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Introducing the 2022 Democratic Party Midterm Loss Scapegoat Power Rankings
A monthly feature until November 2022 about which vulnerable, powerless group is going to get blamed for systemic failures of party leadership.
It goes without saying that the extremely powerful people actually in charge of the Democratic Party can never be blamed for electoral losses: not the House Speaker, not those who run the DCCC or Democratic-aligned media, and certainly not the most powerful person on Earth, the president of the United States. That they’ve misplaced economic priorities, focused on trivial or broadly unappealing issues, neglected to forgive 99 percent of student debt, declined to meaningfully act on climate chaos (in fact, the Biden administration will resume selling leases to drill oil and gas on federal land), unceremoniously cut off pandemic aid, neglected to pass the Build Back Better bill that would have materially improved working people’s lives, and failed to follow through on a number of key promises cannot be responsible for the Democrats’ unprecedented bad polling numbers. This is, by virtue of who frames our media stories about powerful players in the Democratic Party—namely those well-paid and in positions of influence within the party—an impossibility. Those who grant access to political reporters cannot, of course, point the finger at themselves or those actually elected, much less the systemic failures that have plagued the party for decades. They’re Too Big To Fail, so instead, what we’ve gotten over the past few months and will, no doubt, get more of in the coming months, is The Radical Leftwing Scapegoat—the necessary bogeyman, often vague enough to avoid indicting any specific person or group, but specific enough to appear meaningful. “Concerns” or “wariness” over these supposedly fridge left-wing causes or people will be leaked to uncritical reporters in anticipation of the Democrats’ almost-certain bloodbath in November. Hatred of these left-wing causes, we are told, is never ideological or power-serving: It is simply an objective “concern” over winning elections in November 2022.
Setting up and constantly reinforcing these scapegoats in friendly media outlets thus achieves two essential tasks: (1) Uses the thin pretext of Genuine Worry About Midterm Losses to punch left and suck up to the large donor class and, most important of all, (2) Offloads responsibility away from those actually in positions of power onto groups, people, or vague causes that wield no or very little institutional power.
This isn’t to say there aren’t factors outside of party leaders’ control that are not craven scapegoats. There certainly exists a third category: forces harming the average voter outside of Democratic leaders’ control that are not a leftwing boogeyman. For example, cynical extortionists like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin did help kill Build Back Better. Republicans are doing typical evil Republican things, and the causes of inflation are both global in scope and very often little more than corporate profiteering. But litigating these nuances is too messy and difficult—and would challenge too many entrenched interests. So instead we will get from our media a revolving door of scapegoats responsible for Democrats’ upcoming massive losses. And without further ado, here are their power rankings for April 2022:
5. The Squad
A popular evergreen Far-Left Scapegoat, The Squad—a group of progressive legislators made up of Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—has been preemptively blamed for the 2022 bloodbath by everyone from Hillary Clinton to Wall Street-funded Third Way to Axios’ Mike Allen.
None of these critics have cited any evidence for why or how a handful of progressive electeds are what’s causing the fall in the polls for the entire party, namely its most conservative members, but it sort of feels like it’s true so it’s going to be repeated ad nauseam until Dem Doomsday rolls around in seven months.
4. Trans issues
It’s not a list of convenient scapegoats for widespread elite failures without a strong showing from “trans issues,” “trans sports,” or “trans bathrooms.” This supposedly “polarizing” “culture war” “debate” is said to push moderate voters away from the Democrats and needlessly “stir” “divisions” among potential swing voters.
Those this week pondering how the baseline humanity of trans people could undermine Democrats’ midterm prospects include The Hill, “How could the debate over trans women in sports impact the midterms?,” The Week’s Damon Linker, and NPR’s Scott Simon paraphrasing James Carville. It’s the heavy implication in many “don’t talk about culture war” pieces. Though in Democrats’ defense, overt anti-trans bills are being vetoed by Democratic governors, and the White House recently hosted a Trans Visibility Day. So, while not uniform abandonment, if and when the Democrats lose in 2022, expect to see more and more open speculation about whether the so-called “culture wars” (e.g. trans rights) are worth fighting for.
3. Teachers’ unions
A popular punching bag back in January during the debate over “school closings'' (which was less a debate and more uniform media outrage directed at unions with power, which represented less than 1 percent of schools, asking for basic public health standards), teachers’ unions have slipped from the top of the list to third place. But don’t assume for a second this is where they’ll stay. As the midterms approach and potentially new variants may require bringing back school mask mandates and other “restrictions,” look for the dumping on recalcitrant and malingering teachers to make a stirring comeback in both conservative and liberal media.
2. Immigration activists
On March 31, 2022, The Washington Post, Fox News, Axios, The New York Post, and CNN all had virtually identical articles detailing “concerned Senators” “wary” of Biden’s plan to lift a Trump-era law that needlessly stigmatized and punished immigrants:
The fact that these are the exact same story with the exact same sources and the exact same “worries” is a clear indication they’re the product of a P.R. campaign by Democratic leadership using electoral fears as a pretext to break yet another promise, this time to immigration activists. CNN even offered anonymity to a sitting member of Congress so that the outlet could bash immigration activists as impractical ideologues unconcerned with political reality:
One moderate Democrat, who asked not to be named so they could freely discuss how the decision could affect the midterms, put it simply. "I think it's gonna be a problem," the member said. "If there is a huge surge and mainstream (news) covers it, it's a problem. It fits into the whole gestalt of how we are soft."
Granting anonymity to one of the most powerful humans on Earth so they could explain why they’re a coward and willing to support more cruelty towards the most vulnerable is journalism at its most compelling and civic-minded.
This is a story we’ve continued to get every day since, not only to pressure the Biden into implementing the same kinds of cruel and racist policies that were roundly condemned under Trump, but to ensure that, in the event Biden does follow through on repealing Title 42, those who lose their seats this November have a ripe and ready Radical Far Left Scapegoat they can blame.
1. “Defund the police”
It’s difficult to imagine the returning champion from 2020 being dethroned this season. It’s just such a loaded, beloved watchword from Republicans and carceral liberals alike—there’s simply too much to be gained by both parties from keeping “defund” on the front of the minds of media commentators. It doesn’t matter that only a handful of actual Democrats endorsed the slogan, or that it’s almost two years old, or that the vast, vast majority of police budgets saw massive increases to their budgets, or that Biden doubled Trump’s federal funding of police, or that crime has continued to increase despite this widespread “refunding” of police. It’s not a term, at this point, that has anything to do really with funding or not funding police—it’s a Sister Souljah ideological signal, a way of appeasing racist fears without looking like one is.
Moving up the ranks: Here are some up-and-coming scapegoats to look out for this summer: too much Covid aid spending (under the thin guise of “concerns about inflation”), Covid scolds (they’re the worst!), and bail reform. Look out for them next month: They could be leap-frogging your preferred scapegoat before you know it, depending on what the latest polls tell the consulting class is a good cause or group of vulnerable people to throw under the bus.