As the midterms loom, panicky House Democrats are painfully aware that the political portents do not favor them. They have been consistently behind on the generic congressional ballot, and their fate will be profoundly influenced by President Biden’s abysmal job approval numbers. Consequently, they badly need competent guidance from their leadership. They aren’t getting it. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is instead telling its members that their policies are not the problem. According to a recent Politico report, the DCCC insists that the source of their woes is GOP “culture war attacks” and the solution is better messaging.
DCCC chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) is encouraging House Democrats to forcefully rebut Republican charges that they support defunding the police, open borders, critical race theory, and unnecessarily draconian COVID-19 mitigation measures. This will be a tough sell for Democrats, considering that many openly advocate these radical positions and very few have denounced them. Most voters remember those inconvenient facts, however, including Rep. Maloney’s constituents. He represents New York’s 18th congressional district and is one of the 70 incumbents the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC) is targeting for defeat in the midterm elections. The Washington Times reports:
Rep. Sean Maloney, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has his hands full in his quest for a sixth term, according to a poll from his Republican rival that shows the incumbent is in a dogfight. The survey found Republican New York State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt and Mr. Maloney locked in a neck-and-neck race with 38% siding with the Republican and 37% siding with the Democrat.… Another possible bad omen for Mr. Maloney is the survey found voters, by a 39% to 28% margin, were more interested in electing someone new than reelecting Maloney.
Following the “better messaging” strategy, Maloney is trying to fend off Schmitt by flip-flopping on mask mandates. He recently revealed his epiphany on Morning Joe: “We as Democrats should not be, out of some sense of correctness, falling in love with [mask] mandates when they aren’t necessary.” This won’t help, however, unless he breaks with New York’s Democratic governor over her refusal to lift the mandates she has imposed on school children. As Johns Hopkins scholar Amesh Adalja, MD, tells Medscape Medical News: “Children are the lowest risk for severe disease.” Yet Gov. Hochul dropped mask mandates for everyone except the kids. This frustrated many parents. And, as we saw in Virginia, they vote.
Frustration with the Democratic response to COVID-19 is not limited to New York. Internal DCCC polling data leaked to SFGate indicates that 66 percent of swing voters believe their pandemic policies have “taken things too far.” The findings were equally ominous on other issues: 80 percent say that Democrats support defunding the police, 78 percent fault them for the border crisis, and 61 percent believe Democrats support teaching critical race theory to primary school children. Better messaging won’t reverse these perceptions. Nor will happy talk from the President in his upcoming State of the Union speech. Indeed, former Obama administration strategist David Axelrod offered this advice in the New York Times:
Mr. President, proceed with caution.… Polls show that the vast majority of Americans believe we are on the wrong track, and people will have little patience for lavish claims of progress that defy their lived experience.… The state of the union is stressed. To claim otherwise— to highlight the progress we have made, without fully acknowledging the hard road we have traveled and the distance we need to go — would seem off-key and out of touch. You simply cannot jawbone Americans into believing that things are better than they feel.
The chances that President Biden will heed this sensible advice are slim indeed if his delusional claims about Afghanistan and the pandemic are any guide. He will use his State of the Union address to exaggerate his meager successes, take credit for positive developments unrelated to his ill-conceived policies, and offer gimmicky proposals like a gas tax moratorium instead of serious initiatives. None of this will dispel fast growing doubts that Biden and his congressional accomplices have any serious ideas concerning how to improve the day-to-day lives of ordinary Americans. It is this conspicuous absence of useful ideas that has all but doomed Democratic chances of retaining their majorities in the House and Senate.
The Democratic emphasis on better messaging rather than better policies is not merely a bad campaign strategy, it’s an insult to the collective intelligence of the electorate. It assumes voters can’t remember what Biden and the Democratic leadership promised them during the 2020 election, that parents can’t tell when politicians are putting the interests of their big donors before the wellbeing of their children, that consumers can’t calculate how much more they are paying for food and fuel than they were paying a year ago. It assumes that most Americans are idiots. This attitude has become the defining characteristic of the Democratic Party. Thus, the voters are about to send them … well … an unmistakable message.