American memories may be short, but we're not doing all we can to lengthen them
I agree and am simultaneously uncertain as to how/who to improve the messaging and create the storylines. In my opinion -- and I don't know that this is useful because I spend a lot of time on national-level political viewing, not state and local because: Texas and I'm still reeling from my neighbor's saying how she "hates Beto O'Rourke" -- we either need to clone our few really excellent messengers and/or deputize others in their image and send them out far and wide. Thinking of: Pete Buttigieg, Jamie Raskin, John Fetterman, and others. I cannot for the life of me bring to mind a really stand-out female messenger other than AOC, who I adore, but who's considered 'too radical' for way too many people; Elizabeth Warren, and Katie Porter. There are many others who are uniquely gifted to do this kind of work; these people are all blunt, nimble on their feet speech-wise, accessible emotionally, and whip-smart. They need to somehow just all get on a train and start traveling around the U.S. and speak at local meetings. May I suggest Llano, Texas, as a potential destination? The smallish town on the Texas border whose citizens recently voted to try to prevent anyone travelling through their town out of state to get an abortion? Or, some of the Texas border cities where the Latinos aren't necessarily sure that Democrat is the way to go this time around ... Maybe each state's Democrat Party could create this kind of cadre suited to their needs. We need to get out more is what I'm trying to say ... and I don't mean online or in paywalled publications that many many voters never see or read.
Your observation that "it means politics is more about information warfare and less about governing excellence" seems to be truer than I/we would like. But, just because we don't like it doesn't mean that it's not true.
The idea that politics is more about information warfare than governance seems plainly correct. Part of that is because I've been reading Brian for years, but much of it is based on my own experiences with persuading audiences. As a trial lawyer, I've learned that if it is important that a jury to believe something, you can't dance around it and expect them to draw the inferences you want on their own. Instead, you need to say it plainly and directly (and repeatedly). It's important to marshal evidence and build credibility, but, if you need them to believe it, you gotta say it.
I will say it again and again. It's an advertising problem. The people making ads for the Democrats are spectacularly incompetent. Democrats need to hire the guys that make and distribute for example F150 commercials and get out of the way. Can't anybody here play this game?
Obama beat probably the best-qualified Republican nominee since Eisenhower with 8% unemployment because Romney was kind enough to make the debate about tax cuts for the rich, where it proved voters did not share his views.
Clinton lost to probably the least-qualified candidate ever because the campaign was focused on her years-old email management practices.
If Dems pull a Romney and collude in focusing the campaign on areas they are weak on, which includes inflation, it's not gonna help them win.
I would just point out that economic opinion doesn't *have* to remain a permanently polarized indicator of partisanship. After all, it's really only in the last decade that it's become polarized in the first place; before that, Bush 41 famously lost an election over his economic policy.
I would say that the synthesis of your assessment and past evidence is that economic opinion, like all opinion, is a product of narrative. And narratives don't have to be true in order to create their own reality. Bush 41 lost re-election over one narrative; his predecessor just 8 years earlier won on a different narrative despite an even worse economic reality at the time.
IMO these examples demonstrate that electoral outcomes are the result of a sort of attitudinal gestalt between the political class and swing voters. No one factor is entirely determinative; it's a whole bunch of them. But part of it starts with spaces like this and conversations like you're having. It's not just about building alternative media like Crooked and The Bulwark. It's about understanding how what we do in these spaces shapes the larger gestalt. Which is an incredibly messy process! Nevertheless, hopefully it can amount to more than the giant waste of pixels that most other commentary amounts to.
Well, we're less than a year away from the 2024 elections, and there has been erosion in 3 key Democratic constituencies.
What's the plan? What's the communications strategy?
This isn't rocket science...we're for individual freedoms, the rights of families to determine to make decisions free of government interference, a strong middle class, and preserving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. They are religious extremists who want to ban abortion, impose their religious beliefs, destroy public education, eliminate taxes on the wealthy and corporations, destroy the middle class, interfere with your family.
If the Democrats don't make the case for why this is a choice between freedom and extremism, Republicans and media will define this race.
What precisely are they waiting for?
Lots to chew on here! It’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of people who have forgotten the dangers of Trump, tbh. I, like a lot of privileged white dudes in their twenties, hadn’t really paid attention to politics until 2016. But I haven’t stopped paying attention since. The January 6th committee hearings are fresh in my mind; they were some of the most harrowing, impactful television I’ve ever seen, and between his legal woes and the fallout of January 6th, it doesn’t *feel* like he’s ever left the public consciousness. It feels like hardly a day has gone by in the past two-plus years where we haven’t had an update on one of Trump’s many legal woes, or some insane Truth he Trothed.
What do you think is the best way to get the message across that Trump is dangerous, while not playing into his desire to be a scary strong-man? For normies like me who try and talk to friends, coworkers, and post on social media?
If the Dems were your child, Brian, they would grow up, move away and never visit or call. The expectations! The media messaging control superpowers you ascribe to Dems border on the fantastic. If only they’d say A or B, the media would cover it and the message would get through. Sorry, no.
No matter what Dems say, no matter how they respond, they are doing it wrong (at least it seems in your eyes). They say the economy is great and you all say, “insensitive, no it’s not for everybody!” Now you say why aren’t they saying the economy is great? It’s simple. Even though it isn’t and it is right to educate the public about the factors driving things like inflation--which is down, but hey “it’s still too expensive so they are making excuses.”
You bring up the Semafor piece (seriously who reads Semafor? Five people?) about the campaign worrying they will be aligned with Hitler (ya think?) then chastise Dems for comparing the vermin remark to Hitler’s as being the wrong thing to say--instead they should say it makes him an unfit leader. Well duh, yes he is unfit. But since so many people do not know history, it doesn’t hurt to remind them who else said it. (Though they forget Rawanda.)
Dems have said repeatedly that he is unfit and should never be near the WH again--until the media responded “oh yawn boring move on. Look, they’re talking about Trump because they don’t like us yelling every day about the looming recession” (which never emerged). Not to mention Trump fatigue among voters.
I’m sorry but the media does have a bias against Biden, just as they did against Gore and Kerry and HRC. (It wasn’t voters driving “but he’s too old yuk!”) Politico journos loved Obama because he was hip, listened to rap, played hoops with NBA gods, and snuck smokes. But that didn’t stop them from covering scandals like the tan suit, the fist bump, and Dijon mustard.
If voters have forgotten the horrors of Trump, it’s not the Dems’s fault for not reminding them every day. It is the fault of a complicit media which refuses to take the threat seriously--and it is a threat--or call him out for being unfit. The fear I feel about Trump and his fascist crew’s plans energizes me to help defeat them. I think Hitler and Mussolini rose in part because they were not feared and the threat wasn’t taken or covered seriously until it was too late. A perfect example? That Times’ headline. And why aren’t there nonstop front page stories dissecting Trump’s plans on the scale of but her emails? Stories could be written for days on aspects of Project 2025.
I understand you are on the right side (you want the GOP and Trump defeated) and that you know it’s complicated. Criticize the Dems when they make a huge blunder. But in the meantime please, YOU write the message you want to hear. Dedicate columns to the messages you think we need instead of making it all about “well it’s their responsibility to say X or Y.” You touch on things here, but IMHO you should devote whole columns to each.
Facing the future they have planned for us, it is all of our responsibilities to speak out, not just “the Dems.”
The great American public does not, as a rule, read the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any political blogs, including, I'm afraid, this one. The ordinary voter will pay no attention to any of these publications until the presidential primaries begin. A more realistic approach to election coverage in the mass media would certainly warm the hearts of political junkies like myself, but it will have little impact on 2024 election results. What may make a difference is the mass of negative commercials launched by the Dems and their supporting campaign finance organizations. If they know their business -- and I hope they do -- that "vermin" clip and a dozen more nauseating Trump moments will be instilled deeply into the consciousness of Mr. and Ms. Voter. That may not guarantee a Biden win, but it's one of our best hopes -- "our" meaning US citizens of good will and at least two neurons to rub together.
"Why is it that, seven years later, the word 'deplorables' remains a galvanizing term for Republicans and an embarrassment for Democrats."
This does not require a grand theory of media strategy: most Americans felt Clinton's gaffe was directed at them, including *Democratic* voters. She made the remark in the context of decades of concerted effort to conflate individual bigotries with systemic ones, while simultaneously making individual bigots the stock villain of every story.
In other words, her "deplorables" comment resonated and felt personal to voters in a way that Trump's "vermin" comment never will, despite the fact that it was dehumanizing and a little scary. The idea of trying to keep it alive in voters' minds is deeply cringe; the objection to Trump's rhetoric has an extremely small constituency.
“and it’s easier to husband public approval in prosperity than in recession.”
Yglesias constantly repeats that Clinton won because of the economy in 92 and walks right up to saying any Dem would have won given long incumbency and the recession but how then does he explain Major winning in 92 and Keating (who was directly blamed for the Australian recession given his long run as treasurer and ill advised ‘this if the recession Australia had to have’ press conference) winning in 93
Turns out having political skill in government still matters and not looking unelectable from opposition is important too
One of the problems, at least as I see it, is that the Dems don't have a 24/7/365(366 on leap years) propaganda mouth-piece like Pox News; nor do they pretty much own mastheads like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today that can pump out their vile swill to the masses under a cover of being "hard/establishment news". They have MSNBC and a number of internet-based allied information sources, but not everybody uses -- or even trusts -- what they see on the internet. (Something that The Muskrat seems to be going out of his way to make sure remains a permanent state of affairs. 😒 )
I'm not sure how we can rectify this situation (re-start the old local newspapers that had "Democrat" somewhere in the name? Engage more with local progressive/"underground" papers?), but it's definitely something that has to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Is part of the Democrats messaging problem that to speak bluntly about Trump and his supporters is to perhaps fatally injure fragile civic trust necessary for democracy?
“Trump is a rapist who wants to force women to bare their rapists babies “
“Trump wants every traffic stop for a Hispanic to end potentially in a concentration camp”
“Trump wants cops to execute people for selling dime bags and shoplifting six packs”
These three sentences seem clearly true, demonstrated in court cases, Republican Party platforms, and Trumps own words. If we made that the center of Democratic messaging, I think we could win in 2024. But this message is one of such intense disgust for Trump and by extension his supporters, I don’t know if we could ever go back after that to civil disagreement over marginal tax rates.
To some extent, maybe to a huge extent? this is a marketing issue. Where are the Compare&Contrast side-by-sides of the GOP and the Democrats -- in policies and in performance? Where is the local signage that says, "Hey! Hope you're enjoying your new [job, bridge, whatever] that the Democrats provided by their actions in Congress. And, did you know that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the Republicans voted AGAINST this bill?" Etc. I see lots of memes on the social media I follow that do the checklists of Biden accomplishments and the list of Project 2025 wishes and hopes of MAGA et al -- but, these are preaching to the choir. I'd lay odds that no one outside my little ecosystem sees or hears any of this. How to get it out there? Surely, we have some marketing experts in the Democratic party structure?
And, I also bet that $$ spent on this kind of simple and stark evidence of Democrat achievements would be more well-spent than at least a portion of that given to campaigns. Yes,yes, yes, I know we need that, too. But, the people outside our ecosystem aren't likely to listen to a Democrat candidate at a rally or tune into a network that's running one of his/her ads, etc. We're not getting the word out there.