By Joseph Cotton, Staff Writer
It is important for everyone in our generation, but especially the political science and Philosophy, Politics and the Public types, to take the opportunity that this past election has given us to reflect on the types of policy and politics that have succeeded with the American people.
Despite the left’s apparent aversion to the “freedom” rhetoric, the overturning of Roe v. Wade was the perfect opportunity to hop back on the train. It turns out that the American people overwhelmingly dislike the government being able to control a woman’s reproductive health care.
During this election cycle, Democrats leaned heavily into the rhetoric of reproductive freedom. Their messaging on this issue allowed them to over perform the polls, particularly in the Midwest. In every state where abortion rights were placed on the ballot, the pro-choice position won overwhelmingly.
We must remember that this new-age Republican party doesn’t believe in freedom, holding views that are more in line with a totalitarian state on various issues.
I also feel vindicated in my belief that politics is purely transactional. When the electorate gives a political party power, they expect their lives to be impacted in some positive way. While President Biden didn’t get a whole lot done, it seems like he accomplished just enough to give his party a fighting chance. Just imagine what would have happened if he had just a few more victories.
Finally, if we are to understand this election, we need to talk about the culture war. Since the election of 2016, we are in what we can call Culture War II. After the election of Donald Trump, the right needed to draw new boundaries on the cultural fronts that they had lost.
In Culture War I, Republicans fell out of step with the American people on the issues of gay marriage, abortion and religion. The right then started to attack progress on racial justice, trans rights and immigration. Because they cannot win these issues on the merits — people generally are on board with progress in these areas — they rebranded these issues to “Critical Race Theory,” “Gender Ideology,” and “American Values.”
The 2022 election looks to be a referendum on the bet that the GOP placed on how popular their framing of these issues would be with the American electorate. While some people may believe that the GOP’s position on these issues were too extreme for voters, I don’t think that this tells the full story.
While the Republican party went all in on Culture War II, the most successful Democrats in this election cycle focused on the economy and messaging to working class voters. My main takeaway from this election cycle is that economic issues will always take precedence over culture war distractions.
It ultimately comes down to comparative advantage. Republicans have no answers other than tax cuts and deregulation in a global economy that sees more and more working class people being left behind. If Democrats want to be successful moving forward, they need to lean fully into supporting working class Americans that make up the backbone of the country.
It is a bit like the parable where the eagle simply flies higher than the crow who is harassing it. Just as a reminder, the trans community has a 29% poverty rate compared to 11% percent in the general population. Black and Latino trans adults have a poverty rate of 39% and 48% respectively. The best way to help the communities at this intersection is to fight for their economic rights instead of fighting Culture War II on Republican’s terms.
If Democrats fail to focus on economic freedom and the left continues to be distracted by the culture war, we open the gates to reactionary Republicans who can and will do harm to racial minorities and transgender people.
Especially for Gen Zers, we have to remember that politics isn’t an activism contest. Politics isn’t about having the “correct” views; instead it is about having the winning views.