WASHINGTON DC – As the 8 November US midterm elections draw nearer, Democrats are getting worried. The polls are getting closer. In some places, Republicans are not just gaining ground but pulling ahead. The idea that Democrats will keep the House of Representatives seems like a fantasy. Even the idea that they will keep the Senate now seems, if not impossible, rather unlikely.
Why? For one thing, midterms normally favour the party out of power. Six months ago, Republicans were expected to crush the Democrats – who have held the White House, the Senate and the House for the past two years – in many of the midterm races. For another, the fury that followed the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs Wade in June has, for some, faded. If Democrats thought that rage over the attack on abortion rights could, in and of itself, bolster their chances of keeping the House and expanding their control of the Senate, they are realising they thought wrong. For a third reason, the economy is in wobbly shape, which is what most voters will prioritise at the polls rather than the future of American democracy.
Finally, while the Democratic Party had a good summer – with the Joe Biden administration passing student debt relief and signalling that the legal classification of marijuana may one day be changed – many now concede that perhaps they got their political bump too early for political purposes, gathering momentum that they could not maintain.
Still, there are some positive signs for Democrats. Early voting turnout is high in Georgia – a swing state – which suggests that voters are coming out en masse to try to overcome the restrictive voter registration laws that could dampen turnout on election day. More than that, though, it’s important for those who would like to see Democrats win to not let the narrative heading into election day become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s the political narrative, and there’s reality. They are related but distinct. The former informs the latter, of course, and Democrats would be foolish to assume they’re going to make even small gains in a few weeks’ time. But so, too, would they be foolish to believe they’ve already lost.
This article first appeared in the World Review newsletter. It comes out on Mondays and Fridays; subscribe here.