Dems’ Problem in Two Charts

A New York Times/Sienna poll released Monday had bad news for Democrats, as if more were needed. The poll found that voters chose generic Republicans over generic Democrats by four points. Democrats held a one point lead a month ago. The poll is more evidence that Democrats peaked too soon and that stubborn inflation is just killing them.

But while inflation may seal their fate in three weeks, you would hope that it will be a passing issue. The more enduring trouble for the party lurks in the details, specifically in two charts from the poll. Here they are:

Blue represents support for Democrats, red for Republicans.

Democrats are getting swamped among those without a college degree and voters in mid-life. And that’s not just about inflation or any other issue of the moment. That has been an enduring trend for many cycles now.

This should not be surprising to anyone. As I’ve written before, if you’re a 50-year old bookkeeper or auto mechanic or nurse, the Democrats don’t see you at all, and they’re especially blind to you if you’re not a member of a union. And because they don’t see you, they inadvertently insult you on a daily basis, mostly by excluding you in their rhetoric.

These are the people who are carrying their families and much of our economy on their backs. They have mortgages and car payments but no student loans. The Democrats will forgive only the latter, never mind that a college education is worth another $1.2 million over a career and the average student loan debt, at $28,000, is less than a new car.

They are working hard, but the Democrats never talk about valuing hard work. They talk instead about things like “health care as a human right.” They talk about stuff you should get just for breathing as opposed things you can earn by working.

They’re worried about supporting their kids as they leave (or come back to) the nest, helping their aging parents and saving for retirement. The Democrats seem focussed on abortion, January 6th, climate change, gender fluidity and racial justice. It’s not that those issues aren’t important, but they’re not central to these voters. Even a middle-aged, non-college voter who is pro-choice, worried about the climate, appalled by the Insurrection, fine with the latest fashions in gender identity and onboard with racial justice, might understandably see those issues as less important than the economy (stupid).

To underline this point, consider this. Democrats took their biggest hit among independent women. They favored Democrats by 14 points in September, but have now flipped to Republicans by 18 points. That’s a massive 32 point shift even while Democrats have hammered away at the abortion issue. It seems that the economy and crime are more important to these — mostly pro-choice — women than abortion rights. In fact, abortion was the top issue for only 5% of all voters.

The values and main concerns of relatively affluent, college-educated liberals living in cities and college towns just don’t match up to those of that big middle demographic. Democrats will likely lose elections this fall primarily because of inflation, but their problems go much deeper and are much more enduring. And while they don’t necessarily deserve the blame for inflation, they most definitely are responsible for how they are viewed by middle America.

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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