News & Politics

Is Rep. Marcy Kaptur the Dems' Canary in the Coal Mine?

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The Democratic Party now controls all levers of the federal government, but that leadership is quite tenuous as the party eyes the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats were expected to increase their margins in the House of Representatives, but it turned out that Joe Biden had no coattails at all in the November election.

Democrats now find their previous 38-seat governing margin in the House has shrunk to just 10. The Senate is tied 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with the Democrats only able to control the chamber with the tie vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Democrats’ grasp on both chambers in Congress looks perilous as the midterms are typically bad for the party in control of the White House. In addition, Republicans are salivating at their prospects to regain the House and the Senate in 2022.

Republicans only need to flip five seats for them to regain control of the lower chamber of Congress. In fact, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has already outlined three main opportunities to flip the House in a recent 2022 campaign memo.

BATTLEGROUND DEMOCRATS
The 29 “Battleground Democrats” that make up the majority of the NRCC’s offensive targets present numerous opportunities for Republicans to flip Democrat-held seats. The list includes members where Joe Biden lost their district in 2020, several who underperformed the top of the ticket and four newly added members who were not targeted last cycle.

UNDERPERFORMING DEMOCRATS
There were eight Democrats in 2020 who won by less than 10% and underperformed the presidential ballot. Of those eight, seven were targeted last cycle.

REDISTRICTING WATCH
The “Redistricting Watch” targets present 10 opportunities for Republicans to defeat Democrats in states that will lose or gain seats after redistricting. The list includes two new targets from last cycle as well as four Democrats in states that are losing seats in which the incumbent underperformed the top of the ticket.

Enter Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) who is warning Democrats they must listen to working class Americans again or they will lose in 2022. Rep. Kaptur, 74, is the longest serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives in American history. And yet, she has been shut out of House Democratic Leadership throughout her tenure.

In a recent editorial, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette outlines in great detail why House Democrats should be listening to Kaptur’s concerns.

Ms. Kaptur points out that leadership in the House is dominated by members from the two coasts and from wealthy districts.

A political realignment is taking place. Rural America is already Republican and, more specifically, Trumpian. Now more and more working-class and working-poor Americans are leaving the Democratic Party and voting Republican. Why? Because they feel their plight, their reality, has at least been recognized by Donald Trump’s GOP.

Kaptur isn’t a fan of Donald Trump by any stretch of imagination, but she is pointing out that he tapped into something big. More importantly, she tells the Post-Gazette that her party is ignoring Trump’s appeal to her voters in Ohio and the broader working-class.

She represents a district characterized by economic decline — Toledo, Lorain and parts of Greater Cleveland.

But these places and the people who live in them, says Ms. Kaptur, are largely invisible to her Democratic colleagues in the House who are busy forming caucuses around identity politics. They don’t get her part of America and they aren’t interested. She says that one colleague told her people should just move away.

This “just move away” mentality was on full display this week with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s message to laid-off KeystoneXL Pipeline workers: just let them get green jobs. Jobs that don’t exist, mind you.

The Post-Gazette editorial hits the mark: Democrats will rue their future electoral prospects if they fail to heed Rep. Kaptur’s advice and warnings.

Democrats in the House need to respect Marcy Kaptur, respect the people she represents, and respect what she identifies as the right and resonant overarching theme: opportunity, jobs. They need to counter the GOP’s appeal to the working class, and not simply surrender the field.

Ms. Kaptur has watched her beloved Ohio, once the ultimate swing state, become more and more deeply red. The Dems will lose a lot more people if they do not start to listen to, and represent, middle America. They will wish they had first listened to Marcy Kaptur.

The Democratic Party’s handcuffs to woke and identity politics plays well in New York, Washington, D.C., and coastal California. It falls flat in much of the rest of the nation, represented by Members like Marcy Kaptur.

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