The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg, a founding partner of Greenberg Research, Democracy Corps, and Climate Policy & Strategy, and Prospect board member, a New York Times best-selling author and co-author of It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:
The election results surprised many pundits and Republicans, but not those who were following the surveys conducted by Democracy Corps and the articles I wrote for the Prospect. They showed the Democrats with a small lead in the generic House vote in September. That slipped to a tie and 2-point deficit with October’s likely voters. With 107 million votes counted, Democrats are losing the House by a 3-point margin. The surveys showed the potential for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians to disappoint those looking for an engaged base.
The very low turnout of African Americans and Hispanics was not surprising and likely cost us a greater Senate majority (one that might have been willing to get rid of the filibuster) and House control.
Many were relieved that Democrats defied history. I was angry.
We are at a moment where Democrats have a policy offer that makes lives appreciably better. Republicans just decry inflation and Democrats. They plant powerful cultural bombs that leave Democrats badly damaged on crime, the border, and love of country.
I was angry because in this campaign the White House was just cheerleading over a “strong economy,” and some leaders gave this message: Re-elect us because we accomplished so much. Instead, they could have shown sympathy on income and the cost of living, pushed back against corporate power, neutralized the crime issue, and grown their numbers.
Over 70 percent of eligible voters do not have a four-year degree, my measure of working-class. And in this midterm election, they were 61 percent of the voters. Over 80 percent of the Black and Hispanic voters were working-class, though that is usually closer to 70 percent in our campaign surveys.
And those voters were mad as hell about the economy. Two-thirds rated it “negatively” in my survey for Democracy Corps and PSG Consulting with 2,000 pre-election and Election Day voters. Two-thirds of voters said the country was on the wrong track. They were also mad as hell about the billions in campaign spending that corrupted politics. They are conscious that the biggest corporations, high-tech companies, and billionaires use their money and lobbyists to rig the game against working people.
They are mad as hell because they really haven’t seen a pay raise in two decades, which is even more true for African Americans and Hispanics. Their frustration was heightened by two decades of spiking growth in incomes and wealth for the top 1 percent and spiking spending on political campaigns.
The economy was the top issue for voters in 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022, of course. This year, maddening inflation stole away any marginal gain in wages. Everywhere in the world, working people are on a desperate edge, and the top issue is the cost of living and what governments are doing to help them.