This week, amid urges by Justice Clarence Thomas to look at overturning cases such as Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage nationwide, the House of Representatives voted on a bill that, among other provisions, would guarantee marriage equality for LGBTQ Americans. While the bill passed easily, the vote helped to once again illustrate a harsh reality: The Republican Party is completely out of touch with mainstream America on the majority of hot-button issues.
Just 22% of House Republicans voted in favor, while all House Democrats supported the bill. The 22% number serves in stark contrast to American support at large. A record-high 71% of Americans support marriage equality, including 55% of those identifying as Republicans. That means the House GOP isn’t just out of step with America — it’s out of step with Republican voters. And while it’s too early to tell how many Senate Republicans will vote in favor of the bill, or if the bill will even have the 60 votes to pass, it’s virtually guaranteed that nowhere near 55% of Republican Senators will support the bill, let alone 71%.
But the Republican lack of awareness on marriage equality isn’t the exception — it’s the norm. Republicans have, over the past few months, consistently acted way out of the American mainstream on a variety of issues. Gun control, which once again became a major point of political focus, has long been an issue where the GOP is out of step — even multiple mass shootings didn’t change that. Attempts to include universal background checks, ban military-style assault weapons and raise the purchasing age to 21 all fell out or were never even considered for the recently passed gun control bill, due to Republican opposition. The policies have 90%, 66% and 74% support nationwide, respectively.
Or take what has become the most talked-about issue in American politics: abortion. Spurred once again by a radical, extreme right Supreme Court, Democrats took action in the House to codify Roe v. Wade. The Women’s Health Protection Act, which would make rights provided by Roe v. Wade law, passed without a single Republican vote in favor. Sixty-four percent of Americans opposed the overturning of Roe, including 34% of Republicans. Yet, when a bill was on the table to restore what was lost when Roe was overturned, a whopping 0% of House Republicans voted in favor. The Senate wouldn’t have been much different, with Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, being the only two Republican Senators on record in support of Roe.
Republicans have likewise shown themselves to be out of step on voting rights, climate change and more. Yet, they are the overwhelming favorites — indeed, I would label it a forgone conclusion — to retake the House and have 50/50 odds of taking the Senate. They consistently poll even with or ahead of Democrats on generic congressional ballot polling. And they are led by a man who, when he was president, attempted to overthrow the United States’s democratic process by way of violent insurrection — and who has a legitimate chance of once again becoming president.
So why is the party that is out of step with Americans on some of the biggest and most contentious issues in American politics in such favorable electoral conditions? A bunch of reasons, of course. Paramount in this year’s midterms is the cyclical nature of American elections, as well as the laundry list of items plaguing President Joe Biden and, in turn, Democrats at large, which are out of their control.
The problem is that this dynamic, where Republicans are out of step on the issues but do well in the elections, is a historical trend. Similar gaps in polling and Republican congressional action have existed for abortion, climate change, gun control and more for years. On the majority of issues, the majority of Americans are in favor of the liberal position.
This means the issue is much larger and goes beyond unfavorable conditions unique to the 2022 midterms. First, voters have been shown to care more about culture wars than substantial legislative issues. While Democrats focus on complex social insurance bills, Republicans are fearmongering about drag shows. However ridiculous and depressing these tactics may be, they work. This is especially true for the mean voter, who doesn’t understand complex legislative procedure nor closely follows activity on Capitol Hill. Polling has shown that cultural matters have an outsized role in negatively labeling Democrats, and this role carries through into election day.
Secondly, Democrats simply are not seen as the party of working America like they need to be, even though when compared to Republicans, they are. While Democrats are the party of unions, the party of the welfare state and the party of equity and equality, it’s now Democrats who are unfortunately viewed by some Americans as the elitist party. Much of this is due to genius Republican messaging, but it is also a reality that Democrats are increasingly influenced by the ultra-progressive, ultra-loud, big city voter.
When Republicans perform well in November in the face of complete disconnect with the American voter, issues like inflation and gas prices, along with the trend of cyclical midterms, will be partly to blame. But Democrats would be wise to consider other, more historical factors. Even in favorable political conditions, support for liberal causes and support for liberal politicians do not align. What exactly is most to blame for that is impossible to objectively say, but it should be clear to Democrats that this gap in support needs to be rectified.
Devon Hesano is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.