This morning I have more random thoughts than cohesive ones. My main thoughts are about the Washington Post/ABC poll that shows Democrats trailing Republicans on the Congressional generic ballot by ten points, the largest lead for the GOP in the history of the poll. Those numbers should have Democrats worried and taking action. However, I don’t think it’s too late for Democrats to have a decent election in 2022.
I don’t believe Democrats can hold the House next year, but I do believe they might be able to hold the Senate. Republicans hold the redistricting pens in too many states for Democrats to sustain their narrow majority in the House. Only a dramatic shift in the political environment and the perceptions of the Republican Party could change the dynamic. That’s not impossible but also not likely.
However, the poll also showed that the programs in the Build Back Better bill and in the infrastructure bill are extremely popular. Democrats have done a lousy job of letting Americans know what’s in the bills and taking credit. Instead, they’ve allowed the infighting, or sausage making, to dominate the headlines. If Build Back Better passes, the allied SuperPACs should be spending like it’s October of an election year to promote the bill and bash Republicans for opposing everything from paid family to reducing the price of prescription drugs.
Much of the Democrats’ woes are beyond their power to control. Inflation is definitely taking its toll and there are no good answers to it. The Fed raising interest rates may reel it in, but also may cause Democrats more heartache with concerns of a recession. Fortunately, the rest of the economy is actually fairly strong and if inflation will stabilize over the next six to nine months, it may not hurt Democrats a year from now.
COVID is also a problem. The spike in the fall left people dubious about an end to the pandemic and return to normal. However, hospitalizations and deaths are declining now, even if public opinion is lagging. While we may see another spike in winter, if hospitals don’t get overwhelmed and restrictions start to lessen, then voters might give Biden and the Democrats credit for getting the virus under control.
But I believe the biggest Democratic problem is more endemic. The party has let itself be defined by a left flank that is more interested in identity politics than addressing the kitchen table concerns of average Americans. They see the problems of our country through the lens of racial and gender politics while the voters Democrats need to win don’t view the country that way. They have convinced themselves that the country is center-left while the states they need to win to control the Senate or win the presidency are predominantly center-right.
Even if the left is right that racial or gender biases drive legislation that harms working families, talking about problems in those terms alienates more voters than it attracts. Democrats would have a better chance of addressing the issues of racial and gender disparities if they spend more time talking about the issues that directly affect the lives of a broader cross section of the American public. The left, though, is convinced that talking about hot-button issues will attract more of the base to the polls. I just haven’t seen any evidence that they are right.