David Price Sees Echoes of 1994 Republican Revolution in 2022 Midterms

A few people have observed that the upcoming midterm elections of 2022 look a lot like the 1994 Republican Revolution. I personally think President Trump’s victory in 2016 is due to a similar echo of history, but after his first two years in office he has been plagued with scandals and fights between himself and Congress, who cannot seem to get along despite having such high approval ratings.

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From the Senate gallery, David Price saw the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a young congressional staffer. He recalls Senator Clair Engle of California, who was dying of a brain tumor and unable to speak, being carried in to deliver a crucial vote.

In the years since, Price has seen the South move away from Democrats, and he has stayed long enough to see his party reclaim some of it as the region’s demographics have evolved.

He spent a lot of that time as a political science professor at Duke University, and later as an unlikely member of the exact institution he studied, even publishing a book on it.

Price is retiring from Congress after more than 30 years serving his North Carolina district, which includes the Research Triangle, at the age of 81. He is one of Washington’s longest-serving legislators and a keen observer of how the city has evolved.

And he is not pleased with what he sees.

Price has grown concerned about how Congress has become nastier and more partisan during his time in office, a trend he attributes to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, whose “more aggressive and more militant approach” to politics fundamentally transformed the institution, as Price put it.

At an interview in his House office, Price said, “I’m shocked at the way the Republican Party has headed.” “And I don’t believe the polarization is symmetrical for a second.” It’s unbalanced.”

Many of today’s hardball political methods were developed in North Carolina, a state known for intense political struggles over basic democratic principles.

When a political scientist at the University of North Carolina announced in 2016 that the state “could no longer be regarded as a democracy,” it made headlines. The State Supreme Court has often acted as a neutral arbitrator between the two parties, most recently when it threw out maps drawn by the G.O.P.-led Legislature that were substantially gerrymandered.

Price initially campaigned for politics after attempting to unseat Jesse Helms, the very conservative, pro-segregation North Carolina senator, as a political consultant. The fact that the Senate just confirmed the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court gave Price some joy.

Price sees dangerous parallels of the 1994 campaign, when the country’s sentiment changed significantly against President Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party, in today’s politics.

“My town gatherings got really tumultuous,” he added, remembering how his campaign was forced to seek police protection.

In 1994, Price was a casualty of Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution, losing his seat in the red wave of that year. He returned two years later and would spend the next 26 years in the House of Representatives.

What goes on behind the scenes

Price, who is cerebral and reticent, tends to focus on a few objectives at a time. He doesn’t scream for MSNBC hits or share viral footage of his House floor remarks.

“I’ve never been a tweeter,” he said with a sigh of regret.

Price, on the other hand, has had a considerable, behind-the-scenes effect on issues such as encouraging democracy in other countries and pressing for reforms to federal campaign finance regulations. You know how at the conclusion of political advertising there’s a tagline that says the candidate approved the message? That was his suggestion.

Thomas Mills, a political consultant and blogger in North Carolina, stated, “He’s got his fingers all over a number of things.”

Price has the young optimism that led him to the Senate galleries in 1964. “You won’t find me taking cheap attacks at the administration,” he said.

However, he laments how dysfunctional Congress has become, to the point that compromise is becoming more difficult. “If we’re going to operate our country,” he added dryly, “some degree of bipartisan collaboration is required.”

He cautioned that certain Republicans seek to reverse the civil rights program that drew him into politics in the 1960s, to the point that the United States is in “serious danger” of reverting to the Jim Crow period, he said.

The core of the Voting Rights Act was essentially knocked down by the Supreme Court in 2013, freeing states with a history of racial discrimination from having to approve any substantial changes to their voting rules with the Justice Department.

The decision sparked a surge of restrictive voting rights legislation in Republican-led states. A federal court ruled in 2016 that Republican legislators in North Carolina had constructed the state’s voter identification statute with “almost surgical precision” to discriminate against Black voters.

“The evidence couldn’t be clearer that it was ‘Katie, bar the door’ months after preclearance was gone,” Price said.

If you are unable to join them…

According to Price, the only sure method to resist such tactics is for Democrats to win elections.

Last year’s squabbles over the Build Back Better Act, a massive bill that was shot down by two Democratic senators, didn’t help matters.

“There will never be a choice between mobilizing our base and appealing to swing votes,” he stated. “If we don’t find out how to accomplish both, we won’t succeed.”

He believes that one of the Democratic Party’s difficulty is that many on the left are uncomfortable publicizing the party’s accomplishments when there is always more work to be done.

“I think about how Trump did it all the time,” Price said. “All he did was gloat about his accomplishments, however false.”

Understand the Battle for Voting Rights in the United States


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Why is voting rights such a hot topic right now? As a consequence of the epidemic, millions of people, mostly Democrats, voted early in person or by mail in 2020. The G.O.P. has pushed a slew of new voting restrictions, fueled by Donald Trump’s phony assertions regarding postal ballots in the hopes of reversing the election.

What is the significance of these legislative efforts? The Republican campaign to restrict voting procedures has raised questions about the democratic process in the United States. Many of the limitations are projected to disproportionately impact voters of color.

Which states’ voting laws have changed? In 2021, 19 states approved 34 legislation limiting voting. Battleground states including Texas, Georgia, and Florida adopted some of the most consequential laws. In 2022, Republican legislators aim to enact a new set of election laws.

Will the new legislation have an impact on the outcome of elections? Maybe. Perhaps not. Some rules will make voting more difficult for particular populations, generate confusion, and increase polling place wait times. The new limits, however, may backfire on Republicans, particularly in rural regions where voters previously preferred to vote by mail.

He quickly added, “I’m not advocating we do that.” “However, I admire your capacity to accomplish it.”

Price is concerned about what would happen if Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, becomes speaker, because of “the type of forces he’ll be tied to” on his right flank.

Price emphasized, “I want to see a robust, right-of-center Republican Party.” “So much of it these days feels nihilistic.”

“For now, we simply have to defeat them,” he remarked.

Giving to long-shot competitors is a Democratic tradition.

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Every election cycle, at least one Democrat seems to gain national notoriety while having a little chance of winning.

The deadline for congressional candidates to register their quarterly fund-raising totals with the Federal Election Commission was Friday, and some of the greatest figures came from a district that Democrats are unlikely to flip: Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s seat in Georgia.

Marcus Flowers, a Democrat and Army veteran running against Greene, raised $2.4 million in the first three months of this year, more than twice as much as Greene.

It’s part of a larger tendency among Democrats to raise money to topple their least favorite Republicans, even if they’re running in safe districts.

Greene won her district by 50 percentage points in 2020, and despite redistricting boundaries changing, she remains the clear favorite in this deep-red region of rural northern Georgia.

Flowers is running as the one who will beat Greene, emphasizing her in his campaign rhetoric. According to AdImpact, his campaign has spent more than $2 million on digital advertisements. Although he has ran advertising on local television, his ads are more likely to be seen in California, New York, or Florida than in Georgia.

In a TV commercial appearing in northwest Georgia, he claims, “Now, American democracy itself is under siege because of our congresswoman.”

Democrats vented their rage at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who was at the time the majority leader, by giving to his Democratic opponent, Amy McGrath, in 2020. McGrath collected $96 million for the Senate run, but was defeated by a 20-point margin.

In 2018, Democrats rallied around Randy Bryce, a Democrat who ran for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s replacement. Bryce raised approximately $9 million and was defeated by a different Republican, Bryan Steil, by 12 points.

Ryan chose not to flee.

— Leah

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