Midterms 2022 — Lessons learned and the path forward
Now that midterm elections are over, it is time for the Republican Party to come to terms with two key concepts — First is that the narrative of “This is Donald Trump’s Party” should be laid to rest, and second, that Americans want representatives in office that will be pragmatic and deliver results, not empty rhetoric.
Not even Donald Trump can claim that his endorsements produced success. His only “victories” were races where the candidate he endorsed was clearly going to win anyway. The fact is that most of the candidates who were hand-picked by the former president lost the races that determined control of the Senate (Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker of Georgia, Blake Masters of Arizona, Adam Laxalt of Nevada) and led to a smaller House majority than was expected. One of the smallest midterm gains for an out of leadership party in history.
Meanwhile, some Republicans are expanding their base of support — both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin have attracted Independents and even some Democrats in addition to their Republican base. Both governors gained a greater portion of Black and Hispanic voters than has been the norm and won back suburban voters that moved away from the Republican Party because of Donald Trump. A 2024 presidential election with either of these two leaders could win back the White House — with Trump we lose.
With a small Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a slim Democrat majority in the Senate — is it a recipe for disaster or an opportunity to finally work across party lines? The results of this election should be a wakeup call for our government to focus on things that matter to the vast majority of citizens.
While it may be tempting to launch endless investigations into Hunter Biden’s affairs and other Democrat failures, they won’t reduce inflation, make our communities safe or help our children learn. While there is no doubt that we now have a viscerally partisan and divided government, instead of spending the next two years on useless “messaging bills” that die in the Senate, the House might actually find common ground with the Democrats to solve our country’s most pressing issues. In fact, throughout history, a divided government has worked quite well — Reagan/O’Neill tax reform, Clinton/Gingrich welfare reform, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as examples.
Our new Congress should focus on these three areas:
First, get control of inflation, which is largely driven by excess deficit spending — stop spending money and reduce the cost of an out-of-control government. The so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” is a joke — a massive spending spree to be paid for by the taxpayers. Twenty-nine percent of all money in circulation today was created since February 2020. Isn’t that incredibly profligate? Turn off the spigot and reduce cost. Just like every household must do.
Second, Americans deserve to feel safe in their communities. While this is primarily a local law enforcement issue, the billions of dollars in federal grants provided to local governments for policing can be directed to support police rather than social programs. Congress can oppose ending cashless bail, decriminalization of certain offenses, and other polices deemed to be contrary to law and order by tying these to the federal funds. Securing our border is also an issue that effects the safety of our communities. Instituting policies that stop illegal crossings will greatly impact the flow of illegal narcotics and reduce human trafficking.
Finally, Congress should return to the principle that political differences stop at America’s coastline. A united foreign policy that projects strength around the world is critical to deal with aggression from China, Russia, Iran, and others. Better and more targeted use of the appropriated defense money is a must. The American Enterprise Institute recently published a study that documents that over $100 billion, approximately 14 percent of the defense appropriations, does not contribute to combat readiness. What is the job of a military? Combat readiness. China spends roughly half what we do on defense yet is building far more ships and planes. Before long we won’t be able to penetrate them. Lastly, sadly, a full 77 percent of those aged 17-24 would not qualify for the military right now.
Elections have consequences. This election could bring the end of Trump dominance over the Republican Party and show the people that Congress can unite to make a divided government work.
Francis Rooney served in Congress from 2017-2021 and was U.S. ambassador to the Vatican from 2005-2008.
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