Friday, May 28, 2021


In 2020, Democrats won the presidency by a much smaller margin than they expected, while losing seats in the House and suffering defeats in Senate races they thought they'd win. Democrats regularly struggle in elections despite having far more popular positions on health care affordability, guns, the minimum wage, taxation of the rich, infrastructure, reproductive rights, and a host of other issues. Yesterday, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported on an analysis of the 2020 results that could -- finally -- point the Democratic Party toward a way out of its chronic underperformance.
The analysis — which was done by the group Way to Win and was provided to me — suggests large TV-ad expenditures on emphasizing bipartisan outreach do not appear to have paid dividends for House Democrats in the 2020 elections.

The analysis also finds that Republicans spent a lot more money on casting Democrats as extremists than Democrats did in making the case against Republican extremism....

* Democrats spent six times as much on positive ads than Republicans did. Democrats spent $18.6 million on positive ads that also happened to mention Republicans (say, by touting the ability to work with them), while Republicans spent $2.9 million on positive ads mentioning Democrats.

* Republicans spent more than 10 times more on ads with the words “extremist” and “radical” than Democrats did. Republicans spent $51 million on such ads, while Democrats spent $3.4 million.

* Overall, Republicans spent more than $87 million on ads with one or more of the following words in it: “AOC,” “Ocasio,” “Pelosi,” “socialism,” “socialist,” “defund,” “radical,” “extremist,” “extreme.”

* GOP ads were more likely to use words with “emotional punch,” such as “taxes,” “radical” and “jobs,” while Democratic ads featured words like “insurance,” “voted” and “work.”
But Sargent struggles to draw the right conclusion from this:
This analysis ... complicates an oft-heard argument about Republicans using leftist elements in the party — such as the “defund the police” movement — to tar mainstream Democrats. It’s sometimes said Democrats should more publicly denounce those elements.

But the analysis suggests that at least part of the problem — in 2020, anyway — was that Democrats failed to rebut those attacks head-on ...
But many Democrats did just that. It worked for Biden, and for some of the downballot candidates. Unfortunately, being on the defensive about this conveyed the message that there was something to the charges.
But the analysis suggests that at least part of the problem — in 2020, anyway — was that Democrats failed to rebut those attacks head-on or ...
Or? Or?
... or to effectively make the case that the GOP is genuinely captured by its extremist elements in a way the Democratic Party simply is not.
Yes! Say that!

Or don't even say "in a way the Democratic Party simply is not" -- just say that the GOP is extreme. Say it all the time. Make the extremism of the GOP a central issue in American poliitics. It's exactly what the GOP does to the Democrats every election cycle (and Fox News does between cycles), and there's far more material to work with if you're accusing the GOP of extremism. This would have been worth doing even in the pre-Trump, pre-QAnon era -- for years, Democrats could have been talking about Republicans who praise gun proliferation even in the wake of mass shootings, insist that the minimum wage mustn't be increased while the taxes of the rich should be cut more and more, and seek to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. By now, the table would have been set for messages about the extremism of Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and January 6.

Democrats should at least have been making the case that the reason to vote Democratic is that the Democratic Party is better than the Republican Party. If you explained advertising to a visitor from another planet and then screened some Democratic ads, the alien would be baffled. The alien would understand normal comparative advertising -- Drink Pepsi! Pepsi tastes better than Coke! -- but Democratic advertising is more like Well, we at Pepsi understand why you prefer Coke, but if you buy a Pepsi, you can mix it with some Coke and it will taste almost as good as Coke.

Democrats have never sent taken the GOP head-on. But maybe now they'll finally realize that they need to do it.

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