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What happened on Election Day?
A disaster in Virginia. A scare in New Jersey. An open discussion on what went wrong.
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Let’s get something straight from the outset of this discussion. It’s something I emphasized yesterday on my SiriusXM program: It was not progressives who caused what happened on Tuesday night in Virginia and New Jersey.
A narrative began being cast immediately on Tuesday night — likely created by Democratic Party lobbyists, consultants and insiders who failed in this election and get paid big money — spread via the lapdog media, blaming progressives for reaching too far and being rejected by the voters.
This is ridiculous.
First, Terry McAullife is a self-described “moderate” who beat out progressives in the Democratic primary in Virginia by punching left. His campaign didn’t emphasize progressive values and he ended it talking about “bipartisanship” — reaching out to Republicans, while his opponent, Glenn Youngkin, simply focused on exciting the rabid base of his own party. Similarly, New Jersey Governor Phill Murphy is no leftist.
What progressives were in fact doing at the national level was trying to get big legislation passed in the House and Senate for candidates to run on —and making concessions to do it — while it was the so-called moderates (I call them extremists) like Joe Manchin who were blowing it up and throwing it into disarray before the election.
On my SiriusXM program yesterday, the phones were lit full on with people calling in to talk about McAulliffe’s loss in Virginia and the squeaker in New Jersey, in which Murphy pulled it out by one point.
People called from every part of the country, from rural Utah and the reddest counties in Florida to the New Jersey suburbs and every corner of Virginia.
Some of the calls were angry, while some expressed exasperation, fear and frustration. Others were measured and detailed. But what they all had in common was passion, concern, and energy, as people threw out ideas about what went wrong and offered thoughts about how to fix things.
I found this very encouraging, and honestly, it was exactly what I needed yesterday and what many of the listeners needed. I was worried before going on the show that there might be a low volume of calls, as people became dispirited and withdrew. Or I thought most of the calls would be from folks giving up, demoralized and tired.
There were some who expressed that, such as Jill in Wisconsin, who said she’s spent years knocking on doors. But by the end of the conversation she recommitted to the work. She’s a model for so many else. Ben from California called and explained that, he too, has traveled across the country for years organizing for Democratic candidates, and he was now energized to do it further as we are in an urgent struggle against Trumpian authoritarianism.
The ideas I focused on, which many of the listeners agreed with and added their own thoughts on, included:
The lackluster performance of McAuliffe as a candidate — someone not right for the time and not understanding that right now you need to run a campaign that hits back hard and is on the offensive, not the defensive. Similarly, Murphy thought he had it in the bag and, like many Democrats today, I think developed amnesia about what the GOP is like with Trump out of the picture (but still a force), and didn’t adjust to the new playing field.
A dismal failure by Democrats to respond to the racist, white supremacist-inspiring “critical race theory” attacks by Youngkin, who seized on something that isn’t even taught in schools. Similarly, we saw the attacks on transgender students. You can’t ignore these attacks, paralyzed in fear and hoping people see through them. At the same time you can fall into the trap of allowing them to consume you if you do respond — as the GOP wants. You have to do what Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio advised on my program on Tuesday — take them on hard, and then quickly change the subject to what people want to talk about, including issues that will help them in their own lives.
A mainstream media that is engaging in malpractice, allowing lies to be spread by the GOP and not calling them out. Saying that Youngkin was focused on “education” and improving it was a gross distortion of a racist campaign meant to scare people and exploit bigotry.
A failure to reach out to rural voters, where Democrats can at least get a sliver of people and enough to counter the surge by Republicans — just as Republicans did with regard to suburbs.
An inability to paint GOP opponents as extremists even as they put on a friendly face. Youngkin wants to ban abortion. He is against marriage equality — and bowing to those who want to end it. He has embraced the January 6th crowd, which was evident all throughout his campaign. And Youngkin was literally trying to ban books. This should have been a full on campaign with repeated ads meant to frighten people — because this is frightening — and nationalized, bringing in how the GOP is trying to ban 850 books in Texas.
The perceived chaos among Democrats in DC — caused by Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema — which failed to allow the Democrats to deliver critical legislation that candidates could hold up as big wins.
These are just a few of the issues I and others focused on. I’d really like to hear from all of you as well. Again, I’m really encouraged that people are talking about these issues, rather than just giving up. Despite the media fear-mongering, the 2022 mid-terms are a year away and there’s a lot we can do — starting with passing the Build Back Better bill this week as well as the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Let us know your thoughts on what you’re thinking, and feeling — yes, including the anger and frustration — and share your plans on on what Democrats need to do next.