Discover more from The Message Box
Joe Biden's Populist Pitch
On Friday, President Biden gave Democrats a message to use in the final weeks of a campaign that may be slipping away.
On Friday, President Biden was scheduled to deliver remarks on “Historic Deficit Reduction," but the White House used the opportunity to roll out President Biden’s closing argument for the midterms. As readers of my most recent post know, I have strong feelings about how Democrats should run through the tape. Therefore, I was very pleased to see the President land on a populist critique of extreme Republican economic policies. I also know enough about the White House message development and speechwriting process to know there is zero connection between what I wrote and what the President said. Great minds yada yada yada.
Either way, Democrats across the country should take what President Biden said on Friday and use it in their races. It’s our best (and last) shot to adjust our strategy for a worsening political environment driven by a spike in economic pessimism.
Our Accomplishments Are the Proof
Democrats are in a challenging situation. Inflation is high. People are pissed and worried. We took action and passed bills, but most of those achievements go into effect in the future. Touting those accomplishments seems tone-deaf. How do we show our voters that their votes mattered in 2020 without further inflaming an angry electorate?
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg offered his thoughts in an interview with Politico’s West Wing Playbook:
Greenberg’s advice for Democrats is not to completely ignore the legislation they’ve passed, but to present it as useful remedies for tackling the problems of the future. Tout student debt relief and prescription drug price reforms, but only “in the context of how it is helping them with the cost of living, not as a means of boasting about your accomplishments.
Many Democrats struggle to find this balance in their messaging. One day, it was #DemsDeliver; the next, it was MAGA extremism, and never did the two meet. In his speech, Biden displayed his significant accomplishments in the context of people’s current struggles — using them as a proof point of future action, not as a pat on the proverbial back. He also used what Democrats have done to demonstrate what Republicans want to undo.
The Argument Against Republicans
This speech was an extended argument against the GOP economic agenda, a topic absent from our campaigns for too long. On the issue of inflation, the Republicans are attempting to be a generic alternative to the party in power. You lose 100 percent of the arguments you don’t make, and not enough Democrats were making the case against Republican economic policies. In these remarks on deficit reduction, Biden took the argument head-on. While most of the press and the overly online made fun of Biden’s “Mega MAGA trickle down” line, the core message was a model for how Congressional Democrats can campaign against Republicans.
One more thing. If you’re worried about the economy, you need to know this:
Folks, we know what the Republicans in Congress will do if they regain power. They’re telling us. They’re being straight up about it. They’re going to repeal lower prescription drug prices I just signed into law and raise drug prices.
They’re going to cut Social Security and Medicare.
They’ll pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy, make them permanent — which they’re not now — the individual tax cuts.
They’ll threaten the very foundations of the American economy if we don’t meet their demands.
And they talk about inflation. Everything they proposed — are proposing will make inflation worse. Everything they’re proposing would make inflation worse.
There are two important elements to this messaging. First, it acknowledges that higher costs are a problem. Second, it seeks to disqualify the Republicans as people who can solve the problem by putting them on the side of corporations and the wealthy. Why would you trust someone to deal with higher gas prices if that person wants to give a tax cut to a big oil company? Republicans have a significant trust advantage regarding the economy. This messaging can erode that trust and help Democrats with voters cross-pressured between their concerns about inflation and Republican extremism on issues like abortion.
For campaigns looking to implement this strategy, Mike Lux, a Democratic strategist, recently put out some message guidance based on research conducted by pollsters Greenberg and Celinda Lake. This guidance is consistent with the President’s approach and lays out the building blocks of an economic closing argument:
1. Wealthy corporations with monopoly power are jacking up their prices, and their profits are going through the roof. Big oil, food, shipping, health care, and real estate companies have been making record profits over the last two years. I will crack down on price gouging, but to be clear – my opponent has proposed nothing to combat this abuse.
2. Drug prices and health insurance premiums are going to go down because of the Inflation Reduction Act, and I will fight to do even more to build on that and put more money in your pocket. I want to do even more to lower costs, but the Republicans want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, while having no plan of their own.
3. Seniors will be getting the biggest increase in their Social Security payments in 40 years; their Medicare premiums are going down for the first time in over a decade; and their drug costs will go down because Democrats passed a law forcing the big drug companies to negotiate with Medicare. Republicans are talking about ending Social Security and repealing the bill that lowers drug costs.
4. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States; new plants are opening; new jobs in solar and wind energy manufacturing and semiconductor chips have been created; and our infrastructure is being rebuilt. All of this will end our supply chain problems and create millions more good jobs. My opponent opposes most or all of these measures.
5. I will fight for the Child Tax Credit, which will give parents up to $600 a month to help with groceries, gas, and housing. And I’m going to pay for it by taxing wealthy corporations and millionaires who are paying little or nothing in taxes right now. My opponent is against the Child Tax Credit.
This approach is an opportunity to tout our accomplishments but do so in a way that acknowledges concerns and makes the case against the Republicans. The best positive messages are an implicit contrast with your opponent and the best negative messages are an implicit affirmation of your proactive argument. The clock is ticking. We should follow the lead of Middle-Class Joe from Scranton. Now we just have to make sure voters hear it.