Democrats Are More Out Of Step Than Republicans, Poll Says
Polling indicates that voters find the Democratic Party to be even more out of step than the Republican Party.
While Republicans worry about their own political fortunes in the context of Donald Trump’s continued unpopularity, CNN’s Chris Cillizza points to poll numbers indicating that Democrats have issues of their own to worry about:
One number in the Post-ABC poll really stood out to me as something that should worry Democrats pondering the party’s future: Asked whether the Democratic Party is in touch with the concerns of the average person, just 28% of respondents said it is — as opposed to 67% who said Democrats are out of touch. Those numbers are worse than the “in touch/out of touch” numbers for either the Republican Party or Trump in that same poll.
More amazing to me is that only 52% of self-identified Democrats said their party was in touch with peoples’ concerns, while 44% said it was out of touch. (Also of concern for Democrats: Fewer than 1 in 5 independents — 18% — said the Democratic Party was in touch with the average person.)
Those numbers — particularly among Democrats — are striking. Party leaders in Washington have positioned the party as the voice of the little guy since the earliest days of the Trump presidency: Their side would be the one to stand up for the disenfranchised people in the country whose lives Trump neither cared about nor even thought much about.
As evidence of the organic groundswell behind this idea, Democrats touted the successes of things like Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “nevertheless she persisted” moment with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor. Twelve million people watched Warren reading a letter from Coretta Scott King on Facebook Live! Republicans were on the ropes, courtesy of a populist punch-out!
The problem with that conclusion is exposed in the numbers above. Yes, there are lots and lots of Democrats who support Warren, buy “nevertheless, she persisted” T-shirts and wear them proudly. But that doesn’t mean the party can automatically be assumed to be the voice of “the people.”
What it also means is that Trump’s election isn’t a panacea for the Democratic Party. While it’s easier to attribute the party’s 2016 loss to stated (and unstated) racism and sexism in the country — and there was some of that! — that analysis absolves Democrats of the sort of internal review the party badly needs.
Consider this: A billionaire businessman raised in New York City was able to successfully cast his Democratic opponent as the candidate of the elites in this country. How? Because there was already a preconceived notion within the populace that Democrats were coastal snobs — shopping at Whole Foods, sending their kids to private school and viewing the rest of the country with utter disdain. That sentiment still very much exists in the country.
These numbers run counter to the traditional Democratic Party mantra that they are the party of the common man, of course, and will likely come as something of a blow to Democratic populists who have come to believe that the talking points they repeat on a daily basis that they are the part of the regular people. In reality, it would appear that Americans don’t see Democrats as anything like this, which may be one of the reasons why so many working-class voters seemingly tuned out the party over the course of recent elections and, especially, in the 2016 election when so many of them chose to support an aloof, arguably out of place, boorish New York real estate developer over a candidate who was seemingly backing the kind of measures that would appeal to working and middle-class voters would support, It also seems to explain at least in part why we’ve seen voters that might otherwise have voted Democratic turn to the GOP in Congressional and state-level elections in 2010, 2012, and 2014 during which time the GOP gained control of the House and the Senate and gained power at the state legislative and Gubernatorial levels that seem likely to stay in place through the redistricting that will follow the 2020 Census. Because of that, Democrats have seen their political influence dwindle in the heart of the nation while the party continues to fall under the influence of power bases on the East and West Coasts that arguably continue to leave a vast swath of American voters with the impression that, on several important levels, the party is out of step with the values, concerns, and needs of a huge segment of the American public.
As Cillizza goes on to note in the post linked above, these numbers also suggest that if Democrats are going to make gains in the coming years, most immediately in the midterm elections in 2018, they are going to have to find a way to be more than just an anti-Trump party. It also suggests that the efforts of people such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to push the party further to the left to assuage the progressive wing of the party that is largely dominated by elites from the two coasts is also not exactly the key to success either. Instead of doing that, they need to find ways to convince the people in the vast middle of the country that they aren’t the out of touch with their concerns and values, and that they are about something other than finding new ways to increase the size and power of the state. If they don’t do that, they could find themselves making at best modest gains that won’t really change the status quo.