Evidence is piling up that voters are wary of the far left, but liberal champions such as Rep. Cori Bush aren’t backing down — they’re doubling down.
The successful recall election of three school board members in San Francisco over their woke priorities helped reignite Democrats’ concerns that left-wing slogans and policies are infuriating voters and will drag down the party in the midterm elections.
Ms. Bush, Missouri Democrat and a member of the House’s far-left “Squad,” said that’s bunk.
“In case you hadn’t caught on by now, every time there’s a media push blaming progressives, there’s something conservative Democrats are trying to cover up,” she said in a Twitter post. “This time it’s that they sent 4 million kids into poverty because they killed the Child Tax Credit.
“Don’t get distracted,” Ms. Bush said.
The child tax credit expired last year after President Biden failed to unify congressional Democrats behind a $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill. The legislation included an extension of a program that sent monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child to parents making up to $150,000 a year.
The popular direct payments to parents had nothing to do with the recall election in San Francisco where three liberal members of the board of education got the boot.
Voters were fed up with a series of board actions, including renaming schools, while keeping classrooms closed because of COVID-19.
Lis Smith, a Democratic Party strategist, responded on social media with some political advice: “If you are spending your time during a global pandemic renaming schools instead of opening them, please find another party.
“It’s imperative for normie Dems to separate themselves from these toxic positions,” Ms. Smith said. “They don’t work anywhere but on Twitter.”
The “normie Dems” have their work cut out for them, according to internal polling and documents from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for House Democrats.
The documents, leaked to the press last week, carried additional warnings about the left wing’s negative impact on Democrats’ electoral hopes this fall.
Polling and focus groups showed that voters said the party is too “preachy,” “judgmental” and “focused on culture wars,” according to Politico.
They urged Democrats to do a better job of blunting Republicans’ culture war attacks, including weaponizing the “defund the police” rhetoric and playing on fears related to the teaching of critical race theory in schools.
SFGate in San Francisco reported that the pollsters asked swing district voters about the veracity of other Republican statements related to Democrats’ policies on crime, immigration, spending and cost of living.
Sixty-four percent agreed with the statement “Democrats in Congress support defunding the police and taking more cops off of the street,” despite national Democrats’ hard push this cycle of a message supporting funding of local police departments.
The poll showed that 80% of self-identified swing voters in competitive districts agreed that Democrats want to defund the police and take officers off the streets.
The DCCC polling, according to the documents, showed that 57% of voters in battleground congressional districts agreed with the statement “Democrats in Congress have taken things too far in their pandemic response.”
Sixty-six percent of self-defined “swing” voters in these districts agreed with the statement.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s response to it have roiled politics across the U.S.
Voters have grown increasingly frustrated with COVID-19 protocols that have stopped them from returning to normal lives and interfered with their children’s education.
The bubbling resentment helped fuel Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia’s governor’s race last year. Now, it threatens Democrats’ efforts to defend their razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate.
Democrats’ prospects grew bleaker last week after Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York announced she was leaving the House after this term, making her the 30th House Democrat to resign.
Political analysts and party insiders say the difference between getting slaughtered at the ballot box and controlling the bleeding will hinge on the Democratic Party’s ability to strike a balance between ginning up its liberal base and delivering a message that resonates with independent-leaning voters.
Democrats failed to find that sweet spot in the 2020 elections.
Joseph R. Biden’s victory over President Trump was tempered by the Democrats’ disappointing performance in House races.
Democrats hoped to maintain momentum from the 2018 elections, when they unified against Mr. Trump and flipped control of the House of Representatives. Instead, the Republican Party netted a pickup of 12 House seats in 2020, eating into the Democratic majority.
The results prompted soul searching and infighting among Democrats.
Centrist Democrats blamed their far-left brethren for using rhetoric — the “defund the police” and “abolish ICE” slogans and vows to ban hydraulic fracturing — that gave Republicans ammunition in campaign attacks.
Far-left lawmakers, meanwhile, say Democrats must stand for a bold agenda that energizes voters. Ms. Bush reiterated that message last week.
“I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Democrats trying to out-Republican Republicans is not a winning strategy,” Ms. Bush said.
• Kerry Picket contributed to this report.