Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Democrats’ weak link

 I’ve written a couple of articles about Republican weaknesses in the upcoming election over the past few weeks. Despite favorable polling at the moment, the abortion issueremains an Achilles heel for the party and Donald Trump’s recent resurrection of the effort to repeal Obamacare may turn out to be a similar weakness. 

That doesn’t mean that Democrats will cruise to another election victory, however. The Democrats have problems of their own that the party must deal with and that voters will have to consider. 

Image by <a href="">Gianluca</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>

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The economy is one of the obvious considerations. So far, the economy is doing wellwith inflation coming under control the stock market is flirting with record highs, and unemployment is low. Even gas prices, an economic measure that directly affects a large number of Americans, have fallen for more than 60 straight days. The problem is that consumers haven’t yet noticed the good news and are still in bunker mode. 

The good news for Democrats is that it seems increasingly likely that the Fed will pull off the soft landing that avoids a recession. Even though some economists are still forecasting a recession, those predictions have been off the mark so far with the economy chugging stubbornly along. If Biden’s luck holds, consumer confidence is likely to be much stronger by Election Day.

There’s also immigration. The border has been a perceived weak area for President Biden, but this weakness might be somewhat offset by a proposed deal that would tie border security funding to a Ukrainian aid package.

The big weakness is not going to be Hunter Biden. The claims about Hunter didn’t resonate with voters in 2020 and three years later, Republicans still haven’t found a smoking gun that connects Hunter’s activities to any crime by Joe. Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) admitted as much on Fox Business earlier this week when she was asked, “Have you been able to identify any actual policy changes that Joe Biden made as a result of getting money from China?”

“The short answer is no,” McClain replied, despite a claim by James Comer (R-Ky.),who leads the impeachment inquiry, back in May that Republicans already had this evidence. 

Facing a subpoena, Hunter has offered to testify in a public congressional hearing, but House Republicans want to keep the matter behind closed doors in a private deposition. Given the conflicting and inflammatory statements sans evidence coming out of the inquiry, I don’t blame Hunter for wanting his testimony to be a matter of public spectacle record, and if Republicans choose not to take him up on it, it will be hard to sway skeptical members of Congress and voters to back the impeachment effort or even convince them that Biden is corrupt. The investigation is at a point where Republicans must decide whether to poop or get off the pot. 

Aside from the economy, there is one big issue where Democrats are out of the mainstream in the same way that Republicans are swimming against the tide when it comes to abortion and gun rights. The big weakness for the Democrats is their position on treatment of transgender children. 

While Democratic positions on the issue of “gender-affirming care” are not monolithic, there is a wealth of polling that shows that Americans are very skeptical of policies that favor transgender people, especially when it comes to medical interventions. One of the most detailed and recent polls that looked at the issue was a Pew Research survey from last June. Among the poll’s findings:

  • 60 percent say gender is determined at birth (up from 56 percent in 2022 and 54 percent in 2017)

  • 58 percent support mandating that transgender people compete on sports teams that match their birth gender (17 percent oppose)

  • 46 percent favor bans on medical care for gender transitions (31 percent oppose)

  • 43 percent say the pace of change for gender identity issues is too fast (26 percent say too slow)

  • 78 percent say transgender people face discrimination

  • 69 percent say that it is important to use a transgender person’s pronouns (18 percent say it isn’t important and 12 percent say it shouldn’t be done)

  • 64 percent say that trans people should be protected from discrimination (up from 60 percent in 2022 and 54 percent in 2017)

If the polling seems inconsistent, welcome to American public opinion. We can draw some broad conclusions, however. Even though most Americans believe that gender is a biological reality, most also believe that trans people should be respected and that they should not be discriminated against. The biggest opposition to the trans movement seems to be on issues that involve children, such as medical gender reassignment treatments on minors and in sports. 

Transgender issues may provide an opening for Republicans, but it is an issue where they should tread carefully. Republicans should avoid attacking trans people directly but focus their efforts on regulating medical treatments and mandating that biological boys cannot cross over to girls’ sports. 

It’s going to be tough to go that far and no farther though. The risk is that Republican firebrands will cross the line into overt bigotry and turn off moderate voters in swing states and districts. To some extent, I’d say that this isn’t a risk but a certainty. The question is how broad the problem will be. 

If Republicans can control their radical fringe, the issue is an opportunity to paint Democrats as social radicals and anti-science. And this isn’t just a matter of conservative pundits parading their scientific opinions, Forbes reported last June that a number of European countries are acting to restrict “gender-affirming care” for minors on the grounds that “longitudinal data collected and analyzed by public health authorities in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and England have concluded that the risk-benefit ratio of youth gender transition ranges from unknown to unfavorable.”

This should be the focus of the Republican message. The party’s candidates and surrogates should stress that they have sympathy for the mental anxiety that gender confusion can cause but that scientific data has found that medically altering a person’s gender can make the problem worse. If possible, they should do this without uttering words like “pervert” or “groomer.”

Regulations and restrictions on medical treatments for minors have a long history, both in the US and Europe. Campaigning for a nationwide ban against the use of hormone blockers and sexual reassignment surgeries for minors is not fanatical, transphobic, or cruel. 

It’s also reasonable to advocate that biological boys compete against other biological boys in school sports. No matter what gender is claimed, DNA and the male physical makeup create an unfair advantage for trans women over biological women. 

Republicans are more in step with public opinion on these issues, but that does not mean that they constitute emergencies. Despite the headlines and the angst, the New York Times reported in 2022 that even though the population of young people who identify as transgender has “nearly doubled in recent years,” the share of minors who are transgender is still less than 1.5 percent of those age groups. Newsweek estimated that the number of transgender athletes was less than 100 nationwide.

Even though there are comparatively few trans people, the issue of transgender rights is a contentious one. Republicans currently have a more mainstream position on the issue so we’ll definitely see the topic come back up as the election nears. 

Republicans should remember, however, that being a small minority does not mean that trans people lack humanity. The focus should be on helping them find the best medical and psychological help to navigate their condition rather than singling them out for harassment and ridicule. 

The key is look to the scientific evidence and present it in a kind and caring way. In other words, don’t be a jerk. 

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Here’s a second look at another piece on the transgender issue that I wrote back in July.

From the Racket News

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