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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Walter: Why ‘Wokeness’ Is Not the Biggest Problem for Dems

From “It’s Competence, Not “Wokeness” That’s Hurting Democrats” by Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report:

In the wake of last week’s defeat of Democratic candidates across the country, an elite consensus has formed that blames Democrats’ failures at the ballot box on their “wokeness.” In attempting to address structural racial injustice, they argue, Democrats have become as inflexible and judgmental as those they are fighting against. They’ve become addicted to litmus tests and sloganeering (i.e., “defund the police”) as a way to measure success.

On PBS NewsHour, longtime Democratic strategist James Carville blamed Democrats’ losses on “stupid wokeness,” arguing that “this ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this ‘take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools,’ that — people see that.” It’s time for Democrats, said Carville, “to go to a woke detox center.” Plenty of other columnists jumped on the ‘detox’ bandwagon, including The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, whose most recent column was headlined: “Wokeness Derails Democrats.”

But, there is a chicken and the egg problem with these theories. Are Democrats losing because they are embracing progressive policies like critical race theory? Or are they losing because they are in charge in Washington and the economy and COVID remain significant concerns? Imagine for a moment that the progress we saw earlier this spring on COVID and the economy had continued unabated. Or if the administration had better handled the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Do we think that President Biden’s job approval rating would be in the low 40s? Probably not. Suppose Biden’s job approval ratings were still at 53 percent this fall (as they had been earlier this summer). Do we really think that attacks on critical race theory would have been enough for a Republican to win in Virginia? I don’t.

A recent Monmouth poll asked voters these very questions. By a seven-point margin, more voters said that the president’s bigger problem was his inability to get Washington working (36 percent) than the party’s leftward swing (29 percent). More critical, independent voters, “are more likely to point to capability (42%) than ideology (26%) as Biden’s bigger problem.”

In other words, the challenge for this administration is less about ‘wokeness’ than it is about competence. More specifically, rising inflation is a bigger threat to Democrats in 2022 than teaching about racism.

Walter goes on to present more data to support her case. At The New York Times, however, columnist Paul Krugman argues that fears about inflation damage are likely overwrought, in light of historical experience. But the perception of inflation can have more dire political consequences than the reality of it. Of course it’s possible that both factors, and a few more, contributed to the Democratic defeats in Virginia.

2 comments on “Walter: Why ‘Wokeness’ Is Not the Biggest Problem for Dems

  1. pjcamp on

    Amy Walter (and Cook generally) need to understand that no one is embracing critical race theory except Republicans to stoke the culture war.

    This sort of thing is why I pay no attention to Cook. They’ve succeeded Cokie Roberts and the Keeper of the Conventional Wisdom.

  2. Martin Lawford on

    Amy Walter concluded, “At the end of the day, the most important data point for 2022 is the consumer price index, not the number of “woke detox centers” opened by Democrats. ”

    If so, then what political strategy should the Democratic Party follow? The best solution I can think of is a big surtax on the highest incomes to fund inflation relief for the middle and lower classes. Few people are worried about the rising prices of mansions and yachts. It is the staple goods the average citizen buys which deserve an inflation subsidy.


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