Thoughts on Selling the Biden Economy
Some recent studies show how Dems can win the economic debate
Among Democratic operatives and activists, the economy is the biggest issue of confusion and debate. Everyone is trying to figure out why the electorate is so grumpy about the economy despite record-low unemployment, sinking inflation, and strong growth. Is it polarization, TikTok, the “vibes,” or something else imperceptible? And how much will the economy matter in a post-Dobbs world where the Republican nominee could be sentenced to prison for trying to violently overthrow the government?
I am of the strong view that the economy will matter a lot. Given how much politics has changed since the “It’s the Economy Stupid” era, Democrats may not need to win on the economy, but we can’t lose by a historic margin either.
The economy voters are experiencing is unprecedented. There is no tried and tested strategy sitting on a shelf to narrow the gap and change perceptions. The good news? A lot of very smart people are spending a lot of time (and money) figuring out the right approach.
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Here are several recent columns and research projects that shed light on the biggest, most important question of the 2024 election:
Vibes, the Economy and the Election by Nate Cohn, New York Times. I thought this piece from Cohn perfectly framed the biggest dispute within the Democratic Party over the economy — is the dissatisfaction of the people based on something real or an incorrect perception fueled by the traditional media, social media, and Right Wing propaganda? In other words, do Democrats have a substance problem or a communication problem? Answering that question correctly is essential to developing an effective strategy.
From the Kitchen Table to the Whole House by Anat Shenker Osorio (ASO Communications) and Jennifer Fernandez Ancona (Way to Win). This is a research project from two intelligent, strategic thinkers that offers a set of specific steps to counter MAGA messaging and rebuild our coalition. I highly recommend the whole thing, but here is one critical insight:
Economic arguments alone cannot rebuff the full spectrum of attacks coming
from Republicans and thus fall short at moving voters in a partisan context.
Instead, messages that speak to personal, social and economic concerns — under the banner of a better life — animate swing and surge voters, while helping inoculate against opposing rhetoric.
How Progressives Should Reframe Their Economic Messaging by Bryan Bennet, Navigator Research. Bryan and the folks at Navigator have as much data on how people feel about the economy as anyone in politics. In the memo, Bryan synthesizes this data into a messaging strategy to help progressives up and down the ballot talk about the economy.
There is an opening for progressives for two reasons: one, Republicans burned up their long-established brand as the party that is serious about focusing on the fundamentals of the economy; and two, Democrats passed an economic policy agenda that is really popular — just deeply unknown — while Republicans continue to shill for corporations and the wealthy at every opportunity.
As a result, progressives should reframe their popular economic agenda to focus on bringing down costs and improving the economy for everyday people while driving a contrast that forces a choice against unpopular, extremist Republican policy proposals.
Why “Bidenomics” isn’t resonating & which accomplishments move the needle most by Blueprint Research — a new polling operation spun up this cycle. Opinions vary on whether the use of the term “Bidenomics” was a strategic mistake. This new research shows the problem stems less from the term and more from the underlying focus.
Blueprint’s polling shows a major disconnect on where voters think President Biden and Bidenomics are focused compared to where they want the focus to be. Voters believe that the President is mostly focused on creating more jobs (43%), but would overwhelmingly prefer to see improvement on prices (64%) rather than on jobs (7%). However, voters do believe that prices are the primary focus of both the Republican Party (54%) and former President Trump (49%). The reason Bidenomics isn’t resonating with voters is that it is simply not seen as addressing their concerns about the economy.
This is just the beginning of this very important discussion. More to come in 2024. Happy Holidays.