The Democratic National Committee wants to persuade Republicans to vote for Democrats. The party’s leaders have very little credibility with Republicans, yet they want to remain the party’s spokespersons and lead it to victory. That’s unlikely to work.
Sen. Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerDemocratic frustration with Sinema rises Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Guns Down America's leader says Biden 'has simply not done enough' on gun control MORE’s (D-N.Y.) approval rating among Republicans is 27 percent. Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Judge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November MORE’s (D-Calif.) is a paltry 16 percent. Pelosi’s overall ratings are 29 percent approval vs. 53 percent disapproval. Schumer’s are 33 percent approval vs. 42 percent disapproval.
Only 34 percent of Americans view Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSinema's office outlines opposition to tax rate hikes The CFPB's data overreach hurts the businesses it claims to help Runaway higher ed spending gains little except endless student debt MORE (D-Mass.) positively, and most of those identify themselves as politically liberal. That suggests that Republicans will switch the channel when she comes on.
Only 37 percent of Americans approve of the Democratic party as a whole — a new low since polling began in 1992. This does not bode well for the party or its leadership in 2018.
Luckily for Democrats, they will get help from outside the party. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden must keep progressive promises or risk losing midterms Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds MORE (I-Vt.) is a party outsider, and is running for the Senate as an Independent in 2018, though he called himself a Democrat in 2016. He's currently the "Democrat" with the most credibility among Republicans.
Sanders is the country’s most popular active politician, viewed favorably by 57 percent of registered voters, according to a Harvard-Harris survey. In fact, he’s the only person among 16 Trump administration officials or Congressional leaders viewed favorably by a majority of those polled. Fewer than two-thirds of Republicans view him unfavorably.
Running as a Democrat in the 2016 primaries didn’t detract from his cross-party appeal. Twelve percent of those who voted for him in the primaries voted for Trump in the presidential election.
It follows that those voters are more likely to listen to Bernie than top Democratic leaders — or possibly any Democrat. He frequently appears on talk shows to promote his Senate candidacy, which will be helpful to the Democrats in 2018. They should watch and learn.
They should also exploit Republican criticisms of Trumpism, which will be good fodder for them in 2018. While Republicans are not likely to campaign against their own candidates this year, many of them opposed Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries, and several harshly criticized Trumpism over the past year. If the Democrats cited and repeated those criticisms, it would resonate with Republican voters.
For example, Colin Powell, former secretary of State and retired four-star general under three Republican presidents, pounded nominee Trump as “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah,” and called him a racist because of his birther claim.
Last October, George W. Bush made an impassioned speech fully rejecting Trumpism and, in particular, racism. He said, "Our identity is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. ... People from every race, religion, ethnicity can be full and equally American... Bigotry and white supremacy, in any form, is blasphemy against the American creed." He lamented that "bigotry seems emboldened.” That’s all the more resonant since Trump said we accept too many immigrants from “s---hole” countries.
Part of the reason Democrats’ message has fallen short with Republican voters is they have treated them as a monolith. But they’re not. Voters who put Trump in the White House and gave Republicans a majority in Congress fall into five distinct groups with disparate concerns. Some are worried about cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; some about the growing deficit and debt aggravated by tax cuts; some about our loss of global prestige, pullback from free trade, and decimation of our State Department; some oppose the harsh approach to immigration; others dislike a political system that seems stacked against them.
Democrats ought to be able to convince these voters that their policies would address their concerns better than Republican policies. But they need to provide more detailed backup than they have until now.
They don’t have to convince many to prevail. Trump won the presidency by only 0.09 percent of all votes cast. Just over 100,000 votes carried Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But to get those votes back, Democrats need to get behind someone Republicans will at least listen to.
Neil Baron advised the SEC and congressional staff on rating agency reform. He represented Standard & Poor’s from 1968 to 1989, was Vice Chairman and General Counsel of Fitch Ratings from 1989 to 1998, and was on the board of Assured Guaranty for a decade.