The 2020 razor-thin margin of victory in the House and Senate forced some Democratic Party officials to do some soul-searching. They wanted to know what went wrong in an election they framed as a victory. The fragile win was much too close to call a mandate, a bit too precarious to be duplicated.
Thus, several Democratic advocacy groups ordered a review of the 2020 election to get a serious look at the state of the Party. What they found was unsettling to a political current that thinks its ideas are on the crest of a wave of popularity.
The 73-page report found that the Democratic Party is losing ground among those it has always counted upon to deliver the vote: black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters. These voting blocs are not monolithic, and fissures are appearing. Many liberal Americans are scared of the Party’s socialist ideas. They rightly fear the far left’s call to defund the police will take the nation to chaos and anarchy.
A Messaging Problem or the Wrong Message?
The report’s conclusion is clear. It said the Democrats have a messaging problem. A more accurate assessment would be that the Party has an ideological problem. Indeed, Democrats need to jettison the leftist ideology that is dragging the Party to ruin. Failure to change will mean the Party will not repeat the 2020 victory in the coming elections.
Three major Democratic interest groups, Third Way, the Collective PAC and the Latino Victory Fund, commissioned the report that was full of self-criticism and lamentations. However, the language of the study was not so blunt as to say that the leftist positions of the candidates were wrong. Instead, the study blamed Republican success in misrepresentation, misinformation and talking points development.
The comprehensive study took six months to complete. It analyzed three dozen races for the House and the Senate and interviewed 143 key people, including lawmakers, candidates and pollsters. The report reviewed Senate and House elections in both red and blue states.
The Radical Program Became the Message
The report demolishes the myth of a unified Democratic Party. It shows that Party leadership has lost touch with its base. Moreover, there is little consensus among Democrats about how to deal with the shortcomings.
The first shortcoming is that the radical left dominated the debate inside the Party in 2020. Its talking points were repeatedly drilled into the American public, with no internal opposition. As a result, its radical agenda became the Party’s agenda despite the electorate’s concerns.
“Win or lose, self-described progressive or moderate, Democrats consistently raised a lack of strong Democratic Party brand as a significant concern in 2020,” the report concluded. “In the absence of strong party branding, the opposition latched on to G.O.P. talking points, suggesting our candidates would ‘burn down your house and take away the police.’”
This shift served as ammunition for Republicans to warn the electorate of the disasters that would lie ahead. Republicans did not have to misrepresent the Democratic Party line; they just had to repeat it to an uneasy nation.
Moderate Democrats, if they exist, did not condemn the toxic rhetoric of the radicals. In the absence of any coherent program, the radicals’ cry for revolution became the Party’s default message. As a result, voters rejected many candidates even as they voted for the slightly more “moderate” Mr. Biden.
Even the presidential victory was not a mandate for the Party’s core message but the natural outcome of bitter anti-Trump sentiment, much like the anti-Hillary malaise that catapulted the Republican candidate to victory four years before. Such feelings will not be present in the 2022 elections when Democrats have to run on something tangibly part of the real world.
Two Democratic Vulnerabilities
The study highlighted two issues that do not bode well for the Democrats. These issues are linked to the Party program and unlikely to see change. The study does not recommend that they be abandoned. However, it strongly urges the Party to repackage them to make them more palatable to the American public.
Americans Don’t Like Socialism . . .
The first issue is socialism. Democrats try to avoid the word socialism. However, this does not stop them from proposing massive programs, huge government, entitlements and immorality. Consequently, regardless of what they say, what Democrats do reflects socialist doctrines. There is no way around this conclusion. The socialist mindset pushes an anti-Christian, anti-property and anti-morality agenda that divides the American people into a false, Marxist class struggle narrative.
Thus, the report finds that the socialist brand label proved particularly noxious to Hispanic workers who have worked hard to accumulate earnings or fled from socialist countries. Many others resent the anti-free enterprise tone of the COVID lockdowns that shut down the economy and showed no hurry to re-open.
. . . Or Attacks on the Police
The second issue that damaged the Democratic brand is their push to defund the police. This is not a misrepresentation of the Party’s position. On the contrary, elected officials from the Party have proudly done it. At the height of the riots last summer, Democrat-controlled cities slashed police budgets as a dramatic gesture against police “violence.” A corresponding crime wave has since forced mayors and city councils to re-fund the police.
The study found that the term “defund” is highly unpopular, especially in the black communities that supposedly are victims of police brutality. The call to defund may please Black Lives Matter militants but not poor blacks living in crime-infested areas. The report called upon Democrats to change their defunding packaging. Call it reimagining, reallocating or re-anything, but stay away from toxic word defund.
America’s respect for law and order makes police defunding a high tension wire.
Frosty Reception to Criticism
The reaction to the report is not all positive. Radical left Democrats, especially those on the East and West coasts, have not toned down their rhetoric, making it problematic for the Party to modify its message. Such reluctance is a gift to Republicans who have only to repeat the left’s radical messages to score points.
Indeed, some leftists complain that there is nothing wrong with the message, and that the Party is using the criticism to scapegoat activists for its own failures. They think the solution is to introduce even more socialism, not less.
“Moderate” Democrats, on their part, are acting like radicals. Almost all have voted for the most radical proposals, such as the federal voting control bill, “infrastructure” projects and the Equality Act. On the other hand, no one has loudly denounced the Party’s socialist or anti-police ideology.
The urgent recommendation to change is alarming because it is not aimed at changing the Democrats’ bad ideas but only their packaging. The report seems to be coaching candidates: “Don’t say we want socialism or to defund the police…even when we do.”
Alas, asking Democrats to renounce socialism and anti-police ideology is almost like asking them to stop being Democrats.
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