By Victor Shi
We can learn something from the MAGA movement. Not a lot, but we must learn this: people don’t want to only vote against something; they want something to vote for. They want to feel passionate about their cause and that their struggles and dreams matter and are seen.
The day before the State of the Union, an ABC and Washington Post poll revealed that more than 60% of the country didn’t know what President Biden and Democrats have done over the last two years. Now, every time Democrats talk about the failings and dangerous plans of Republicans, they should also attach what they have done for the American people and their vision for a better future.
Beyond crafting a message that will stick with voters in 2024, it is just as important for Democrats to focus on a group that could pave the path to victory for them. And that group is young voters. A recent report found that the number of eligible Gen Z and Millenial voters will outnumber any older generation in 2024. The good news is that there is a significant change in attitude toward President Biden compared to this time last year. According to an Economist and YouGov poll, President Biden has seen a 7% increase in support among 18-29-year-olds and a nearly 15% increase in support among high schoolers since April 2022.
The numbers make sense. Not only has President Biden committed to making lives better, but he’s also made good on many of his promises. When young voters compare that to Republicans’ priority to roll back our rights, the choice couldn’t be more clear. More of us are beginning to recognize the choice before us. President Biden has translated our concerns — climate change, student debt, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, voting rights, and more — into tangible policies or issues of constant effort.
But Democrats should not take the youth vote for granted. They must continue engaging young people from events on college campuses to giving young people a seat at the table to recruiting young people as the messengers of important policies. There are numerous ways to mobilize my peers and me. We’re here. We’re involved. We care, and we will do the work — but Democrats must engage us in the process.
Here’s why: It is only three months into 2023, and all eyes are already on the 2024 presidential election cycle. On the Republican side, there are the likes of Nikki Haley and Donald Trump — both of whom believe in many of the same far-right policies — who have already announced their candidacy. Other Republican figures like Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and Tim Scott have yet to announce but are anticipated to do so not too long from now. As a member of Gen Z, I promise you, this is a lousy list. Fortunately, the candidates are going to prove my point between now and having a nominee.
Already, Americans are witnessing the intense Republican infighting that will follow as the Republican field evolves into its final unappealing form. But make no mistake: no matter who the nominee ends up being, that person is someone who is a sharp departure from what Conservatism once represented. No longer are there debates around responsible fiscal policy or discussions around family values. Instead, the Republican Party is the party of Trump — whether Trump is the nominee or not. That is exactly why those like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott cannot name a single policy difference between them and Trump.
As many have come to understand, to be for the party and principles of Trump is to be against the very idea of democracy. Because there are no principles. There is no respect for the U.S. Consitution. The precise goal of Trump — and anyone who believes in his ideology — is not only to sow chaos and division but also to drag America back to a time when it was whiter, more Christian, more male-dominated, and straighter. Every Republican who has already announced or is expected to announce has a vision for our country that is simply incompatible with the longing for a multiracial, representative, and functioning democracy.
That is exactly why, for Democrats, we must choose our nominee carefully. Some in the party believe that President Biden has disadvantages and shouldn’t run for president. They argue that the president is too old. They say that he is not “progressive enough.” They point to areas of his administration where things could have been handled better — a la Afghanistan. To be sure, President Biden is not immune from criticism.
But at this moment, no one is better prepared to run and win on the Democratic side than President Biden. At the most basic level, he has done the job of president exceptionally well during his first two years in office. I had some reservations about how effectively President Biden would be able to perform his job when he first entered office. However, two years later, I will be the first to admit that President Biden has blown my expectations on every level.
Consider the things that President Biden has accomplished that no other president in modern history has successfully achieved. During the Trump administration, there were ongoing memes about the feasibility of “infrastructure week.” They spent four years trying to pass an infrastructure bill out of the House and Senate and fell short. President Biden came into office and passed the long-awaited infrastructure law – investing historic funding in fixing America’s roads, bridges, railways, and broadband. Another remarkable achievement is his passage of the sweeping Inflation Reduction Act that capped the price of insulin to $35 for seniors and invested a historic amount in combatting climate change.
And that’s not even mentioning President Biden’s milestone of confirming the most judges onto the federal circuit in his first two years in office or the fact that he did all of this with the narrowest majority in both the chambers of Congress. By focusing solely on what President Biden has accomplished in just two years as president, the argument that he hasn’t been progressive enough or is too old to handle the job suddenly becomes much weaker. The reality is that President Biden has achieved what few presidents dream of achieving in eight years – no less four years – and his age seems to be one of President Biden’s best assets in allowing him to understand the art of sealing the deal (something his predecessor never knew how to do).
Because of President Biden’s age, he is in a unique position heading into 2024. I would argue that President Biden is in his prime heading into 2024. Victories for Democrats and President Biden and Democrats hinge on how stark a contrast they can draw between themselves and Republicans, especially in their outreach to young voters.
As we saw in 2022, 2020, and 2018, messaging from the Democratic side is critical. More importantly, Democrats can’t be afraid to call out Republicans for the intentional harm they are causing to our nation. That is, making it crystal clear to voters that Republicans not only aren’t doing the things that they promised on the campaign trail, but their sole mission is to make lives more miserable and endanger democracy. Democrats have plenty of evidence to support this assertion — Does the GOP really believe their budget that would cut funding for the Affordable Care Act, causing people to lose health care, or imposing a national 30% tax on working families would be popular? No. They hope to light up their base and hope no one else notices. That’s precisely why Democrats must be relentless in pointing it out to voters.
The 2024 election may seem like a long time away. But things are already kicking into high gear. It will be a messy cycle, but if there is one thing that President Biden has shown repeatedly, it’s that he know’s how to stay focused. He knows how to block out the noise around him and get the job done.
As we head into 2024, Democrats and President Biden must stay committed to calling out Republicans at every turn, emphasizing and owning our successes, and focusing on engaging young voters. After all, we are still in the fight to restore the soul of our nation.