On the Middle Class, Schumer Was Right

Almost exactly one year ago, I and my colleagues at the American Principles Project released an election autopsy on the lessons of 2012. Countering the conventional wisdom that conservative social issues were distracting voters from the GOP’s winning economic message, we argued that social issues were neither hurting Republicans nor electing Democrats, and that the key problem was that both parties were failing to address the core concern of voters: declining standards of living brought on by prolonged wage stagnation combined with moderate inflation in the items that consume the bulk of middle-class families’ budgets.

Someone finally got the message. Who would have thought it would be New York’s Democratic senator Chuck Schumer?

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said in a speech before the National Press Club. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem: health-care reform.”

Democrats, energized by their power to pressure Republicans to back away from abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty, drew the wrong lesson and tried to win reelection with a “war on woman” meme fundamentally disconnected from women’s core concerns.

In a striking Washington Post column on November 26, political scientists John McTague and Melissa Deckman make clear that being pro-abortion is not the ticket to Democratic victory. “It wasn’t clear even in 2012 that this rhetoric worked,” they write, citing a recent study by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck “that found no link between news coverage on contraception and abortion and women’s attitudes about either Obama or Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, and little evidence that attitudes about abortion were central to moving women voters to Obama.”

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