Two ways Democrats can turn the tide with voters
By all indications, Democrats are on track to lose a historic number of U.S. House seats in November.
Based on four key indicators of the national mood, Democrats are worse off in 2022 than they were in 1994 and 2010 — the two worst midterm election years for the party in recent history. , when they lost 53 and 63 seats respectively, per Gallup.
Indeed, President Biden’s approval rating is lower than that of Obama and Clinton at the same points in their presidencies, and Americans in 2022 are less satisfied with the way things are going in the country, more negative about the state of the economy and more disapproving of Congress.
While the Democrats are unlikely to be able to reverse their political fortunes before November, the party can significantly cut its losses by pursuing achievable bipartisan legislative victories that address voters’ top quality-of-life concerns — including the most notable are the economy. and rising prices.
Contrary to popular belief, bipartisan compromise is actually achievable, even in today’s hyper-polarized political climate. After years of gun safety legislation failing Republicans, this week the Senate passed a bipartisan gun control bill in light of a series of recent mass shootings across the country, particularly last month in Uvalde, Texas at Robb Elementary School.
The Senate bill effectively isolated some of the most popular gun control policies among voters of both parties — as at least three-quarters of Americans support expanding background checks, creating “laws red flag” and raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21. , according to a recent poll by Fox News.
Although this legislation is not as comprehensive as Democrats had hoped, the bill represents a major step forward on an issue that has been stalemate for decades, and ultimately proves that both sides can work together to adopt significant changes when the reform is broad in scope. public support.
To be sure, worries about the economy and rising prices are even more prevalent than worries about gun violence, which has made this issue Democrats’ biggest policy vulnerability in the medium term.
In the past few weeks alone, inflation has hit a 41-year high, the average price of a gallon of gas hit $5, and stocks have entered a bear market. Voters are grappling with higher prices every day, and fair or not, they’ll take their economic frustrations out on Democrats in November – as 64% of Americans find President Biden’s policies to be responsible for the drastic rise in inflation, according to a recent I&I/TIPP survey.
With prices unlikely to stabilize before the midterms, Democrats need to score a bipartisan win or two on reforms that translate into direct savings for Americans.
Advancing legislation to reduce the cost of prescription drugs clearly fits the bill. Americans — especially the elderly and those with chronic conditions — are feeling the financial pressure of high prescription drug costs more than ever.
While pursuing drug pricing policy changes gives Democrats an opportunity to achieve a meaningful legislative victory before November, the reforms must be done right — not the way Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt. ) and the bipartisan Senate HELP committee are addressing this issue.
The policy of importing foreign drugs proposed by Sanders is an illogical solution to the current problem. Most countries don’t hold their drug and food manufacturers to the same standards that we do in the United States with our own Food and Drug Administration, and the opening of trade between the United States and the products international pharmaceutical companies pose an unnecessary risk to American patients.
Alternatively, one specific, safe, and popular reform Democrats can lead the way on is a $35 insulin cap. Passing legislation that caps insulin at an affordable level is an achievable undertaking that would reduce costs for millions of Americans with diabetes and show voters that the Democratic Party is working to ease their financial burden.
In a similar vein, Democrats can also pursue reforms to drug benefit managers, which would reduce costs for millions of Americans by delivering the benefits of rebates directly to patients, not middlemen — that is, say to pharmacy benefit managers – or pharmacies. Americans could buy their prescriptions and medications directly from the supplier, eliminating unnecessary markups or price hikes by pharmacies and insurance companies.
This sensible approach to drug pricing policy is being deployed in the private sector. Billionaire Mark Cuban’s latest business venture is an online pharmacy that offers over a hundred generic drugs at affordable prices by cutting out the middleman in drug pricing.
Notably, if Republicans oppose either measure — the insulin cap or the drug benefits manager reforms — those representatives would be forced to formally vote against it, allowing Democrats to arm the issue against the GOP midterm.
Similar to Sanders’ drug price proposal, it would also be a mistake for Democrats to make massive student loan relief a core aspect of their economic approach. Instead, the party should focus on real economic drivers and start promoting the job training programs outlined in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
By doing so, Democrats can stimulate the economy amid record inflation, soaring gas prices and a looming recession. Advanced skills training programs that bring the workforce into the 21st century are the right kind of countercyclical policy that prepares the economy in general – and workers and the middle classes in particular – for success.
By pursuing bipartisan reforms that will responsibly reduce drug prices and focusing on delivering on the promise of last year’s infrastructure bill to create high-skilled jobs, Democrats can clearly improve their prospects in the midterm elections.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an advisor to former President Clinton and Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign. He is the author of “The End of Democracy? Rising Russia and China and retreating America.