Politics in a divided nation

Bob Sheak, Nov 22, 2022

Introduction

The principal issue addressed in this post is to draw attention to the verifiable evidence that the Republican Party has become a politically obstructionist force in America, with the support of nearly half of the voting population. Its goal is to win power by whatever it takes and the Party has used a host of anti-democratic practices in attempting to reach its goal.

While Republican candidates did not do as well as generally expected in the midterm elections, they remain a major force politically and ideologically. And Trump’s lies, his self-aggrandizement, his vengefulness, his promotion of the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol, his illegal possession of government documents, his unwillingness to allow the public to see his tax records, his admiration for authoritarian leaders like Putin, only seem to add to his influence on tens of millions of devoted supporters. All of this, and more, has been documented by the House Select Committee investigations, the Department of Justice, and investigations into his financial shenanigans

In the aftermath of the midterm elections, Democrats still control the White House and the Senate, and will be able to stop Republicans from advancing their authoritarian agenda, but they will be limited in what they can accomplish. Important issues aimed at addressing the needs of the non-rich will likely be scuttled by Republican obstruction. If they have their way, there will be chaos rather than good governance.

It remains to be seen whether the public will be drawn to Democrats even as Republicans undermine or eliminate the initiatives of President Biden and Democrats in the House and Senate. The country is at a crossroads and its viability as a democratic society will be tested as perhaps never before.

The Midterm Elections

The U.S. midterm elections are over. The almost completed tabulations of the votes indicate that the Democrats have won control of the Senate by the thinnest of margins, 50-49, with one vote in Georgia yet to be counted. At the same time,

Democrats have lost control of the House, but by a margin closer than anticipated by most pundits and experts.

The Senate

There is one Senate race yet to be decided. The Senate race in Georgia will be determined by a run-off vote on December 6 between Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate, and Hershel Walker, the Trump-endorsed, Republican candidate.

Chris Walker spells out how a Warnock victory would give Democrats 51 seats in the Senate and the advantages that would come from that additional seat as well as what only holding 50 seats would mean (https://truthout.org/articles/if-democrats-win-in-georgia-they-will-be-rid-of-power-sharing-rules-in-senate). On the latter point, Walker writes that a 50-50 split come with significant limitations.

“Democrats have attained 50 seats in the Senate, which — along with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote — technically means they’ll run the Senate chamber no matter what. But with 51 Democratic seats, it

would make it harder for Republicans to move to impeach Biden in that chamber. And, Walker notes, “Having 51 Senate seats instead of 50 would mean that Democrats wouldn’t be as beholden to right-wing Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who have blocked numerous Democratic proposals over the past two years.”

The House

Prior to the midterm elections, the Democrats held 220 seats in the House and had the support of two Independents, while the Republican held 213.

Republicans had hoped to pickup a net of 30 or more seats in the House, which would have given them at least 243 seats. In this case, Democrats (and two Independents who usually vote with the Democrats) would have ended up with 193 seats.

But the actual margin of Republican victory is something else. According to the almost completed tally (as of Nov 20), Republicans have won 218 seats to the Democrats 212 for a pickup that give them control of that chamber, but that fell short of the 30, 40, even 60 vote advantage they had expected.

Aaron Navarro reports for CBS News that, as of Nov. 17, there were 7 races still unresolved. Republican are leading in 4 of these races ((https://cbsnews.com/mews/2022-election-results-house-races-republicans-majority).

The Republicans thus appear to have, according to CBS News, 222 seats to the Democrats 215. But, Navarro adds, “thousands of votes remain uncounted, especially in California.” Nonetheless, this narrow advantage is likely to stand and thus will give the GOP “more power to impede President Biden’s agenda and launch investigations.”

Political scientist Jeffrey C. Isaac points out the Republican “margin of victory will be one of the smallest in any first-term President’s first midterm election, closer to a handful of seats than the thirty or forty or sixty that were predicted to flip. Given expectations, this is almost a victory for Biden and the Democrats, and Biden is not wrong when he says this”  (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/11/13/election-averted-some-disasters-danger-remains).

What happened to prevent the “red wave”?

Republican election subverting and disruptive tactics did not work as fully as planned

Despite the Republican gerrymandering, efforts to suppress the vote, and the continuing promulgation of the big lie; despite the continuing support of tens of millions of Trump supporters; despite the disproportionate campaign funding favoring Republican candidates; despite the attacks on Democrats for allegedly causing inflation, high crime rates, and for allowing the flow of immigrants across the southern border to increase;  despite harassment and threats against state and local election officials; despite a host of conspiracy theories [Qanon] – there was not, as of November 19, a “red wave.”

Ronald Brownstein provides some insight on this question of why Democrats did better in the House races than expected (https://theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/11/midterm-election-results-democrats-avoid-red-wave/672050).

#1 – “Attitudes about the former president, and the party he has reshaped in his image, may largely explain the difference. In the exit poll, nearly three-fifths of voters said they had an unfavorable view of Trump, and more than three-fourths of them voted Democratic this year.”

#2 – “Many of the Republican Senate and gubernatorial candidates he helped propel to their nominations also faced negative assessments from voters.

#3 – “And despite predictions from both Republicans and media analysts that abortion had faded as a galvanizing issue, a clear three-fifths majority of all voters in the national exit poll said they believed that the procedure should remain legal in all or most circumstances—and about three-fourths of them voted Democratic. Democrats also won about three-fourths of the voters who said abortion should remain mostly legal in the key Senate states of Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, and two-thirds of them in New Hampshire. In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer won a stunning four-fifths of the voters who said abortion should remain legal.”

#4 – “… yesterday’s exit polls showed the two parties splitting independent voters about evenly on a national basis and Democrats winning among them in the Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania Senate races.”

#5 – “The other ingredient in decisive midterm losses has been what political strategists call ‘differential turnout.’ Almost always in American history, the party out of the White House has shown more urgency about voting in midterms than the side in power, but when midterms get really bad, that disparity becomes especially pronounced.”

#6 – “Young people gave Democrats preponderant margins in most races, but likely made up slightly less of the electorate than they did in 2018. Among voters of color, the story was similar—some erosion in support for Democrats, but not a catastrophic decline. The exit polls showed Democrats winning about 60 percent of Latino voters and 85 percent of Black voters.

#7 – “The national exit poll showed Democrats slightly underperforming expectations among college-educated whites (winning only about half of them) but still showing much better with them than among non-college-educated whites, who once again broke about two-to-one for the GOP. (College-educated white voters did provide more resounding margins for Kelly, Hassan, and Fetterman, the polls found.)

Does Trump still dominate the Republican Party?

Reid J. Epstein, Lisa Lerer and Jonathan Weisman report on how the Republican loss of the Senate and slim margin of victory in House races are affecting Trump’s dominant position in the Republican Party and in his electoral base.  (https://nytimes.com/2022/11/16/us/politics/trump-republicans-alternatives.html).

In response to Trump’s announcement that he will make a third presidential bid in the 2024 election, some leaders in the Republican Party and wealthy donors want a different, less controversial candidate. Epstein and her colleagues write:

“Within hours of Donald J. Trump announcing his third presidential bid on Tuesday [Nov. 15], some of his former aides, donors and staunchest allies are shunning his attempt to recapture the White House, an early sign that he may face difficulty winning the support of a Republican Party still reeling from unexpected midterm losses.”

There is, they report, “A growing chorus of Republican officials, lawmakers and activists blame the former president for their failure to regain control of the Senate and for what will be a narrow margin in the House.” Many do not complain about policy or style, “but losses the party has taken since Mr. Trump won the White House in 2016.” For example, “Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a Republican often mentioned as a potential 2024 candidate, said she did not believe Mr. Trump offered ‘the best chance’ for the party in 2024.” And

“Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, a former Trump ally who spoke at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, put it more bluntly in a phone interview: ‘In 2020, there was no other option. In 2024 we will have candidates who are vastly superior and will do much, much better competing against the Democrat nominee than the loser Donald Trump has proven himself to be.’”

“Representative Kevin McCarthy, who has tied his bid to become the next House speaker to Mr. Trump’s political legacy, wouldn’t say if he will endorse Mr. Trump for president. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a staunch ally who won his 2018 election on the back of Mr. Trump’s endorsement and support, said he was rooting for a wide-open presidential primary.”

“Three major party donors — Stephen Schwarzman, Ken Griffin and Ronald Lauder — said this week that they intended to back someone other than Mr. Trump or have no plans to support him this time. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka said she would not be involved with his campaign, saying that she is ‘choosing to prioritize’ her children. Groups like the conservative Club for Growth, once a staunch Trump ally, are circulating polling showing Mr. Trump trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida by double digits.

There are, nonetheless, question about whether the ranks of critics will grow and, even more importantly, whether Trump’s electoral base will move away from supporting him.

As of this time, the base seems solid in their support. “Officials who are closest to the party’s base — state legislators and county G.O.P. leaders loyal to Mr. Trump — said Wednesday that they had not seen the sort of defections predicted by the Republican elite gathered in the swanky conference rooms of a Waldorf Astoria hotel within a stone’s throw of Disney World.”

“Polling indicates that about one-third of the Republican Party remains devoted to Mr. Trump, making it difficult for another candidate to oust him in a sprawling primary field. That explains why most elected Republicans have remained silent as they wait to see how far Mr. Trump gets and whether possible challengers like Mr. DeSantis will be able to withstand his taunts and assaults or will fold like his rivals in 2016.”

Republicans will push a right-wing, anti-democratic agenda

Richard Cowan reports,

“Many of the Republicans that won midterm elections for the House are hard-core supporters who endorse Trump’s big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. They will join their Republican colleagues in the House who already support a right-wing, anti-democratic agenda (https://reuters.com/world/us/republicans-verge-us-house-majority-midterm-elections-2022-11/15).

Michael Kranish provides more details (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/11/15/derrick-van-orden-jan-6-congress).

“While the Republican Party suffered surprising losses in the midterms, including defeats of many who bought into Trump’s false election claims, the arrival of freshman lawmakers who had come to Washington as pro-Trump activists on that violent day underscores the extent to which the House Republican caucus remains a haven for election deniers. As of Saturday, at least 150 election deniers were projected to win House races, compared with the 139 who voted against certifying President Biden’s election on Jan. 6, 2021.”

Deirdre Walsh refers to examples of what House Republicans hope to accomplish (https://npr.org/2022/11/16/11331125177/republicans-control-house-of-representatives).

“A new House Republican majority will mean Biden’s legislative agenda is essentially dead, unless he can find bipartisan support for some narrowly crafted proposals. Biden’s focus during the next two years of his presidency will likely be spent defending his signature accomplishments, like a bill lowering prescription drug prices and investing hundreds of billions of dollars to tackle climate change. GOP lawmakers have already said they want to roll back some of Biden’s programs, or defund many of them.

“The Biden White House will also face an onslaught of investigations on a wide range of issues. Top GOP members on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees have already said they plan to probe the business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, the president’s border policies, the origins of the coronavirus and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.”

Scott Walker provides details on the legislative plans of the House Republicans (https://nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/house-republicans-plan-investigations-possible-impeachments-new-majority-rcna55912).

Investigations

Investigations will dominate the new Congress, from the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and allegations of politicization at the Justice Department to America’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. But none will attract as much attention as the GOP’s planned investigation into the business dealings of the president’s son Hunter two years before a potential Biden re-election bid.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the incoming Oversight Committee chairman, has said an investigation into Hunter Biden and other Biden family members and associates will be a priority as Republicans try to determine whether the family’s business activities “compromise U.S. national security and President Biden’s ability to lead with impartiality.”

Republicans allege that Hunter Biden has used his father’s successful political career to enrich himself: He joined the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company in 2019, and an investment firm he co-founded helped a Chinese firm buy a Congolese cobalt mine from a U.S. company in 2016, among other financial endeavors.

SEPT. 23, 202201:27

“Hunter and other members of the Biden family have a pattern of peddling access to the highest levels of government to enrich themselves,” Comer said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know whether the President’s connections to his family’s business deals occurred at the expense of American interests and whether they represent a national security threat.”

At a press conference Thursday Comer and other House Republicans made clear that their investigation is focused on the sitting president.

“We want the bank records and that’s our focus,” Comer said. “We’re trying to stay focused on: Was Joe Biden directly involved with Hunter Biden’s business deals and is he compromised? That’s our investigation.”

Impeachments

Scott Wong delves into the impeachments as well as the investigations planned by the House Republican (https://nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/house-republicans-plan-investigations-possible-impeachments-new-majority-rcna55912). Here’s some of what he reports on the planned impeachments.

“After House Democrats impeached President Donald Trump twice, some of his staunch allies in Congress are looking for payback. Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has filed multiple articles of impeachment against Biden and Garland this Congress, although McCarthy said that so far he hasn’t seen anything that rises to the level of impeachment.  

“However, that’s not expected to satisfy those on his right flank. A growing number of Republicans say they have their sights set on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, bashing his handling of the border surge. In fiscal year 2022, there were a record 2.76 million undocumented immigrant crossings, 1 million more than in the previous year, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Mayorkas has defended the administration’s border policies.”

Closing down the federal government and economic chaos

This is about the Republican threat to close the government to prevent raising the country’s debt limit unless President Biden and the Democrats in Congress agree to cut spending. Rather than cut spending, Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich and corporations, many of whom pay little or no federal income taxes. Republican want to reduce both taxes and spending.

Jeff Stein and Matrianna Sotomayor consider what the debt-ceiling debate is about (https://washingtonpost.com/us-politics/2022/10/25/gop-debt-ceiling-threats-not-revive-brinkmanship-with-white-house). They write:

“The debt limit will need to be raised sometime next year to allow the government to borrow money to pay for spending Congress and the White House have already agreed on.” If the government fails to raise the debt limit, there will be “a catastrophic default that would rattle global financial markets and could risk throwing the U.S. into a recession, economists say. One study last year, before Congress last raised the limit, estimated that breaching the ceiling could wipe out $15 trillion in wealth and cost as many as 6 million jobs.” They also note: “Last December, Congress raised the limit by $2.5 trillion, and current estimates suggest the debt could begin to approach that ceiling during the winter of 2023. Lawmakers have raised the limit 78 times since 1960, according to the Treasury Department.”

As of November, 2022, the total accumulated national debt is $31 trillion.

But top Republican lawmakers in the House, Reps. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Jim Banks (Ind.), Adrian Smith (Neb.), and Jason T. Smith (Mo.), “plan to demand various changes to federal law in exchange for lifting the ‘debt ceiling.” These Republican legislators “expect Congress to use every tool at its disposal to combat rising prices, to strengthen our economy, to secure our border, to bring down the cost of energy, to fix our supply chains, and to right size the federal government.”

In other words, they want to reduce government spending, except on the military. They want to do away with the guarantees associated with Social Security and Medicare and reduce all non-military discretionary spending on social-welfare programs. They want to eliminate government regulations on businesses (e.g., anti-trust laws). They want to privatize public education. They want to increase “border security,” so as to allow only a small number of immigrants to enter the country. They want to eviscerate the National Labor Relations Board and promote “right to work” laws. And they want to foster an energy system based on fossil fuels, with little concern about global warming and its effects.  

The Democrats’ current position is captured by Biden’s speech at the Democratic National Committee on Monday [Oct. 24, 2022], where he “slammed Republican officials who want to use the debt ceiling to force cuts to Social Security and Medicare, accusing them of threatening to ‘crash the economy’ and refusing to give into those demands.”

“While some Republicans do favor brinkmanship over Medicare and Social Security — the two popular federal entitlement programs for seniors — some aides and analysts think the GOP may be more likely to demand changes to other Democratic priorities.”

“GOP leaders have discussed using the debt limit and government shutdown fights to press for cuts to clean energy spending — which many experts view as necessary to slow climate change — approved as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signature economic legislation, according to several conservative policy analysts, including former Trump adviser Stephen Moore and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Republicans are also eyeing demands for the administration to slow or reverse its plans to ramp up Internal Revenue Service enforcement of the nation’s tax laws, although the GOP planning is preliminary and expected to evolve.

Funding the government challenged

Stein and Sotomayor add the following point. “Congress is expected to have to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling sometime in the winter [of 2023], with the precise date uncertain as of now — it would depend on when the national debt approaches the limit. First, lawmakers must fund the government by Dec. 16 or face a broad federal shutdown.” “The freedom caucus, which represents roughly 30 of the staunchest House Republican members, began to signal its intentions last month [Sept. 2022] as they pressured GOP leadership to tell Republicans not to vote to fund the government through December unless significant spending cuts were made.”

What advantages does the slim majority in the Senate give Democrats?

Catie Edmondson and Carl Hulse consider this question (https://nytimes.com/2022/11/13/us/politics/senate-democrats-republicans.html).

“While their margin of control in the chamber will remain razor thin — and far short of the supermajority needed to pass major legislation — it constitutes a lifeline for Mr. Biden, limiting Republicans’ opportunity to wreak havoc on his agenda or to impeach and remove him or other members of his administration.”

#1 – “Senate Democrats will be able to block political messaging bills passed by House Republicans and respond with messages of their own, setting up votes on broadly popular elements of their agenda and highlighting G.O.P. opposition.”

#2 – They will be able to kill G.O.P. legislation on arrival and promote their own policies to voters.

#3 – “Should a Republican-led House make good on lawmakers’ promises to impeach members of the Biden administration — such as the attorney general, the homeland security secretary or the president himself — a Democratic Senate would guarantee that the proceedings would go nowhere.

#4 – “Democrats will retain the power to unilaterally confirm scores of additional Biden-appointed judges.” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, said “We have the chance to confirm another 100-plus Biden judges in the next two years. These nominees would have never seen the light of day if Arizona or Nevada went differently, but now they will get to serve for life. This is game changing.”

“The Election Averted Some Disasters, But the Danger Remains”

Political scientist Jeffrey C. Isaac addresses this issue

(https://commondreams.org/views/2022/11/13/election-averted-some-disasters-danger-remains). He views American Democracy as still under assault, positing that “this week’s election results, while not as horrible as many feared, are still in some ways very horrible.”

What was averted

Isaac emphasizes two points. First, there were no reports of “any major election-related violence at polling places or election offices. The processes of both voting and vote-counting seem to have proceeded smoothly and uneventfully, at least in most places (as I write, Arizona might turn out to be the incendiary exception, courtesy of Kari Lake and Blake Masters).” Second, there was no “red wave” – and no blue-wave either.

Republican control of the House a threat to democracy

#1 – “As the New York Times reports, at least 140 of the roughly 220 Republicans elected to the House—roughly 2/3 of the caucus—are election deniers. Every single House Republican who stood up to Trump after the January 6 insurrection is gone, while almost every single House Republican who voted on January 6, 2021 against the validation of the Electoral College count, will return.

#2 – “And the current Republican caucus promises to be even ‘more extreme’ than its predecessor. One sign: Trump acolyte Kevin McCarthy’s Speaker of the House bid is being challenged from the right.” Isaac adds: “Their goal will be simple: to undermine, obstruct, embarrass, and weaken the Biden administration and the Democratic party, to distract from the real issues facing the country—for which they have proposed no solutions—and to destroy the Biden presidency.

#3 – “The Hill and The Post recently reported that House Republicans plan at least five investigations–of Hunter Biden’s business activities, the alleged politicization of the Justice Department under Merrick Garland, COVID-19’s origins and the mitigation policies of the despised Anthony Fauci, the Afghanistan withdrawal, and Homeland Security’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border under Alejandro Mayorkas.

#4 – “House Republicans will shut down and delegitimize the January 6 Committee—indeed it would not be surprising if they even sought to destroy the Committee’s work-product–and do everything possible to obstruct any Justice Department prosecutions of Trump and those close to him.

#5 – House Republicans will eventually impeach Biden. Isaac quotes election expert Barton Gellman, who recently wrote this: “Sometime next year, after an interval of performative investigations, Republicans in the House are going to impeach Joe Biden. This may not be their present plan, but they will work themselves up to it by degrees.” Biden may be impeached by House Republicans, but the Senate will acquit him.

#6 – Trump will continue to spout his violent rhetoric and the Republican leaders in the House – and Senate – will not criticize him or call for a halt to such volatile and inflammatory language.

Democratic reform proposals likely to go no where

Isaac summarizes: “The kinds of political reforms advanced just a short time ago by Democrats– the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act, the tamer Freedom to Vote Act, and the even tamer Electoral Count Reform Act—these things are entirely off the political agenda. Climate change, economic insecurity, the widespread breakdown of trust to which crime and criminal injustice is connected—so long as Republicans can obstruct, there will be no legislation to address these things through meaningful public policy. And Republicans in control of the House will be able to obstruct with a vengeance.”  

Republicans still depend on Trump’s far right-wing electoral base

Peter Wehner posits that it is “hard to overstate how radicalized and anarchic the base of the Republican Party remains” (https://theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/11/midterms-trump-desantis-dobbs-republicans/672068).

#1 – “Those who inhabit MAGA world are deeply alienated from institutions, including political ones, and therefore a good deal less loyal to the Republican Party than they are to Donald Trump. They view themselves as ‘anti-establishment’ and ‘anti-elitist’; they have contempt for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

#2 – “To complicate matters further, the Republican Party today has more, not fewer, MAGA figures in it than in the past. Marjorie Taylor Greene won reelection; Liz Cheney did not. J. D. Vance is entering the Senate; Ben Sasse is leaving it. Meanwhile, more than 200 election deniers will take office at the national and state level in January.

#3 – “This also needs to be said: If the Republican Party does break with Trump now, it will be for only one reason, which is that he’s costing it power. Everything else he did—the relentless assault on truth, the unlimited corruption, the cruelty and incitements to violence, the lawlessness, his sheer depravity—was tolerable and even celebrated, so long as he was in power and viewed by Republicans as the path to more power.”

The political standings outside of Congress

The Republican Party remains a major – and extremist – political force in the U.S. political system. It is in a position to influence state and local elections, advance voter suppression and gerrymandering, and give the state legislature the power to bypass or negate the popular vote. This power gives them opportunities to support anti-democratic legislation, vigilante justice, a neoliberal agenda of low taxes, deregulation, and privatization, discriminatory white-supremacist policies toward African Americans and other non-whites as well as LGBTQ populations, along with the elimination of the separation of religion from the state, unrestricted gun ownership, and highly restrictive and punitive immigration policies. With enough power, Republicans would end democracy in America.

 State Republican Parties remain under the influence, if not control, of Trump and supports, the “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. While some Republicans may have reservations about Trump, there are few who would criticize him publicly.

State governments

Ballotpedia summarizes evidence on “state government trifecta,” which is ‘a term to describe single-party government, when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature” (https://ballotpedia.org/State_government_trifectas). “As of November 19, 2022, there are 23 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.”

Secretaries of State


Ballotpedia informs us, “In 47 states—all except AlaskaHawaii, and Utah—the secretary of state is among the top executive offices (https://ballotpedia.org/Secretary_of_State_elections,_2022). The site continues: “Although the duties and powers of individual secretaries of state vary, a common responsibility is management and oversight of elections and voter rolls, which are assigned to the secretary of state in 41 states. Other common responsibilities include registration of businesses, maintenance of state records, and certification of official documents.”


“As a result of the 2022 elections, the partisan control of two secretaries of state changed from Republican to Democrat. In NevadaCisco Aguilar (D) was elected secretary of state, succeeding incumbent Barbara Cegavske (R), who was term-limited. Democrats won the governorship in Maryland, which currently has a Republican secretary of state, giving the Democrats appointment control. The Democratic-controlled office in Wisconsin and the Republican appointment control in New Hampshire remain uncalled.”

As of Nov. 17, the Democratic Party had a net gain of one secretary of state and the Republicans had a net loss of one. At this time, there were 20 Democratic Secretaries of State, and 26 Republican.

Concluding thoughts

A divided country

The 2022 midterm elections revealed how politically divided the country is, how right-wing, anti-democratic forces in the Republican Party have increased their control over the U.S. House of Representatives and control almost half of the Senate seats. They also have control of more than half of all state governments and a sizeable number of Secretaries of State positions. Additionally, they have massive support from wealthy donors. On the latter point, see the examples in Hailey Fuchs’ article, “Two anonymous $425 million donations give dark money conservative group a massive haul” (https://politico.com/news/2022/11/16/two-anonymous-425-million-donations-gives-dark-money-conservatives-group-a-massive-haul-00067493).

Trump’s electoral base

The party’s electoral base, loyal to Trump, support the Republican’s Party’s right-wing agenda. Such grassroots support is not based on programs aimed at improving the material circumstances of Trump’s non-rich supporters. Indeed, according to Henry Giroux’s sources, Trump’s sometimes “concerns for the grievances of the economic disadvantaged was simply a ploy to advance the power of the wealthy elite and of white privilege” (see Giroux’s new book, Pedagogy of Resistance, p. 99).

Republican states have lower longevity

Thom Hartman refers to evidence that longevity is less in counties controlled by Republicans than in counties controlled by Democrats (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/11/21/if-you-want-help-rich-and-die-sooner-vote-republican). Here’s some examples.

“In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.

“8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century.”

“It’s true of Red cities as well….For example, Jacksonville, a city with a Republican mayor, had 128 more murders in 2020 than San Francisco, a city with a Democrat [sic] mayor, despite their comparable populations. 

“In fact, the homicide rate in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco was half that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Bakersfield, a city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted for Trump.”

“And don’t even think about having sex in Red states: they generally lead America in sexually transmitted diseases, presumably because most have outlawed teaching sex education in their public schools.

“The five states with the highest rates of Chlamydia infections are Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and New Mexico. The highest rates of Gonorrhea are in Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana. 

Speaking of schools, the states with the lowest educational attainment in the nation are entirely Red states. Ranked from terrible to absolutely worst, they are: Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia.”

However, none of this seems to matter. Trump’s base also includes long-standing political movements to advance maximal gun rights, white supremacy, closed borders, abortion bans, and the attraction of a “strongman” leader. (See Ruth Bem-Ghiat’s book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.)

Opportunities for Republican obstruction

In this politically divided country, the Republican Party continues to have the opportunity to stop Democratic legislative initiatives and even to bring the government to a halt if their tax and spending cuts are not supported. They will oppose any Democratic efforts to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels, or to support programs that benefit the working class, or to protect the integrity of public education or any programs that address the economic interests of the great majority of Americans. They reject the very concept of the public good or common good.

What can Democrats do?

Kenny Stancil reviews the highlights of a speech by Sen. Elizabeth Warren she gave at EconCon Presents, a meeting co-hosted by Demos Action, Economic Policy Institute Action, Economic Security Project Action, Groundwork Action, Omidyar Network, and Roosevelt Forward (https://commondreams.org/new/2022/11/17/democrats-can-defeat-gop-extremism-fighting-working-people.html).

Warren refers to Democratic-supported policies that already make a positive difference, like the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), both passed through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process. Citizens should be reminded of such successes. Then there are issues that need continuing Democratic Party support.

Warren thinks that “Biden’s executive action canceling student loan debt—an attempt to provide financial relief to millions of working-class households that is currently being derailed by a GOP-led lawsuit and Trump-appointed judge—is one reason why ‘youth voter turnout last week was through the roof.’”

Exit polling “conducted by Data for Progress, Groundwork Action, and Economic Security Project Action … found that a majority of voters support Democratic policies to lower prices, including investing in domestic manufacturing and clean energy production, expanding social safety net programs, hiking taxes on corporations and holding them accountable for price gouging, and increasing Social Security benefits.” They need to continue to advance proposals to “to cut skyrocketing housing and child care costs” and protect abortion rights.

Democrat candidates who ran on progressive agenda did well. Warren praised Democratic Sen.-elect John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, in particular, for vowing to take on the CEOs who repeatedly admitted ‘they were boosting their profit margins on the backs of consumers,’ which meant ignoring the ‘Beltway commentators [who] rolled their eyes at the idea that Democrats ought to talk about’ corporate profiteering. She adds: “Candidates up and down the ticket called out price gouging, from Big Oil to grocery chains—and they won.”

With Democrats in charge of the Senate and White House, “Republicans will try to impose economic pain on families so they can blame us and seize power for themselves,” Warren noted. “The incoming GOP [House] majority represents a dangerous new force in American politics. Like their predecessors, they are openly hostile to voting rights, civil rights, abortion rights, and human rights.”

Warren provided a list of talking points:

Republicans are the party that brought us the 2008 financial crash;

Republicans are the party that ran up the deficit with $2 trillion in tax cuts for billionaires and billionaire corporations;

Republicans are the party that is actively working to cut Social Security and Medicare;

Republicans are the party that wants to leave millions of people shackled with student loan debt forever; and

Republicans are the party that doesn’t want Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs and doesn’t want the government to end corporate price gouging and doesn’t want to make billionaire corporations pay a minimum tax.

“Listen to that list,” said Warren. “There shouldn’t be a single voter in the country who trusts Republicans on the economy. And, if we get out there and make our case, there won’t be a single voter who trusts the Republicans on the economy.”

“We need to start fighting back now,” Warren added. “Where we can pursue legislative action to help working families, we should fight aggressively. When Republicans try to obstruct and the president can act by executive authority, he must do so.”

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