Liberal overreach helped conservative values triumph in the 2021 elections, but Republicans won’t cakewalk to big gains in the midterms.
Virginia exit polls indicate the economy is still the most important issue. Still, governors, state legislatures and local politicians can do little more than steal jobs from other jurisdictions with generous incentives and rearrange local tax policy — Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin promised to ax the regressive tax on groceries.
The issues that drove his victory, the Republican Party’s near-miss in New Jersey and the renaissance of reason about public safety in New York and Minneapolis were issues where local politicians could turn things around — critical race theory, low standards in public schools, rising crime and defunding the police.
Work-from-home and remote schooling together illuminated for parents the inaccurate and hateful bile Fairfax County and school officials throughout Virginia are pushing on teachers and children. As responsible parents, they voted for change.
Mr. Youngkin’s success was mirrored across the nation in school board elections.
Now it gets tough for Republicans as Virginia schools become a national demonstration project. CRT is deeply entrenched in teacher colleges and the dogma of the educational establishment and is a rallying cry for leftist teachers unions.
Just like then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Republican revolution in 1995, Mr. Youngkin’s team will face a tough struggle purging the prejudices of tenured academics and pious bureaucrats — no matter how hateful, racist, sexist and destructive.
However, at the national level, congressmen and senators vote on what really matters for economic conditions in their locale.
Leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy and the broader GOP must recognize the courts at the states’ provocations will most influence abortion, immigration and election reform until Republicans can win the presidency and congress together or attain veto-proof majorities in both houses.
In 2022, those are not on the table, and Republican congressional candidates should hue to the conservative cultural values but primarily focus on the economy. More specifically, discredit the degrading character of the Democrats’ efforts to expand the welfare state.
With small recurring swings, Republicans and Democrats run about even among voters on party affiliation but about two-fifths consistently call themselves independent.
Perceptions of economic conditions are irrationally fused to party loyalty. In October 2020, 55% of Republicans thought the economy was improving, whereas 67% of Democrats said it was getting worse. As soon as President Biden assumed his role, those numbers flipped, and similar patterns go back to the Obama presidency.
Consequently, conditions on the ground — as perceived by more moderate white swing voters and non-Black minorities — will matter most. This comes down to holding suburban women, Hispanics and Asians that swung markedly toward the Republican camp for Mr. Youngkin.
If the election were held today, the GOP would be in great shape because growth is taking a hit from the delta and omicron variants; inflation is ripping. Grocery shelves are bare of items produced domestically and have nothing to do with the port of Los Angeles. Mr. Biden’s anti-fossil fuel, union-empowering and welfare-instead-of-work woke agenda won’t be helping.
Next year, the Democrats’ infrastructure and social spending will boost consumer demand, and businesses may find some ways around some supply chain constraints. Four percent inflation would still be too high, but a darn sight better than the 6% or 7% now feared.
Government regulation and interference in the marketplace are again less popular with voters. However, the refundable Child Tax Credits paid family leave and the rest of the Build Back Better agenda still garner broad support because they would ease the pain.
For the Republicans, the opportunity lies in tying the madness of making gasoline scarce to Democrats’ tails and unions excessively privileged when the dolts at GM cannot yet produce an electric car that is safe to park in your garage.
The keystone of liberal Democratic strategy has been to convince Hispanics to align with Blacks and progressive women in outrage against white men and cultivate a culture of victimhood and entitlement.
Coming to America more recently and from many different places, Hispanics are not so easily duped and regimented as the disaffected among radical feminists, academics, liberal media and followers of Black Lives Matter. Like Passaic Mayor Hector C. Lora, a Democrat and son of Dominican immigrants, many see hard work, not big government, as the key to minority success.
Mr. Youngkin broke the code in Virginia by running with a Black woman for lieutenant governor and Hispanic man for attorney general with compelling and inspiring conservative stories about an America that offers all opportunity, not repression.
Now Republicans must replicate that nationally to win over Mr. Lora and defang the victimization and retribution state.
• Peter Morici is an economist, emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland and national columnist.