President Biden didn’t mince words on Friday when he addressed members of the House Democratic Caucus, punctuating a two-day conference in Philadelphia to strategize for the midterm elections.
“This off-year election, in my view, could be the most important off-year election in modern history,” he said. “We know the fundamental change that will happen if we lose the House and the Senate. The only thing I will have then is a veto pen.”
The political fate of House Democrats is tied to Biden, whose administration faces record inflation and drastic increases in gas prices as the United States seeks to damage the Russian economy during his invasion of Ukraine.
Most political bettors, along with even some Democratic lawmakers, expect the historic midterm election trend to continue this fall: the ruling party will lose seats.
At the conference, Democrats strategized on ways to prevent the long-awaited Republican red wave.
One method, said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DN.Y., is to “speak like real people” and pass what he calls the “Maloney Brothers Test.”
“If you come home for Thanksgiving and your brothers think you look like a jerk, you know, ‘What’s your GPA?’ — it doesn’t matter to them,” he said. “You have to show up and be a human being in your relationship with voters.”
Maloney, who calls himself a “player-coach”, is himself at risk of re-election this fall. Already, Republicans are running an ad in his district telling voters that Maloney and Biden “have crippled America’s energy production.”
Another Democrat in a purple seat, Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, skipped the conference with the president in her home state. She told NPR ahead of the annual policy retreat that she instead travels to her district to speak to voters on issues such as rising gas prices. “I have a lot of work to do there.”
She added, “I need to talk about what we’re doing to make sure the shortages we’re seeing in grocery stores and that sort of thing are addressed.”
Wild said she could point to various legislative victories — such as the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill — but thinks her own party erred in promising a sweeping social spending bill, who stalled.
“It’s always a problem when over-promised, and I think there was a problem with some things being over-promised,” she said.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, disagrees.
“I don’t understand the over-promising thing. Elections are won on people who believe in your vision,” she said.
It’s a reminder that the disconnect between centrists and progressives — who couldn’t agree on the price of Biden’s signature legislative package — is still very real.
“I think it’s not that we have to be able to achieve every piece of our vision, but we have to understand the pain that people are facing and we have to show that we’re working on it and that we’re trying. to do so,” Jayapal said.
Democratic lawmakers across the political spectrum have stressed that Democrats need to remind voters of what they have been doing — things like the COVID-19 relief and infrastructure bills — instead of getting bogged down in process arguments on other agenda items that have been stalled.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, pushed back against the idea that African-American voters who helped Biden and the Democrats win in 2020 might not run in 2022 because they’re disappointed Congress didn’t passed no suffrage or police reform legislation.
“I don’t want anyone to think that somehow the projections made by the talking heads and the press about the bad situation we’re in [are accurate]“, Waters said, insisting that black voters will run again because they understand what is at stake in the upcoming election.
Searching for Biden for Executive Orders
Without much time to pass major legislation ahead of the midterm elections and an acknowledgment that they don’t have the votes to get things done, Democrats said they were pivoting to push Biden to push through reforms. immigration, voting rights and efforts to reduce costs through executive orders.
“It’s very important that the executive act if we can’t get legislative action right away,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, noting that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order.
“Many of us have encouraged the president to do the important research that is needed and to use this method to help jump-start the recovery,” added Rep. Jim Clyburn, DS.C., a longtime Biden ally. .
Democrats at the conference repeatedly acknowledged the strain rising gas prices are causing their constituents, but argued it was a sacrifice worth making to help the Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion.
“I ask the people of the United States to make the sacrifice as well, because in the long run, democracy is at stake,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, DN.Y., who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and recently returned. of a trip to the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said at a time when people are grappling with inflation, his party needs to talk about what it has done and what it still wants to do.
“President Biden and House Democrats have a track record and a plan for progress. It’s important to talk about both,” he said. “Because if we can’t anchor our plan for progress in the reality that we’ve actually delivered real results for the American people, then there’s no reason for the American people to believe that we’ll continue to advance the things in his name.”
He does not hesitate to make a prediction for November:
“I think we’ll keep the majority in 2022 and maybe even expand it,” he told NPR.