NDN Blog

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

Analysis: More Jobs Created in Biden's 5 Months Than Bushes/Trump Combined

July 3 - The graph below speaks to one of the most significant inconvenient truths in American politics – the GOP’s economic track record over the past 30 years has been among the worst in the history of the United States.  With the strong June jobs report, over 3m jobs have been created in the first five r months of the Biden Presidency.  Remarkably this is more than was created over the Presidencies of the last 3 Republican Presidents, combined. 

When it comes to managing the US economy, the two parties are not the same.  Since this new age of globalization began in 1989, a modern and forward looking Democratic Party has repeatedly seen strong economic and job growth during their Presidencies.  Republican Presidents have overseen three consecutive recessions, the last two, were severe.  The numbers in the first graph below tell the story – in 16 years of Clinton and Obama, 34m jobs were created.  In the first four months of Biden it is 2.2m.  Over 16 years of the two Bush Presidencies and Trump, it was 1.9m.  Democratic policies have been able to make globalization work for America; GOP policies have repeatedly failed to deliver for the American people, have repeatedly let us down. 

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.  If the GOP is successful, it is a clear formula for a sustained period of American decline as it will continue to delay much needed progress of the big challenges we face. 

This argument – about the success Democrats have gained 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 twice in July, on the 16th and 30th. You can learn more about these arguments, and sign up to see With Dems here

Video: Globalization, the US and Economic Nostalgia w/Adam Posen (6/29/21)

A few weeks ago NDN came across one of the more fascinating and provocative essays we'd read in a while, "The Price of Nostalgia: America's Self-Defeating Economic Retreat" by Adam S. Posen (bio) of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. There is so much in here to discuss that we invited Adam to come talk to us about the article on Tuesday, June 29th.  It was, as expected, a lively and thoughtful conversation about the best path forward for the US economy in a global age.  I'm particularly pleased we got to spend so much time talking about President's ambitious economic agenda, and how it all fits into Adam's thinking.  You can watch a recording of our discussion here.

An excerpt from his essay: “In reality, the path to justice and political stability is also the path to prosperity. What the U.S. economy needs now is greater exposure to pressure from abroad, not protectionist barriers or attempts to rescue specific industries in specific places. Instead of demonizing the changes brought about by international competition, the U.S. government needs to enact domestic policies that credibly enable workers to believe in a future that is not tied to their local employment prospects. The safety net should be broader and apply to people regardless of whether they have a job and no matter where they live. Internationally, Washington should enter into agreements that increase competition in the United States and raise taxation, labor, and environmental standards. It is the self-deluding withdrawal from the international economy over the last 20 years that has failed American workers, not globalization itself.”

In preperation for the event, we took a look back at the very first paper NDN published when it transitioned from a political organization to think tank back in 2005, Crafting A Better CAFTA.  In it we argue that to create space for more economic liberalization, we need to do more to ensure Americans weren’t being left behind, and offered the following agenda:

• Fully fund education reform, especially our poorest schools which have been received $30 billion less than President Bush promised in the No Child Left Behind Act

• Ensure that all Americans have health insurance, and find ways to slow the increase in health care costs

• Raise the minimum wage

• Make quality child care and universal preschool accessible to all families

• Adopt a national strategy to ensure universal broadband access, upgrade our wireless networks, and develop the next generation Internet

• Strengthen community colleges and other workforce development programs

• Expand trade adjustment assistance to cover service workers, to help them retrain for new jobs

• Create a clear path to legal status – and better worker protections – for immigrants already working in the U.S.

• Support initiatives which encourage U.S. students to pursue math, science, and engineering and improve math and science teaching

Hope you can watch this important conversation, and thanks for your interest. 

Adam Posen's Bio

Adam S. Posen has been president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics since January 2013. Over his career, he has contributed to research and public policy regarding monetary and fiscal policies in the G-20, the challenges of European integration since the adoption of the euro, China-US economic relations, and developing new approaches to financial recovery and stability. He was one of the first economists to seriously address the political foundations of central bank independence and to analyze Japan's Great Recession as a failure of macroeconomic policy.  While at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York during 1994–97, he coauthored Inflation Targeting: Lessons from the International Experience with Ben Bernanke, Thomas Laubach, and Frederic Mishkin.

During Dr. Posen's presidency, the Peterson Institute has won global recognition as the leading independent think tank in international economics, including repeated top rankings from the Prospect Think Tank Awards and the Global Go To Think Tank Index.  Under his leadership, PIIE has expanded to include 42 world-renowned resident and nonresident fellows and increased its endowment by 50 percent.  Since 2013, PIIE has developed high-level recognition and research partnerships in the People's Republic of China, while deepening longstanding ties with policymakers in other East Asian, European, and North American capitals.  The Institute also has broken new ground in providing accessible economic analysis to the general public.

Posen has been widely cited and published commentary in leading news and policy publications, including the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Handelsblatt, Die Welt, Harvard Business Review, and The International Economy.  He appears frequently on Bloomberg television and radio, among other media programming.

Memo: Some Thoughts on The Path Forward (6/28/21)

The Path Forward- In an essay we posted a few weeks ago, we suggested that Democrats have three big things to do this summer – defeat COVID, defend democracy and keep creating jobs.  On balance things seem to be going pretty well on these fronts, but there is a lot more work to be done…..

Defeating COVID– We start with celebrating our extraordinary progress here.  All measures of COVID’s strength here in the US have plummeted, and we are close now to 70% of all adults having gotten at least one shot. But the fears of what the new delta variant may do to unvaccinated Americans in the coming months – including the disruption of schools and youth sports – reminds us that half of all Americans are still unvaccinated, and we still have a great deal of work ahead of us to defeat COVID here at home. 

Effectively mobilizing to bring in the next layer of vaccine hesitant people is yet another big opportunity for Republicans to take an off ramp from MAGA crazy, and do the responsible thing here.  The correlation between support of Trump and low vaccine rates is very high - simply Republican leaders need to step up now and do their part to support the ongoing work of the Biden Administration and bring an end to COVID’s ongoing threat. Of all the terrible stuff we’ve seen in the Trump/MAGA era, the GOP’s COVID denialism is perhaps the very worst of it all, and we all need to be loud about challenging them to do better, do the right thing there. 

Globally, the spread of the delta variant reminds us that until COVID is defeated everywhere it is not really defeated here in the US.  It remains our belief that the Biden Administration should be doing more to mobilize American resources to accelerate a high profile global campaign to defeat COVID. Make it an American crusade/obsession; it is not only the right thing for us, but can do so much to strengthen the liberal order and restore America’s standing in the world.   As we’ve been writing we feel that this period right now is a bit more like 1944-45 than 1932-33 or 1964-65.  The world is suffering from a dangerous and destabilizing global trauma, and America needs to, as only it can, lead the global effort to defeat COVID and the effort to build back better, everywhere. 

Keep Creating Jobs– Biden’s early plans to defeat COVID and reboot the economy are clearly working, as the US is creating jobs now at a blistering pace – over 2m in Biden’s first four months.  As the graph below shows this is a very rapid pace of job creation, and is by comparison, more jobs created than in the 16 years of the last GOP Presidents COMBINED.  

But as Rob Shapiro’s new essay in the Atlantic about the recovery warns us, the trauma of the pandemic here in the US is causing people to return to spending much more slowly than in a traditional recovery.  Not really unexpected, but as Rob argues it means the recovery could stall out this fall and winter as many of the programs targeted at individuals come to an end. This is why Democrats would be wise to get the two bi-partisan bills which have emerged from the Senate – the US Innovation and Competition Act and the infrastructure bill – to the President’s desk before the summer recess.  The reconciliation bill, and whatever ends up in it, can come this fall as it just isn’t as far along as these other two packages. 

We here at NDN want to marvel at what the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, have agreed to in recent weeks – a national electric vehicles charging station network, enormous investments in roads/bridges/public transit and our energy infrastructure, creation of truly universal access to broadband, the replacement of all lead pipes to improve our nation’s drinking water, historic investments in all kinds of advanced research and to help America compete and win in technologies of the mid 21st century and beyond…..(much of this will disproportionately benefit underserved communities btw).

It is critical that Democrats take these extraordinary and far sighted packages, couple them with the already successful work of the President’s American Rescue Plan, and let the American people know just how important the election of 2020 was, and how much better we already are and will continue to be because of it.  Passing these packages, and selling our success, will give President Biden more running room to be aggressive with the reconciliation package to follow in the fall.  

Defending democracy– As we discussed with the great Norm Ornstein last Tuesday, we cannot be happy with the state of our efforts to defend democracy here at home.  Our discussion with Norm is well worth watching in its entirely – it was simply one of the best articulations of the challenges ahead we’ve heard.  His ideas about how to best reform the filibuster are particularly compelling.

Working backwards from the UN General Assembly this fall, we believe President Biden should give a series of speeches fleshing out his ideas about the autocracy vs. democracy framework he has advanced.   Americans need to have a better understanding of what’s at stake here, as the President seeks to mobilize them for what could be a very long – decades – struggle to ensure autocrats do not gain the upper hand abroad, or here at home. 

As urgent as the climate crisis is for America and the world (116 degrees in Portland), it’s our belief that maintaining the open, transparent global liberal order is a prerequisite for fighting and winning the sustained battle against climate change.  We will have more to say about this in the coming months but we aren’t backseating climate here – we just believe there are things that must be done first to make that very consequential fight more likely to be successful.  And yes we agree that the parts of the President's climate agenda not covered in the infrastructure package should land in reconciliation. 

Finally, we want to acknowledge that the President has gotten the Republicans to agree to two big packages full of his priorities.  Rather than the relentless nihilism of recent years, Joe Biden has successfully gotten the GOP to take off ramps from radicalization/MAGA, something reinforced by the very constructive appearances on yesterday’s Sunday shows by GOP Senators involved in the infrastructure package.  We all have to be eyes wide open here, and recognize that working with the Rs while they continue to attack our democracy is highly risky, as we risk legitimizing a party still in the thrall of an authoritarian MAGA.  But as NDN has written, our collective societal goal has to be to attempt to get the GOP to start and keep taking off ramps from MAGA; to learn, slowly, painfully, how to be just a right or center right party and not a radical one.  Joe Biden has done that in recent weeks, and while so much more needs to be done, helping remove radicalization from democracies is something at the very center of Joe Biden’s democracy agenda.  For if democracies fail, autocrats win.  

In a recent essay in the Washington Post Greg Sargent does a good job looking the risks Democrats are taking now in treating the GOP as a traditional American political party as it continues to wage its deeply un-American and dangerous assault on our democracy.  Let us all hope that Biden’s grand strategy is successful here, and that we are seeing is the beginning of the end of MAGA – all while advancing huge parts of our own agenda.  

With Democrats Things Get Better - July 30th

To help celebrate and promote Joe Biden's two big economic proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, and the Senate's bi-partisan USICA and new infrastructure framework, NDN has rebooted its signature presentation, With Democrats Things Get Better, and will be showing it once or twice or a month this summer.  We think the data and arguments in the deck are essential in understanding why the Biden proposals are needed now, and why the nation should be confident they are going to work if enacted.  

With Dems is updated with every showing, so it is always new and fresh. Right now we are taking RSVPs for our July 30th presentation.  If you can't make that one, feel free to watch a recording of our July 16th presentation which includes a lot of new economic analysis relevant to the current economic debate. 

To learn more about the big arguments in With Dems start with our recently published analysis More Jobs Created in Biden's 5 Months Than Last 3 GOP Presidents Combined and an essay, The Case for Optimism, Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism. which was the basis of the earliest version of this presentation. We also strongly recommend reviewing David Leonhardt’s recent NYT essay "Why Are Republican Presidents So Bad for the Economy?" It makes very similar arguments and has lots of terrific and useful charts.  We also just released a new analysis which shows that more jobs have been created in Biden's first 4 months than in the 3 Presidencies of the Bushes and Trump combined. 

Finally, Mike Tomasky’s rave review of With Dems in a recent Daily Beast column is a great read.  Mike writes: “Simon Rosenberg heads NDN, a liberal think tank and advocacy organization. He has spent years advising Democrats, presidents included, on how to talk about economic matters. Not long ago, he put together a little PowerPoint deck. It is fascinating. You need to know about it. The entire country needs to know about it."  We agree of course. 

You can find even more background below.  Thanks for your interest, and we hope to catch you at one of our upcoming presentations!

Background on With Dems

The impetus for With Dems comes from the big argument Donald Trump started making in his 2016 campaign - that this new age of globalization ushered in after the end of the Cold War had weakened the United States, leading to his infamous phrase "American carnage."

At NDN we always found that argument misguided and wrong. When Trump came to office the US had a very low unemployment rate, record high stock market, declining deficits and rapidly growing incomes for American workers. The uninsured rate was the lowest of the modern era, crime rates were half of what they'd been, and the flow of undocumented immigrants to the border was a fraction of what it was in the Bush and Clinton years.  The world was largely at peace, a great deal of the world was modernizing and growing, and a global effort to address climate change was picking up steam.  While things weren't perfect, what President Trump inherited when he came to office were some of the best overall geopolitical, societal and economic conditions America had seen in decades.  It is something Simon discusses at length in this Medium essay.

So over the past few years we've been talking about just how wrong former President Trump was about this great country and its achievements.  It has driven a great deal of our research and advocacy and the creation of an earlier version of With Democrats Things Get Better called Patriotism and Optimism.  In the spring of 2020 we retooled Patriotism and Optimism into our new presentation, With Dems, which is a data filled look at America during this age of globalization, and how each party has navigated its challenges while in the White House. 

Central to this presentation is the notion that the Democratic and Republican parties aren't mirror images of one another, but rather that they have followed separate, organic pathways in a big, diverse country like the US. The result of this differing evolution is that the Democrats have been a remarkably successful governing party since 1989, while the Republicans have presided over three straight recessions, historic foreign policy failures and a deeply dangerous embrace of illiberalism.  

One thing we discuss in With Democrats is how Americans who have grown up in this post-1989 era - those under 45 - understand this divergence, and view the parties very differently as a result. In 2018, voters under 45 voted for Democrats by a margin of 25 points, whereas in the seven elections from 1992 to 2004, voters under 45 (who had grown up in a fundamentally different political era) voted for Democrats by an average margin of just 0.3 points. 

We hope you enjoy this new project and do note that one of our existing programmatic areas, Countering Illiberalism's Rise, has some overlap with the work you will find here.  We are pleased that CNN Commentator Maria Cardona featured our work in her recent column in The Hill, and it got a wonderful rave from Mike Tomasky in a new Daily Beast column, writing  "It is fascinating. You need to know about it. The entire country needs to know about it." 

Simon recently published an essay, "Build Back Better/Reconstruir Mejor - Joe Biden's Historic Opportunity" in the Mexican-based intellectual journal Letras Libres.  It addresses many of the themes we explore in With Dems and offers some thoughts on the big challenges ahead for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. A passage: "A President Biden would have an extraordinary opportunity to do what he calls “build back better” here in America, and around the world.  It would be wise for Biden to view this moment as the beginning of a new era, a generational long project to reset America and the world after a collective trauma.  Perhaps the most analogous moment in our history would be the years after World War II in which new institutions were established around a new vision for humankind."

We hope you enjoy With Dems, and if you do, please invite others to come experience it too. It is free and open to the public – all are welcome. 

Background Readings

Build Back Better/Reconstruir Mejor - Joe Biden's Historic Opportunity - Simon Rosenberg, Letras Libres, 10/1/20 - In a new essay for the influential journal Letras Libres, Simon offer his thoughts about what Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democrats should fight for if they prevail in the election this fall (English and Spanish). 

Crossing the Rubicon - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 1/29/20 - The GOP's increasing acceptance of illiberalism and actions at odds with our democratic tradition to gain/maintain power has become the most important political story of our time.

To Defeat Illiberalism, Democrats Must Embrace Their Success As A Governing Party - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 12/14/19 - Over the past 30 years, the Democratic Party has been the most successful center-left party in the developed world.   It is time it started acting like it, and begin to far more purposefully lead the fight against rising illiberalism here and abroad. 

Americans Under 45 Are Breaking Hard Toward The Democrats - And For Good Reason - Simon Rosenberg and Chris Taylor, NDN, 8/2/19 - Among the most significant political developments of the Trump era is the dramatic shift of under 45 year old voters towards the Democrats. From 2000 to 2016 D margin w/under 45s was 6 points. In 2018 it was 25. 

In New Global Age, Dems Have Produced Prosperity, the GOP Decline - Chris Taylor, Medium, 1/29/19.  Since 1989, Democrats have overseen strong and inclusive economic growth when in the White House, while the Republican Presidents have repeatedly seen economic under-performance and even recession and decline. 

The Case for Optimism: Rejecting Trump's Poisonous Pessimism, Simon Rosenberg, Medium, 6/2/17. In an essay that originally was published on Medium, Simon argues that the great rationale of Trump's Presidency  –  that America is in decline – simply isn't true, and must be challenged more forcefully. 

Chin Up, Democrats, Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 1/20/17. In his column, Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics. This one is very relevant to the presentation itself. 

A Center-Left Agenda for the Trump Era - Simon Rosenberg, US News and World Report, 12/9/16.  In the early days after Trump's election, Simon layed out a possible agenda for the Democrats centering on prosperity, security, shoring up the American led liberal order and ambitious efforts to reform our political system. 

Older, Related Work

An Enduring Legacy: The Democratic Party and Free and Open Trade Jan 21, 2014 - The global system created by Presidents FDR and Truman has done more to create opportunity, reduce poverty and advance democracy than perhaps any other policies in history. 

TIME Features NDN Economic Analysis, Chart, Labels It "Most Important Chart in American Politics" Feb 5, 2013 - Michael Scherer of Time reports on the influence Dr. Rob Shapiro's analysis has had on shaping recent thinking about how the American economy is changing.

"Forward, or Backward?" - The Descent of the GOP Into A Reactionary Mess 10/25/12 - In a new magazine essay, Simon argues that the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant the Republican offering is becoming.  In both Spanish and English.

Crafting an American Response to the Rise of the Rest, January 21, 2010, Cross posted on NDN.org and Salon.com.  Simon argues that the second generation Obama narrative must be a strategic response to the most significant transformation taking place in the world today, the rise of new global economic powers, or what Fareed Zakaria has called the “rise of the rest.”

The 50 Year Strategy, November/December 2007, Mother Jones. Simon and Peter Leyden offer a landmark vision for how progressives can win and prosper in the decades to come.

Memo: A Summer To Do List for Democrats - Defeat COVID, Defend Democracy, Keep Creating Jobs

This essay was first published on Medium

While there is much on the plate of the new majorities, Democrats should consider making it clear they have three priorities for the summer – defeating COVID, defending our democracy and keep creating jobs.  By firmly establishing what we are fighting for and getting done now, Democrats will potentially be able to take on even more in the fall and winter, including tackling climate change, investing in infrastructure, long overdue reforms of our immigration system and other elements of the President’s economic proposals essential to the country’s future.  Let’s take each of the three summer priorities in turn: 

Defeat COVID– While we have made a great deal of progress here at home, COVID will not be defeated here in the US until it is defeated everywhere.   Democrats must continue to lead the effort to end COVID in America, while also launching a massive very American effort to end throughout the world.   

Creating a successful global mobilization against COVID has many benefits for the US beyond protecting our people (and allowing the economy to come back to life) and the obvious humanitarian imperative – it can help reinvigorate the global liberal order; strengthen American alliances throughout the world;  renew American soft power; and prevent societal and economic erosion in the developing world that will both set countries back for decades and can in some cases lead to destabilizing, extremist politics.  

For me, the moment Biden faces now is more akin to 1945-1946 than 1932-1933, or 1964-1965.  The world is suffering a collective trauma, and we must defeat the enemy and then do what Biden is so committed to doing – build back better, here, and throughout the world.  The opportunity for American global leadership here is immense, and should be seized by the heirs of FDR and Truman.   

Defend Democracy– Joe Biden has repeatedly said that we are now in a renewed and very American struggle of democracy versus autocracy throughout the world, and that America must demonstrate that “democracy still works.” And while the President will begin to further define his vision for what this means for American foreign policy in his European trip this week, the urgent front in this new battle is here in America, as a radicalized GOP/MAGA has launched an all-out assault on the world’s oldest and most important democracy, our own. 

Democrats must cobble together our various initiatives – HR 1, Jan 6thCommission, John Lewis Voting Rights Act, stopping the Republican sabotage in the states, redistricting, reforming the filibuster – and turn them into a clear agenda that we start talking to the American people about.  We simply must learn how to talk about what has happened to the GOP, and make sure all Americans understand both how dangerous Republicans have become, and what we are doing to prevent them from doing permanent harm to the country.  This is a hard conversation to have; this is not a fight Democrats thought they would be having now.  But it is a fight we must take on with extraordinary intensity, and we simply cannot lose.  It has to become seen as something as important to us as these other big priorities – defeating COVID, creating jobs, tackling climate, creating more equity in America - It is that important, and perhaps needs to be seen as foundational to all our other priorities.   

Like previous generations of Democrats, who signed up to defend democracy when called, we must now understand that this battle could be a long one, taking many forms over many years here and throughout the world.  But we’ve fought these battles before as a Party, and have prevailed. We must now do it again.  

Keep Creating Jobs – The economy has roared back this year because of Joe Biden’s ambitious and timely American Rescue Plan.  It provided the strategy and funds to defeat COVID, something that simply wasn’t a priority for Republicans; and it made critical investments in our economy and people which have led to very strong job and wage growth this year.  Democrats must make clear to voters that the recovery they are feeling is because of what we did, that not a single Republican supported the plan. 

While Democratic economic proposals have been broadly popular, the job of making sure that people understand the recovery has happened because of what we’ve done is not finished.  A recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that only 46% of Americans give Joe Biden credit for the current economy recovery.  In a recent Navigator Research poll when asked who was better at rebuilding the economy, voters said 45% Biden, 44% the GOP.  These numbers suggest Democrats have work to do to get the credit they deserve for the economic recovery the country clearly understands is underway.  It also suggests that Republicans retain a great deal of credibility on economic issues despite their intransigence and long history of poor economic stewardship when in the White House.    

Democrats should learn from the Obama Presidency – we were never able to get adequate credit for economic policies which created a long-sustained period of economic growth, pulled the country from the Great Recession, raised incomes and wages, and reduced the deficit.  It would be politically reckless right now to move on to other parts of the Biden agenda before this basic link is firmly established in the public’s mind – the recovery that is happening is because of Democrats and the American Rescue Plan. A summer dedicated to telling that story above all other economic stories would be the smart thing to do now. These recent ads from Majority Forward are an excellent example of what the entire party can and should be doing this summer.   

And while we are telling the story of the success of the American Rescue Plan, we can establish that yes creating lots of jobs after GOP mismanagement of the economy is what Democrats have been doing for decades now.  Bill Clinton did it after the Bush recession of 1992.  Barack Obama did it after the second Bush’s Great Recession of 2008-2009.  Joe Biden is doing it now after the Trump recession of 2020.  During this era, the post-Cold War era, Democrats have excelled at creating jobs. Clinton and Obama created 34m jobs. Joe Biden has created 2.2m in just 4 months.  All three of these GOP Presidents created just 1.9m jobs over all three of their Presidencies.  Democrats have an incredible opportunity to help voters understand just how effective Democrats have been when in the White House these past 30 plus years, and just how much Republicans have struggled to do their part to keep the country moving forward – and why electing them again in 2022 would be so risky.   

As a veteran of the Democratic battles after our last two Presidential victories, I can tell you that power can be fleeting.  Despite our repeated electoral success, we’ve only held the White House and the House at the same time – something required to control the agenda in Washington – for 4 of the past 40 years.  Both Clinton and Obama came to Washington with bigger Electoral College/popular vote margins and Congressional majorities than Biden, and both still lost the House. This time, given what has happened to the GOP, losing the House simply isn’t an option in 2022.  And so yes we must be ambitious, and do hard things as a Party, but we must be smart, and first show the American people that we can be trusted with the power they’ve given us.  

If we can convince the American people that we’ve done what we said we would do – defeat COVID, get people back to work – more will become possible for us in the months ahead.  But if go too fast and neglect to provide a clear explanation for what we are trying to achieve, or if we get too far out ahead of the voters, or do things they don’t like, however well intentioned, and lose the House, we will all wake up in November of 2022 without the ability to move any aspect of our agenda, and will have allowed our democracy itself to be put at risk.  Our goal should be four years of controlling the agenda under Biden, not just two – so much more would be possible then, and it would be as many years of controlling the agenda as we’ve had over the past 40.  It would be an extraordinary achievement.    

So, let’s focus on defeating COVID, defending democracy and creating more jobs this summer – these are big things, potentially world altering things, things that we must do first in order for other important things to happen next.  And we can never, not for one moment take our eye of the most important political objective of the 2022 cycle – keeping the radicalized Republicans from retaking the House.  

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

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

House Making Important Progress in Strengthening the USPS for the 2022 Elections

House Making Important Progress in Strengthening the USPS for the 2022 Elections

Reps. Maloney and Comer should be commended for coming together behind a sensible bill to modernize and reform the United States Postal Service.  For Democrats, putting the USPS on a stable footing is an integral part of our election reform agenda, and it is great to see a bi-partisan approach emerge which will get this done in the coming years.   We are optimistic that when adopted this bill -- the Postal Reform Act -- should be able to pass a closely divided Senate and get to work soon in ensuring the USPS is in good shape for the 2022 elections.

We hope that Members in both parties step back from trying to load this bill  up (or another postal bill also to be considered) with things which will make it more difficult to pass.  Two ideas in particular - postal banking and efforts to alter the package pricing system – are incredibly contentious and difficult issues, and regardless of their merits, should be left for another day.  On package pricing, there is a provision in the main bill to mandate further study of the issue.  Passing the main bill, letting it take effect and then returning to the issue once a study is completed seems like a wise and prudent course.  We simply need to get this bill passed as soon as possible for the sake of the 2022 elections.

The GOP Chooses Autocracy Over Democracy

In the struggle between autocracy and democracy, the GOP chooses autocracy

The ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney from the House GOP leadership is a significant event.  For it signals that the MAGA extremism Trump brought to the GOP has outlived him and become the dominant ideology of the party itself.  As we wrote last week, this is a tragedy for the country - for what MAGA’s short term agenda only seems to be about is restructuring American politics so Democrats can never win elections again.  Any hope of the GOP taking an off-ramp from MAGA does seem, for now, a bit hopeless.  

But what should worry us even more about the Cheney ouster is how much what MAGA/GOP is doing now aligns with our understanding of what Russia has been working towards for years.  The 2017 IC report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election stated: Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order…. We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process.”

How is what Trump did in 2020 to the election/postal service/census/Jan 6th, and what the GOP is continuing to do now in Arizona/attacks on voting/refusing to renounce Jan 6th/Cheney’s ouster, inconsistent with Russia’s aims here in the US and around the world? In what is becoming the defining ideological battle of the next generation of global politics, autocracy versus democracy, it is as if the party of Reagan has chosen to side with Russia and its goals of weakening the West and democratic forces across the world.  

One of the great fears many of us had about Trump is that his diminution of American democracy would create a permission structure for autocrats throughout the world, left and right, to further erode democratic norms in their own countries.  We are seeing it here in the US; we are seeing it in Europe in Hungary and Poland; as Leon Krauze writes in the Washington Post we are seeing it in Latin America; of course we are seeing it with China and Asia too.  It is why Biden’s commitment to making the strengthening of democracy here at home and abroad is so central to his Presidency – for democracy, the greatest American export, is under threat here at home and abroad in ways not seen in generations.  

Essay: Biden’s Pragmatism, Republican Extremism

Essay: Biden’s Pragmatism, Republican Extremism

As we all try to come to understand what happened to the GOP, how an American political party could have become so lost and extreme, we come back to this basic idea – modern conservatism never really matured into a full-fledged political philosophy capable of governing a post-Cold War America.  It was an ideology that had its moment in the 1980s – a long time ago now – and has done more harm than good since. 

At its core the American right has seen itself as a corrective to a Democratic Party which had lost its way in the late 1960s and 1970s, and remains to this day most comfortable in seeing itself as a response to perceived excesses of the center-left (radical left, Marxists, BLM antifa now).  The problem for the right has been that a post-Clinton reformed Democratic Party was not excessive or leftist, but modern, pragmatic, successful; and thus the blocking of the Democratic agenda over time has became something reactionary and harmful to the national interest, not something virtuous. 

Consider the Dem agenda from Obama on.  A big stimulus, emphasizing clean infrastructure – cut in half, the clean part stripped out.  Slowed our transition to a low carbon economy, made the recovery slower than it needed to be. Immigration reform – blocked.  The ACA – relentlessly opposed, undermined despite it being an extraordinary success.  Min wage – blocked, leaving us with a ridiculous national minimum wage now. Iran nuclear deal – terminated, Iran restarts its nuclear program.  Efforts to make it easier to vote – rolled back, even authoritarian assaults on the Postal Service, the Census, the 2020 election, the Congress itself.  Climate – unyielding opposition, continued fealty to global oil and gas interests, including Russia and Saudi Arabia.  

Now, Biden.  His plan to defeat COVID, restart the US economy – opposed.  His plan to correct for years of chronic underinvestment in our infrastructure, hasten transition to clean energy economy – opposed, absurd arguments about what constitute infrastructure pursued.  Pragmatic steps to make it easier for all workers to succeed like universal child care - communism.  Immigration – hysteria and arm waving, no solutions (again, again).  

There are a lot of ways we can look at what Biden is doing now but to us here at NDN we think there is a deep pragmatism to it all.  COVID needed to be defeated – he is doing that.  The economy needed to be re-started – we are doing that. We need to transition to a clean energy future, modernize our infrastructure which we know from data has been underinvested in – we are doing that.  Globalization had made it harder for workers to compete – he has a plan for that.  Our immigration system is antiquated, and needs an update – he has a plan for that too.  Too many Americans, including those in red states and rural areas don’t have access to high speed Internet - well, we can fix that.  The Bush and Trump tax cuts were too big, and cut far too much from wealthy people and corporations – that can be fixed; and as learned from Clinton and Obama tax increases as part of a broader economic strategy can bring sustained growth to America.  Our democracy was attacked – we can protect it, strengthen it – and we must.  

The point is that none of what Joe Biden is proposing is radical, extreme, out of the mainstream, some lefty “wish list” not based on data and analysis. Everything he is proposing has extensive analysis to back it up, is based on years of policy debate and discussion. Consider that NDN, not a leftist organization, came out in 2005 for rolling back the Bush tax cuts and making major investments in child care/pre-k/community colleges/working training, raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, universal health care and universal broadband.  In 2007 we endorsed a series of ideas to once again make infrastructure investment central to our politics.  In 2008 NDN came out for the carbon tax, and a massive “clean infrastructure” plan as part our recommendations to use the 2009 stimulus to create long term, sustained growth. In 2012 we argued for a big agenda to strengthen our democracy, as even then the anti-majoritarian impulses of the GOP had begun to emerge.  All of these ideas are at the very center of what Biden is proposing now.  None of them are new, or out of the mainstream of thinking in the US.  

Looking back at all this it’s hard not to see the 2010s as a lost decade for America, one where so much progress on the things that matter most were blocked by the rise of the Tea Party and the GOP takeover of the House in 2011.  Yes Obama was able to get the ACA done before 2011, but all these other vital things, things needed by the US, not Democrats, didn’t get done. Progress stalled, and America fell behind (most of the House Members who served in senior positions in the Trump White House came from the Tea Party faction).  

The reason even a Senate institutionalist like Biden is considering pushing so much through reconciliation and not through regular order is because for a decade now the GOP has been more focused on fighting Democrats than fighting the problems we face; and if anything is more radical and extreme today than it has ever been.  It’s as if the GOP’s only agenda now is to lie about the intentions of Biden and the Democrats, and try to paint us as extremists – it is that old impulse to act as a corrective to leftist largesse. Their fight is with us, not the challenges facing America. There is no GOP policy agenda.  No COVID strategy, no economic strategy, no health care strategy, no immigration strategy, no climate strategy – but there is a big agenda to overthrown the election we won, and to make sure we never win elections again.  We are even at the point where several states have introduced bills allowing the running over of “leftist” protestors with cars (a new favorite tactic of the right).  

If Biden is forced to choose between making progress on long unaddressed problems or appeasing a radicalized political movement which is no longer operating in the same information reality as the rest of the world what course should he take? Of course he has to choose what’s best for America – that is his solemn obligation.  

Joe Biden is a pragmatist.  America has problems.  He wants to fix them.  He has offered reasonable proposals for how to do so.  The debate now should be about the how, not the whether; and if Republicans cannot join the debate then he should act alone – it is the pragmatic, and necessary, thing to do.  One could even call it patriotic.

PS - John Harwood has a new analysis up on CNN which does a good job at exploring how reasonable Biden's economic plans are; those who believe they are radical are letting us know who they are. 

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