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Here's How to Help Sell the American Rescue Plan
Passing the bill was the first step, we all can play a role in helping inform the public about this historic piece of legislation
Yesterday, the United States Senate passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Every single Democratic Senator voted for it, and every single Republican voted against it.
The passage of such a big, progressive plan this early in the Presidency is a huge accomplishment for Biden, Senate Democrats, and everyone who worked so hard to win the 2020 election. But it is also the beginning of the battle for the 2022 elections. Democrats will only get credit for doing the right thing, and Republicans will only get the blame for doing the wrong thing if people know about it.
This task is even more challenging than it sounds. The next election is a long way off. Americans currently have the long-term memory of a sea cucumber, and bad news always tends to overwhelm good news in our Twitter-driven media ecosystem. Just look at the amount of attention Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s oddly enthusiastic vote to exclude the minimum wage increases received compared to the inclusion of $27 billion in rental assistance that will keep a roof over the heads of millions of families.
Biden recently told House Democrats that the Obama/Biden White House “paid a price” for insufficiently marketing the benefits of the 2009 Recovery Act after it passed. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday:
Any of my colleagues at the time would say that we didn’t do enough to explain to the American people what the benefits were of the rescue plan and we didn’t do enough to do it in terms that people would be talking about at their dinner tables.”
I don’t disagree, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. President Obama gave speech after speech. He visited factory after factory that had re-opened because of the Recovery Act. But it was nearly impossible to break through the avalanche of bad news. But 2021 is not 2009. The American Rescue Plan is not the Recovery Act. This plan's benefits are more specific, more easily understood, and likely to be broadly felt before too long.
The Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats have put together an aggressive marketing plan to promote the impacts of the bill. But they can’t do it alone. We all have a role to play.
Back in 2009, there was very little that grassroots supporters could do to spread the word. Now, every person with a phone and an internet connection has the ability to inform their networks about all the good stuff Democrats supported, and Republicans opposed.
Here’s how you can help.
The More We Know
The polling to date has been very clear on two points: people love the American Rescue Plan, and not enough people know about the American Rescue Plan. A recent poll from Navigator Research found that 71 percent of respondents support the plan when told about its major components. Still, a majority of Americans have heard little or nothing about the plan.
The first task is simply informing people that President Biden passed a plan to help the economy and speed up vaccine distribution. We cannot assume the media will do this job for us. There will be plenty of news coverage about the passage of the bill, but that doesn’t mean people will see it. The amount of attention that a piece of legislation receives is much more related to the drama around its passage than its impact on the American people. Because the American Rescue Plan's fate was never really in doubt, it will get less attention.
Best Provisions and Messages
According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, the single most popular provision in the bill is the $1400 stimulus payments for those in need — a core Democratic campaign promise supported by 78 percent of Americans. Informing voters about this provision is a top priority. A Navigator poll found the checks to be the most compelling reason to support the plan.
The second most important provision is the $20 billion to surge vaccine distribution. As Psaki pointed out, many of the elements of the 2009 Recovery Act were diffuse and hard to connect to a specific benefit for most people. Having a needle stuck in your arm is pretty damn tangible and hard to forget. We must connect the increasingly rapid pace of vaccinations to the Biden Administration's efforts, including the American Rescue Plan.
Every Republican in the House and Senate opposed this plan. Therefore we can and should point out that Republicans chose to score political points rather than help more Americans get vaccinated.
Republicans have repeatedly previewed that they plan to make school closures a big political issue. I have no idea why they think this is a good strategy since schools will open by the time voters go to the polls in the Fall of 2022. But just in case you hear from people in your lives frustrated at Democrats over school closures, it’s worth pointing out that the American Rescue Plan included $170 billion to help schools open safely.
Many progressive supporters may be understandably disappointed by the failure to include a minimum wage increase and other provisions to help working people. I share their frustration at the missed opportunity to help 32 million people by raising the federal minimum wage for the first time since 2007. But the American Rescue Plan is one of the most populist and progressive pieces of legislation passed in a very long time. As the New York Times wrote:
Researchers predict it could become one of the most effective laws to fight poverty in a generation. Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates that the plan’s provisions, including a generous expansion of tax credits for low-income Americans with children, would reduce the poverty rate by more than a quarter for adults and cut the child poverty rate in half.
As Bernie Sanders tweeted on Saturday morning:
There is often so much focus on the good things that didn’t happen that’s easy to lose sight of all the incredible stuff that did happen.
What to Share
Here are some assets to share on social media to help flood the zone with the good news of the American Rescue Act:
A video from President Biden discussing the provisions of the American Rescue Plan.
A chart from the Center for American Progress breaking down what’s in the bill.
A graphic from Senator Bernie Sanders to share with your progressive friends and family dissatisfied with the final outcome.
A lot of research from the 2020 cycle showed that the more specific the information the better. This thread from Eric Levitz of New York Magazine has a lot of good information about the impact of the bill.
A lot of people are sharing images and news about their family and friends getting vaccinated. Let’s include a thank you to President Biden and Democrats and use the moment as evidence that elections matter.
I spent much of 2009 and 2010 banging my head against the proverbial wall because not enough people knew about how Barack Obama had helped prevent the economy from tumbling into a second Great Depression. Let’s not do that again. The dominance of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms since that time has mostly been a disaster for the world. But the one upside is that all of us now have the ability to help Joe Biden spread the word about the American Rescue Plan.
The Republicans and Right-Wing media are going into overdrive to change the subject with apocalyptic tales of gender-neutral potatoes and bigotry about the undocumented and trans community. They have a huge megaphone and may succeed if we pat ourselves on the back and move on. Selling this bill is essential and it’s not just Joe Biden’s job.