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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Democratic response to Americans’ acute needs primes midterm message

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Pew’s class breakdown of GOP voters/leaners who favored the $1.9 trillion plan is worth revisiting:

  • 63% of lower-income Republicans (a group that accounts for 25% of all Republicans)
  • 37% of Republicans in middle-income households (50% of all Republicans)
  • 25% of upper-income Republicans (21% of all Republicans)

Nearly two-thirds of the type of working-class voters Donald Trump helped bring into the Republican tent supported Biden’s rescue plan. That’s a potential disaster for GOP lawmakers who, instead of trying to bolster their own brand, have once again hitched their wagon to Trump’s falling star in hopes that his voters will power their midterm comeback.

What we already know about lower-income voters is that they are less likely to vote at the same rates as higher-income voters. Trump voters also have a proven pattern of not showing up for elections where Trump isn’t on the ballot (2018 midterms, 2018 Kansas gubernatorial, 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial, 2021 Senate runoffs in Georgia). On top of that, polling suggests that many Trump voters actually harbor a particular disdain for the Republican establishment and likely for politicians in general. In their view, Trump was never actually a politician and therefore not really part of the abomination that is Washington. A February Daily Kos/Civiqs poll found that of the 45% of respondents who voted for Trump last November, 30% defined themselves as a “Trump supporter,” while just 15% identified as a “Republican Party supporter.” In other words, twice as many 2020 Trump voters view themselves as part of Trump’s party, not the GOP.

Republican lawmakers are very confused on this point. They are simply over the moon about the idea that Trump inspired some 74 million Americans to turn out and vote Republican in 2020, and they are absolutely desperate to recreate that turnout phenomenon in future elections.

As Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told POLITICO this week about Trump, “He brought a bunch of new voters into the party that we want to keep.”

Here’s where Republicans are conflating Trump voters with Republican Party voters. Trump didn’t necessarily bring in a “bunch of new voters” to the GOP, he brought them into the Trump party, such as it is. Meanwhile, the Republican Party continues to do absolutely zip for them, as evidenced by the GOP’s 100% lockstep opposition to American Rescue Plan.

Trump is a true demagogue—he doesn’t lead his people, he follows them. If there’s one thing Trump is truly masterful at, it is figuring out what his specific base of cultists wants and then jumping in front of that parade. And last December, in advance of the Georgia runoffs, Trump suddenly called on Congress to amend their $900 billion stimulus plan to deliver $2,000 direct payments to people, rather than just $600 payments. It was classic Trump. Democrats had been pushing for bigger payments all along, but Trump hadn’t bothered to take part in any of the negotiations and clearly wasn’t capable of brokering the deal. Then he complained about the outcome after the fact, when it was too late to do anything about it (even though House Democrats did attempt to pounce on the opportunity). 

But one important takeaway from that pitiful episode is that Trump clearly knew what his base wanted, even if he was too incompetent to deliver it. Now the entire Republican congressional delegation has once again rejected what two-thirds of lower-income GOP voters wanted—a relief package that targeted generous benefits to the poor and working-class Americans who need it most. 

As I outlined on Friday, Republicans have a host of other problems heading into 2022. They are already failing to amp up their base with anti-Biden vitriol the way they did with President Barack Obama in 2009—surely because Biden is white. Vendors say they can’t give away anti-Biden merch at events like CPAC. 

Instead, Republicans have been reduced to selling Dr. Seuss-Mr. Potato Head outrage at a time when three-quarters of Americans know someone who has gotten sick from the pandemic, 36% say they know someone who has died from it, and 44% of households say they are still suffering financial losses due to it. 

As Biden noted, times are desperate, the American people cried out for help, and Democrats alone answered that call. Though many Democratic voters are now fixated on selling that success to the country, much of the selling has already been done. The legislation is profoundly popular and has remained so. 

The bigger hurdle now is implementation and making sure the massive plan delivers all the promise that it holds. 

“You don’t actually need to go sell this bill,” senior White House adviser Anita Dunn told The Washington Post. “It’s one of the few bills that has become more popular as it moved through Congress, not less. We don’t need to convince people that Americans need help; we need to tell them how they can get that help.”

That’s where Biden’s emphasis is, too, as he and Vice President Kamala Harris hit the road in the coming weeks to plug the Democratic package. 

“It’s one thing to pass the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said Friday at the Democratic Rose Garden celebration. “It’s going to be another thing to implement it. It’s going to require fastidious oversight to make sure there’s no waste or fraud and the law does what it’s designed to do.”

As Biden’s White House is well aware, from the initial roll out of the Affordable Care Act website in 2013, implementation is the next critical piece of building a winning Democratic platform for 2022. The American people overwhelmingly wanted this bill—now they need to be able to take advantage of all the help it promises to shower down upon them.


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