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What’s the path forward?

As I write this column, I find myself in a slightly uncomfortable position. It is currently on track to be printed after the conclusion of this week’s midterm elections, but will be written before the United States goes to the polls. Since I could not find any crystal ball to accurately predict the future in Notre Dame’s bot-ridden Sales and Giveaways GroupMe, the following column has no choice but to be a mixed bag of predictions I hope will turn out to be at the very least slightly correct, and an analysis that will hopefully not fall flat once the results of the midterms are known. 

The general narrative that has dominated the news cycle in the closing days of the 2022 campaign is one of Republican resurgence and potential dominance. After the Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, Democrats were buoyed by public anger towards the ruling. Hoping to transform the elections into a referendum on abortion access, Democrats believed propelling social issues to the core of their messaging would help boost key components of their coalition: the young, women and ethnic minorities.

At first, it seemed to be working, as Democrats saw their poll numbers improve, and even came to lead Republicans throughout the waning days of summer and early into the autumn. Additionally, Democrats overperformed in special elections and gained further confidence in their strategy after abortion rights groups scored a momentous landslide victory in defense of their cause in ruby red Kansas. However, winds began to blow in the GOP’s favor as the campaign barreled into full swing, as the nation’s economic woes continued to become more latent, and Republicans took advantage of the Democratic focus on the abortion rights issue to commandeer the narrative on the economy, inflation, and crime.

The last two weeks saw the pendulum swing towards the Republicans rather precipitously, and the day before the election saw the Republicans leading Democrats by just under three points in RealClearPolitics’ generic ballot poll aggregator. FiveThirtyEight, arguably my most visited website in the past few months, predicted Republicans to be slightly favored to take control of the Senate, while simultaneously giving them over four in five odds to flip the House of Representatives as well. 

If by the time this column is printed Democrats achieve what most now see as close to impossible and retain total control of government, the first thing that will emerge is a huge sigh of relief from just about everyone in the White House. Democrats will have had made history, and would have received a huge vote of confidence from the American people, as such a victory bucks a trend that has only broken twice in over seventy years.

In this instance, business would continue as usual, with varying degrees of bickering and debate depending on the size of their parliamentary majorities. If they are anything like the one in the last two years, expect more of the same. However, most analysts agree that the aforementioned scenario is unlikely to play out, and that Republicans will have taken back at least one chamber of Congress. Here, the fate of President Biden’s agenda will take a dark turn, as its fate will come to rely on the administration’s negotiating prowess and congressional Republicans’ goodwill. 

In this instance, what’s the path forward? 

The state of polarization in contemporary American politics, and the built-in dysfunctionality of divided government presents a less than rosy picture for the remainder of President Biden’s turn. Recent history is proof enough. After taking back control of the House of Representatives in 2010, and control of the Senate in 2014, President Obama’s legislative agenda effectively stalled. After winning back the House in 2018, President Trump encountered a similar fate. In both instances, politics in the United States was reduced to partisan theater and continuous gridlock. Buoyed by their support and validation at the ballot box, Republicans in 2022 will no doubt be tempted to resort to the same strategies of the near past, and turn the remaining half of President Biden’s term into a rambunctious spectacle with the intent of gearing up to retake the White House come 2024. 

In my opinion, taking such a stance would only inflict further pain in an already hurting country. At a time where inflation soars to four decade highs and confidence in the nation’s institutions collapses to an all time low, adding more flames to the fire only threatens to sink the United States deeper into the pits of despair. The solution to the dire problems of our present will not be found forcing the government into another prolonged shutdown, vetoing every piece of legislation that lands on the Resolute Desk or stalling at every turn. 

If both Democrats and Republicans are honestly committed to improving the sliding standard of living of countless American families and refuting the 70% of Americans that think the country is on the wrong track, they both need to understand that a day of reckoning is upon them. Elections have consequences, but this time around the consequences need to go beyond who’s in the Majority and who’s in the Minority, but on how the Majority and Minority can both provide the best solutions to lift the country off such a delicate situation. 

Pablo Lacayo is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in finance while minoring in Chinese. He enjoys discussing current affairs, giving out bowl plates at the dining hall, walking around the lakes and karaoke. You can reach him at placayo@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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