The general assemblies of the Senate are a referendum on stimulus checks


Campaign, you are Ossoff!
Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Joe Biden won the 2020 election by appealing to voters who don’t trust his party to rule.

Okay, it’s a reducer and somewhat little premature of punditry. Left-wing voters and activists who rallied to elect Biden were at least as important to his victory as the moderate ticket dividers were. But as the Democratic candidate’s popular voting margin increases – while his party losses multiply – it seems increasingly certain that Americans who preferred Biden to Trump, but a GOP Congress rather than a Democrat, are a small but important part of the president-elect’s coalition.

The exact size of this contingent – and why it chose to split its tickets – remains unclear. But one thing we do know is that Joe Biden did not campaign against the Republican Party as an institution. Instead, to help moderates opposing Trump reconcile sympathy for Republicans with voting for a Democratic nominee, Biden pointed out his opponent’s personal inability to perform office while announcing the mutual admiration between him. -same. and the John Kasichs of this world. It was a reasonable bet that could well have won Biden a significant number of votes. But as far as he was possible for Biden to sell the electorate on the idea of ​​a unified Democratic government, advertising his own gifts to cross the aisle – while distancing himself from many of the most important political ideas of his own party – was surely not the way to do it.

The question of how the Democratic Party can persuade voters to back it up and down in the ballot is a question the party will need to answer quickly. Despite the disappointments of November 3, Democrats still have an outside chance of gaining full control of the federal government. In Georgia, winning a senatorial election requires a candidate to win more than 50% of the vote; if no candidate crosses this threshold, a second round is organized between the first two. This year, both state Senate races were run in the second round, with Republican Kelly Loeffler taking on Democratic Pastor Raphael Warnock and Republican David Perdue taking on the former Barack Obama impersonator Jon Ossoff. If Democrats sweep away those races, they will have 50 votes in the Senate (which, along with Kamala Harris’ decisive vote as vice president, constitutes a simple majority).

Winning these two races is a tall order for a number of reasons. On the one hand, in the first round of the two competitions, the GOP candidates won the majority of votes. On the other hand, parties that have just lost the presidency tend to outperform in the ensuing special elections, as their constituents crave revenge while supporters on the other side become complacent. But given Biden’s apparent reliance on cash dispensers – both nationally and in Georgia – perhaps the biggest challenge Democrats face is: the party will need swing voters to support not one but of them of its candidates to the ballot papers during the same trip to the polls.

The Biden-Trump race may have increased the prevalence of voters supporting Democrats at the presidential level and Republicans below. But the tendency of weak (or non-partisan) supporters to favor divided government is deeply rooted in American politics and quite common in other democracies. Voters without a strong or consistent ideological commitment appear to have a strong predisposition to hedge their bets. And Democrats will have to erase this trend if they are to capture the two remaining seats. After all, the party will need these voters to forgo the option of balancing their own ballots by choosing a Democratic Senate candidate and a Republican.

Thus, the party has no choice but to tackle the problem head-on by advocating firmly and in favor of a unified democratic government. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to make voters understand what is really at stake as to whether Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer is the majority leader: namely, whether the next round of COVID stimulus laws will be big or small.

McConnell clearly indicated that his caucus will only support a modest and “targeted” COVID relief plan. Senate Republicans rallied to a A package of 500 billion dollars that includes small business forgivable loans and a weekly federal unemployment benefit of $ 300, but no state and city aid and more than $ 1,200 relief checks. Democrats, on the other hand, support a $ 2.2 trillion raise which includes a federal unemployment benefit of $ 600 per week, another round of relief checks, funding for states and cities, housing assistance, small business assistance and a variety of other social supports. Importantly, the stimulus is something Democrats can do without breaking down filibuster, and even the most conservative senators in the party are unlikely to block.

All available polls indicate that the voting public favors the Democratic position. In a new York Times-College of Siena Late last month’s survey, 72 percent of voters, including 56 percent of Republicans, backed a $ 2 trillion stimulus package modeled on the House Democrats’ proposal. Of course, the 2020 election taught us that the polls are likely to downsample Trump supporters. But national polls appear to be only three or four points behind. Double that mistake – state, without merit, that all of the downsampled Trump voters also oppose large-scale stimulus measures – and you still end up with 64% of the public in favor of the Democratic approach.

And the party may be able to compound this advantage by highlighting the concrete consequences of a more austere approach to relief. Faced with COVID-induced revenue shortfalls – and little budget support from Congress – Georgia cut 2021 budget by 10%, cutting almost $ 1 billion in K-12 education. A Democratic Congress would provide states with a level of tax support that would allow Georgia to avoid funding its public schools. A Republican Congress wouldn’t do it. Ossoff, Warnock and their party should make sure Georgian voters understand this. (Ironically, the GOP also does more to “spend the police” than the Democrats, as the Republican opposition to city tax assistance has led many jurisdictions to reluctantly fire cops.)

Perdue and Loeffler could try to co-opt a pro-stimulus message, just like other Republicans have done on the issue of Medicare subsidies for people. with pre-existing conditions. But if it did, it would be a minor victory in itself. Unlike this issue of health care, which will only become preponderant in the unlikely event As the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA, the COVID stimulus will be the # 1 legislative fight in the weeks and / or months to come. If Perdue and Loeffler pass generous state tax aid and more back-up controls on the strain, then they’ll have to back it up in Congress, or else violate a campaign pledge on a high-profile issue. at once after winning elections (which politicians are generally reluctant to do, even in our grossly undemocratic times). So making Georgia’s second round a stimulus referendum is both a good strategy for winning a Democratic Senate and also, potentially, a way to tilt the political center of gravity on coronavirus relief to the left, even if the Democrats lose.

Admittedly, one of the flaws of this argument is that it makes sense to me – and generally speaking, what makes sense to me and what makes sense to tip voters don’t overlap much. Since Donald Trump just won millions of Following votes in 2020 – after treating the country to four years of gratuitous corruption which resulted in its actively exacerbating a mass death event – it may seem wise that progressive pundits are wary of each of their hunches about how the marginal voter sees the world.

That said, from some angles the relatively widespread support for Trump seems more rational than the Liberals might be inclined to acknowledge.

Trump inherited an economic expansion, which he then bolstered by appointing an accommodating Federal Reserve chairman and signing a giant fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts (mostly for the rich) and tax increases. expenses (mainly for the army). By the end of 2019, that had pushed unemployment and wages down higher than at any time in recent memory. COVID has of course plunged the economy into recession. But thanks to unprecedented budget support from the CARES Act, Federal Reserve interventions in credit markets, and the sudden contraction in consumption opportunities, average disposable income in the United States massively increase during 2020: For middle-class Americans who haven’t lost their jobs or suffered a pay cut (a category that includes the vast majority of middle-class Americans), the COVID pandemic has brought a check for $ 1,200 from Uncle Sam and less of the temptation to spend that money on a vacation. As a result, much of the country is in better financial health than it has ever been before (even though a record number of Americans are suffering from utter financial devastation).

Graphic: @ EricLevitz / Twitter

Graphic: Bloomberg

And voters’ self-ratings of their economic well-being reflect this: In September, 55% of Americans told Gallup they were better now than they were four years ago; in 2012 and 2004, when the outgoing president was reelected, a majority of Americans did not say the same thing.

Graphics: Gallup

All that to say: it is entirely possible that a generous COVID stimulus package has allowed Trump to remain competitive in 2020. If so, it stands to reason that the promise of another such plan just strength keep the Democrats competitive in Georgia next January.

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