One Year From Now

[ Posted Thursday, October 14th, 2021 – 15:44 UTC ]

One year from now, the midterm elections will be looming in front of us. Candidates will be out on the hustings, frantically campaigning their little hearts out. But what will be the big issues they'll be talking about? It is impossible to say, really, beyond predicting: "it will not be what the pundits are worrying about right now." A year is an absolute eternity in politics, and in a year's time few will remember the topics which are currently hot -- that's a generic prediction that almost always comes true, so it's pretty safe to say right now.

There's really only one topic that isn't a permanent one (such as "the economy") that predictably will still be on voters' minds next year, and that is the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Will we have largely "beaten" COVID by this time next year? It's certainly possible, or at least "beaten it into submission," where it doesn't qualify as a pandemic or global emergency any more. Of course, there are no guarantees -- perhaps we'll be dealing with the Zeta variant by then and have experienced several rollercoaster spikes from others over the course of a year. Anything is still possible, including the frightening possibility that one of these mutations will defeat the current vaccines. If that happens, all bets are off, really, and we might go right back to the start of the whole cycle once again. Either way, though, voters will be reacting to what state the pandemic is in. If the news is good, it will buoy President Joe Biden's approval rating and give the Democrats a much healthier chance (pun intended) of winning the midterms. If the news is bad, voters usually take out their frustration on the party in power (whether deserved or not).

Closely tied to the pandemic's status is the economy, which is always a rather large concern for the electorate. Again, if the economy is in great shape and roaring along after COVID fades into the background, then most people are going to feel much better in general about the president and the Democrats. If the economy has in any way turned sour (for the pandemic or for any other reason), then Republicans will have the edge.

One thing that likely won't be a worry next October is the current supply chain problems we are experiencing. One way or another, this will likely get worked out long before voters go to the polls. The big question with this one is what will voters remember about the supply chain problems? Will it be seen as a temporary inconvenience that quickly got solved? That is the best possible outcome, obviously. But the big issue with this one boils down to did it negatively impact Christmas? If "parents can't get the hot toy" stories explode over the next few months and if the media whips the shortages up in people's minds by covering it every night, then voters will still likely have some very sour memories about the supply chain problems, even next November. There is a very real danger of this happening, even if the shortages aren't actually that bad. Nobody wants to see empty shelves in American stores, plain and simple. This may be a race against time -- can the improvements Biden is pushing for right now fix the problem enough for the next two or three months, or will the fixes require more time to ease the strain? Nobody really knows, and the problem is exacerbated by how few options the federal government has to improve things (the supply chain is exactly that, a chain -- its got a lot of links, and every single one of the links is a private company). Will Biden be seen as the Grinch of Christmas 2021 or not? That's the real issue, politically.

The other long-term trend that could do Biden and the Democrats harm is the hike in inflation. Economists were initially optimistic that this would be a temporary aberration, but that was before Delta hit. The economists were slow to realize what a hit Delta would have on the economy. Now they're being more cautious in predicting that inflation will come back down to reasonable levels next year. But when next year? January? That wouldn't be too bad. But "the summer" would hurt, politically. Republicans are already using the issue in ads and will likely continue to do so, although their effectiveness will depend on whether average voters think things have gotten better or not -- which is impossible to say, this far out.

Another issue Republicans are already trying to make political hay out of is the border and immigration, but whether this resonates or not is going to depend on what happens next summer, not what happened during this past one. Is there a new border crisis, or are things largely under control? Time will tell.

One thing the GOP has tried to make into a political hit on Democrats is almost certainly not going to work, though. By this time next year, pretty much nobody is going to be thinking about America's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Sure, it could have been handled much better, but the public largely supported the overall goal of pulling our troops out once and for all. It'll be a largely-forgotten subject by next year, no matter how many ads Republicans run.

Of course, this could change if there's a terrorist attack launched from an Afghan training camp. Or any other terrorist attack, for that matter. Nobody knows what form it will take, but there will be other crises between now and next November. They could be related to foreign policy or perhaps some domestic issue which explodes into the nation's consciousness. While unpredictable, it's pretty much statistically a guarantee that we'll have had at least a few large -- and unforeseen -- crises by this time next year. How Biden reacts to them will certainly color how voters see him (and the Democrats), but it's impossible to say whether this will wind up being positive or negative.

The biggest thing that could change between now and a year from now would be if Democrats can finally get their act together and pass the lion's share of Joe Biden's domestic economic agenda. And (even more importantly) whether any of the new programs are actually up and running by next summer. Any program that will be delayed until 2023 or beyond will essentially not exist in the minds of the voters -- real and tangible benefits must be felt almost immediately for it to influence people's votes.

As you can see, I have no real answers. I have no crystal ball to see into the future, just a range of possibilities to consider. The only thing that is certain is change, so the only prediction that's safe is that we'll all be paying attention next year to things that nobody's even imagined yet. Which isn't much to go on, politically.

But I did want to remind everyone that we do have a whole year to go before we get to the homestretch of the 2022 midterm campaign. Things which are stressing people out now won't even exist by then (except as dim and distant memories). We could be in a much better place in a year's time, or a much worse one. But a year is an eternity in politics, so please take with a grain of salt anyone's insistence right now that they know "what the midterm elections will be all about." Because they -- like the rest of us -- really have no clue.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


7 Comments on “One Year From Now”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the afghan debacle itself will probably not be so big by election day next year, but it may be historically significant as the tipping point where the biden administration didn't seem quite as in-control as they initially appeared. that's how i read his currently underwater poll numbers. pulling out on trump's timeline and underestimating the taliban's strength were unforced errors that could have been avoided. put that together with the delta variant (which could not as easily have been predicted or avoided, and you get the narrative of a government spinning out of its leader's control.

    if joe wants to recapture his early image as the steady hand on the reins, he needs to seem like he's keeping order, both in foreign policy and domestic.


  2. [2] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Excellent point about the media's obsession with the "endless campaign". The minute the 2020 election results were announced, the stories began about the 2022 mid-terms, etc.

    I admit I continue to have faith that the Dem leaders in Congress, and the president, will actually pass an effective pair of large-scale laws to improve the quality of life of most Americans. And as you warn, but I hope, the results should be visible in time for voters to see that putting a Party in power actually gets that Party's agenda realized - so vote Democratic in 2022 for more of the same and less of the other Party's promises and threats.

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CW - I was just paging thru and the supply chain seems to be keeping up with demand for crystal balls. Pretty good selection, large to small. I don’t think you even have to order on line…they already know if want one and can divine your credit card numbers.

  4. [4] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    The only thing that is certain is change?

    And yet you keep writing articles trying to maintain the status quo.

    One year from now we could be seeing the big money politicians going crazy because people are demanding and voting for change in the way we finance campaigns.

    It all depends on whether the media keeps pedaling the deception trying to maintain the status quo or embraces change.


  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    A year is an absolute eternity in politics, and in a year's time few will remember the topics which are currently hot...

    Do you remember how Reagan's 1980 win led to speculation that the Republicans "could be in power for a generation?"

    Turns out that a political "generation" is one or two election cycles, max.

    Also, the vast majority of Muricans don't pay any attention to politics outside of election time. Forty percent don't even vote.
    These folks will NOT have any memory of the day to day drama in DC nor will they care about how the Legislative sausages were made. Those politics junkies such as myself (what, 5% of the population, if that?) know and care, but most voters wouldn't know a Filibuster or a Reconciliation Bill if it bit them.

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    And this is why I haven't followed the Manchin-Sinema day to day because it's too frustrating and because I don't care how we get there. Either Joe gets it done or he doesn't.

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Mtn caddy-
    Bill Clinton moved the Deathocrats or the right and it has been "progressing" in that direction since, resulting in today's Deathocrats being farther right than Reagan.

    If a generation is 20 years, that's two generations as the Deathocrats of today are just Reagan Republikillers using a false name just like the commenters here do.

    If Joe gets anything done it will be for the big money interests as he has done for decades.

    Anything Joe gets done for the rest of us will only be enough to keep people placated to keep people from revolting. It won't be what needs to and should be done.

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