Like a lot of conservatives, I’ve trotted out, “politics is downstream from culture”. And it’s true. For most people, cultural issues are much more compelling than politics. But it would be dangerous to forget that when times turn tough, economic issues trump everything else for most people.
And so the Democrats are losing the suburbs. Massively.
A political shift is beginning to take hold across the U.S. as tens of thousands of suburban swing voters who helped fuel the Democratic Party’s gains in recent years are becoming Republicans.
More than 1 million voters across 43 states have switched to the Republican Party over the last year, according to voter registration data analyzed by The Associated Press. The previously unreported number reflects a phenomenon that is playing out in virtually every region of the country — Democratic and Republican states along with cities and small towns — in the period since President Joe Biden replaced former President Donald Trump.
But nowhere is the shift more pronounced — and dangerous for Democrats — than in the suburbs, where well-educated swing voters who turned against Trump’s Republican Party in recent years appear to be swinging back. Over the last year, far more people are switching to the GOP across suburban counties from Denver to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Republicans also gained ground in counties around medium-size cities such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Raleigh, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Des Moines, Iowa.
Is this culture?
The AP interviews one libertarian who switched from Democrat to Republican over cultural issues. But the Dems were just as bad, if not even worse, on cultural issues in 2020. If you’re jumping from the Dems to the GOP in 2022, culture is probably not what’s driving your shift.
About the only cultural issues more in ascendance now than in 2020 involves transgender identity politics in schools and sexualized curriculums. And that certainly had an impact in some elections, notably Youngkin in Virginia, and is likely playing a role in the shift, but that’s not enough to account for the preference cascade.
This is a pocketbook shift.
2020 was a bad year economically and a lot of suburban voters turned on the party in the White House. That process really began in 2018. I was sitting next to Pat Caddell at a Restoration Weekend panel before his passing next year, and he blamed the suburban midterm shift on “tax reform”. There’s some truth to that even though those same suburban voters were doing quite well in the Trump economy until the lockdowns and the pandemic inflationary aid arrived.
Now things are much worse and suburban voters are turning on a White House that is seen as uninterested in economic issues precisely because it keeps playing the culture war card non-stop.
The big cultural issue now is simply that wokeness is a foreign language that Democrats insist on speaking. Much like “Latinx”, this alienates voters. And when there are real non-woke problems, the detachment isn’t just alienation, but turns into actual anger and voting shifts.
Culture is important, but don’t underestimate the price of gas.