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Why Democrats aren’t far ahead heading into 2024

Despite a positive economy and GOP leadership woes, partisan divide shows a close election

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., stops to speak as he leaves the House Republican conference meeting in the Capitol on Monday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., stops to speak as he leaves the House Republican conference meeting in the Capitol on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Given the behavior of former President Donald Trump, House Republicans and the Freedom Caucus wing of the Republican Party, it’s hard to believe that the 2024 presidential and congressional elections are going to be close. But they will be.   

The GOP’s likely nominee for president is as vulgar and dishonest as any nominee in history. He has been impeached twice and indicted four times — yet actually has a chance to be nominated for president in 2024 and to win that election.

That same party — which includes House members like Matt Gaetz of Florida, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Paul Gosar and Eli Crane of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — just fired its own speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, even though more than 90 percent of the Republican Conference liked and supported him. Ironically, Gaetz is one of the most disliked members of Congress.

Now the GOP’s craziest and most extreme elements are trying to rally behind one of their own to be the next House speaker. If you think things have been bad on Capitol Hill and around the country so far, just wait. A Speaker Jim Jordan would not cool temperatures anywhere in this solar system.

Some Republicans and conservative talking heads are blaming Democrats for not saving McCarthy. That’s nuts.

Saving McCarthy would have made House Democrats complicit in whatever he did in the past and will do in the future, and it would have interjected their party into a Republican civil war that didn’t guarantee anything the House Democratic leadership — or the party’s grassroots — value and want.

Given the lunacy on the Republican side of the aisle, how can congressional Democrats and a Democratic president be polling so poorly? 

Some observers point to inflation and kitchen table issues. But the economy is looking better, not worse.

As veteran economist Mark Zandi said on the platform formerly known as Twitter after Friday’s new job numbers were released: “The more I dig into the Sept jobs report, the more I like it. The job market is strong, but not too strong to forestall lower inflation. All signs suggest the economy is at full-employment, not beyond, and labor supply is keeping up with labor demand. Couldn’t be much better.”

Democrats have other good issues going into 2024, including abortion rights and protecting democracy, which should help the party turn out crucial demographic groups, including young voters, suburbanites and minority voters.

Of course, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are on the defensive on the southern border and immigration. The issue is high profile, and Democrats seem clueless about how to deal with it.

Crime, which usually is a local issue, has become a national concern. Once again, many Democrats have been on the defensive. 

And then there is Biden, who looks and sounds as if he is very old — which he is.

But the biggest problem for Democrats is the deep division in the country. Almost half the country believes that the Democratic Party is a threat to American capitalism, religious liberty and traditional values.

Those Republican voters are not open to persuasion by Democrats, and most Democrats think the party of Trump, Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene is a dangerous cult. The two parties distrust each other so deeply that they don’t even hear what the other side argues.

Because the country is almost evenly politically divided, the 2024 elections are bound to be very competitive, no matter what Biden’s job approval or Trump’s favorable/unfavorable ratings are.

September’s Pew Research Report on the state of the nation’s politics found what it termed “dismal views.”

Most Americans think the U.S. political system is not working well, and most have little or no confidence in its future. And when asked how they feel about politics, most Americans responded “exhausted” and “angry.”

Those views help create a mood of pessimism, which is rarely ideal for the party holding the White House. 

Democrats repeatedly assert that Republicans are unable to govern, which admittedly is a reasonable point of view given the GOP’s behavior. But voters don’t have much more confidence in the Democratic Party.

So the 2024 election is likely to be close because the country is evenly divided along partisan lines. 

Events over the next year are unlikely to move most voters, since voters see and hear what they want. And half the country believes the baloney that Republicans are shoveling about socialism, sexual identity, and Joe and Hunter Biden.

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