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Democrats can win, but they have to sound like they believe it
Dem strategists, pundits and leaders fall into the media's trap, admitting defeat. It's something the GOP never does.
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I’ve been struck by the number of Democratic leaders and strategists who’ve given into defeat months before the mid-term elections.
I get being honest and forthright about what we’re up against, with voter suppression, the pandemic still with us, and misplaced ideas about the economy which are driving down poll numbers — just to name a few of the challenges.
Then there’s the conventional wisdom that the party out of power, the party not in the White House, usually loses seats in the mid-terms.
But we are not in normal times. We’re facing an existential threat to democracy, with an authoritarian-crazed, radicalized Republican Party that is embracing insurrectionists, anti-vaxxers, QAnon cultists, book burning Christian nationalists and Putin worshipers.
That should be enough of a message for Democrats to run on. But it’s by far not the only one they have. The economy is booming, despite the media’s constant focus on inflation — an outcome of a booming economy when supply has been interrupted because of a global pandemic.
Democrats have to focus on those issues, push back against the media, hit the GOP hard on its empty, lying culture war attacks, and generally find better messaging — something that’s never been their forte.
But more than that, Democrats need to stop admitting defeat. Over the weekend I saw Democratic strategist and pundit Hilary Rosen on CNN and, I have to be honest, I agreed with Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative never Trumper:
Democratic strategists and candidates share their defeatism in front of TV audiences. “Look, our prospects are pretty depressing in the midterms right now,” declared Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen on CNN on Sunday. “And I think Democrats have a serious, like, connect-on-the-message issue. We’re not meeting people where they are.” Gosh, who wouldn’t want to hop on the bandwagon with those killjoys?
Rosen all but declared Democrats are going to be slaughtered. She later added that a small “silver lining” might be that Republicans are attacking one another. But in fact, that’s not a the silver lining — it’s the whole thing, a powerful outcome of the GOP very worried about the mid-terms because Donald Trump and the MAGA mob have seized the party and are scaring many voters away from the GOP. That’s threatening Mitch McConnell’s ability to win back the Senate. Rosen didn’t even explain that part: the reason why the GOP are attacking one another.
The danger of the GOP should be front and center, and rather than admitting defeat, Democratic and progressive strategists, pundits and politicians should be blowing it up big, and saying, rightly, that this is what will keep Democrats in power in addition to the booming economy, no matter how much the GOP and the media obscure that boom.
Instead, they play into the inflation-mania, cower when they see polls responding to the media’s hyperventilating about it, and don’t talk about the mortal threat of the GOP. The GOP never admits defeat, and only pummels harder — and with much less truth to run on.
A good sign is that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, led by New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, seems to be getting it, per this report on the DCCC showing recent polling to House members and offering presentations to them them on how to hit back:
Many Democrats, led by DCCC chief Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), have pushed to more forcefully counter the GOP’s attacks since the last election. But that message has picked up new urgency as President Joe Biden’s approval has tanked in recent weeks, stoking more party anxiety…
…Summarizing the party’s midterm problems bluntly, the presentation notes that voters think Democrats “are not making good use of their majority.”
Some Democratic politicians and strategists are wusses and it’s not part of their constitution to fight hard. Others are clueless, running to the right to try to placate some mythical middle rather than hitting on themes that will energize the base. But others, especially the TV pundits, just want to look like they’re being “realistic” so it keeps them in good stead with those who bring them on the shows.
Of course, realistic would be focusing on the truth about the economy and the threat of the GOP. Realistic would be to call out the media for being out of step, and hit back forcefully against empty GOP attacks. And realistic would be to say that Democrats can turn around the polls and win because of the truth in front or our eyes. But to do all that, they have to believe it.