History shows Democratic defeat in the 2022 midterm congressional elections and the 2024 presidential election are not inevitable.
Fifty years ago, a President faced similar conditions to those President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) is dealing with today. That President was Richard M. Nixon (R-California). Nixon faced circumstances strangely similar to those confronting Biden.
For example, Nixon faced a humiliating pullout from a pointless and unpopular war (Vietnam). Additionally, Nixon faced inflation, stagflation, and economic turmoil at home, civil unrest, rising Cold War tensions, and chaos abroad. In particular, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
Nixon’s Incredible Win in 1972
Yet Nixon won the 1972 Presidential election by 520 Electoral College votes. Notably, Nixon’s opponent US Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota) only won 17 Electoral College votes.
Notably, Nixon won that victory in a year when Democrats had clear majorities in both Houses of Congress. For example, Democrats held 56 US Senate seats and 243 US House of Representatives Seats in 1972. Hence, Nixon won a fantastic landslide in a country with a clear Democratic majority.
So how did Nixon pull off such a victory when most Americans were against his party? A partial explanation is that Democrats had drifted off into the far left and culture war politics under the dreamy McGovern. Another is that voters were angry about tens of thousands of needless deaths in Vietnam, a Democratic war.
So why did Nixon win in 1972?
Yet there are other explanations for Nixon’s victory, today’s politicians want to ignore.
First Nixon was a vigorous supporter of America’s welfare state. In fact, Nixon spent much of his administration fighting for welfare state expansion.
For example, on 1 July 1972, Nixon signed a bill (HR 15490) that provided for a 20% across the board increase in Social Security benefits. I think HR 15490 contributed far more to Nixon’s 1972 landslide than his “Southern Strategy” of appeasing racists.
Note, Nixon signed the 20% Social Security increase in July 1972. He won his landslide victory just a few months later. Notably, the 1972 was only one of several Social Security increases Nixon promoted.
Nixon promoted many other benefit increases, including higher basic income payments for the disabled. In addition, Nixon wanted to replace food stamps with a basic income for the poor. In 1974, Nixon sent a special message to Congress asking for Comprehensive Health Insurance (CHIP), in other words, Medicare for All.
Importantly, Nixon had a firm commitment to expanding the welfare state and delivering concrete benefits to ordinary people. Consequently, Nixon won the greatest presidential victory in American history.
Notably, the only other president to win a Nixon-level victory, Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) had a similar commitment to welfare state expansion. In 1964, Johnson, the architect of Medicare, won 486 Electoral College Votes. Johnson’s opponent US Senator Barry M. Goldwater (R-Arizona) won just 52 Electoral college votes.
The Key to Landslide Victories
History is clear welfare state expansion leads to votes and large majorities.
Unfortunately, Democrats ignore that history and listen to the doomsayers in the media, consultant, and pundit classes whose advice will make defeat inevitable. For example, Democrats plan to run on protecting Obamacare in 2022, The Hill speculates.
Making an issue of Obamacare will only remind voters why they hate Democrats. I think many voters hate Democrats because they do nothing for ordinary people.
For example, Obamacare helps health insurance companies make more money at ordinary people’s expense, but does nothing to contain medical costs. The truck driver with a rising health insurance premium and a pile of unpaid medical bills will get angry when he hears the word Obamacare.
Similarly, President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) refuses to discuss Social Security increases, additional stimulus checks, or canceling student debt. Notably, Biden promised a third $2,000 stimulus check during the 2020 elections. Yet, Congress failed to approve additional stimulus.
Additionally, student loan cancellation, which some legal experts think Biden could deliver without Congress, could benefit 45.4 million Americans. StudentLoanHero estimates 45.4 million Americans owed $1.75 trillion in student loan debt on 24 March 2023. Hence, student loan cancellation could benefit 45.4 million potential voters, but Biden resists it.
Why Democrats don’t Want to Win
Winning in 2022 and 2024 should be easy for Democrats. History shows that all Democrats need to win is a promise to fight for some big benefit increases.
For example, student loan cancellation, Medicare for All, Basic Income, stimulus checks, or a 5% or 10% Social Security increase. I imagine millions or tens of millions of supposedly pro-Trump MAGA voters would support Democrats if they thought their Social Security payments could increase. I think Biden would carry many so-called Red states if he offered a Lyndon Johnson style welfare state expansion.
Additionally, I think Republicans could spew culture war bullshit until they were blue in the face and attract no votes if Democrats did something for ordinary Americans. Republicans win by pretending to respect ordinary Americans only because voters know Democrats will do nothing for them.
Follow the Money
So why don’t Democrats adopt such winning strategies anymore? The simple answer is money. Corporations and the wealthy spend enormous amounts to make government work for them.
For example, Statista estimates US organizations spent $3.73 billion on lobbying in 2021. US lobbying rose from $3.53 billion in 2019 and $3.16 billion in 2016.
The enormous amounts of money spent encourages politicians to concentrate on what those with money care about. For example, preserving Obamacare to help insurance companies make rather than single-payer health insurance or servicing defense contractors instead of raising Social Security.
Notably, the US Defense budget which large corporations profit from rose from $740 billion in 2020 to $777.7 billion in 2021. This increase occurred before the outbreak of the Ukraine War.
Under these circumstances, both Democrats and Republicans concentrate on pleasing big-money donors and ignoring everybody else. For example, the US Senate passed the Defense budget by a vote of 88 to 11. Yet, the same supposedly evenly divided US Senate cannot pass voting rights legislation or President Joe Biden’s (D-Delaware) Build Back Better social and infrastructure package.
Americans will need to limit money in politics if they want Nixon or LBJ level electoral victories again. Unfortunately, I think keeping money out of politics will be harder than most people believe.