Tuesday, November 21, 2023


This New York Times story by Reid Epstein is light on the specifics, but if it's at all accurate, then Democrats may be setting aside what's worked for them in 2022 and 2023 in favor of a strategy that failed in 2016:
When Donald J. Trump left the White House, Democrats didn’t want to hear another word from him. President Biden dismissed him as “the former guy.” A party-wide consensus held that he was best left ignored.

Three years later, Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign and Democratic officials across the party’s spectrum have landed on a new solution to his political slump:

More Trump.

Criticizing the news media for giving Mr. Trump a platform is out. Quietly pining for major networks to again broadcast live coverage of Trump campaign rallies is in.

Behind the improbable longing for the former president to gobble up political oxygen again is Democrats’ yearslong dependence on the Trump outrage machine. Since his ascent, Mr. Trump has been a one-man Democratic turnout operation, uniting an otherwise fractured opposition and fueling victories in three straight election cycles.
Is "the Trump outrage machine" really what drove Democratic turnout last year and this year? I'd say the main driver was the Alito outrage machine. The key issue seems to have been the Dobbs decision, along with (perhaps) gerrymandering in the Wisconsin judicial election, and possibly book-banning, guns, homophobia, climate change, and other issues elsewhere. Trump was barely a factor.

Outrage at Trump motivated Democratic voters when he was in office, in 2018 and then in 2020. But it's possible that 2024 will be a repeat of 2016 rather than 2020, for a simple reason: the damage Trump might do in office seems theoretical to many voters. One of Epstein's interviewees explains:
Cynthia Wallace, a co-founder of the New Rural Project, a progressive group in North Carolina, said she didn’t hear much about Mr. Trump these days from the rural Black and Hispanic voters her organization focuses on.

“I think it’s like a relationship,” she said. “There were a lot of bad things that happened, but the longer distance you get away from the bad things, you’re like, maybe the bad things weren’t that bad.”
Another Democratic activist says something similar:
“Not having the day-to-day chaos of Donald Trump in people’s faces certainly has an impact on how people are measuring the urgency of the danger of another Trump administration,” said Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPAC, an African American political organizing group. “It is important to remind people of what a total and absolute disaster Trump was.”
Maybe it would be better to tie Trump to the policies we know voters hate, like abortion bans. President Biden and his surrogates should say that if a bill banning abortion came to Trump's desk, he'd sign it. (And if he denies this, there go some of his anti-abortion voters.) Voters need to be reminded that as president he'll get to appoint hundreds more judicial extremists, who are likely to be especially extreme on the subject of abortion. Whatever he may say about favoring rape and incense exceptions, these judges are likely to be far more absolutist.

Trump opposes any and all efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. Tell voters that. Trump allies himself with book banners and trans bashers like Moms for Liberty. Tell voters that. Trump will eagerly sign another tax cut for the rich. Tell voters that. Trump always sides with labor against the union movement. Tell voters that.

Trump will be the GOP nominee soon enough. Everyone will see him acting like Trump again. That should help Biden, but it probably won't be enough. Democrats can talk about the the threat to democracy Trump poses, but it would be better if they talk about issues that are of more immediate concern to voters, because Trump is on the wrong side of every issue.

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