The Pew Research Center recently released a survey on partisanship and voter priorities that has major implications for both parties. Pew found that while the majority of Republicans still want the party to shift to the right, the majority of Democrats want the party to become less progressive and more moderate.
- Among Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters, 58% say they want the GOP to move in a more conservative direction, versus 38% who want it to move in a more moderate direction.
- Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, 40% say they want the party to move left, while 53% say they want the party to move in a more moderate direction.
Pew notes that the share of Republicans wanting to see the GOP move in a more conservative direction is comparable to numbers in recent elections. However, the share of Democrats wanting to see an increasingly progressive party has dropped since Trump’s election in 2016. What may be driving this shift?
Post-midterms, Democrats are struggling to define their value proposition to voters. Healthcare reform is a natural fit given that it topped the list of voter priorities in exit polls last year, but while Democrats appear united in their promises to fix healthcare, the details are largely a mystery. Beyond the party’s lip-service to implementing ‘Medicare for All’ and reducing insurance costs, Democrats are suffering an identity crisis. Front-and-center issues like pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, ensuring immigrants naturalize through proper channels, and dealing with enthusiastic young Trump supporters, are forcing Democrats to question the radical direction of the party.
Foreign Policy: Is the Democratic Party Pro-Peace or Pro-Intervention?
Last month’s Senate vote on Trump’s troop withdrawal proposal created an odd alliance between a slew of Senate Democrats and the President. Presidential candidates including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker, ended up voting against the ‘Sense of the Senate’ motion that would delay President Trump’s request to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. The motion to delay withdrawal passed 68 to 23, and is largely being publicized as a rejection of the President’s foreign policy.
In reality it represents a split in foreign policy goals that is shaking up both parties. The recent vote revealed a growing disparity between the positions of progressive 2020 contenders in the Senate, and the Democratic Party establishment led by Speaker Pelosi. Early this year, Pelosi rejected Trump’s request to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, ruffling feathers among a slew of pro-peace Democrats.
An important consideration is that third-party and low-propensity voters, who Democrats will need to court if they stand a chance of unseating President Trump next year, largely disagree with keeping troops in Syria and Afghanistan indefinitely.
A comprehensive Morning Consult/Politico poll revealed a strong correlation between support for troop withdrawal, and voting third-party:
- Thirty-eight percent of those who didn’t support Trump or Clinton in 2016 but voted third party support withdrawal, versus 36% who oppose it.
- Fifty-four percent of those who didn’t support Romney or Obama in 2012 but voted third-party support withdrawal, versus just 20% who oppose it.
What’s more, academics pointed out that Trump did particularly well in 2016 in states with a high number of war casualties like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. In a 2017 paper, researchers at Boston University and University of Minnesota Law School concluded, “There are many implications of our findings, but none as important as what this means for Trump’s foreign policy. If Trump wants to win again in 2020, his electoral fate may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war.” It seems they were correct.
Democrats are struggling to decide whether they’re going to continue the interventionist foreign policy goals of Pelosi and Clinton, or allow their 2020 front-runners to define a new agenda, and coincidentally affirm President Trump’s actions on Syria and Afghanistan.
Immigration: Can the Democratic Party Offer a Solution to Illegal Immigration?
A majority of Americans want to see stricter immigration enforcement and think the government is doing too little to stop the flow of illegal immigrants. A January, 2019 Rasmussen survey found that 48% of likely voters think the government is doing too little to stop illegal immigration, up five points since August of last year. More notable is the share of Americans who think the government is doing too much to stem illegal immigration: Twenty-eight percent of voters believe the government is doing too much to stop illegal immigration, down from 34%. The public view on this issue is becoming increasingly pro-security, and not just among white Americans or natural born citizens. Market Research Foundation conducted surveys on both black voters and First Generation Americans who had immigrated to the U.S., and found majorities in both groups want stricter immigration enforcement.
- Our 2018 survey of black voters found that 77% of Clinton supporters and 70% of black Democrats favor stricter immigration.
- Our 2018 survey of First Generation Americans found that 65% of respondents support stricter immigration, and an equal number agree with the statement, “everyone should follow the proper laws and procedures to come to America”. Sixty-two percent agree with the statement, “legal immigrants are right to be upset some people don’t follow the laws.”
The views of these groups appear more in line with those of former President Obama, who was decidedly pro-legal immigration but favored border enforcement, compared to the “end-ICE” rhetoric from Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The Democratic Party will have to choose between turning off progressives and disappointing the majority of Americans, including black and First Generation voters.
Political Correctness: How Far Is Too Far?
The recent confrontation between a male student from Covington Catholic High School and American Indians from the Indigenous Peoples March in the nation’s capital revealed the hateful underbelly of PC Culture. Driven by incomplete coverage from a slew of mainstream media outlets, the event eventually spawned online hate and even death threats towards the students involved. As more details emerged about the confrontation, many in the press realized their initial PC reaction, to condemn the MAGA-hat-wearing teenager, was premature. A writer for The Atlantic, who originally blamed the young man, eventually wrote a nuanced analysis of the event and the press’s reaction titled: “I Failed the Covington Catholic Test: Next time there’s a viral story, I’ll wait for more facts to emerge.” Julie Irwin Zimmerman recounts her initial reaction, her own son’s questions as the event unfolded, and her eventual realization that she and many others in the press had made an error in judgment:
“Let’s assume the worst, and agree that the boy was being disrespectful. That still would not justify the death threats he’s been receiving. It would not justify the harassment of the other Covington Catholic student who wasn’t even in Washington, D.C., but who was falsely identified as the smirker by some social-media users. Online vigilantes unearthed his parents’ address and peppered his family with threats all weekend long, even as they were trying to celebrate a family wedding, accusing them of raising a racist and promising to harm their family business.”
This event, as disturbing as it was, revealed the lightning fast reaction many progressives and members of the press have when confronted with behavior they consider politically incorrect. Immediately, the young man was vilified simply for his perceived political views.
This rush to judgement of an individual based on his political affiliation is reminiscent of the left’s efforts to block Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court based on entirely unfounded accusations. Kavanaugh, like the young men from Covington Catholic, was deemed guilty not for a crime, but for his political views.
This rush to judge without details and destroy an individual’s reputation in an attempt to take the politically correct side in a culture clash is something the majority of Americans are not comfortable with.
Market Research Foundation commissioned a survey in the heat of the Kavanaugh confirmation process that found voters rejected finding someone guilty regardless of evidence by an almost 2-to-1 margin.
- Only 36% of respondents agreed with the statement “we should always believe a woman’s claim of sexual assault even if the details and evidence are lacking.” Nearly two-thirds of respondents — 64% — disagreed.
- Further, 64% of respondents agreed that accepting an allegation of assault without evidence was a “violation of the due process Americans are guaranteed.”
Our research is bolstered by a 2018 study by More in Common, which found that a majority of Americans, including most liberals, think political correctness is “a problem in our country.” These researchers concluded that among the 26% of Americans identified as liberals, 83% of ‘passive liberals’ believe political correctness is a problem and 61% of ‘traditional liberals’ believe political correctness is a problem. Only among the 8% of the country identified as ‘progressive activists’, was political correctness viewed favorably. Just 30% of ‘progressive activists’ see political correctness as a problem. The majority of Americans reject PC culture, and are aware of the threat it poses to civil discourse, genuine tolerance of differing beliefs, and the rule of law.
The Democratic Party is struggling to define its value-add to the American people, beyond vague promises of healthcare reform that few voters would want if politicians were honest about the costs. With the party deciding between reactionary pro-war policies, a lackadaisical approach to border security, and a downright ugly PC culture, it’s unsurprising a majority of Democrats want to put the brakes on the progressive train.