For the fourth time in four years, Democrats are wondering how to grapple with the policy issue they believe will decide the next election. First it was health care. Then it was Covid. Next it was infrastructure. Now it’s inflation. But if the party fails to galvanize a winning coalition in November, maybe it’s time to reconsider the role of policy in electoral politics altogether.
Politicians and political thinkers, particularly in liberal circles, often talk about elections and politics as if they are centered around a handful of core topics: the economy, health care, immigration, taxes. Voters don’t care about the day-to-day drama of Washington, D.C., this theory says. Instead, their attention is focused on an unchanging set of issues — mostly things that affect their personal lives. The way to win these voters over, the reasoning continues, is to propose policies that