Something extraordinary just happened: In the space of just this week, a president and an ex-president warned that the opposition poses an existential threat to our political way of life. Joe Biden declared that “MAGA Republicans” have placed democracy “under threat.” Barack Obama warned that if GOP election deniers win in Arizona, “democracy may not survive.”
Yet the ongoing MAGA threat to U.S. democracy, including from Donald Trump himself, isn’t harming Republican chances of winning the House and very plausibly the Senate. Some think Democratic warnings are backfiring: Former Obama strategist David Axelrod suggested vulnerable Democrats don’t want the unpopular Biden to elevate himself in the election’s home stretch.
Why hasn’t the threat to democracy extracted a heavier price from Republicans? Is it true that vulnerable Democrats don’t want Biden to prominently address the topic? If so, should he have stood down, since Democrats themselves think protecting democracy above all requires keeping MAGA Republicans out of power? Could a more forceful case have made this a bigger voting issue?
I raised these questions with a number of senior Democratic strategists and pollsters working on tough House and Senate races. The answers that emerged are complicated, nuanced — and ultimately vexing. [Continue reading…]