One thing the party in the majority can do, if not actually pass legislation, is to control the agenda, begin the conversation. For the last several months Democrats have been talking about topics that aren’t top of mind for most voters.
The two topics Democrats want to talk about are voting rights and their Build Back Better bill. Both pieces of legislation are so packed with liberal wish list items that most voters don’t really know what’s in them — a big messaging problem in itself. But the overall impression provided is that the voting rights bills will make it easier for people, especially people of color, to vote while BBB will create a lot of new social spending and fight climate change.
If you parse those things out and poll on individual items in the bills they look popular. But here’s the problem. If you ask people an open-ended question about what’s important to them they don’t mention any of these things, save climate change and health care which are elements of BBB.
According to a poll taken in November here are the top ten issues for voters:
|Economy & Jobs||28%|
|Terrorism & National Security||14%|
|Ethics in Government||11%|
Voting rights didn’t show up at all nor did child care, paid family leave or many of the other things stuffed into Build Back Better. So, in one sense, the apparent defeat of those bills doesn’t hurt that much since they weren’t priorities for most voters in the first place. The problem is that because Democrats have spent so many months fighting (amongst themselves) for them they’ve created the impression that the party’s concerns don’t line up with the worries of most average Americans.
It gets somewhat worse. Items important to liberal activists did make the list, but they polled very low: Race relations (9%), Guns (8%), Income inequality (7%), Women’s rights (6%) and Police reform (5%).
But if you’re a conservative and you’re cheering right now, I’d hold those applause if I were you. Here’s how some of your camp’s priorities fared: Abortion (6%), School safety (5%), Civil disorder (4%) and Political correctness (4%).
But it’s the party in power that gets the credit or blame for what’s going on, whether or not they had much to do with it. For example, inflation isn’t on the list, probably because it was just gathering steam when the poll was taken last fall. But it would almost certainly join jobs and the economy right now. Yet, there’s not all that much Biden and his party can do about it.
Still, Democrats would be smart to start talking about issues Americans care about. Voting rights and most of Build Back Better aren’t among them.
Welcome to the 342nd day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!