Democrats Are Screwed No Matter What They Do
There is no world in which Democrats could have won in 2022 by being more moderate and working-class friendly.
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1. LOL Nothing Matters
Congressional Republicans Now Lead Generic Ballot Among Child Tax Credit Recipients
46% of voters who received the expired pandemic-era benefit say they’ll back a Republican in the midterms
Behold the supremacy of kitchen-table issues for normal working class voters!
That’s right: Inside the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan was the most substantively pro-family agenda item in a generation: A child tax credit that put real money into the pocket of just about every family. It was weighted so that the younger your kids were and the less income you had, the more money you got back. But the benefits stretched all the way into the middle-middle and even upper-middle classes before phasing out.
The child tax credit was the ultimate kitchen-table issue. Then Republicans killed it. They own—lock, stock, and two smoking barrels—the act of taking this money away from working families.
And yet the same voters who benefitted from this program are basically ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So maybe this political moment isn’t actually about kitchen-table issues? Or about Democrats not being friendly to moderate, working-class voters? Maybe outcomes are being wildly overdetermined by environmental factors beyond the control of either party?
Maybe—and I’m just thinking out loud here—Republicans could run a bunch of crazy, violent extremists whose platforms are entirely backward-looking and still do very well in the midterms.
Maybe Democrats could do everything perfecto—could run the administration of Mitt Romney’s moderate, working-class dreams—and still lose both the House and Senate.
From where I sit, the two parties have spent the last 15 months doing the following:
Purging members who say that Biden is the legitimately elected POTUS.
Protecting members who rub elbows with white nationalists.
Re-litigating the 2020 election at all levels of government.
Making culture war issues out of a series of topics progressing from Dr. Seuss, to CRT, to a trans college swimmer, to grooming/pedophilia.
Am I missing something? Do you recall any big Republican initiatives that aren’t on this list? Aside from being, variously, anti-Ukraine, anti-NATO, and anti-anti-Putin? Meanwhile . . .
Passing the American Rescue Plan.
Fixing the vaccine rollout.
Passing a bi-partisan infrastructure bill.
Pulling out of Afghanistan.
Nominating an overwhelmingly popular and historically important judge to the SCOTUS.
Managing the most successful American response to a foreign policy crisis in (at least) two generations.
Is there negative stuff that happened for Democrats during the last 15 months? Sure. The idea of pulling out of Afghanistan was very popular. The reality of it was deeply unpopular.1 They have made policy mistakes. The Democrats also spent a great deal of time negotiating an unpopular Build Back Better bill. But—and this point seems important—that unpopular bill did not pass.
You tell me: On balance, which of the two parties has been trying to make inroads with the political center and which has been all about that base for the last 15 months?
2. Consider the Buckeye
For a microcosm of the relationship (or lack thereof) between political inputs and electoral outputs, look at the Ohio Senate race. Democrats are going to nominate Tim Ryan, the most moderate Democrat on planet earth. A good campaigner. A guy with deep roots in Ohio politics and a national profile. His campaign slogan is literally:
Here are Ryan’s big issues:
Meanwhile, the likely Republican nominee is Josh Mandel, who’s running on . . .
Seems kind of gauzy and vague. What does “Faith and Freedom” mean as a platform? Mandel is happy to spell it out. Here are his big issues:
This is actually a pretty fair representation of where the two parties are nationally.
The Ohio Democrat is running on jobs, healthcare, infrastructure, and national security.
The Ohio Republican is running on Trump, abortion, Christian nationalist identity, guns, RINOS, the Bible, and bitcoin.
So if Tim Ryan loses this race, will it be because Dems were blowing off working-class voters by refusing to focus on the real, kitchen-table issues that affect their lives?
All of this is the long way around the barn to argue that Democrats absolutely do have a problem. But the problem isn’t that they are inhospitable to moderate, working-class voters as a matter of policy.