washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Incremental Economic Renewal that Can Win Moderate Voters

A worthy read for your Friday political fix: “To win in 2024, Democrats must become the party of economic renewal” by Kristian Ramos at The Hill is an exploration of the political feasibility of Democrats embracing liberal economic policies.

Ramos, a senior advisor for Way To Win, writes that “battleground state polling from Way to Win shows that Democrats’ greatest vulnerability heading into 2024 is the economy. The most important issue to voters this past cycle was the economy, and Democrats lost voters who said the economy was a top issue, 62 percent–30 percent.” Ramos adds that voters don’t believe Democrats “have the ability, or the know-how, to deliver economically for the American people. They view Republicans as extreme, but see them as good for the economy, aligned with their priorities on kitchen table issues and willing and able to do what is necessary to deliver for them.”

Ramos notes further that ” a big reason voters have such a negative view of Democrats’ economic record is that voters do not yet connect President Biden’s economic achievements with improvements to their economic well-being. Part of this is because the Infrastructure bill, the IRA, and CHIPS have not yet fully taken effect. It could also be that no one knows what President Biden has done legislatively. ” Also

Seventy-eight percent of voters from exit polling could not name a single thing President Biden had done in the past two years. This is consistent across Black and Latino voters, critical segments of the Democratic base. According to the polling, 67 percent of Black and 78 percent of Latinos voters could not name anything the party or Joe Biden had done to help them. Worse, Black and Latino men’s top issue was the economy, and they were 6 percent and 10 percent more likely to vote for a Republican, respectively. This is especially worrying given that because of the policies of this administration, unemployment is at 50-year lows, and Black and Latino unemployment is currently lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Ramos credits Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), however, for doing a good job of reframing the concept of ‘economic patriotism’ for Democrats:

“The biggest challenge for the country is people think the American dream is slipping away. This is as valid for immigrant families as it is for families who have been here for generations. We need a bold roadmap, a moonshot to bring economic prosperity to places that are not Silicon Valley and New York. The goal is simple; every person must have the ability to have a house, a good-paying job, and meaningful work. We have to be aspirational. We must express people’s desire for a better life and economic security.”

Ramos notes that “Manufacturing is growing domestically, and with the passage of the CHIPS Act, we will see even more domestic production of goods and a lowering of costs for consumers. With the Infrastructure law, over the next couple of years, significant projects will come online, improving people’s lives, creating jobs, and greater prosperity. The Inflation Reduction Act is the single biggest investment in fighting climate change in modern history and will lower health care and energy costs for millions.”

Such incremental reforms may be the sweet spot for Democrats. Big package proposals like “the green new deal” or Hillary Clinton’s health care reform package during her husband’s administration arouse suspicion of a sudden, disruptive roll of the dice that nobody really knows will work. Obamacare, which narrowly passed, was  the exception that proves the rule. Otherwise, you could name other big reform packages that have been enacted in recent years. What you get with big omnibus reform packages is a large, slow-moving target that is easy to cripple.

Incremental reforms, on the other hand, are much easier to sell, defend and tweak. What Democrats can do, but only when they finally get an actual working majority of both houses of congress and the presidency, is accelerate the pace of incremental reforms. The same incremental principle applies to state legislatures.

Looking at health care as an economic issue, for example, ‘Medicare for All’ is a worthy long-term goal. It polls well or badly, depending on how the questions are framed. But on the ground you can only sell it in pieces. You can’t put 850,000 health insurance workers out of business all of a sudden, or even over a few years. And there are zillions of questions consumers have, like “can I keep my doctor?” Gradual expansion of the public option is an easier sell. How about a catastrophic coverage public option for everyone, not just seniors, so nobody loses their home or pension/retirement assets or goes broke to pay for medical expenses? Let the private sector have the rest of medical care, which is a lot — for now.

In his conclusion, Ramos writes, “The reality is Democrats outperform Republicans on nearly every economic metric, and all MAGA Republicans have offered is fighting on divisive social issues…To win, Democrats now have to actually tell that story in ways that meaningfully connect with voters.” Sure, tell the story. But also share a plausible vision for incremental economic renewal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.