Democrats Post-Roe Message to Voters Is Bad | Opinion

In the hours and days after the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Democrats from President Joe Biden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as other elected Democrats from coast to coast, have echoed a similar message: Roeis on the line this November, and the path to undoing the damage the Supreme Court has done runs through the ballot box.

The message boils down to if you want to see the protections, rights, and freedoms that were taken by six extremists on the Supreme Court restored, vote for Democrats this November.

While the message is accurate, it is woefully insufficient. It also flies in the face of the reality of the last two years.

The truth is people did vote. In record numbers in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, more than 81 million voters delivered the White House to Joe Biden, whose popular-vote victory margin was larger than those of presidents Truman, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Kennedy. Then, less than two months later, the people of Georgia defied all odds and delivered the Senate to Democrats too, giving Democrats full control of Washington for the first time in over a decade.

Roe Protest
A woman protests the overturning of Roe vs. Wade while marching at the 52nd Annual San Francisco Pride Parade. Arun Nevader/Getty Images

As a reward for voting, the agenda for which these voters voted in historic numbers has been largely stalled, or derailed completely, not by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) but rather by two Democratic senators more interested in grandstanding for the cameras than in getting things done. And voters have watched as the very ideology they soundly rejected is advanced by a Supreme Court hellbent on accomplishing through the courts what Republicans have failed to accomplish at the ballot box.

Voters rejected the very thing that has now happened. So, simply calling on people to just vote again not only rings hollow, it insults their intelligence.

Voters are not as stupid as some in Washington think they are. And a message that tells them to do the very thing they just did and expect a different result is not going to work.

Without question, history is stacked against Democrats this November. Since World War II, the party of the incumbent president in their first term has lost an average of 26 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate. Add in inflation, gas prices, and tremendous economic uncertainty, and the outlook for Democrats is particularly challenging.

To hold on to power in Congress, Democrats are going to need historic turnout. And they're not going to get that by asking voters to repeat a strategy that has failed to deliver.

For years, Republicans have been explicit with their voters: vote for us and we will use a take-no-prisoner approach to using every lever of power to advance the agenda. It has been a widely successful strategy for them. It has allowed them to do everything from pack the Supreme Court to pass former President Donald Trump's tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy with 50 votes in the Senate, instead of the usual 60.

Republicans play for keeps, and their voters know it. It is time for Democrats to play by the same playbook.

To win, Democrats must replicate the Republican strategy. Democrats need to drop the generic vote blue and "everything will be OK" message and make an explicit pact with voters: If you reward us with an even bigger majority, Democrats will get rid of the filibuster and end senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema's unlimited veto power over an agenda the vast majority of Americans support.

Democrats need to be clear that if voters deliver them a slightly expanded majority, they will codify Roe into law, pass universal background checks for gun purchases, restore voting rights, expand the Supreme Court to restore balance, and advance much-needed economic relief with 50 votes, not 60. It's what the Republicans would do.

In this moment of acute crisis, Democrats need to tell voters in very clear terms what their vote will mean and what Democrats will do with the power voters give them. Democrats need to be clear they will respond to the threat of the rise of extremism in the Republican Party, not with the same old failed playbook but with the urgency and raw political power the moment requires.

Six unelected people just overruled the will of the people and took away fundamental rights and freedoms from more than half the population, and they made it clear they're just getting started. Now is not the time for politics as usual. Nor is it a time for the tired, stale, and generic messaging and strategies that helped get us to this place.

Simply asking voters to do the same thing they have done and expect a different result is not only the definition of insanity, it is a failed message and strategy.

Voters have done their job. They did so in 2018 when they gave Democrats the majority in the House of Representatives to be a check on the runaway Trump administration. And they did so again in 2020 in historic fashion to reject MAGA extremism and give the White House and Senate to Democrats.

Now it is time for Democrats to do their job.

Doug Gordon is a Democratic strategist and co-CEO of UpShift Strategies who has worked on numerous federal, state, and local campaigns and on Capitol Hill. He is on Twitter at @dgordon52.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.