Campaigning “From the Middle Out” Won’t Save Democrats

Campaigning “From the Middle Out” Won’t Save Democrats

Campaigning “From the Middle Out” Won’t Save Democrats

This effort can be driven only by independent movements, by organizers on the ground, by activists who decide collectively that this is a time not to give up but to move up.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

While we don’t know what sort of Build Back Better bill Democrats will end up passing, we do know that it will be a shadow of President Biden’s original plan. The core of the climate agenda is out. Free community college is out. The extension of Medicare to cover vision, hearing, and dental is under threat. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) perversely seems intent on killing the plan to lower prescription drug prices, a reform even Republican voters support. Instead of the “Roosevelt moment” Biden promised, we’ve suffered another tawdry chapter about the power of deep-pocketed interests and the pervasive corruption of our politics.

Biden’s popularity has declined as the jockeying has dragged on. Democratic prospects for sustaining even razor-thin control of House and Senate—already grim, given the history of midterm reversals for the president’s party—are below life support. Democratic pollsters and self-proclaimed “strategists” are now urging Democrats to furl their sails and campaign from “the middle out,” whatever that means in an age of fervid polarization.

This is exactly wrong. The only forces likely to rescue the future—and Democratic majorities—are the growing citizen movements that have moved increasingly from protest to power, motivating people not only to protest but to vote. Midterms are what experts call mobilization elections. Turnout falls off from presidential election years. The core of the Democratic coalition—young people, Blacks, Latinos, single women—often stays home more than the older voters and evangelical Christians who anchor the Republican base. Only one thing will overturn these projections, replacing despair and cynicism with engagement and passion. And it isn’t campaigning from the “middle out.”

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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