Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Suppose the Republicans Win in Virginia

I am writing this about three hours before the polls close. It seems pretty clear that the Republican candidate will either lose by a small margin or win, in either case signalling a sharp decline in the strength of the Democrats, at least in that state. One interesting question is what the consequences will be. 

The most obvious answer is that if the Democrats are at serious risk of losing the House and Senate because they have pushed too hard in a progressive direction, which is what the news stories on the election seem to imply, they should and will moderate their positions, both nationally and on the state level.

I can see two arguments in the other direction. One is that if they only have a year left, they need to spend that year getting as much of what they want through Congress. The obvious problem is that they need fifty votes plus the VP and don't have them in their own party for anything very far in the direction the progressives want, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in recent weeks. That makes me wonder if there is any way they could pry loose two or three Republican senators, perhaps ones that do not plan to run for reelection. I don't know enough to guess how likely that is, or if there is some other way of doing it.

The other argument, which is likely to convince progressives and could even be true, is that the problem is not being too progressive but not progressive enough, that moderating their position will lose them more votes on the left, with disappointed progressives staying home, than it will get them in the center.

I don't know enough about the politics, especially within the Democratic party, to offer more than speculation.

One related point occurs to me. The infrastructure bill — the one that is actually about infrastructure — is routinely described as a bipartisan bill, but I don't think that can be true. It has been stalled in the House because a handful of progressive Democrats won't vote for it until they are guaranteed getting their bill passed as well. That is only a problem if the Republicans are almost unanimously against it, in which case it isn't bipartisan. 

At least not in the House.


SB said...

These days a bill counts as "bipartisan" if it has even one vote from the minority party. The narrower infrastructure bill does in fact have a (small) handful of Republican supporters in both House and Senate, as I understand it.

And yes, the Democratic party is likely to be torn between an interpretation that they were too progressive and that they weren't progressive enough -- that moving farther left might actually gain them more votes on the left than it loses them in the center.

There's some basis for that belief. Consider all the compromises that Obama and Democrats accepted to the original Affordable Care Act in order to get Republican support so they could call it "bipartisan", but its final passage didn't actually get a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate; one has to wonder why they bothered making those compromises. Likewise, they've accepted some compromises to the infrastructure bill, and massive cuts in the Build Back Better bill (it's down to about 20% of what Biden originally proposed), in an effort to appeal to the center, but all those compromises haven't bought a single additional Republican vote for either bill, and it's not clear that they've made much difference to Manchin and Sinema, who demanded them. So why bother compromising? In this highly-partisan political environment, either you have the votes to pass what you really want, or you don't have the votes to pass anything.

Anonymous said...

The House and the Senate are very different.

One difference is that the Senate is massively in favor of rural areas, thus Republicans.

The other difference is that the Senate has momentum, with only 1/3 up for reelection every year. Way more important than the national swings is who is up for reelection in each cycle. The Democrats are going to be crushed in 2024, failing to reelect people elected in 2018 to oppose Trump. In 2022, it's mainly Republicans up for reelection, but people who look at the individual races think it's likely that the Republicans will pick up control. Eg, in March, David Shor said "Currently, even if we [Democrats] have an exceptionally good midterm, the most likely outcome is that we lose one or two Senate seats." The prediction markets did not agree with him at the time, but they came to agree months ago, not today or a week ago.



Anonymous said...

I think the Virginia race -- and now we know the Republican won -- might not really imply much either way for the eternal dilemma you bring up, and might reflect just one fact the Democrats chose to forget AGAIN: namely, Hillary (and association, even past association, with her) is toxic.