The Reporter (Vacaville)

It will take more than good policy in 2022 campaign

- — Email Arkansas Times columnist and National Magazine award winner Gene Lyons at eugenelyon­s2@yahoo.com.

Many Democrats are leery about the party’s ability to retain control of Congress in 2022. The president’s party normally loses ground in midterm elections, and Democrats have little margin for error. Lose a halfdozen House seats, and the Biden administra­tion will find itself stymied; lose the Senate, and total paralysis will set in: zombie government personifie­d by Sen. Mitch McConnell.

It’s been reported that President Biden believes that when people understand all that Democrats have done for them — bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control, restoring the U.S. economy, bringing unemployme­nt down, passing long-delayed, badly needed infrastruc­ture repair — things will take care of themselves at the polls.

With all respect, if Biden thinks that, he’s dreaming.

What got Biden elected, what drove the voter turnout that won him an extraordin­ary 81 million votes, was the majority’s revulsion and fear regarding Donald Trump. If Democrats want to prevail in 2022, good government won’t be enough. They need to turn the midterm elections into a referendum on the Trump cult and GOP sycophancy toward his alarming assault on democracy.

“Here in the U.S., there’s a growing recognitio­n that this is a bit like (WWE) — that it’s entertaini­ng, but it’s not real,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said recently. “I think people recognize it’s a lot of show and bombast, but it’s going nowhere. The election is over. It was fair.” Would that it were so.

But few confused pro wrestling with a real sport. In the eighth grade, I thought it was the funniest thing on TV. Trump appears to have drawn a different lesson: The bigger the lie and the more flamboyant the liar, the more some people will believe it. Hence his “Stop the Steal” rallies this summer. And yes, most of the costumed bumpkins in the red MAGA hats believe Trump’s prepostero­us falsehoods about his landslide victory.

He’s turning the GOP into an anti-democratic cult of personalit­y. Precious few Republican­s have the political courage of a Mitt Romney, a Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., or a Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. Trump’s doing his best to purge any Republican who’s ever crossed him. This is providing Democrats with a political opportunit­y not to be missed.

Polls show that upward of half of GOP voters believe that “audits” like the farcical spectacle under way in Arizona will reverse the 2020 election; fully 3 in 10 expect that Trump will somehow be “reinstated” as president this summer. It’s beginning to appear that the Big Man with the bouffant and the diseased ego may actually believe this fantasy, too.

So they say they want a culture war? Democrats should give them one. Have you noticed that for all the determinat­ion of Georgia Republican­s to suppress voter turnout, nobody has seriously challenged the accuracy of that state’s two 2020 U.S. Senate races?

That’s because once the Big Loser and his surrogate candidates turned the runoff into a referendum on Trumpism, Democrats and Independen­ts turned out in record numbers to defeat them. Fear and anger drove them. If that can happen in a Deep South state like Georgia, what’s apt to happen in swing districts across the country?

So by all means, run on good government bread-and-butter issues. Remind people of the good things the Biden administra­tion has done for them.

But also nationaliz­e the election: Blanket the airwaves with TV ads showing before-and-after footage of GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and McConnell first condemning the Jan. 6 insurrecti­on, then making weasel-worded alibis for Trump’s role in it. Tie bizarre figures like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz around their necks like anvils.

Give voters a clear choice: Trumpism, or democracy?

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