Politico published some hand wringing this morning about the distress in the Democrats’ base. As it turns out, two key constituencies are not all that happy with President Joe Biden, leading to concern ahead of a predicted red wave in November. According to Ryan Lizza and Eugene Daniels in Tuesday’s Playbook:
HIT Strategies has been conducting weekly focus groups to find out in real time how Americans are processing events in 2022. On Monday night we watched discussions with two different subgroups of partisan Democrats assembled by the firm: “Black Base, Always vote for Dems, Ages 25+” and “Youth Base; Always vote for Dems, Ages 25 – 39.”
There were significant differences within and between the two groups of nine voters. But there were some broad takeaways:
— A preoccupation with inflation and crime.
— Exhaustion with pandemic restrictions.
— Cynicism about politics.
— Deep frustration that President JOE BIDEN and Democrats have failed to deliver on their early promises.
— Sympathy for Ukraine mixed with a lack of enthusiasm for Biden spending too much time and money on the issue.
— Ambiguity about how important Jan. 6 should be for Democrats in the midterms.
The focus groups dispensed with the fiction that voters only care about unemployment numbers or economic growth when they pay significantly more for groceries and gas personally. According to Lizza and Daniels, participants used words like “exhausted,” “uptight,” “unsure,” “concerned,” and “anxious” to describe their feelings about the current environment.
They also noted how the discussion of rising costs for everything from education to medication dominated the hours-long conversations. These concerns reflect an increase in the percentage of Americans who see the economy as the nation’s biggest problem. According to Gallup, about 9% of Americans felt that way before the pandemic. As of March 2022, that number rose to 35%, with 17% saying inflation is the biggest challenge facing the country. That is the highest level of concern about rising prices since 1985 and a 15-point increase since October 2021.
However, the solution these voters are looking for is spending similar to what Biden proposed in the Build Back Better agenda. The participants were also critical of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have opposed massive spending and limited the scope of social programs. These voters are not impressed with the American Rescue Plan or the promises about the infrastructure bill. The former did not include enough direct handouts, and the latter’s impact is years away at best. Many of them are probably still waiting for all the “shovel-ready jobs” President Barack Obama promised.
Crime is another topic that dominated the discussion. Thanks to bail reform, complaints about repeat offenders committing crimes within hours of their release came from participants who lived in New York City and Philadelphia. Others said reports of unprovoked attacks were common and that crime seemed to be out of control in some areas of the country. These findings are consistent with other polls showing that voters are concerned about increases in crime. According to Morning Consult, 78% see it as a significant problem, and 73% believe it is increasing.
The authors said the response from one young woman, “I think Democrats have just been really ineffectual,” summed up the general feeling that included a lack of enthusiasm about the midterms. Another participant said, “At this moment, the Democrats [are] running the House, and they’re not getting much done.” A lack of voter motivation can only help Republicans in November. These voters staying home is the preferable outcome since meeting the demands of the Democrat base for more social programs, reparations, and indiscriminate spending should not be on the policy agenda.
However, Republicans should be educating the electorate about the need for energy independence and how that will help tame inflation. Changing people’s minds should never be off the table, but the two groups who participated in the discussion should remain firmly planted in the opposition. All they can do is drag Democrats further to the left, taking them completely out of the mainstream.