Voter concerns about high prices will doom democracy, Left warns
Political campaigns have been grappling with whether abortion or inflation and the economy will be more important in deciding the midterm elections, but the Left wants Nov. 8 to be about something else entirely: saving democracy.
A few influential progressive voices go so far as to suggest that there is something wrong with prioritizing inflation or gas prices since democracy is at stake.
“So sad that gas prices could decide democracy’s fate and our republic’s survival but that’s where we are!” tweeted longtime legal scholar Laurence Tribe, who emerged as a major Resistance figure under former President Donald Trump.
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“We find ourselves in a situation where keeping gas prices low is key to preserving and strengthening the future of our democracy,” said MSNBC host Chris Hayes when President Joe Biden decided to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve again. “And so here we are. Hence, Biden releasing oil from the reserves today.”
“Will the price of gasoline — a price that has very little to do with which party controls the government — nonetheless determine the outcome of the midterm elections, and quite possibly the fate of American democracy?” asked New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, an economist, in a piece titled “Will gas prices doom democracy?”
Lesser known commentators who are influential with the online Left have taken this talking point and run with it.
“Literally democracy cannot survive in this atmosphere, but, hey, gas prices!” tweeted MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan.
“The United States is facing the greatest danger to its constitutional system since at least the 1950s, if not the *18*50s, and millions of people are like: Yeah, but gas, man,” tweeted Never Trump conservative Tom Nichols, who writes for the Atlantic.
“One party invited & directed a violent insurrection to circumvent the peaceful transfer of power,” opined television writer Bryan Behar. “Gas & egg prices matter. Of course. But none of this s**t is going to matter if you don’t have a functioning democracy.”
Ever the voice of reason, the former congressman turned Never Trump influencer Joe Walsh wrote, “The American people are capable of caring about BOTH rising gas prices and our teetering democracy.”
The president has made safeguarding democracy from Trump and MAGA Republicans, with a variety of modifiers ranging from “ultra” to “mega,” a big part of his midterm election messaging. He has also argued that inflation is not as bad as most people think and that gas prices are steadily improving thanks to his policies. Many elected Democrats ding Republicans for unanimously opposing the spending bill they titled the Inflation Reduction Act.
What Biden has never done is argue that inflation and gas prices are a trivial or selfish concern. Any Democrat hoping to win in November should look to the White House rather than Twitter, at least for as long as it remains true.
Biden and his team made ignoring the online Left a point of pride during the 2020 campaign. It first helped them beat a slew of progressive candidates in the Democratic primaries. It then played a role in defeating Trump even as Democrats lost seats in the House and fought Republicans to a tie in the Senate as more left-wing themes like “defund the police” cost Biden’s party votes.
“There is a conversation that’s going on on Twitter that they don’t care about,” a Democratic strategist told Politico in 2020. “They won the primary by ignoring all of that. The Biden campaign does not care about the critical race theory-intersectional left that has taken over places like the New York Times.”
But this year, Biden is being interviewed by transgender TikTok stars less than a month before the election. He is also increasingly lashing out as Republican victories appear likely. Veteran Democratic operatives are counseling a stronger message on inflation and the economy.
NBC News has been including “threats to democracy” in its polling on voters’ election priorities. The network’s latest survey shows that 21% view it as their top concern.
At the same time, Democrats helped promote Republicans who, among other things, refused to accept the 2020 election results when they were seen as weaker general election candidates. Some of their own claims about Georgia’s voting law, where the 2022 Democratic nominee was reluctant to accept her 2018 defeat, have not aged well. And these Twitter hot takes seem rather dismissive of voters’ actual choices in democratic elections.
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The cost of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation are legitimate objects of public concern. An older generation of liberal Democrats would have understood this and believed the government should do something about it.
Those older Democrats won a lot of elections.