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  • Sarah Chamberlain

Disaster movie or horror film? Democrats aren't sure what 2022 holds

By Sarah Chamberlain

I love horror-film trailers, even when the release of the movie is months away. Democrats saw the trailer for Nightmare on Main Street on Election Night and Republicans can’t wait for the nationwide release in November 2022.

RMSP President and CEO Sarah Chamberlain

We had a tremendous victory in Virginia, not just with Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Terry McAuliffe but with victories by a female Jamaican immigrant for Lieutenant Governor; a Cuban-American man over the incumbent Attorney General; and the GOP retaking control of the House of Delegates.

In New Jersey, Republican Jack Ciattarelli nearly unseated incumbent Governor Phil Murphy (who won in 2017 by 16 percentage points). That may be an even scarier indicator for Democrats that the political environment has shifted hard in Republicans' favor.

In the bigger picture, in those two states, many predicted college-educated suburbanites might be permanently in Democrats' camp. But Tuesday night's results in both states showed that's not quite the case.

Then there’s Buffalo, NY, where the current mayor lost a primary race against a self-described socialist Democrat but then beat her with a write-in campaign despite support from Sen. Chuck Schumer and other mainstream Democrats. Or how about Nassau County, NY, where Anne Donnelly became the first Republican to win a district attorney’s race since 2001. Or Bucks County, PA, and South Jersey, where Republicans won many downstream races. Or looking more broadly across Pennsylvania, where the party won big in statewide judicial races.

The list goes on as the progressive-led “defund the police” movement took a beating. Besides Eric Adams winning NYC mayor on a law enforcement platform, Minneapolis voters soundly defeated a proposal to restructure the police department while Seattle Republican City Attorney candidate Ann Davison trounced her police abolitionist opponent, who tweeted about her “rabid hatred of the police” and pronounced property destruction during times of protest a “moral imperative.” Citywide, progressives struggled as more moderate, business-backed candidates in Seattle’s three most watched races surged to huge and likely insurmountable leads, leading the Seattle Times to write “it’s been more than three decades since the phrase ‘good night for Seattle Republicans’ has been written in reference to a city election.”

So what did we learn?

In Virginia, we learned it’s OK to talk about Trump but you have to have your own brand. Youngkin defined himself early. He talked about being a businessman and about the importance of parents having a say in their children’s education. He took advantage of a “misstep” in messaging by his opponent about parents’ role in education, and he built a coalition of rural, suburban, and urban voters, many of whom didn’t vote Republican last year.

That is a blueprint for success in the 2022 midterms. You don’t have to hug Trump and you don’t have to be against Trump. You have to acknowledge him and then talk about what you’re going to do and how it’s going to affect your district. Youngkin tapped into economic issues that have emerged during Biden's presidency and talked to voters with a campaign based on issues that people care about, and actual platforms centered on schools and crime and quality of life.

But despite all this, House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal from Washington State, expressed little concern about these results in a CNN interview with an increasingly incredulous Anderson Cooper on Nov. 3.

After Jayapal claimed voters say they “need help,” Cooper rightfully pointed out that it “doesn’t seem like they asking progressive Democrats for help; they’re asking Republicans for help.” She talked about how hard Democrats were working to pass the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better boondoggle bill without acknowledging that progressives were holding the infrastructure bill hostage. Anderson got it right when he asked skeptically whether Jayapal thinks that passing those bills will make voters “like Democrats,” which she didn’t answer.

She did say that Democrats need to pay more attention to local politics – a strategy that worked for Republicans this year – but she still kept falling back on the failed Progressive messaging of Trump Bad, Progressives Good.

Ignoring the historical reality that midterms usually take many Congressional seats from the party that controls the presidency and Democrats have only the slimmest of margins, Jayapal said the 2021 results “[don’t] mean anything for the midterms.” Cooper countered with a question she deflected: “Has the Democratic party gone too far Left?” That should have been an easy “Yes.”

The Far Left is damaging Biden and the Democratic agenda. Main Street Americans are feeling it in their pocketbooks. They’re feeling it as they drive on deteriorating roads and bridges. They’re feeling it in rural homes that don’t have broadband. They’re feeling it with empty grocery-store shelves. They can’t understand why the party in control can’t stop fighting with each other.

Main Street Americans don’t want Congress to pass legislation that opens everyone’s bank account to IRS scrutiny. They didn’t want to give families crossing the border $450,000 per person when we only give $400,000 to the families of U.S. service members killed in action, a proposal President Biden has thankfully walked back.

We saw evidence of how Main Street Americans feel about progressive Democrats in last year’s election when RMSP ran ads about Rep. Don Bacon’s radical socialist opponent in the Nebraska 2nd Congressional District. That turned a tight race into a runaway.

Democrats are out of touch with the concerns of middle America and without a clear message on the issues that affect their lives. As Republicans, we can see the blueprint for success in the Youngkin campaign: Run races with the right candidates, the right messages, and data-driven tactics.

It’s time now to execute that plan on behalf of Main Street Americans.

This column originally ran in papers across the USA Today Mid-Atlantic Region, including


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