In a summer filled with news of sweeping and symbolic social change -- a Supreme Court decision overturning same-sex marriage bans nationwide, the fall of the Confederate flag, presidential declarations on residential segregation and mass incarceration, fresh pushes to fight police misconduct -- trail talk about money matters still takes center stage.
Why? Social issues, in particular the speed of social change around issues like gay marriage and the Confederate flag, appear to set a lot of people on squirm, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But pocketbook concerns -- well, that's another matter.
That's where you find broad agreement across almost every part of the American electorate that the system is essentially rigged, benefiting the rich and leaving everyone else behind. The share of Democrats who agree with that idea, 82 percent, is, not surprisingly, far higher than the share of Republicans, 51 percent, who said the same. But still, we are talking majorities in both parties here. That suggests that in a summer where the headlines have all but forced every presidential candidate to weigh in on all manner of social issues, for Democrats, in particular, the best way to engage and then animate a large portion of voters may be a pivot toward economic issues.
A full 63 percent of Americans described themselves as more uncomfortable than comfortable with the country's overall direction on social issues these days, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll put out this week.
Predictably, Republicans ranked among those most likely to describe themselves as uncomfortable with all the changes. So the challenge of selling the party's traditional economic pitch -- tax cuts and reduced government spending -- as the solution to America's household level economic woes will remain as central in 2016 as it was in the 2012 election. And, we all know how that turned out.
But there are some real signs of social and economic discontent among Democrats too.
The Fix explored what's causing all this unease yesterday. That's worth another look.
But a full 68 percent of people also told pollsters they believe the country's economic system favors the wealthy while just 27 percent say the system is fair or mostly fair. Democrats, Republicans, independents, liberals and conservatives all agree on this issue. Simply put, the rich are favored, majorities of each of these groups say.
Sanders, Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley have all embraced a range of populist economic policies including boosting the minimum wage, expanding overtime pay rules to include more people and making it easier for workers to organize.
O'Malley and Sanders have been pretty loud and consistent in their support for policies loathed on Wall Street such as increased regulation, separation between investment and commercial lending activities and big bumps in capital gains tax rates which, right now, can leave people working middle-income jobs paying bigger tax bills than those with lots of investment income and money in the bank. O'Malley and Sanders have also been outright derisive about the way that Republicans think and talk about the minimum wage. And Clinton has criticized companies for what she's described as record profits and executive compensation that hasn't been accompanied by a boost in the paychecks of rank-and file workers.
Meanwhile, the Sanders camp may be buoyed by that Washington Post-ABC News poll. Last week, the senator was booed over social issues -- the #BlackLivesMatter movement -- at a convention for left-leaning politicos with an affinity for all things Internet. Instead of turning to questions about racial issues in policing, Sanders stuck to his planned stump speech about economic inequality and declining wages. And he took a real online ribbing when his campaign followed that onstage response with a recitation of his mid 20th-century civil rights resume.
That may not make some activists like Bernie Sanders any more than they do now. But, there’s plenty to suggest that for voters, his focus on economic issues may be right on the money.