What should Democrats do now?

By Amber Phillips with Caroline Anders, The Washington Post, Feb 17, 2022

Democrats are worried they could lose the limited control they have in Congress this November.

And they have reason to be: With Covid feeling never-ending and groceries and cars and housing costing a lot more, voters are pessimistic about their lives. And that usually spells doom for the party in power.

So what are Democrats trying to do to stop this? Here are a few things we’re hearing.

Steer the conversation away from their failures: Democrats spent President Biden’s first year in office trying and failing to do big things, such as expanding the federal government safety net and setting up federal standards for how to vote. Democrats argued they needed to show their base that they at least tried.

But there’s evidence that approach hurt the party, by dampening enthusiasm among reliable Democratic voters and highlighting Democrats’ divisions.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) is one of seven House Democrats — out of more than 200 — who represent a district that voted for President Donald Trump in 2020. She’s urged her party to stop focusing so much on progressive wish lists. “Where’s the war room on the cost of living?” she asked MSNBC’s Chuck Todd recently. “Where’s the task force on inflation? Where’s the energy around that, because that’s what everyone is talking about when I sit down with them.”

Start talking about tax cuts: It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s an election year and suddenly the party in power is contemplating cutting taxes. Republicans passed a tax bill that lowered some people’s taxes in 2017 (before they lost control of the House). Now, some top Democrats are considering how they could pause the federal gas tax of 18 cents per gallon for the rest of 2022, report The Post’s Tony Romm and Jeff Stein. (Conveniently, the gas tax would go back up after the election.) It’s not clear whether that would have the support of Republicans to pass the Senate, so for now it’s just an idea.

Find a way to reach out to voters outside cities: Rather than cede rural America to Republicans (and win elections by ramping up turnout in cities), they could try the long, hard process of winning over voters outside metropolitan areas. But are Democrats even welcome in these places right now? As the Nation pointed out, there are almost no elected Democrats who even live in rural areas. And Democratic voters in rural Pennsylvania told the Associated Press they’ve started hiding their yard signs and bumper stickers.

One thing Democrats seem to agree on: They need to move to the middle. The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and David Weigel report that Democratic leaders like Biden are staying as far away as some very far-left ideas, like defund the police.

Yesterday, I wrote about how Democrats are starting to think about reaching out to rural voters, before the party becomes extinct outside metropolitan areas. A few of you smartly asked: What would Democrats talk about with rural voters? Heidi Heitkamp is a Democratic former senator from North Dakota, and she told the Associated Press that she thinks her party talks too much about farming and high-speed Internet and that they should talk more about rejecting far-left ideas such as “defund the police.”

Q: What’s happening with Build Back Better, and can Democrats even pass it via reconciliation?

A: Let’s start with the second half of that question. Reconciliation is a budget tool that allows Congress to dodge a filibuster in the Senate, but only if the legislation is spending-related. Increasingly, reconciliation is the only way parties in power get stuff done. Republicans used this to pass a tax bill in 2017. Democrats tried to use it to pass a giant expansion of the government safety net.

Lawmakers can use reconciliation once a fiscal year, so Democrats technically have until October to pass Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said it’s dead.

Biden says he wants to break it up into “chunks” to get the important pieces through. That’s a little confusing, though, because Republicans can block a bunch of smaller bills. It’s likelier that Democrats have to choose just one major issue from Build Back Better and get that passed by reconciliation.

Q: Are conservative groups placing special emphasis on school board elections compared with past elections?

A: Yes, it seems so. In Tennessee, Republican legislators made it so you can run for school board and list your party affiliation on the ballot. In Arizona, Republicans have school board “boot camps.” In swing states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Republican donors are spending money on school board races.

Republicans are prolific at gerrymandering because they invested in state legislative races a decade ago. Now, there’s plenty of evidence they’re zeroing in on school boards to try to increase their hold on power locally and get an edge in some of the nation’s biggest culture wars.

 Image Credits: https://wethepeople.scholastic.com/grade-7-10/democratic-party.html