It’s Not the Democrats Who Have Lost Touch with Voters

It is not Democrats who have lost touch with the voters, but the Republicans who are adopting an unpopular and extreme agenda. The most vital question is whether Democrats can convince the voters in time. Bear with us here.

The current polling would indicate that the public wants Republicans in control of Congress. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows that Republicans have a nearly four-point lead on the generic congressional ballot. Pundits offer many reasons for the Republican advantage, but essentially, in most polls, the reason comes down to the fact that 7 in 10 Americans are unhappy with the direction of the country. And Democrats are in most positions of power. Republicans are the nameless, faceless “generic” alternative benefiting from that general malaise. It’s our job to show their face.

In truth, the Republican Party is pushing one of the most unpopular, extreme agendas in modern political history. For all the handwringing about how Democrats can’t win the “culture wars,” it’s the Republicans who should fear a high-profile conflict on those “cultural” issues. Here’s a sample of the polling:

  • More than 80% of voters disagree with Republican proposals to ban books with which they disagree. (CBS News/YouGov)
  • 57% want the Supreme Court to support abortion rights and 56% believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. (Politico/Morning Consult poll)
  • The Republican assault on Disney is also very unpopular. 62% of voters and 55% of Republicans are less likely to vote for a candidate “if they support laws that punish companies for taking stands on politically controversial issues.” (POLL)
  • Six in 10 Americans oppose laws like the Florida “Don’t Say Gay” law that prohibits “classroom discussion over sexual orientation or gender identity.”
  • Republicans believe they have stumbled on a winning issue by focusing on trans participation in youth sports, but once again they picked the wrong side of the issue. Two-thirds of voters oppose legislation banning transgender athletes from participating on sports teams that match their gender identity.

The first thing we need to do is to stop calling this a “culture war.” As Jennifer Rubin argues, the media’s use of that term makes it seem like a petty game “between two sides over hemlines or movie ratings.” This is not simply about “culture,” nor is it a “war.” It’s a religious power grab that has been decades in the making whereby the authoritarian extremists “seek to break through all restraints on government power in an effort to establish a society that aligns with a minority view of America as a White, Christian country.” That’s one piece of the Republican Party, for sure. But there is another insidious element – those who seek power for financial gain and for the mere joy of holding power. These are the principleless billionaires and authoritarians.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated that one of his first acts as Speaker would be to shut down the investigation into the January 6th insurrection, but that investigation is supported by two-thirds of Americans. Florida Senator Rick Scott, the Republican in charge of electing senators, recently proposed taxing everyone who does not currently pay income tax — a group made up of retirees and the working poor. This is supported by only a third of voters.

On issue after issue, Republicans choose to adopt extreme positions. Not only are these positions unpopular and outside of mainstream American values, they are also disconnected from the issues that Americans care most about — like education, their household budgets, and the climate crisis.

As Dan Pfeiffer points out, the evidence of Republican extremism is clear, but it’s up to us to prosecute the case. We must take these proof points and weave them into a coherent, compelling, and consistent narrative about who the Republicans are and why voters MUST not let them hold power at any level of government. How to do this? The answers will continue to emerge, but here are some:

Turn the Trees into a Forest

There is always a lot of press about individual Republican outrages. Clips of Republican politicians saying horrendous things go briefly viral. These individual outrages are fleeting and ephemeral. We need to combine them and repeat them, making the point that these outrages ARE the Republican agenda.

When Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was asked about his party’s agenda if it regains control, he replied: “That is a very good question, and I’ll let you know when we take it back.”

When daily outrage comes up, add it to the list. Don’t drop the list.

Don’t Hesitate to Call Them Extreme

The leader of our party did a great job this week:

“Let me tell you about this ultra-MAGA agenda. It’s extreme, as most MAGA things are. It will actually raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95% of whom make less than $100,000 a year. Among the hardest hit? Working families.”

~ President Joe Biden

Recapture American Values

Yes, we’ve been saying this cycle after cycle. Let’s do it this time. Most of politics is a battle over defining American values. Decades ago, Republicans laid claim to patriotism and liberty. What their party is doing now runs afoul of mainstream American values. The story of America (or at least the one we tell ourselves) has been about expanding rights ~ a continual striving to form “a more perfect union.”

The Supreme Court and the Republican Party are taking voting rights and abortion rights away from the majority of Americans. The logic of their arguments threatens gay marriage, contraception, and even desegregation. Democrats have an opportunity to take the moral high ground, reclaim freedom as a value, and paint the Republicans as anti-American extremists.

It’s Not Just The Economy, Stupid

The targeting of trans and gay kids, the laws punishing companies, and the book bans make the extreme economic positions more believable. Anti-union, anti-minimum wage, tax the middle while giving tax breaks to the rich. Letting fossil fuel and pharmaceutical companies rip us off while the climate disintegrates and Americans die for preventable reasons. It is all part of a larger whole.

To Trump or Not to Trump – Yes/Yes

Trump must be incorporated into the larger story of Republican extremism. His rise is when Republicans jumped the shark. But Trump is not responsible, the Republicans who embraced him are. If we make this all about Trump, we will be letting the rest of the Republicans off the hook. 

None of this is easy. Democrats are facing an incredibly powerful Right-Wing Media Machine and a well-funded Republican ground game, but if we can make this election about an extreme Republican agenda, we have a fighting chance. We must have the courage to be frank and the stamina to run our own powerful ground game.

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