It may not be obvious to most voters, but we are in the midst of the 2022 political campaign.
We learn the point of view of the politicians on the voters and probably also the point of view of the voters on themselves. We may be more conservative than a Democratic president and governor might suggest.
Of course, elections have consequences. President Joe Biden chooses his own federal judges and rescinds some of his predecessor’s orders with the stroke of a pen. Governor Janet Mills gains the solo power to set the conditions for the COVID-19 emergency in Maine through democratic control by the legislature.
But the election was not a blank check for any of them. The two have been keeping an eye on next year’s vote, when Biden would like to score almost unprecedented gains in the Democratic Congress halfway through and Mills would like to be reelected.
The two face a divided electorate, with around half of voters wary of government and taxes, many of whom are right-wing on social issues. Both must find ways to produce results that may satisfy some center-right voters next year without alienating the growing progressive wing of their party.
Biden knows Congress could be taken over by the GOP next year. He therefore hopes that the key elements of his program will be adopted this year. While he may get some of it through Congress with just Democratic votes, it could cost him next year.
This is why he advocates compromise and is ready to see his infrastructure bill slashed by a bipartisan group in Congress. Even with the deal, he could get a bigger result than Donald Trump unsuccessfully proposed and everything would be funded by the federal government.
The Republicans’ problem may be Biden’s willingness to compromise and make deals with the Tories. The only goal of GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be to defeat the Democrats and regain control. Compromise is not a tasty dish for him.
The proposed infrastructure deal reveals the rift between Republicans. A few are willing to work on compromises with Biden. They are akin to traditional Republicans, sometimes more practical than ideological.
If GOP policymakers, including Senator Susan Collins, can find 10 GOP senators to support the compromise and prevent a filibuster, Republicans are starting an open struggle to see if the party can break free from Trumpism. This means that there is much more at stake in the infrastructure bill than roads and bridges.
For his part, Biden’s compromises are unlikely to create a Democratic split. Progressives won’t like some of his moves, but surely they don’t want Congress to come back under Republican control. If that happened next year, they would lose any possible influence over the legislation.
Biden is likely counting on their willingness to go with him in the hopes that Democrats will secure seats in Congress rather than losing them as would be normal in a midterm election. Progressives would then have a chance to gain influence during the second two years of his tenure.
The big difference between Biden’s situation and Mills’s is that he’s not on the ballot next year, and she is.
Mills is arguably more conservative than some Legislative Democrats. In what the Bangor Daily News called its ‘veto madness’ he reported: “The governor vetoed seven bills from this legislative session, including several that were a priority for Progressive Democrats in the legislature. “
Unlike Biden, the governor does not have the advantage of leaving progressives nowhere else. He is denied the benefit of the ranked choice vote, which could have helped him next year.
RCV began in Maine after Republican Paul LePage won through a split vote between two Democrats, when one ran as an independent. But the Maine Constitution prevents RCV, available now in federal elections and party primaries, from being used in a general election for governor.
At a time when Democrats are backing a referendum on replacing the CMP with a consumer-owned utility, Mills is against it, so she will not rally Democrats’ full support. The fallback would be a petition-based referendum on the ballot at the same time as his re-election. The pro-referendum organization already exists.
She faces defections from Democrats or, even worse for her, from a Democrat who has become independent who favors the takeover of the CMP and divides her vote. LePage could be the GOP candidate running to take advantage of a Democratic divide again.
Biden and Mills both show the risks faced by Democrats pushed by progressives but facing a significant conservative element in the electorate. They are now busy trying to find their way.
What they do in the coming days and weeks can determine what happens in November 2022.
Gordon L. Weil forHe simply wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, served on staff in the US Senate and the EU, headed state agencies in Maine, and was a Harpswell breeder.
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