A midterm election prediction | In Focus

Which party is winning the arms race of ideas?

In democracies, politics is an arms race of ideas. Just as the democrat has to be responsive to the people when governing, when seeking office it helps to propose policies that the voters like and it pays to do more (as opposed to less)—even if the economic consequences are damaging down the road” (Bruce Buena de Mesquita and Alistair Smith. “The Dictator’s Handbook” p. 46).

If we take this quotation and then use it to analyze the two major American parties, which one has followed this rule for the 2022 midterms? The obvious answer is the Democrats. In March of 2021, the Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan. It was a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. It helped to fuel “short term inflation” according to a Federal Reserve paper (https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/19/economy/inflation-biden-stimulus/index.html).

On Nov. 15, 2021, President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law, which will improve the nation’s bridges, highways, broadband, water, and energy systems. This new law will create thousands of jobs—an example of winning the arms race of ideas.

Biden also tried to get another $1 trillion social and climate package called “Build Back Better” (BBB) through Congress in December 2021 but failed because no Republicans would vote for it and Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema refused to go along.

What have the Republicans offered in terms of new ideas that appeal to voters? First, we need to be aware that the Republicans are engaged in a political civil war between Trump followers and Senator Mitch McConnell supporters. When asked what Republicans were offering the American people with their political platform, McConnell stated, “That is a very good question. And I’ll let you know when we take it [the Senate] back.” (https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/senate-gop-hide-its-legislative-plans-until-after-election-day-n1287767)

According to the same article, “McConnell, I assume, is hoping that anger with Democrats will carry his members over the finish line,” said Frank Luntz, a pollster who worked with Newt Gingrich, then-GOP House whip, to develop the “Contract with America.” The anger referred to is over rising inflation rates.

But, since most Americans support Ukraine’s valiant defense against the autocratic Putin and his military invasion, they may be more forgiving with higher inflation rates due to rising petroleum costs, sanctions, and rising food costs.

McConnell seems to be using the same tactic that the Democrats used in the 2020 presidential race when they ran on an anti-Trump platform. McConnell’s high-risk strategy doesn’t follow Bueno de Mesquita and Smith’s principle of politics in democracies.

Voters may be more forgiving of Biden and the Democrats than McConnell calculates because they see that even though Biden failed so far with BBB, if the Democrats win in 2022, they could then push rewards like coverage of childcare costs for voters.

In the 1858 Illinois senatorial race, Republican Abraham Lincoln debated Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. During the debate, Lincoln forced Douglas to take a “let each state decide” approach to the issue of slavery. Douglas’s’ Democratic Party was divided over the issue of slavery. The northern Democrats were anti-slavery. As a result, Douglas won the Senate race in Illinois, but his equivocal stance on slavery angered southern Democrats in the 1860 presidential election, causing them to vote for other candidates. It allowed Lincoln to win with less than 40 percent of the popular vote and almost no southern votes. (Bueno de Mesquita p. 45) The fight between McConnell and Trump could cause just such a division among the Republicans in November 2022.

As Bueno de Mesquita states, “Competition in democracies is cerebral, not physical. Killing foes works for dictators, but it is a pretty surefire path to political oblivion in a democracy…. If you reward your cronies at the expense of the broader public, as you would in a dictatorship [think of the 2017 Republican tax cut that went mainly to the wealthy and to big corporations], you will be out on your ear so long as you rely on a massive coalition of essential backers” (Pp. 43-44).

The Republican Party has become the Party of “NO.” They have no new ideas, no platform. They’re divided and fighting among themselves. The Democratic Party has succeeded in giving rewards to the working class and encouraging the resurrection of labor unions, thus cutting into the voting bloc that elected Trump in 2016. Biden’s strengthening of IRS collections should help pay for most, if not all of the promises Biden has made, passed, and promised.

Based upon the authors’ assertions, the Democrats should maintain and increase their control of both houses of Congress in November. Usually, the opposing party (the Republicans in this case) should gain seats in midterm elections, but not this year. After having become so autocratic, Republicans have ceased to understand that democracy is “an arms race of ideas”, and the Republicans have none.