NDN Blog

Biden at 47%

This essay was published on Wed, Aug 25th, the day before the ISIS terror attack in Kabul which killed and wounded hundreds of people, including several dozen Americans.

Biden at 47% - So the big political news this week is Joe Biden’s plummeting poll numbers.  On 538 this morning he’s at 47.2% approve, 47.6% (-.4) disapprove.   On July 25th he was 51.8%-43.5% (+8.3).  So he’s dropped almost 9 points in the past month.  Most of this drop happened before Kabul fell, but it’s clear the unexpected victory of the Taliban has also driven the President’s numbers down a bit more (in the NBC/WSJ poll the President’s approval on Afghanistan is 25-60, in Suffolk it’s 26-62).  While there is a chance Afghanistan could be a drag on the President’s standing for some time, it is more likely given the impressive progress made in recent days to be a secondary concern for most voters in the coming year.  

So, what should the President do to get his approval back up? At NDN we think the President has to do two things.  First, he needs to return to war footing on COVID, and put as much energy into defeating it here and around the world as he is getting people out of Kabul right now.  As we review in a new memo, the primary reason the President was elected was to defeat COVID, and that work isn’t finished.  We’ve been advocating that the President have a prime time “fire side” chat with the American people where he lays out a new and more muscular COVID plan, reviews the real progress that’s been made, and praise American ingenuity for putting us in a strong position to bring an end to this era of COVID here and everywhere in the coming months.  Doing such a speech now and making COVID once again job #1 for his Presidency over the next few months will be particularly important as very soon every school and college/university will be open, and COVID will remain front and center in every community in the country for some time.  The President has to more aggressively speak to the concerns of every day Americans about COVID, take the side of the 73% who’ve been vaccinated and regain his advantage – something the extremism of the GOP on COVID has made far easier in recent weeks.  

In another memo we lay out the second thing the President needs to do - make very clear to us what America will get from withdrawing from Afghanistan and turning our resources and attention to more pressing challenges.  Make this pivot real, concrete to people.  Explain that our new strategy is to allow us to defeat COVID, tackle climate change, better compete with Russia and China, and defend democracy here and everywhere.  That it is about going forward, not retreating; and that he will in the coming months be fighting here at home for an agenda that speaks directly to these new challenges/opportunities by defeating COVID, tackling climate change, helping our companies, communities and people compete and win in a more challenging global economy and modernizing our immigration system.   No more talk of $3.5t, transformation, reconciliation – we have to talk strategy, outcomes now, not tactics.  We have to spell out the 3-4 big things we are going to get from the President’s new agenda and just hammer them home, and while doing so make it as clear as day that everyone benefits from this agenda, all of us, the United States. Not certain groups – but all of us.  There is no more powerful repudiation of Trumpism than relentlessly reminding Americans that we are all in this together, we are one people, one nation, and we rise and fall together.  

What are we going to do this fall? Defeat COVID, tackle climate change, create more opportunity and prosperity for all Americans, and reform our immigration system.  If we do those four things we will have successfully ushered in a better future for all of us, the President’s job approval will almost certainly rise again, and much more will be possible for the Democrats, the developed world’s most successful center-left political party.  

Memo: A Stronger Response To Delta Is Required Now

In a new memo posted on Medium, I show much the return of COVID has begun to alter the domestic political landscape, including driving down President Biden's approval rating to the lowest point of his Presidency.  It's vital that in the coming weeks, particularly as every school, college and university in the country opens, the President launch a stepped up effort to defeat COVID here in the US and all around the world.  It is the right thing to do, and essential to restoring his standing for the big legislative fights this fall. 

This essay relies heavily on data from Navigator Research

Memo: Some Thoughts on Afghanistan, What Comes Next

Some Thoughts on Afghanistan, What Comes Next

Afghanistan – Given how much legitimacy, support and time to organize President Trump and Mike Pompeo had given to the Taliban, President Biden’s decision to complete the American withdrawal from Afghanistan this year was the right call, and perhaps the only call.  There will be time to discuss and dissect the Biden Administration’s clear mistakes in managing the endgame, but now the US must focus its energies getting our allies out safely, resettling tens of thousands of Afghan refugees here in the US, keeping the pressure on the new government to respect human rights particularly for women and girls, and staying vigilant about what could become a more dangerous terrorist threat landscape.   

In a lengthy Newsy interview last Friday, I discussed the big Biden strategy behind his decision to leave Afghanistan.   The President has repeatedly stated that it is time for the US to turn the page now on our decades of deeply disappointing involvement in the Middle East/Afghanistan and create more space and resources to tackle new challenges, including:

- defeating COVID here and everywhere

- fashioning far more cogent strategies to compete against China and Russia

- fighting climate change and bringing an end to the era of petro-dictators

- shoring up and modernizing the global liberal order so essential to our economic and geopolitical success

- creating some kind of new global cyber regime which better protects our digital world

We have little to show for our investment in the Middle East and Afghanistan over these past 20 years, and all the blood and treasure we’ve spent there year after year has prevented us from developing full blown responses to these other emergent challenges. The President is right to try to refocus our energies, as difficult as that transition might be.   

In the coming months the President should work hard to show the American people what a new post-Afghanistan American strategy looks like.  Together, we can: 

Launch a stepped up global campaign to defeat COVID– the long term damage years of COVID ravaging through countries could have on the modern world imagined and built by America after WWII is immense.  Defeating COVID everywhere and beginning the process of building back better throughout the world – including creating a new and far more effective system for countering future pandemics – remains in our mind President Biden’s highest foreign policy priority.   It allows us to create an immediate positive contrast to the images coming from Kabul; it helps restore foreign markets for our companies, and prevents further supply chain disruptions plaguing our economy; it can save millions of lives and prevent erosion of civil society in nations across the world that could create new breeding grounds for extremist politics. It allows us here in America to keep our kids in school, stand up our economy again and just get back to the lives we once knew.  

Defeating COVID remains job #1, and we need to do everything we can to bring its dark run on this planet to a rapid end, here in the US, and everywhere.  

Get Biden’s climate agenda passed, and use that leverage to create far more global momentum behind the fight against our changing climate– The President has teed up a comprehensive strategy for America to do its part in tackling the climate crisis.  We need to get it passed as soon as possible.  Of the many things in the President’s domestic agenda, the climate package may be the most important, and the one which future generations may most identify with the Biden Presidency.  It would be helpful if the President could point to climate legislation he has signed into law - not just working its way through Congress - by the time he speaks to UN General Assembly in late September. 

We also need to better articulate how important decarbonization is to another part of Biden’s global strategy – fighting corruption and challenging the growing global momentum for illiberalism.  Some of the world’s most destructive and dangerous regimes – Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela – are powered by oil wealth.  Weaning the world from oil is not just good for the climate and our economy, it is also vital to ensure that democracies prevail over autocracies in the coming decades.  

Filling out the details of the President's democracy vs.autocracy framework will be even more important after the fall of Kabul, around the world and here at home.  As we've argued for many months now, "defending democracy" has to be among the President's highest priorities. 

Lead a big conversation about immigration in America, and articulate a clear new post-Trump strategy – the imminent resettling of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees gives the President an opportunity to re-enter the national conversation around immigration in a manner similar to his “hard truths” speech on Afghanistan.  We have to get out of our defensive crouch on immigration and the border, and articulate a vision for how we plan to manage our immigration system in ways that are consistent with our values, that meets the needs of our economy and keeps us safe.  This is particularly important as due to COVID, climate change and other challenges we could be entering a period of greater migratory flows and pressures.  

Our current immigration system is every much as failed an enterprise as our 20 year-long effort in Afghanistan.  This is an area ripe for far-sighted, smart Presidential leadership.   

Repackage the rest of the his Build Back Better agenda as a way of upping our game against China, Russia and ensuring America wins the future– The investments the President has proposed in infrastructure, health care, education and our people will make America much more capable of competing and winning in an era of rising global competition.  His agenda will make us all more prosperous, and give many more Americans a chance to follow their dreams and make better lives for themselves and their families.  It is, at its core, about opportunity.  

The current way the President’s agenda has been broken up into two packages has made it, for now, a bit challenging to explain and sell to the public.  The White House may want to take a step back from the particulars in each package and revive first principles here – all of this is about making America better, more prosperous, stronger, more capable of charting our course in an uncertain world.   Rather than big and bold it has to be pragmatic and necessary.  These are the things we simply must do if we are to give our people a shot at the American Dream in a time of new challenges and opportunities.  It is the work which must get done.  

During the course of our selling this part of the President’s ambitious agenda, it would be smart for Democrats to remind voters of how just much better this Administration and those of Clinton and Obama have been at creating jobs, opportunity and prosperity in this new global age than Republicans (details here).  Establishing this fundamental contrast needs to be seen as one of the Democrat’s highest messaging and narrative priorities in the coming months.    

Take prudent steps to make sure our ambitious programs work as intended  – If the rest of the President’s agenda is passed, we will be asking much more of government in the coming years, and we need to make sure it can rise to the challenge. We are already seeing early design and implementation failures rising from the American Rescue Plan.  We are likely to see many more from passing bills which are double the size of the ARP. This too is Bidenesque pragmatism.  Repeated policy failures could undermine the entire Build Back Better agenda in the coming months, and cripple the Democrats in the coming elections. I offer some ideas on how we can make government rise to the Build Back Better challenge in this recent essay, which leans in part on a new, excellent article by Annie Lowry in the Atlantic about how government inefficiencies are an incredible burden on the poor and working class in America.  

We simply have to be clear eyed here, and realize that spending this much money this quickly on so many different things if not well planned and managed can result in unacceptable failure.  Isn’t that the ultimate lesson of our time in Afghanistan?  In a post Kabul Presidency making sure stuff is working as intended should be core to the new governing culture Biden is forging. 

In sum, the ending of America’s involvement in Afghanistan is opportunity for the President to re-introduce his smart, forward looking agenda to the American people, and create more urgency around its enactment.  

This essay has undergone some modest revisions since it was first published on Tuesday, Agust 17th.  It can also be found on Medium. 

NDN 2022 Election Briefing - Oct 22nd

Yes, it is a little early but we are reviving one of our more popular programs from the 2020 election cycle. – a live, Zoom based deep dive on recent polling and economic data.  These reviews take about 20 minutes and then are followed by what is often a spirted q and a session.   We are taking RSVPS for our next election review now scheduled for Oct 22nd, 2pm ET.  Hope you can join us – these are always fun romps through the mountain of data we all have to make sense of each week.   

In our election review we will be taking a look at the standing of Joe Biden and the Democrats 15 months out from the 2022 elections, and spend a bit of time looking at the impact the remarkably strong economic recovery may have on the elections next year. You can also find lots of new political analysis on the NDN website, and be sure to follow my far too frequent postings on Twitter.  

If you haven’t yet caught our other big presentation about US politics, With Democrats Things Get Better, we are now taking RSVPS for our next showing on October 15th at 2pm ET. 

Hope you are enjoying your summer and look forward to seeing you at one of these upcoming presentations!

The Infrastructure Bill Is A Big Deal

The Infrastructure Bill Is A Big Deal– Universal broadband. Modernization of roads, bridges, rail, public transit.  Dramatic upgrades of our water systems, electricity grid and EV charging networks, and the electrification of all school buses in America. Huge, important first steps in developing a true national strategy to tackle climate change. This thing is a big deal.  It is exciting. It means millions of new middle class jobs over a long period of time.  It is going to reverse decades of decline in public investment, the kinds of investments Treasury Secretary Yellin will argue today are essential for our competitiveness and long term economic success.  Every American will benefit from this legislation.  We are all going to be better off, more prosperous, stronger because of it.  There is much to celebrate here, and it is why we need to pass it through both Houses of Congress and have the President sign it as soon as possible.  

As it is also bi-partisan, it shows that Washington, our democracy, can work, do big things again. But it also does something else I think we need to be really honest about – it gives the Republican Party, still under the thrall of MAGA extremism, something positive, constructive to talk to their voters about.  It is part of a national strategy we all have to employ to give the GOP off-ramps from MAGA, and get them to get used to spending more time again in the real world and not the dark world of MAGA.  These kinds of initiatives are critical to once again help the GOP do its part to make America successful and over time wean itself from MAGA.  This too is a big deal, and hats off to the GOP Senators who hung in there and dragged their party back to a constructive place. 

Hats off to the President too for understanding the long game here, and why we have to keep attempting to provide the GOP off ramps, while causing them more political pain when they choose radicalization.  To wean the GOP from MAGA we have to do both - provide off ramps, and make their radicalization something they need to politically run from.  As we learned in 2020, winning elections are not sufficient to do this, which is why NDN applauds the direction the DCCC is heading in, which is to make their radicalization something central to the poltiical dialogue in key races across the country in the coming months. 

So, yes, this infrastructure bill is a big deal, indeed. 

Bold Action on Evictions, But Also A Reminder That Governing is Very Hard

Bold Action on Evictions, Need To Learn From What Happened Here– We applaud the President for stepping up and crafting an important interim fix for the lapse in the eviction moratorium, particularly given the return of COVID here throughout the US.  But the Administration and the Democrats need to learn from what happened here, and make sure it informs our work in the coming months.  

The ACA, a program at its core that has brought health insurance to 30m people, took years of work to get right after it launched.  There was time built in to prepare the states and get HHS ready before it launched.  There was adequate funding to make it work.  It was a smart and well-designed bill – but even with that time, money and intelligent design it struggled in its early years.  Not everything worked as intended, and adjustments needed to be made to get it right.  Law suits challenged it, and knocked out key parts.  But in part because its well designed and went through months of Congressional deliberation, it has worked as intended and done extraordinary good for the country as a whole. 

What President Biden is attempting to do now could be seen as trying to launch 4 or 5 ACAs all at the same time, some with far less Congressional deliberation and time to prepare for implementation.  Not surprisingly, we are starting to see design and implementation problems emerge.  States have not spent allocated American Rescue Plan rental relief funds, nor have they spent tens of billions of child care funds.  Expanded unemployment insurance saw historic and unacceptable levels of fraud.  The child tax credit as good as it is, is struggling to reach those most in need.  Supply chain disruptions could go well into next year.  The flow at the border remains worse than anticipated. Governing is hard on a normal day, and it is really hard when working in the midst of a global pandemic and we are trying to do so much all at the same time.  

So, we should be up front and honest about the struggle in making all this work and put in place mechanisms to make it more likely our well intentioned programs are successful.   During the crafting of reconciliation, we should make sure as much of it goes through regular order and the committees of jurisdiction as possible.  We should look at institutionalizing and expanding the American Rescue Plan oversight capacity being spearheaded by Gene Sperling.  We should consider creating some kind of support system for states to improve their capacity to absorb allocated monies and implement new and sometimes complex programs.  We should consider launching a “reinventing government” program which takes a once every generation look across government and recommend ways it can “work better, cost less,” reinforcing that we neither want big or small government but a modern, smart and effective one that delivers every day for the American people.  Annie Lowry’s excellent new article in The Atlantic is a powerful reminder of how much work there is to do to make government do better in serving those it is trying to serve.  And this will be particularly true as it attempts to do a lot more, quickly. 

In any institution there are practical limitations to how fast you can grow or change.  Right now the Biden Administration is pushing the limits of what our legislature and federal and state governments can do.  We need to be honest about this, and take prudent steps to make sure that all that we are doing is not just well intentioned but successful.  The American people should expect nothing less from us.  

Biden Should Consider "A Fireside Chat" About COVID

The President Should Address the Nation, Hold A “Fireside Chat” About COVID– Last week we suggested that the President would be wise to address the nation in the coming weeks about COVID.  Do a check in with the American people about this deadly pandemic, and the reality that we will be living with it, and perhaps other pandemics to come, for years into the future.  He should lay out the progress we’ve made, be honest about the ongoing struggles ahead including keeping schools open this fall, and make very clear what his plan is to defeat COVID here and everywhere.  He should once again ask every American to do their part – it is within our power to end COVID here, if we all work together, in the coming months. The end is in sight.  

While there is so much to do now, defeating COVID remains job #1 for President Biden and the Democrats.   

NB: Simon is quoted in a new Politico story making the case for a Presidential prime time address on COVID.

A Good Week for Joe Biden

A Good Week for Biden, More To Do–This has been a good week for Joe Biden.  GDP came in at a roaring 6.5% annual rate for q2; the historic bi-partisan infrastructure bill made significant progress in the Senate; the House Committee on Trump’s attempted coup began its essential work; and the President began to putting in place a far more aggressive plan to counter the dangerous rise of the delta variant.   When you add in 3m new jobs, millions gaining health insurance, the tens of millions beginning to get their child tax credit it’s pretty clear Joe Biden is meeting the central commitment of his campaign – he is making things better for the American people.     

While there is much on the President’s plate, it is our hope that in the coming days the President does a prime time address to the nation about COVID and delta.  While the government acted this week, there is still a great deal of confusion about where we are and what we should be doing. Prior to kids returning to school the President should lay out in plain simple terms what we should be doing now and why; remind people of the very real progress we’ve made, and make clear the steps he and others are taking to counter delta. He should explain why global COVID has made supply chains harder to stand back up, and that some inflation is to be expected due to our rapid recovery.  He should announce an expansion of our work overseas to help bring COVID’s reign of terror to an end everywhere.   

The President needs, in our mind, to go back a bit onto COVID war footing, and offer a clear plan on how we are going to win the war.  Defeating COVID is and will remain job #1 for Joe Biden until it is defeated here and everywhere.   

NB: Simon is quoted in a new Politico story making the case for a Presidential prime time address on COVID.

NDN at 25 - Thank You

Thank you.  I write today to express bottomless gratitude for everyone who has made this journey possible.  NDN turns 25 years old this month.  Yes, it is hard to believe.  And as it was always conceived of as a network, and not an organization, it really has been about the work we’ve done, the relationships we made, the projects we’ve undertaken, the policies we’ve fought for, the candidates we’ve helped elect, the good we’ve done - together.  Together.

From day one NDN has always been about trying to chart and win the future for the American center-left.  We did it first by investing in and championing hundreds of forward -looking candidates at all levels of government, including such current stars as Gavin Newsom, Mark Warner, Debbie Stabenow, Bob Menendez, John Hickenlooper, Cory Booker, Ken Salazar, Adam Smith and Kamala Harris.      

We’ve done it by advancing new ideas and new thinking, some of it our own, but often by showcasing the work of other innovative voices, on everything from global trade liberalization to immigration reform to clean infrastructure to bettering our approach to Cuba and Mexico to restoring the health of the Internet to, in recent years, the vital work of defending democracy here and around the world. 

We’ve done it by encouraging and helping launch new institutions including the New Democrat Coalition in the House and the investor consortium The Democracy Alliance; and by providing material aid to, in the early days, of now established organizations like Media Matters, Daily Kos and Democracy Journal. 

We’ve done it by pioneering new strategies and tactics for advancing our politics, including introducing Spanish language polling and advertising to the center-left, popularizing the idea that there was a rising generation called Millennials, promoting the transformative power of online engagement and fundraising, and recently in creating some truly important insights into how to best counter the rising threat of disinformation. 

And we’ve done it by seeing our incredible staffers go on and make remarkable contributions of their own, like becoming Members of Congress, holding critical positions in the White House and throughout the federal government, advising dozens of Members of the Senate and House, anchoring their own cable news show, and channeling NDN’s entrepreneurial spirit by starting their own organizations and companies; and all of them going on, in the spirt of this still plucky start up, to be big citizens giving back and leading in their communities in whatever ways they’ve been able.

NDN began with a low key gathering of Members of Congress and supporters in July of 1996 at the Music City Roadhouse, a great old Georgetown bar and restaurant which is sadly no longer with us.  Together over these many years we’ve helped modernize the American center-left, providing it with the courage and foresight to as President Obama often said, move forward, not back.  And together we’ve helped make the American center-left arguably the most successful of any nation in the developed world in the Post-Cold War era, both in terms of governing and winning more votes repeatedly in national elections.  In an age where so much is uncertain, this is no small thing. 

Friends, we’ve done a lot of good, together, and I am immensely proud of it.  I can think of no better way to have fought the good fight then to have done with all of you these past 25 years.  And as good and successful as we’ve been, I think we all understand that in many ways our most important work still lies ahead (as it always does). 

As we are a network which looks forward, not back, there will be no celebrations of this considerable milestone.  Just a hearty thank you, and an expression of hope that the next 25 years will be even better for America than the last 25 have been.  It is what this great country, and our kids, deserve.  

Onward, Simon

Defeating COVID Remains Job #1

It’s all happening now – infrastructure, reconciliation, defending our democracy, ransomware/cyber, Cuba/Haiti, Afghanistan, extreme heat and drought in Western states, COVID rates rising again here and across the world…….this month is going to be an incredible test for Joe Biden and his team.  NDN still believes we have three priorities above all others – defeat COVID, defend our democracy, keep creating jobs/build back better – and as we wrote last week, we hope that defeating COVID becomes once again Joe Biden’s #1 domestic and foreign policy priority.  COVID is doing lasting harm to not just people and families but the fabric of societies around the world – and it is in the vital national interest of America, and the President’s broader autocracy vs democracy agenda, to end the degradation of civic life we are seeing across the world today by bringing COVID’s run to a rapid end.  

A story in Politico today has this passage:  

……Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic operative, said the White House’s move to bring everything under Build Back Better was a smart course correction.

“It connects people back to the President’s two core and most important promises — defeating Covid and leading the country through the recovery — and it is a simple clear statement about what he’s doing,” Rosenberg said. “All the various plans got confusing — this makes it all simple, and powerful, again.”

Simple.  Core priorities.  Clear.  These are important words now as we head into this incredible period.  We worry that team Biden for all its good intentions has taken on too much.  That the system doesn’t easily allow this much legislating, about this many issues, with this much money, to happen so quickly particularly with the backdrop of rising COVID rates here and across the world.  And there is a strong argument to be made that Congress in trying to do so much should be more careful and deliberate about what it is doing. As we’ve learned from both the ACA and vaccine rollouts in recent years, designing and implementing big, complex government programs is really hard; doing many of them all at once is almost an unimaginable undertaking, legislatively and administratively. Isn’t slowing down a bit, making we sure get trillions and trillions of dollars of spending/investment right something that we should consider? 

As we wrote recently, we think it would be wise for the President to get his infrastructure bill done this summer, and come back and tackle reconciliation in the fall.  It would give us time to get the policy and politics right for reconciliation; allow a clear plan to pass federal democracy legislation to come together; and free up some of the White House’s time to reinvigorate our campaign to defeat COVID, including making sure schools across the country can re-open without incident and fear this August and September.  

Defeating COVID remains job #1 – you can’t build back better until COVID is truly on the run, here and everywhere.  Delta is reminding us every day that job is not yet done, and that Presidents, even one as experienced as Joe Biden, cannot do everything all at once

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