BERNARD COLUMN: Democrats in trouble in ‘22 and ‘24

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, April 26, 2022

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By Jack Bernard
Bernard is a retired corporate executive

The mid-term elections are always problematic for the party in power, but it appears that Democrats will be swept away in the election “perfect storm” this year. There are many reasons. Some are unavoidable due to outside factors. Others are strategic blunders by Democrats.

Any analysis of the November election must start with an examination of current views of voters. So, what do Americans view as important issues? And which party is more motivated?

Let’s look at 2022 versus 2018, when Democrats took the House. In 2018, Democrats (67%) were slightly more motived than GOP voters (65%). But in 2022, Republicans (70%) are much more likely to indicate that control of Congress by their party “really matters.” But only 60% of Democrats responded that way, down considerably from 4 years ago.

Given his reputation as a savvy, deal-making moderate prior to his election … and the narrow margin the Democrats hold in Congress … it was surprising that he came out with an aggressive progressive agenda. Biden has not gotten much positive publicity for his accomplishments. However, he has been constantly bashed in the right-wing media, Fox and elsewhere, for his liberal agenda. Thus, 71% of potential GOP voters state that they are voting “against” Biden, whereas only 46% of Democrats say that they are voting “for” him

So, what issues are key for 2022 voters? A recent CNN poll said voters chose the economy as their top concern (89%), along with inflation (83%) and education (81%). Other issues scoring over 70% include crime, voting rights, taxes, and healthcare. Guns, immigration, and Covid were lower, 66%-65%. Climate change was way down at 51%. (Note- Putin’s war wasn’t mentioned since this was conducted in January and early February.)

I believe that Democrat messaging has been deficient regarding the economy, a much more important issue to voters than it has been in the last 20 years. Businesses are doing very well. Although the stock market is down in 2022, it was way up in 2021, despite covid. We have record unemployment. Wages are up substantially, particularly in certain segments of the economy. But the Democrats have not adequately sold these positives to the public.

Obviously, the economic downside is inflation. The public sees that prices are up at the pump and grocery stores. Gas prices are up, mostly due to Putin’s war. Overall inflation is also getting worse, in part due to the war. But the Democrats have not been successful in explaining this fact to the public or advocating a solution. 

On education, the GOP has been successful in selling to conservatives the myth that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is being taught in K-12 public schools, although it is not. And that there are radical trans programs being pushed by educators, also inaccurate. But many people, reinforced by lockstep conservative media, incorrectly perceive each of these as being big problems. On crime, the facts are that it went up in the last two years of the Trump administration. But it’s still much lower than at many other times in America, although that’s not what is perceived by citizens.

Meanwhile, in another strategic failure, the Democrats have not sold their proposed healthcare solutions strongly enough. There’s solid support for increasing Medicare and Medicaid benefits. But Democratic leadership either wrapped reforms into much larger bills which failed or simply didn’t push through specific bills dealing with these issues (for example, SB 2618 and HR 340). Thus, the Democrats are unable to say that a particular bill (tailored to deal with each of these subjects) came to the House or Senate and that the GOP failed to support it.

There is one wild card factor. Over three-fourths of Democrats believe that the 2022 election will be fair and honest, while less than half of GOP voters feel that way. It’s possible that some GOP voters will stay home, believing the election to be rigged given Trump’s constant harping on this false issue. That may have been a factor in the 2019 runoffs for Georgia Senators, both won by Democrats. We will see if GOP voters are so alienated by the Trump “steal” campaign that they fail to vote.

Can the negative situation for Democrats be turned around by November?

I doubt it, but we will soon see.