I have often written about my aversion to calling our United States “the greatest country on Earth,” as many politicians of both parties are wont to do. It’s an absurd statement to make. The statement begs the question, “by what criteria did we earn ‘greatest country’ status?” Did some respected international institution give us the distinction? So, a thinking person might consign the statement to the dustbin of jingoism. I certainly do.
This morning in The New York Times online newsletter, “The Morning”, a poll caught my eye.
A recent poll analysis by Echelon Insights offered some fascinating details, contrasting the views of strongly progressive voters with working-class Americans . . . . One example: Asked if America were the greatest country in the world, 70 percent of Hispanic voters and 69 percent of working-class voters said yes, but only 28 percent of “strong progressives” did.
The writer, David Leonhardt, was making a point about the dilemma of the Democratic Party: To the extent the party’s rhetoric reflects the influence of its many Progressive members, it’s unlikely that Hispanic or working-class people will swell the ranks of the Democratic voters. The poll goes on to ask other questions that illustrate this dilemma. So the theory goes, the Democratic message must become less progressive, especially on social and cultural issues. We must become more like Republicans in order to win back the Hispanic and working-class voter.
The poll numbers might signal to establishment Democrats several things:
- Democrats must not go “all in” abortion issue. Despite the temptation to win a massive plurality of the female vote by highlighting abortion rights, it isn’t a top of mind issue for either Hispanic or working-class voters. Indeed, most Hispanic voters are Roman Catholics and may well be pro life voters.
- Democrats must stop even mentioning the notion of less funding for police and more for social services. Those two groups have been conditioned by the Republicans to hear “Defund the Police” whenever Democrats dare to discuss policing policy.
- Democrats must move toward the Republican position on immigration because any perception that the Dems are weak on border security will cost them with working class voters and about half of Hispanic voters.
- Democrats must de-emphasize climate change as a galvanizing issue since it isn’t a priority issue for Hispanics and working class voters.
- Democrats must put more emphasis on pocketbook issues like inflation, gasoline prices in particular.
- Democratic leaders must marginalize people like Bernie, Elizabeth, and the squad – too liberal, too socialist!
Of course, Democrats could take an alternative approach if they had a strong leader, which they certainly do not. They could use whatever bully pulpit they can find to persuade Hispanic and working-class voters of the rightness of their actual positions on such issues as abortion, immigration reform, climate change, income inequality, common-sense gun control, etc. But without a visionary leader to carry the torch, that route is blocked. We have no messenger.
So look for Democrats to shift gears and steer to the right. The party will ooze its way toward the Republicans in an effort to charm those Hispanics and working class voters needed to win the House or Senate in November. This strategy of appeasement is almost certain to fail. Yet with the possible exception of the abortion issue, the move right is in full swing.
Here’s one example. In the face of high gas prices, we’ve more or less abandoned any serious effort to combat the climate change crisis. Coal baron Joe Manchin and the Supreme Court, have thwarted proposed legislation to slow down greenhouse gas emissions and gutted the EPA. The legislation Manchin has blocked assures no action on climate issues anytime soon, pathetically inadequate though the legislation was. Instead we are hell bent on encouraging our citizens to burn more gasoline by increasing the supply and holding down the cost. Biden’s proposal for a federal gas tax holiday, which, thank God, may never be passed, is precisely the sort of asinine political sop that may sound good but accomplishes nothing. It benefits rich and poor equally. It encourages just the thing we should be discouraging if we want our children to escape future climate disaster. It sends all the wrong economic messages and sets all the wrong priorities. It is a pathetic gesture that betokens a total lack of imagination.
On the heels of that misguided notion, Biden turned his campaign rhetoric about Saudi Arabia (he made the mistake of telling the truth back then) on its head by traveling to the desert Kingdom, hat in hand, to beg for more oil production. Even a friendly fist bump with MBS wasn’t sufficient to garner any success. After the nauseating first overseas trip that Trump made to Saudi Arabia during his first year in office, I hoped that a Democratic president would be able to avoid kow-towing to the Saudis. But it was not to be.
So look for the Biden administration to limp along, embracing sort of Republican Lite positions between now and the midterms. It will be painful to watch. It will bore swing voters and turn off voters like this one who want to see change. And as I opined in my blog “Minority Rule”, it is high time for either a new leader for the Democrats or a third party or both. But I am not holding my breath. Despite being the “greatest country in the world” for the myopic voter, we manage to have rather mediocre, uninspiring political leaders — even on good days.
PS: If you’ve forgotten about the aforementioned “nauseating first overseas trip” that Trump took, here’s a link to what I wrote in 2017: