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Fall Awakening: As Alarm About the GOP Rises, The Red Wave Recedes

Jeff Robbins on

Republican strategists have rarely seemed more chipper in recent times than when supplies of a certain brand of baby formula ran short and gas prices ran high. Voters were buying what the GOP was selling: Joe Biden's presidency was a "failure," the overwhelming evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Biden had steered the country through and out the other end of the COVID-19 crisis, had managed to pass several blockbuster legislative packages that provided desperately needed financial relief through a gridlocked Congress and had presided over historic levels of job creation. He had skillfully unified Western democracies in defense of Ukraine, ensuring that, against all reasonable expectations, that brave country was able to repel Russian aggression.

Still Biden's poll numbers have remained low for the better part of the last year, even as the Republicans' case against him remained pretty darn thin. Their central pitch, duly and loudly amplified by house organs like Fox News, was that Biden was "not up to the job." The pitch consisted largely of the fact that Biden, who has a bad back, walks stiffly and, even more disqualifying, once got his foot caught on a bike pedal while coming to a stop and -- wait for it -- the bicycle tipped over.

For the longest time it did not much matter that the Republican Party, a veritable study in pathology, is dominated by crackpots and controlled not just by your run-of-the-mill felon but a felon on multiple counts. Democrats' prospects in this fall's midterms seemed foreordained, and not in a positive way. Buoyed by historical precedent, Biden's low approval ratings and the Democrats' time-honored penchant for internecine warfare, Republicans seemed poised to sweep into control of both houses of Congress with the greatest of ease.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Republican wave, and it began with the conservative Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade in June. Though it had been a fait accompli for months, the snatching away of a woman's constitutional right to choose what to do with her own body by those professing to oppose governmental overreach was a "Holy smokes!" moment for America -- though with something other than "smokes!" in mind. In early August voters in the deep red state of Kansas defeated a constitutional amendment that would have eliminated abortion rights by a landslide 60% to 40% margin. With a clear majority of Americans identifying as pro-choice, Kansas was an indication that women, independents and young voters who had been unmotivated about the midterms would make their voices heard about GOP politicians who followed their party's orthodoxy on choice -- and virtually all of them do.

It wasn't only choice that roused anti-Republican sentiment. The massacres of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas, and shoppers in a Buffalo, New York, grocery once again shone a spotlight on the vapidness of the Republican line on proliferating weapons of mass destruction on American streets, which, succinctly put, amounts to "It's a doggone shame people kill other people."

 

In recent weeks, Republicans' spirits have fallen faster than prices at the gas pump. On Aug. 23 a Democrat defeated a Republican in a swing congressional district in upstate New York. Last Tuesday a Democrat won a special election in Alaska -- Alaska! -- defeating former President Donald Trump mini-me Sarah Palin in a state that Trump carried by 10 points in 2020. Republican Senate candidates in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, once considered likely winners, trail their Democratic opponents in the polls. Democratic senators in Arizona and New Hampshire, once regarded as highly vulnerable, are suddenly on solid footing.

In the meantime, a fresh round of legislative victories like the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act underscore the emptiness of claims that Biden has "failed" as president.

There are 10 weeks to go before the midterms, which is to say 10 lifetimes. But at the moment Republicans are struggling to find a rationale for supporting them that doesn't include the words "bike pedal" in it.

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Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

 

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