Depending on the political orientation of media outlets you follow, both major American political parties are too hopelessly divided among themselves to prevail in the fall elections. Unless the Socialists, Commies, or a Cheney-led third-party stages a miraculous upset, somebody in the media is wrong. There are major splits in both parties, but the one which can attract the most swing voters will prevail. Strategists from each know this and will be trying to influence their respective candidates to adopt positions that influence independents. However, strategists don’t win elections; candidates do. Consequently, it is instructive to examine the major rifts in both parties.
The ideological split among Democrats is between progressive liberals and centrist pragmatists. Blue dog conservatives in the party of Roosevelt are virtually extinct. Biden was able to cobble enough cooperation to pass his inflation reduction legislation, but that will probably have little or no impact on the average voter in the next three months. Drug prices for seniors will not come down before the elections and prices for essentials will not drop to 2019 levels. Few Americans will be celebrating wildly that they will get subsidies for buying electric cars that they don’t want or need.
Progressives are pushing programs that would inevitably impact middle-income Americans. Cash-strapped retirees already realize that “soak the rich” taxes on corporations will hurt their 401Ks. Progressives damage themselves with suburban voting parents by pushing defunding the police and LBGTQ-friendly school curriculum issues. Democrat centrists realize this and are running away from extreme left positions, but they are vulnerable to guilt by association. Many liberal commentators are whistling past the graveyard hoping that abortion rights will become a key issue in November, but the reality is that those who strongly support abortion rights are already Democrats and those who oppose them vote Republican. Smart Republican congressional and Senate candidates will merely point out that abortion is now a state issue and that they are running for federal office. Single issue candidates on either side will likely lose. A poster child for this will likely be New York’s 25st District where the Democrat incumbent is running attack adds focusing on abortion rights. His Republican opponent is running on education, law enforcement, and Democrat incompetence locally. The Republican is also a black former police chief which will likely play well with older Rochester inner city residents where criminal gang violence is a major issue. This has become a horse race in a district that has been safely Democratic for nearly four decades.
On the Republican side, the division is between Trump’s enthusiastic MAGA supporters and more traditional moderate conservatives. However, the disagreement here is mostly personality-based with Trump’s character and conduct being the primary issue. This will be a major item of contention leading up to 2024 if Trump tries to run again and if the Democrats don’t succeed in putting him in the slammer, but he is not on the ticket this year. Once the primaries are over — MAGA or not — Republicans will focus on dinner table issues such as inflation, gas prices, education, and immigration where the Democrats are vulnerable, and the elephant in the room will be Joe Biden’s performance or lack thereof. This is where the various elections will be won or lost.
The major Republican weakness will be that several MAGA-endorsed candidates who have won the nomination are considered weak in the general election; that is the bad news. The good news for the party is that the Dems will have to play defense everywhere whereas the Republicans can focus national resources on elections on races that they consider critical.
Another potential area of opportunity for the Republicans is progressive incompetence in big cities; this is particularly true in New York City and New Orleans. In New York, Texas Governor Abbott cleverly exploited New York’s policy of being a “sanctuary city” by sending his unwanted illegals to the Big Apple which had not seen the unanticipated consequences of the policy. Now, some of these are being housed in luxury hotels that union sanitation workers in the Bronx and Queens who usually vote Democrat could never afford.
Likewise, cop-hating Democrats in New Orleans were great supporters of the “defund the police” movement. Many police resigned, retired, or moved elsewhere. Now, the city has a policing crisis that has caused the mayor to threaten to cancel Mardi Gras. If the Republicans fail to exploit these progressive missteps, shame on them.
It is August and both parties seem to be in a race to see which one can self-destruct faster. By November, we’ll know who won.
Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.