Who’s On Your Side: A Simple Dichotomy?

The White House website has a new page devoted to last year’s very big infrastructure bill.

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It got Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post thinking about the Democratic Party’s “message”, a phrase that ideally would fit on a bumper sticker:

While Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and a highly impressive Supreme Court nominee afford Biden his first chance in months to break the bad news cycle and to project strength, he still lacks a big picture that ties it all together.

Biden faces several challenges: 1) He can’t do much about the biggest economic concern (inflation) which fairly or not voters blame on him; 2) Voters seem to have taken job growth and a return to post-covid normal for granted; 3) The GOP noise machine of constant conspiracies and baseless accusations effectively manipulates the mainstream media, which regurgitates GOP talking points; and 4) Voters forget how positively nutty the GOP has become and the degree to which its worst elements will predominate if it returns to the majority in one or both houses.

So what can Biden do? At its most basic, Democrats must convince voters they are on the side of regular Americans — making progress and solving real problems (e.g., jobs, covid). They need to remind voters that Democrats are on the right side of the middle class, democracy and law and order. Democrats must leave no doubt as to which party did a lot to clean up the mess left behind by the previous administration and which party understands the real problems left to work on (e.g., inflation, green energy, defending against international bullies).

Republicans? They are bullies and chaos creators (be it attacking the Capitol, letting the country default on the debt, setting up a litigation machine to sue teachers, undermining elections, threatening to take away kids whose parents give them medical care and inviting a truck blockade). Do voters really want to give power back to the crowd that defends violence (“legitimate political discourse”), lets their cult leader extort Ukraine, and goes to bat for big corporations (e.g., allowing them to escape paying taxes, protecting Big Pharma’s price gouging)?

Democrats need to get back to a fundamental message: When in power, they make government work for ordinary people and defend American values (democracy, opportunity, fairness, playing by the rules). They solve real problems. When Republicans are in power, they create division, conflict and chaos. They are not on your side. That’s it. A simple dichotomy.

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The problem is that if there are voters out there who don’t already understand the difference between the two parties, they’re probably unreachable. If they bother to vote, they’ll make their choice one of two ways. If they see themselves as a Democrat or Republican, they’ll stick with the party that makes them feel comfortable. If they don’t have a particular political identity, they’ll vote for or against “change” (i.e. for or against the incumbent) depending on their mood that day. The irony is that if voters want meaningful change, they should elect more Democrats. In particular, more Democrats in the Senate would make roadblocks like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant. But since Democrats “control” both houses of Congress, many voters will mistakenly think electing more Republicans will bring about the kind of change they want.