Polarization Runs America Midterm, as Political Ad expenses is expected to surpass the previous all-time high of $9 billion.
On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden has finally come out of his shell, viciously attacking his opposition, especially Republicans “Make America Great Again”. The shift in tone represents a new strategy, built on historic precedent, to draw voters to the Democratic Party in November’s midterm elections. Biden is unable to assert the strength of his legislation in these first two years, and as such must encourage voters to run for him in a new way. This year, he said, democracy itself is on the ballot.
In the last two years of the Biden presidency, Democrats have been criticized for every major social and economic issue facing Americans – inflationwar in Ukraine, Dobbs c. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and more. And those pressing issues aren’t helping the Democrats’ chances of winning back the House and Senate in just under three months. Biden approval rating currently sits at a dismal 39%, with disapproval at 57%.
With two landmark pieces of legislation passed by Biden’s office in the past month – the Inflation Reduction Act and the cancellation of student debt – why does Biden’s approval rating remain unchanged in response? Clearly, voters are not concerned with the legislative success of this midterm.
Trump’s mere existence and influence over the Republican Party remains the top voting issue for Democrats and independents in November.
A approval poll found that only 36% of voters approved of the Cut Inflation Act, and more than a quarter said they had never even heard of it. As such, Biden and the Democratic Party are beginning to recognize this fact, taking their campaign from legislative success to Republican Party antagonism.
During his polemicThe soul of the nationSpeech, Biden noted that “Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.” Moreover, at a campaign event in Maryland, he said that the MAGA philosophy is akin to “semi-fascism”, a term disavowed now by Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in 2016.
This is an example of how Democrats must campaign to succeed in November. Independents and Republicans who don’t support Trump need to recognize what’s at stake when they step into the voting booth. It is true that many Americans do not notice a tangible effect of the Inflation Reduction Act. But, given the recent attacks on human rights (like abortion rights) and democratic institutions by the far right, Democrats must ask this key sect of voters to put aside their political ideology to save America.
As access to abortion remains one of the main influences of midterm voting, the only viable choice for undecided voters is the left. Biden and Democrats should continue to push this narrative, recognizing that the MAGA ideology is a danger to the preservation of Americans’ abortion, marriage, and equality rights.
Harsh rhetoric, such as the term “semi-fascism,” was apparently out of the Democrats’ wheelhouse — until now. Democrats have presented themselves as the opposition to Trump since 2016, sure, but never on a scale involving the very fabric of democracy in America.
This new tactic, heavily based on historical precedents, could lead them to great success.
Trump and the other Republicans castigated democrats as “socialists” and “communistsfrom the start of their campaigns. Even Biden himself, a Democrat long considered a moderate, received this offensive in 2020. Trump and Republicans have learned to capitalize on America’s fear of socialism. In a Gallup poll which ran from 2010 to 2021, socialism remained solidly at a negative rating of around 60%.
Americans have heard of the risks of electing Democrats tied to socialism since 1960, when Barry Goldwater, speaker at the Republican National Convention, claimed that John F. Kennedy was a “model for socialism”. The RNC has gone on to employ that word in every election cycle, spearing the term “socialist” on every Democratic presidential candidate through the modern era. Additionally, the United States’ poor relationship with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at the time added to the fear surrounding the word “socialism”. This mode of rhetoric – compare your opposition to an extreme — is not new.
Given that 64% of Americans view American democracy as at risk of failing, Democrats must adopt a strategy from the Republican playbook. What Biden and the Democrats should do to cement their participation in democracy is convince their electoral bloc and independents that “semi-fascism” — a new fear for Americans — has taken root in the Republican Party. Although Biden was very clear – this criticism is limited to “MAGA Republicans” — we can see newer, younger, less moderate Democratic politicians using this tactic against the entire Republican Party.
As political tensions and divisions increase, this type of rhetoric can raise fears of further deepening that division. Democrats risk alienating the Republican voter base by doing this, but the rhetoric itself attempts to avoid this. Biden has been very careful who he calls, saying he can work with Republicans, but not MAGA Republicans. At some point, division is healthy, and dividing pro-democracy Americans from anti-democracy Americans is valuable.
Although this division may occur, it is necessary to save America.
Paul Beer writes about political affairs and reads too many album reviews. Write him back (or send him music recommendations) at [email protected].