McCourt experts weigh in on the current political environment and the key policy issues that will continue to sway voters next year.
It seems almost certain that the midterms will continue to be a referendum on US institutions — born from a distrust that Mo Elleithee, executive director of the Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) at the McCourt School, said “has been driving politics for decades.”
Elleithee, a veteran of four presidential campaigns and frequent political commentator, sees only one path forward for Democrats: the results-oriented messaging that carried them through the first half of the year and a clear vision for the future.
“Republicans don’t have either of those,” he said.
According to GU Politics’ most recent Battleground Poll, there is no clear dominant issue that will drive outcomes in the midterm elections, though Elleithee is confident that “Republicans are going to drive conversation around education and crime, while Democrats lean into climate change and the economy.”
When asked how some of these policies might influence the political discourse and voter sentiment in 2022, McCourt experts weighed in.
Dr. Harry Holzer, John LaFarge SJ professor of public policy, McCourt School of Public Policy
The midterm elections will, to a large extent, center around a set of economic outcomes. The ongoing economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession of 2020 and the persistence, or not, of high inflation rates will matter most. Inflation has been largely caused by inevitable supply chain bottlenecks in restarting the world economy, but it now also reflects worker shortages and high consumer spending on goods and services. Not all of these are under the current Administration’s control, but the Democrats will nevertheless be judged on them.
And whether or not Biden’s two recently proposed bills — the one for physical infrastructure and the broader bill for “human infrastructure” — have passed, and are successfully implemented, will matter as well. If high inflation persists, the two bills might be somewhat unfairly blamed for this, and Democrats will pay a price at the polls.
The debate over publicly funded pre-K and student loan debt will take center stage in 2022. If Congress passes the federal universal pre-K proposal, there will be implementation challenges as communities marry up their existing early learning services with new federal funds. If not, the drumbeat for publicly supported pre-K is sure to continue.
In contrast, the student loan debt forgiveness debate will likely re-emerge in January when borrowers must resume making payments that were frozen through the pandemic. This could ignite a raucous inter-generational debate over whether, or to what extent, federal loans should be forgiven, and for whom.
K-12 education will almost certainly continue to set off political fireworks, as parents are finding more voice in the face of school boards and teachers’ unions. We may see demands in areas like school choice and curriculum, or even a debate over why student outcomes are dropping — something that started before the pandemic — and what, if anything, should be done about that.
Progressive efforts to advance the Biden Administration’s ambitious first-year health care goals have been frustrated by slim majorities as well as urgent needs as a result of the global health crisis.
In response to the pandemic, midterm voters can expect to hear candidates and lawmakers call for health plans providing access to COVID-19 care and health system preparedness in advance of the next emergency. Several investments in health care that could be popular with consumers are embroiled in the ongoing debate over a social spending package. Even if passed, these are unlikely to be implemented in time to create tangible results that resonate with voters in 2022. As long as there are lingering public health and health spending issues from COVID-19, longer term health policy goals are unlikely to get much serious attention.
Ideological differences will also frame future debate on other post-pandemic health policy concerns: balancing rights and responsibilities around individual and public health, addressing the newly-apparent gaps and inequities in our health care infrastructure, and serving the uninsured and vulnerable communities.
Dr. Mark Rom, associate professor of government and public policy, McCourt School of Public Policy
Voting rights will be THE key policy issue in 2022 and will almost certainly influence the outcome of the midterm elections.
Candidates in both parties will emphasize voting rights as a campaign issue. Republican candidates will stress that “election integrity” is a top priority, as Glen Youngkin did in his successful gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. Democratic candidates will respond that voting is a right and that all voters should have ready access to the ballot box.
Where Republicans have control, voting rules will be restricted in ways that favor their partisan interests, and Democrats will establish rules that they believe give them advantages. As long as Republicans hold more control over state-level rules, voting policies will favor Republican candidates.