As a Democratic political consultant who has also worked for Republicans, it’s obvious that both political parties are struggling to contain their radical members. Both extremes could hurt their respective parties in the upcoming midterm elections, but today, this problem is worse for Republicans.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who is an adherent of the conspiracy theory QAnon, and who has – over social media, at least – advocated violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and supported a theory that a Jewish space laser started a large wildfire in California, is becoming a political problem. Her comments were too much for even Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said: “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”
For Republicans, the biggest problem with Rep. Greene is that she turns off the centrist conservative voters that Republicans need to take control of the House, the Senate and the White House. President Donald Trump also lost these swing voters in 2020, by pushing conspiracies over managing the pandemic.
Alternatively, Joe Biden won the White House campaigning as a moderate and resisting the urge to engage in the politics of insults and division. Biden’s belief that we must end the hatred of our fellow Americans was front and center in his inaugural address. Biden stated that: “History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity.”
A failure to abide by these principles of unity are also why Democrats lost seats in the House; because the far left was advocating for policies like “Defund the Police” and anarchists were using the highly principled Black Lives Matter movement as an excuse to commit violence. That alienated centrist voters, and nearly cost Democrats control of Congress.
Going forward, Democrats must follow Joe Biden’s lead and avoid being the party of the so-called “cancel culture.” Living in Texas, I encounter a lot of centrists. Many political moderates I speak with – mainly Republicans, but even Democrats – are alienated by the way the far left denounces any views they disagree with.
For example, progressive and rival news outlets advocating for their conservative counterparts to be dropped by cable providers. When progressives demand that an opponent lose their job, or be attacked online, it is not in the spirit of liberalism that cherishes open debate. Worse, it’s ineffective at making the world more equitable.
Canceling conservative viewpoints also motivates political moderates to vote Republican. I firmly believe a lot of people voted for Joe Biden, and then a straight Republican ticket, to keep the far left from having too much power. People disliked Trump’s divisiveness, but didn’t want to live in a country where police departments were defunded.
Democrats must also not fall into the environmental trap that cost them control of Congress in President Barack Obama’s first term. Specifically, Democrats cannot be seen supporting climate change policies that kill jobs.
Obama’s premier climate legislation — the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 — passed the House, but died in the Senate. Republicans used it as an example of job-killing policies that suggested Democrats cared more about polar ice caps than the working class. The legislation cost many Democrats their seats in Congress, and helped usher in Republican control of Capitol Hill that stymied Obama.
Smartly, only just a few weeks into his term, Joe Biden is working to frame climate-change legislation around job creation. Sadly, but not surprising, the ultra-conservative Republican governor of my state of Texas has already instructed state agencies to be prepared to sue the Biden administration over his environmental agenda.
If Republicans want to be divisive by turning every issue into full-scale political warfare, they can. These extreme positions may help Republicans shore up their political base, but it will not garner them votes from the political moderates who swing elections. Ultimately, the GOP’s hard right turn and willingness to embrace conspiracy theorists like Marjorie Taylor Greene are a gift to Democrats, but only if Biden can keep his party away from its extremes and cancel culture.
Roosevelt “Trey” Daniels is the president of the Daniels Group, a political consulting firm in Houston, that advises candidates and corporations on strategy, political organizing and strategic communications.
Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.