The Democrats don’t plan to run on their record in the 2022 midterm elections. They plan to go to the voters and argue that Republicans are too crazy and too outside the mainstream to be allowed to return to power in Congress.
Whether that will be enough will depend in part on the health of the U.S. economy. If the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer spending binge and planned tax increases don’t hamper the post-COVID recovery, that might be enough. However, if the economy tanks and the Republicans pull together a realistic program for bringing growth and jobs back and getting spending under control, a GOP-led majority in both chambers is not only possible but likely.
Before you snicker, remember the Republicans came within a hair of winning back control of the House in November 2020 even as Donald Trump was losing. GOP congressional candidates ran ahead of Trump in about 180 of more than 210 winning races, and Republican House candidates won more contested races than Democrats did. A change in control isn’t out of the question by any means, which is why the progressive campaign machine has to do all it can to discredit its opposition in the minds of the electorate.
Enter QAnon, the internet-based wellspring of conspiracies ranging from the sublime to the outrageous—and all of them ridiculous. Unfortunately for the GOP, a few folks who’ve lately been their voters (not to mention a newly elected member of Congress or two) have been caught on social media spreading the conspiracists’ tales.
Up until it filled a narrative need, QAnon was a little more than a curiosity among the relatively few people who were aware of it. The intrigues it promulgated did produce a few notable and even tragic events but, in the main, it drew the attention of the fringe. That is, until its usefulness in painting a picture of the GOP as controlled by radical insurrectionists became clear. After that, the legacy media became the biggest outlet for its tall tales under the guise of reporting.
Up to a point, the strategy of elevating QAnon been a success in that it left GOP leaders in the difficult position of defending their own while repudiating the insanity. It’s a tight rope to walk. What the Democrats must do now is determine whether they can sustain these attacks over two years, and whether they’re insulated enough to avoid serious blowback.
You see, it’s not just the GOP that has a problem with conspiracy kooks. The Democratic Party is full of them too—and they’ve got the reins of power now. Consider that Rep. Maxine Waters, who now chairs an important congressional committee, was first heard of across America when she accused the CIA of being behind the crack epidemic in the nation’s inner cities.
She’s a problem, not that people bring that up much anymore. Maybe the GOP should. Republican leaders might also want to talk a bit about the Democrats who said George Herbert Walker Bush flew to Paris in 1980 to negotiate a secret agreement with the Iranians to keep the hostages until after the election. (Spoiler alert: He didn’t, but it took a congressional investigation to knock that rumor out).
Remember all the things the Democrats said about the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians and the allegations contained in the Steele dossier. They didn’t remain inside the confines of cyberspace; no, they became front-page news and were treated seriously for months until poof, nothing.
In the last few weeks, prompted by another tirade by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a guy who could have given the late Joe McCarthy some lessons on tactics, social media was abuzz about the supposed “real” circumstances leading to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to step down from the U.S. Supreme Court with a cast of characters including his son, officials of Deutsche Bank, and others appended to numerous tweets.
It’s undeniable, as historian Richard Hofstadter famously wrote back in 1964, that there is a “paranoid style in American politics.” What he and others miss is that it’s not confined to the Right. It’s at least as prevalent on the Left, if not stronger. The difference is that while the GOP’s crazy sometimes becomes unpleasant, the Left’s progressive crazy sometimes becomes law, which is much harder for all of us to deal with. If you doubt me, read the text of H.R. 1 closely.