It’s a sad fact that voters have very short memories and they also don’t care about good governance except for the very moment when bad governance affects them. While we should always be extremely dubious of any material coming out of Third Way hacks, it’s hard to deny there’s some truth to the fact that Democrats got creamed in Virginia in part because of the school closures that saved lives but robbed people of their free child care.
What was the first thing you told your partners after you got done with the groups — what was your big takeaway?
I was surprised by how dominant education was in this election. I was also struck by how much it was this place for all of these frustrations for these suburban voters, where they could take out their Covid frustrations in one place.
So if you’re advising a Democratic client running in 2022, what do you tell them?
I would tell them that we have a problem. We’ve got a national branding problem that is probably deeper than a lot of people suspect. Our party thinks maybe some things we’re saying aren’t cutting through, but I think it’s much deeper than that.
What is that branding problem, in a nutshell?
People think we’re more focused on social issues than the economy — and the economy is the No. 1 issue right now.
So what can Democrats do going into the midterms?
A big part of the problem was that people didn’t feel they knew enough about McAuliffe and what he had done. Governors, in particular, during Covid were on TV all the time, talking to people about Covid. So it’s all anybody knows of what they’ve done. So you need to tell your story about what you’ve been doing, to the press and in paid communications, outside of Covid. And that applies to members of Congress, state legislators, everyone on down.
Again, take anything from Third Way with entire salt licks. But there are two big issues here. First, lots of possible Democratic voters are super racist and therefore if they think Democrats are talking more about the inequalities rooted in our horrible history instead of the economy (whatever that actually means in reality), they are quite likely to say “I’m pretty cool with destroying democracy since Critical Race Theory makes me scared.” Second, all the good governance in the world that saved countless lives may in fact lead to electoral doom.
What we do about any of this, I’m not sure. But these things seem pretty true to me.