Give Democrats credit for repurposing the ever-popular non-apology apology. According to the Washington Post — and pretty much every other media outlet — the party insists that its policies remain popular even while their standing with voters continues to collapse. Despite signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill and getting a futile vote on his Build Back Better plan in the House, Joe Biden’s job approval continues to crumble, and Democratic midterm prospects along with it:
Did Democrats learn a lesson from this chart, or from the elections in Virginia and New Jersey this month about their hard-Left turn? Nope. Instead, they’re insisting that they have delivered what voters want, but that voters are too stupid to notice unless Democrats beat them over the head with it.
Democratic leaders and the Post put it slightly differently, of course:
“Democrats are terrible at messaging,” [Kirsten Gillibrand] said, according to notes taken by one attendee. “It’s just a fact.”
The admission surprised some attendees for its frankness, but it’s a sentiment that is widely shared among other lawmakers, donors and party leaders. The concerns are growing more urgent as Democrats gear up for grueling midterm elections, in which most in the party expect to lose control of the House and many are also increasingly pessimistic about retaining a majority in the Senate.
Beyond a struggle to sell the nuts-and-bolts of legislation, there are deeper fears among Democrats that the party lacks a cohesive and convincing argument to win over voters in next year’s elections. Democrats are eager to tout the bills they have passed in President Biden’s first year, but a strategy tying together the disparate pieces of legislation — from lowering the cost of child care and eldercare to combating climate change to building roads and bridges — is still lacking.
And two of the biggest worries for voters — the economy and the pandemic — continue to drag down Biden and the Democrats. With inflation already a top concern, markets plummeted on Friday as a new coronavirus variant prompted the United States and other countries to impose travel restrictions amid fears of another resurgence.
“I’m not going to argue that it’s working right now, but I need it to work when it matters, and if it’s going to work, we need to get the accomplishments and the record of results that the American people will support. We are doing that,” Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said when asked about frustration in the party with the White House strategy to promote its agenda.
Let’s parse this “terrible at messaging” claim out a bit, shall we? The very same Democrats seemed to do a pretty good job at messaging in 2018, when they took back the House. They also didn’t do too badly in a tough 2020 cycle either, losing only enough House races to barely hang onto a majority while barely winning the White House and an even split in the Senate. The messaging in both cases was opposition to Donald Trump, along with a pretty resonant message on health care in 2018 after Republicans botched their ObamaCare repeal effort. And Democrats appeared to be sailing pretty well on messaging after passing the long-term disaster of the third COVID-19 stimulus bill, at least for a while.
Are we suddenly to believe that Democrats suddenly lost their ability to communicate in the summer of 2021? Or is it more likely that voters noticed that Joe Biden abandoned thousands of Americans in Afghanistan, and that the White House and other Democrats tried to gaslight voters about inflation and the supply-chain crisis? And to top that off, Democrats across the board told parents that they had no business in crafting the education environment at schools their children attend in an attempt to rescue Terry McAuliffe from disaster in Virginia.
Instead, Democrats look at their massive spending bills and scratch their heads about why those haven’t made them more popular. It’s true that some of the component programs in those bills get significant support from voters, but almost none of those are true voter priorities. What do voters want? They want a healthy economy, low inflation, access to goods and services, national security, and a centrist approach in Washington. Democrats haven’t delivered any of that, not even competence in governing despite running explicitly on returning Washington to normal after Trump’s chaotic four years in office. In that sense, Biden has been the biggest bait-and-switch in national politics in long memory.
The problem isn’t that voters aren’t listening to Democrats. The problem is that Democrats aren’t listening to voters. Biden and his Capitol Hill allies are obsessed with passing progressives’ hobby-horse agenda rather than deal with the real priorities of the voters.
And what is their answer? To issue passive-aggressive insults about voter intelligence by claiming their problem is strictly “messaging.” What does that mean, other than they believe voters are too stupid to comprehend Democrats’ genius. The insult is even more obnoxious given the mainstream media’s constant water-carrying on just how popular the Democratic agenda is, even while polling shows that voters have begun to flee in droves from their banner.
The problem is, in fact, that voters have begun to comprehend all too well what Democrats think of them, and what Democrats’ priorities really are. Parents at school board meetings demanding accountability have become some sort of national-security threat requiring Department of Justice counter-terror investigations. Everyone who disagrees with their social agenda is a white supremacist, even if they themselves aren’t actually white. Democrats promote class warfare to get populist voters engaged, then vote for the biggest tax break for the wealthy in decades.
Voters have discovered that Democrats, including Biden himself, despise them. Maybe Democrats should stop “messaging,” shut up, and actually listen to voters, and not just those in Academia and wealthy enclaves on the coast. But let’s hope they don’t, at least not until after getting thoroughly humiliated in at least one full election cycle as just desserts for their elitist sneering.