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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: How to Fix the Democratic Brand

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from National Review:

National Review (yes, National Review) just published a lengthy essay of mine on how the Democrats could fix their woefully bad party image, if they had a mind to do so. And if you’re wondering why this essay isn’t in some left-leaning magazine, the answer is pretty simple: they wouldn’t dream of publishing it.

“As a lifelong man of the Left who very much wants the Democratic Party to succeed, I regret to report this: The Democrats and the Democratic brand are in deep trouble. That should have been obvious when Democrats underperformed in the 2020 election, turning what they and most observers expected to be a blue wave into more of a ripple. They lost House seats and performed poorly in state legislative elections. And their support among non-white voters, especially Hispanics, declined substan­tially.

Still, they did win the presidency, which led many to miss the clear market signals this underperformance was sending. That tendency was strengthened by the Democrats’ improbable victories in the two Senate runoffs in Georgia, which gave them full control of the federal government, albeit by the very narrowest of margins.

At the same time, Trump’s refusal to concede the election — his bizarre behavior in that regard probably contributed to the GOP defeats in the Georgia runoffs — and his encouragement of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 led many Democrats to assume that the Republican brand would be so damaged by association that the Democratic brand would shine by comparison. And yet, two years later, the Democrats are in brutal shape.

Biden’s approval rating is in the low 40s, only a little above where Trump’s was at the same point in his presidential term, which of course was the precursor to the GOP’s drubbing in the 2018 election. Biden has been doing especially poorly among working-class and Hispanic voters. His approval ratings on specific issues tend to be lower, in the high 30s on the economy and in the low 30s on hot-button issues such as immigration and crime. Off-year and special elections since 2020 have indicated a strongly pro-Republican electoral environment, and Democrats currently trail Republicans in the generic congressional ballot for 2022. It now seems likely that Democrats will, at minimum, lose control of the House this November and quite possibly suffer a wave election up and down the ballot.

Most Democrats would prefer to believe that the current dismal situation merely reflects some bad luck. The Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus did undercut Biden’s plans for returning the country to normal, interacting with supply-chain difficulties to produce an inflation spike that angered consumers, but that is not the whole picture. Democrats have failed to develop a party brand capable of unifying a dominant majority of Americans behind their political project. Indeed, the current Democratic brand suffers from several deficiencies that make it somewhere between uncompelling and toxic to many American voters who might otherwise be the party’s allies. I locate these deficiencies in three key areas: culture, economics, and patriotism.”

Read the whole thing at NR. I think you’ll find it thought-provoking even if you don’t agree with it.

7 comments on “Teixeira: How to Fix the Democratic Brand

  1. spatrick on

    I agree. Who is the intended audience for this article other than NR readers? If I call the people I’m trying to engage in an arguments basically Luddites, Anti-American and Socialists over some pretty ridiculous strawmen (Does he really want more AI to replace the working class? I don’t get it?) Yeah, Leftist publications won’t print this because its a lousy article.

    What’s happening is that working-class Hispanic voters really are no different than working class or middle class voters of Irish, Italian, Jewish or Slavic backgrounds. All of these voters from the mid-to-late 60s began drifting away from the Democratic Party either to become Republicans or perhaps a better descriptions is conservative-influenced independents. This was obvious in ’76 when Jimmy Carter should have won Illinois and California and New Jersey (and perhaps some more states) but didn’t because working-class voters in these states, especially in small and mid-sized communities and even in some big cities voted for Ford.

    I think there comes a point for a lot of these voters where traditional affiliations cease as they become more a part of the American mainstream and such voters based their votes on what goes on nationally on questions of the economy, war and peace or the pandemic nowadays. To use the Nevada example, I can imagine a lot of working class Hispanics being put off when the casinos closed due to COVID-19, they’re out of work and they haven’t fully recovered yet to where they were back in 2019. Now you’ve got inflation on top of that in 2022.

    So if the worse that happens is groups are more dynamic in their voting than just one party or another that’s actually a good thing. Having a segregated “white party” or a party of people of color is not good for American politics and just makes the polarization even worse. And there’s really not much the parties can do about it other than accepting this reality and run on a good record of governance to earn their votes instead of always assuming you’ve got their vote always.

    • Watcher on

      It’s also disingenuous for Texeira to suggest he is forced to write in publications like NR because he has the this very site to use as a platform whenever he wants.

  2. William Berkson on

    Wonderful article! I like particularly your highlight on getting bogged down in identity politics, instead of focusing on economic growth for all. There is, though, one important mistake. When you say that “useful public investments” wouldn’t have led to “more productivity, higher growth.” Public investment by Democrats, not only in infrastructure, but also education and health care, have supported higher productivity and overall growth. I have the data and charts, if you are interested. The superior growth in incomes of the middle class and poor under Democrats, compared to Republicans, is particularly striking.
    Do you know of Rachel Bitecofer’s work? It seems complementary to yours. See, for example her comparative “head to head” video on the economy here: https://www.strikepac.com

  3. Watcher on

    Teixeira wonders why he is having so much trouble in his campaign to reform the party, particularly when there are kernels of truth to what he says.

    Part of the problem is his constant references and links to vomit-inducing right wing media. Now he is using his praise from such media to try to convince us. Sorry, not working for me.

    • BC on

      2+2=4 even if Stalin says so. 2+2 does not equal 5 even if the Buddha says so. The validity and even the truth of an argument do not depend on where it’s published.

      IMHO, part of the problem with the Democratic Party’s brand favorability is the unwillingness of many Democrats to engage with people who do not agree with them. We fall into these groupthink tunnels that make it difficult to see that many of the people we believe “should” agree with us actually do not. We compound the problem by our inability to actually speak to people in ways that stand a chance of getting a hearing.

      Finally, the single most important skill in politics is the ability to count. 50%+1 is an important number.

      • Watcher on

        If only this were a question of “engaging with people who disagree with you”. I am referring to media celebrities and owners, not the people next door who may disagree on a few points.

        Most of the former is dedicated to manipulation and does not concern itself with fact checking (please don’t try a false equivalence argument). Beyond that, it tries to get people riled up emotionally and often is hostile to any type of compromise. Good luck with engaging that mind set – if steadfast conservatives like Liz Cheney can be cast out for not being pure enough that doesn’t bode well for the rest of us.

        I think there is truth to the notion that left wing people operate in silos which is often counterproductive, but I am also a realist about who is approachable or not.

      • Victor on

        And 80% of the people commenting in Democratic leaning forums are rabid partisans driving the rest away or into silence.


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