Call this a warning from what remains of the center-Left after Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and especially Joe Biden have all but annihilated it. Two years of progressive domination has ruined the Democrat Party, and what remains of an old coalition that used to connect with the working class now wants to get its hands clean of the disaster coming this week
The Beltway think tank Third Way, established almost two decades ago to keep the Left disciplined enough to appeal to the center, has apparently thrown in the towel on the midterms. In a memo directed to Democratic leadership, they also warn that the party might just as well toss aside 2024 while they’re at it, unless they make serious changes ASAP.
Axios reports on the memo this morning:
Lifelong, respected Democrats are saying the quiet part out loud — that if Republicans have a huge night on Tuesday, as polls are blaring, Democrats must blame “much deeper” problems than simply the “historical trends” that beset the party in power.
In a brutal bill of particulars, the Third Way memo says under the headings “Out of Touch on Priorities … Out of Touch Ideologically … Out of Touch on Values”[.]
Read the Axios piece to get the full list of problems, all of which will be very familiar to readers here. Voters think Democrats are as extreme as Republicans, so their midterm pitch of “democracy is at stake” is falling flat. Democrats keep harping on issues that don’t matter to voters in this cycle (abortion, climate change) while offering nothing at all on what does matter — inflation, immigration, and crime.
Third Way’s new polling shows the disconnect even more. In asking voters to list their priorities, six in ten respondents choose inflation and the economy — and even more among “swing voters,” although that subset is really too small to be reliable:
This poll puts Republicans up two in the generic ballot, but these numbers suggest an even bigger advantage. Inflation and the economy is the first choice for 42% of all respondents and 56% of swing voters, and immigration/border crisis comes in a distant second at 11%. Abortion barely makes double digits, and climate change barely scores at all. When combined with second choices, inflation/economy rises to 59/64, immigration/border crisis to 30/16, while abortion barely moves up to 17/6.
In other words, Democrats have spent the last two years talking past voters — and worse yet, talking down to them. Ruy Teixeira called this “Democrats’ long goodbye to the working class” in an essay at The Atlantic yesterday:
As we move into the endgame of the 2022 election, the Democrats face a familiar problem. America’s historical party of the working class keeps losing working-class support. And not just among white voters. Not only has the emerging Democratic majority I once predicted failed to materialize, but many of the nonwhite voters who were supposed to deliver it are instead voting for Republicans.
This year, Democrats have chosen to run a campaign focused on three things: abortion rights, gun control, and safeguarding democracy—issues with strong appeal to socially liberal, college-educated voters. But these issues have much less appeal to working-class voters. They are instead focused on the economy, inflation, and crime, and they are skeptical of the Democratic Party’s performance in all three realms.
This inattentiveness to working-class concerns is not peculiar to the present election. The roots of the Democrats’ struggles go back at least as far as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, and, as important, to the way in which many Democrats chose to interpret her defeat. Those mistakes, compounded over subsequent election cycles and amplified by vocal activists, now threaten to deliver another stinging disappointment for the Democratic Party. But until Democrats are prepared to grapple honestly with the sources of their electoral struggles, that streak is unlikely to end.
It certainly won’t end while Democrats create policies that actively make life tougher for working Americans. James Carville and others have tried to argue that the issue is more one of messaging, but “messaging” didn’t create sky-high and sustained inflation for the first time in 40 years. “Messaging” didn’t create the highest crime rates in a generation. “Messaging” didn’t create the disgraceful rout in Afghanistan, either, or the lies and cover-ups that followed.
The messaging issue is created by the policy choices. Democrats can’t talk about inflation, crime, or immigration because their policies on all of those areas are the problem. They can only offer distraction campaigns, which have turned out to work every bit as badly as anyone could predict. The only play left open to them is a fear campaign that argues that Republicans will be worse, but voters remember a far better economy and crime environment just a couple of years ago, or at least before the pandemic.
And so voters are not only not getting distracted, they’re discovering just how much Democrats are relying on gaslighting. They screech about “election deniers” while at the same time promoting Stacey Abrams and Hillary Clinton — and spending $53 million to get so-called election deniers nominated by the GOP. It’s all a fugazi, an attempt to run voters amok rather than accept accountability for their own incompetence and mismanagement. And as Third Way points out, not only is it not working, it might cripple Democrats and the Left for far longer than one electoral cycle.