by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Only after Rep. Katie Porter put bacon in her cart at her local grocery store recently did she notice that its price had spiked to $9.99 a pound. Reluctantly, she put the package back.
It was a dose of reality that Porter, a California progressive and single mother of three, has long understood. But she’s not sure all of her Democratic colleagues share her interest in connecting to average Americans’ experiences outside the Beltway.
When Porter gave an emotional speech about how inflation has been hitting her family for months during a private House Democratic Caucus meeting last week, she said it seemed like the first time the personal toll of high consumer prices had sunk in for some lawmakers in the room.
“Too often, Congress recognizes issues too late,” Porter, a top GOP target this fall in a swing district, said in an interview. “I had a colleague mention to me, ‘We’re not seeing it in the polls’ … Well, you don’t know what to ask.”
For Porter, the episode revealed how much work Democrats still need to do to assure voters they understand everyday anxieties, particularly inflation’s strain on family budgets. She’s not alone: Some Democrats have warned for months their party is falling short when it comes to communicating to an increasingly exasperated public. …
… But even Democrats’ own internal polling has confirmed they have problems with the way they talk to voters. And if they can’t improve their outreach, Porter and others are worried that the party’s chance to hold onto its slim majorities in November could evaporate.
“Conveying is part of it. But first, you have to see it. Voters are very quick to be able to sense when something is hollow rhetoric,” Porter said. “It’s not about just switching up your talking points. It’s about seeing the issues.”