The Urgency Gap

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump is seen on a screen as his supporters cheer during a rally on the National Mall on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to his supporters at his “Stop the Steal” rally on the National Mall on January 6, 2021 right before the insurrection. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

It would seem that the Trumpian made-up threats to democracy — Deep State, mass election fraud, etc. — are taken much more seriously by Republicans than the actual threats to democracy — insurrection, Big Lie, political violence — are by Democrats.

As Cristina flagged in the Morning Memo, a new CNN poll shows Republicans are much more likely (75%) to say that democracy is under attack than Democrats (46%).

Digging a bit deeper into the numbers, it look like this:

American democracy is under attack: GOP 75%, Dems 46%

American democracy is being tested, but is not under attack: GOP 22%, Dems 48%

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American democracy is in no danger: GOP 3%, Dems 7%

For those of us with our hair on fire that the insurrection isn’t over but merely on pause, that the threat to democracy is as great now as on the afternoon of Jan. 6, that Democrats in Congress as a whole lack the urgency of the historical moment, these numbers are daunting.

We often talk about the enthusiasm gap in electoral politics, but we now face an urgency gap. Republicans under Trump have not only succeeded in selling the lie that Democrats are out to destroy democracy, they’ve got Republicans more stoked about it than Democrats are about the verified, believe-your-own-eyes threat to democracy that reached its current pinnacle with a GOP-led violent attack on the Capitol to subvert an election.

I don’t know how to gauge the electoral consequences of this urgency gap (for example, will it be reflected in turnout numbers?). But that polling question is a strong signal that rank-and-file Democrats are taking their cues from the slow-footed, ambivalent, conflicted response of elected Democrats — not the other way around (though it probably functions as a self-reinforcing feedback loop).

When the people fomenting political violence are more fired up by their made-up pretexts to justify violence than their opponents are by the actual violence, I don’t know how that possibly ends well.

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