With SCOTUS in the Balance, Democrats Find Their Voice
AARON BENNETT: It’s easy to be critical of the Democratic Party.
I say this as a blue-blooded, full-throated Democrat and as a student of politics who loves to play strategist by probing our party’s poor messaging. From an aging leadership to a stagnant agenda to a lurch to the left, there are certainly plenty of material that’s fair game for criticism.
But faced with the Herculean task of blocking Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, it feels like the Democrats finally figured it out.
For the first time in recent memory, Democrats seem to have tapped into something that works. Their campaign hinges on two extremely popular issues, both of which we are on the right side: preventing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade.
The messaging is simple: Kavanaugh poses an existential threat to protections for pre-existing conditions and a women’s right to choose. Even before debating the merits of these claims, it makes sense that Democrats have keyed in on these two issues: they unite the entire caucus from Manchin to Baldwin. Also, polling reveals that these two are vote-moving issues for a large swath of the electorate – and Democrats are banking on their supporters’ energy to help them fight the nomination beyond the Beltway.
The campaign is also concise enough to be captured by a single, viral hashtag: #WhatsAtStake. Democrats from across the country and of all different stripes have jumped in the digital conversation with anecdotes and proof points about the importance of the ACA and Roe v Wade, each tying back to the core message of all that’s at stake with Kavanaugh’s nomination. And the highly emotional nature of these issues is only amplified through social media.
The most important part? Everyone’s on board. For once, Democrats are all drumming to the same beat, making a concise and coherent argument free of the clutter that has derailed Democratic political efforts since the arrival of Barack Obama (and arguably longer).
And people are responding to this campaign by organizing rallies, fundraisers, and phone-a-thons to Senators. The resulting political energy is palpable.
This is nascent campaign is already leaps and bounds better than the last crack Democrats took at a singular, unifying message (never forget Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Futures). Keying in on two animating issues – which activate both base voters, moderates, and even a number of conservatives – feels like an effective strategy for this particular political battle, one that relies on pressure rather than votes.
Only time will tell if this strategy will work – and with an uphill battle ahead, it’s likely that this campaign too will ultimately fall short. But Democrats can rest assured that they played their hand the best they could, and voters will likely reward them for it at the polls this November.