Lessons from November’s Gubernatorial Races: The Democrats’ Strategy For the 2022 Midterms

In the first week of November, Democratic candidateTerry McAuliffe ran against Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin for the position of governor of Virginia. In a surprising development, Glenn Youngkin will become the first Republican governor of a blue state since 2014, logically sounding the alarm bell for what will come for the Democratic Party in the upcoming 2022 elections. In order to either expand the majority in both the House and Senate or mitigate the potential losses from the midterm elections, the Democratic Party must spotlight their economic agenda and show substantive action in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s compare the outcome of two different gubernatorial races that happened in the first week of November: Virginia and New Jersey. McAuliffe based his entire campaign on connecting Youngkin to Trump by emphasizing Youngkin’s delay of recognizing the legitimacy of the outcome of the 2020 election in favor of Biden. However, when it came to the day to vote on Nov. 2, 2021, Youngkin’s narrow victory in Virginia demonstrates that the traditional political strategy of public smearing is no longer a viable option in an environment of intense partisanship and polarization. On the other hand, Democrat Phil Murphy won in New Jersey — albeit a narrow victory especially in a widely known Democratic stronghold — by spotlighting his economic plans for the state: raising the minimum wage, guaranteed paid sick leave, and extensive infrastructure investments. These issues possess overwhelming support among the American people, with a majority of Republicans supporting an increase in the minimum wage

In the upcoming midterm elections, it is imperative that President Biden and the Democratic Party emphasize their role in passing the $550 billion infrastructure deal: a plan that will invest in repairing and building new roads, bridges, electric public transit, clean water, and high speed internet, because it would be a significant talking point in emphasizing the Trump administration’s inability to pass any infrastructure plan through Congress. The United States is currently ranked 13th in the world in terms of infrastructure quality, just above Belgium and below the United Arab Emirates. If anything, the Democratic Party is not doing enough to highlight the United States’ lack of competitiveness in the quality of infrastructure, healthcare, and higher education relative to the rest of the developed world. The Democratic Party is fixated on smearing former President Donald Trump and any of his endorsed candidates rather than addressing the issues that an overwhelming majority of Americans want to see resolved by Congress, a strategy that ended very poorly in Virginia —  a state widely considered to be a Democratic stronghold. The other major bill hotly contested in Congress is the $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill which would legislate investment in clean energy, extended child tax credit, universal pre-kindergarten for all Americans, and expanding Medicare coverage for dental and hearing benefits. This bill is consequential and would place the United States on the precipice of revamping the American commitment to combating climate change and capping the amount that working families spend on child care, which should evidently be expected in the wealthiest and one of the most developed nations in the world. 

Combating climate change, improving infrastructure and public transportation impacts the lives of Americans on main street in the present and future. While Democrats and other left-wing candidates will easily win in urban districts in the midterms, Democratic candidates in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan will have a very close race against Republicans – — most of whom are endorsed by Donald Trump — who tactictly believe the 2020 election was illegitimate and climate change is either a minor or non-existent issue. The failure of the Democratic Party to maintain control in Virginia explicitly demonstrates that its candidates must emphasize their economic agendas and tremendous achievements thus far in financial relief for COVID-19 and its commitment to reverse the setbacks in infrastructure thus far; if not, the Republican victory in Virginia is merely a footnote in what will potentially be a Republican landslide in 2022. The Democratic Party’s progressive policies of combating climate change, Medicare expansion, tackling income inequality, and protecting the socioeconomic interests of the middle and working classes would be halted for decades to come.

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash.

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