Home 2020 Elections Rachel Bitecofer: “Democrats really need to modernize their thinking in terms of...

Rachel Bitecofer: “Democrats really need to modernize their thinking in terms of campaigning and especially how to run the ‘moderate’ campaign”

Ditch the "defensive ’embarrassed D’ model"; "paint the GOP as a party of extremists"

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See below for an interesting and timely discussion/analysis (bolding and a few typo corrections added by me), by former CNU Professor (now at the Niskanen Center) Rachel Bitecofer, that was triggered by Richmond-area reporter Brandon Jarvis tweeting re: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA07) voting no “on limiting the President’s use of Insurrection Act to deploy troops to quell protests in US.” As Bitecofer argues – correctly in my view – that votes like the one Spanberger took probably won’t end up costing her any Democratic votes, but also won’t gain her any Republican votes. So then, why not just vote the right way, on the merits of the issue, which in this case obviously should have been to vote YES?!?

Anyway, Bitecofer worries that the advice “frontline [moderates]” like Spanberger are getting from political consultants is flawed. Instead of the “defensive ’embarrassed D’ model” pushed by those consultants, Bitecofer argues that the Spanbergers of the world – Democrats in districts won by Trump in 2016, then won by Democrats in 2018 – should attack fiscal conservatism’s economic record, model & paint the GOP as a party of extremists, which is the transitional, offensive moderate messaging model that I’m arguing Dems need.” The point is to make sure that white, working-class voters know how badly “fiscal conservatism” has screwed them.

So, the bottom line in Bitecofer’s view: “Democrats really need to modernize their thinking in terms of campaigning and especially how to run the ‘moderate’ campaign.” I agree with her, except that I wouldn’t even use the word “moderate,” given that on issue after issue, Democrats are in the majority – often the *large* majority – so, by definition, Democrats *are* the “moderates,” “centrists,” or whatever word you want to use. Why don’t many voters know this? A bunch of reasons, including the vast, right-wing media misinformation machine (Fox, Sinclair, right-wing talk radio, Facebook to a large extent, etc.), plus the corporate media’s relentless “both-sideism,” false equivalency, refusal to call out lies as lies…or to use plain language to describe extremist policies and politicians, etc.

Specifically regarding Rep. Spanberger’s reelection race in VA07, I’d recommend that she tout her record, and more broadly the *Democrats’ record*, of passing great legislation (which is mostly sitting on “Moscow Mitch” McConnell’s U.S. Senate desk); emphasize the disaster of Trump Republican policies (on COVID19, the working class’ economic prospects, etc.); and call out her far-right opponent, Nick Freitas, for being wayyyy out of the American mainstream on issue after issue (there is TONS of material to use…just pick the stuff you feel is the strongest against him). Of course, Rachel Bitecofer and I are not being asked for our thoughts by Spanberger’s campaign, but for the record, this is what Bitecofer (and I) would say to her if they ever did ask. 😉

“Happy to elaborate. In this environment, if you can not win over pretty much EVERY moderate & Indie off the pandemic mismanagement by running tying your R opponent to that & Trump- I got nothing for you. Thus a vote like this has no additional value on that bucket. No, it’s not going to cost her votes either, bc again, all that matters is Trump & pandemic.

But why I said it makes it easier for me to tell where things will be in 2022 is that it’s a big tell that the type of messaging advice the frontline mods are getting from the big consultants prob won’t change. Coming out of Trump if it’s still grounded in the defensive ’embarrassed’ D model, rather than this new offensive, attack ‘limited govn’t,’ attack fiscal conservatism’s economic record, model & paint the GOP as a party of extremists, which is the transitional, offensive moderate messaging model that I’m arguing Dems need. And frankly, this is my unique articulation of it, but I am certainly not alone in this; there are other people making similar arguments. What makes mine unique is that I am not really arguing a movement to the left on policy need accompany it, bc frankly, the median voter, policy-wise is right there at the center of the Democratic Party’s policy platform. And also bc, far-left policies, like far-right ones, are extremist policies that lack broad support. Now, sometimes minority viewpoints do become majority, that’s a convo for another day. Today I’m arguing that the moderate Dem policy position never gets forcefully argued for, which is a shame bc its pretty damn popular.

So I’m trying to get moderate Dems to stop telling people they are into things like fiscal conservatism & instead start prosecuting the case against fiscal conservatism, so esp the working class (whites) can find out what a spectularly shitty record it has. BC right now, the GOP candidates tell them its good for them. And then these mod Ds tell them, I’m a fiscal conservative too! And the sick irony is, actually there’s two – the first being that ‘fiscal conservative’ has completely decimated the working class in America, not only directly by dismantling unions and the minimum wage hikes, but also indirectly by sabotaging health care for for 30 extra years, screwing people out of paid family leave, and making sure workers can’t have any paid sick days.

And yet. you have this prevailing view point out of the greatest data wizards/consultants/leaders in the Dem Party- a line they all parrot that HAS to originate in some GOP lab where ALL – I mean literally ALL – say ‘Democrats abandoned the working the class’ or some variant of this. And I’m looking at them and I’m thinking, uhhhhh are we watching the same movie??? I mean, the Dems, no doubt, and as this thread makes clear, have done an absolutely shittastic job of TELLING the working class what they’ve been trying, and been getting blocked from by their GOP friends, to do for the working class for 30 years. They haven’t told them these things, you see, bc when they run candidates in these areas that really have a chance, the consultants tell them, ‘tell the voters you’re a fiscal conservative, highlight that you’re in the military, and don’t say anything about being a Democrat.’ That DOES make it a little hard to market your party’s successes, which while blocked a lot, do exist and which pretty much no voters know about. For example, maybe the Bernie student loan people would be less pissy about student loans if they knew how much shittier student loans were before the big reform packages the Ds passed in 2010-sure as hell changed my life!

Or maybe Democrats should tell voters in states where Medicaid got expanded, and the uninsured rate collapsed, and so did hospital uninsured losses, and probably massively better health outcomes. That might have been useful. The extra $600 people got on this unemployment weekly for this pandemic- for the middle class- that kept people current on car payments and mortgages and you know who did that shit, you insisted on it, who made THAT provision their deal breaker?? Democrats did. Y’all might want voters to know that.

So, my point is, if the campaign messaging and voter targeting strategies don’t get modernized, & the frontliners campaign on the same old Dem playbook, my assumption is that the turnout surges powering the Dem and left-leaning Indies surges will recede like they did post-2008. It’s an assumption.  One of the most fascinating findings thus far for me for my research (other than the fact that if you start killing of upwards of 100K Americans via gross incompetence, more voters become persuadable, even in polarization) was the finding that GOP turnout did not recede in 2018.  In my original theory, I had expected Republicans to pull back on their participation since they controlled the full government like Democrats had in 2010 (that was why I was less accurate with my Senate picks- which BTW I never actually modeled, I qualitatively handicapped them). I thought that if perhaps Ds got really big turnout in MO and IN and R turnout was lower @clairecmc and Donelly would pull it out & in fact they did hit huge Dem turnout, but instead of receding, GOP turnout also increased in ’18. That GOP turnout, it’s going to be there no matter what, Even with the pandemic. And its going to be there in 2022. This is why I argue Democrats really need to modernize their thinking in terms of campaigning and especially how to run the ‘moderate’ campaign.”

Hate Is on the BallotThe hidden dynamic that’s transformed our politics—and will loom large in the 2020 electionhttps://newrepublic.com/article/156402/hate-ballot

P.S. Bitecofer sent me the following message, which she encouraged me to quote.

“As a moderate who promotes civility, civic engagement, and mitigating polarization, who actively works these issues everyday in my role at the Niskanen Center, I want every member of Congress to work in a bipartisan spirit, to be collegial, to respect institutional norms, to reach across the aisle, preferably to move forward legislation on key public policy issues that enjoy broad, majority support like raising the federal minimum wage, passing comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to legal status and expanded opportunities for immigrants from all socioeconomic backgrounds to come to America legally, meaningful climate mitigation policies, childcare and paid family leave policies that support working families like those found in our EU allies.

Once Trump is gone, we need to establish bipartisan commissions to examine some of the illegal and unethical practices that occured both in the executive branch and in Congress, and then we need to work in a bipartisan fashion to codify the norms that used to protect us so that we never again find ourselves vulnerable to a leader who doesn’t care to observe them. THIS is the bipartisan mantle that moderate, pragmatic members like Spanberger should be championing because until our domestic house is in order we will remain weak and vulnerable to our foreign enemies. While token rankings that only consider whether a piece of legislation had Democrats and Republican votes and disregard the substance of those votes will no doubt look good on a campaign mailer, they will do nothing to build a robust, committed inspired bipartisan coalition in the 7th district that can win not only in 2020 under ripe conditions, but for the long term.”