The 2022 elections are still a year away, but all signs point to trouble for Democrats. The party seems likely to lose its House majority, and possibly even the Senate.

Is it a foregone conclusion? Not necessarily. But avoiding that fate requires understanding the party’s challenges and responding appropriately. To stay competitive next year, Democrats will need to take bold steps to protect our democracy — and to pass their own agenda.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is also the most sordid: gerrymandering.

How House voting districts are drawn all but determines which party wins them. Gerrymandering refers to a process in which parties draw districts that heavily favor their own members, which can often result in stark partisan imbalances.

The current districts, drawn after the 2010 Census, are already gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. But the new districts being drawn for 2022 are even worse.

Since the 2020 Census, Republican-leaning states have gained a few seats while Democratic-leaning states have lost some. According to the New York Times, the GOP now controls the redistricting of 187 House seats, while Democrats control the drawing of just 74.

GOP-controlled legislatures are working overtime to squeeze out Democratic voters in these districts, potentially leading to majority-GOP delegations even from states Joe Biden won. So even if Democratic House candidates win more votes than their GOP counterparts in 2022, they could end up in the minority.

Partisan redistricting plans are often challenged in court, and a few were struck down in recent election cycles. But this isn’t likely to happen before next year. Add in the voter-suppression laws proliferating in GOP-controlled states, rising inflation, and President Joe Biden’s plummeting poll numbers and the outlook for Democrats is grim.

But Democrats do have one advantage: It turns out that Biden’s domestic political agenda is immensely popular.

Biden just signed a long-overdue overhaul for America’s roads, bridges and transit infrastructure, which is popular with voters. And the Build Back Better Act now painstakingly trudging through Congress includes some immensely popular provisions — including guaranteeing paid family and medical leave, lowering prescription drug prices, and fairly taxing the richest among us.

Other elements of the plan would create renewable energy jobs, guarantee access to child care, and extend direct monthly payments to virtually all U.S. parents. These are all popular ideas that would benefit virtually all Americans in one way or another.

But there’s a problem: Most voters don’t know Democrats are actually trying to do all this. While huge bipartisan majorities support the bill’s individual provisions, just 10 percent of voters say the Build Back Better would help them. Only a third said they knew anything about what’s in it.

So Democrats have a few tasks before them if they want to survive 2022.

First, they need to pass the most sweeping version of the Build Back Better Act that they can get past their most conservative members, including Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

Then they need to make sure voters know what’s in it. Biden and lawmakers should take to the streets and airwaves with people affected by the act, such as members of the Poor People’s Campaign, and make it known that the Build Back Better Act would significantly help nearly all families and workers in this country.

Finally, Democrats need to address the anti-democratic voter-suppression bills that have proliferated around the nation.

They could invoke a one-time exception to the filibuster to pass a “democracy infrastructure” bill over Republican opposition. Such legislation should protect voting rights and crack down on gerrymandering by calling for nonpartisan, independent commissions to redraw federal electoral districts rather than partisan statehouses.

So, before the GOP rushes in their orders for tuxedos and gowns to be sure they get through the bottle-necked supply chain by next November, let’s see if Democrats can follow the will of the people, pass popular legislation, protect our democracy — and actually tell people they’ve done it.

Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

(19) comments


Waiting to see how Annapolis deals with the suggested Congressional District maps. Does anyone honestly think they will remain intact?


Hard core progressives are amazingly tone deaf as well as intransigent to the point of self destruction. The only reasonable Democrats today exist in that shrinking percentage of moderates/centrists and the lefties vilify them almost as viciously as they do the Republicans. Instead of licking their wounds and going back to the drawing board on their hard core leftist agenda in the wake of the recent canary-in-the-coal mind election, The Squad - Writ Large doubles down on their smug self righteousness and sanctimonious invective which they sling at every encounter with common sense and rationality. This is actually good for the country as it's a portent their demise in '22 and, most likely, '24 as well..


[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] veritas!




I don't completely disagree with Veri; The squad is way to my left. On the other hand I don't tell them to go home, and I don't joke about killing them. I wish the nuts on both sides had less influence. At least the Democrats didn't elect one of them to the presidency, and at least we don't have QAnon.


Hey Veritas, how do you feel about the Republican version of the Squad? You know, Boebert, Majorie Green, Cawthorn, Gaetz, Gosar etc... Yeah, these sure are folks to idolize....


[thumbup]HD2, You could have included Trump


Unfortunately, you will get a fascist government and the death of what's left of democracy.


“… the Build Back Better Act would significantly help nearly all families and workers in this country.”


The title is fitting for Democrat doublespeak. "Democrats need to protect democracy"/ Convoluted thinking? Perhaps this clearly shows why the Democrat party is in such disfavor besides the reality of being sub par leaders. When the majority of the country is turning red they infer the majority is wrong and they are the ones to save democracy. Go figure..


I wonder if the collapse of religious identity— and Christianity in particular— amongst Americans might be contributing to the increasing conservatism.


Are you implying that conservative Americans either aren't religious, or can't be religious, public?


No, I am not. And kudos for “implying” rather than “inferring”!



I would pay little attention to public. She is the quintessential troll and will always try to undercut religion.


nelga, How was I undercutting religion? You have noted the decline in religious identity yourself. We have a decline in religious identity — but not religion — in this country and and an increase in conservatism. There might be a relationship.


Have you had any luck finding anyone who says that they should be free from religion In society?


Redux, Did you wish Nelga Happy Holidays again?


Come now, I am not a monster.


Yup, If the majority turned red, we would say the majority was wrong. And if the majority turned blue, you would say the majority turned red, and you would call the media biased for reporting the truth.

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