Cherwitz: Can Democrats Overcome the Challenges of 2022? | Opinion
The past week was a historic moment for the country. Democrats in the House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden’s landmark $ 1.9 trillion “Build Back Better” legislation.
While it’s unclear whether 50 Democrats in the U.S. Senate will approve this legislation, Biden’s “safety net” legislation passed by the House is still important, providing substantial, unprecedented and much-needed benefits to Americans.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, of course, remains the key. He has raised many concerns about this bill over the past month. Among them is the question of whether the adoption of this legislation will exacerbate the already severe inflationary spiral that is impacting the economy and harming the daily lives of Americans.
Beyond the political issues that the Senate must grapple with in the coming weeks, the Build Back Better proposal underscores and makes even clearer the enormous political challenges facing Democrats in 2022. Although the current president’s party almost always loses of seats in the House in elections outside the year, some experts argue that the problem of inflation makes such losses even more likely.
As someone who has studied political rhetoric for over 40 years, let me provide an overview of the rhetorical challenge facing Democratic candidates in 2022 – challenges that go far beyond whether the proposed legislation will actually increase inflation. History shows that the perceptions and experiences of voters are often more important than the factual reality of a given policy.
Case in point.
Seventeen Nobel Prize-winning economists have publicly stated that Biden’s Build Back Better proposal will ease long-term inflationary pressures and lower costs for Americans. The question that deserves our attention is: why is this fact unlikely to be rhetorically effective in convincing Americans to vote for Democratic candidates in 2022?
The answer is clear: the immediate is generally more convincing than the future projections. Put simply, voters who are currently experiencing price hikes at grocery stores and gas stations – which is impacting their ability to make ends meet – are unlikely to trust speculation about what will happen next. ‘to come up. Such long-term projections, in my opinion, cannot by themselves compensate for the tangible difficulties that voters are currently experiencing.
The rhetorical challenge facing Democrats is reminiscent of the failure of the deficit spending arguments used by candidates in previous election campaigns. Voters were not convinced of the long-term harms of deficit spending; instead, their votes were based on what they were experiencing directly at the time. As the cliché goes, people vote with their feet; therefore, immediate gratification almost always outweighs worries about the future.
To be persuasive, Democrats in 2022 must rely on tangible issues voters are experiencing. Assuming the Build Back Better proposal is enacted, it will be imperative that Democrats show voters the real impact of this and other Biden laws on their lives.
Maintaining control of the House and Senate will be a difficult task for the Democratic Party in 2022. Yet, as I have argued, it is not too late for Democrats to fully embrace and respond appropriately to the rhetorical challenge. they are facing.
– Richard Cherwitz is Professor Emeritus of Centennial Ernest A. Sharpe at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the founding director of the Consortium for Intellectual Entrepreneurship.