It’s the trust, stupid

A few days after this year’s election, House Democrats conducted a conference call to review the election results. To say that the mood was confused is an understatement. While we all were relieved and excited by Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump, a victory we think saved our democracy for the time being, most were very disappointed that Democrats had not — pending two runoff elections in Georgia — retaken control of the U.S. Senate, held or enlarged our majority in the House or flipped legislative control in any state.

Sparks flew during that conversation. Liberals complained that we had equivocated on the policies that excited young voters and drove turnout of our base, and felt we had not concentrated enough on the digital world where so many voters get their political information. Less liberal members moaned that we had underperformed because many Dems were talking about defunding police, the benefits of socialism, and initiatives like the Green New Deal. Even F-bombs were thrown.

To a certain extent, these discussions feel like a Goldilocks syndrome. We’re looking for a “just right” position, not too left, not too moderate. But the debate ignores something that I have been arguing for years, and that Republicans figured out long ago: Most voters don’t cast their votes with their heads; they vote with their guts. They don’t vote based on a candidate’s agenda, but on whether they trust him or her to have their best interests in mind.

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