OPINION | BRADLEY GITZ: Race to the bottom


With less than a year to go before the election, some random campaign observations:

Even though one might expect the dynamic to be different in presidential races, where something resembling a national referendum tends to be held regarding the state of the union and the responsibility for it of the incumbent party, there is no denying that Democrats have been remarkably successful since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health ruling at turning state-level elections into single-issue referenda on abortion.

They have been able to do so because of effective advertising campaigns that depict Republicans as extremists on the issue, combined with Republican unwillingness or inability to refute such claims.

The GOP goal -- to eventually ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest -- flows logically from the underlying premise that a fetus is a human being entitled to life in the same sense as all human beings (making the manner of conception, including rape or incest, irrelevant), but it is electorally damaging when a majority of the population doesn't share that premise.

The preferred Democratic policy -- abortion on demand at any point in a pregnancy for whatever reason at taxpayer expense -- might be repugnant to that same majority, but the truth is that most Americans don't want abortion to be entirely removed as an option in the lives of their daughters and wives.

The side that wants to stretch an alleged right to the extreme will always be viewed as less extreme than the side that wants to take that alleged right away entirely.

The Dobbs ruling has intensified the debate over abortion by shifting the idea of bans from theoretical to actual, and Republicans will continue to be hurt by the issue until they can somehow convince enough Americans that a fetus is a human being rather than a tomato.

"Bidenomics" isn't a new economic approach, it's just the traditional Democratic one of buying votes with other people's money regardless of fiscal consequences or impact on inflation.

What is new, however, is the willingness of an administration to take credit for calamitous economic policies, even to the point of putting the president's name on them.

If memory serves, "Reaganomics" was a term of derision that was widely used during the tough recession of 1982. References to it abruptly disappeared in media accounts when that recession was followed by the 1983-1990 economic boom.

How strange then that Biden has sought to put his own brand on economic policies that most Americans see as outright failures.

Democrat claims to the contrary, this isn't some kind of misperception on the part of American citizens wherein they fail to accurately appreciate the economic miracles that Biden has performed; because of Bidenomics the average American, for perhaps the first time since the Great Depression, can no longer afford to buy a car or house.

And those lucky enough to already own cars and houses are having difficulty paying the insurance on them.

The question "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" is going to matter more next year than ever, because the guy running against the incumbent is the guy from four years ago.

Polls showing Donald Trump now beating Biden in both swing states and nationally are making Democrats understandably nervous, but the recent one from NBC (which had Trump, for the first time in the poll's history, ahead, even among 18- to 34-year-olds) contained a more interesting tidbit -- that any Republican other than Trump beats Biden by 11 points, and that any Democrat other than Biden beats Trump by six points.

Given that the latest composite poll from RealClearPolitics has Trump leading his nearest Republican rival, Ron DeSantis, by 45 points and Biden has no real intraparty competition at all, it is difficult to disagree with Jim Geraghty's observation that "Both parties are bizarrely hellbent on nominating the least-popular option they can offer."

There are some important differences here, however -- whereas Democrats clearly want options other than Biden, Republicans have options other than Trump but don't want them.

The Democrats want options because they want to win, and are worried that Biden can't; Republicans don't want options because they want to stand by their man more than they want to win.

The behavior of the former is that of a traditional political party, the behavior of the latter that of a personality cult.

Along those lines, I recently talked with a couple of firm Trump supporters and asked them three questions: (1) Is there anything you can think of that Trump did that you approved of that any other Republican president wouldn't have likely also done? (2) Are there any mistakes or unforced errors that Trump committed that any other Republican president would have likely avoided making? (3) Are there any causes you support that Trump didn't pursue or pursue effectively enough that any other Republican president would have likely pursued and pursued more effectively?

The answers -- No, Yes, and Yes, respectively -- were informative, in the sense of providing additional evidence that Trump's support has nothing to do with politics, traditionally understood.

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.