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It’s Not Just the Economy, Stupid

AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan

Glenn Youngkin campaigning for Governor of Virginia in 2021.

In the months leading up to the 1992 presidential election, Democratic political strategist James Carville coined a famous and widely repeated slogan urging then-candidate Bill Clinton’s campaign staff to center their messaging around one issue, and one issue only: the economy. “It’s the economy, stupid,” Carville wrote on a whiteboard in the Clinton campaign headquarters. In nearly every election cycle since, politicians and consultants on both sides of the aisle have continued to invoke Carville’s battle cry. And as the GOP gears up for the 2022 midterm elections, several Republicans are once again embracing Carville’s words—but in 2022, the old political nostrum may not hold true.

Earlier this month, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan—a self-branded moderate Republican and potential 2024 presidential candidate—claimed Republicans should be “focused more on economic issues than fighting every social issue that’s out there.” The GOP, he continued, “ought to be focused on inflation and the economy.” Any focus on other issues, he went on, simply isn’t “smart politics.” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, another potential contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, echoed Hogan’s sentiment: “I don’t like passing bills in a cultural war to fire up our base. That to me is not the way I conduct business,” he said in a recent speech in New Hampshire.

But 2022 is not 1992. Given Democrats’ all-out assault on traditional values and the American way of life, a single-minded focus on the economy—especially at the expense of major social and cultural issues at top of mind for many Americans—isn’t the winning strategy some Republicans might believe.

Economic issues will always be important to voters—especially in a period of economic turmoil such as this one. But recent state-level elections—most notably in Virginia and Ohio—demonstrate that voters are eager for a Republican Party that actively fights back against the left on key cultural issues.

For much of the last year, no cultural issues have dominated the political airwaves more than the rise of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender ideology in K-12 education. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s victory last November in a state that Biden won by 10 points—which came in large part as a result of parents’ growing concerns over CRT and Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s insistence that parents should have no say in their children’s education—should serve as a clear sign for conservative candidates everywhere not to hide from the culture wars, but rather to embrace them.

J.D. Vance’s victory in the Ohio Republican Senate primary earlier this month further reinforces this strategy. Vance, who based much of his campaign on resisting the left’s “culture war against traditional values” and opposing CRT and gender ideology, won last week’s primary by a margin far wider than expected. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has signed a handful of bills taking aim at left-wing ideologies in the classroom and the corporate world has also enjoyed a surge in popularity and high approval ratings among Republican voters.

But no one deserves more credit for the GOP’s transformation into a party that fights confidently on cultural issues than former President Donald Trump. In the words of The American Mind’s Editorial Board, Trump had the courage to identify problems and crises afflicting everyday Americans at a time “when few others would.” But, they continued, discussion of these problems hasn’t gone away since Trump’s departure from office—and for good reason: “They have gotten worse, because the Old Guard doesn’t have solutions to them.” Trump’s message—the same message that led Glenn Youngkin, J.D. Vance, and others like them to victory—“is the way forward for this country,” and it is “the path the GOP will chart if it wants to win.”

Though some Republican elites remain insistent that the GOP should steer clear of hot-button social disputes and stick only to issues like tax cuts, it’s clear that rank-and-file Republican voters feel otherwise, and will reward candidates who fight unapologetically for conservative values. Moreover, the success of these candidates in general elections proves that cultural issues are, in fact, winning issues for Republicans.

Of course, the GOP’s heightened focus on cultural and social issues should not detract from economic and fiscal concerns entirely. America’s 40-year-high inflation, record-high gas prices, and the looming threat of economic recession under the Biden administration are serious concerns affecting all Americans, and it remains essential that conservatives put forward a vision to improve the nation’s deteriorating economic conditions. But focusing solely on economic concerns while CRT, gender ideology, and other corrosive forces run rampant and pervade nearly every corner of American life would be a grave political mistake—and would cost Republicans significantly at the ballot box.

Despite the notoriety and political success of James Carville’s campaign exhortation from three decades ago, times have changed. Today, voters want more than a singular focus on the economy—and Republicans would be stupid to think otherwise.

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Ralph T Forr
8 months ago

For those of us who are truly conservative economically and socially, the social issues have a priority as they indicate which direction our country is heading in. Marx and his followers want to destroy the family, the church and capitalism. So far they have been somewhat successful with “No Fault” divorce, gay marriage, the push for transgenderism and abortion on demand. Obama care and the forgiveness of student debt are on the agenda to make us totally dependent on “Big Government”. We need to fight for the family, the right to life, and to insure that are freedoms of speech, religion and to bear arms are not interfered with; otherwise as a nation we are done.

8 months ago

The Repubs will very likely try to betray the American people by throwing them a tax cut (with no corresponding spending cuts) instead of helping them take their country back. Too little, too late.

8 months ago

Somewhat tangentially an economic issue is that Biden is trying to hang the entire increase in gasoline prices on Putin’s actions in Europe. Gasoline prices were rising strongly before that war ever became a reality. Biden treats the American public as though they were dolts and morons.

Furthermore, if you consider the panic-mongering campaign run by the Democrats, people are just sick of it. – Think the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, where all fingers point to HRC and her minions. Think of the multiple attempts to impeach president Trump. Think of the pandemic which crashed the economy.

The American public is sick to death of Biden, the ruinously gratuitous inflation, and his capture by elements of the extreme left. In 2024, the American electorate needs to vote that wizened zombie out of the White House.

8 months ago
Reply to  Kunkleberry99

Trump might have had $5 gas too if COVID hadn’t destroyed fuel demand. Good economies/low unemployment often go hand in hand with inflation and high gas price. The interest rate increases may help. Also, I suspect the “revenge spending” of the less wise American public will exhaust their cash reserves and credit lines.
I expect a challenging tightrope for Powell to avoid a serious recession when demand craters cuz the cash rich go broke and the cash poor max out their credit. When the prices drop, those of us uninterested in paying these absurd prices will open our wallets again.

Johnathan Galt
8 months ago
Reply to  imppress

No, gas prices are due to both bad policies by Xiden and the war in Ukraine – neither of which would ever have happened under Trump.

8 months ago
Reply to  imppress

The Fed waited too long to raise rates.

Peter Mayo
8 months ago

Gasoline is climbing toward 5 bucks, heating oil is over 6 bucks. Come fall, no one will care about CRT or abortion except the far-left and far-right. It remains the economy, stupid!

8 months ago
Reply to  Peter Mayo

If CRT and Gender Ideology is couched within a “parental rights to participate in their children’s education” then they are useful. Youngkin didn’t just mindlessly fearmonger and repeat CRT over and over he framed it within parental rights in education and parents rights to schools that teach their children how to think not what to think.

That and the dumbing down of education and reversing the trend of decreased support for gifted and talented students is a winning issue for suburban swing voters. Abortion could also be a winning issue for republicans IF republican primary voters would let candidates take a moderate stance on abortion and focusing only on banning later surgical abortions not 6 week medical abortions.

Gosse does not approve
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter Mayo

while the economy remains at the top of the list, it is still a list; and as such it remains an all of the above election.

Dennis O'Neill
8 months ago

The author wrote:
… voters are eager for a Republican Party that actively fights back against the left on key cultural issues. …

I nearly agree with this. I think voters are eager for a non-hysterical, non-radical political party that has the best interests of the country at heart and wants to stay out of things that aren’t its business. Neither of our two political factions fill that bill, and their dominance distorts our politics into madness.

Johnathan Galt
8 months ago
Reply to  Dennis O'Neill

Honestly, government has no business whatsoever taking a stand on “culture,” apart from SUPPORTING what is most functional in a society (i.e. encouraging families to stay together while raising children). Our Constitution was written in hopes that government would serve us, not the other way around.

8 months ago

Granted, the economy — as awful as it is — is more than enough for the GOP to campaign on this year. However, the GOP swept the recent elections in VA, and it sure wasn’t about the economy in that case. So anyone who thinks ignoring CRT and other social issues is going to help a GOP candidate nees their head examined.

8 months ago

This time, it is a culture war, and it has to be. The woke democratic elite, along with their media and technology pals, let alone the doj,cia, fbi (aka deep state) are trying to control USA Society and ‘We the People’ and have created 2 systems of justice, this needs to end, even more than the economic needs.

john Kriegsmann
8 months ago

Great article. Given the crime in our streets, the massive amount o illegal immigration and the rot in our public school systems the cultural issues all help the GOP.You can bet the Democrats will play the one cultural issue that they think helps them- Abortion.

Johnathan Galt
8 months ago

The position of Democrats can now be better described as “anti-culture,” an attempt to bring all of society down to the lowest possible level.

8 months ago

Well they’re stupid so that’s what I expect them to do, i.e., not fight.

ossm possm
8 months ago

they came after our kids. That’s the end.

David Lilly
8 months ago

1) Larry Hogan is a RINO’s RINO. His act plays in liberal Maryland because he is more democrat than republican.
2) Hutchinson and Hogan have as much chance at the republican nomination as I do, which is to say none. They are relics of the past and former staunch republicans turned Independent like myself are never going back to them.
Don’t believe me ? I am supporting Nan Whaley for Governor in Ohio because Mike Dewine is of the same ilk and I am punishing the GOP for keeping guys like Dewine around and in office.
3) You HAVE to fight these culture wars in politics, especially if you are on the right. If you do not, as Hogan seems to desire, you will do nothing but lose ground to the left because the left are maniacal in their desire to ruin everything they can get in control of.
As I said above, the days of true Conservatives like myself supporting Hogan, Hutchinson, Dewine, Kasich, Romney, McCain and the Bush family simply because they are not democrats is over.
Stand up to the left and we will come out for you. Lay down for them and you will be laying down by yourself and soon to be run over.

8 months ago
Reply to  David Lilly

I have made the same decision. I would vote for Hillary or Obama over Romney, Bush, or McCain so that the message is unmistakable when they get thrashed. I’d rather see Hillary beat Romney 57-43 with my vote than to see Hillary beat Romney 51-47 with Romney getting my vote. Old guard Republicans will never get my vote ever again.

Vince Foster
8 months ago

The thing is that he Democrat cultural positions are so unpopular that you would be stupid not to take advantage of them. Late term abortion is highly unpopular and only affects a tiny minority of people. Transgender sex education for children is highly unpopular and only a tiny minority of people are transgender. Everyone else thinks it weird and not appropriate for children.

8 months ago
Reply to  Vince Foster

Although a tiny minority, militant transgender adults use schools and other venues children attend to recruit the next group of transgender adults. They are succeeding. More teens and young adults identify as non-binary or transgender than ever before. They are dangerous and unprincipled like everyone in the Dem party and on the left

Nathan A Steeves
8 months ago
Reply to  Lynn

They are succeeding at driving parents to move their children out of public schools.

8 months ago

The Democrats are losers in most, if not all important election-relevant issues. From the massive wave of illegal immigration to the cost of gasoline at the pumps to the handling of the COVID crisis to the rise in crime, to the rising cost of healthcare, to the increasing rates of homelessness, to the increasing scarcity of housing–the Democrats are viewed as the party causing the problems.

But ultimately, the economy is the number one concern for most families, and it was the number one issue in the 2020 elections:

I agree with Duties, who advocates Ronald Reagan’s slogan: are you better off than you were four years ago?: But in this case–because of Biden’s many missteps, both figurative and literal–Reagan’s slogan needs to be adjusted: Are you better off than you were just two years ago?

Many people are still struggling in the aftermath of the Plandemic. And it is looking more and more like the Democrats had a hand in enabling that too.

8 months ago

One way to encompass the economy and social issues is to ask a variation of Ronald Reagan’s question: are you better off than four years ago? To fit in with today’s more in-your-face style of politics, maybe something like: what part of the mess Democrats have made of your life are you happy with?

Most people I’ve asked can name one Trump policy they opposed. Likewise,I’m can’t imagine any thinking person could name one Biden/Democrat policy they’re happy with.

Dennis Habern
8 months ago
Reply to  Duties

It has always been the economy, stupid.

President Trump gave us a n outstanding eonomy, the likes of which the half-assed, half-baked,

half-breed Obama and komrad Biden could never compare, but he lost the 2000 election because

Soros and the half-breed Obama, rigged that election, similar to how Soros rigged the 2008 and

the 2012 elections. The half-breed Obama and komrad Biden were never SELECTED to govern.

Rather they were SELECED to crate chaos and confusion, so that Soros can continue to plot the

desrruction of the United States, unimpeded. Sorso and the half-breed Kenyan, Obama, are not

natural born United States citizens, threrefore these 2 Communist turds maintain no allegiance to

the United States, and it is quite evident where their loyalties lie.

8 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Habern

Wow. This is the kind of insane rambling nonsense that turns off moderate voters and causes suburbanites to vote against their own interests because they’re embarrassed to be associated w/ crazy old dudes rambling about “half breed Obama” when two elections have passed since Obama was in office.

Jim Carlin
8 months ago

I spent decades in marketing and I can tell you that defining all the issues customers/voters care about and then having that list available so that each local and regional election can use from that toolkit what best suits that locale works best. No two voters think alike and despite the current trend of viewing people in bulk demographic terms the close you get to the voter the less that demographic definition holds true.

Build all the talking points, inflation, arrogant school boards, crime, despotic District Attorneys, gasoline prices, housing prices . . . and build a tool kit for each so local and regional elections will be able to talk in one voice to the concerns of that school district, that state legislature, mayor, town council . . .

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, not everybody likes eggs.

Dan Barber
8 months ago

Make America first by shutting down and ignoring the delusional Democrat noise and repairing the economy. This can only be done by putting a Chief Executive Officer back in the White House whose loyalty is with the American people, and evicting do nothing political hacks.

8 months ago

I think this article pretty much nails it. This is the right place for it also. The population is aging and those of us who were pretty liberal/libertarian on many social issues are seeing that the slippery slope really does exist and we are on it.

If COVID did one good thing, it exposed some of what is going on in the public school system. Using just this one example, I am pretty sure that most parents would teach their kids not to persecute others who are different. This is not the same as having teachers teaching young children that they can choose their gender, or teaching them about “self-pleasure”, and then trying to help kids hide this teaching from parents.

There are plenty of other examples of the left taking a torch to societal norms. In our gut, we understand that while society can change its norms over time, burning it all down will destroy any stability in a society and lead to its destruction.
Which…come to think of it…is probably the goal for many.

8 months ago
Reply to  kmp

And a while back, I and others told you guys that the slope was very slippery and that’s why we were saying “NO” and we were told we were bigots and prejudice. Ha! I pray and believe we are not too late to save civilzation.

8 months ago

A majority of Americans get gas once a week. They drive away infuriated.
Many Democrats are going to vote with Republicans to stop the ultra-Progressives in the White House and Congress

Andras Boros-Kazai
8 months ago

Definitely not just the economy. Name one, just one Harris-Biden accomplishment that actually helped US citizens.

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