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Democrats Ask if They Should Hit Back Harder Against the G.O.P.

If Democrats could bottle Mallory McMorrow, the Michigan state senator who gave a widely viewed speech condemning Republicans’ push to limit discussions about gender and sexuality in schools, they would do it.

McMorrow’s big moment, which we wrote about on Monday, made her an instant political celebrity on the left. Her Twitter following has rocketed past 220,000. Democrats raising money for state legislative races have already found her to be a fund-raising powerhouse.

McMorrow’s five minutes of fury was so effective, Democrats said, in part because it was so rare.

It tapped into a frustration many Democrats feel about their party leaders’ hesitation to engage in these cultural firestorms, said Wendy Davis, a former Texas lawmaker whose filibuster of an abortion bill in 2013 made her a national political figure.

“There comes a point when you simply need to stand up and fight back,” Davis said.

“The strategy of not meeting the right wing where they are can only take you so far,” she added. “I think people have been really hungry to see Democrats pushing back and pushing back strongly, like Mallory did.”

Other Democrats are urging candidates to defend their beliefs more aggressively, rather than ignoring or deflecting Republicans’ cultural attacks by changing the subject to pocketbook issues.

“Democrats are afraid to talk about why we’re fighting about what we’re fighting for,” said Tré Easton, a progressive strategist. “It was exactly the kind of values-focused rebuttal that I want every Democrat to sound like.”

Another lesson of McMorrow’s speech, said Rebecca Katz, a senior adviser to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, is that voters are searching for authenticity and passion rather than lock-step ideological agreement.

“Voters want candidates who talk like actual people instead of slick, poll-tested performers,” Katz said. “They like candidates who are unfiltered, not calculated and scripted. And even if they don’t always agree with you, if a candidate is direct and honest, voters tend to respect that.”

Fetterman, who is leading polls ahead of the May 17 primary, is a progressive aligned with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. His main opponent is Representative Conor Lamb, a centrist from a suburban district outside Pittsburgh. Fetterman has worked to reassure Democratic Party leaders in and outside the state that he is not too far left to win a seat that is crucial to their hopes of retaining their Senate majority.

But the fault lines within the party are about how to communicate with the public just as much as they are about traditional arguments between progressives and moderates.

Party strategists in Washington, led by centrist lawmakers facing tough re-election bids, have settled on a heavily poll-tested midterm message that emphasizes the major legislation Democrats have passed in Congress: the $1.9 trillion economic relief package known as the American Rescue Plan and the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law.

It’s an approach that leaves some Democrats wanting a little more Mallory McMorrow.

“I agree that we should be making sure every single day to tell the American people what we’re doing to benefit them and their families,” Davis said, measuring her words carefully. “But we also need to fight fire with fire.”

  • New York’s highest court ruled that Democratic leaders had violated the State Constitution when drawing new congressional and State Senate districts, ordering a court-appointed expert to draw replacements for this year’s critical midterm elections.

  • Democratic lawmakers released a report alleging that in 2020, top Trump administration officials had awarded a $700 million pandemic relief loan to a struggling trucking company over the objections of Defense Department officials.

  • The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is returning in person on Saturday after a two-year pandemic absence. It has some in Washington calculating the risks involved. President Biden will be there. Anthony Fauci is skipping it.

pulse

It might be the most important rift in American politics: the gender gap between the two major parties. And it’s growing larger.

New public opinion research by the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank in Washington, explores just how far apart Democrats and Republicans now are on a bevy of issues, including their contrasting approaches to sex and sexuality and their spiritual practices.

Driving the split, in large part, is the steady migration of college-educated women to the Democratic Party. In 1998, the study’s authors note, only 12 percent of Democrats were women with a college degree. That figure is now 28 percent — making them a dominant bloc in the party. For comparison, men without college degrees now make up 22 percent of the Republican Party, up from 17 percent in 1998.

That gender gap is a quiet driver of political polarization, said Daniel Cox, the director and founder of A.E.I.’s Survey Center on American Life.

He was struck by the stark differences of opinion between women with college degrees and men without them on two issues in particular: climate change and abortion.

Sixty-five percent of college-educated women favor protecting the environment over faster economic growth, A.E.I. found, versus only 45 percent of men without college degrees. Seventy-two percent of college-educated women say abortion ought to be legal in most cases, while just 43 percent of men without a college education agree.

The gender gap was growing well before Donald Trump, Cox said. But his election “supercharged” the political activism of millennial women in particular, he said.

It was primarily college-educated women who rallied on the National Mall in 2017 to express their opposition to Trump, a Republican president swept into office by — as he put it — “the poorly educated.”

College-educated women rallied to Joe Biden during the 2020 election, repelled by Trump’s brash and aggressive political style.

Those feelings have only intensified. Seventy-three percent of college-educated women have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, A.E.I. found, while 59 percent have a very unfavorable view of him. By contrast, 48 percent of men without college degrees view Trump unfavorably.

— Blake

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