The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is not a priority for voters. According to my colleague Melanie Mason in The Times, there is little sign that it — or the precarious state of American democracy it now stands for — will lure many people to the polls or determine the election of a swing voter in November.
Similarly, climate change, the looming catastrophe that scientists say will turn our lives upside down for years to come, ranks 24th on a list of 29 issues voters will be pondering when they decide who they’re voting for in the upcoming midterm elections, according to the Yale Climate Change Communications program.
So what about the war in Ukraine, which could reshape the map of Europe and even escalate into a nuclear conflict? It doesn’t matter much to American voters either. Neither is the US relationship with China, despite its obvious implications for long-term global peace and prosperity.
Nicholas Goldberg was the editorial page editor for 11 years and is a former editor of the Op-Ed page and the Sunday Opinion column.
No, Americans these days — and especially the swing voters who are so eagerly watched and wooed — are overwhelmed by abstract ideas, distant crises, or problems that are to arise at some point in the future.
With a few exceptions, they focus on the here and now. paperback editions. quality of life issues. better schools. Safer Roads. cost of living.
“These voters tend to view their vote through the prism of the pain they want relief from,” said Mike Murphy, a Republican adviser and co-director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future, in an interview. “It’s the cost of gas and groceries, or getting a job, or transportation, or homelessness. The more macro Issues – what the planet will be like in 40 years – are not the ones that get voters passionate.”
And that’s understandable, right? Most people don’t have the latitude or feel in their lives to care about the problems of other Americans or the dangers or crises of tomorrow in distant lands affecting distant people. Paying the bills, staying safe, making sure the kids are safe — these are the day-to-day challenges most people want to see addressed.
That’s why pollster Mark Penn has said that candidates shouldn’t rant about Trump and the threat to democracy he poses, but “connect with voters’ immediate needs and fears.”
As the campaign to take control of the US House and Senate enters its final weeks, the economy, gun policy, violent crime and public health are among the top issues for voters, according to the Pew Research Center.
Narrow-minded thinking is inevitable. But it may not be enough, especially at a difficult moment in history when fundamental challenges require broader thinking than just “What will this cost me?”
Resurgent Trumpism poses a moral, practical, and existential threat to Americans. The only other pressing issue is climate change, which the world has recklessly ignored for decades.
Voters should jump out of their seats and rush to the polls to vote on these hugely momentous issues in November.
But they don’t seem to be.
“Look, I’d love for voters to be well-informed and vote for the national interest, but the history of democracy is they pretty much vote for their own or their own interest perceived interest,” Murphy said.
And these are the Americans voting! Many don’t even care. Despite record turnout in 2020, 80 million eligible voters did not bother to vote in what is probably the most important presidential election of my life, thanks to apathy, cynicism and alienation from the political system.
Of course, there are a few factors that could shake conventional wisdom this year. A joker is abortion. Many observers believe the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years will encourage young voters who don’t normally make it to the polls. We will see.
Another reason is gun violence, for obvious reasons. It ranks high among the topics voters say interest them.
And some still believe the threat to US electoral integrity could have repercussions; it shows up as significant in some surveys. But I’m skeptical.
Many political analysts expect a relatively high voter turnout for a mid-election year.
I am a democrat and a pragmatist. As far as I’m concerned, democratic politicians should talk about whatever issues voters need to talk about during their campaign.
If they have to put Russia, China and even global warming aside to focus on inflation, taxes and traffic congestion, so be it. If the price of defeating Trumpism and its supporters is pretending the big problem isn’t Trump, then that’s fine too.
I get it. People have to pay bills and live to live. But don’t be fooled. The major threats – particularly to American democracy and the fate of the planet – may seem abstract, but they are more important than ever.
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-10-03/midterm-elections-voter-issues-climate-change-democracy Nicholas Goldberg: Jan. 6? Climate change? War in Europe? The voters have other things on their minds