BYH, I just saw footage of Trump saying "It's easy. I'd just drop a 25% tax on China". Would somebody please show me...

Democrats have zest, Republicans have grievances


Ramesh Ponnuru


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Republicans seem to have held on, barely, to a U.S. House seat near Columbus, Ohio, that they have occupied continuously since 1983. That outcome doesn't tell us much new, but it reinforces some conclusions we already had reasons to reach.

First: Democrats are enthusiastic about voting. There is a temptation to treat their turnout purely as a function of their hostility to the way President Donald Trump has conducted himself in office. But it's important to remember that partisans of the opposition party are typically more motivated to vote in midterm elections than supporters of a president. Grievance is a more powerful motivator than satisfaction.

Trump has, however, probably angered Democratic voters more than another Republican president would have done. He may also be changing the mix of voters in each party. Some upper-middle-class suburban voters who backed Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012 voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016. They seem to be voting for Democrats this year, too. They may want to send a message to the Republicans about their support for Trump, or they may be on the way to long-term alienation from the GOP.

Either way, the result was that the Democratic candidate in Ohio won a much higher percentage of Clinton voters than the Republican candidate won of Trump voters. That's why the race was so close.

Second: What might be called the Republican-establishment message is not generating countervailing enthusiasm within the Trump coalition. Congressional Republicans would in general like the election to be about the strong economy and the alleged role their tax cut played in creating it. They would rather not have it be about an unpopular president.

But Trump's political instincts might be better than theirs. Gratitude for the tax cuts does not seem to be bringing Republicans to the polls. It is probably even less helpful in getting those white working-class voters who backed both Barack Obama and Trump to side with Republican candidates for Congress.

Again, grievance may do more to move voters. To the extent that it's working-class voters Republicans need, those grievances are likely to be more cultural than economic. The typical Republican message on economics tends to leave those voters cold, and most Republican candidates are too ambivalent and cross-pressured to adopt Trump's protectionist economics wholeheartedly.

But a Trumpish cultural message — illegal immigrants are a threat to the country, and the Democrats and the media treat you as a bigot for wanting to defend it; the elites are going after your president because they hate you — could blunt the Democratic advantage on enthusiasm. Republicans don't need to endorse every Trump tweet or initiative to pursue this strategy. They probably will talk about the new left-wing campaign to abolish ICE instead of defending the administration's family-separation policy, for example.

Third: Democrats may be on firmer ground talking about economics while Republicans raise cultural issues. 

If liberals are already enthusiastic about supporting Democrats this fall, and Republicans are likely to use cultural issues to gin up their own votes, it might make sense for Democratic candidates to spend most of their time talking about economic issues.

Portraying the Republicans as self-dealing plutocrats could keep Democrats' existing voters while making it harder for the Republicans to get their sometime-allies in the white working class to show up.

One difficulty for Democrats in pursuing this strategy is that cable-news networks, even if they are broadcasting an anti-Trump message, are drawn toward the cultural rather than the economic issues. Democratic politicians would have to try to pull the discussion in a different direction.

Which side is successful in determining what the elections are about will go a long way to determining who wins them.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, a senior editor at National Review, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and contributor to CBS News.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

August 20, 2018

North Carolina’s two most-populous counties, Mecklenburg and Wake, are home to about 21 percent of the state’s population and 28 percent of its jobs. Over the past four years, about 45 percent of the state’s net new jobs were created in either Mecklenburg or Wake.

These two…

john hood

August 20, 2018

"I cannot let my selfishness stand in the way of your whole well-being."

I wasn't very far into a series of letters shared with me from a birth mother to her son, when this sentence jumped off the page. This was a mother who knew she couldn't give her unborn son what he needed and made what really…


August 19, 2018

Early in my father's administration, when he and my mother flew to Rancho del Cielo, the ranch they had bought in the 1970s that was his retreat, his nourishment, I drove up to join them for a day or two. We were sitting at the dining table, and my father pointed to the window and the steep…

Patti Davis

August 19, 2018

Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, was more than the undisputed "Queen of Soul." She was one of the most important musicians of our time, a genius who soared above genres and expectations to create music that will live forever.

She was not an opera singer, yet she brought down the house at…

Eugene Robinson

August 19, 2018

How can a president as successful as Donald Trump be so unpopular?

Fueled by his historic tax reform and an unprecedented regulatory rollback, the economy grew by 4.1 percent in the second quarter. The unemployment rate is just 3.9 percent — near the lowest it has been in nearly two decades…


August 18, 2018

The Boston Herald

The news that the FBI fired Peter Strzok broke this week, and with that we can begin to see big-picture truth take shape about the bureau’s role in the Hillary Clinton investigation as well as the Russia investigation.

It does not look good for the leadership at the FBI.…

August 18, 2018

"I don't think this is some massive, massive crisis," said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C., in a statement that could not possibly be more wrong. Speaking three weeks after revelations about his predecessor's sexual predation against boys and young priests, Wuerl…


August 18, 2018

When the courts rule against laws our legislature has passed, which they often do, it never seems to enter lawmakers’ minds that those rulings are because of their own wrongheaded notions. Nope. Republican leadership is convinced those rulings are the result of too many Democratic judges. The…

Tom Campbell.jpg

August 17, 2018

In the 1981 sci-fi novel "True Names," Vernor Vinge describes a dystopian future in which hackers go to great lengths to keep their real-world identities secret for fear that the U.S. government might enslave or assassinate them. Almost four decades years later, it's not lives that are at risk, but…

Elaine Ou

August 17, 2018

The Fayetteville Observer

It was a group that would have a hard time agreeing on where to eat lunch, or even on a good color for wallpaper. They certainly aren’t of one mind about politics.

But there they were Monday, all five living former governors of North Carolina, two Republicans and…

283 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 29
        Next Page»   Last Page»