Plus: 5 remarkable election results
Quick Hits #3’s 2nd point is ridiculous. Republicans get away with A LOT! America is in an insane situation because REPBULICANs did not hold Trump accountable. I don’t know what world Dombek and Sykes are living in but the last time I checked Trump is a violator of all of the norms and isn’t going anywhere. Trump has several credible allegations of sexual abuse, pressured Ukraine's leader to dig up damaging information on a political rival, inspired an insurrection and is an essential part of an ongoing coup just to name a FEW scandals Trump has gotten away with.
Trump isn’t the only R getting away with scandals. Seven Republicans who were present at the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" in DC rally won on Election Day. There are so many other examples as you know.
In addition, in case you do not remember correctly several Ds called on Northam’s resignation.
Isn't this all further proof that we need a 3rd party (not the Greens)?
Northam handled the blackface scandal well. He didn’t resign, and he went out and listened to Black voters and learned a lot. Virginia would not have abolished the death penalty or legalized marijuana without that experience
Perhaps it is time for the Democrats to drop the gloves and go street brawler, bare knuckle no holds barred. Deal in facts, platform issues in a forceful way and be prepared to push back on the BS
Hi Charlie: I just enjoyed your podcast with Mona, but had to comment on the irony of you two rolling your eyes at Biden's long overdue infrastructure spending proposal and then commiserating about homes on Mona's street being filled with sewage while the county can't figure out why.
Youngkin seemed rather unenthusiastically Trumpish, without hugging Trump around the ankles like a lot of Republicans do. If he can engender this kind of turnout and sound that rational, maybe that can be a signal to more normal Republicans that it’s safe to venture away from TFG and begin re-establishing non-toxic rhetoric in the GOP. No harm in hoping. Beats slumping down and dejectedly muttering, “well, here comes Trump 2.0 in ‘24”.
Charlie, this is the first time I've said this, but I'm disappointed in you. Not because you've written a piece that I dislike, but because you've written a piece without a conclusion. The question of 'why can't you beat these guys' has an answer, and it's not the answer anyone else seems to be offering, so I'll put it forth based on my best estimates.
The reason that Dems can't beat the GOP is because of messaging, pure and simple. No, this is not a 'if the dems could just tell the voters about their grand plans better, they'd rush to join them' explanation. What I mean is that the GOP has message discipline, pure and simple. They possess the ability to create issues from nothing, and then have everyone from the grassroots to the people on Fox to the people in congress hammer it home every possible moment of every possible day, over and over and over again. This is not a new thing either. The GOP did this with Obama's birth certificate. They've done it with anti-trans issues, they've done it with CRT, they've done it with caravans of migrants and a dozen other issues.
Our core problem is that the Democratic party acts like it's a coalition of parliamentary parties, like the Black caucus is distinct from the LGBTQ caucus, or they're different parties entirely. As a result, what we end up with is no message at all. This is not a liberal vs. moderate issue. Manchin et all possess no more message discipline than the Squad or Bernie. Part of this is liberal hubris. Part of this is because they can't understand why people fall for the basic messages of the GOP.
Turn the clock back to 2016 for a moment. Remember 'lock her up?' as a policy message, it's garbage. But as a message itself, it's brilliant. It's clear, memorable, and direct. It's a brand. It worked. Same with 'build the wall.' These are messages that are quick, easy, and memorable. In a world where most people do not pay attention to politics at all, easy to remember messages will always trump detailed policy explanations.
The truth is this: liberals always believe that what people want is facts. They want to know things. This is not true in the slightest. Most voters can't name all three branches of government. They don't care about politics at all, and have been raised on the idea that all politicians are the same. They are not ideologically attached to things as much as they personally attached through the various bonds that they've developed in their lives. And because of this, trying to explain that hey, we're making your life better is a pointless exercise.
Voters do not want facts. They want emotions. They want slogans and messages that fit into nice easy soundbites. That's always been the case, but it's moreso now.
Look, Youngkin is a guy who ran a campaign entirely on anti-CRT nonsense. He's going to take the position, he's going to start wanting to ban words and books and probably put a bunch of covid deniers in his cabinet. And the people aren't going to care. Because for the most part, the public has moved on from thinking about Covid the same way they've moved on from Afghanistan. They're not interested in this storyline anymore.
The biggest mistake that Biden has made thus far is not a policy one. It's that his wager was that what people hated was Trump's constant presence in our lives. This was false. What people hated, it turns out, was Trump himself, a character they didn't want to see any more of. He was Poochie, and no one wanted him around anymore. But that didn't mean they didn't want more of the show.
The truth of the matter is that Dems are trapped in 1998. This isn't surprising, because their leadership are all over the age of 70. Biden, Schumer, Pelosi are all extremely old. That's a problem. Because it's not 1998 anymore. And the biggest problem is that they're afraid to fight the culture war. They're afraid to develop a message and hammer it home at every possible opportunity.
In Virginia? A former governor who was a centrist and ran on kitchen table issues lost to a Trump endorsed figure who winks and nods at insurrectionists. In other parts of the country, liberals were soundly defeated. Again, it's not a liberal vs. centrist issue. It's a 'democrats don't have a message at all' issue.
Because lots of dems are foolishly thinking that what they need to do is stay above the culture war, pass legislation, and then go to voters and be like 'see how we made your life better?' and those same voters are going to come back with 'But CRT!' Because voters do not care about legislation and never have. The beltway media cares. But the actual voters do not.
What Dems need to do is fight the culture war. They need to build a messaging apparatus and they need to be hammering it home every single day on every single program. They need to make it clear the issue of something like CRT is that the GOP wants to control what your kid learns. They need to make clear that something like overturning Roe isn't about saving babies but about governing by bounty hunters.
Because, and this is important, if you don't fight the culture war, that doesn't mean there's not a war going on. To quote Avengers, 'we're not at war, captain. They are.'
One last thing. There's a real problem in the electorate right now. By which I mean that by and large, an uninterested electorate doesn't really care about the differences between the GOP and Dems. It only really thinks that both are incompetent, so just keep voting for whoever isn't in power. But one thing that was curious to me is that in places where there were voting things on the ballot, they almost all lost. Which means that the right to vote isn't actually as important to voters as you might imagine.
So I ask you to ponder something. What happens if the next insurrection comes, it succeeds, and most voters shrug and don't care? Because I am fairly certain that is going to be the outcome. It turns out that most voters do not particularly care about who is in charge, nor do they particularly care about how our government works or it's history. I suspect that by and large, our biggest challenge is not GOP versus Democrat, but the people versus their own disinterest.
With the 2020 rejection of Donald Trump, the Democratic Party Progressives saw a clear glide-path to unhindered victory and unopposed acceptance of all their favorite policies, forever. Like a 1,000-year Reich. Like what Newt Gingrich thought after Reagan's victories. Without examining what propelled the Trump Fever in the first place. Stupid is as stupid does.
Maybe the Republican Party is not solely cranks, bigots, deranged, and crooks? And maybe they are not all Donald Trump?
One silver lining. Youngkin distanced himself from Trump in order to win.
In 2020 people voted against Trump... they didn't vote for Biden, they didn't vote for the Dem agenda. In 2021 Trump was not on the ticket. McAuliffe is the same tired establishment Democrat--aren't there any new, non-progressive Democrats? Without baggage? Centrist view? Some pragmatism/realism? Some actual decent campaigning and rhetoric?
Try not being so woke, as a party. Try doing things in smaller steps--and things that you take credit for that fit an agenda that openly and pragmatically helps a majority of Americans IMMEDIATELY and OBVIOUSLY. Talk in simple terms. Be patriotic. Be generically moral and not woke moral. Co-opt some basic, positive Christianity (think parable of the sheep and goats).
You have to steal back some ground from the GoP in that regard. Make some inroads on THEIR territory. Build an actual governing majority and maintain it by patience action in line with what Americans actually want (rather than what they say they want when polled).
A lot of people blame the loss on McAuliffe for running a bad campaign. Certainly, the campaign could have been better and the school board comment was a huge gaffe, even if Republicans were distorting a bit what he actually said.) But here's the thing. McAuliffe ran only slightly behind the other statewide Virginia Democratic candidates who also lost. (Analysis is complicated somewhat because the Gov's race also featured a Libertarian candidate who received .7% of the vote.) McAuliffe ran near the Democratic baseline for Virginia in 2021. The trouble is that the Democratic baseline in Virginia was awful across the board, regardless of the campaign.
But it just wasn't just Virginia. The results in New Jersey (+16 for Biden in 2020) where the popular incumbent Democratic governor nearly lost his re-election bid further demonstrates that the problem wasn't individual campaigns, but the Democratic brand. (The NJ Governor's race was, wrongly, assumed to be non-competitive so virtually no quality polling was done.)
People are mad at the Democrats and they took it out on them by voting for Republicans in 2021 or staying home. And the anger is not just tied into Biden, but is across the board. The chief blame belongs to the House Progressives, aka the "Suicide Squad" which decided to deny the President of their party a huge win on the popular, bipartisan infrastructure bill by insisting that bill be tied to the much less popular social spending measure. The Suicide Squad could have just taken the infrastructure bill win and then worked for a compromise on the social spending measure that could get moderate Ds on board. But members of the SS were worried they wouldn't get as much "stuff" as they would if they held the infrastructure bill hostage. The attempt to blackmail more moderate Democrats to vote for something they had cold feet on by tying it to something that is popular in their districts was always an absurd, counterproductive strategy that tanked Biden's ratings and Democratic fortunes in the 2021 election.
Progressives think their pet issues in the social spending measure are highly popular. Great. So run those issues out there one at a time and let the members of Congress vote on them. Funny how they have no interest in doing that.
If the Dems are going to salvage 2022 and win the White House in 2024, Biden needs to kick the progressives in the rear and move strongly to the middle. Can you imagine how popular Biden would be if he governed as a pragmatic, centrist Democrat who approached issues in a thoughtful, fiscally responsible manner, like say Joe Manchin?
The message, Message, Message Dems. You are losing on message. Period. It's just I, Tom, and Kim in the bleachers today. You are not telling the story of how a single white working dad needs food stamps to supplement his income. You are not telling the story of how the 3rd generation Mexican family in rural America sends their kid to a school that does not teach them how to Code a computer. So, in the void, they are getting "Joe Biden is a threat to America because he is setting up FEMA camps and outfitting old military facilities with coffins for the inevitable day when the vaccine drops millions dead 2 years from now".
Voters of both parties that voted for Biden in 2020 voted Youngkin in 2021. Donny Deutsch and Morning Joe had a chat along these lines recently: if the Repbubs run anyone (sane) other than Trump in 2024 they deliver a landslide. Youngkin's victory speech last night was very much garden variety politics about specific local issues - grocery tax, school choice, increased education budget and so on. He didn't mention Trump or fraud or conspiracies or even Covid. No chanting, no soaring rhetoric, no table jumping. It was a focused, pre-2015 conservative lift out of the muck from both sides this past half decade. The path seems obvious.
Authoritarians win by combining leftish economics with cultural reaction. To dig into their base you need to do a little of the same.
Democrats like Manchin underestimate the appeal of progressive economic proposals, most of which actually poll rather well, at least in isolation. (Never mind whether he's right or wrong on the substance.) But progressives obviously wildly overestimate the attraction of lefty culture.
So the real question for Democrats is whether the respective factions are willing to sacrifice their respective sacred cows. Is wokeness really non negotiable for progressives? Must centrists channel Paul Ryan to be safe?
There's not much to see here honestly. Biden has a 43% approval rating. Terry ran a bad campaign that was more or less a re-run the 2016 Clinton Campaign, IE: "Trump Trump Trump!"' except Youngkin isn't really Trump. He's just willing to pander to the Trumpian base. Terry also made a really bad gaffe about parents and education in schools.
Youngkin re-ran the Southern Strategy with CRT being the new racial dog whistle constantly being pumped out by Fox News in a year where the political environment is bad for Democrats (the party in power), all the while the main stream media covered him as if he was a Mitt Romney Republican. This allowed him to get the Trump Base out and win over white suburban women.
I'm sure the lesson that all the "smart folks" will draw from this is that if only progressives had voted for Manchin's highway bill, things would be different... but this was a state wide wipeout that was probably due to structural factors more than anything.