The Democrats have been trying to dodge the spotlight.
After all, Republicans have their issues to overcome. They are still trying to figure themselves out as a party following the departure of Donald Trump as President (and from a lot of the media coverage he was receiving during his time in the White House). Media outlets are trying really hard to keep Trump and his acolytes in the news, but with a Democratic administration comes a focus on what the party in power is doing.
For years leading up to the 2016 election, the media was playing up talk of a Republican civil war, where the moderates and the conservatives were going to war for the soul of the party. The election of Donald Trump signified, to almost everyone, that the conservatives won. But, with politicians like Liz Cheney and others who have not been shy about their distaste for Trump and his style of politics, there was a small civil war within the GOP they could exploit for ratings and to keep the focus on the Republicans while trying to ignore the Democrats.
But, the party in power is struggling with its own members. The far-left wing of the party is slowly gaining more influence, forcing more moderate members to abandon their seats toward the middle or stand opposed to the cries for ultra-progressive bills and policies. The Biden administration, which came into office on the promise of compromise and bipartisanship, has taken far-left policies virtually across the board. Joe Manchin, the most powerful man in the Senate, must combat his own President and party on a regular basis, while the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party attacks and berates him, leaving members who wish to keep control (like Speaker Nancy Pelosi) constantly trying to navigate the conflicts within their own party.
This all puts Pelosi in particular in a tight spot: The House Democrats have the slimmest majority in decades (an advantage of only six seats – seven when Troy Carter of Louisiana is sworn in) and are looking at a full slate of retiring members in the 2022 midterm.
Midterms are historically bad for the party in power, and for Democrats, that could mean a massive Republican wave taking away what scant power they have right now.
According to the Washington Post, there are potentially seven Democrats giving up their seats in the House.
The latest to announce her departure is Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who proclaimed her coming retirement Friday after narrowly winning reelection in a rural district along the Mississippi River that supported Donald Trump.
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who has been exploring another possible gubernatorial run, put out word Saturday that he would be making a “major announcement” this week, potentially putting at risk his St. Petersburg seat, where he ran ahead of President Biden in 2020.
Two other accomplished battleground incumbents — Reps. Filemon Vela Jr. (D-Texas) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) — announced their plans to leave earlier this year, joining Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who is giving up a closely-contested seat to run for the U.S. Senate. Several more in competitive areas, including Democratic stars like Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) are also seriously considering runs for higher office later this year.
If it happens that the Democrats lose every one of those seats, then the Republicans are in good shape to reclaim the House. But even if some or all of those seats remain blue, the Democrats will have spent resources desperately needed elsewhere to maintain their majority. Their resources are going to be spread very thin next year, and it’s going to force them to make tough decisions on who to support and how much support to give them.
The Democrats are also going to have to figure out how to play it safe enough to mitigate their losses in 2022. Going too far left will drive moderates toward the Republicans. Going too far toward the middle will keep their rabid, far-left base at home. The philosophers Simon and Garfunkel may have been onto something when they said “either way you look at it, you lose.”
To make matters even worse for them, Republicans will control a lot of the redistricting across the country, giving them an advantage in future electoral maps. Not only are Democrats going to be fighting Republicans, but they are also now fighting the results of the census (and their own policies) as a result. Republican states gained seats, and Republican legislatures get to draw the maps.
When 2022 comes around, it’s looking like it’s going to be a bloodbath at the ballot box.