Why Democrats are so bad at politics
The skill that Donald Trump excels at is crafting a narrative and making sure every American hears it – no expert advice needed. That’s what he did in 2016 and will try to repeat if he runs for president again. The first was about draining the Washington swamp. Now it’s about Democrats stealing the election. If Trump put his 2016 horse through an advisory committee, it would appear like a camel. But he stuck to his own advice.
The key to Trump’s unlikely success, which Democrats seem easy to overlook, is to speak unambiguously to as many groups of Americans as possible at once, even if the product is nihilism. It’s the opposite of the micro-goal that Democratic consultants so much love. This is an irony, since Democrats claim to represent “the people”. Fighting for ordinary Americans is a lot harder to sell when your marketing is tailored to so many different marketing activities.
Many of President Joe Biden’s difficulties can be traced back to his party’s habit of thinking of Americans in terms of categories – suburban women, people of color, blue-collar whites, Hispanics, gender minorities, male college graduates, etc. Americans have more in common than this mindset admits. The theory is that lots of slices make up the bulk of the American pie. However, focusing on what divides people also reinforces their differences.
The problem isn’t just with the message. The packaging is also warped content. Biden’s “rebuild better” plan should have been a triumph of popular measures – lower drug prices, paid leave, better childcare and higher taxes on the rich. However, once it got into the hands of congressional Democrats, it fell into a mess with competing interests. When everyone is a priority, no one is zero.
Amidst the controversy, Biden’s most popular ideas have been dismissed or dismissed. The result is a bill best serve the most powerful class of Americans – the very wealthy. They can now rest assured that the interest loophole that allows private equity partners to treat investment returns as income – as Warren Buffett has pointed out, they pay a lower tax rate than clerks – presumably safe. As such, the bill would also provide wealthy Americans with a larger tax cut than they got from Trump’s big 2017 tax bill.
How can a party that speaks for the sake of “the people” give away those who need it least? Simple answer; Democrats disagree on the meaning of Everyone. The sum of a party’s subgroups is less than the sum of its parts. This makes the most organized interests – wealthy liberals living in high-tax states, such as New York and California – much simpler. The result is morally objectionable. Jason Furman, Barack Obama’s former economic adviser – and therefore by no means radical – calls the tax donation “obscene”. It’s also a tactical oversight because it allows Republicans to label Democrats as hypocrites.
Treating American voters like demographic automatons – as opposed to a larger community with shared economic concerns, or just like citizens – makes getting rid of some people polluting morally easier. The language of criticism is closer at hand. That makes Democrats lazy, leading to incompetence. The exclusion of the whole of society is reprehensible so long as it does not attract angels who are better in their nature. The latter is what Obama did – and he is the only Democrat since the 1940s to win an absolute majority of the presidential vote twice. As Andrew Yang, former Democratic presidential candidate, speak last week: “A lot of Americans are fed up with this isolationist political approach promoted by consultants and. . . they see through it. They think it’s bullshit.”
America’s political-industrial complex deserves criticism. But some Democratic strategists seem open to change. As Upton Sinclair, the great radical, put it: “It is very difficult to make a man understand something when his wages depend on his not understanding it.”
That means Democrats are likely to head into next year’s midterm elections with an unequivocal message except for a legitimate fear of what a Republican victory will bring. bring. Democrats won’t be thrilled to hear that, but they can learn a trick or two from Trump.