When most people think about the Democratic party, they think of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). That may be a good thing for AOC, but it’s terrible news for the DNC. Heading into 2020, the worst scenario for Donald Trump’s opponents is to be defined by a 29-year-old socialist with half-baked, radical views, light years away from heartland America. But according to a pile of new surveys from Axios to Heritage Action, that’s a gamble too many liberals are willing to take.
In a country that can’t name a single Supreme Court justice, Ocasio-Cortez’s name recognition is impressive: 74 percent know her. But, according to polling, only 22 percent like her. That sums up the problem for Democrats, who’ve spent the last several months hitching their wagons — and their presidential dreams — to the most extreme branch on the party tree. On one hand, strategists like stoking the base. On the other, they know the general election will be won right of center — a place the Democrats’ agendas has rarely ventured.
With all eyes on the 15-20 percent of American pollsters say is “getable,” some high-profile liberals are worried the party’s lurch to the Left might be their 2020 undoing. Even Rahm Emanuel, former Obama White House Chief of Staff, pulled the fire alarm over their far-out policies, warning Democrats, “There’s a reason Trump gleefully tweeted ‘That’s the end of that race!’ during the first debate: Too often, you succumbed to chasing plaudits on Twitter, which closed the door on swing voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.” If “you win the nomination in a way that forecloses a path to victory in the general election, we will lose…” Emanuel insisted.
Health care for illegal immigrants? That’s “a position not even Ted Kennedy took,” Rahm argued. And “before we start worrying about whether the Boston Marathon bomber can vote,” he scolded, “let’s stop states that are actively trying to curtail voting rights of citizens.” The bottom line, he insisted, is “When you’re looking into the camera at the coming debate, imagine you’re speaking to a voter in Grand Rapids or Green Bay… Her vote is how you win the nomination and the White House. Everything else is secondary.”
There’s a reason Rahm and the rest of party headquarters are sweating it. Based on new survey data from Heritage Action, the general electorate is completely unnerved by the Left’s field of Green New Deal-infanticide-open borders-socialists. In the puzzle of purple states that one party will need to win, Democrats are making the job a whole lot harder for themselves by chasing wildly unpopular priorities like taxpayer-funded gender transitions.
In communities still reeling from the debates over killing newborn babies and hosting drag queens at public libraries, the culture is — not surprisingly — one of the top four strongest messaging points for voters, Heritage Action found. “There’s definitely a national sentiment that the Left is pushing way too far,” the group’s Nate Rogers explained. Liberals are “finding themselves in a difficult situation, where a majority of their bases are really supporting policies that are just out of step and out of touch with the American people at large, or at least the voters we surveyed.”
In a mayday stat for the DNC, 57 percent of the general electorate think national Democrats have become “culturally extreme,” a number almost certainly explained by the party’s race to the extremes on “hot-button social issues.” Case in point, Heritage Action’s Tim Chapman explains: “House and Senate Democrats recently blocked a proposal requiring doctors to provide medical care to infants who survive abortion — and every Democratic presidential candidate has toed the party line in opposing such care. Yet even while we found that more Americans identified as pro-choice instead of pro-life (48 percent, versus 45 percent), 76 percent of respondents– including huge majorities of Republicans, independents and even pro-choice Democrats — overwhelmingly support the policy Democrats blocked.”
And abortion isn’t the only area where conservatives can distinguish themselves. Immigration, privacy, gender, and religious liberty are no friend of the social zealots on the Left. The GOP has its best opportunity in ages to distinguish itself with common-sense values that the majority of Americans still care about.
“Republicans have defaulted to defense on culture over the past decade-plus,” Chapman told Politico, “often due to pressure from big business and the libertarian wing of the party. Yet the GOP now has an opportunity to play offense. By undertaking a concerted effort to contrast its positions with those of the Democrats, Republicans can unify their base and bring in those independents and moderates who are concerned by the Left’s growing cultural extremism.”
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.
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