Republicans have declared a culture war, and Democrats are losing it
Immigrant children have been ripped from the arms of their parent’s arms and detained in cages at our borders. Muslims have been effectively banned from entering America from certain countries. Businesses have been given autonomy to determine if they want to serve LGBTQ couples. NFL players have been villainized as unpatriotic “sons of bitches” for peacefully and silently protesting police injustice. And black bodies continue to be abused and discarded by those meant to protect us.
Make no mistake about it, Republicans are engaged in a dangerously divisive culture war, and Democrats are (possibly too) late to the battlefield. The culture war is going to be amplified in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation challenge for Brett Kavanough who, if confirmed, could tip the scales of justice on each the aforementioned issues. And the culture war will be a central theme of the upcoming midterm election, in fact it could determine the outcome of the election.
Both Democrats and Republicans have made strategic calculations to determine their positions in this ongoing culture war. Republicans have determined that the benefit of uniting their base toward victory is worth the cost of dividing the country into chaos. Subsequently, Democrats have made the calculation that they have a better chance attracting swing voters back into their coalition, if they avoid identity politics in exchange for exclusively focusing on economic issues.
There are a few problems with such a fool-hearted and coldly calculated decision for Democrats to avoid the culture war. There are more of us than there are of them. Demographics are destiny, and they tell us two things about our political future – millennials are officially the biggest voting bloc in America, and this country will be majority-minority in the next 20 years. The battleground states, where elections are won and lost, are significantly younger and diversifying astronomically faster. These two emerging electorates create tremendous strategic opportunity for Democrats, if they get this pivotal moment right.
Recent national opinion surveys have concluded that the top three qualities that voters are seeking in candidates this cycle are someone they can trust, someone that will fight for what they believe in and someone who will do the right thing. If Democrats could increase the turnout of younger and minority voters by fighting for us, then they actualize the blue wave that they are hoping for in November.
Democrats should take a bold moral stand when the values, issues, and the very identity of their most critical voters are under attack.
Appealing to swing voters also undermines Democrats’ most cohesive message in the midterm…they should have control of Congress in order to check Trump’s power. Last week, I conducted a series of battleground focus groups with millennials and minority voters that all had low-to-mid vote likelihood in the upcoming midterm election. The most shocking discovery: these voters do not believe that Democrats would (and to varying degrees could) check Trump’s erratic and divisive behavior, even with the majority.
Many Democrats, myself included, had taken it as forgone conclusion that the check-and-balance power of a Democratic-controlled Congress would be a compelling reason to attract voters in November. But if Democrats have not been seen aggressively fighting back against Trump’s most dangerous and divisive actions now, then why should voters trust them to do it with a majority in Congress?
Democrats should take a note from our allies in the parliamentary system where the role of the minority party is to oppose, not merely campaign to become the majority. Opposition requires action.
Today, America is being faced with the same moral crisis. Demographic shifts and advancements of minorities are once pressure testing the cohesion of our diverse society. Democrats have an opportunity to defend the morals and values of this country from those who wish to oppose them, both domestic and abroad. This time it might also be their only chance of winning the next election.
Terrance Woodbury is an Analyst at Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies where he conducts market research, including focus groups and public polling, that help candidates and companies target and communicate with diverse audiences.