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With less than a year to go before the 2022 midterm elections, the Republican Party is staring at an opportunity of truly historic proportions. Even before the shocking results of the gubernatorial races last month things looked good, all signs were pointing to ‘yes’ on taking back Congress. But the win in Virginia and narrow defeat in deep blue New Jersey have changed the map. What had looked like solid gains, could now turn out to be completely transformational.
In the wake of the 2020 election the conventional wisdom was that a kind of trade had taken place. Democrats had solidified their gains among suburban white voters but Republicans had made deep inroads into a more diverse working class demographic.
It was a deal that most, though not all, conservatives were happy with, a coalition with greater growth potential. But after this year’s elections, Republicans must be asking themselves, “Can we have both?” And it sure seems like the answer is yes.
The current facts on the ground are daunting for Democrats. Joe Biden is about as unpopular as a Democrat president can be, the generic congressional polling has the GOP up an almost unprecedented ten points, and aside from James Carville and a smattering of others, the left doesn’t appear to understand it even has a problem.
This is an opportunity for Republicans to achieve something that they have not for at least a century: lasting institutional political power. The GOP has long been the “opposition party” in American life. Even sweeping victories by Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1980 left Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives.
Under President George W. Bush, Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress for most of his first 6 years, but it was tight. Like Biden, the 43rd president entered the Oval Office with an evenly split Senate. In 2006 the Democrats would sweep back into control on Capitol Hill.
The chance at power that Republicans have today is of a completely different order of magnitude. Voters are rejecting Democrats’ ideas on education, the economy, the border, crime, you name it. Even on COVID, Biden has crashed in the polls, and while some Democrats seem keen on reducing COVID restrictions, their base, whom they have terrified for two years, doesn’t really seem ready for that.
The trick for Republicans will be to isolate Democrats politically as a niche far-left party. Amazingly, this is a project a whole lot of Democrats, including Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris seem on board with. But, of course, none of this is a fait accompli.
For the GOP to pull off an historic victory they must do two things. First, be a big tent party that eschews purity tests, and second, keep a laser-like focus on the fumbling failures of the Democrat majority.
In regard to casting a wide electoral net Republicans must draw a line between figures like Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., who have completely disqualified themselves, and those like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, currently on a media blitz, who still have a role to play.
Cheney has made it her mission to harm Republican efforts at regaining power unless it totally rejects Donald Trump. Christie, the first major Republican to endorse Trump in 2016, is focused on winning, even if some of the former president’s allies see him as disloyal.
As regards attacking the record of the current Democrats, the GOP should be on offense everywhere. Fight them in the suburbs, fight them in the factories, fight them in the school boards, and the gas stations and the grocery stores.
And one last thing. To truly emerge from the shadow of permanent opposition into the sunshine of national political dominance Republicans have to act like they belong there.
It is not enough to paint America as the victim of progressive Democrat excesses, there must be a positive vision of something better.
If that happens, American politics could shift next year in ways that last a generation.