I’m more optimistic about the next decade than other Democrats

Though not much.

Although Joe Biden won the election, Democrats maintaining control of the House despite losing 10ish seats, many Democrats are fretting about their prospects of the next decade. For good reason! Republicans have six Supreme Court seats and Justice Alito gave a brazenly partisan speech telling conservative litigants “that they have the votes, open the floodgates for all of your pet projects”. Republicans won almost everywhere that redistricting was at stake. Finally, since Democrats did not take control of the Senate, it is unlikely that any major progressive legislation on climate, fixing Democracy, or health care will come to pass. Despite all that, I don’t think we’re in as bad of a position as naysayers on Twitter think.

Let’s start with redistricting. In 2010, Republicans took control of multiple state legislatures and Governor’s mansions which gave them a massive redistricting advantage especially in key swing states. This made winning control of state legislatures and the US House impossible until 2018. Over time, redistricting loses its efficacy because people move, the voting eligible population grows, and sometimes opinions change. The fear of the 2020’s is the Republicans will regain their redistricting advantages once the new maps being drawn next year will take effect. I’m not as pessimistic as others are though on this issue.

For starter’s, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all have Democratic Governors now so redistricting will have to be agreeable to both parties. Ohio passed a ballot measure that basically made partisan Gerrymandering impossible. Michigan, Arizona, and Virginia all have independent redistricting commissions now instead of mostly GOP control like in 2010. Due to all of these factors, redistricting isn’t going to be so hardcore in favor of the GOP in all of the above states as in the past decade.

Regarding democracy issues, Ian Millhiser is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he focuses on the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the decline of liberal democracy in the United States. He makes the argument in one of his videos that while he is confident that Biden will be the next President, he is not at all confident in the strength of American Democracy. This is mostly due to the Supreme Court being hostile to voting rights and a recent Supreme Court case that could potentially put all voting laws in the hands of solely the state legislatures which are overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans.

While he has some terrifying, valid points to make in the video linked above, it’s not all bad. State level ballot measures are one aspect of politics to be optimistic about especially since Pro-democracy reforms are pretty popular. As previously mentioned, Michigan and Virginia (two big states) have both passed ballot measures with Independent Redistricting Commissions which takes gerrymandering out of the hands of the legislature. As previously mentioned, Ohio and Missouri, more big states have bipartisan redistricting commissions. Alaska, a conservative state with an independent streak, recently passed a ranked choice voting law. If Alaska can pass ranked choice voting by ballot measure, then other Republican leaning states can too.

It’s also the case that ballot initiatives are making progressive policies a reality across the country. Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, and Missouri have all passed Medicaid expansions. Florida recently raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Marijuana is now legal to more than 50% of the population which will keep people out of jail, create jobs, and increase tax revenue for states. All of these measures passed through a majority of the vote by a ballot referendum. These measure will all reduce income inequality and poverty which tend to hold back low income individuals from voting (they’re busier if they’re poorer). They also show that progressive policies are popular and Democrats should solely focus on “kitchen table” issues that effect the material wealth of average individuals and families.

Another part of politics to be optimistic about is that voter turnout was massive in 2020, especially among young people which skew liberal. People who vote once are more likely to vote in the next election and the election after that and so on. Despite voter suppression efforts like Voter ID laws, Texas reducing the number of ballot drop off locations to one per county, and avoidable extremely long lines in the middle of a pandemic, people got to the polls and voted. I’m skeptical that persuasion campaigns work at all as ticket splitters just aren’t all that common anymore, but campaigns are effective when they focus on turning out the vote. This bodes well for future elections that professional campaigners finally figured out how to do this.

It’s also been theorized that GOP voter turnout will likely return to normal without Trump on the ballot. 2018 was a very good year for Democrats, but GOP turnout went back up in 2020. He’s a very popular figure in Republican circles and some are skeptical that the Georgia Senate races are in the bag for Republicans without Trump on the ballot. Georgia voters did pick Biden by a small margin and without Trump turning people out to vote, Democrats could have a shot at winning both Senate run-off races. Many politicians have tried to emulate Trump by being bombastic and acting like assholes, but these politicians all have a certain level of shame that Trump lacks entirely.

So it’s not that Democrats don’t have any reason to worry. The opposition party tends to do better in midterm elections in a President’s first term and this is after Republicans will pick up some advantages in the House redistricting, the Senate is extremely biased in favor of the GOP, and we should all be terrified by the prospect of state legislatures having the sole say without checks and balances on election laws. Despite all that, there are plenty of aspects in politics to be optimistic about.

Amateur political analyst / anti anti-vaxxer / hater of conspiracy theories and the power of crystals