Democrats fought for working people, and won

The 2022 midterms proved that Democrats can beat Republican extremism

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

By Elizabeth Warren

Published: Mon 14 Nov 2022, 10:46 PM

President Biden presided over the best midterm elections for the party in the White House in 20 years — despite Washington insiders predicting that Democrats would be wiped out.

Donald Trump did his party no favours with his preening and support for downright awful candidates who lost. Nevertheless, this electoral success belongs to Biden, who ignored ivory-tower economists and out-of-touch pundits claiming that bold action to help families was bad politics. Instead, Biden delivered significant economic progress for working people.

Voters rewarded Democrats for protecting the lives and livelihoods of struggling families in a pandemic; modernizing infrastructure, not just talking about it; allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices; capping insulin costs for older Americans; making tax-dodging corporations pay up on billions in profit; lowering carbon emissions and reducing utility bills; and cancelling student debt for over 40 million Americans.

Despite global inflation, progressive policies helped Americans counter high costs and created well-paying jobs. Unemployment is at an astonishing 3.7 percent, and the economy is growing. Unlike in recent Democratic administrations, the scope and aggressiveness of Biden’s policies were not arbitrarily limited by a desire to demonstrate “independence” from progressive Democrats or to play nice with giant corporations.

For each of the president’s decisions, the punditry was relentless, but the American people — Democrats, independents and Republicans — validated the president’s agenda with their votes. Passing the American Rescue Plan coincided with the president’s highest approval ratings. The national media heralded passage of the Inflation Reduction Act as the best stretch of the Biden presidency and his approval ratings jumped. The president’s leadership on issues from student debt relief to long-awaited climate action helped motivate young people to vote in near record numbers.

Democrats delivered a lot, but we can do more to make Americans’ lives better. A few lobbyist-friendly Democrats in our own party blocked much of the president’s agenda for working families. They torpedoed the president’s plan to reverse the Trump tax giveaways. They blocked proposals to cut skyrocketing housing and child care costs. They thwarted efforts to fight corruption, end gerrymandering, defend democracy and protect abortion rights.

Americans understand that the economic well-being of families is inextricably linked to democracy and to individual rights, even if too many cable news gurus do not. A majority of Americans know that abortion is a kitchen-table issue that is central to both health and economic security, not a distraction. Americans understand that prices are rising in part because of corporate greed, and want a government on their side. Tuesday’s results confirmed those views: across America, every ballot initiative to protect abortion rights passed, along with many proposals to tax the wealthy and put money in workers’ pockets.

The so-called experts who called Democrats’ messaging incoherent were just plain wrong — and candidates who ignored their advice won. John Fetterman embraced populist economic policies and called out corporate greed, and won. Raphael Warnock took a central role in urging the president to cancel student debt, and is strongly positioned to win in Georgia. Many Democratic candidates leaned hard into protecting abortion rights and democracy while also aggressively supporting popular economic plans.

The president’s critics remain unchastened by the election results. Lobbyists are already calling for Democrats to pass unpopular policies and to help their wealthy clients avoid taxes. Some in Washington are back to insisting that “responsible government” requires responding to voters’ rejection of Republican extremism by holding hands with the extremists. Nonsense.

If Republicans take the House, their majority will be stacked with election deniers who have embraced one overriding goal: the restoration of Donald Trump as president in 2024. Democrats should fight back by making this lame-duck session of Congress the most productive in decades. We can start by lifting the debt ceiling now to block Republicans from taking our economy hostage next year.

Continuing to reduce inflation and putting money in people’s pockets, expanding the work force through affordable child care, lowering housing costs by increasing supply, raising taxes on the superwealthy, tackling corporate price gouging — this is not a progressive wish list.

It’s the unfinished business of the Biden agenda, and the way to help families and win elections.

The 2022 midterms proved that Democrats can beat Republican extremism. Instead of capitulating to election deniers, we should keep fighting for working families — because when we fight for working people, we win.

- This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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