What Does 2021 Mean for Democrats? After New Jersey, Virginia, Expect a Red Wave

Is the façade around the Democratic majority in Washington, DC beginning to crack?

After the local elections held on November 2nd, political commentators, analysts, and operatives are beginning to sound the alarm bells for Democrats at the national level, after shocking Republican upsets in both Virginia and New Jersey.

In reliably Democratic New Jersey, incumbent Phil Murphy was up against Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli. While Ciattarelli was written off early in the campaign, he was able to put up a shocking fight against Murphy.

The results on Election Night were too close to call, resulting in Ciattarelli holding out for 10 days until he finally conceded to Murphy.

Murphy won by a little more than 2% in what was expected to be a blowout.

But perhaps the most shocking race of the year in New Jersey had nothing to do with the governorship, but instead saw the ouster of New Jersey’s State Senate President, Steve Sweeney.

Sweeney, a Democrat, and longest serving legislator in state history, was up against Republican challenger, Edward Durr.

Durr was a “blue collar” candidate, a political novice and truck driver, who spent only $2,300 on his winning campaign.

Following the unfathomable loss of Sweeney to a newcomer, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat, said:

“It is stunning and shocking and I cannot figure it out.

And while Republicans scored unforeseen political and PR wins in New Jersey, they accomplished an electoral coup against Democrats in Virginia.

The biggest story in Virginia, of course, was the upset victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin, against Clinton-affiliated, and former Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe. While McAuliffe was heavily favored in the weeks leading up to the election, controversy erupted in Loudoun County, VA, where local parents engaged in tense confrontations with the local school board who may have covered up multiple sexual assaults by a trans student in unisex bathrooms. McAuliffe sided with school officials, Youngkin with the parents infuriated with school boards claiming supremacy over their children’s’ education.

While McAuliffe ironically won Loudoun County, he lost the state as education became a rallying point for conservatives.

Youngkin’s victory was the cherry on top for Virginia Republicans, but arguable just as important was their seizure of control in the state’s House chambers.

The Rockbridge Report notes:

Republicans also claimed the statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in the Nov. 2 balloting. Those wins were a dramatic turnaround as the GOP had not won a Virginia statewide race since 2009. Democrats still hold a 21-19 majority in the Senate — where elections won’t be held until 2023 — splitting control of Virginia’s state legislature.

If the 2021 elections are a bellwether for the 2022 Midterms, it is clear that Democrats are now on the defensive and Republicans are resurgent.

The biggest takeaway from the results in New Jersey and Virginia are that with Trump gone, ordinary Americans are not on board with the more radical agendas of many contemporary Democrats. And 2021 can be seen as a referendum on Biden and his job performance less than a year into his presidency.

Sensing the walls closing in on Biden’s current agenda, Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, told The New York Times the following after the November elections:

Nobody elected him to be F.D.R., they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.

Still, other, more “progressive” Democrats, take quite the opposite view. In the same article, Representative Raul Grijalva, stated the following:

We’re seeing the expectations of our base not being fulfilled and that’s suppressing the vote by itself.

In other words, the Democrats and Biden are not “Left” enough, which must be why they’re losing to conservatives in typically liberal strongholds.

Regardless, Democrats are nervous, and perhaps they should be.

Polling results released by ABC show that Republicans are currently posed to shatter the Democrats with a “red wave” in 2022:

As things stand, if the midterm elections were today, 51 percent of registered voters say they’d support the Republican candidate in their congressional district, 41 percent the Democrat.

That’s the biggest lead for Republicans in the 110 ABC/Post polls to ask this question since November 1981. Indeed, it’s only the second time the GOP has held a statistically significant advantage (the other was +7 points in January 2002) and the ninth time it’s held any numerical edge at all.

There is a growing discontent around the country with Democrat policies, and most alarmingly for the party itself, its leadership. The 2021 election results, national polling, and the alarm being expressed by Democrats themselves, are a signal that must not be ignored if they are to be successful in 2022.

We will give the last word to Republican Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, who has captured the essence of what the 2021 election results have spelled out for Democrats:

If you’re a Democrat, and President Biden won your seat by 16 points, you’re in a competitive race next year. You are no longer safe.


Image Credit: Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.

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