“We got a story to tell; just got to tell it,” former President Obama replied to a question about Democrats’ chances in the 2022 midterms as he left a news conference with President Biden. I watched the moment on live TV and immediately thought, “Easy for you to say.”

Is there a more gifted political communicator than Barack Obama? Certainly not since Bill Clinton, another Democratic luminary who could put a positive spin on even the worst news.

Joe Biden has his moments as a politician, but we all know he wasn’t hired for the job because he’s particularly good with words. Large swaths of voters either found his gaffes charming or looked past them in 2020 because the bigger picture was more appealing than another four years of Donald Trump in the White House.

But what about now that Democrats are in office and so many who came together to form the #Resistance are resisting Democrats?

The approach that Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, has been taking isn’t working. Just this past weekend, he tweeted: “A few things @Potus got done in the past 100 days,” and included an unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent, COVID-19 deaths down 75 percent, Affordable Care Act coverage for more families than ever, the first Black woman Supreme Court justice, and arming Ukrainians in defense of their freedom.

There are no inaccuracies in Klain’s tweet. But those accomplishments are falling on deaf ears.

Without a leader who has honed the party’s message in a way that is replicable and resonant with voters, Democrats are heading into midterm elections without an organizing principle for their communications strategy.

There are three key areas on which Democrats must reverse course to have a chance at keeping majorities in the House and Senate: inflation/cost of living, crime and policing, and school reopenings.

“It’s the economy, stupid,” strategist James Carville said in 1992 when he coined the phrase for Bill Clinton’s successful campaign — and that is still true today. Inflation is at a 40-year high and nearly 20 percent of Americans say it’s the most important issue they face. Fuel prices are up, and 59 percent of Americans worry about cost-of-living expenses “a great deal.”

Even with positive economic markers, you can see why 47 percent of Americans rate the economy as poor. In a New York Times opinion piece, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) showed that she gets it, writing: “Democrats win elections when we show we understand the painful economic realities facing American families and convince voters we will deliver meaningful change.”

That meaningful change must be an inflation-reducing policy platform. There are lots of policies to consider, including ramping up manufacturing production, taxing wealthy investors, improving our supply chains, and containing the pandemic — which is Jerome Powell’s solution, too. There is no silver bullet, but without public acknowledgment of the problem and a clear plan of attack, Americans will continue to feel that Democrats are ignoring their concerns.

In just a month, it will be two years since we first heard the phrase “defund the police” following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It’s still a wildly unpopular idea, as it was then. In response, President Biden has proclaimed it’s time to “fund the police” and Democratic mayors are pledging to hire more cops in cities such as Los Angeles and New York City.

But it’s not only conservatives who are talking about the surge in violent crime. Liberals are lining up behind moderate candidates with tough-on-crime agendas after seeing increases in rapes, robberies, felony assaults and grand larcenies in their cities. And Republicans are itching to exploit these concerns.

It’s a bad landscape made even worse with new numbers from Pew Research that reveal an even bigger problem for Democrats when it comes to their violent crime agenda. It’s not just that there has been vast support for increased police funding since late 2021. It’s that the latest Pew analysis finds that violence and crime are the largest areas of concern for Black Americans. This news comes as Biden’s approval rating with Black Americans has dropped 10 percent nationally and is down by as much as 20 percent in critical states such as Georgia.

Democrats can’t afford to lose a core demographic such as Black voters from their coalition. While the expectation is that Democrats should worry about support from independents and even Latinos, who increasingly are voting conservative, the notion that Black Americans wouldn’t be a 90 percent-plus bloc — and an enthusiastic one — is devastating. We need a quick about-face on any talk of defunding police and liberal policies that let offenders stay on the streets, coupled with long overdue gun safety reforms. Over Easter weekend, three mass shootings occurred — two in South Carolina and one in Pittsburgh. Black voters are just as concerned as anyone else — even more so, in many instances — about the gun violence that ravages major cities. Democrats cannot avoid the topic.   

The COVID-19 pandemic may not be over, but whether health officials like it or not, Americans want to move on — or at least to have that option. While dealing with the virus was atop most voters’ priority lists in 2020, the landscape is vastly different today. Only 3 percent of Americans now mention COVID as the biggest problem facing the country, down from 13 percent in February and 20 percent in January.

The pandemic has deeply affected the way we live our lives, but there’s no set of actions more out of step with the desire to get back to normal than continuing to put America’s children in the crosshairs with health and safety protocols that parents believe are harming their kids. Last week, Michael Bender of the Wall Street Journal looked at Democratic voters who are turning on Democratic politicians over mask mandates and school reopenings. Loyal voters are turning into question marks as they see their children struggle to keep up or continue to wear masks when there is little evidence that they provide discernible help for kids.

“What I do know is that my party-line vote shouldn’t be taken for granted anymore,” Democrat Jennifer Loughran told Bender. She is far from alone — and considering the outcome in Virginia’s gubernatorial race and how close New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy came to losing, Democrats must get with the program. That means that a once solidly Democratic city such as Philadelphia, which just reinstated its indoor mask mandate, should think twice. We now know enough about the disease for people to make their own decisions about mask-wearing.

If the choice is between a political party and the well-being of their children, parents will choose their children — every time.

It remains unlikely that Democrats can turn the tide for this year’s midterms. But they’ve got to give it a shot. I believe that voters want to support Democrats, especially since Republicans haven’t bothered to put together an agenda, as Senate Minority

Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged recently. That said, unless Democrats show they understand the impact of these issues — and offer good solutions — it’s going to be a very bad November. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.

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