When failed Democratic congressional candidate Rita Hart dropped her petition with the House Administration Committee to “investigate” the 2020 election in Iowa’s Second Congressional District, it revealed far more than the outcome of an obscure Midwestern House race. The querulous tone of her announcement suggested that the withdrawal wasn’t voluntary. A number of Democratic moderates had expressed reservations about overturning state-certified results and opening themselves up to charges of hypocrisy. These representatives won their seats by pledging not to become mindless Myrmidons of the increasingly hyper-partisan House leadership, and they know they will already have enough trouble surviving their next elections because of the president’s broken promise to promote bipartisanship.
Despite his pledge to work across the aisle with Republicans, Biden never had any intention of doing so. This became manifestly obvious when 10 Senate Republicans went to the White House in February and offered to cooperate on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill. He smiled, nodded, and ignored them. The meeting was reminiscent of the high-handed way Biden’s former boss treated Republicans during talks leading up to the passage of his 2009 “stimulus” bill. And, like that boondoggle, the coronavirus bill was cobbled together and passed by the House with no GOP input or votes. House Democrats no doubt hope that the small fraction of its $1.9 trillion cost that went to individual stimulus payments will protect them. For its part, the White House is trying to redefine the term “bipartisan.” The Hill reports:
The White House wants to change how people perceive bipartisanship, arguing that if they put forward proposals that are backed by Republicans and independents, they should be seen as bipartisan even if GOP lawmakers in Washington don’t vote for them.… President Biden campaigned as a unity candidate who would work with Republicans, and the GOP increasingly has criticized him for turning his back on that vow with the big Democratic-only measures. But the White House has shrugged off the criticism, vowing to take big actions at a critical moment to help the economy and address inequality and other needs it says have been ignored for too long.
Even if this Orwellian strategy succeeds, the Democrats face a uniquely unfavorable political landscape. First, despite winning the White House, they very nearly lost their House majority in 2020. Instead of gaining 10 to 15 seats, as many “experts” predicted, they suffered a double-digit loss. Their current majority is 219-212. The Republicans hardly need a “red wave” to take control of the chamber. Second, the president’s party almost always loses a significant number of House seats during the first midterm of his tenure (the Democrats lost 63 seats in the first midterm of the Obama presidency). Third, they will be forced to compete on a playing field tilted heavily against them by reapportionment and a redistricting process dominated by Republican state legislatures. Pew Research paints an unpromising picture:
Out of the 35 states in which legislatures vote on congressional redistricting plans, there are 23 in which Republicans have majorities in both legislative chambers. (That figure includes Nebraska, whose unicameral legislature is officially nonpartisan but is commonly acknowledged as having a GOP majority.) … Of the 23 states with Republican legislative majorities and where the legislature votes on plans, six have Democratic governors. But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has no veto over redistricting plans, and Republicans have veto-proof supermajorities in Kansas and Kentucky. That means Republicans effectively dominate the redistricting process in 20 states.
Included among these 20 are Texas and Florida. The Wall Street Journal reports that preliminary census data suggest 10 seats in the House will move among states during the 2021 reapportionment. And most will be moving from blue states to red states. Texas will gain three congressional seats, and Florida will gain two seats. Arizona, Montana, and North Carolina will gain one congressional seat each. Meanwhile, states like California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are expected to lose one seat each. The Biden administration, however, has announced that redistricting data will be released by the Census Bureau six months late. Predictably, the delay was blamed on COVID-19, and it provides the Democrats with an all too convenient pretext for disrupting the midterms.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is preparing to impose yet another huge spending bill on the country without bothering to seek GOP buy-in. The $2 trillion infrastructure plan, as the Democrats and the media insist on referring to it, devotes precious few resources to the things most people think of when they hear the word “infrastructure.” As Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell put it in a statement, “Less than 6% of this massive proposal goes to roads and bridges. It would spend more money just on electric cars than on America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined.” The bill does, however, contain the largest tax increase to which the nation has been subjected since the 1993 Clinton tax hikes. Evidently, the Democrats have forgotten what happened to their congressional majority in 1994.
That was the first midterm election of President Clinton’s tenure in office, and the Democrats enjoyed majorities in both Houses of Congress. Like Biden, Clinton paid lip service to bipartisanship, but it was empty rhetoric. Democratic complacence, combined with the massive tax hike, resulted in the “Republican Revolution.” The GOP won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years with a net gain of 54 seats in the House and eight seats in the Senate. The Republicans are now in a position to retake control of the House, and the Senate as well, with far fewer gains. Yet the behavior of Biden and the Democratic leadership suggests that they don’t quite get that. Or perhaps it means they understand it all too well. Either way, a lot of Neanderthals are counting the days until November of 2022.