Sunday, July 23, 2017


In The Washington Post, Ed O'Keefe and Dave Weigel report on Democratic efforts to change the party's image:
Completely sapped of power in Washington, top leaders of the Democratic Party now believe that the best way to fight a president who penned “The Art of the Deal” is with an economic agenda that they plan to call “A Better Deal.”

The campaign-style motto, panned by some liberal activists as details began to trickle out ahead of the Monday rollout, is designed to revive a party desperate to win back at least some control next year. The push comes months earlier than most campaign-year sales pitches begin — an acknowledgment of the need to shore up public opinion of the Democratic Party in the faster pace of modern politics.
Wait -- modern politics moves faster, so Democrats need more time to shore up their image before the next midterms? That makes no sense. Shouldn't it be the opposite?
... some lawmakers, aides and outside advocates consulted on the new agenda said that it is expected to focus on new proposals to fund job-training programs, renegotiate trade deals and address soaring prescription-drug costs, as well as other issues. It is also expected to endorse long-held Democratic principles, including “a living wage” of $15 per hour and already unveiled spending plans for infrastructure that would expand broadband Internet access into rural counties.

The rollout comes as Democrats continue to struggle to sell a coherent message to voters. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 37 percent of Americans said that the party “currently stands for something,” while 52 percent said it “just stands against Trump.”
Some of this is good. Some of it is small ball. It generally seems worthwhile. I do think it would help Democrats to make clear to non-politics junkies that they have ideas beyond anti-Trumpism.

But if Democrats have an image problem, so do Republicans. In fact, Republicans have had an image problem from years -- and yet it never seems to hurt them. Take a look at some numbers from the Post/ABC poll, collected by Polling Report:

Just before a wave election gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010, they had only a 40% approval rating. It was down to 39% in September 2012, but they held the House. And when they seized the Senate and had more big gains in House races in 2014, it was with a 33% party favorable rating (and a 56% unfavorable rating) a month before the elections.

So you don't need across-the-board adulation to win midterm victories -- or at least you don't if your party has mastered a few dark arts, including collecting dark money, gerrymandering, and suppression of the other guys' votes.

O'Keefe and Weigel quote some explanations for Democrats' woes that seem far off base:
Many Democrats have watched with frustration for years as Republicans in Congress neatly packaged their policy proposals with catchy slogans and sleekly produced online videos fronted by younger, telegenic lawmakers crisply delivering campaign promises.

During the 2010 congressional campaign cycle that swept Republicans backed by the tea party into power, they were led by rising stars, including future House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and future House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). As House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan starred in online videos that broke down complex plans into simple sound bites. More recently as speaker, Ryan and his caucus have embraced the “A Better Way” agenda that includes conservative proposals to revamp poverty programs, health care and taxes, plus a hawkish national security stance. Last year, the plank was seen as a way to distance congressional Republicans from Trump.
No, that's not your problem, Democrats. The average American voter is not a political obsessive and therefore has no bloody idea who Kevin McCarthy is or what "A Better Way" is. The average American voter is not sitting around watching Paul Ryan's online propaganda clips in between cat videos.

If the public has more of an impression of what Republicans stand for, it's because Fox News and talk radio act as nonstop conduits for Republican ideas and the rest of the media generally gives GOP figureheads spouting those ideas respectful attention. Maybe GOP president candidates haven't received much respect from the mainstream media in the last couple of cycles -- though John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and even Chris Christie would have been media favorites running against Hillary Clinton -- but Republicans in day-to-day news coverage get respect across the media spectrum. Democrats, by contrast, are portrayed as irremediably evil on the right, to an extend that probably exceeds the negative coverage of Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and their caucuses in the liberal (or allegedly liberal) press.

These are Democrats' biggest problems. Their own messaging problems are secondary. They may as well work on what they can change, but what's hurting them most is what isn't in their control.

I still think they'll win back the House in 2018 and hang on to many contested Senate seats. One reason for hope is that the GOP isn't getting much accomplished in D.C., and many GOP base voters are likely to blame congressional Republicans rather than their God Emperor Trump. Over at Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft seems to be organizing the circular firing squad:
Do-Nothing Congress Reaches 200 Days Today with Obamacare and Massive Taxes Still In Place!

... There is no synergy between the House and President Trump since before the election. Initial observations would suggest that Speaker Ryan and his Congress are not behind the President. Speaker Ryan and his House may even be against the President.

The new Republican President wanted to pass tax cuts, repeal Obamacare and build a border wall in his first 100 days. But no matter how hard President Trump and his team worked, the Republican Congress was not going to work with him. They instead announced their own 200 day plan because they knew better.

It soon became clear that Ryan’s Congress was not going to play ball. They were getting nothing done and taking time off. They were not interested in helping President Trump reach his 100 day goals, they appeared to want him to fail. They were going to show him who was in charge....

What has Congress acheived?

* Obamacare is still in place and crushing Americans with huge insurance premiums and deductibles.
* The US tax code has not changed and Americans and American companies remain shackled with some of the highest taxes in the world. (The President proposed massive tax cuts that nearly all Americans are in favor of and yet nothing to date from Congress. They know better!)
* The US infrastructure is still broken. US Airports are worse than some third world countries.
* The President has removed many of the Obama era regulations but Dodd-Frank is still in place.

... Failed Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blew their first 200 days and accomplished nothing material.
If the conventional wisdom in the Republican bubble is the Bizarro World notion that Trump is a great president but the GOP Congress doesn't have his back, then Republicans are going to start primarying their own, and maybe failing to turn out for their incumbents in November. The crazies have been fighting with the ultra-crazies in D.C., so why not in the midterms? We can only hope.

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