NDN Blog

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. 

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.

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

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.  

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.  

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