Stephen Amberg, author of A Democracy That Works: How Working-Class Power Defines Liberal Democracy in the United States, explains why “The 2022 midterm results show how the US party realignment is continuing” at the Long Read of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Among his observations:
“The 2022 midterm election is confirmation that the US turned the corner in 2020 from the neoliberal party system that has dominated since the 1980s. There is no guarantee the process will continue, and many forces are in play, but the Biden administration and Democratic Congress not only delivered policies that take a new post-neoliberal direction in economic strategy…..Democrats were liberal on cultural issues and favored equal economic opportunity, which, they argued, could be secured in the new economy by targeted social investments in education and health care, retraining, and entitlement reform. But, like other leftwing parties in Europe, the Democrats alienated the working-classes and played into the hands of rightwing critics who labeled them frauds and elitists….”
The Republican Party has moved its campaign messaging to the far right. What else could it do? The Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Their neoliberal governing strategy became very unpopular. Deregulation of finance and bailouts of banks, free trade and off-shoring jobs, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of civil rights and voting rights, cutbacks in pensions, education, and health care, lagging the minimum wage behind inflation, privatization of the veterans’ health care system and Medicare — none of it is popular. In contrast, this year’s Democratic attacks on corporate profiteering, raising taxes on corporations, guaranteeing health care, increasing the minimum wage, and forgiving some student debt polled very well.”
Amberg notes further that “The Biden administration is the most pro-labor administration since John F. Kennedy’s. The historically outstanding 2022 results confirm the potential of the new Democratic strategy. If they stick to the strategy, they can establish dominance in the party system.” In addition,
….Of course, the Biden administration struggled for a year to corral Senate votes to pass the progressives’ plans; in the end, Congress passed only part of it. But the important points are, first, it did pass quite a lot and, second, the Biden Democrats are rejecting the Republicans’ definition of electoral space and they are expanding political possibilities. Just this year Democrats passed major bills for energy and climate action, infrastructure investment, a corporate minimum tax, the CHIPS and Science Act that asserts a new industry policy, including microchip manufacturing in the US, reduced ACA health insurance premiums for nine million people, expanded Medicare benefits and capped insulin prices, increased funding for veterans, the military, and local police, and passed the Safer Communities Act to address gun violence and mental health. Congressional Republicans almost all voted against every bill. Biden ordered up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness with an income cap, rallied NATO to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, and is keeping Trump’s trade pressure on China.
“The Democrats’ new definition of politics contrasts with the Republicans’ messaging about the “elites vs. the people,” Amberg writes. “Biden Democrats are organizing an “equitable economy vs. corporate power” cleavage. This has a distinct working-class dimension to it, but now understood as an “intersectional” working-class. This theme contributed to victories in Pennsylvania, Ohio Congressional races, and in Michigan, Minnesota and elsewhere. The Progressive Caucus in the Congress is adding members.”
Amberg concludes, “Can the Democrats stick to the equitable economy theme against Republican Congressional opposition and corporate hostility? In their favor, the laws already passed earlier this year are going to be implemented and people will receive the benefits. In 2023, the Democrats will still have control of the White House and the Senate, guaranteeing approval of Biden’s judges and executive appointments. They can do a lot to sustain the momentum in the next two years.”