It’s entirely unclear whether Donald Trump’s voters will show up in the midterms, but congressional Republicans have bet the farm on them anyway. They’ve hyped fabricated cancel culture issues, threatened to go to war with corporate America, and adopted “Own the Libs!” as their central tenet for 2022.
But they also have zero policy positions that appeal to the very same voters they are trying to keep in the fold. GOP lawmakers in both chambers, for instance, uniformly rejected pandemic relief legislation that sent checks directly to the bank accounts of most Americans—a measure that some 55% of lower-income Republican voters ultimately supported.
In their infrastructure negotiations with the White House, Senate Republicans have proposed paying for President Joe Biden’s very popular American Jobs Plan with a regressive tax hike on the middle class and the working poor.
And House Republicans recently released an alternative budget that seeks to raise the age of eligibility for key government safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security, while also fundamentally transforming some of those very popular programs.
From a policy standpoint, Republicans couldn’t be adopting a worse posture to appeal to those working-class Trump voters than if they literally spent months polling the issues to devise the most self-defeating platform possible.
The posture of Republican lawmakers also splits the GOP base by age, with younger Republicans who have come of age in the Trump era preferring a bigger government imprint to improve the economy and quality of life while older GOP voters remain focused on lowering taxes.
An Economist/YouGov poll released earlier this month found that fully 71% of Republicans under 45 preferred to increase government spending in order to create jobs even if it meant raising taxes. But Republicans over 45 favored a polar opposite approach, with 74% prioritizing both lower spending and lower taxes.
In effect, both lower-income GOP voters and younger ones support the approach the Biden administration is taking to improving the economy over the policies and talking points congressional Republicans are pushing.
The truth is, the Republican Party is widely unpopular right now and struggling to curry favor even among its own voters. Its favorable rating among GOP voters is limping along at roughly 65% in a Civiqs tracking poll. By comparison, 88% of Democratic voters hold a favorable view of the Democratic Party in Civiqs tracking. (Note: these numbers will be several days old by the time this story publishes but likely won’t shift more than a point or so.)
Independents, who generally tend to be skeptics of both parties, still favor Democrats roughly twice as much, with 31% viewing Democrats favorably while just 15% hold favorable views of the GOP.
What is perfectly clear about Republican strategy heading into 2022 is that the party plans to restrict as many Democratic-leaning voters from ever reaching the polls as possible. What is still unclear is exactly who they think they are turning out to vote for their side.