We are fast approaching a year of a Democratic-controlled government that has been plagued by ups and downs of many varieties. These include the woes of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, a debt-ceiling crisis and the legislative leviathan of passing an infrastructure bill and spending bill. President Joe Biden’s popularity is at an all-time low, despite the passage of his infrastructure bill after months of party in-fighting. If only one word could be used to describe the government of this year, it would be factionalism. Factionalism has defined the fight in the debt crisis, allowing Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., to wield an intense amount of power while being the smallest faction, as well as delaying some of the biggest items Joe Biden and the Democrats ran on.
Manchin has tempered Democratic ambitions time and time again. In the fight over the infrastructure bill, progressives butted heads against the party establishment. In October, Democrats found an unlikely ally in Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after Sinema and Manchin vowed to support the filibuster that created the debt-ceiling crisis. Factionalism has hobbled the Democrats for nearly a year now, but the issues that have hampered their party in the House and the Senate may save some prospects of power after the midterms. It may provide them with strength if, and when, they lose the House and Senate, as long as they can pull it together under minority leadership.
The writing is on the wall: In the 2022 midterm elections, the Democrats will lose seats. Numerous House members are retiring out of fear of the outcome of the 2022 election. Empirically, this is supported, as members of government retire when the outlook for them and their party is bleak. We can also quantitatively support the already popular belief that the president’s party loses seats in midterm elections, barring any extraordinary turnout at the polls.
Yet some light can be shed on the future of a divided government: The ailments of the Democrats also pollute an incredibly fractured Republican Party. The GOP has recently displayed intense factionalism that could come to boil over in the upcoming midterms and even after. The Republicans have long faced in-fighting, even during Trump’s presidency, as those loyal to Trump above all else grew in number and rank. The bitter dispute continued after the election and saw some Trump critics, namely U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., lose their leadership positions and even be stripped of recognition by their state Republican parties.
Yet the factional disputes are ever-growing and changing. The New York Times reports that there are now five factions within the Republican base. These include two Trump-focused factions, two factions that oppose the former president and a final faction comprised of individuals who often subscribe to outlandish conspiracy theories and associate themselves with QAnon.
In Congress, these factions are most evident in the House where Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has found his hands full. McCarthy has had to try to defend some of the more extreme members of his party, as well as reel other ones in. U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Lauren Boebert, R-Fla., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have all come under fire for their controversial and sometimes violent remarks towards Progressive Caucus members. With McCarthy attempting to mitigate damage, the aforementioned representatives continued to heat things up. The factional war escalated with the passage of the infrastructure bill being supported by 13 Republicans in the House. Greene and other members of the Freedom Caucus began an all-out attack on the perceived traitors.
This is not the first time Greene has come into conflict with Republican leadership, as she lost her committee assignments earlier this year. Appearing recently on U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.’s, podcast, Greene made a list of demands that McCarthy would need to fulfill to earn support from her and other members of the Freedom Caucus in the pursuit of Speaker of the House after the expected Republican victory in the midterm elections. The factions of the Republican Party are putting an immense amount of pressure on Republican leadership to bend to their whims. Leadership must tread carefully to maintain support and keep their positions, as the Freedom Caucus has ousted a speaker six years ago. McCarthy has to tread this fine line or else upset either moderates or the more extreme members, with both groups proving to be pivotal more often than not.
McCarthy’s main goal, whether Greene and Gaetz and others recognize it or not, is and always will be party unity. He recognizes the importance of a unified party that is able to effectively mobilize when it needs to. He also recognizes the necessity of it for his own leadership ambitions. The worst-case scenario for McCarthy is if the Freedom Caucus leads a revolt and splinters the party apart, destroying unity and jeopardizing the advantage Republicans can gain in the midterms.
There has been a lackluster showing from a Democrat-controlled House, Senate and presidency, hindered by factionalism and overshadowed by an expected catastrophic defeat in a year’s time. However, there is yet light at the end of the dark tunnel, and there is yet a way to see this glass as half-full. The Democrats have something to look forward to in the increased factionalism of the House and Senate. Soon the Republicans will be vying for the House majority, and they have some major issues to contend with prior to the 2022 midterm elections. While factionalism has slowed the Democrats down substantially, it could cause the Republican Party to come undone in due time.
Sam Schmitz is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.