A Compelling '22 General Election Narrative May Have Emerged for Democrats

Last fall NDN argued that a possible powerful message frame was emerging for Democrats– sell our achievements, talk about what we still want to do, and define a radicalized right as out of the mainstream, too extreme to be trusted with power.  This frame was used successfully by Gavin Newsom in his big recall win, and we felt like it could end being a good fit for us in 2022.  It’s our growing belief that the chances for this frame (and the chances of the Democratic Party) to be successful in the fall elections have risen significantly in recent weeks.  Let us explain why.  

As the NDN community knows we’ve been strong advocates of Democrats getting much louder about selling our achievements, particularly when it comes to the economy.  With another strong jobs report on Friday, here are some examples of how Dems can sell their strong leadership in getting us through COVID, leading a vibrant economy recovery and standing up to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine: 

·      4 times as many jobs under Joe Biden as last 3 GOP Presidents COMBINED

·      Of the 44m jobs created since 1989, 42m – 96% have come under Democratic Presidents

·      New businesses – a sign of economic vitality – are being created at a record rate

·      There are 5m more job openings than unemployed people 

·      We are at record or near record lows in unemployment, poverty, uninsured

·      The President has managed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine well, and helped revitalized the Western alliance

·      We are getting to the other side of COVID, returning to our normal lives, and the economy has boomed

·      We’ve passed an historic infrastructure bill, which will create millions of jobs here at home and helps accelerate our much needed energy transition….

·      Until Russia’s aggression caused gas and food prices to rise, real wages for Americans were positive, and our strong growth was keeping workers ahead of inflation

There are going to many ways to sell what Democrats have done this year, but this gives you a taste of what is available to us.  And it is a lot.  We have a lot to sell.  America is stronger and better off today due to our time in power.  Democrats have to stop having regrets about the things we didn’t do and get on with selling the very good things we have done.  

And when it comes to inflation, we have to really start pushing back far harder.  Inflation is a worldwide phenomenon right now, impacting every country.  It is being driven by COVID related supply chain disruptions, and rising food and energy prices flowing from Russia’s aggression and Saudi Arabia’s greed.  Yes, it is true that some of the inflation we are experiencing in the US is coming from an overheated, booming economy, but what is really driving the inflation we are experiencing now – not a few months ago – is the global malevolence of petro-dictators.  We should be blaming them for what is happening to us and the rest of the global economy, as it is a powerful reminder why we cannot let the authoritarians win, and why we must do everything we can to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.  Mad about high gas prices? Blame Putin and MBS and their enablers here in the US.  

What was always a little less clear was how Democrats were going to execute on the last part of the that frame – define the GOP as extreme, out of the mainstream, unfit.  As we’ve written in a new essay, we think that with the apparent ending of Roe the job of defining the MAGA/GOP as extremists has gotten far easier.  And here too Dems have lots to work with – banning books, climate denialism, tearing down the US health care system, partnering with authoritarians and petro-dictators including Putin, denigrating our democracy, a murderous insurrection, covering up and supporting clearly unhinged politicians in their ranks, raising taxes on working people while providing ongoing tax cuts for the most privileged…..the list goes on and on.  

In our decades in politics, no group of Democrats have had more material to define the GOP as extreme as Democrats have now – and it’s because the extremism Trump brought to the GOP has now spread to the entire party.  Illiberal MAGA has replaced conservatism as the governing ideology of the American right, and it has felt in recent months as if this extremism has worsened, that it is indeed spiraling out of control into new and dangerous places.  It is and should be something all voters should be concerned about.  It is a serious problem for the whole country.  

All of this is why we’ve maintained that when it comes to the 2022 elections we would rather be us than them.  The American people rejected MAGA in record numbers in 2018 and 2020.  In election after election voters throughout Europe are rejecting this extremist politics (with the exception of Hungary).  There is a clear anti-MAGA majority in the US, and Democrats now have an argument, the money and new capacities to drive turnout which together are likely to make 2022 a far more competitive election than conventional wisdom holds now.  

For what is true is that Joe Biden has been a good President, and things are better today. What is also true is that a dangerous extremism has overtaken the once proud party of Lincoln and Reagan.  And in politics selling things which are true is usually lot easier and more effective than selling clear-to-any-reasonable-person-who-is-paying-attention, hysterical made for Hannity horseshit.