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STATESIDE: We’ve not even had 100 days of Biden and all eyes are on 22’s elections

With CHARLIE HARPER

Coverage of the US Senate is everywhere in American media these days. Will GOP leader Mitch McConnell revert to his 2009 form and seek to block almost every initiative attempted by President Joe Biden? What will West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin think of this infrastructure bill or that immigration reform measure? Will Republican centrists Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska side with the Democrats on any major proposals?

It’s all news because the Senate is evenly divided 50-50 between the major political parties, leaving no room for Democratic defections with Vice President Kamala Harris poised to break any ties in favour of the administration’s proposals.

The Senate parliamentarian has been summoned to rule on obscure measures to see if additional Biden legislation can be approved without the 60 votes customarily needed for non-budget bills. For several weeks there was a steady drumbeat of stories about whether Senate traditionalist Biden would support overturning the filibuster rule that essentially protects 40-vote minorities in the Senate. That has now receded, perhaps only temporarily.

But as the mystical “first 100 days” mark of the new administration approaches at the end of this month and the percentage of adult Americans fully vaccinated against the coronavirus continues to rise, increasing attention is directed toward the 2022 elections and their impact on the Senate.

Senate elections are staggered so that in any even-numbered year, roughly one-third of the chamber’s 100 members are up for re-election. Deaths and mid-term resignations affect this calculus, but most elections see 33-35 senators on the ballot. In 2022, there will be 34.

While the election cycles carefully balance the total number of senators running, however, there is seldom any corresponding balance between parties. In 2018, for example, despite the gradual erosion of overall support for President Donald Trump, his Republican Party kept its Senate majority because just enough of its senatorial candidates on the ballot were running from really reliably red states.

Two years earlier, as Trump upended American politics by scoring a dramatic upset over Hillary Clinton, the same forces that swept Trump to power overcame a strong putative Democratic advantage and sealed the Senate Republican majority that McConnell used to confirm scores of conservative federal judges and three US Supreme Court justices.

That same expected Democratic advantage applies next year, one six-year Senate cycle after 2016. Of the 34 Senate seats up for election, 20 are occupied by Republicans. That puts the GOP on the defensive. It’s still 19 months before the 2022 elections, but most observers see the Democrats expanding their advantage next November.

Another factor leading to possible Democratic gains is the early announcement by no fewer than five incumbent Republican senators that they will not seek re-election.

All five could fairly be described as members of the “pre-Trump” Republican Party that held fast consistently to some conservative tenets like lowering taxes, balancing federal budgets, reducing the size of government and favoruing deregulation while maintaining a strong military and a virile, ideological foreign policy.

While Trump followed those principles more often than his opponents allege, he basically took over the party and remains strongly influential in its outlook and selection of candidates.

One motive for the retirements of Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania might be their concern about a likely primary challenge next year by someone much more clearly aligned with Trump. Some of them have admitted as much.

Democratic incumbents are defending all 14 of their party’s seats up for re-election next year.

Here’s an early look at the contests seen as having the greatest possibility to alter the Senate’s present balance of power.

Pennsylvania: Incumbent Toomey was an unexpected victor in both of his previous successful Senate races. Despite strong Trump support in the deep red (“Alabama without the accent”) middle of the state, the eventual Democratic candidate should prevail here. Gain for Democrats.

Wisconsin: Incumbent Republican Ron Johnson, who looks and talks like a senator but who persists in spouting pro-Trump Big Election Lie nonsense, seems likely to lose in a state that in 2018 dumped anti-union GOP governor Scott Walker and voted for Biden last year. Gain for Democrats.

No other gains are projected for either party at this early point in the campaign. Biden’s party would secure a 52-48 advantage moving forward in 2023. Here’s why:

Georgia: One of the two Democrats who shocked pundits by winning Senate runoffs in January, Rev. Raphael Warnock must run for his seat again next year because he defeated someone appointed to that seat after a mid-term resignation, so Georgia will again be at the center of national attention, testing newfound Democratic strength in the Deep South.

Strong pro-Trump candidates are vying to oppose Warnock. Get-out-the-vote hero Stacey Abrams may run for governor again in 2022, ensuring wide Black voter interest in statewide races. If Atlanta, its suburbs and the state’s Black Belt turn out strongly, Warnock should prevail.

Ohio: Long a national bellwether but now reliably red, the Buckeye State may see a strong pro-Trump candidate get the GOP nod for its Senate vacancy. In discarding former Republican Governor John Kasich, who ran against Trump in 2016 and endorsed Biden last year, the state Republican Party has lurched far to the right. If Biden’s stimulus remains popular in the state and the Dems find a strong nominee, an upset is possible – but unlikely.

Florida: Ivanka Trump has said she won’t oppose incumbent Marco Rubio in the GOP primary next year. Unless the current governor’s careless management of the pandemic leads to an even greater, more lasting health catastrophe in the Sunshine State, conventional wisdom holds that Rubio is likely to remain in office.

North Carolina: Left-leaning commentators have for several years touted this state as turning purple as more liberal northern retirees migrate in. But the Tar Heel state is still more like Texas than neighbouring Virginia, so purple is less likely than red next year. As in Ohio, the GOP is likely to hold this seat unless they nominate an extremist Trumper.

Arizona: Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly is now running for his first full term after winning part of former senator John McCain’s last term. He has turned out to be a good politician, and the Republicans in Arizona are still divided over whether to continue supporting Trump’s Big Election Lie.

There will be many reminders in the next 19 months about how often in recent years a new incumbent president’s party has been shellacked in the first by-election after he takes office. That might foretell a Republican recapture of the Senate next year.

But the deck is stacked in the Dems’ favour in 2022, and Biden’s early months in office seem likely to augur well for their ability to reverse this trend.

Is it Chavin or the system?

The continuing, sensational televised trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has received wide coverage in much of the American national media, including MSNBC and CNN, which have cut away from regular daytime programming to offer live feeds from the trial.

Chauvin, fired in the aftermath of his involvement in the death of a black man in May 2020, is now on trial for several felonies including second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd while he was handcuffed and in Chauvin’s custody.

As a parade of prosecution witnesses including the Minneapolis chief of police have offered testimony damaging to the accused, many commentators are focusing on the fraying of the “thin blue line” of traditional police support for its own in cases alleging police misconduct.

But others see a replication of a different, equally troubling pattern. They are reminded of situations involving the US military and alleged atrocities committed by soldiers in overseas conflicts as in Iraq.

In those military incidents, legal consequences have generally been borne by the lowest-ranking soldiers in the chain of command. Senior commanders, despite some evidence that they were at least indirectly complicit, have often escaped censure or punishment.

It’s a familiar pattern: pin the offence on the lowest-ranking, throw them under the bus and fail to address any underlying organisational or command shortcomings that may have contributed to tragedy.

Let’s hope that is not what is happening in Minneapolis.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

One thing is certain, Biden is a superior president compared to that orange moron the US just threw out of office in a fair and democratic election...

Proguing 3 years, 3 months ago

Your superior President who can't say a phrase without his teleprompter, is already working on WWIII and a new blacklist for the Bahamas. As for the election I see that you are a good disciple of Goebbels who said "if you keep repeating a lie, people will eventually come to believe it".

proudloudandfnm 3 years, 3 months ago

And I see that you are a trumpie, otherwise known as the dumbest people on earth...

Proguing 3 years, 3 months ago

Are you assisting your "superior" president to draft the next blacklist to bully the Bahamas into submission?

milesair 3 years, 3 months ago

Get a grip! Too much Faux news in your diet! Typical Trumpster as facts don't mean $hit!

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