Democrats shouldn’t be shocked by a miserable midterm
What more ?
A little restraint, to begin with. In poll after poll, voters cited soaring prices as their top concern. Yet Democrats have spent two years demanding more and bigger spending packages. Although many analysts have warned that the $1.9 trillion U.S. bailout was too big and poorly targeted, Democrats have refused to seriously negotiate with Republicans on a slimmed-down version. By one estimate, this plan and similar stimulus measures added about 3 percentage points to inflation. Yet the madness continued.
A similar dynamic has set in with public security. In major cities this year, the homicide rate is up nearly 40% from 2019. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they are dissatisfied with policies aimed at reducing crime. Democrats, however, offered virtually no response on the matter. A last-minute effort to distance itself from ‘defunding the police’ – a nonsensical slogan that in some places has had devastating real-life consequences – and backing more cops on the spot did not convince many. voters.
A pollster found bragging about one’s own accomplishments was the “worst performing message” for Democrats. And it’s no wonder: On two of voters’ biggest concerns, they were completely out of touch.
Republicans, for their part, have spent the past few months fanning the flames of the culture war and ignoring public policy altogether. This strategy had a certain logic in a heated campaign. But the party now has a responsibility to advance a real agenda. More specifically: both parties have a duty to negotiate in good faith on areas of mutual interest.
Start with inflation. Although price stabilization is primarily the responsibility of the Federal Reserve, prudent policy could certainly make it easier for it to do so. Notably, both parties should agree that the tariffs erected under Donald Trump’s administration are inflationary, inefficient and completely self-defeating. An analysis found that a simple two percentage point reduction in tariffs could lower inflation by 1.3 percentage points. It should be obvious.
Other measures to reduce prices are more controversial. Democrats are unlikely to drop union-friendly procurement provisions, for example, even if it would reduce the cost of government projects. But the two sides could agree to repeal the Jones Act, an indiscriminate protectionist measure that scolds shipping, raises consumer prices, inflates energy costs, erodes competitiveness and hampers the clean energy agenda of the President.
Likewise, despite fighting for months over the crime, the parties aren’t that far apart on what they’d like to do about it. In September, the House passed a bipartisan package to fund more local police, following a similar White House proposal. Research shows that adding more police officers results in lower crime and that federal funding of local law enforcement can have pronounced benefits. Coupled with some common-sense reforms to ensure police accountability and improve gun safety, an anti-crime deal shouldn’t be implausible.
While a pragmatic spirit prevails, there is also common ground in many other areas: on Biden’s plans for a “moonshot” cancer, on immigration reform, on energy independence and more. Former and possibly future Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was open to such a compromise.
Realistically, an outbreak of bipartisan serenity is unlikely. But when the next Congress convenes, both sides will face a choice: spend the next two years on stunts and symbolism, or work together to solve real problems. The right decision should be obvious.
More other writers at Bloomberg Opinion
• Only Republicans Can Save American Democracy: Jonathan Bernstein
• Party etiquette matters most to voters: David A. Hopkins
• Democrats have alienated voters they need most: Clive Crook
The editors are members of the Bloomberg Opinion Editorial Board.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion