Let’s face it people. Tuesday was a disaster for Democrats. They lost the Virginia governor’s office in a state that Pres. Joe Biden won by 10 points just a year ago. They nearly lost the New Jersey governor’s office in a state Biden won by 13 points.
And none of it had that much to do with the individual candidates. There wasn’t much variation between percentages for other statewide races, like attorney general, and the governors’ races. This was a rejection of the Democratic brand.
If Democrats had only a slim chance to retain their Congressional majorities in 2022, those chances are now flirting with none. But nearly hopeless is not the same as absolutely hopeless. Here’s what the party could try.
Start by heeding the advice of strategist David Shor, who once worked for Barack Obama. Shor has a novel approach. He suggests that Democrats should ask voters what they think of the various parts of their agenda. Then they should talk about the popular stuff and not talk about the unpopular stuff.
I know. Complex, isn’t it? I’ll pause here for a moment so that you can let that sophisticated strategy sink in.
Okay. Got it? Then let’s move on.
Following Shor’s sage advice, let’s emphasize the popular stuff and drop the unpopular things.
Step 1. Pass the damn infrastructure bill already. Roads and bridges are popular and just showing that the Dems can get something done is valuable in itself. This should have been passed months ago, but it has been held hostage by the hard-left.
Step 2. Pass anything you can from Biden’s social/climate bill. It’s all good stuff. As I’ve written many times before I supported the whole $3.5 trillion. But in the real political world, nothing passes without Joe Manchin. So, just ask Joe what he’ll vote for and then pass that.
Step 3. Sell, sell, sell. You can’t just pass popular stuff and then assume you’ll get credit for it. After they passed Obamacare, the Democrats moved on while the Republicans set about defining it as government overreach and death panels. The result was that Americans overwhelmingly supported almost every aspect of the plan while they hated the thing called Obamacare. They lost 63 House seats in the next election. It was a good deed that was severely punished. Democrats can’t let that happen again.
Step 4. Drop all things woke. Voters just hate this stuff. So, disavow Critical Race Theory and stop talking about systemic racism, white privilege, birthing parents, your pronouns and on and on and on. Glenn Youngkin will be governor of Virginia in large part because he ran against woke. It’s not enough to assert that CRT isn’t being taught in the schools. Democrats need to be forthrightly against it.
Step 5. Show some sense of urgency about crime. Voters in many parts of the country are justifiably concerned about the 30% increase in shootings over the past couple of years. Democrats can’t afford to keep making excuses about tensions caused by the pandemic or talk about the root causes of crime. They need to say they want to lock up the bad guys and hire more cops. The rejection of the referendum on abolishing the Minneapolis police department is a good indication that even a liberal city is worried about crime. And by the way, abolishing the department was more strongly opposed by Black voters than by whites.
If Democrats take these five steps they’ll still need to catch some breaks. Inflation will have to cool off. That may happen naturally as the supply chain gets sorted out, but it’s also an argument to follow Manchin’s lead in trimming the social/climate spending. The economy will have to continue to rebound, but the fundamentals still look strong and real wages are rising quickly. That’s very good.
And the pandemic will have to continue to ease, if not go away altogether. The trends seem good there as well.
So, if the Democrats treat this week’s train wrecks as a sobering wake up call, they might still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. They showed no signs of getting it yesterday when House Democrats inexplicably added back paid family leave — good public policy which, nonetheless, Manchin says in a non-starter for him.
What are the chances that hard-left Democrats will do what needs to be done? Well, I’m afraid that, in the space between slim and none, slim feels aspirational right now.
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