large numbers for special elections and the midterms; contests where Democratic turnout tends to drop dramatically from presidential years. Small wonder Democratic leaders fret over the party’s ability to maintain majorities in both the House and Senate. Adding to their worries, the president’s party traditionally loses ground in midterm elections.

But do these political assumptions still apply? It was assumed that Democrats couldn’t win two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia, but look what happened. A driving issue there was former President Donald Trump’s attack on the sanctity of the Georgia vote, which slimly favored Joe Biden.

To illustrate a changed political reality, Republican Sen. David Perdue took Cobb County, a once-reliably Republican Atlanta suburb, by 13 percentage points in 2014. Last January, he lost to Democrat Jon Ossoff by 10 points.

The right-wing outrages keep piling up, appalling many independents as well as Democrats. They include the Republicans’ continued flogging of the dangerous lie that Biden didn’t win the 2020 election; and a widespread refusal to take seriously the criminal Jan. 6 rampage on the Capitol. Then there’s the crusade in Republican-run states to make voting harder for groups likely to support Democrats, with special attention paid to Blacks and Latinos.

In California, Larry Elder undoubtedly hurt his prospects by casting doubt on the results before the results were even in. His website, “StopCAFraud,” was a nice Trumpian flourish but dumb politics. To his credit, Elder graciously accepted defeat and urged his supporters to do likewise.

The rejection of Biden’s win appears to have partly prompted northeast Ohio Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez to announce he would not run for reelection. Gonzalez also cited threats to his family. Republicans can further help Democrats by replacing principled conservatives like Gonzalez with scary populists devoid of fixed beliefs beyond selling their incendiary brand.

Come November 2022, a strong economy could be smiling on Democrats. Covid-19’s traumas should be way down in the headlines by then; and the restrictions that cost service workers their jobs will be a memory. Those workers would include Latinos who switched to the Republican Party for that reason.

What’s happened before in American politics has been happening less and less of late. Riding on the wings of Republican excess, Democrats could well sail to an unexpectedly solid showing in 2022.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at fharrop@gmail.com.

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