Mauren: 2022 is blue wave or bust for Dems

Columnist Jacob Mauren foresees a Republican failure after various Republican senators chose to leave office and Donald Trump takes the Republican throne. 

Jacob Mauren

They kept the House, they flipped the Senate and retook the White House in 2020. What more could Democrats want in 2022? More, a whole lot more, in fact.

While winning the Senate was a significant accomplishment, a 50-50 majority is not exactly a recipe for continued success, thanks to the mighty filibuster. In order to pass much of the Biden agenda, Democrats will likely need to acquire a real majority in the Senate to increase their filibuster leverage and overall political capital. 

You might think they could squeeze all legislation through Congress like they did with the recent COVID-19 relief bill that passed. However, that maneuver was executed with the help of a procedure called budget reconciliation. This legislative loophole applies to federal budget changes and therefore can only be used on spending and revenue-related bills. This means much of the Democratic agenda will need to pass the traditional way, which it has little chance of right now.

So, let’s take a way-too-early look at the 2022 Senate races. Right away, we can see that while Democrats aren’t in the clear by any means, Republicans are likely to be playing defense. Already, five GOP senators have announced they do not intend to run again. I expect Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson to join this group soon. While some of these genuinely may be due to age, it is not uncommon to see representatives retire when they see a loss on the horizon. Republicans also lose the important power of incumbency in these races, compounding their woes. 

Admittedly, some of these seats will be filled by another GOP member, such as openings in Missouri and Alabama. But there are a number of opportunities for Democrats to make gains. Both Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Johnson have announced or indicated that they will not run again. Both hail from states that Joe Biden won in 2020. In fact, 87-year-old Grassley and Rob Portman (R-OH) each come from states that have trended red recently but voted for Barack Obama twice, keeping them in my realm of possible pickups. 

However, these are not the only seats or trends that have stood out to me. The man we can not escape from, Donald Trump, enters the scene. Fresh off a presidential defeat and second impeachment, he has made it clear he still wants to be top dog in the Republican Party by threatening to campaign against an incumbent Republican he views as unloyal.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been Alaska’s senator since 2002, a strong incumbent expecting no Democratic threat. Yet, she has been censored by her party and now has the money and voice of Trump trying to unseat her for voting in favor of his impeachment. 

The wedge between establishment Republicans and Trump does not end there. The Republican National Convention and Trump are now locked in a legal battle over the use of the former president’s name and likeness. This has led Trump to direct Republicans to donate directly to his own PAC and not the RNC.

I also believe Democrats will get a boost from a COVID recovery. Regardless of who you want to credit for the current vaccine rollout, Democrats will not be shy to point out the differences between 2020 and what we can hope 2022 will be like. Getting to say, “Remember what life was like when Biden was elected and look at where we are now,” may help push some Democratic candidates over a hump.

Democrats need and have the opportunity to make important gains in the 2022 midterms. An improving COVID situation will provide a boost to Democrats, and inter-party turmoil will disadvantage Republicans. To advance their full agenda, Democrats must use these chances and not leave us in deadlock for another two years.