Elections as Ideological Contests

August 1, 2022 Updated: August 1, 2022

Commentary

Listening to some Republican spokesmen predicting a Republican blowout this fall, I have to wonder in what world they’re living.

As I look around at the races in key states, I’m astonished by how well the Democrats seem to be doing. This is the case despite a barely coherent Democratic president, borders that are kept deliberately open (to welcome future Democratic voters), a wildly inflated economy, and the transformation of the American military into a woke social experiment.

In my state, Pennsylvania, our Bernie Sanders-lookalike Democratic candidate John Fetterman is now 11 points ahead of Dr. Oz in the senate race. Meanwhile, the very liberal Democrat Josh Shapiro may easily beat Republican candidate Doug Mastriano in the race for governor.

All of this is happening while Biden’s approval rating has dipped to 38 percent nationwide. In Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, and several other states, Republican candidates for national office are either trailing their Democratic opponents or running roughly even. And this is the situation as Republicans are preparing for big gains in Congress. Republicans can’t even raise war chests that are nearly equal to what Democrats are collecting. In Pennsylvania, Fetterman’s campaign has taken in about $10 million last quarter compared to about $3 million for his Republican opponent.

Equally noteworthy: Despite Trump’s loss in the presidential race in 2020, his party actually picked up votes in Congress. They might also have picked up a majority in the Senate if Trump and the Georgia Republican leadership hadn’t been feuding at the time. Conceivably, Republicans may not do any better electorally this year, although we’ve been assured that their voters are more strongly motivated than those on the other side, even if they’re not contributing as much money to their party. If Republicans expect to repeat their congressional victories in 2014, when they won a clear majority in the Senate, they may be dreaming.

Perhaps most significantly, the country has divided into ideological blocks. This has happened most dramatically on the woke left, which embraces urban professionals, academics, and most conspicuously college-educated white women. Also inseparably attached to the left’s bloc is the overwhelming majority of black voters, who regard themselves as victims of white America. The message of the Republicans and the right to blacks, that they’re primarily victimized by violent crime and that the Democrats have been soft on criminals, isn’t playing well. It’s far less effective than the messaging from the other side, focusing on black victimization by a white racist system.

The view of women as historical victims of a sexist past is a common belief on the left, and the further women go through our educational system, the more likely they are to share this mindset. The Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade resulted in having abortion rights surge to the top of national concerns, even overtaking inflation and crime by late spring. If Republicans have any cause for optimism, it’s that neither Hispanics nor Asians seem to be aligning with the left. Neither demographic shows much interest in the LGBT-feminist agenda.

Those on the right who reject the left’s policies and values, however, are far less well organized. Although they reject the ideological persuasion of the mainstream media, public educators, elite universities, and affluent urban dwellers, they don’t always do so for the same reasons. Some on the right are strongly libertarian; others are Christian traditionalists typically living in the interior of the country. More often than not, the right embraces inhabitants of rural communities and small towns, the region that the coastal elites characterize contemptuously as “flyover country.” Its population created the voting base from which Donald Trump drew much of his support.

My point isn’t to contrast the good and bad guys but to show what ideological politics looks like. Its participants are separated by bloc identities, into which many independents are also swept. These blocs vote in ways that affirm their sociological identity. Being for or against the now prevalent woke left will determine how one reacts to national politics. Especially for those on the cultural left, this factor weighs far more heavily than the economy or violent crime. This has helped the Democrats turn the November election away from a foundering economy and high crime rates to such ideologically charged issues as Donald Trump’s “insurrection.”

Nearly 50 percent of those now polled believe that Trump should be criminally prosecuted for trying to overturn a presidential election. Needless to say, these anti-Trumpers come overwhelmingly from the left’s ideological base, and they couldn’t care less about the alleged crimes of the Biden family, the continuing denials that Republicans won past elections by Democratic celebrities such as Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams, or those riots in the summer of 2020 supported by Democratic politicians.

Unfortunately for the right, the left’s control of the media and educational system may be far more electorally important than how Biden or his party is managing the country.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 14 books, most recently Antifascism: Course of a Crusade (Cornell-NIU Press, 2021), and numerous articles and book reviews.