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Democrats: Change Course Or Get Crushed.
We have some advice.
BREAKING: Stay tuned for some news about Bulwark World later today.
Folks, this is important, so this morning I’m turning the wheel over to our colleague Sarah Longwell, who has a warning — and some advice — for Democrats.
Basically, it’s this: “if the Democrats keep doing what they’re doing, Republicans are going to crush them.”
The GOP strategy for 2022 is obvious, she writes. “They’ll use Donald Trump and his election lies to generate enthusiasm and turnout from the rural base. But they’ll go on offense against Democrats using crime, education, inflation, and exhaustion with COVID, which will resonate with traditional right-leaning independents and moderate GOP voters in the suburbs.”
But, writes Sarah, “unlike the late summer of 2020 when Democrats missed their window to correct course and hold on to a larger share of swing voters, Democrats still have some time to get their shit together.”
It will require a long, hard look in the mirror and the self-awareness to recognize that the current strategy isn’t working. It will also require shaking off some amount of activist pressure, recognizing Biden’s narrow mandate, and an affirmative decision to go on offense on the issues that moderate Democrats (who are the actual Democratic base) and swing voters have told me during focus groups they care about most.
Here’s the list:
Offense on COVID. Dems can’t wave a magic wand and make COVID go away—voters understand that—but they can make it look like they’ve got a plan to deal with it and keep life as normal as possible for people. Bang the drum relentlessly that keeping schools open and the economy functioning are the number one priority of this administration. Cheap tests should be everywhere! The CDC is confusing! Get out front and explain things to people. Joe Biden must be the steady hand taking clear action. Pair that with a firm offense against the anti-vaxxers who dominate right-wing media and parts of Congress. They’re the reason we can’t put COVID in the rearview mirror. Swing voters and moderate Republicans are very annoyed that people won’t get vaccinated.
Offense on the economy. The only thing more important to voters right now than COVID is the economy. But they’re related. Solving COVID ameliorates the attendant economic problems the pandemic is causing (inflation, high gas prices, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions) that participants in my focus groups say are their biggest concerns. Biden can’t look passive on these issues. They’re making a huge impact on people’s daily lives. Also, the economy has some real bright spots—super low unemployment, for instance. Dems should talk about those bright spots. All the time!
Legislative offense. Democrats should stop killing themselves with omnibus legislation that can’t even get 50 votes among Democrats. You took a swing on BBB and you lost. It’s over. The voters are not interested in transformative change at the moment and neither are some Democratic senators, apparently. Face reality. Drop BBB. Take a few of the most popular provisions (that you know Manchin and Sinema are on board with) and force Republicans to vote on those. Stop infighting. The voters think this means you’re ineffectual. Republicans are sitting around with buckets of popcorn. Stop giving them that.
Messaging offense. Okay, so you didn’t get your Build Back Better bill. But you did pass a $2 trillion COVID rescue plan that everyone’s already forgotten about and never had any idea what was in it, anyway. Why? Because Democrats didn’t talk about it. Also: Dems passed a pretty big bipartisan infrastructure bill that got 19 Republican senators to vote for it. Those are big wins! Put them in your pocket and go tell people about all the stuff that was in those bills. Push into Trump country. Tell them how you got them rural broadband. Because right now the public doesn’t know anything about these accomplishments.
Offense against Republicans. The silver lining for Democrats (though it’s not great for the country) is that the vast majority of Republican candidates running for office in 2022 are genuine MAGA wackos who might not be cognitively capable of keeping their mouths shut about Trump when talking to suburban voters. They might actually spend the whole campaign snuggling up to Trump and screaming about election conspiracies—many of these folks are certifiable! They scare moderates. Now, Democrats can’t win elections just by saying “We’re not insane like those guys.” But while you’re demonstrating that you can govern effectively on the points outlined above, you should still take a few moments to say, “Man, a bunch of those folks are really out of their minds. I mean, let’s just look at the ones whose last names start with G: Gosar. Gohmert. Greene. Gaetz.”
The great thing about offense is that it lets you set the narrative. Trump understood this well, using his morning tweets to set the day’s news agenda. Biden can do that too, albeit in a more constructive way. Call press conferences. Deliver regular statements. Don’t complain about the media focusing on the wrong things. Take control. Drive the news cycle. They’ll focus on your message if you’re relentless about putting a message out there.
But that means Americans need to see a lot more of Joe Biden.
Which brings us to the last point:
More POTUS. One of the complaints I hear all the time from Biden 2020 voters is how little they see of Joe Biden considering the ongoing crises the country is facing. Biden has to show leadership on COVID and give people clear information that allows them to navigate their lives with less anxiety and more normalcy, as well as project confidence about America’s economic future. If he does this, he’ll be 75 percent of the way to improving his standing with Democratic base voters and swing voters. This will trigger a virtuous cycle of climbing poll numbers and better headlines.
But Biden can’t do it alone. Democrats need to deploy an army of surrogates all carrying the same affirmative messages. Republicans are masters at message discipline and Democrats need to drill their messages with the same relentlessness.
The stakes, you might have noticed, are extremely high. Republicans are running candidates at all levels of government who believe the last election was stolen and want to be in a position to overturn election results they don’t like. It’s not just about Trump anymore. 2022 could see a wholesale takeover of the Republican party—at all levels—by MAGA true believers.
Would all of this Democratic regrouping be enough to hold the House? Probably not. But there is a big difference between a market correction and a wave election. And that difference will weigh heavily on 2024.
Joe Biden waited too long to seize the narrative in 2020. He shouldn’t make the same mistake going into 2022.
Lordy, there are more subpoenas
Which means, of course:
THE BEST IS YET TO COME!
NY’s AG is laying out the case again the Trump organization. The details are dazzling.
The OAG has determined that the Statements of Financial Condition described Mr. Trump’s (or the Trustees of the Revocable Trust’s) valuation process in broad terms and in ways which were often inaccurate or misleading when compared with the supporting data and documentation that the Trump Organization submitted to its accounting firm. Among other things, the statements:
Misstated objective facts, like the size of Mr. Trump’s Trump Tower penthouse;
Miscategorized assets outside Mr. Trump’s or the Trump Organization’s control as “cash,” thereby overstating his liquidity;
Misstated the process by which Mr. Trump or his associates reached valuations, including deviations from generally accepted accounting principles in ways that the statements did not disclose;
Failed to use fundamental techniques of valuation, like discounting future revenues and expenses to their present value, or choosing as “comparables” only similar properties in order to impute valuations from public sales data;
Misstated the purported involvement of “outside professionals” in reaching the valuations; and
Failed to advise that certain valuation amounts were inflated by an undisclosed amount for brand value.
All of the examples described below appeared on official Statements of Financial Condition for Donald J. Trump for a number of years and were used to obtain loans or otherwise state the net worth of Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization.
1. Joe Biden’s voting rights push is futile: He doesn’t have the votes—and his proposals are misguided.
Democrats make dark insinuations and allusions (to “purges” of the voter rolls, for example), but black turnout remains quite high. When Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket in 2012, it even exceeded white turnout. Some cite the growing black-white gap in 2016 and 2020 as evidence of voter suppression, yet there appears to have been no change in the racial turnout gap for mid-term elections (which you might expect would be even more pronounced as these generate less enthusiasm than presidential contests).
When Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons, two economists, examined all voter-ID laws enacted between 2008 and 2018 and their subsequent effect on turnout, they found that “the laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation”.
There is still an argument for federal prophylaxis. Republicans are plainly trying to create a voting regime that will skew to their benefit—they just have not yet found one that works all that well.
2. Here’s How We Fix the Electoral Count Act
Properly crafted, an Electoral Count Act of 2022 wouldn’t just deliver us from evil, it would also lead us not into temptation.
The Electoral Count Act of 1867 is a ticking bomb. Now that its vulnerabilities have been exposed, it is only a matter of time before someone uses it to overturn an American presidential election and with it, American democracy. Even an unsuccessful attempt would be disastrous.
And time is running out. The last clear chance to reform the ECA expires with the current congress on January 3rd, 2023.
So reform is a matter of urgency. And yet, the White House is actively hostile to fixing the Electoral Count Act, viewing it as a “distraction” from its new focus on voting rights, and Congress has still not introduced—much less debated—a single reform proposal.
That’s a horrible mistake.
And if it’s not corrected, one we will all too soon live to regret.
3. To Crack Open the Big 2020 Election Scheme, Start by Prosecuting the Fake Electors
If state and federal law enforcement authorities convene grand juries to investigate the low-level GOP officials who signed and submitted phony electoral certificates in the 2020 election, the entire conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election could unravel.
4. The Right’s Increasing Fringe-ification... and what it might mean for Trump.
The people who turn out for his rallies now are not the same as the Republicans-sick-of-Republican-leadership who turned out in 2016. They have even shifted from the MAGA/KAG crowds of 2020. The fights over Jan. 6th and over vaccination policy have further radicalized them. They are, in some respects, evolving past Trump. And they are tired of hearing the same old thing. Some of the people in the crowd wanted a lot more.
5. Coverage of OAN's likely demise reminds us that conspiracy theories are not "conservative"
There’s no meaningful sense in which OAN is “conservative.” The network spent the Trump years using its access to the administration to push long-debunked conspiracy theories like “Obamagate,” and now is a haven for Trump’s Big Lie about the election and dangerous misinformation about Covid vaccines. Just last week, an OAN host who had recently conducted a fawning interview with Trump likened him to Jesus.Here's OAN likening Trump to Jesus. If you have OAN on your cable system, congrats, you paid for this.
Put bluntly, OAN is Trump cult TV. Like the Republican Party, which didn’t have a platform in 2020 and won’t have a legislative agenda to run on this year, its programming doesn’t have a coherent identity beyond Trump worship and owning the libs. And yet for whatever reason, a number of major outlets covered the news that DirecTV is dropping it by whitewashing the channel as “conservative.”