Up next for Democrats: Regaining trust on the economy


The Democrats defied historical trends in last week’s midterm elections, thanks to excellent candidates, a record of legislative achievements, and an urgent mission of standing up for women’s rights and against election deniers. The president made a strong case that democracy and our freedoms were on the ballot, and he deserves credit for the better-than-expected results.

Now, Democrats have a chance to build a bigger and more enduring majority in the 2024 presidential election. We need not settle for a nation that remains stubbornly split between the parties. Polling shows that voters trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle key issues like reproductive rights, climate change, and gun violence. If our party can win back trust on the economy, we can win back states that we carried in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Driving a compelling economic message will be especially important ahead of the next election cycle. With inflation near a 40-year high, the central concern among many citizens — Democrats and Republicans — is rising consumer prices. There is also fear of the economy slowing down and of layoffs, which tech companies in my district in California have already begun. We must not only empathize with people’s anxiety but also continue to create good-paying jobs and address the most important pocketbook items for working Americans — energy, housing, and child care costs.

That starts by getting out of the Beltway to promote a “new economic patriotism” — making things in America again to build prosperity and wealth. We should make big investments to bring manufacturing home to places ravaged by globalization. The bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which I helped draft to boost semiconductor manufacturing and investments in emerging technology, was a start. The bill brought $20 billion to places like Ohio and created thousands of good jobs — more than anything Donald Trump did for the Midwest in his four years as president. Democrats must continue to push a bold production agenda to lower inflation, and bring back industries like steel, aluminum, and auto parts. This is especially important considering 63 percent of Americans blamed rising prices on a lack of manufacturing and supply chains. One reason we had too much money chasing too few goods is that we did not make semiconductors, masks, latex gloves, or many consumer electronics in America.

We also need fast action to address high gas prices. Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unconscionable war in Ukraine left people struggling to afford gas while oil giants posted record profits. Democrats can make progress by championing a windfall profit tax on Big Oil’s excess profits to send the money back to working Americans.

Americans don’t like to be bullied at home by Big Oil or abroad by Saudi Arabia. We must stay tough on Saudi Arabia for siding with Russia to cut oil production. People will rally by our side if they see us standing up to Saudi OPEC+ cuts, which hurt their pocketbooks. President Biden, from his new position of strength, should give an Oval Office address announcing that he will halt US arms sales unless Saudi Arabia reverses course.

Over the next two years, we have to shift the focus from fossil fuels to investments in renewable energy to fight volatile oil and electricity prices. Moves by Republican politicians like Governor Chris Sununu in New Hampshire to restrict or prohibit cleaner forms of energy have sent utility costs skyrocketing. We should talk about the climate investments we make as a pocketbook issue.

And we must channel Americans’ anger at rising rents and housing prices by being tougher on Wall Street. Private equity firms are buying up hundreds of thousands of homes and converting them into rentals to turn a profit. Democrats should pledge to ban institutional investors from buying single-family homes and fund more housing construction to lower rents and prices — investments Republicans blocked.

Providing child care, which is a pro-family investment, is another opportunity for our party to regain trust on the economy. We can promise working families that if they vote for Democrats, they will pay just $10 a day for child care instead of over 20 percent of their paycheckan initiative Canada adopted with great success. If Republicans stand in the way, they will be responsible for the high day care costs families incur. This messaging needs to start now.

While Democrats successfully painted Republicans as threats to democracy, we should do more to explain why their policies threaten economic security. Republicans don’t have a serious plan on the economy. Instead, they trot out their tired mantras of tax cuts and deregulation as the fix to everything. Former prime minister Liz Truss of Britain nearly destroyed its economy with this plan. We can’t let Republicans get away with perpetually running on the American version of “Trussonomics.”

If Democrats commit to four main economic initiatives — revitalizing American manufacturing, standing up to Big Oil and foreign dictators to lower gas prices, making housing more affordable, and lowering child care costs — we can reclaim the mantle of the party that delivers economic prosperity. That is how we build an enduring governing coalition and stitch this country back together.

Ro Khanna is a Democratic US representative from Silicon Valley.

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