Wednesday, December 06, 2023


Thomas Edsall publishes some gloomy results from recent polling:
On 32 different subjects ranging from abortion to China, [a recent] Democracy Corps survey asked voters to choose which would be better, “Biden and the Democrats” or “Trump and the Republicans.”

... Trump and the Republicans held leads on ... being for working people (a 7-point advantage), standing up to elites (8 points), being able to get things done for the American people (12 points), feeling safe (12 points) and keeping wages and salaries up with the cost of living (17 points).
I understand this, even if much of it isn't based on facts. The world seemed more peaceful when Trump was presidency. There was no spike in inflation, which hits those who live paycheck to paycheck especially hard. Crime rose on Trump's watch, but he shifted the blame to Democrats. Biden's campaign needs to acknowledge the discontent and make a case for why he can make things better and Trump can't.

But this is very frustrating:
A September Morning Consult survey found ... that “by a 9-point margin, voters also see the Democratic Party as more ideologically extreme than the G.O.P.”
Even in good times for Democrats, they rarely beat Republicans on questions of this kind by more than a couple of points, and quite often Republicans are seen as the less extreme party. Why can't Democrats ever establish the premise that Republicans are flaming radicals?

One obvious reason is that they don't try. They feel they can't win elections without appealing to people who at least occasionally vote GOP. Republicans have never worried about this. They attack and slander Democrats at every opportunity, and in the years they've been doing that, they've succeeded in winning over the entire South as well as former swing states such as Ohio and Missouri.

In addition, the news outlets of choice in red America seize on every example of left-wing extremism and use them all to paint a picture of Democrats as radically out of touch with ordinary Americans. Even lefties who hate Democrats, like the window-smashing knuckleheads of Antifa, are said to be the Democrats' fault. Fox News propagandizes this way, but CNN and the three broadcast networks don't hang right-wing extremism around the necks of Republican politicians every day, nor do The New York Times and The Washington Post. If anything, it's the opposite: those news sources are nearly as obsessed with left-wing extremism as Fox is, especially if it takes place on a college campus.

But Democratic officeholders, candidates, and officials could still do a much better job of tying the actions of individual Republicans -- and right-wingers in general -- to the Republican Party. On some subjects, the case is right there for Democrats to make. Nearly all Republicans are in favor of significant restrictions on reproductive choice. Nearly all Republicans oppose any new restrictions on firearm ownership, and most want to make firearms even more accessible than they are now -- to depressed and suicidal people or to domestic abusers, for instance. Nearly all Republicans want to continue cutting taxes on the extremely wealthy. Nearly all Republicans oppose any serious effort to combat climate change.

Donald Trump is a Republican. Tommy Tuberville is a Republican. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a Republican. Lauren Boebert is a Republican. George Santos is a Republican. I'm not aware of any effort by Democratic officials to make the case that these people aren't just bad individuals, they're representative of what's wrong with the Republican Party. Instead, we get the lionization of Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, Nikki Haley, and other "good" Republicans, and we're told that the "real" Republican Party -- a party that's only moderately conservative and is eager to compromise on many issues -- will reemerge as soon as Trump leaves the scene. Never mind the fact that the "party of Reagan," as this party is called, slashed taxes on the wealthy, demonized gay people, and laid the groundwork for the assault on abortion, hand in hand with its extremist partners in the religious right.

Many of the well-educated voters who've been turning out for the Democrats in off-year elections know all this -- but if they know it, it's because the niche media sources they seek out have told them. The Democratic Party hasn't.

The occasional voters who'll decide the 2024 election, many of whom vote only in presidential years, need to be told. If the past forty years are any indication, the party will never tell them.

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