- Democrats are desperately trying to understand what’s roiling the electorate heading into a brutal midterm environment.
Democrats are desperately trying to understand what’s roiling the electorate heading into a brutal midterm environment.
Written by Peter Boykin on April 5, 2022
Shared By Peter Boykin – American Political Commentator / Citizen Journalist
HIT Strategies has been conducting weekly focus groups to find out in real time how Americans are processing events in 2022. On Monday night we watched discussions with two different subgroups of partisan Democrats assembled by the firm: “Black Base, Always vote for Dems, Ages 25+” and “Youth Base; Always vote for Dems, Ages 25 – 39.”
There were significant differences within and between the two groups of nine voters. But there were some broad takeaways:
— A preoccupation with inflation and crime.
— Exhaustion with pandemic restrictions.
— Cynicism about politics.
— Deep frustration that President JOE BIDEN and Democrats have failed to deliver on their early promises.
— Sympathy for Ukraine mixed with a lack of enthusiasm for Biden spending too much time and money on the issue.
— Ambiguity about how important Jan. 6 should be for Democrats in the midterms.
These sentiments are captured in recent polling: Biden’s decline in approval from Black voters and millennials has been well documented, as of course has the rise in importance of inflation, crime and pandemic fatigue.
But watching the three-and-a-half hours of conversations, you notice a yawning gap between what Democrats here in D.C. are saying and what their most loyal voters are experiencing outside the Beltway. This was especially true on two big issues:
The economy: A cottage industry of White House officials and left-wing media critics who talk to each other on Twitter has convinced themselves that the media is responsible for the public’s overwhelming focus on the bad news of inflation rather than the good news of low unemployment and rising wages. The focus groups exploded that bit of Democratic self-deception.
When the voters were asked to describe how they feel about how things are going, they responded with words like “exhausted,” “uptight,” “unsure,” “concerned” and “anxious.”
A woman from the Boston area who went first mentioned rising gas and food prices, food shortages at her local Whole Foods, and the increasing cost of housing. “It just seems like everything is going up and there’s no end in sight,” she said.
In the other focus group, a Black man from the Houston area talked about trying to subsist on the $12- and $13-per-hour jobs he was being offered. “No one can live off of that, especially with inflation,” he said.
And so it went across hours of hours of conversation. Rising costs — of food, gas, education, medication and more — dominated.
The Biden record: After the Build Back Better bill collapsed, Biden and many Democrats began talking about last year’s two big wins: the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure law. But these two panels of base Democratic voters kept returning to what still needs to be done.
They had little positive to say about all the Covid money in the ARP or the new bridges that would be built with the infrastructure money.
A typical response came from a young white woman from Montana: “I think Democrats have just been really ineffectual.”
One young white man from the L.A. area was a bit more forgiving, but no less frustrated: “I’m not ready to blame the party as a whole because there are two bozos by the name of [JOE] MANCHIN and [KYRSTEN] SINEMA who really handcuffed the Build Back Better plan, and handcuffed pretty much almost every meaningful social piece of legislation that’s been proposed.”
One Black female participant said she didn’t feel much urgency about the midterms “because at this moment the Democrats [are] running the House and they’re not getting much done.”
Two other issues also generated noticeable attention from the groups: crime and the war in Ukraine.
Crime: It was impossible to ignore how much it came up.
A Black man from New York complained about bail reform laws in that state leading to “repeat offenders” who get arrested and released and are “re-arrested in less than 24 hours.” A Black woman in the Philadelphia area wanted something done about gun violence and carjackings in the city by “repeat offenders.”
The white woman from Boston said she was reading a lot about “unprovoked attacks” on tourists in New York. “It’s out of control,” she said.
Ukraine: There was a divide between the first group of Black base voters and the second group of millennial white base voters. The Black voters were more openly skeptical about the wisdom of the recent $14 billion aid package for Ukraine. After hearing the price tag of the bill, one Black male Biden voter replied, “They need to take that money back and give it to Black people for reparations.”
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