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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “Biden wants to be democracy’s candidate. Trump makes that easy” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. at The Washington Post: “In placing democracy, political violence and right-wing extremism on the 2024 ballot, President Biden is playing jujitsu with Donald Trump, but also with Republicans in Congress….In a campaign speech near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania on Friday, the president moved the election’s stakes above run-of-the-mill politics to the very survival of democratic government. In doing so, he challenged voters — and the media — to see the alternative to his reelection as capitulation to the darkest forces in American life and around the globe….Jujitsu is defined as using the strength of an adversary against him. If Trump’s ability to dominate American political conversation has made it impossible for Biden to keep his promise of a more civil and peaceful politics, the president intends to make clear where the blame lies for the country’s distemper….a conversation centered on democracy’s future at home and abroad has the potential to shift the debate’s spotlight back to where it belongs: Away from migrant issues that have paralyzed Congress for two decades and toward the “sacred cause” of democracy that Biden lifted up on Friday….Biden’s case is against not only the man himself, but also an extremism that Trump has cultivated and helped to thrive in the Republican Party….A senior Biden adviser who briefed journalists before the president’s speech noted that “political violence is on display in a way that really unsettles the country.” Encouraging an extremism of deed as well as word is part of Trump’s political legacy. Calling it out will be central to the next 10 months. “When there’s an extremist threat in the country,” the aide said, “you have to name it, you have to say what it is.” Naming the violence that is part of its repertoire is key to this task….For Biden, democracy is now the foundation of his campaign. He needs to make it a centerpiece of the arguments that will roil Washington in the coming weeks.

At Forbes, Sara Dorn reports: “The Democratic party plans to focus its 2024 messaging on attacking Republicans who have supported former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud, according to a memo shared Wednesday—as President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign also announced he will cast Trump as a threat to democracy in a major campaign speech Saturday….Calling election denialism “the defining litmus test for the GOP presidential field,” the memo also rebukes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for campaigning on behalf of GOP midterm candidates who denied the results of the 2020 presidential election and DeSantis for refusing to say Jan. 6 was an insurrection….While Trump has continued to wield outsize power over the Republican party since losing the 2020 election, there are some signs Trump has negatively impacted the party as his preferred candidates have lost a series of high-stakes congressional races in recent years. The losses cost Republicans the Senate and a wider majority in the House in the 2022 midterms….It’s unclear how a [Trump] conviction in any of the cases could sway voters or whether the cases will even reach a trial before November. Some surveys show the majority of voters, 58%, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll, believe Trump committed serious federal crimes, 62% of Republicans also believe he should remain the party’s nominee, if he wins the primary and is subsequently convicted of a crime….Whether Democrats’ plans to cast Republicans as a threat to democracy will sway voters. The economy is consistently ranked as the top issue for voters, with 75% of survey respondents in a December Associated Press/NORC poll naming it as extremely or very important, compared to 67% who said the same about the future of democracy in the U.S….62%. That’s the share of Americans who said they believe Biden was legitimately elected, down from 69% in December 2021, according to a December Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, indicating growing Republican loyalty to Trump.” The “democracy vs. chaos” strategy has resonance now, thanks to the media coverage surrounding the anniversary of January 6th insurrection. But it is unclear how well it will play in 10 months in context of other issues.

“The deep voter dissatisfaction with the economy is a broader high-stakes puzzle going into an election year,” K. Sabeel Rahman writes in “Saving Bidenomics” at The Boston Review. “But even in the context of these spending bills, the political upside has yet to materialize. In some cases, where new jobs were created and investments have been made, local political leaders have resisted giving the President or the new policies credit. The bigger challenge, though, may be that for all the vast sums of money authorized by Congress, many of these programs have yet to be designed and the dollars yet to be spent. Many communities will not see immediate benefits. And many of the economic pain points that households face—from housing to care to food prices—remain underaddressed….The debate over how to implement industrial policy is not simply technocratic. What makes this otherwise wonky debate so fraught is the understanding that failure to make the most of this burst of public spending could be catastrophic. In a divided country where vast swaths of undermobilized and apathetic voters could make the difference in the survival of American democracy itself, these questions of political strategy—how to activate public support by delivering tangible benefits broadly—loom large. Indeed, as we head into the 2024 presidential primaries, where Trump and Trumpism has further taken hold in the conservative ecosystem, the dangers of an electoral loss for progressives are increasingly existential—for these new industrial policy initiatives, for the survival of the administrative agencies charged with executing them, and for democracy itself.”

In “Biden Begins 2024 With Better Poll Numbers Than His Foes—and Fans—Recognize” by John Nichols writes at The Nation: “If Biden gets his disjointed reelection campaign together and starts to deliver a coherent and consistent message, it’s a good bet that 2024 will turn out similarly or, perhaps, even better for Democrats than 2020. Biden’s message will focus on Trump’s many scandals and the increasingly authoritarian rhetoric of his desperate candidacy. But what may be president’s greatest strength going into the 2024 race was summed up by Steven Rattner in an end-of-2023 New York Times opinion piece that used multiple charts to convey the point that the US economy “beat the odds in 2023, coming in with far lower unemployment, far higher growth, and far better stock performance than projected.”….The economy is not, by a long shot, the only issue that will matter in 2024. Abortion rights concerns will undoubtedly turn out voters who favor Biden. By the same token, the president’s flawed response to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and especially to the Israeli assault on Gaza, could depress enthusiasm among young voters and Muslim Americans in swing states such as Michigan. And even if the economy were the only issue, Biden’s approach still leaves plenty to be desired in the eyes of many voters….But as veteran pollster and commentator Cornell Belcher said after reviewing Rattner’s upbeat assessment of the numbers, “Maybe, just maybe, Democrats should say this over and over and over again to voters at every turn and on every platform—kinda like a coordinated message or something, while taking credit for it.”….If the president and his partisan allies take that advice and the economy remains strong, there’s a compelling case Biden’s polling position will improve as the 2024 race unfolds.”

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