Monday, July 20, 2020


I'm not thrilled about this, but I understand it:
Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is expected to speak on behalf of former Vice President Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention next month.

It’s unclear if Kasich will explicitly endorse the presumptive Democratic nominee when he speaks at the convention. But the expected remarks would amount to a major show of support for Biden by a lifelong Republican....
The cons are obvious:

But so are the pros:

I'm in favor of this if Biden doesn't tack right and endorse any of Kasich's more unpalatable agenda items. (What Charlie Pierce calls "the worst idea in American politics" is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which would be especially awful for a president who needs deficit spending to dig America out of a recession -- or the depression we seem to be embarking on now.) I'm hoping that what Kasich will talk about is the sheer awfulness of Donald Trump and not the glories of reheated Reaganism. Biden's recent consultations with progressives suggest to me that he's not embracing bad right-wing ideas.

But is this worth it? Will it alienate more voters than it turns out? Four years ago, Hillary Clinton assembled a group of GOP supporters. That didn't work out, though none were as well known as Kasich.

Before I learned about this, I read Ezra Klein's piece about Biden's strategy of not playing to his base. Klein persuades me that Biden might have a point.
Biden is running — and, for now, winning — by ... executing a careful, quiet campaign focused less on thrilling his partisans than denying Trump the boogeyman he needs to reenergize his base. It’s a campaign that frustrates liberal activists and pundits because it repeatedly, routinely denies them the excitement and collisions that structure modern politics. It’s also, for that reason, a campaign that is frustrating Trump and Fox News, which is why they keep trying to run against Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar instead.

... [Biden]’s not widely loved, but he’s significantly less loathed than Trump. Political scientist Michael Tesler notes that you can see the gap even among the two candidates’ supporters: 80 percent of Biden supporters have a very unfavorable view of Trump, while only 53 percent of Trump supporters have a very unfavorable view of Biden.

What’s striking is how well it appears to be working....

Biden’s theory of wavering Trump voters is [that] they want to vote with him but need help getting over their political hang-ups about voting for a Democrat. And so he is trying to give them that help. He praises the old Republican Party, refuses to pick a side in American politics’ hottest fights. Biden has resisted calls to abolish private insurance, ban fracking, decriminalize immigration, and defund the police. It’s cost him enthusiasm on the left, but it has denied Trump the clear foil he needs. That’s left Trump confused, pathetically insisting Biden holds positions Biden doesn’t hold and getting fact-checked live on Fox.
I don't blame Biden for this -- you run with the electorate you have, not the electorate you wish you had (or, rather, the electorate we wish he had).

The problem is that Republicans have demonized Democrats nonstop since the Reagan years -- Reagan was one of the worst demonizers, which we don't remember because he did it with a chuckle. After Reagan, Democrats were demonized by Rush Limbaugh and hundreds of Limbaugh imitators, by Newt Gingrich and his acolytes, by every opinion host on Fox News, and by most recent Republican elected officials.

And Democrats have never pushed back. They haven't rebutted these attacks, and they've been afraid to denounce Republicans as a party. So the only way they can expand beyond their base is to say, "Yes, I'm a Democrat, but I'm all right, really. Look -- here are Republicans who think so."

And this is in spite of the fact that the last two Democratic presidents left office with widespread popularity amid clear evidence of rising prosperity, while the last two Republican presidents left office in disgrace (and there's a good chance Donald Trump will be the third in a row).

It's a long-term project to turn around Middle American (white) voters' current views of the two major parties -- it shouldn't be undertaken a few months before a presidential election. But it ought to start sometime.

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