April 30 2021

Thought of the Week:

My discussion with two political icons—James Carville and Charlie Cook. The format for the discussion was a virtual fireside chat with famed political analyst Cook asking questions of the noted political strategist on the status of the Democratic Party and other topics; a brief summary follows: 

*The 2020 campaign: Democrats were too influenced by the “faculty lounge.” The reason 2018 was such a successful campaign was that it was not a “faculty lounge” campaign. 2020 lapsed into the jargon of the faculty club with phrases like “communities of color,” and this is language that normal people don’t  speak, and don’t understand. To win, the party will need to come up with new “sticky” comments [Carville’s own “it’s the economy stupid,” was one such “sticky” comment]. Although “Defund the Police” was sticky, it was not in a good way for Democrats, particularly in places like south Texas. The faculty lounge cost Democrats votes. While people voted for Biden, they didn’t vote for Democratic members at the same rate. By 2022, Democratic strategists need to understand the contradictions within the party; the epi-center of the party is not Northwest Washington—do not believe anything you hear there [NW DC]. 

*“Exotic” candidates: There are some in each party. AOC is a charming, interesting story; she just happens to be politically naïve. When she said to “end policing”…that’s a dumb ass idea. In that instance she wasn’t guided by the faculty lounge, but the insane asylum. Yes, the Democratic Party has idealists, but the fringes of the Republican party are out of their minds. The difference is that the GOP leadership is afraid to say anything because if they don’t hold their fringe, they can’t win. People on Democratic fringes are naïve; people on the GOP fringes are out of their minds; this is the difference. 

*How to sell Biden’s infrastructure plan: Biden’s going to win this argument; even Republicans have an infrastructure plan; however, the country needs to start building things for regular people. To sell the plan, strategists should use words like “high-speed internet,” not broadband. Broadband is faculty language; people don’t know what it means. 

*Democrats’ immigration problem: There is no reason Democrats need to lose this argument. The American people favor immigration, but they do not favor disorder. Phrases like “defund the police” lead people to think of disorder. Democrats needs to talk about immigration, but in the right way. If done properly, the political discussion begins with agreement, but Democrats won’t win the debate with disorder or lack of structure. 

*Is inflation coming: Yes; just look at lumber costs. This is where progressives drive me crazy. The Clinton plan and Obamacare both passed by one vote, and that vote came from Nebraska. Now, people say Clinton and Obama didn’t go “big enough.” This is faculty lounge talk where you don’t have to count votes. The faculty lounge has the luxury of imagining the country the way they want it, but in the cloakroom, you have to count votes. 18% of the U.S. elects 52 senators. You can’t win by relying on the coasts or the idiotic jargon of the faculty lounge. To compete, and to win, you have to make compromises, but as long as there is a wing of idealists with inflexible criteria, Democrats won’t do as well as they could. Progressives are incapable of introspection; they need to use their brains and think. 

*The Mid-Terms: History is what keeps me up at night. Elections go against the party in power. Redistricting is another concern. With outsized economic growth, if Democrats can get their more exotic members in line, the party may be able to hold on to its majorities. In the Senate, recruitment matters, and Democrats need better candidates. The lesson from the GOP and the last election is that women and minorities win. The more Liz Cheney is marginalized, the better off Democrats will be. The problem Republicans have is that the growing part of their party is full of lunatics, and Republicans can’t win without them. The Democratic problem is with their idealists. 

*Is there a winning GOP “sticky” slogan: There will be another Dr. Seuss moment or some other piece of jargon from the faculty lounge that can be leveraged. The GOP really won’t be able to put forward an economic argument. They’ll be able to argue the border, that Biden is senile, or some other cultural/social issue the faculty lounge hands them.  

Thought Leadership—from our Associations, Think Tanks, and Consultants:

-National Journal: Virginia Governor’s Race Will Foreshadow Future: The Virginia governor’s race, which historically offers a check against the national outcome of the previous year’s presidential election, is shaping up as a microcosm of current politics. On the Democratic side, an establishment figure leads the primary field, even as he’s been forced to move left to accommodate the party’s progressive wing. On the Republican side, business-centric moderates are scrambling for a toehold as they try to placate the party’s Trumpian base, all while, party leaders fret about the grassroots appeal of an extreme candidate. This all sounds eerily familiar. Going forward, Democrats plan to tag any GOP nominee as an enthusiastic champion of former President Trump, who is widely unpopular in the increasingly blue state.  Republicans plan to make the case for a check on unified Democratic Party control of state government, and hope to make inroads with swing voters over the lagging pace of school reopenings, the acceleration of controversial equity initiatives, and the cultural progressivism of the state Democratic Party. Virginia’s election typically anticipates the outcome in the next year’s midterms, and if state Republicans can’t win running against one-party rule, it won’t be easy for congressional Republicans to do the same.

-Eurasia Group: Rising odds of infrastructure mega bill passed in second half of 2021. President Biden will roll out the details of the second part of his Build Back Better proposal—the American Families Plan—ahead of his address to Congress. Over the last several weeks, the odds have grown considerably that the American Families Plan and the American Jobs plan will be rolled into one mega bill and passed later in 2021. Despite Congressional leaders’ hopes to finish the physical infrastructure part of the plan by July, revisions to the FY21 budget are looking increasingly difficult to pass given the tight timeline and uncertainties about what could be included in a revision. Pivoting to using a FY22 budget and combining both the physical and human infrastructure parts of Biden’s Build Back Better plan into one mega-spending bill is the most likely path. 

Graph of the Week: 

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In Other Words (Quote): 

“There’s a high probability…Afghanistan will be much worse off. What he’s doing is a giant roll of the dice. None of us really know. But we do know, we can be pretty confident if he’d stayed, it probably could have kept things from completely collapsing, at least for a time,” Michael O’Hanlon, CNN. 

Did You Know:

Following the ten-year Census, Florida had gained two or more House of Representatives seats in each reapportionment since 1950; however, it will gain just one seat for this coming decade.

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