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What Do The Voters Want From Candidates For Elective Office-- Besides Entertainment?

"Safety Net" by Nancy Ohanian

Change Research did an intense, in depth survey of voters for Future Majority (a group of mostly centrist, establishment-oriented Democrats) in 4 states (Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and New Hampshire) plus 51 battleground districts across the country just before the election.But this survey wasn't meant to necessarily predict candidate outcomes. The survey was about policy, not candidates. The 51 swing districts included 12 open districts considered competitive (11 GOP-held and one held by a retiring Democrat-- one, GA-07, flipping red to blue and one, IA-02, flipping blue to red); 17 districts with "endangered" Republican incumbents-- each of whom was reelected-- and 22 competitive districts that elected Democrats in 2018, 8 or 9 (depending on the outcome of the still to be called Brindisi-Tenney race in NY-22) flipping back to the Republicans and 13 or 14 staying blue. These were the districts:

Change Research found that several of the progressive policies they asked about are exceedingly popular among voters in swing districts, but that voters "simply do not connect the issues themselves to Democrats and spread blame for why solutions have not been met fairly evenly among Democrats, Republicans and Trump. These are issues that candidates beginning to formulate their 2022 platforms should be taking into account by connecting them "to the underlying economic drivers and commonly held values that impact how voters see the world, and driving home Democratic ownership of those values."

  • 93% say they are likely and 76% much more likely to support a candidate who advocates for a "for the people" agenda focused on cleaning up corruption in Washington, lowering health care and prescription drug costs, raising wages, and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.

  • 91% support establishing a consumer data bill of rights to protect Americans from fraud, misuse and abuse of their private online data.

  • 89% of voters think cleaning up corruption in DC is extremely important.

  • 88% support reducing America’s reliance on foreign energy and growing jobs by producing more American-made clean energy.

  • 86% support allowing Americans to buy into the same health insurance plan that government employees receive.

  • 84% support requiring a true minimum tax on all foreign earnings of United States companies located overseas to end rewarding global tax havens.

  • 82% support increasing access to high-speed broadband internet by making investments and increasing competition.

  • 79% support a federal program to help pay for retraining in hands-on jobs like plumbing or carpentry, while 72% support a federal program to help pay for retraining for jobs in advanced technology.

  • 74% support allowing people who don’t get health insurance at work to buy health insurance through their state Medicaid program.

OK, that's the relatively easy stuff where the voters are already on your side, even if many of them don't identify those policies with Democrats. What you need to do is make sure they identify them with you. The Change Research folks also tested some important progressive agenda items that didn't go over as well in the "average" swing district. Here's where 2020 candidates, as progressives, have their work cut out for them (rather than sitting on the phone calling strangers and begging for money):

  • 46% support Medicare-for-All and 49% say they oppose it.

  • 45% support repealing the Hyde Amendment and 47% say they oppose it.

  • 42% say they support making DC a state and 47% oppose it.

  • 39% support public financing for candidates through taxpayer dollars on a matching system and 39% oppose it.

  • 35% support adding more justices to the Supreme Court to restore its balance and 53% oppose it.

The Republican propaganda machine has been at work-- singularly and without any hemming and hawing-- on these policies, while the Democrats... lots and lots of Big Tent hemming and hawing but no party agreement and no clear priorities. Here's where the problem of having so many Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Blue Dogs, New Dems and fellow travelers-- leads-- as they speak up and muddy the Democratic Party's core values while they use Republican talking points they learn from watching Fox News and listening to Hate Talk Radio.

This slide directly below is troubling, inasmuch as Republicans are, surprisingly, not, at least in these districts, losing the war being fought over the passage of a pandemic relief bill. 65% of independents blame both parties (40%) or just Democrats (25%) rather than Trump (12%) or Republicans in Congress (13%). It could well be why the Democrats lost the 2020 battle for the House. And if the Democrats don't turn that around between now and January 5th, they will lose the two Senate runoff races in Georgia.

This is what swing-district voters say they want out of the pandemic bill McConnell and Trump are still blocking. Republicans seem to have been successful in demonizing Democrats' battle to provide state and local governments with federal aid to maintain essential services. The GOP also seems to have been successful in de-prioritizing federal aid to public schools and to extending $600 enhanced unemployment benefits.

When it comes to economic and infrastructure policies, progressive policies have gigantic support across the board, even including a wealth tax to pay for improvements-- supported by 59% and opposed by 35%. There's even stronger support for a surtax on income over $400,000-- 60% support and 31% oppose.

Now... moving out of the world of theory, let's ask ourselves if the folks who run the Lincoln Project-- former conservative Republican operatives-- can be trusted. Last night Lincoln Project principal Steve Schmidt claimed he wants to negotiate a way forward with, of all people, AOC. But who does the Lincoln Project speak for, aside from a handful of #NeverTrumpers and MSNBC programmers? Obviously not the Republican mainstream. And certainly not the Trump voters. Why bother to negotiate with them? Where could it possibly lead, besides watering down progressive values and principles? What exactly do they bring to the party?

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