I think yesterday morning's post, Trump Took Russian-Style Disinformation And Information Warfare & Applied It To American Politics, is pretty important, especially the embedded podcast of Charlie Sykes interviewing author Jonathan Rauch. They are both conservative Reaganites so some of the stuff has to be taken with a grain of salt, but Rauch's theory about why so many conservative voters have fallen for the very same Trumpism that is so absolutely worthless to most Americans, is a must.
At the convention of far right extremists in Dallas (CPAC) this weekend, Trump won the 2024 presidential straw poll with 70%. Unlike normal Americans, the CPACers gave Trump a 98% approval rating. The latest YouGov poll for The Economist (July 3-6) shows that 37% of Americans approve of Trump, while 56% have an unfavorable view of him. (Even 18% of self-described conservatives disapprove of Trump, as do 14% of people who voted for Trump last year.)
Trump spent some of his time over the weekend undermining the media-- insisting the media is "dishonest and corrupt... [and] truly, according to a recent poll, the enemy of the people"-- as authoritarians always do... in the hopes of eliminating a trusted source of information and a counter-balance to his lies (his firehose of falsehood). Señor Trumpanzee, pulling "polling data" out of his ass: "I am proud to inform you that the Lamestream Media has hit the lowest approval ratings ever recorded. I think it would be fair to assume that I had something to do with that... In a similar category, CNN’s ratings are down a whopping, and record-setting, 79% and likewise, horrible numbers at MSDNC. Joe Scarborough and his lovely wife, Mika, are at record lows. These developments are great news for the American People!"
Trump is also insisting Republicans gum up the works and oppose Biden's (very popular) agenda. "RINO Republicans should stop negotiating the infrastructure deal-- you are just being played by the Radical Left Democrats-- they will give you nothing! Very important that Senate Republicans not allow our hard-earned tax reductions to be terminated or amended in an upward trajectory in any way, shape, or form. They should not be making deals on increasing taxes for the fake infrastructure proposals being put forward by Democrats, almost all of which goes to the ridiculous Green New Deal Marxist agenda. Keep the Trump Administrations tax cuts just where they are."
And McConnell apparently agrees, hissing about the infrastructure bill. "The era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over... This is not going to be done on a bipartisan basis. This is going to be a hell of a fight over what this country ought to look like in the future, and it's going to unfold here in the next few weeks. I don't think we've had a bigger difference of opinion between the two parties."
He can only say this kind of stuff because he has putative Democrats, conservatives Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, in his pocket. Early yesterday, Jeff Greenfield, writing for Politico Magazine, explored something troubling to just about everyone: Why can't the Democrats get anything done? He wrote with apparent disappointment that "It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, with the Democrats relying on wishful thinking and vague threats to fulfill their biggest campaign promises. Didn’t Joe Biden win the Presidency with a 7 million vote popular majority? Didn’t Democrats win both houses of Congress? If there’s anything more unnerving and disheartening than the Republican Party’s shredding of core democratic and republican principles over the past several years, it’s how so many of the Democrats’ attempts to fight back are grounded in delusion or futility... [T]he FDR and LBJ examples show conclusively why visions of a transformational Biden agenda are so hard to turn into reality. In 1933, FDR had won a huge popular and electoral landslide, after which he had a three-to-one Democratic majority in the House and a 59-vote majority in the Senate. Similarly, LBJ in 1964 had won a massive popular and electoral vote landslide, along with a Senate with 69 Democrats and a House with 295. Last November, on the other hand, only 42,000 votes in three key states kept Trump from winning re-election. Democrats’ losses in the House whittled their margin down to mid-single digits. The Senate is 50-50. Further, both Roosevelt and Johnson had crucial Republican allies. In the 1930’s, GOP Senators Robert LaFollette and Frank Norris were ardent advocates for organized labor. In the ‘60s, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen gave LBJ crucial help in getting his civil rights agenda passed. When Medicare became law in 1965, it passed with 70 Republican votes in the House and 13 GOP votes in the Senate. In today’s Washington, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell have been successfully working to keep Republican support for Biden’ policies at precisely zero. So the grander ambitions of Democrats run smack against history. If Biden had come into office with a Congress skewed the way FDR and LBJ’s were skewed, nobody would be talking about ending the filibuster, or sliding big policies through via reconciliation. Biden could enact his most ambitious plans with ease."
Greenfield points to the obvious solution for the Democrats' problem. It's not rocket science-- win more seats; replace conservatives with progressives, first in primaries and then in the general election. Magic thinking isn't going to get past the conservatives' stranglehold on policy. I've included the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer on the left so you can help candidates who are trying to do that. (Just click and contribute what you can.)
Whether the public sees Democratic demands for these structural changes as overdue or overreaching, the key point is that they are currently exercises in futility. The only plausible road to winning their major policy goals is… to win by winning. This means politics, not re-engineering. They need to find ways to take down their opponents, and then be smarter about using that power while they have it.
They certainly have issues to campaign on. In the few weeks, we have learned that some of America’s wealthiest people have paid only minimal or no federal income tax at all. (Jeff Bezos even got a $4,000 child tax credit.) Even as the Wall Street Journal editorial writers were responding to a Code Red emergency (“class warfare!”), the jaw-dropping nature of the report—followed by a New York Times piece about the impotence of the IRS to deal with the tax evasions of private equity royalty-- confirmed the folk wisdom of countless bars, diners, and union halls: the wealthy get away with murder.
For a Democratic Party whose core theme is to bring more fairness into American economic life, these reports represent a huge cache of political ammunition. They underscore why Biden wants tougher tax enforcement, a global minimum corporate tax, and an end to some of the most egregious (and perfectly legal) tax outrages. It is-- or should be-- an unrelenting theme part of the Democrats’ arguments. So should a near-daily reminder, in cities and towns across the county, about the businesses and homes the massive Covid relief package has saved, and about the totally unified Republican opposition to that plan. That message-- along with specific accounts of what a major infrastructure program would do-- needs to be delivered at a granular level from now until November 2022.
By contrast, if Democrats believe that a parade of ambitious, intellectually intriguing bills doomed by a GOP Senate minority will resonate back home, they are under a serious misconception about how intently regular voters follow the legislative process. The disconnect between most voters and the daily play of politics is more like a canyon. It will take a focused, repeated message to bridge that gap.
Of course this is a whole lot easier said than done. A political climate where inflation, crime and immigration are dominant issues has the potential to override good economic news. And 2020 already showed what can happen when a relative handful of voices calling for “defunding the police” can drown out the broader usage of economic fairness. (It’s one key reason why Trump gained among Black and brown voters, and why Democrats lost 13 House seats.)
The lesson of history is clear: America’s historic steps toward social justice and deepening our democracy have always-- and only-- happened after major Democratic political victories. In the absence of significant Republican support for those steps, the need for that kind of victory is even more crucial. Otherwise, we can expect more arguments that ring from the fanciful to the desperate to the delusional.