NDN Blog

Invite: Feb 16, 1pm ET - NDN Talks High Crimes with Glenn Kirschner

We are very excited for this episode of NDN Talks - an extended conversation with television commentator and former prosecutor Glenn Kirschner.  Reserve your spot for Tuesday, February 16th at 1pm today. 

While we admired Glenn's commenator on television, what originally drew us to develop a working relationship with Glenn was this terrific legal analysis back in 2018.  In this NBC NewsThink essay, Glenn made a big argument, one which we think is particularly relevant today - that the Department of Justice needs to treat electoral crimes committed by the President as grave crimes, ones which cannot be subject to it's current "no prosecution" policy.  In this essay he wrote:

"If a president can act unlawfully to influence an election, he does not deserve the protections of his ill-gotten office. This incongruity encourages lawlessness in the quest for the presidency and then rewards that lawlessness by inoculating the criminal president against prosecution. Such a construct is dangerous....

We now find ourselves with a president whose crimes may outpace those of Nixon and Clinton. Failing to hold criminal presidents accountable in a court of law arguably emboldens, or at the very least does not dissuade, corrupt individuals from seeking the presidency. At some point, we must learn from our institutional mistakes. Department of Justice officials would be wise to reflect on American history lest we once again succumb to a governmental crisis."

What he is saying here, very clearly, is that if a President cannot be prosecuted for election crimes, then he has ever incentive in the world to cheat with impunity, which is exactly what we saw in both the Ukraine fiasco in 2019 and the months long effort to disrupt and cheat in the 2020 election.  Simon wrote an extended essay about Glenn's argument back in August, in the midst of what we called Trump's original electoral crime spree. 

With the 2nd Trump Impeachment trial starting in a new days we hope help to put Glenn's big argument back into the national debate, as a step we can take to ensure that these dark days don't return to America soon, or perhaps ever.

Glenn's Bio:

Glenn is a former federal prosecutor with 30 years of trial experience. He served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for 24 years, rising to the position of Chief of the Homicide Section. In that capacity, Glenn supervised 30 homicide prosecutors and oversaw all homicide grand jury investigations and prosecutions in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the DC U.S. Attorney’s Office, Glenn served more than six years on active duty as an Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) prosecutor, trying court-martial cases and handling criminal appeals, including espionage and death penalty cases. Glenn currently works as an NBC News/MSNBC on-air legal analyst and teaches criminal justice at George Washington University. He has a YouTube channel and Podcast, “Justice Matters with Glenn Kirschner.”

Glenn tried hundreds of cases in his 30 years as a prosecutor, including more than 50 murder trials, multiple lengthy RICO trials and precedent-setting cases.  His cases have been made into major motion pictures (murder conviction of a sophisticated con man who ran in elite DC circles, subject of upcoming film “Georgetown”, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Christoph Waltz and Annette Bening) and TV documentaries (defendant Andre Burno convicted of the ambush shooting of an on-duty police officer, subject of the Emmy Award-winning HBO documentary, “Thug Life in DC”). Glenn has lectured at Federal Bar Association seminars, judicial conferences and professional association events.  He has presented at the National Advocacy Center on the topic of homicide prosecutions and taught advanced criminal law at George Washington University School of Law as an adjunct faculty member. He traveled as a Department of Justice representative to address Ukrainian prosecutors and detectives regarding the U.S. Criminal justice system.   

As an Army JAG, Glenn served as prosecutor at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, where he handled dozens of court-martial cases and served as legal advisor to Army commanders on criminal justice matters. He then served as an Army appellate attorney at the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency in Falls Church, Virginia, where he handled death penalty and espionage cases, among others.

Glenn attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and was First-Team All American football player in 1983.  In 1987, he graduated with honors from New England School of Law in Boston, where he was named a Trustee’s Scholar. Glenn has received numerous awards, including: the Harold J. Sullivan Award for Fairness, Ethics and Trial Excellence; the John F. Evans Award for Outstanding Advocacy; the Metropolitan Police Department’s Chief of Police Medal of Honor; the United States Attorney’s Office STAR Award; U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal; Washington & Lee University Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee; and induction in September 2018 into the American College of Trial Lawyers.   

Catch Simon on That Trippi Show, In The Atlantic, Politico and More

So the insights in our big new strategy memo, Time for Dems to Come Together, has gotten some attention in recent days. Simon discusses the memo’s insights in Ron Brownstein’s smart new column on the 2022 midterms today and in this Politico article by Christopher Cadelago and Laura Barron-Lopez.  You can also catch him talking about the memo in this Newsy piece with Andrew Rafferty, and in Ian Masters’ new podcast.

But the highlight of the week is Simon’s sit down his with old friend, Joe Trippi, for his excellent weekly podcast, That Trippi Show.  The episode is called “3 Ways To In in 2022.” Simon and Joe go in-depth into the memo, and spend a significant amount of time discussing the reasons why Simon thinks 2022 can be a very good year for Democrats.  It is a wonderful conversation between two old friends, and they end sharing their optimism about our prospects next year – as Simon says, “I’d rather be us than them.

5m Biden Jobs, Twice As Many As 2 Bushes, Trump Combined

Oct 9th - So, with the September jobs report now in, NDN's jobs tracker clocks in at:

34m jobs - 16 years of Clinton, Obama

4.8m jobs - 8 months of Biden

2m jobs - 16 years of Bush, Bush and Trump

Remarkably, Biden's nearly 5m jobs is already twice as many than were created in the 16 years of the last 3 Republican Presidencies, combined.  It is also millions more than were created in the entirety of any of their three individual Presidencies.  Many millions more.

What this data tells us is that since this new age of globalization began in 1989, a modern and forward looking Democratic Party has repeatedly seen strong economic growth on its watch.  Republican Presidents, on the other hand, have overseen three consecutive recessions - the last two, severe. The contrast in performance here is very stark, it is not a stretch to state that the GOP’s economic track record over the past 30 years has been among the worst in the history of the United States.  

GDP growth tells a similar story:

And look at the jobs created per month over these Presidencies - Rs at just 10k per month over 16 years.  Biden is running more than 60 times times that so far in 2021.  Yes 60x.  

The bottom line is that Democratic policies have repeatedly been able to make globalization work for the American people in this new and challenging age.  GOP policies have repeatedly failed to deliver, as a national party Republicans have repeatedly failed to do their part.  For those looking for reasons why America has not made more progress in this era, reactionary Republican policies appear to be a very good place to start.   

It is our firm belief here at NDN that the current radicalization of the GOP is intimately linked to its repeated failure to handle the challenges of the post-Cold War era.  The rigid ideological approach of the modern GOP has left it unable to govern in a time of rapid change; and those repeated failures have left many Republicans angry, reactionary and willing to do the unthinkable to stay in or regain power.  The modern GOP has no answers for many of the most important challenges America faces today, and rather than modernizing, adapting, as all institutions must in a time of change, the GOP has decided to fight the future by rigging the system to remain in power while the country and its people drift from their narrow grasp. 

It is why Democrats must fight so hard to prevent Republicans from once again cheating their way into power, and establishing a sustained period of minority rule.  It is not just a betrayal of the great American experiment, but it will guarantee, as the data here strongly argues, a period of extended decline as much needed progress on the big challenges we face will be further delayed. 

This argument – about the success Democrats have achieved through modernization, and the failures of the GOP for their refusal to do so – is at the very core of our presentation, With Democrats Things Get Better.  We are presenting it next this Friday, October 15th.  You can learn more about these arguments, sign up to see the 10/15 With Dems, or see a recording of our last presentation from September 24th here.  If you liked this analysis, you will love With Dems.  Join us!

Update - This research gets a nice shoutout in a new David Rothkopf essay in USA Today about Biden's economic agenda and success so far. Mike Tomasky also gives this work nice treatment in a Daily Beast essay, "Everyone Does Better When the President's a Democrat."

Video: Facebook After The Whistleblower (10/6/21)

NDN was pleased to host an extended conversation about what can be done about Facebook and Instagram on Wed, October 6th, 2021. Joining us was Zamaan Qureshi, the co-author of a recent Time Magazine essay, "Instagram Is Doing Grave Harm to Our Generation. We Need Help to Stop It." Zamaan's essay reflects on the recent Wall Street Journal expose, “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.” In what is a truly shocking set of revelations reported in this article, it appears internal, hidden Facebook studies have found that Instagram makes “body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

You can watch our spirited conversation by following this link.

For more on Zamaan, a very inspiring and courageous thought leader on the future of social media, follow him here on Twitter, watch his appearance on Morning Joe the morning of our event, and review his bio below. 

Our discussion was originally intended to focus on the damage Instagram is doing to the mental and physical health of American teens, but was expanded to look at the full set of issues, Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, is bringing to light

Zamaan Qureshi is a policy advisor and social media coordinator for the Real Facebook Oversight Board and a researcher for The Citizens where he focuses on Cambridge Analytica. Zamaan is also a privacy advocate, has written for TIME and Byline Times, and has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, and Cybercrime Magazine for his work exposing Facebook’s data collection on its users. Zamaan is currently pursuing a BA in International Studies and Political Science at American University.

Memo: Time for Dems To Come Together (Updated)

You can catch Simon talking about this memo in a new That Trippi Show pod, 3 Ways To In in 2022; in this Newsy piece with Andrew Rafferty; and in this Background Briefing with Ian Masters podcast.  Simon and the insights from the memo are also cited in Ron Brownstein's smart new Atlantic magazine column on the 2022 midterms and this Politico article by Christopher Cadelago and Laura Barron-Lopez.

Time for Dems To Come Together – Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about how an early, compelling 2022 election narrative has emerged for Democrats – lean into defeating COVID, sell the rest of the agenda (growing economy, climate, health care, etc) and brand the GOP as extremists, unfit to govern.  Given the threat an unrepentant MAGA/GOP is to our democracy, keeping them out of power next year may be the single most important thing we can do to defend our democracy and advance the President’s democracy vs autocracy agenda. Considering the stakes, 2022 is no ordinary election and we simply must be doing everything we can to make sure we prevail. 

 

Which is why all Democrats should be more alarmed by the drop in the President’s approval rating since a rancorous debate has broken out over his post-American Rescue Plan agenda.  Since June 24th when the two separate bills, infrastructure and reconciliation were joined and a more intense internal party in-fighting broke out, the President’s approval rating on 538 has dropped from 53.2%-43% (+10.2) to 44.9%-49.3% (-4.4) – a drop of almost 15 points.  This drop came at a time when the economy was creating 1m jobs a month, GDP growth was at 6.5% and tens of millions were receiving child tax credit payments. In our view the drop can be explained by the public believing the President was not attending to the big job at hand, defeating COVID, and thus even through the economy had started to truly boom the President got no credit for it.  It is widely believed that the President will need to be at 50-51-52 for the 2022 election to be competitive.  At 46-47-48, where we are now, we absolutely lose both chambers next year. Thus his decline is no small matter, and the longer he stays down the harder it will be to get back up. 

What this means is that we need to put this debilitating period of rancor, of process and tactics behind us as soon as possible.  All Democrats need to come together and get a deal done, recognizing the more time we spend fighting and not doing what the people want right now the harder 2022 is going to be. The President needs to have a fierce urgency in his work to get a deal done, allowing Dems to once again refocus on what voters want more than anything else – defeating COVID/ensuring our recovery/returning to normal life.  As Dems talk about their agenda, any part of it, it needs to begin with “as we work to defeat COVID, create a strong, growing economy again, return to normal, we also need to (climate, health care, child tax credit etc).”  For many/most voters there is no Biden agenda outside of COVID and recovery, the ARP now.  The rest of his agenda needs to be seen as a complement to these core issues which are dictating our politics now, and are very likely to do so in the next election as very little of what's in the two bills will be robustly implemented by next November.  The work of defeating COVID and ensuring our recovery isn’t done, and that is simply where our governing and political focus needs to be

As we go into more detail below, it is our belief that Democrats should not expect a significant improvement in the President's standing by the passage of these two bills under debate right now without first firmly establishing that they are as a party responsible for defeating COVID, ushering in the economic recovery.  It is not enough that COVID ends, or the economy gets better.  Democrats have to get credit for these things happening, and right now based on current polling those links are not adequately established in voter's minds.

Every part of the post-ARP Biden agenda will become more powerful, salient if packaged this way, and not alone, separate.  Democrats need to run on the whole agenda, ARP+ infrastructure+ BBB, recognizing that during this time of intense discussion of the last two parts, absent the ARP, the President's numbers have dropped, significantly.  As Gavin Newsom showed us, it's about defeating COVID, sell the rest of the agenda, define the GOP as extremists/unfit to govern. Everything in Biden's agenda becomes more powerful in that frame. 

It is time now to come together, get a deal done and spend the next year leaning in hard to the promising frame we’ve seen emerge in recent weeks.  Winning this next election is going to be very hard – the longer we keep fighting the harder it is going to be.  And it all starts and ends with defeating COVID.  For Joe Biden and the Democrats it remains job #1.  

A final note on polling, and the logic behind this analysis

In politics an issue can be popular, but not move voters. For to move votes an issue has to be both popular AND important.  It's why we believe so much of the polling we've seen this cycle is junky, even misleading.  Polls that test an issue absent establishing its relative import, and how it stands up to sustained GOP attacks, are in our mind close to worthless. Popularity alone tells you very little about how an issue will perform in the real world in a far more complex and challenging issue environment. 

This helps explain why over the past few months the economy could have been booming, the center-left family could have been spending tens of millions on promoting infrastructure and Build Back Better, and the President's numbers could have plummeted.  The booming economy, climate, health care, an economy for all are of course both popular and important to voters, they just aren't as important as defeating COVID.  And thus my great fear is this period of an extended conversation about this part of the President's agenda, disconnected from his work on COVID, not only failed to keep his numbers up but may have directly contributed to taking his numbers down. The tens of millions of dollars being spent now selling BBB is reminding voters in the most important parts of the country that the President isn't in fact focused on COVID; and yes, reminding folks that he has moved on from COVID, particularly at a time when kids were going back to school across the country, intensifying every one's concern, may be contributed to the damage done to him and the party over the past few months. 

I have been on several polling calls in recent weeks where folks talked about how hard it was to break through right now with the BBB agenda, how much people were still fixated on COVID, getting back to normal.  I don't really know why anyone could be surprized by this.  COVID is a disruption in our lives akin to a World War, a Great Depression, something so big and huge and scary that until it is gone, defeated, everything else is secondary.  As I've been writing for some time, it is a global collective trauma perhaps as significant as WWII.  It and its aftermath may dominate politics for years to come, and trying to sell something even as virtuous as the child tax credit is just bouncing off. 

A political error of this magnitude could have only come about by a misunderstanding of how polling works.  The only polls anyone in a position of influence should pay attention too have to test beyond popularity - they have to test and establish the relative importance of issues, and how these issues perform when challenged by Republicans. Almost all of the polling I've seen in recent months has been testing infrastructure and BBB exclusively, outside of the broader issue environment, and almost never against anticipated GOP attacks.  They merely tested popularity.  And I ask my fellow center-lefties - is there really any doubt that an agenda which gave you all sorts of stuff for free would not be popular? What were we learning in these polls, and did they create a false sense of security about the President's standing at a time when his numbers kept coming down? Did they prevent an obvious course correction, one I called for as early as June 9th?

I think we need to have a big conversation inside the family about polling, and a new theory of the case that polling and data can be spun, and are an important part the daily information war.  I respectfully disagree with this view.  Polling and data is the place where all of us in a diverse party can come together and find common ground.  It allows us to put aside our ideologies and biases, and listen to the public, where they are and what they want.  It is what helps keep this disparate party together, and allows us to come up with common strategies that help us win.  Politicizing or spinning polls and data may have helped contribute to what has been a disastrous last few months for the President's approval rating, and also, I worry, may end up eliminating one of the most important tools we have for keeping the Democratic family together.  And as someone who helped create modern spin in my time in the Clinton War Room, I can tell you there are limits to what can get spun in politics.  There are limits. 

Finally, given everything I've written here, I do not believe that Democrats should expect the President's approval to rise significantly when the two bills are passed.  It is possible. But if you posit he will gain, answer these questions first:

- Why did the President's approval rating drop so much after the passage of American Rescue Plan, a bill which will spend more money this cycle than BBB + infrastructure, and which led to 6.5% GDP growth, 1m jobs a month, 180m people receiving direct payment and another 40m receiving child tax payments? We already passed a big economic bill and his numbers dropped. Why will these bills be different? Maybe because it's not all about the economy right now....

- Why would the President's approval rise for passing bills which during the time they were debated and sold to the public the President's approval dropped by 15 points? Haven't we already had a test of the saliency of these bills, and the test showed they were not capable of improving his numbers, and in fact during this whole debate we've seen his numbers come down?

- Have we, during the course of selling BBB learned, that there is limited political and electoral benefit in programs which target narrow numbers of voters regardless of the virtue of the program itself? As I write in this piece, I think we have, which is why I think we need to craft a winning narrative around universal benefits not targeted ones - defeat COVID, climate/health care/prosperity for all, etc and define them as extremists/unfit to govern. 

Here is another link to my indepth analysis which shows voters elected Joe Biden to do one thing above all else - defeat COVID, reboot the economy, get us back to normal.  Which is why I think we get the President's numbers back up not just by passing these two bills, but by adopting the frame Newsom gave us - defeat COVID/return to normal, sell the rest of the agenda, define them as extremists, unfit to govern.  Defeating COVID and getting credit for it, making it clear to voters we know this is their number 1 concern, is the key that unlocks the power of the rest of the agenda. There is no BBB and infrastructure without defeating COVID first. 

As for next year, given how radical the GOP continues to be, I am very optimistic that we can take this narrative and agenda and make what will be a tough election competitive.  And again, given how radical they continue to be, I would not want the job of selling all that to a COVID weary public, which is why today I would much rather than be us than them.  I think their path to victory in 2022 is harder to see right now than ours.

This memo was originally published on October 5th, and was significantly revised and expanded on October 7th. 

2021 - A Year of Dems Tackling Challenges, Overcoming Obstacles

While it is not clear today what is going to happen to parts of the Biden agenda currently being debated in the House, what is pretty clear is that by the end of the year Biden will have passed his landmark American Rescue Plan which will be credited with helping bring an end to COVID and usher in a very strong year for the American economy; passed the ambitious and vitally important infrastructure bill; and passed a reconciliation bill that will make critical investments in climate, health care, skills/education and creating an economy which works for all.  

How exactly this all happens we do not know.  But that it is going to happen is not really in doubt.  

Taken together, this year of legislative progress will set up the basic frame for 2022 – pragmatism and progress vs dangerous radicalization.  Democrats will have overcome years of reckless GOP obstructionism on critical issues of the day; made real progress on COVID, an economy for all, climate, health care and more; and the GOP will have once again show themselves to be too radical and extreme to be trusted with power.  

We cover all this in more depth in a new essay, and in related content below.  

Analysis: Twice As Many Jobs w/Biden as Last 3 GOP Presidents Combined - 9/4/21 - More jobs have been created in Joe Biden's first seven months than in Presidencies of the two Bushes and Trump combined.  Repeated Dem successes, repeated GOP failures must become better known in our politics. 

Memo: After Texas Roe decision, Dems must lean into GOP radicalization - 9/2/21 - The Supreme Court's Texas Roe decision is so shocking and crazy that Democrats have no choice now to make the dangerous radicalization of the GOP central to the conversation they are having with the American people. 

Memo: A Fall To Do List for Democrats - COVID, A Growing Economy, Climate, Immigration - 8/30/21 - In a new memo, Simon writes that Democrats have four priorities this fall - defeat COVID/improve health care, creating an economy which works for all, tackle climate change and modernize our an mmigration system. 

Memo: A Stronger Response To Delta Is Required Now - 8/21/21 - In a new political memo, Simon reviews recent polling data and finds rising fears over delta, and growing support in the public for aggressive steps to stop its spread.  The President should seize the moment and launch a stepped up campaign to defeat COVID once and for all.

Memo: Some Thoughts on Afghanistan, What Comes Next - 8/17/21 -  While the endgame in Afghanistan has been a significant setback for the President, he should use these next few months to reacquint the American people with his forward looking agenda and make significant progress in enacting it. 

Biden Should Consider "A Fireside Chat" About COVID - 8/4/21 - It may be time for a prime time Presidential address about COVID, a fireside chat, where Joe Biden can update us on the progress made, the challenges ahead and make clear what his plan is to defeat the pandemic here and everywhere. 

Bold Action on Evictions, But Also A Reminder That Governing is Very Hard - 8/4/21 - The President told bold action this week to prevent mass evictions in the midst of a public health crisis, but the program's struggles should be prompt action to make sure all the President's ambitious programs are well designed, aggressively implemented and successful. 

Memo: A Summer To Do List for Democrats - Defeat COVID, Defend Democracy, Keep Creating Jobs -  6/9/21 - Democrats have important work to do this summer - defeat COVID, defend democracy and make sure the American people know the recovery has come about through Joe Biden's smart and effective economic plans.

Video: With Democrats Things Get Better, Updated w/New Biden Data (9/24/21)

We are pleased to offer a recording of NDN's signature presentation, With Democrats Things Get Better, from Sept 24th, 2021. It is the latest in our series of With Dems presentations celebrating the release of the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan and the big economic debate these important packages have kicked off.

You can sign up for a future showing and learn more about the arguments in the presentation here

We will be presenting With Dems 1 or twice a month through the end of the year, and we intend to take many of the arguments in our presentation to the public with op-eds, media appearances etc.

Thank you for your interest. 

Memo: 2022 Dem Election Narrative Begins to Take Shape

Memo: 2022 Dem Election Narrative Begins to Take Shape

As I review in a new thread this morning, a possible 2022 Democratic campaign narrative is beginning to take shape.  It runs something like this:

“For over a decade now irresponsible Republicans have blocked progress on major challenges facing the nation.

With their first governing majority since 2010, Democrats are now offering pragmatic solutions to the challenges we face — defeating COVID, building an economy for all, tackling climate change, improving health care, protecting a women's right to choose, modernizing our immigration system, defending our democracy…..(candidates can tailor the list to their states/districts)

It is who we are, what we are fighting for. A better America.

Republicans, on the other hand, have become radicalized, and are now endangering the public's health, the economy, a women’s right to choose, common sense climate solutions and our democracy. Returning them to power next year would risk so much of the progress being made, and put our democracy itself in peril. “

That’s it. That’s the early 2022 narrative.

Pragmatism and progress vs extremism, radicalization, danger. 

Memo: 2022 Dem Election Narrative Begins to Take Shape - 9/16/21 - An early version of a possible Dem election narrative has begun to emerge - Dems tackle the big challenges, GOP too radical and extreme to once again trust with power.

Memo: After Texas Roe decision, Dems must lean into GOP radicalization - 9/2/21 - The Supreme Court's Texas Roe decision is so shocking and crazy that Democrats have no choice now to make the dangerous radicalization of the GOP central to the conversation they are having with the American people. 

Memo: A Fall To Do List for Democrats - COVID, A Growing Economy, Climate, Immigration - 8/30/21 - In a new memo, Simon writes that Democrats have four priorities this fall - defeat COVID/improve health care, creating an economy which works for all, tackle climate change and modernize our an mmigration system. 

Biden at 47% - 8/25/21 - Joe Biden has seen a nine point job in his approval rating over the last month.  Much of it is due to his declining approval on COVID.  Drawing from 2 recent essays, Simon offers some thoughts on what Biden can do now to reclaim his standing and win the fall. 

Memo: A Stronger Response To Delta Is Required Now - 8/21/21 - In a new political memo, Simon reviews recent polling data and finds rising fears over delta, and growing support in the public for aggressive steps to stop its spread.  The President should seize the moment and launch a stepped up campaign to defeat COVID once and for all.

Memo: Some Thoughts on Afghanistan, What Comes Next - 8/17/21 -  While the endgame in Afghanistan has been a significant setback for the President, he should use these next few months to reacquint the American people with his forward looking agenda and make significant progress in enacting it. 

Biden Should Consider "A Fireside Chat" About COVID - 8/4/21 - It may be time for a prime time Presidential address about COVID, a fireside chat, where Joe Biden can update us on the progress made, the challenges ahead and make clear what his plan is to defeat the pandemic here and everywhere. 

Bold Action on Evictions, But Also A Reminder That Governing is Very Hard - 8/4/21 - The President told bold action this week to prevent mass evictions in the midst of a public health crisis, but the program's struggles should be prompt action to make sure all the President's ambitious programs are well designed, aggressively implemented and successful. 

Memo: A Summer To Do List for Democrats - Defeat COVID, Defend Democracy, Keep Creating Jobs -  6/9/21 - Democrats have important work to do this summer - defeat COVID, defend democracy and make sure the American people know the recovery has come about through Joe Biden's smart and effective economic plans. 

Memo: After Texas Roe decision, Dems must lean into GOP radicalization

President Biden stated today that the Supreme Court decision on Texas “insults the rule of law." We agree, and send along a memo below we released in May about Dems needing to make the radicalization of the GOP a kitchen table issue.  We returned to this issue in a June memo, talk here about the need to lean into the GOP’s COVID extremism, and explain in a new thread why this Texas law and decision are yet another sign of just how radical and dangerous the American right has become.  

Learning To Talk about Democracy, Patriotism and the GOP’s Radicalization

By Simon Rosenberg

As I learned during my stint with the DCCC from 2016 to 2018, Democratic pollsters have felt very strongly that Democrats needed to steer away from conversations about Trump’s manifest illiberalism, and keep focused on “kitchen table” issues like the economy, health care, defeating COVID.  It’s hard to argue with this rationale, as Democrats have, in the last few years, won the Presidency and retaken the House and Senate. 

But with Trump’s illiberalism now becoming the politics Republicans have chosen, even after their significant electoral losses in recent cycles, it is time for Democrats to elevate the threat the GOP poses to our democracy into one of those kitchen table issues.  It is not just the right and necessary the thing to do, but a new paper from Stanford suggests there is significant electoral opportunity here for Democrats too. In this study weak Republicans and independents were able to be pushed away from the GOP brand when exposed to a better understanding of the GOP’s ongoing attacks on our democracy. 

Many believed that the best way to confront the growing radicalization of the GOP was to defeat Trump and knock the GOP from power.  That strategy, however, has proven to be insufficient.  It is my belief that we must now take the illiberalism of MAGA head on, and not just defeat the party and its candidates but the argument itself.  Leaning into the radicalization of the GOP can bring several other benefits for Democrats: 

1)  It creates an opening to explain how radical the rest the GOP agenda has become – from the economy to guns to health care the GOP’s ideas are just as destructive as those about our democracy

2)   It creates an opportunity for Democrats to find a language grounded in patriotism and love of country, understanding that patriotism is a powerful, benevolent and perhaps necessary antidote to nationalism

3)   It is possible that creating more pain around their radicalization may be required to get the GOP to start taking an off ramp from MAGA – which has to be one of our goals now.  

There has to become a party wide effort to find the language and arguments required to make the dangers of the GOP’s current path understandable, salient. This will be particularly true for Democrats in swing states and districts where are just more Republicans and Republican leaners they have to talk. It is time, my fellow members of the great American center-left, to take on this battle, and recognize that defeating autocracy, perhaps the most intrinsically America project, begins this time here at home – and failure is not an option.  

More - Greg Sargent cites this memo in a new Washington Post column. 

Memo: A Fall To Do List for Democrats - COVID, A Growing Economy, Climate, Immigration

This memo was released before the shocking SCOTUS Texas Roe decision.  In a new memo we discuss how that decision makes the need for Democrats to aggressively lean into the dangerous radicalization of the right far more urgent. 

4 Items On The Fall Dem To Do List - Over the past few weeks NDN has written a series of pieces on how the Democrats can approach the busy Fall ahead.  At its core we believe the President must clearly articulate what the nation gets from refocusing its blood and treasure away from Afghanistan, and frame the coming fights as steps to move forward, not retreat.  We strongly believe the President can win this argument in the coming months, get his agenda passed and help the nation refocus its energies on far more compelling challenges - with defeating COVID being job #1.  

Perhaps our greatest worry for Democrats in the days ahead is that the size and ambition of the President’s agenda makes it hard to sell.  Most elected officials can only successfully sell 2-3 big ideas, policies or stories to their electorate each cycle.  What in this enormous package is most important to sell? As much attention needs to be given now how to sell this big agenda – infrastructure plus reconciliation plus American Rescue Plan – as what goes into the final details of the legislation itself.  

Last Friday’s Navigator Research poll offers some clues about how Dems can prioritize their agenda for voters.  The poll asks (q22) what are the “top four issues that you feel are most important for President Joe Biden and Congress to focus on?” For Democrats they are COVID (55%), health care and climate/extreme weather (36%) and jobs and the economy (33%).  For independents it’s COVID (38%), jobs and the economy (36%), health care (25%) and then several issues are all bunched up within a few points of each other a few points lower – Social Security and Medicare, immigration, government corruption, climate change/extreme weather. 

It’s also important to note that this poll breaks out “taxes," ”wages” and “inflation” as separate issues, and none of these three broke into the top tier of issues for Democrats or independents.  But adding them to the jobs and economy total pushes the economic basket of issues to the very top for both.  

What this data suggests is that Democrats should emphasize that their agenda does four big things – defeats COVID/improves health care, invests in broad-based prosperity, tackles climate change and modernizes our immigration system.  We put immigration fourth as it is our expectation that the enormous Afghan refugee resettlement project along with ongoing struggles to manage heavy flows at the border is likely to keep immigration/refugees a top tier issue through the election, and one we think Democrats need to lean into much more. Some 2022 candidates may want to focus a bit more on Social Security and Medicare given their districts or states, and in general we think Democrats would be wise to more purposefully counter the big government/radical left/wasteful government narrative which will be so central to the GOP attacks this election cycle and most election cycles since the 1960s.  

So this polling tracks the priorities we laid out for Democrats in our recent memo – focus now on defeating COVID/improving health, creating an economy which works for all, tackling climate change and modernizing/fixing our immigration system.  Individual candidates can tweak this formula, but broadly, if Democrats next year can tell voters that these are the things that we did – not just legislated against - we should be competitive in what is likely to be a tough election next year.   

Like many, we’d also like to see the President flesh out an important part of his agenda not covered here, his commitment to fight the global and domestic battle of democracy vs autocracy. Perhaps his coming United Nations General Assembly speech would be the right place for such an address.  Certainly many of us here in the US are worried about the unceasing radicalization on the right, and would like to understand how it fits into his broader agenda.  

Moving Beyond Tactics, Lowering Costs, Tax Cuts - Finally, we’d like to offer an in-depth critique of/meditation on some of the current efforts to sell the President’s agenda.  First, the emphasis on lowering costs and targeted middle class taxes are tactics, not strategy.  They are a means to the end, and the end is the 4-5 priorities above.  We should be focusing on the outcomes, the strategy in our initial top line messaging, not how we get there. It feels like we’ve gotten too tactical too quickly.  Folks need to know more about our overall goals and objectives before we drill down.  It’s like starting a campaign with an issue ad rather than a bio ad.  There is basic work we haven't done yet before getting to the narrower bits. 

Second, it is very hard for down ballot Democrats to sell programs whose benefits are targeted to specific groups rather than universal, for everyone.  Most campaigns can only convey 2-3 things to voters during the course of an election, and the more universal the benefit the easier it is to sell (as it reaches more voters).  Its one reason why the infrastructure package is polling so high right now – everyone benefits from it, so it’s easier to sell.  Yes, modern campaigns can micro-target communications to specific groups but selling a series of targeted benefits is beyond the financial and operational capacity of all but a very few 2022 campaigns.  This is an instance when bigger is not necessarily better.  

Third, a new series of ads by the pro-Biden group Building Back Together suggests there may be challenges with selling direct benefits to voters.  Watch this particular ad.  Clearly the research behind the ad found hesitancy about proud working people accepting government benefits.  This seems important, a red flag even.  Do voters, families, all of us – want more help from government or more opportunity to make more money, earn it ourselves? This ad suggests that folks want help but they don’t want welfare, “handouts.” And this is no small matter for it means that folks may get the benefit but will not be happy or grateful about it, and thus it may not work as a matter of politics regardless of the efficacy of the program itself.  

Given that the American Rescue Plan passed in March has already implemented large direct payment programs, including the Child Tax Credit, and both the President’s overall job approval and economic job approval have gone down, there is a question about whether this strategy of putting so much emphasis on targeted, direct payments to people is the right course in the months ahead.  As a matter of political strategy, it is hard to argue that it's working so far. This is an area which needs some intense discussion inside the Democratic family.  

Fourth, promoting universal rather targeted benefits does one other really important thing – it reminds us that we are all in this together.  It is implicit rejection of the rancid tribalism Trump brought to our politics. Restoring a sense of national common purpose should also be one of our highest priorities – for there is probably no other more powerful way to move beyond the darkness the former President brought.  

Fifth, we know that some of these ads are already talking about how the big tax increases coming will only hit people making $400,000 or more. That’s fine, but it feels like a data point that needs to come later in the conversation with voters  We will get far more acceptance on the tax increases from people, particularly those paying the taxes whose votes we need, if there is a broad sense across the country that the money will be well spent, that the need is urgent, and important things for all of us will come from it all.  We need to establish the virtue of the whole package first, before we can get to more granular matters, like targeted benefits or even who is paying it for all.  Establishing the virtue of the President's entire domestic agenda - America Rescue Plan + infrastructure + reconciliation - seems to be the most important marketing work ahead now and perhaps all the way through the election itself.  

Leading with an agenda that does a few big things to make all of us better, stronger, more prosperous surely is easier to sell than one that does dozens of smaller things for targeted groups. To be clear - we are not advocating abandoning the targeted programs in the coming reconciliation package, but we are suggesting that it may be difficult to build an electoral or political pitch around them.  And we end by acknowledging that we are not seeing all the research team Biden is seeing, and that all of this well intentioned friendly counsel is way way off the mark.  

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