Trump has been a driving force in politics since announcing his election to the presidency in 2015, mobilizing voters in support of his candidacy and sparking even more backlash against him after taking office. The November election will continue to be a payback for President Biden and the Democrats, given inflationary pressures and disapproval of the incumbent’s performance. But Republicans cannot escape the reality that Trump and his Make America Great Again movement or MAGA are also part of the reckoning that will come.
Since Trump stepped on the scene, the election has grown louder and more violent, and, most importantly, it has drawn millions more Americans to the polls. About 137 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared to about 130 million in 2008 and 2012. Turnout rose to 158 million in 2020. Biden received 15.4 million more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Trump received 11.2 million more votes in 2020 than in his first campaign. The Democrats’ voting lead has grown from nearly 3 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020.
The presidential races were not isolated examples of the Trump factor. Equally astonishing was what happened in 2018. For decades, turnout in midterm elections, always lower than in presidential years, has fluctuated within a relatively narrow range, with turnout rarely rising or falling by more than a few percentage points from one midterm election to another. Then came 2018, when overall turnout was the highest in about a century, up 11 points from 2014, according to census data.
That, too, was a Trump factor—in this case, the uprising against him, led by female voters, changed the contours of the election. Democrats received 23 million more votes than in 2014, while Republicans received about 11 million, according to the Democratic firm Catalist. Trump was not on the ballot, but he was the biggest driving force.
Some might say that what happened in 2018 was a reflection of long-standing trends in the midterm elections, although perhaps on steroids – an unpopular incumbent whose party was defeated. True. For Republicans, this fueled hope that November would be the opposite of 2018, another blow to the party of another president with a low approval rating.
While no one can predict if this fall’s turnout will come close to what happened in 2018, there are signs everywhere that this will be another SDT election (since Donald Trump) and not necessarily one that is in line with what was the norm. previously.
Republicans started the year with high expectations based on traditional assumptions: Biden’s approval ratings were very low and inflation hit its highest level in 40 years, even as the economy continued to add jobs at a healthy pace. Republican leaders have talked a lot about the offensive game in 70 or more congressional districts.
Independent analysts dismissed these calculations as overly rosy, if only because they meant the Republican Party would be fighting for seats in districts that Biden won by a comfortable margin in 2020. The Republicans had a clear advantage. Even many Democrats lamented how bad the climate seemed to their party.
Earlier this year, White House officials concluded that the “MAGA” label was toxic to many voters and that, if applied widely and effectively to the Republican Party, it could turn the midterms from a clean referendum on Biden to an alternative choice. between two philosophies and presumably two leaders, both unpopular.
On Thursday, Biden delivered a scathing speech in suburban Maryland in which he highlighted the White House’s plan to implement this strategy over the next two-plus months. He described the Trump-led Republican Party as having turned to “semi-fascism” and said, “MAGA Republicans do more than just threaten our personal rights and economic security. They pose a threat to our very democracy.”
This message is half of what White House officials consider the most effective way to run a mid-term campaign. The other would be to focus on the Democrats’ recent legislative gains and, if the numbers hold up, point to lower gasoline prices to offset voters’ fears of high inflation this year.
Alone, Biden cannot turn a mid-term referendum from a referendum on his presidency into a ballot. But in this effort, he has an unexpected partner: Trump and the Republicans themselves. Trump remains at the forefront of this election year, continuing his baseless claims of a stolen election, being embroiled in a double Justice Department investigation into his possession of classified documents and the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, and demonstrating that the Republican Party is now in many ways Trump’s party due to the power of his endorsement to support dubious candidates.
Trump-led Republican primary voters have fielded anti-election candidates in a number of states who, if elected in the fall, will have sway in the 2024 election. The nominations reinforced Biden’s and Democrats’ accusations that the Republicans had become a MAGA-dominated political party.
Trump was also in the spotlight during the public hearing of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The hearings showed the efforts that Trump and those close to him made to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and the extent of the risk to the 2024 election if Trump’s associates control the conduct of the election.
Meanwhile, an ongoing Justice Department investigation into Trump’s possession of top-secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida keeps the former president at the center of the news. The search of the premises marked the beginning of what has now dragged on for several weeks and will probably continue for several more weeks. Trump not only broke the rules of politics, he may have broken the law.
Another factor that changed the situation was the decision of the Supreme Court, which overturned Rowe vs. Wade It also has Trump’s fingerprints on it. The three judges he appointed—Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—provided a clear field for the decision written by Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Solution in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sparked a surge in female voter registration in several states and has been a driving force for many women and men this fall, especially independent voters. The overwhelming vote earlier this month to retain the right to abortion in Kansas’s constitution is a clear sign of the strength of the issue.
Voting in Kansas was unique and not directly related to competition between candidates and candidates. But the Democrats’ recent victory in a special election to the House of Representatives in New York state, where abortion was a central issue, showed once again that this issue could change the way November is seen, and scared the Republicans.
Biden’s approval ratings have improved in recent weeks but still threaten to become a hurdle for Democratic candidates. The Post recently reported that most Democratic candidates would prefer to campaign on their own rather than invite Biden to their states. The presidential campaign rally in dark blue Montgomery County on Thursday may be an exception to this pattern.
But weak approval ratings may not be as definitive of these midterm elections as they were in the past. Democratic strategists have seen some candidates’ approval ratings rise while Biden’s has tumbled, suggesting the fate of the candidates may be somewhat decoupled from the president’s.
It’s still a tough year for Democrats. But the polarizing effect of the ubiquitous and controversial former president means this midterm election may not conform to the norms of the past.