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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley and Holly Fuong write, “….with the election right around the corner, we wanted to take a closer look at the views of likely voters.2 Overall, our poll found likely voters split evenly at 41 percent over whether they planned to vote for a Democrat or a Republican in the upcoming congressional election, about the same as in our September wave. But because most likely voters will vote Democratic or Republican, we asked the other respondents — those who were undecided, planned to vote for an independent or third-party candidate, would not vote or skipped the question — which major party they would support if they had to choose, as voters who lean toward one party tend to vote for that party. Even with those responses incorporated, however, likely voters remained almost evenly divided: Forty-nine percent said they would back a Democratic candidate, and 48 percent a Republican one. Nearly all self-identified Democrats and Republicans planned to vote for their respective parties, while independents preferred Democrats over Republicans, 49 percent to 42 percent….But while likely voters were split on which party they planned to vote for, they largely felt that neither party had earned the right to govern after November. Overall, 51 percent of likely voters said Democrats hadn’t earned another two years controlling the federal government, while 39 percent said they had.4 Among independents, 50 percent said Democrats didn’t deserve another two years and 34 percent said they did, while Democrats and Republicans mostly answered in accordance with their party….Yet things were no better for the GOP, as 55 percent of likely voters also said Republicans had not made a good case for why they should be given control of Congress for the next two years, compared with 35 percent who said they had. Notably, 61 percent of independents said the GOP had not, while just 27 percent said they had (once again, Democrats and Republicans largely answered in line with their partisan views).”

In “Power, politics and persuasion: Why Democrats don’t win — and how they can fight back,” Paul Rosenberg writes at Salon that “Anand Giridharadas is onto something in his new book, “The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy.” As he put it in a tweet promoting an excerpt in the Atlantic:

A lot of people — well-meaning and malevolent ones alike — want you to believe that trying to change minds is futile.

They are wrong.

On the other hand, more than 60% of Republicans still believe Trump’s big lie about the 2020 election being stolen, according to a recent Monmouth poll. But changing the course of history — that is, winning the fight against resurgent fascism — doesn’t depend on reaching those committed Trump supporters. It only requires shifting a few percentage points, either by attracting a few voters from the other side or convincing a few non-voters to vote.

“I thoroughly believe that turnout is persuasion,” [Anat] Shenker-Osorio says in the book. “And if the choice is not singing in harmony, then the congregation is not going to hear the joyful noise….Rosenberg cites “three principles from an online guide Shenker-Osorio created that guided the creation of the race-class narratives: “1) Lead with shared values, not problems. 2) Bring people into the frame – offer clear villains and heroes. 3) Create something good, don’t merely reduce something bad.”

“One apparent point of difference between Shenker-Osorio and Bitecofer,” Rosenberg continues, “comes on economic issues. Bitecofer relishes attacking Republicans on the economy, as part of what she calls a “brand offensive” approach. “The economy is always going to be the No. 1 issue,” she told me. “You can’t cede ownership of the most important issue to the other party. You have to fight on that turf.”  Shenker-Osorio tends to steer away from this area, as Giridharadas explains:

Worrying about what’s good for Mr. Economy — that is the right’s issue, the right’s conversation, the right’s question. Shenker-Osorio drew a contrast between that and, say, the concept of “freedom.” That idea was contested. People on the right spoke of freedom from taxation and regulation and vaccines. But people on the left spoke of reproductive freedom and freedom from police violence and freedom from want. To frame your ideas in the language of freedom wasn’t validating the right’s frame. It was staking a claim to the idea of freedom as being as much yours as theirs. It was participating in the debate about what freedom is and who guards it.

Rosenberg adds that “Democrats should send the message that they’re fighting to allow you to vote and have your vote be counted, and be meaningful; to protect bodily autonomy and reproductive rights; to keep your kids safer from gun violence, in school and on the streets; to build a fairer economy that can lift everybody; to respect migrants who want to pursue the American dream and contribute to the economy; and to protect the individual dignity of every American, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

I don’t buy it whole hog, but at slate.com Luke Winkie argues that “Democrats Can Only Lose Debates Now: Or at the very least, they can’t “win,” and their lack of awareness of this explains one of the biggest problems with our current politics.” As Winkie notes, “anyone who still believes that a debate performance casts residue on electoral prospects—who trusts that an entrenched, exponentially more unhinged Republican base will suddenly see the light after a caustic Tim Ryan riposte—is hoodwinking themselves. Debates are not a conversion tool, and they haven’t been for a long time. There is little evidence that these recent rave reviews are indicative of a shift in Democrat prospects come November….Trust me when I say I understand the appeal of the debate clips that catch fire in #Resistance circles. I too would prefer to live in a world where congressional deliberation served as a real inflection point of a campaign—it would mean there is still a currency in objective truth and that information still takes precedence over frothy rage. But there is a stubborn, obdurate belief within the Biden contingency that, eventually, Republicans will snap out of the MAGA stupor and become profoundly aware of the cruelty and chaos wreaked by the Trump years….A debate seems like the prime venue for such a righteous triumph; surely, in front of neutral observers, where you are forced to ’fess up to the wide array of documentation showing that you’ve paid for abortions despite being staunchly pro-life, Americans can then see Herschel Walker for the spiteful charlatan that he is….This will not happen, and that’s partly because this isn’t what happens in a debate anymore. The directives of the parties are splintering off into elementally different directions, to the point that the pure aesthetic presentation of a debate as a concept has become increasingly incoherent in plenty of sections of the culture. A stuffy ritual of formalized political performance appeals to a segment of the citizenry that is pro-institution, pro-democracy, and pro-civility. The Republicans, meanwhile, have given up on all of those ideas—to the point that election conspiracy theories have almost become a de facto requirement for anyone in the GOP to ascend the midterm primaries.” Winkie notes that Trump has lost every debate he has participate in , according to virtue;ly all media analyses. But he is still considered his party’s front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination (although thatch change quickly). Winkie concludes that “The GOP cannot be defanged with diction; we cannot manufacture a treacly, Sorkin-ish magic bullet that will suddenly break the spell. No, in 2022, they can only be defeated.”

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