It's not much fun to be a House Democrat right now—and it might be about to get much worse, leading to a wave of retirements.
Twenty-six House Democrats have already announced they won't run for another term—more than 10 percent of the caucus and double the number of Republicans heading for the exits. And with almost a year until the next Congress, those numbers will likely grow.
"I've never seen a two-year cycle where you have more external variables bearing down at the same time," former New York Rep. Steve Israel, who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) from 2011 through 2014, told VICE News. "There's a convergence between Jan. 6, redistricting, a president's first midterm, and the generally angry mood of the electorate. That explains why you're seeing a larger number of retirements."
Democrats are facing a brutal political environment, an increasingly toxic workplace driven by COVID and the fallout from the Capitol riot, changes to their House districts driven by redistricting, and the likelihood that they'll be in the House minority come next year. That's leading many—especially older members—to wonder whether it's worth it anymore.
More House Democrats have already announced their retirements than in any election cycle since 1996, right after Democrats lost the House in the 1994 elections. The 26 Democrats who've said they'll leave the House matches the number of House Republicans who retired last election cycle, right after they'd lost the House and when many thought they were heading into another tough election.
The numbers are even more lopsided when you look at House members who are straight-up retiring rather than running for higher office. While 18 House Democrats are leaving office entirely, only six Republicans are—and two are GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, whose votes to impeach Trump made them personas non grata within their party.