Home / General / Why Won’t the Democrats Talk About Stuff They’re Talking About, An Ongoing Series

Why Won’t the Democrats Talk About Stuff They’re Talking About, An Ongoing Series


Above: Like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife

It never ends:

In this world as opposed to Nichols’s head, no Democrat of any prominence is talking about “gun confiscation,” and the gun control measures Democrats are generally defending are extremely popular. The party primarily responsible for politicizing transgender bathrooms is the Republican Party, calling special sessions of state legislatures to preempt unexceptionable local ordinances. And in the one 2016 election in which this was a salient issue — the North Carolina gubernatorial race — Republicans lost! It’s hard to be much wrong than this.

There are endless variants of this, most notably “why does the Democrat Party only talk about PUTIN?” from the anti-anti-Trump “left.” And plenty of “why won’t the Dems offer anything but being anti-Trump?” As Greg Sargent says, it’s all bullshit:

The second piece is by Ron Brownstein, and it reports accurately on how Democrats are actually running their campaigns right now. As Brownstein notes, many Democrats think that their chances of winning this fall turn less on whether Trump gets further dragged down by scandal, and more on their ability to link the GOP’s tax cuts to its failed (but continuing) drive to roll back health coverage, which together amount to a deeply unpopular overall set of GOP priorities:

In the district-by-district battle to retake the House, many Democrats are focusing less on condemning Trump’s character than on discrediting the Republican agenda. Central to that mission is arguing that the GOP has benefited the wealthy, and burdened the middle class, with its twin legislative priorities of the past 17 months: passing a large tax cut and attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

There is an additional nuance that should be noted, and it gets at how Democrats actually are capitalizing on Trump’s unpopularity. What we have seen in the last year of elections, in Virginia, in Alabama, in Pennsylvania’s 18th District and in dozens of state legislative races, is that Trump’s unpopularity is driving Democratic turnout and Democratic volunteering, and is turning white, better-educated, suburban swing voters and independents against the GOP — because alienation from Trump has led such voters to give Democrats more of a hearing. The intensity of this outpouring against Trump is undoubtedly driven in part by Trump’s scandals and his response to them, and crucially, it is happening even as Democratic candidates are not particularly focused on Trump in their own campaigns.

As usual, it’s not Democrats who don’t want to talk policy, it’s that what they say is crowded out by other stories. And not only are opposing Trump, attacking Republican policy, and defending Democratic alternatives not mutually exclusive, it’s a positive sum game to use them together. Democratic candidates have consistently (aided, of course, massively by the structural advantages created in large measure by Trump’s popularity itself) had success doing this.

One might call this Westen’s law: the pundits most obsessed with “messaging” tend to be an excellent illustration of why it’s overrated, precisely because they virtually never actually listen to what politicians are saying, but just cherry-pick examples (or, as in Nichols’s case, just flat-out make stuff up) designed to “prove” a priori assumptions that are in fact immune to any actual disconfirming evidence.

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