How to Run as a Democrat in 2022

Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) at a House Appropriations Committee meeting last month in Washington.


Bill Clark/Zuma Press

The president’s party tends to suffer in midterm congressional elections. The risk for White House allies is particularly acute when a president rejects the opportunity to govern from the center and instead seeks massive changes on partisan votes. Given this terrain, some Democrats seem to have concluded that the best strategy for 2022 is to avoid telling people that they’re Democrats.

Alexi McCammond

reports for Axios:

A growing swath of House Democratic candidates says the party needs to radically improve its heartland appeal to have any hope of keeping power in Washington… With control of the House and Senate on the bubble, many ambitious Democrats — from the South to the Midwest to the Rockies — are running against their own national party’s image.

Ms. McCammond adds:

After four years of listening to President Trump, many rural voters are reflexively distrustful of progressive solutions to everything from the pandemic to infrastructure.

In a 3-min. ad for his Senate campaign,

Rep. Tim Ryan

of Ohio never says he’s a Democrat.

That’s not all he never says. Readers may recall Mr. Ryan for his unique contribution to the campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. As he was preparing to run, a 2018 report in the Intercept noted:

Ryan’s district is one of the few poor, majority-white districts that is represented by a Democrat. But he won’t be running on a stereotypical working-class persona; instead, he believes his path to the White House runs through the “yoga vote.”

Ryan has long been a champion of mindfulness, meditation, and similar pursuits, and has even created a “Quiet Time Caucus” in the House of Representatives.

As part of his total makeover from heartland tribune to Democratic presidential candidate, Mr. Ryan had spent several years evolving his policy positions from pro-life to pro-choice and from pro-gun-rights to pro-gun-control. After the sharp move leftward on policy, it was the Ryan lifestyle that really defined his national campaign. CNN’s Eric Bradner noted in 2019:

Rep. Tim Ryan wants to be America’s “zen president.”

On Tuesday night, the Ohio congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential contender held a New York City fundraiser that featured a yoga class and a breathing session… The event was part of what Ryan said he expects to become a continuing theme of his candidacy: Be mindful.

Now in 2020 Mr. Ryan seems mindful that his Ohio constituents don’t always share the same interests as the coastal donors he courted during his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. In his campaign kick-off video, Mr. Ryan doesn’t say a word about yoga. He also doesn’t say anything about his voting record, preferring to talk about his love for grandparents and football before describing a vague plan to “reimagine” the economy.

The latest Ryan rebranding may be a model for Democrats in 2022. But perhaps the party’s leadership should spend some time meditating on the question of why some Democratic candidates are reluctant to mention their party affiliation and their politics to voters.


Energy, or Something, in the Executive

Mark Leibovich writes in the New York Times about White House Chief of Staff

Ron Klain’s

service to the President:

White House officials who have seen their dynamic say Mr. Klain is expert at keeping discussions with Mr. Biden focused on specific actions, which is not always easy, given the president’s habit of verbal meanderings.


Reclaiming Liberty after the Pandemic

“Did COVID Kill the Constitution?,” asks attorney

Richard Klingler,

a former law clerk to Justice

Sandra Day O’Connor

and veteran of the White House Counsel’s Office during the George W. Bush Administration.

Mr. Klingler writes:

With the end of the Supreme Court’s term and most of the nation’s COVID restrictions, it’s fair to ask whether the courts and Constitution failed us when we most needed them.

After all, COVID-related restrictions were the most extensive use of the government’s peacetime emergency powers, ever, and one of the broadest, most severe infringements of Americans’ civil liberties…

Early in the pandemic, Chief Justice Roberts and four more progressive justices rejected challenges to COVID restrictions that limited worship, choosing to defer to state governments.

Then Justice Barrett joined the Court. Just before Thanksgiving, the new conservative majority struck down a New York COVID restriction that limited religious practice. In an unusually bitter exchange with Chief Justice Roberts, who had again urged deference to state measures, Justice Gorsuch portrayed deferring as “cutting the Constitution loose during a pandemic.” The old order of complete deference was over, at least for limits applied unevenly to religion.

However, the Supreme Court’s response went little further. A handful of mostly state court judges used constitutional principles to limit COVID lockdowns at the margins. And a few federal judges noted constitutional principles in the course of striking down, on other grounds, the CDC’s restrictions on enforcing rental contracts. In late June, the Supreme Court declined to take up that issue.

This response was anemic, given the scope of the restrictions… The government barred many of us from visiting family, mourning the dead, educating our children, traveling, socializing in public or private, politicking, dancing, enforcing property contracts, praying together, performing, running our businesses, or earning a livelihood. The Constitution was mostly, it seemed, irrelevant.

That result was not inevitable… the Constitution was designed to protect a broad range of widely understood liberties. Some are singled out in the Constitution, others not. But the generations of the Founding and the post-Civil War Second Founding had little difficulty identifying them. Nor should we.


James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”


Follow James Freeman on Twitter.

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