Out of Touch: Democrats Struggle With Messaging on Pocketbook Issues

Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Hakeem Jeffries / Getty Images

Some Democrats in Congress still haven't recognized the political liability of high inflation for their party, according to a Wednesday Politico report.

At a House Democratic Caucus meeting this week, some representatives shrugged off concerns that pocketbook issues would determine the 2022 midterm elections.

"We're not seeing it in the polls," one member reportedly told Rep. Katie Porter (D., Calif.), who gave an impassioned address describing how inflation is affecting her family. Porter said her fellow lawmakers' reaction demonstrated it was "the first time the personal toll of high consumer prices had sunk in for some lawmakers in the room," according to Politico.

Polls have shown rising concern over the economy for the past six months. In January, an AP-NORC poll found Americans are more worried about the economy and inflation than the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters' trust in the Democratic Party to handle the issue has also flagged. In May, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that Americans by 19 points backed the Republican Party on its ability to handle the economy.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said inflation is now his "top domestic priority" but also deflected immediate responsibility, saying his administration and Congress can do little in the short term to battle it. The Small Business Administration's 2023 budget proposal makes no reference to inflation's impact on business owners, the Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday.

The shift comes on the heels of two other issues that Democrats have already paid for at the polls: COVID policies' effect on schools and small businesses. Following last week's leak of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the party is expected to lean into abortion messaging.

A Monday report, however, showed that suburban women in Phoenix are more concerned about inflation than they are about the High Court overturning the 1973 landmark abortion ruling.

Porter's own experience of inflation came when she noticed the soaring price of bacon at her local supermarket. Pork prices may also have been influenced by laws passed by Democratic lawmakers in California. In January, a bill took effect that restricts the sale of pork from farms where pigs are raised on less than 24 square feet of space, eliminating 96 percent of pork suppliers from the California market.