Swing-district Democrats in close House races are facing tough questions about inflation, crime, and Afghanistan.

AFGE leaders and activists gather in Washington, D.C. for the union’s annual Legislative Conference. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addresses the crowd. February 10, 2020. (Photo by Keith Mellnick AFGE)

Just as in Afghanistan, where the disastrous writing has been on the wall for months and ignored; Democrats in the House of Representatives may be sleepwalking towards electoral decimation in 2022.

From Politico to Axios, and beyond, progressive media minders are already ringing the alarm about a perfect storm brewing in 2022- one which could reshuffle the majority in the House of Representatives and install House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the coming year.

It would be an ignoble ending for current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who would no doubt much rather pass her speakership on to another Democrat, and preferably a female one.

Pelosi might be the first, second and only female House Speaker in history, but she certainly doesn't expect to be the last.

Yet, like tumblers in a lock, conditions are shaping up to thwart whatever plans Pelosi might have had about preserving the Democratic majority in Congress, whether or not she retires in the near future.

In a number of swing districts, incumbent Democrats serving in Congress are announcing their intention to abandon promising reelection campaigns.The reasons they give vary; from “running out of steam” to running for Senator.

The outcome is going to be the same: Fewer Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Incumbents running for reelection have a better chance of beating their challengers; around 90% of incumbents survive their reelection campaigns. That so many incumbent Democrats in key races around the country are throwing away that advantage says what polls and media reports are careful not to say:

They don’t think they can win.

Incumbent Members of the House of Representatives, by and large, return to their districts quite often. They also maintain a sizable staff in those districts. This staff includes everyone from those working on the congressional side to campaign volunteers.

Members, and the people who work for them, know what is going on their districts; as well they should.

What do these incumbents refusing to run know about their districts which the national media does not?

According to the mass media complex, these races are all winnable for an incumbent Democrat. A major shellacking is always the fear, but impending doom isn’t being forecasted for the Democratic Party majority.

But down the ballot in 2020- lest we forget in all the kerfuffle surrounding the presidential election- Democrats in the house already endured one major shellacking.

Yes, Joe Biden won at the top of the ticket. But 27 out of 27 contested House races, where Democrats were favored to win, went to Republicans in 2020. This, and other gains, including some in deep-blue places like California, cut the Democratic House Majority down to a sliver.

Now, that sliver has become a precarious thread from which the entire Democratic agenda hangs.

House Democrats campaigning in their home districts while Congress is out of session are likely hearing a whole host of questions from concerned constituents.

Crime is rising in many communities and voters are seeing higher prices everywhere they go. These are two issues which hit voters particularly close to home; personal safety and financial security.

While economists can dismiss the concerns of the working class poor on CNN, in the real world it isn’t going to be so easy. Chalking the higher prices up to COVID-19 supply line issues and promising it will all go away is only going to work temporarily.

At some point, voters are going to want to see relief. And not just in the form of more government checks in their mailbox. What is the point of all this relief if the government, and corporations paying higher taxes, are going to claw every bit of it back from American consumers piecemeal?

Families on the receiving end of the latest government largesse are grimly noting that they are going to have to spend it all- and then some- on things they need everyday.

In the form of higher prices, those who can least afford it, and those who can, are paying for the excesses of COVID-19.

Nor is the dreaded novel virus through with us.

Democratic Congresspeople, like their Republican and Independent counterparts, are fielding all sorts of questions back home about shut-downs, masking, not masking, mandatory vaccinations, ad infinitum.

“Will schools be open to students this fall?” is the most burning question on the mind of every voting parent in the country. “And if so, what COVID-19 measures must they endure?”

This country, as if any of us could possibly forget it, is equally split between Republicans and Democrats. For elected officials in both parties, especially in our highly polarized environment, this means a good deal of diplomacy is necessary. Few policies are going to be universally popular.

Democrats thought they had one, though. President Joe Biden- bipartisan conciliator, expert negotiator, healer of a fractured nation- though he dismantled so many Trump policies, chose to keep the planned drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

Everyone, of every political stripe, has been ready to leave Afghanistan since The Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers. Some were ready long before.

Somehow this unifying, bipartisan issue has become the exact opposite of what Democratic strategists hoped it might. Joe Biden, or so the mediaclaimed in near perfect unison, had made the right choice in Afghanistan and would reap the political rewards which might have been Trump’s.

Only now, the disastrous retreat of U.S. forces in the wake of the Taliban’s complete takeover of Afghanistan, in addition to being a heartbreaking humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, has become yet another political liability for House Democrats facing a tough midterm.

The rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban was an eventuality everyone from Russia, to the U.S. intelligence community, to President Joe Biden himself, said wouldn’t happen quickly, if at all. That is has happened, and so spectacularly- and is being ruthlessly televised by an international press utterly unconcerned with the reelection prospects of swing-district Democrats- isn’t helping flagging reelection campaigns.

It isn’t that Democrats didn’t do their homework after losing ground in 2020; they did. What a comprehensive study revealed, and which Democrats made no secret of, was that in order to win in 2022, Democrats would need to prevent Republicans from painting all Democrats as radical leftists who want to defund the police and make communities unlivable.

“The words ‘defund the police’ should never be said by elected Democrats ever again,” was the general consensus from Democratic strategists who helped engineer Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump.

House Democrats campaigning in 2022 were instead encouraged to cast themselves as “Joe Biden Democrats”; the safe bet, competent, moderate, dependable, experienced.

Instead, House Democrats are on a carnival ride until next November. One in which every misstep of the Biden Administration, and every excessive sentiment expressed by party progressives for likes on Twitter, will come home to roost in their reelection campaigns.

Like vampire bats.

Democratic Party leadership, and media outlets sympathetic to Democratic Party policy goals, might do well to help the party, and especially its swing-district moderates, now by coming to grips with the drivers of this rapid inflation and rise in crime sooner rather than later. Both groups need to explain these problems better; where they came from and most of all, how Democrats intend to fix them if they don’t fix themselves.

As terrible as the scenes we are witnessing from Afghanistan are, they aren’t likely to whet the public’s appetite for any more foreign conflict. They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the next best time is now.

Four consecutive presidential administrations have floundered in Afghanistan. The best time to leave was probably 20 years ago, but the next best time might be now. It may have been handled badly, but it was handled.

President Biden is standing behind his decision to leave Afghanistan, for better or worse. That takes guts. Perhaps after searching their consciences, and asking their constituents to do the same, swing-district Democrats should consider standing behind him.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)