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Best in the Big Tent: August 2022
Democrats (finally) in array as Republicans continue to radicalize. Here are the highlights from the last month.
Democrats are on the rise.
Finally. Democratic fortunes are changing — and much of it due to focused productivity.
A deal was made. After months of battle with the far-left and even the establishment wing of his party, the Democratic Senator from West Virginia — a dark red enclave where Donald Trump won by nearly 40 points in 2020 — gave his party a major legislative victory to celebrate.
WelcomePAC co-founder Lauren Harper was on the record in NBC THINK more than a year ago calling on Joe Biden and the far-left to understand — not attack — Joe Manchin.
“Hard as it is to imagine in sky-blue enclaves, there is immense value to a Democrat in states where the word itself is considered blasphemous. If we are to combat Trumpism, we need to allow Democrats like Manchin a little maneuverability. Incidentally, while Manchin is the most willing to stick his neck out, he’s not the only Democrat with these concerns.”
Democrats finally got the memo. From the maverick Democrat who managed to win a Senate seat in a deep red state has just come the single largest climate investment in world history. As the President would say, that’s a BFD. And it is the biggest news of August.
This results from a big tent Democratic Party capable of winning - not just the left, but the middle.
Beyond its climate provisions, other core components of the Inflation Reduction Act are immensely popular among voters from across the political spectrum. A recent poll of registered voters from Morning Consult found majority support for 10 of the bill’s 12 core components, with the most popular provision (capping price hikes on prescription drugs) reaching 77% support.
As we’ve written before, Manchin is highly focused — and his prayer card is always worth a look.
That targeted, populist approach to winning the middle in right-of-center states was again proven successful in Kansas this month. Josh Barro broke it down:
“I’m heartened by what we saw in Kansas — not just that the amendment won so resoundingly, but that Democrats demonstrated the ability to run a calculated, poll-tested campaign that is built around the views and concerns of the mass electorate that is wary of what would happen if abortion were banned, rather than the attitudes of what White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield described accurately (if intemperately) earlier this summer as ‘activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.’ It shows that the party can prioritize winning over intra-coalition posturing when it really counts.”
Popularism Works — and if Democrats want to win more in red states and districts, they must organize the popularists as they did in Kansas.
As noted in July, Democrats May Not Be As Screwed As You Think this November.
Meanwhile, the GOP’s nosedive into authoritarianism continues.
This month’s Republican primaries brought with it a stinging set of losses for what remains of the party’s rapidly declining pro-democracy faction.
With August in the books, let’s recap where things currently stand. Liz Cheney is out. Peter Meijer is out. Jaime Herrera Beutler is out. Only two of the ten impeachment-voting House Republicans will be on the ballot in November — David Valadao and Dan Newhouse (both advanced in “top two” all-party elections, not Republican primaries).
It is challenging to squint and see any path for saving democracy from within the GOP.
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin had some thoughts on the path forward for the martyred Cheney:
“How can she appeal to voters within a party so deeply in thrall to a delusional and narcissistic habitual liar? If Republicans in the state that knows her best rejected her, her prospects in presidential primaries look remote.
Yet what seems like a quixotic mission might not be, if you consider Cheney’s mind-set. Her highest goal is not keeping or winning office; it is protecting our democracy, rousing the country from its slumber and preventing Trump from again holding office. Her role would be to hammer home Trump’s unfitness for public office and how incompatible the MAGA lie-based, authoritarian movement is with U.S. democracy.”
This is a fact Ronald Brownstein acknowledged in The Atlantic, framing Cheney’s path forward less in terms of whether she can save the Republican Party from Trump but rather whether she can damage it enough to force a reckoning:
“Even if Cheney cannot deny Trump the nomination, she could still ultimately loosen his hold on the party, this thinking goes, if she persuades enough centrist and white-collar voters to reject him and ensure his defeat in a general election. To save the party, in other words, Cheney might first have to be willing to destroy it.”
The GOP’s intensifying love affair with authoritarianism demands it. As Amy Gardner reminded us in The Post, Trump-backed election deniers are advancing toward claiming key offices in critical battlegrounds across the country:
“Across the battleground states that decided the 2020 vote, candidates who deny the legitimacy of that election have claimed nearly two-thirds of GOP nominations for state and federal offices with authority over elections, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Had those candidates held power in 2020, they would have had the electoral clout to try something that the current officeholders refused: overturning the vote and denying Biden the presidency.”
In his sharpest rebuke of the right to date, President Biden himself slammed the MAGA movement for its “semi-fascism” this week.
The GOP’s radicalization is continuing at a breathtaking pace. At this point, one thing is certain: the path to saving American democracy runs through a big tent Democratic Party.
There’s no other way.
Tweet of the Month
“A nesting doll of idiocy.”
Mainstreaming the Mainstream
Below are highlights from the past month in essential big tent outlets.
But first, here are the best of the rest…
“The most direct path out of polarization is for the Democrats to clearly move to occupy the moderate center of American politics and win elections on that basis. They can do this by passing sensible economic and social policies that demonstrate the possibility of effective government, and by breaking cleanly with the cultural agenda of their own left wing.” Francis Fukuyama in American Purpose: Pathways from Polarization
“If democracy is indeed on fire, the thing to do is to stop asking people to buy water bottles and organize them into fire brigades instead. Neither the national Democratic Party nor progressive leaders seem to have learned that lesson.” Lara Putnam and Micah L. Sifry in The New York Times: Fed Up With Democratic Emails? You’re Not the Only One.
“That your party is led by an inept, impulsive, criminally inclined man, who is viewed negatively by most voters, who cares very little about whether your party wins elections or achieves policy goals, and who keeps causing the party to nominate his unappealing weirdo personal friends in otherwise-winnable Senate races, is your problem — one largely of your own making. No self-respecting set of political opponents would respond to this in any other way than by putting the screws to you as hard as is possible.” Josh Barro in Very Serious: 'Team Normal' Republicans, Stop Whining That Democrats Won't Help You
“Kansas voters lifted the spirits of pro-choice advocates, who knew that the whining voices on Twitter complaining about what Democrats had not done since the Supreme Court issued its decision were irrelevant.” Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post: A stunning GOP losing streak since Dobbs could remake the midterm landscape
“[Jared] Golden grew up in central Maine, joined the Marines after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, and served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, at 40, he is a trim man with a buzz cut and tattoos—the Celtic cross, a Devil Dog to honour the Marines… He is pro-labour, pro-choice, pro-police and pro-gun.” The Economist: Democrats are wrong to give up on rural America
“The socialist movement has people from all classes, but overall it’s far from a proletarian movement — this is fundamentally a revolt of the professional-managerial class, or at least the people who expected their education to make them a part of that class. It’s telling that two of the new socialist movement’s most passionate crusades have been student debt forgiveness and free college.” Noah Smith in Noahpinion: The Elite Overproduction Hypothesis
Best of The Liberal Patriot…
“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Democrats’ emphasis on social and democracy issues, while catnip to some socially liberal, educated voters, leaves many Hispanic voters cold. Their concerns are more mundane and economically-driven… In short, they are normie voters.” Ruy Teixeira: Hispanic Voters Are Normie Voters
“After more than a year spent banging their heads against the proverbial wall, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress finally accepted political reality and passed some significant laws that invest in America’s people and its future.” Peter Juul: The Vibes They Are a-Shiftin'
“In 2022, it appears that white college graduate voters are reporting for duty once again. These voters are less sensitive to economic problems and more likely to be moved by a social issue like abortion rights, which looms large in their world view. In short, they are the perfect voters for Democrats in the current environment.” Ruy Teixeira: The Democrats’ Shifting Coalition
Best of Slow Boring…
“Dark Brandon speaks to the real hopes, fears, and aspirations of moderate Democrats who truly want to believe that Bidenism is quietly a more hard-edged approach to politics than it superficially seems.” Matt Yglesias: Dark Brandon, explained
“Even as Biden became quite unpopular over the course of 2022, there is essentially zero popular backlash or mobilization against [the Inflation Reduction Act’s] proposals. The Democratic Party has a bunch of short-term and long-term political problems, but all things considered, having these ideas front and center helps.” Matt Yglesias: Joe Manchin to the rescue
“Responding to a big win on reconciliation by running around telling the country that Biden is doing sweeping policy change isn’t going to help — it’s far better to describe these changes as modest, common-sense reforms.” Matt Yglesias: There's no need to exaggerate Biden's legislative achievements
“Talking about the values espoused by college-educated congressional staffers and college-educated journalists and college-educated progressive advocacy organization staffers is probably counterproductive.” Matt Yglesias: Should Democrats talk more about their values?
Best of The Bulwark…
“Usually the out-party runs as the opposition to the White House. This year, the Supreme Court and Trump have made it possible for Democrats to run as a check on Republican extremism.” John J. Pitney, Jr.: Democrats Are Running as Opposition Party
“There’s no difference between DeSantis endorsing Trump and DeSantis endorsing all the other election deniers, when you think about it. Endorse one, endorse ’em all.” Amanda Carpenter: Ron DeSantis Endorses Election Deniers
“This experiment in self-government requires a minimum amount of social trust to succeed. With every tweet that spreads cynicism and lies, with every call to arms that welcomes civil conflict, Trumpist Republicans are poisoning the nation they so ostentatiously claim to love.” Mona Charen: Republicans Are Rooting for Civil War
“Defunding law enforcement may turn out to be more popular among Republican politicians than it is among Democrats. Americans who care about law and order should vote accordingly.” William Saletan: ‘Defund the FBI’—the MAGA Right’s Hypocritical New Slogan
Finally, the best of The Welcome Party…
Rationale, the new reality, and rules for constructive conflict between the center-left and far-left. Check out the Rules for Engaging Radicals.
The successful “No” campaign against a constitutional amendment that would have banned abortion in Kansas shows how Democrats can win in red states. Why Popularism Works.
Meijer and Cheney have lit up the only path to saving democracy. It is not reforming the GOP from within. There’s Only One Option Left.