I’ve heard some grim forebodings from friends on the political prospects for 2022.  The Republican juggernaut will be overwhelming—a combination of voter suppression, gerrymandering and the typical pattern of midterm election losses for the party in the White House make it likely that the GOP will re-take control of Congress in this coming election cycle.  I disagree.  Yes, Republicans enjoy important structural  advantages in our political system, and they are happy to strengthen those advantages at the expense of democracy.  But I don’t think their prospects are as bright as they might hope or some of us might fear. I’m fairly hopeful, even optimistic, about 2022.

Let’s take voter suppression. After the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby vs. Holder decision killed key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Republican lawmakers in dozens of states pushed through measures designed to make it harder to vote.  They undoubtedly had that effect, but in their ultimate objective—which was to reduce voter turnout, to the presumptive benefit of the GOP—they were largely unsuccessful. Why?  Because the intended victims of voter suppression tend to react with a stiffened determination to vote, come what may.  Thus, one empirical study of “ the resilience of Black turnout” found that “Despite well-founded fears to the contrary, the Shelby decision does not appear to have widened the turnout gap between Black and White voters….”  Instead, “…an accumulating body of evidence… suggests that voters mobilize in response to increases in the cost of voting when those increases are perceived as threats to the franchise.”  Other studies have come to similar conclusions.

Besides, voter suppression is a double-edged sword.  Both Republicans and many progressives  have long assumed that high turnout favors the left. That’s not at all clear.  In the 2020 elections millions of new voters came out to vote for Donald Trump and his party.  New voters are by definition not habitual voters.  Make it harder for everybody to vote and you may a lose a lot of occasional voters who would come out to vote for you. Two important components of the Trump/GOP base—older and rural voters—are disadvantaged by voter suppression efforts.

Of course, none of this makes voter suppression efforts any the less outrageous.  They need to be fought vigorously, if only to encourage the intended victims to maintain their resistance.   But voter suppression isn’t the reliable path to minority rule that the Republicans would like it to be.

What about gerrymandering?  Yes, the Republicans in states across the country will use the 2020 Census results to continue to gerrymander Congressional and legislative districts in their favor. But “continue” is the key word here. Republicans effectively gerrymandered after the 2010 elections and census, but that success didn’t prevent the Democrats from sweeping the 2018 midterm elections.  And now it looks like the Republicans’ gerrymandering prospects for the 2020 decade are actually somewhat less auspicious than they were ten years ago.  The NY Times’s Thomas Edsall cites one scholar whose provisional estimate based on the 2020 elections is that Republicans will control redistricting for 188 congressional seats this cycle, to just 73 for the Democrats.  (167 will be under split partisan control.) Not pretty, but better than 2010, when the numbers favored the Republicans 213 to 44. So, there’s no reason why the 2018 midterm results couldn’t be replicated in 2022; except…

Except that in 2022 the Democrats will be the party in the White House, and the strong historical pattern is that the president’s party loses Congressional seats in the midterm elections. Strong but not invariable.  The president’s party gained seats in midterms as recently as 2002 and 1998. But the most relevant counter-instance, to my mind, is 1934, when the Democrats increased their already large Congressional majorities as voters registered their enthusiastic approval of FDR’s New Deal. No, Biden is no FDR, but his program compares in scope and boldness to the early New Deal.  And the current public health/economic emergency arguably approaches the Great Depression in its catastrophic effects.  (Arguably because how do you compare a depression that devastated millions of lives to a public health/economic crisis, which, while not remotely as catastrophic for the economy, has killed hundreds of thousands of lives and disrupted millions ?) Biden will get a lot of credit—even more, actually, than he will deserve—for our recovery from COVID and its economic aftermath.  American voters are strongly supportive of Biden’s response to the crisis, and they will almost surely be enjoying a booming economy in 2022.  I expect the Democrats to enjoy a large popular advantage over their rivals on the right, and that margin of advantage should be enough to overcome the Republicans’ structural advantages and dirty tricks.

To be clear—I would never want to encourage complacency. But there is no reason for defeatism, either.  We all need to do what we can to ensure that the Republican Party is routed in 2022 and after.  And yes, we can.


  1. Karen Kahn April 5, 2021 at 12:12 pm

    I agree with all your comments but one — that Biden will get all the credit he will deserve and more. Elected republicans and their media loudspeakers will be inundating us with alternative facts about how the former guy set the stage for every success, and how Biden is doing nothing but screwing it up and endangering us all.
    Regardless, I will be doing all I can to elect Democrats in 2022, and I do share your outlook for success in that effort.

  2. Art Schmidt April 5, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    Your point about the double-edged sword reminds me of what happened in Florida a year or two ago. When the ballot measure reinstating voting rights of ex-felons passed, liberals danced in the streets. Then the Republican legislature added onerous conditions, and liberals wept.

    But the pessimists weren’t doing the math. Blacks might go to prison at a higher rate than whites, but in raw numbers most felons must be white men (whites being 75%-80% of the Florida population). Net result: lots of suppression of the votes of white men without college degrees. Whose base are they? Keep up the good work, Republicans.

    Your post is a good reminder that our enemies may be evil, but they’re not geniuses.

  3. Donald Campbell April 9, 2021 at 8:04 am

    I agree there is a chance voters will be motivated to overcome the restrictions and vote in larger numbers than would otherwise be the case. But this collective response from the right to restrict voting could also be a powerful force which many individuals may not have the will to overcome. Check the following link:


    Many right wing groups are joining together to restrict access, whether shrouded in mischaracterizations of the laws or in the belief that not all people are meant to vote, they are forming a common ground for republicans and represent an abandonment of the fundamental underpinnings of modern democracy/socialism.

    Their movement has been galvanized by the lie of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and politicians have even said that perhaps the voter fraud claims are unsubstantiated, but many voters believe it. Then they conclude since many voters believe it, they will represent those voters!

    This attitude of representing voter’s fraudulent beliefs belies the idea that certain people are better informed and therefore should vote as opposed to those who are not better informed.

    The caution I would raise is that even if the restrictions were overcome by participation there would still be a minority (30-40%) would feel the system is illegitimate and they would continually seek to undermine it. This portends a continued decline in USA’s democratic experiment.

  4. Paul Villano April 10, 2021 at 11:16 am


    I believe the country like myself is right of center, because we still value work over welfare and less government is more. What we don’t like left or right is the extremes we have been seeing in politics. Social media is now the main source of news for the average person and the facts take a back seat to reality. The extreme left forced Biden to open the border which is nothing short of a disaster now. That is going to hurt Democrats in the next election cycle especially those border states. Any gun control is DOA in America period. Any candidate supporting gun control will not get elected. Contrary to popular belief that the NRA spends tons of money fighting control is false the $$$ are just not there. Democrats and republicans love their guns and vote their beliefs. The left and the right are delusional that raising or lowering the corporate tax rate has any effect on taxes collected. The effective tax rate is what ever they lobby for in loopholes. The only hope for the country is that both the extreme left and right don’t show up to vote.

  5. Donald Campbell April 12, 2021 at 9:06 am

    Perhaps you’re right that gun control is DOA in the USA but a little history and analysis will show this as a problem. The gun was used to conquer the west (and romanticize cowboys…rugged individualism etc.) from Native Americans and as such has become a talisman of white supremacy, hence the right wing love affair with firearms.

    Next, the preponderance of the evidence shows that increased gun ownership is correlated with increased gun violence in an approximate 2-1 ratio of suicide to murder. In addition all first world countries and most if not all second world countries have significantly lower murder rates than the USA. It only in the third world among counties experiencing unrest that we can find statistics approaching or surpassing the USA.

    At least we should be able to have honest conversation about gun violence and frame it as we want our guns and we will accept significantly more violence that our desire to own guns precipitates. This goes to your argument about fake news which I won’t expand on now.

    When you say extreme left and extreme right, I think you are comparing Trumpists with BLM and Democratic Socialists. There is no comparison between the two but perhaps that is not what you are saying??

    When you say you hope extremists don’t show up to vote, that would elect a centrist which you claim to be. The foundation of the liberal democratic experiment is being able to universally exercise the right to vote. Curtailing this right, which has expanded dramatically is the last 200 years, will challenge the experiment!

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