All or nothing

by John Q on August 11, 2022

I was going to do some more work on this post, but it’s being overtaken by events, so here it is

Among the many things to be depressed about at the moment, the impending end of US democracy is near the top of my list. The recent Republican primaries brought that one step closer. It’s now clear that unless they are stopped Republican officials in most states are ready to overturn any election result they do not like.

A necessary though not sufficient condition stop the Republicans is retaining Democratic control of the US Congress at the midterm elections in November with a margin sufficient to end a filibuster in the Senate, and pass voting rights legislation preventing state officials from overturning elections or returning bogus electors in a presidential election.

There are two broad strategies being urged on the Democrats. The first pushed by commentators including David Shor and Ruy Teixera is to win back the ‘white working class’, that is, white voters with low education, particularly in rural areas. Some but not all ‘white working class’ voters are wage workers with low income and wealth . However a large portion are relatively well off retirees. The central idea for Shor and Teixera is to soft pedal cultural issues and focus on promising economic benefits from moderately progressive, but not radical economic policies.

Whatever the merits of this approach in general, it’s a recipe for failure this time around. The incumbent party usually loses ground in midterm elections unless the economy is doing spectacularly well. That’s not the perception are the average voter, concerned more about inflation and shortages than about unemployment. A pitch to centrist voters might limit democratic losses but is highly unlikely to secure the victory that is needed.

The alternative is to make the election a referendum on the Republican Party, including Trump, the insurrection, the Supreme Court, and Christian nationalism. The starting results of the abortion referendum in Kansas suggest that if the election can be framed in these terms, the Democrats had a strong chance of winning and of forming a coalition that can win again in 2024. A big success would also split the Republicans, potentially emboldening business conservatives to break with the current Trumpist majority.

Mobilising single-issue pro-choice voters is part of the strategy. But, as far as possible, the aim should be to present the attack on abortion rights as part of a comprehensive package of opposition to freedom and democracy. One part of that is rejecting any suggestion of moving on beyond the insurrection. Trump and everyone involved should be prosecuted, making it impossible for the rightwing media to bury the issue as they have done. Christian nationalism should be used in the same way as the right used spurious ideas like ‘neo-Marxism’ and ‘critical race theory’ to attack liberals and centrist Dems alike.

I’ll be interested in thoughts on this, but not in any commentary to the effect that Democrats and Republicans are the same. Anyone who wants to express this view is welcome to take it here.