According to recent polls, most voters “trust” Republicans more regarding the economy, inflation, crime and immigration issues. While it is true that Democrats have a lead on other issues such as abortion, or, you know, actually believing in democracy, I am not the first person to have called into question why so many voters would favor the Republicans on, well, anything.
I read an article a few days ago which specifically addresses the issue of the economy, the one issue on which Republicans have the edge in voter perception, that has the most voluminous data to debunk this notion (Maddow Blog | On the economy, polls show Republicans with an unearned advantage (msn.com)).
The article, by Steve Benin on the Maddow Blog, goes in detail through the evidence that Democrats are better for the economy. According to the most recent poll from NBC News, Republicans have a 19-point advantage in the percentage of voters who think that Republicans are better for the economy. This is totally out—of=whack with reality, as Benin shows. For instance, Benin notes that “by literally every relevant metric — economic growth, job creation, median household income, et al. — the U.S. economy has fared better over the last several decades during eras of Democratic governance.”
Moreover, the data on this issue has been consistent in favoring Democrats. For instance, there have been recessions under each of the last 3 Republican administrations, but not under Democratic administrations. Nonetheless, Republicans continue to make false predictions about the economy, which apparently have fooled the majority of the voting public. To quote Benin again: “Republicans said Bill Clinton’s economic agenda wouldn’t work (it did), George W. Bush’s tax breaks would work wonders (they didn’t); Barack Obama’s agenda wouldn’t end the Great Recession (it did), Trump’s tax breaks would produce an economic utopia (they didn’t), and Joe Biden’s agenda couldn’t possibly lead to the creation of 10 million new jobs in a year and a half.” As it turns out, the economy has in fact added 10 million new jobs in one and a half years under Biden’s watch.
Kevin McCarthy’s so-called “Commitment To America” does not offer any solutions, either. It is just a short list of talking point generalities that are so vague as to be practically meaningless.
Thus, the question becomes, “Why do so many voters believe this drivel?” I don’t know if I can adequately answer that question. However, I think the most important factors are Republican vehemence on these issues, and consistent propaganda which reinforces stereotypical attitudes that favor Republicans: For instance, the idea that Democrats “spend too much,” or are “soft on crime,” (defunding the police being their latest catch-phrase) and want “open borders.” A lot of this comes down to “strawman” arguments, which mischaracterize Democrats in the first place, then attack those mischaracterizations as though they were debunking the actual policies of Democrats. And let’s not forget that scary “critical race theory,” which Republicans reinvented as a strawman and pinned on Democrats as though it was racist to describe racism in the United States. If Republicans shout it loud enough and repeat it often enough, maybe most people will believe it.
A common response from liberals is to blame poor messaging for this problem. Thus, the apparent solution would be that that Democrats need to have better messaging. No doubt, better messaging will always help, and there is no reason not to pursue this approach. However, I suspect that improved messaging is only part of the solution.
Specifically, I do not think that Democrats can repeat the propaganda success of Republicans by mimicking their tactics. For one thing, the audience which Democrats are addressing is very different from the audience that Republicans are addressing. Democrats are more interested in factual information, and more attuned to optimistic messages about what the future can bring, compared to Republicans, who tend to long for the “good old days,” and be motivated mostly by fear of losing what is left of those “good old days.” Thus, the nature of Democratic messaging needs to be different from that of Republicans in order to be maximally effective.
In addition, Democratic politicians are different from Republican ones. Their minds are not going to gravitate toward “fighting words” which portray Republicans as their mortal enemies and threats to the nation, even when that is true. Many Democrats have begun to call out Republicans for their toxic policies and anti-democratic attitudes, but they tend to be slow by nature to come to such conclusions. I think that Democrats need to spell out specific, positive steps that we can take toward solutions, and be open to whoever wants to join them, including Republicans. But if Republicans refuse to cooperate, Democrats should do whatever they can to pass legislation without Republican help. Furthermore, Democrats should not expect any help from Republicans, nor go out of their way to seek it. This is why we need large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as a Democratic president, in order to accomplish meaningful reforms.
The third major difference, is that Democrats have the advantages on virtually every important specific policy. (The same is true of the progressive agenda.)
Thus, Republicans are left to try to bamboozle people into believing falsehoods so that they will vote for them, or else, negate the will of the people by making it difficult for them to vote, or claiming election fraud by Democrats when no such thing exists. Democrats, in contrast, can focus on the issues, with a “winning hand,” as long as they get voters to understand the differences between their policies and those of Republicans, and thus the differing consequences of electing Democrats versus Republicans. Unlike Republicans, Democrats have a true agenda, and it is mostly a good one, although of course there is considerable variance within the Democratic Party.
In conclusion, Democratic politicians need to pound Republicans on the issues – all of the issues, not just some which particularly favor Democrats.
We could go through this same exercise in fact, for every issue, and find that Democrats actually have a better plan for dealing with each one, whether it be true solutions for lowering crime rates (such as gun control and social programs), lowering inflation (by levying profiteering taxes on corporations for instance, and other measures to help the lower and middle socioeconomic classes), or immigration (having sensible immigration law and treating immigrants humanely rather than dehumanizing them and vowing to build gigantic border walls that don’t work). Actually, I do think that Republicans have a plan to reduce inflation in the next couple of years which might work, but voters would prefer inflation to their “solution,” which is to cause a recession.
Finally, we need to impress upon people, the importance of electing people who believe in democracy, which largely means Democrats, instead of election deniers, gerrymanderers, insurrectionists, and the rest of the power-mad Republican crowd. Our future as a democracy may depend upon that.