In President Biden’s Hometown, Voters Don’t Share His Concerns for Democracy

(Photo by Whitney Dangerfield)

With midterm elections coming up, Pennsylvania has emerged as one of the key battleground states where — according to analysts — the future of reproductive rights and democracy itself will be determined. The Senate seat in the swing state is hotly-contested, as Democrats and Republicans fight for control of Congress. While President Joe Biden has been warning Americans that democracy is under threat from a faction of Republicans, political analysts are skeptical if this narrative would impact voters’ decision.

On a recent weekend to Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, many voters appeared unconcerned with his warnings about the future of democracy. James Kolsovsky, a 36-year-old coffee shop owner in Scranton, is an undecided voter. He says the economy matters the most to him. “The increase in gas prices hurt the people, and the Biden administration has been failing to do something about it. The political battle between Democrats and Republicans does not concern me.”


‘Rising crime rate ignored by media’

Sabrina Iva, 42, another business owner in Scranton, says the rising crime rate in Pennsylvania is being ignored by mainstream media during the election coverage. “Public safety should be at the forefront of coverage. “By emphasizing how dangerous Donald Trump is and failing to admit his own administration’s shortcomings in addressing public safety issues, President Biden is not helping his case.” 

Meanwhile, Democrats hope that several new voters are motivated to vote because of their opposition to the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v Wade and will help them win the election.

But most men voters I spoke to in Scranton did not seem to have a strong opinion on Roe v Wade. However, at least three female business owners I interviewed were vocal about abortion rights and noted that the Roe overturn would impact the decision of a lot of voters.

“For me, abortion rights are certainly an important issue and it matters where the candidates stand,” Iva told me. She added that some of her [female] family members who did not previously vote will be voting this election because they were angered by the SC’s decision.


What do young people think?

While most voters this reporter spoke to said that the economy was the deciding factor for the election, at least seven young university students I spoke to signaled that election deniers pose a threat to democracy.  Edward Myers, a 28-year-old student at the University of Scranton, said that Trumpism and its impact on democracy is a crucial issue this election. He, however, added that most people in Scranton are less likely to take this threat seriously and would vote on the basis of issues facing their communities.

Some national analysts think Democrats have failed to properly highlight the threats to democracy during the election campaigns. Earlier this month, Politico reported that less than 2 percent of ads run for House Democrats included a mention of the Capitol Hill attack. Adam Weinstein, a New York-based political analyst, sees this inaction as a problem. “If it [rejecting election results] becomes normalized, then the threat will grow.”

Weinstein noted that Trump’s claims of voter fraud was something never witnessed before. “It was unprecedented in US politics for politicians to refuse to accept election results when one candidate has won by a significant margin.”

At the Democratic Party’s headquarters in Scranton, campaign managers were reluctant to talk about Biden’s narrative surrounding democracy and the future of elections. Kunal Atit, a Scranton-based campaign director for Congressman Matt Cartwright, the Democratic incumbent, told me that Biden is not on the ballot, which is why the Congressman’s campaign is focused on issues facing his community.

“The way we characterize our race and how Congressman Cartwright has led his public service career is about community. Our campaign’s message is anchored in things people deal with. It is all about having a representative in Washington who can give voice to the working class people of this district,” he said, adding that inflation is currently the biggest issue in Scranton.

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