The Jan. 6 insurrection election distraction

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And just like that, the first week of October felt a lot like mid-January.  

News that former President TrumpDonald TrumpTim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Trump calls into Take Back Virginia Rally to hype Youngkin Overnight Defense & National Security — Partisan extremism poses ‘growing problem’ among veterans MORE directed four former aides, including Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonJudge says Baltimore can’t block Catholic media group’s rally Jan. 6 panel subpoenas Jeffrey Clark, backer of Trump efforts at DOJ Bannon’s subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE and Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsWhat’s at stake if Trump wins in 2024? Single-party authoritarian rule The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Altria – Political crosscurrents persist for Biden, Dems Trump, the elections and Jan. 6: What you might have missed this week MORE, to defy the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas dominated the news cycle and the conversation shifted back to the Capitol breach. Reporters focused on whether Trump and his circle qualify for executive privilege and wrote “think pieces” on the impending demise of democracy for the rest of us to feast on. 

I got caught up in it, too. But as I sat there hanging on every word of Bill MaherWilliam (Bill) MaherWhat’s at stake if Trump wins in 2024? Single-party authoritarian rule Bill Maher hits back at Whoopi Goldberg over ‘Black national anthem’ Bill Maher, Isiah Thomas score over the NFL’s playing of ‘Black national anthem’ MORE’s dark prediction for the 2024 election — a “slow-moving coup,” as he called it — I started to panic. Not because of the slow-moving coup concept, which admittedly does scare me, but the prospect that Democrats won’t be in a good position to stop whatever it is that Republicans have up their sleeves because of an expected dismal showing in the 2022 midterms. 

Recent polling suggests a difficult road ahead for me and my liberal friends. President BidenJoe BidenSinema fundraising in Europe as reconciliation talks ‘ongoing’: report Mexico urges more US investment in Central America to stem migration flows Trump calls into Take Back Virginia Rally to hype Youngkin MORE’s approval rating isn’t bouncing back following the Afghanistan, COVID-19 and southern border crises of the summer. He’s underwater in both the FiveThirtyEight and RealClear Politics averages. The right track/wrong track numbers consistently show that 50 percent-plus believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. And the GOP is making big strides to close the gap on the generic ballot, with Democrats clinging to a narrow advantage. Wednesday’s news of a 5.4 percent increase in the consumer price index and accelerated inflation concerns is another notable headache.

So, what’s the answer? Unfortunately, for those of us who relish special committee news and think Republicans have disqualified themselves by virtue of going along with Trump, we must shelve those interests to protect the future. We must use our airtime, our campaign time, and our written words in service to one cause: Democrats’ re-election. And the way to get re-elected is to focus on “kitchen table issues,” not insurrections.  

Since the 2018 midterms, Democrats have been winning on health care. That doesn’t have to stop. Democrats still maintain a sizable lead of 16 points on the question of which party is better equipped to handle the Delta variant. Americans are also widely supportive of popular health care policies that are cornerstones of the Democratic agenda. For example, 88 percent of Americans support federal funding for lowering prescription drug prices, 84 percent support federal funding for Medicare coverage for dental/eye/hearing in the latest CBS News poll, and over 50 percent continue to hold a positive view of the Affordable Care Act.

Biden’s Build Back Better agenda has been the subject of intense negotiations the past few weeks. As we wait to see whether Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSinema fundraising in Europe as reconciliation talks ‘ongoing’: report Warren: Billionaires who ‘have enough money to shoot themselves into space’ will pay for reconciliation bill To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSinema fundraising in Europe as reconciliation talks ‘ongoing’: report Warren: Billionaires who ‘have enough money to shoot themselves into space’ will pay for reconciliation bill To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters MORE (D-Ariz.) can find a good compromise with their progressive colleagues on the price tag — which is hovering around $1.9 trillion for the moderates — new CBS polling exposes a huge communication problem: Only 10 percent of Americans actually know what’s in the Build Back Better bill. 

That’s a serious problem, especially considering how popular key proposals of the plan are. To name a few, 73 percent of Americans support federal funding for paid family/medical leave and 67 percent support federal funding for universal pre-K on top of widespread support for expanded Medicare coverage and the child tax credit. Sing it from the rooftops, Democrats! And House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFormer Rep. Dale Kildee dies at 92 Capitol Police mandating vaccines for Dignitary Protection Division agents: report McConnell-aligned group targeting Kelly, Cortez Masto and Hassan with M ad campaign MORE’s (D-Calif.) suggestion that she would consider paring back the number of years on the bill to reduce the cost is a good one.

Climate change is certainly a sticking point between moderates and progressives when it comes to reconciliation, but the American public is clear that they want action. A new Monmouth survey finds that 60 percent consider it “very” or “extremely” important for the federal government to address, and a Reuters survey found that 60 percent are concerned about the personal impacts of climate change. Nearly 80 percent support federal policies to develop alternative energy sources, and 78 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats support a tax credit for businesses that develop carbon capture/storage. Sounds like a great election agenda item.

Democrats are in desperate need of a cogent argument for their immigration and economic policies. Currently, Biden is underwater in both categories, with only 25 percent approval for his handling of immigration and 23 percent for the U.S.-Mexico border, and a mere 39 percent approval on the economy in recent polling. With over 80 percent of Americans worried about inflation and rising prices, it’s going to be tough to win the midterms against that backdrop. Direct — and relentless — explanations about how we will rebound in these areas are necessary, especially on how the infrastructure and Build Back Better plan will add jobs and boost the economy. 

This isn’t an exhaustive list of issues that will be central to the 2022 midterms, but it’s a pretty good indication of where the American psyche is — and where it isn’t. 

I often think about who the 2020 voters were. Some independents or moderate Republicans were surely swayed by Trump’s abuse of the office. But that was coupled with deep concern over the pandemic and a desire to bring back some semblance of normalcy in American politics. The question now becomes how Democrats can make their case after two years with control of the presidency and Congress. Call me cynical, but I worry about our prospects if we use our time to talk about insurrection and not immigration. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.

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