Talking Points

Democrats can't escape reality. They shouldn't try.

Democrats are going to have a tough time in this year's midterm elections, but things will probably go worse for them if they try to reframe reality out of existence.

Take the crime issue. We know that murder rates rose dramatically in 2020, the last year of Donald Trump's presidency, and that they remain elevated in many places across the U.S. Republicans have made hay with the issue, blaming "woke" district attorneys and a "defund the police" campaign that never really came to fruition

But some Dems are pointing to a new study by the Third Way think tank showing that states carried by Trump in 2020 had a higher per-capita murder rate that year than states carried by Joe Biden. The states with the highest homicide rates? Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, and Missouri. Third Way dubbed this "The Red State Murder Problem," and a few left-of-center folks have been eager to amplify that notion

"No one seems to notice a murder in Mississippi, because it just doesn't conform to the story that gets told over and over again," one of the report's authors, Jim Kessler, told the Washington Post. 

Mississippi is an interesting example. It's true that the state had 315 murders in 2020, giving it the third-highest per-capita homicide rate in the nation. But 128 of those killings — a third of the total — took place in the state's largest city, Jackson, which has long been governed by Democrats. Similarly, more than half of Missouri's 723 murders in 2020 happened in the Dem-run cities of Kansas City and St. Louis. Democrats and their allies will have a tough time convincing voters that crime is really a "red state murder problem" when so much of it is concentrated in blue cities.

There's a similar issue with the economy. Voters hate it. Democrats are trying to acknowledge those concerns while also making the case the economy is actually stronger than Americans think. Take this Monday tweet from the president:

It doesn't seem that voters are listening to the optimistic part of the message. Politico on Tuesday reported on a focus group of Democratic voters who lamented the effects of rising prices. "It just seems like everything is going up and there's no end in sight," one woman said.

The truth is that murders are too high, and so is inflation. Democrats don't have to merely play defense on these issues — they can, for example, make a stronger case that the GOP's lax gun policies have helped drive violent crime. But they won't be saved by out-of-touch happy talk or shifting blame in ways that don't ring true with voters. Reality usually has a way of winning out.