Joe Biden has won the Presidency. But up and down the ballot otherwise, Democrats underperformed. Coattails were non-existent and as the dust settles, the Democrats failures in the US Senate and US House will come into greater focus and be scrutinized. Here are some quick takeaways on messaging and what Democrats need to fix
1. The Republicans have an overriding economic message that voters can simply process. Democrats do not.
2. The perception is the Republicans irrespective of everything else about them, follow up on what they say they will do. They always, when in power do what they say they will do. They are ruthless. Voters don’t trust Democrats as doers. They see us as compromisers or worse yet, liars.
3. A progressive message can work but more with a populist bent to it versus a big government message. Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren are right on the issues but the way it is conveyed has to change. The way it is represented and the anger with which many on the left deride the political process leads to any easy rebuttal narrative by the GOP. As an aside here, mainstream liberals and progressives may snipe at each other but act the exact same way tactically- smug superiority and an unwillingness to really coalition build. The Republicans are NOT this way even if the Democrats perceive they are a bunch of bigots. They genuinely reach out and try and build a coalition which can achieve a plurality to win elections. The Democrats DO NOT DO THIS.
4. The education/healthcare boiler plate message that the Democrats have used for years has run its course — its at best cliche, at worst it comes off insincere after years of the Democrats effectively accomplishing little on these fronts. Voters have heard both for years and don’t believe the Democrats are going to follow up on their promises on it anymore. This is where Bernie Sanders supporters and others pushing Medicare for All have nailed it. Been there and done that, won’t get fooled again.
On Healthcare, the donor class has prevented the Dems from making the changes that would work. Right now Dems talking Health Care looks insincere. M4A would work but the Dems won’t go there so they should drop the entire discussion unless they are willing to go there.
On education, the Democrats views align roughly with that of the teachers unions a big donor and provider of people power on the ground. The union is generally right on education policy but Democrats are losing the messaging war, so changes need to be made.
5. The Democrats are every bit just as guilty as Republicans as to using a heavy identity driven message. A lot of Democrats demonstrate a smug superiority on identity politics but a lot of them are just as bad as to how they exploit the issue than the Republicans do.
The Democrats are even more exclusive and in some ways angry in their identity politics message than the Republicans. The Republicans version is nastier in that they use veiled racism as part of their version of it but Democrats also come across as angry and aggrieved in discussing it. The Democrats version of it is to identify with subgroups in the population and exclude major key demographics especially white Catholics.
I think many Democrats aka mainstream liberals delude themselves into thinking they have the high ground with identify politics. But they don’t and that showed Tuesday as masses of Latinos sunk Joe Biden in Florida and Texas and have tightened Arizona and Nevada as of this writing. They are just as bad as Republicans on that front, its just a different version of bad. They are basically begging white Catholic voters to vote Republican, a pet peeve of mine many long-time readers know I tend to obsess about. That now has extended to Latino Catholics who don’t fit a certain Democratic stereotype of the Latino population.
6. Democrats can’t continue to talk down to conservative voters. The party need to try to identify with their views and sway them accordingly. Try to understand why people would vote against their economic interests because of social or identity issues.
7. The environment should be THE key issue in Florida going forward because its a vital issue that’s growing in importance in this state and it does attract swing voters. Climate Change, water quality, land preservation, red tide, algae bloom etc are all critical issues that cut across traditional partisan lines. Democrats should own them.
8. The party is mostly the anti-Republican party which is driven much more by identity politics rather than ideology. The party stands for nothing outside of being anti-Republican. The Democratic messaging and its not working well. The Democrats have become a repository for malcontents is the perception of many. These malcontents include angry progressives, Never Trump former Republicans and smug elite liberals who talk down about this country. While all these groups have their virtues and I tend to identify with all three, the messaging that results is a mish-mash based on anger and opposition rather than yes, hope and change.