Despite Joe Manchin’s Best Efforts, Democrats Building Polling Numbers Back Better

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Photo: Adam Schultz/Biden for President. Creative Commons license 2.0

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll had some relatively good news for Democrats last week: They’re now slightly ahead of Republicans in the generic congressional ballot. Voters say they prefer unnamed Democratic candidates over Republicans who shall not be named 39 percent to 37 percent in this year’s midterm elections. Republicans had an eight-point advantage in the same poll in November, when very important pundits suggested Democrats not just panic over these numbers but “go into shock.”

However, running around like Dr. Smith from "Lost in Space" shouting “We’re doomed!” isn’t productive, and politics is obviously fluid. Although the odds are against Democrats, they haven’t lost until voters actually cast ballots, i.e. the part of the process Republicans don’t like very much. There’s a consensus among Democrats that Republicans shouldn’t win this year, but there’s some debate over the most effective messaging for a pandemic-weary electorate.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama declared, “We’ve got to vote like the future of our democracy depends on it.” The problem is that MAGAs are similarly motivated in a twisted way. Fortunately, Obama has more than just empty rhetoric. Her group, When We All Vote, plans to "recruit and train at least 100,000 volunteers" and "register more than a million new voters.”


We're going to need all of these new, left-leaning voters because we can’t trust once and future Republicans to come through for democracy. The non-democratic alternatives are just too tempting.

USA Today interviewed Mary Ann Chaffin, an 86-year-old retired small-business owner from Aurora, Colorado. She considers the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol "disgusting" and "very disheartening.” (We'd note that it was an insurrection, not the Mrs. Doubtfire musical.) She’s very concerned that democracy is in “peril” and she wishes “more brave Republicans,” other than the two, would stand up to Donald Trump and his Big Lie.

But she’s still not sold on Democrats and won’t commit to voting for them in the midterms. Her state sent Lauren Boebert to Congress, so she kind of owes us.

"It disturbs me what's happening to the Republican Party, and it disturbs me what's happening to the Democratic Party as we lean more and more towards socialism," Chaffin said.

This is, of course, false equivalency. The Republican Party has openly become an anti-democratic authoritarian cult of personality. Meanwhile, Democrats pass bipartisan infrastructure bills and believe we should address the climate crisis. The United States isn’t moving toward socialism. It’s becoming more of a corporate-owned plutocracy.

Chaffin "thanks God” for Senator Joe Manchin, because he's blocked Build Back Better. Maybe she is against the tyranny of the child tax credit.

That’s the conundrum for Democrats. Self-described independents like Chaffin claim they give a damn about democracy, but then they all too often won't do anything about it at the ballot box. Moderate Democrats worry that advancing an ambitious social spending agenda will alienate these “pro-democracy” voters, but Democrats can give them everything they want (e.g. the bipartisan infrastructure bill) and many of them will still cast ballots for frauds like Glenn Youngkin.

According to Matt Grossman, who heads the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, it’s doubtful that appeals to “democracy" will move the needle much.

"There's not much evidence that making democracy itself the issue is effective for winning votes when other issues are more important to voters," said [Grossman].

Overall, (Democrats) understand that this is not a top-tier concern for most swing voters," he said, predicting "it is generally not going to be the message to run in ads."

Voters' biggest concern is the economy, and it’s why Republicans are blaming President Joe Biden for inflation, supply chain issues, and the pandemic they’ve personally helped prolong. “Elections" didn’t crack one percent. Joe Manchin's and Kyrsten Sinema’s internal sabotage has prevented Democrats from delivering big for Americans. Voters like Ms. Chaffin might think reducing child poverty, expanding Medicare, and offering universal pre-K is all just “socialism” but all too often, voters like that were never voting for Democrats anyway.

[USA Today]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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