Friday Talking Points -- Winning The Culture Wars

[ Posted Friday, September 9th, 2022 – 17:07 UTC ]

For decades now, Republicans have very effectively been using "culture war" issues to entice voters to vote against Democrats. Democrats are routinely pictured as being out of the mainstream and out of touch. This used to work wonders for them. But the shoe seems to be on the other foot this year. This shift is mostly due not to Democratic politicians switching tactics so much as the electorate itself changing its mind on a number of big culture war issues.

The public is no longer anti-gay and pro-gun. Public support for abortion is getting stronger and stronger. All of the traditional Republican positions on these issues are now losers for them, because they appeal only to a minority of voters (which didn't used to be the case). Gun control is rising as a political issue with every new mass shooting. Gay marriage is now favored by over seven in ten Americans -- including a majority of Republican voters. Support for abortion jumped five points in the past few months, up to 60 percent. Due to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, it is now the most potent culture war issue out there.

So Republicans are finding out what it's like to be on the "out of the mainstream" and "out of touch" side of the culture wars. Democrats used to be absolutely cowed by these issues and would avoid even talking about them, while Republicans used to hammer them home and put them on the ballot as voter initiatives to boost turnout. That dynamic has now flipped. This week, the supreme court of Michigan ruled that a measure which would enshrine abortion rights in the state's constitution will indeed appear on the ballot, even after the Republicans on the board which certifies ballot measures petulantly refused to approve it. Other measures like it have already qualified in a handful of states.

The Senate will likely hold a vote in the next few weeks on a bill that would codify same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law. They may not get the 60 votes required (all 50 Democrats are on board already), but even if it fails it will be used against Republican senators in campaign ads.

Democrats are leaning in hard to these culture war issues, and they are smart to do so. Because they all feed into one broad theme of this campaign cycle: Republicans are too extreme to be allowed to hold power. They've become so extreme that even some Republicans are beginning to push back. Republicans want to strip women of their right to bodily autonomy. Republicans want gay marriage to be illegal again. Republicans are in the pockets of the National Rifle Association and don't care about massacres in schools happening on a regular basis. Republicans are dangerously out of touch and are now openly supporting political violence against the system. Republicans don't believe in fair elections anymore -- if they win, the election was fair, but if they lose it was rigged and should be thrown out. Republicans have gotten dangerously extreme, and they should be kept out of office until they realize it and change their party's ways.

That is an excellent campaign message, and it has the benefit of being completely true. President Joe Biden has been leading the way on how to effectively do this. Last week he gave a monumental speech condemning "MAGA Republicans." He also has been using a new taunt for Republicans in general: "Republicans have awakened a powerful force in this nation: women. Republicans don't have a clue about the power of women, not a clue. Let me tell you something: they're about to find out."

Biden is rightfully ignoring all the handwringing and pearl-clutching in the media over his campaign strategy. Just like clockwork, the press chimed in after Biden's "MAGA Republicans" speech and pronounced it "divisive." This double standard is beyond hilarious. Stop and think for a moment -- why is it that this word is only ever used as a complaint against Democrats? When was the last time you saw a Republican politician's speech described as "divisive"?

Donald Trump appeared at a rally in Pennsylvania and denounced Biden's speech as "the most vicious, hateful, and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president." Apparently he's forgotten pretty much every single speech he gave as president, all of which were vicious, hateful, and divisive in the extreme. During the same speech, Trump likened Joe Biden to "the Devil" and called him "an enemy of the state." Trump also called for the crowd to "stand up to this rising tyranny of sickness, lawlessness, and death." He called America "a third-world nation." He called the F.B.I. and the Justice Department "vicious monsters." He whined about "demented persecution." He complained his political enemies were "very dishonest, sick people." Trump used playground taunts, calling Adam Schiff "Watermelon Head." He warned that "our beloved country is being taken over by the very people who turned democracies into dictatorships and into, ultimately, ruination." Hilariously, he followed that line up with: "They think they can divide us but they can't. Can't divide us."

So where were the media condemnations of Trump for being "divisive"? They didn't appear. It was just Trump being Trump. Just standard Republican behavior, not even worth reporting on. Later in the week, Trump began openly praising leaders who rule with "an iron fist." More than once. The media mostly yawned.

But now Democrats are finally fighting back. Yes, this is "divisive." You know what? The country is divided, on all sorts of issues. This is called "politics." There is no sweeping consensus on many important subjects. And this has always been true.

Republicans divide the country with outright glee, as they've been doing for decades. But now, Democrats are fighting back because the public has come around on several important issues.

The biggest is abortion, of course. A Democratic political strategist and head of a data and polling firm wrote in the New York Times this week about how he sees the 2022 political landscape:

But once the actual Dobbs decision came down, everything changed. For many Americans, confronting the loss of abortion rights was different from anticipating it. In my 28 years of analyzing elections, I had never seen anything like what's happened in the past two months in American politics: Women are registering to vote in numbers I never witnessed before. I've run out of superlatives to describe how different this moment is, especially in light of the cycles of tragedy and eventual resignation of recent years. This is a moment to throw old political assumptions out the window and to consider that Democrats could buck historic trends this cycle.

This is precisely because Democrats are fighting back. They are not timidly retreating to their corners, they are pressing Republicans hard on the issue. And Republicans still have no idea how to respond. They have not, as a party, coalesced around a strategy or a position on abortion. This allows Democrats to paint every Republican as extreme and radically out of touch. And it is working, partly because Republicans are now doing exactly what Democrats used to do on subjects like gay marriage: they do not want to talk about abortion at all. They come up with some vaguely-worded oatmeal that hopefully won't offend anyone, while refusing to take a real stand. And the voters are not impressed.

Of course, nobody really has any idea what it will all mean come November. Because this has never happened before in modern American politics -- one issue leaping to the forefront by way of a grassroots pushback on a Supreme Court decision. So nobody really knows what will happen, which the political strategist even admitted:

With over two months until Election Day, uncertainty abounds. Election prognostication relies heavily on precedent. Yet there is no precedent for an election centered on the removal of a constitutional right affirmed a half-century before. Every poll we consume over the closing weeks of this election will rely on a likely voter model for which we have no benchmark.

Democrats have the chance to score a rather historic victory, but it is in no way guaranteed. But at least they're now on the winning side of the culture wars, and they seem to have realized it. An aide to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand summed it up: "Democrats are so afraid of their own shadows, naturally. But I think that if it works this time, this could give permission to not be afraid." One would like to hope, at the very least.

Let's see, what else is going on in the world of American politics? [You'll note we are not even going to mention the royal death which happened, since the rest of the media seems to be adequately obsessing over it already.]

The noose seems to be drawing tighter in Trumpworld, as several legal challenges have moved forward in a big way. A detailed inventory of everything the F.B.I. seized while serving their search warrant on Donald Trump's Florida golf club was released, and it showed the breathtaking scope of how much stuff Trump stole from the government. The New York Times even has a nice graphic presentation of what was in all the boxes, if you're pressed for time.

The Washington Post reported that at least one of the documents outlined the "nuclear capabilities" of another country, which fits in with the previous reporting that nuclear secrets had been stolen by Trump.

A lawsuit that Trump filed against Hillary Clinton (and everyone else he could think of) for perpetrating what he likes to call "the Russia hoax" was laughed out of court this week. From the judge's ruling:

At its core, the problem with Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is that Plaintiff is not attempting to seek redress for any legal harm... instead, he is seeking to flaunt a two-hundred-page political manifesto outlining his grievances against those that have opposed him, and this Court is not the appropriate forum.

In other words: "Nice try, Jack. But no dice."

Trump did eke out a minor victory (although it's not the smartest legal strategy for him) as one of his own hand-appointed judges ruled that he could have a "special master" look through all the documents seized from him. The Justice Department is reportedly considering an appeal of parts of this ruling, or the whole thing, so we'll just have to see whether Trump is allowed to delay things (he is a past master at using the courts to run out the clock, it should be noted) or whether the investigation can continue apace.

Trump's Save America PAC is now under investigation by a federal grand jury, it was revealed this week. Also, a video surfaced showing an elections official compromising the integrity of the election machines in the 2020 election by allowing Trump's henchmen into the office to rummage through the voting machines, which is obviously illegal.

The head of the "Cowboys For Trump," who had previously been convicted of participating in the January 6th insurrection, was chucked out of his county office by a federal judge on the grounds that under the Fourteenth Amendment, he was no longer eligible to hold any office in America ever again (more on this down in the talking points).

And in the biggest schadenfreude moment of the week, Steve Bannon was forced to do a perp walk -- in handcuffs! -- in front of the media, on his way to being charged with ripping off donors to his cockamamie scheme to "build the wall." Bannon has also already been found guilty of ignoring a congressional subpoena, but he has yet to be sentenced on that charge.

In other words, not a great week in Trumpland!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week may be on track to winning a second MIDOTW award in another week or two, depending on how the vote shakes out in the Senate. But because it has been a relatively quiet week, we're going to give her some recognition now, even though it may be premature.

But first, we had to say that seeing Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House this week for the unveiling of their official portraits was a welcome return to normality -- seeing a sitting president graciously hosting a former president to memorialize his legacy in the White House. Which used to be a regular and barely-even-worth-noting event, but of course such things had been completely absent in the previous administration. We like our presidents to be gracious and polite in such situations, and Joe Biden and the Obamas reminded us how nice that can be, this week. So Honorable Mention awards all around!

But the main award this week goes to Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is spearheading the effort to get the Senate to pass a bill codifying marriage equality for all. The "Respect For Marriage Act" would reverse the Defense Of Marriage Act and change federal law to respect all marriages.

Republicans are trying to argue that such a thing is not necessary -- after all, there is a recent Supreme Court decision which legalized gay marriage, and another one from over half a century ago that legalized interracial marriage.

Democrats point out that this means nothing, with the extremists on the current Supreme Court. If they got rid of Roe, they could just as easily get rid of Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell.

The measure that passed the House got almost 50 Republican votes, which surprised many. Around one-forth of House Republicans have realized the drastic sea-change in the public's attitude towards gay marriage, and they voted accordingly. But getting 10 GOP senators to vote for the same thing is in no way guaranteed. Only a few of them have come out in support, far short of the 10 needed (every Democrat is already on board).

So Senator Baldwin and Senator Susan Collins are trying to hash out some sort of legislative language that might entice other Republicans to vote for it. They are reportedly trying to draft some "religious liberty" language to add to what the House passed.

Chuck Schumer has indicated that he's going to put the bill up for a vote in the next few weeks -- this month, preferably. He is going to do this whether the bill has enough votes to pass or not, because if it does pass it'll be a big win for Democrats and if it doesn't it'll just remind voters how bigoted the Republican Party in general still is on the issue. Politically, it's a win-win for Schumer.

But from all reports, Baldwin is making a sincere effort to actually corral the 10 GOP votes she needs, and she'll likely be working all weekend towards that goal, in the hopes the bill can hit the Senate floor next week or possibly the week after.

So while we don't know if the bill will pass or not at this juncture, we still have to say we are impressed with Tammy Baldwin's efforts to get the bill across the finish line.

[Congratulate Senator Tammy Baldwin on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Sadly, we have two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week. One is a rather minor officeholder, but the egregiousness of what he apparently did qualifies him, while the other essentially disqualified herself from holding office by a candid racist comment.

South Carolina state representative Krystle Matthews is the Democratic candidate taking on Senator Tim Scott. She probably didn't have much chance of winning in such a red state to begin with, but now she's got approximately zero chance of winning, which has led to calls from fellow Democrats for her to drop out of the race entirely and just concede the Senate seat to the Republicans.

That's a pretty drastic thing for a member of your own party to call for, but in this case it does seem justified. Here is the whole sordid story:

The calls for state Rep. Krystle Matthews to withdraw just two months ahead of the general election came Thursday in reaction to leaked audio published by conservative activist group Project Veritas of Matthews speaking to one of its members, without her knowledge.

Sitting in a restaurant, Matthews, who is Black, is heard saying that she represents a "mostly White" district, adding, of White voters: "I keep them right here -- like under my thumbs.... Otherwise, they get out of control -- like kids."

"You ought to know who you're dealing with," Matthews goes on to say. "You've got to treat them like s---. That's the only way they'll respect you."

In a statement, Matthews acknowledged her voice on the recording, calling Project Veritas a "satirical MAGA Powered news outlet."

The compilation also features more of Matthews' conversation, parts of which were previously published by Project Veritas, in which she spoke to an inmate about funding her campaign with "dope boy money" and having Democrats run as Republicans, saying "secret sleepers" represent "the only way you're gonna change the dynamics in South Carolina."

One of her fellow Democratic state representatives published an opinion piece calling Matthews "toxic," saying:

If any of our White counterparts had said the same thing with regards to Blacks, the minority community, including myself, would be up in arms calling for that member's immediate resignation.

He's right. There is no getting around it, these are racist comments. And even if you remove the racism, they are still simply unacceptable for any politician to say.

The gubernatorial Democratic candidate put out a statement saying: "the Democratic Party cannot and should not tolerate such behavior from our elected officials and candidates."

He's right too. She should withdraw from the race and end her candidacy, even though that would guarantee that Republicans hold the seat.

But we also had to hand out a second MDDOTW this week too, even though it goes to a mere county-level public administrator in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas police said Thursday that they have connected the DNA of a county official to the recent murder of investigative journalist Jeff German, whose coverage of alleged misconduct ultimately contributed to the official losing his primary election this summer.

At a news conference, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said that Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was arrested at his Las Vegas home and booked Wednesday night on a charge of murder with a deadly weapon. The 45-year-old Democrat was taken out of his home on a stretcher with what police said were self-inflicted wounds that were not life-threatening.

Telles, 45, is accused of stabbing the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter to death. Police said that they found German's body on Saturday morning outside of the reporter's house and that he was likely killed Friday morning.

German had been writing exposé articles about Telles, which was destroying his political career. So it's not like the cops had to look very far. And when they did, they found clothing with German's blood on it. It's a pretty open-and-shut case, in other words.

So while Telles is still technically innocent until proven guilty, we don't feel that stops us from handing him a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, while he sits in jail and awaits his trial.

If Democrats want to paint the Republican Party as dangerous, extreme, and violent, it would really help if other Democrats didn't, you know, stab journalists to death, to state the painfully obvious.

[Contact South Carolina Representative Krystle Matthews on her official state contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions. Robert Telles is being held in custody, but here is the official state contact page for his office anyway.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 676 (9/9/22)

It's now officially campaign season, so we tried to center this week's talking points around what Democratic candidates for office should be saying out on the campaign trail. Hammer these themes home every chance you get!


   Why? Why did he have them?

Democrats need to cut through the nonsense that has been emanating from the other side, and put the focus back where it belongs: on one basic question.

"Donald Trump has yet to answer one very basic question: Why did he steal top-secret documents from the government? Why did he take them? Why did he have them in the first place? Why didn't he give them all back? Why was he so obsessed with hanging onto them? So far, we haven't even had a hint of an answer. Trump has offered up no reason at all. His former attorney general, Bill Barr, has stated: 'I can't think of a legitimate reason why they could be taken out of government, away from the government,' and he's right. For all of Trump's whining and complaining about the F.B.I. serving a legal search warrant, Barr responded by pointing something obvious out: 'People say this was unprecedented, but it's also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club, okay?' That's Trump's own attorney general, folks. Every time a Republican politician offers up some lame excuse or some convoluted reasoning why hundreds of classified documents followed Trump to Florida, just ask them point-blank: Why did he take them in the first place? For what possible reason? Because I still haven't heard any answer to that."


   Extreme and out-of-touch

This is what comes of refusing to say what you stand for as a party, as the Republican Party has been doing.

"Today's Republican Party won't even say what they are for. They didn't even bother to put out a party platform document in 2020, they just told America: 'whatever Trump tells us to do, we'll do.' They haven't put out some grand agenda for the 2022 midterms either, since they know full well that what the party does actually stand for is so radically out of touch with where the American people are. 'Just trust us, vote for us, good things will happen,' is not enough, folks. Joe Biden is right -- far too many Republicans have rolled over for the extremists within their own ranks. The radicals have seized control, and are now openly advocating overturning elections when they don't win or using political violence to intimidate the government. These are extremist positions, and the party as a whole is silent. They won't say what they stand for at all, because they know if they said anything it would just prove to the voters how radical and extreme they have become."


   The extremist Supreme Court

This one should be added as well. Democrats are trying to make the 2022 midterms a referendum on the Supreme Court, which is a novel idea but makes perfect sense.

"The only thing Republicans managed to get done the last time they were in power was to pack the Supreme Court with the most extreme and antediluvian justices they could come up with. They think America should live under the laws we lived under in the 1800s. And they're doing everything they can to make that happen. They're taking away rights, they are removing constitutional freedoms and they are even dangerously close to decreeing that state legislatures can just ignore the outcome of an election and just proclaim their own 'winner.' This is dangerous stuff, people. And it was brought to you by the Republican Party, who cheers on every single lost right and every single freedom denied to America. Democrats will fight back using Congress to enact laws which fully repudiate the radical decisions of the current extremist Supreme Court."


   Whose freedoms will they come for next?

Dobbs was not the end of something, but the beginning.

"Extremist Republicans both on the Supreme Court and in statehouses across the land are actively taking away your freedoms. They tossed women's freedoms out the window already, and are competing among themselves to pass the most extreme anti-freedom laws they can. They are taking away your daughters' freedoms -- all women's freedoms, and they're not going to stop there. Who will be next? Whose freedoms will be ripped away from them next year? Are we going to sit silently by while Clarence Thomas and his ilk try to transport us back to the 1860s, or are we going to fight back and vote enough Democrats into office to enact these tossed-out freedoms back into federal law? Freedom is on the ballot this year, make no mistake about it."


   Governmental overreach

Use one of Republicans' core tenets against them!

"Do we really want politicians to be standing in an examination room deciding what a woman and her doctor can even talk about? Do we really want big government to be that involved with personal decisions? Talk about governmental overreach! I say it is time to get the government out of doctors' offices, and let everyone make the most personal and private decisions for themselves, with the medical advice of a professional. End this big government overreach once and for all!"


   Marriage should be equal

This is going to be a battle when it hits the Senate floor, so be ready.

"Marriage equality is now supported by over seven out of ten Americans. Even Republican voters favor letting people marry the person they love, which is a big turnaround. Remember when they all told us the sky would fall if gay couples could get married? I don't know about you, but the last I checked, the sky was still up where it should be. And most Americans agree. We simply cannot trust the extreme radicals on the Supreme Court not to toss this right on the garbage heap they way they have already done with abortion. We have to proactively enshrine it into federal law. The fact that most Republicans are against this is a badge of shame for them. If you live in a state with a Republican senator, I urge you to call up his or her office and tell them you support marriage equality for all. Maybe enough of them will get the message."


   Aid or comfort to the enemies thereof

A federal judge just set an interesting legal precedent in New Mexico. It could have wide implications, too.

"A county commissioner in New Mexico was just unceremoniously thrown out of office by a federal judge for having blatantly disregarded the Constitution itself, contrary to their oath of office. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution says, in part, that 'no person shall... hold any office, civil or military... who, having previously taken an oath... shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion... or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.' That's pretty plain language. If you are sworn into any office in the United States -- an oath that includes a vow to uphold the Constitution -- and then you rebel against the United States, then you are no longer eligible to hold any office ever again, period. And you don't even have to participate in the insurrection itself, you just have to give 'aid or comfort' to those who did. Couy Griffin participated in the sacking of the United States Capitol, and was convicted of a crime as a result. His guilt is obvious to all. He is now barred for life from holding any office whatsoever. Which makes me wonder -- who else might have either participated in this insurrection or 'given aid or comfort' to it? Hmmm... there's this one guy whose name does spring to mind...."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


4 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Winning The Culture Wars”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Democrats should point out that it isn't just abortion Republicans are trying to block, but also birth control, and they're doing it drip by drip already, with laws that say a pharmacist can refuse to dispense birth control if they have religious objections, and a company can refuse to cover birth control in their insurance policies if they have a religious objection. Also, companies with a religious objection to homosexuality can refuse to cover the cost of lifesaving medicine if that medicine might be used by gay guys.

  2. [2] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Now if you really want to make the "religious libertarians"...err.. I mean repubs blow themselves up, pass a measure that requires businesses (i.e. hobby lobby) that are operating as a on the surface "public business" to disclose in job recruitment ads the benefits required by law that they will be denying if you chose to work there.

    I can already see the arguments that this kind of measure violates the right to privacy, right to practice religion, is socialist, is "big government", is overreach, America is going to hell, blah,blah,blah.

    The most simple retort to any of those arguments that the Dems can use is simply to ask "how does any part of this measure harm your liberties? If you want to practice your religion in a way that reduces the liberties of others after you have hired them by not providing access to legally required services by law that does not require any expenditure on your part I am fine with that...but really tell me how hiding that you are not providing certain expected services to potential employees harms your rights?" The Dems do a poor job of framing arguments to the most basic point of "we enable the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Which I will point out is not a "right" but a truth...

    At the end of the day the Dems can lay a lot of road by by just putting the liberty reductive repubs on the spot by asking, "how does this improve every Americans access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?"

    Alright, time to leave the airport lounge... toodles.

  3. [3] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    I agree with you. I have also said that I believe that any show produced by a "news outlet" that is going to push misinformation as facts should have to post a warning before and after the show and after every commercial break saying, "This show is telling you things that are not factual, and passing them off as facts. Be warned that you are being lied to... but you knew that already." The great part of this warning system is that it is only required when a show is providing misinformation as fact when there is clear evidence it is not fact. Opinion shows can have opinions; they cannot say those opinions are factual without the evidence necessary to prove it is factual.

    Based on the judges ruling and FoxNews' attorneys defense when Tucker Carlson was sued for lying to his viewers, the viewers are already aware that they are being lied to by Tucker. The warnings can not interfere with Tucker's first amendment rights because, as the judge ruled and their attorneys argued, the viewer is already aware that they are being lied to!

    The GOP went to court to fight for the right to knowingly lie in their campaign ads without being held culpable for any damage that their lies later caused... and they won. I like to remind my Republican friends that they wouldn't have bothered to have gone to court to win the right to lie without consequences had they not intend to do so!

  4. [4] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    Here is a gift link to an entertaining Washington Post opinion piece on 45's legal attempt to "Lock her up" Hillary Clinton et al for the "Russia Hoax."

    Trump presented his Russia hoax theory to a court. It went poorly.


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