If they Democrats have nothing to offer but scare tactics-- the GOP's forte-- plus hot air and excuses about why they couldn't get anything done while controlling the White House and both Houses of Congress, they're in big trouble next year and will certainly lose the House and probably the Senate as well. If I were them I would do whatever it takes to get drug prices lowered, the minimum wage raised, student debt forgiven, dental bills absorbed by Medicare and taxation fair. That will give people something to vote for. Oh, yeah... and laws that make sure the GOP can't keep targeting Democratic voters with Jim Crow era laws to prevent then from voting.
Yesterday Tory Gavito, president of Way to Win, a donor network focused on expanding Democrats’ power in the Sun Belt, and author and political strategist Adam Jentleson teamed up to wrote an essay for the NY Times, The Powerful GOP Strategy Democrats Must Counter If They Want To Win. It's about the racist dog whistle d'jour, critical race theory, a typically coded kind of racism that apparently just worked in genteel suburbs. "Youngkin," they wrote, "was able to use racially coded attacks to motivate sky-high white turnout without paying a penalty among minority voters. This appears to solve the problem bedeviling Republicans in the Trump era: how to generate high turnout for a candidate who keeps Donald Trump at arm’s length, as Youngkin did."
In the light of Republicans and their media allies having found a way to pound away on scary racist messaging, Democrats absolutely must, in their words, "forge an effective counterattack on race while rethinking the false choice between mobilizing base voters or persuading swing voters... Some Democrats may resist accepting the centrality of race, pointing to the bearish national political environment and cyclical patterns. This would be a mistake for two reasons. First, C.R.T. helped create the rough national environment, with Fox News hammering it relentlessly; and cyclical explanations, like thermostatic public opinion (a longstanding tendency for voters to drift toward the views of the party out of power on some issues), do not explain Democrats’ loss of support in the suburbs or the strong turnout. Voters in New Jersey, where a stronger-than-expected Republican performance caught Democrats off guard, have been inundated with C.R.T. hype by Fox News, too."
And as Trump showed-- and Youngkin confirmed-- racially coded attacks do not necessarily repel Latino voters. They may even attract them. One of us, Ms. Gavito, was among the first to flag this disturbing trend. In focus groups in battleground states during the lead-up to the 2020 election, pollsters with Lake Research tested a message that denounced “illegal immigration from places overrun with drugs and criminal gangs” and called for “fully funding the police, so our communities are not threatened by people who refuse to follow our laws.” Both whites and Latinos found this message persuasive, but Latinos found it appealing at significantly higher rates than whites.
This, then, is the Democrats’ problem: The fact that Republicans can drag race into the conversation with ease kicks the legs out from under the idea that Democrats can succeed by simply talking about more popular things. And the fact that racially coded attacks spur turnout among white voters without necessarily prompting a backlash among minority voters undermines the idea that mobilizing a diverse electorate can win elections for Democrats.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, we know what a path forward looks like.
First, Democrats must separate our (accurate and necessary) analysis of structural racism from our political strategy in a country where the electorate remains nearly 70 percent white-- and as much as or more than 80 percent white in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Instead of ignoring race while Republicans beat us silly with it, Democrats must confront it and explain that powerful elites and special interests use race as a tool of division to distract hard-working people of all races while they get robbed blind. Then pivot back to shared interests. The pivot is critical: Without it, Democrats are simply talking past voters, while Republicans play on their racial fears.
This strategy is known as the “race-class narrative,” pioneered by Prof. Ian Haney López of Berkeley, the author Heather McGhee and the messaging expert Anat Shenker-Osorio (whom we have worked with). To be clear, Democrats should not seek to impose a racial-justice frame; to the contrary, research found a focus on racial justice to be less persuasive than the race-class narrative. The strategy we suggest here is a middle way: It is more powerful than a racial-justice-only frame but also more powerful than a strategy that ignores race altogether. Race is the elephant in the room, and Democrats must stop fooling themselves into thinking that they can prevent it from becoming an issue.
Second, Democrats must put aside the false choice between the tactics of persuasion and mobilization and embrace them both. By confronting race as a tool of division, and then pivoting to shared interests, Democrats can offer an optimistic, inspiring and even patriotic vision. This is the approach that rocketed Barack Obama to the White House. As an African-American, Obama was never allowed to ignore race. Forced to confront it, Obama offered Americans a vision that mobilized a broad, diverse coalition-- while also persuading white voters. In 2008, Obama won the highest share of the white vote since Bill Clinton in 1996.
Race has infused American history and politics since our founding. It threads through most aspects of daily life, and stirs up complicated feelings that Americans of all backgrounds find difficult to discuss. But Virginia showed that race is impossible to ignore.
The simple fact is that Republicans have long used race to achieve victory, and Democrats are fooling themselves if they think they can avoid it. Democrats have to get real about race, and forge a way to win.
Meanwhile, Paul Krugman was on another page entirely, even though he was also warning about the potency of the GOP's racist CRT attack line, which he called "a dog whistle wrapped in a scam (public schools are not, in fact, teaching C.R.T.)" and wrote that he doesn't know how to deal with it. He suggested that instead "Where Democrats have a clear path forward is on the closely related issues of Covid-19 and the economy. What’s crucial is that Democrats not take the election setbacks as an indication that they’ve overreached-- that President Biden should back down on vaccine mandates, that their economic agenda is too left-wing. What the public perceives isn’t a party doing too much, but a party doing too little, and Biden and his allies need to end that sense of drift... [which] comes when people are feeling bad about the economy: Consumer sentiment has plunged since the spring."
He identifies rising prices and bullshit about empty store shelves as the culprits. Krugman has some suggestions about what the Democrats can do to improve public perceptions of the economy.
Much of what’s distressing the public is beyond U.S. policymakers’ control, even though voters tend to blame whoever is in the White House. Gasoline prices, for example, have risen because of developments on world markets, not anything happening here. The same goes for food prices. And supply-chain problems, mainly reflecting a scramble to buy durable goods at a time when people are afraid to consume in-person services, are hitting many countries.
America’s third-quarter economic slowdown, however, wasn’t matched abroad. For example, over the same period euro area economies grew at an annual rate of almost 9 percent.
There’s no mystery about why we had a slowdown here that wasn’t equaled in Europe. It was all about the Delta wave, which was much worse on this side of the Atlantic. That wave is now receding. As it does, early indications, including claims for unemployment benefits and surveys of purchasing managers, suggest that a renewed economic surge is already underway. And as consumers start to feel safer, they may also shift demand away from stuff to services, which would ease some of the supply-chain pressures.
So the way forward for Democrats seems fairly obvious.
First, pass something. It doesn’t have to be perfect; in particular, given incredibly low borrowing costs, it doesn’t matter whether the proposed sources of revenue will fully pay for the new spending. What’s crucial for the politics right now is that something significant gets passed and that Biden then goes out and sells it.
Second, control Covid. The evidence is now overwhelming that vaccine mandates work and that threats of mass resignations if workers are required to get shots are mostly empty. When confronted with the prospect of actually losing a job, a great majority of workers comply.
On Thursday the Biden administration announced that Jan. 4 would be the deadline on two major vaccination mandates-- for health care workers and for employees of companies with payrolls exceeding 100. It should stick to this plan and ignore the screams of protest.
Will Democrats be able to turn their fortunes around if they push forward on their agenda and hang tough on vaccines? I don’t know. But they’ll certainly fail if they respond to Tuesday’s setbacks by curling up into a defensive ball.