The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Democrats have a strong closing argument: The GOP would wreck the economy

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks during a summit organized by the America First Policy Institute on July 26. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Voters who follow the news closely will likely find it hard to believe that so many fellow Americans would even consider casting ballots for election deniers and Republicans who betrayed democracy. But“low information” Americans are the ones who will decide the midterm elections. Therefore, President Biden and his fellow Democrats must think carefully about their closing argument to win over these people.

Biden and other Democrats should follow the lead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose messaging is designed to benefit members from all over the country in competitive races.

Here’s how she described the choice voters have in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday: “We want to support and strengthen Medicare, Social Security, et cetera. [Republicans] want to use the debt ceiling to cut that.” She also noted that Republicans are willing to use the same tactic to reverse the Inflation Reduction Act’s provisions to lower prescription drug costs.

That’s a real threat: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has threatened to use the looming deadline to raise the debt limit next year as a means to cut off aid to Ukraine and to roll back Biden’s economic agenda. House Republicans are also eyeing the debt limit deadline as a way to make cuts to hugely popular programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. At the same time, they are seeking to extend President Donald Trump’s tax cuts.

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This is more trickle-down economics designed to make the rich richer, which would balloon the national debt and worsen inflation. As such, Democrats should describe the election for what it is: a faceoff between supply-side economics and Biden’s promise to build the economy from “the bottom up and middle out.” This would contrast the two parties as one for the little guy and one for billionaires, which has worked in the past to elect Biden and before him, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Republicans like to label just about anything that doesn’t benefit the rich as “socialism.” That’s plutocratic economics, not populism. Highlighting the GOP’s core philosophy just might help Democrats retain support among Republican voters who crossed over in 2020 and low-information voters who are suspicious of Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Business generally.

In that regard, Democrats can ding Republicans for opposing or resisting virtually everything Biden proposed that didn’t help the rich, such as protections against evictions during the pandemic; money to keep first responders working; expanded health care for sick veterans; measures to control prescription drug costs for seniors; and funding to create jobs in green energy, chip manufacturing and infrastructure. Here’s the message: “If you got help, Mr. and Mrs. Average Voter, Republicans want to take it away. If you’re rich, Republicans are going to make you even richer. And if Democrats don’t go along with the Republicans’ reverse Robin Hood policies, they are willing to burn down the economy with a default or paralyze the government to get their way.”

That’s the GOP inflation “plan.” Biden would be wise to use his time in the next few weeks highlighting it and making clear to working- and middle-class voters that Republicans’ idea of “progress” entails widening the gap between rich and poor.

He started down that road Friday when he bashed Republicans for threatening to crash the economy unless entitlements are cut and the wealthy can keep their “massive tax cuts”:

And at a Thursday fundraiser for John Fetterman, Democrats’ Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, Biden again made the case: “The threat came from McCarthy, the Republican leader, that if I were not willing to cut Social Security by the end of this year, then, in fact, they would not pay for the national debt and they would not extend the debt ceiling — meaning, for the first time in American history, we would in fact default on a debt and our credit as a nation would be demolished.”

So yes, while protecting democracy is an essential issue for those who rightfully fear the GOP’s assault on democratic institutions and values, Democrats must win over late-deciding voters, too. And there is nothing like a reminder that the economy could get a lot worse as Republicans revert to cutting taxes for the rich and starving government to motivate Americans to vote Democratic. Biden needs to keep that drumbeat going through Election Day.

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