In the 2010 midterms, then-President Barack Obama barnstormed the country with a message that Republicans had driven the country’s economy into a ditch, and Democrats had pulled the car out. Then voters delivered what Mr. Obama himself called a “shellacking,” giving Republicans 63 total seats in the House and seven in the Senate, the largest shift since 1948.
David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief political adviser, recalled telling the president-elect in 2008 that Democrats would face a reckoning in 2010 after two successive wave elections and the most dire financial crisis since the Depression. After Democrats passed a huge economic stimulus bill, other economic measures like legislation to help consumers trade in their “clunker” cars for more efficient models, and a landmark regulation of Wall Street, they could say they had made progress on the economy.
“But people didn’t feel the car was out of the ditch yet,” Mr. Axelrod said, “and they were looking to the guy who was in there now.”
The lesson of 2010 was not to avoid the subject but to acknowledge the pain and set up a choice. Two years later, with the economic shock of the financial crisis still lingering, the Obama campaign made fighting for the middle class the central message of a re-election bid against a Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, who was painted as the essence of the out-of-touch plutocrat.
“It was never going to work to not talk about the economy,” Mr. Axelrod said. “That’s sort of like, ‘How was the play otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln?’”
If voter anguish in 2022 is similar to 2010, the economic issues are different. Unemployment is at record lows in several states. The issue is more a shortage of workers than a shortage of jobs. Wage growth is robust. But inflation — which lends itself to an attendant fear of the future and pervasive sense of falling behind — is a particularly destabilizing force. It helped topple Liz Truss, the British prime minister, after only six chaotic weeks, and helped usher in an Italian government that descends from Mussolini’s fascism.
Ms. Truss’s support collapsed after her conservative economic plan of tax cuts skewed to the rich sent financial markets in a tailspin. The British pound also sank to near record lows against the dollar, and economists warned of still worse inflation. Representative Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California, said Democrats needed to harness that experience to point out that Republican leaders have a similar economic plan if they take control of Congress.
Source: NY Times