Published August 15, 2022
Democrats have made clear they intend to make the midterm elections a battle between them and “MAGA Republicans.” The GOP should accept the challenge and respond with a tactic not used in decades: television advertising focused on the party as a whole.
Campaigning was fiercely party-driven for most of U.S. history. Candidates would, of course, try to make their own mark, but the thrust of campaigning was carried out by organized parties on behalf of the entire ticket. The result was that voters often backed a party’s slate rather than pick and choose between individuals in each race. The party whose presidential candidate won the popular vote also won control of the House in every vote during a presidential election year between 1852 and 1956.
That changed as partisan identities forged in the crucibles of the Civil War and Great Depression began to fade. As a result, voters began increasingly to split their tickets between candidates of either party. An ancestral Democrat, for example, might vote for Ronald Reagan for president and back Democrats for most other offices. Heritage Republicans moved in the opposite direction, backing Democrats for higher offices but Republicans for lower ones.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.