Friday Talking Points -- Some Cautious Optimism

[ Posted Friday, July 7th, 2023 – 16:43 UTC ]

The nation celebrated its 247th birthday this year, leaving only three more to go until the second-biggest celebration of our lifetime (as we still personally remember the ushering in the bicentennial in Washington D.C.). But since it was a short week, what with Independence Day falling on a Tuesday, we are hoping this will be a short column (for once). Well, short-ish at any rate. We are cautiously optimistic.

Cautious optimism is a good place to start, actually. We stumbled across an interesting paper from two Democratic strategists (Celinda Lake and Mike Lux) which confidently states: "All the elements are in place for a big Democratic victory in 2024," and predicts that the "trifecta" of winning the House back, holding the Senate and keeping Joe Biden in the White House is well within grasp.

It's an interesting paper (and it's not that long), and it is not all "blowing sunshine up your skirt" optimism, as the authors do lay out a number of headwinds Democrats will face next year. But the positive points it makes are persuasive. Here are just the bullet points (each followed by a few paragraphs of explanation in the original) for "Why the fundamentals favor the Democrats again this year":

  1. There are more Democratic voters and leaners than there are Republican voters and leaners.
  2. The abortion issue is very powerful and Republicans are stuck on the wrong side of it.
  3. What Biden and the Democrats have accomplished with their policy successes over the last two years is going to be reinforced over and over again.
  4. People who vote tend to like freedom and voting.
  5. Populist economics trumps culture wars.
  6. We are winning a lot more than we are losing in the most competitive battleground states.

The paper ends by admitting: "Nothing about the 2024 election will be easy," and then calls for a focus on two tasks: getting out the vote and fighting for voters who have been slipping away from the Democratic Party. It ends with:

The second task is to make a major investment in winning the hearts and minds of working-class voters. Based on the work we have done in the Factory Towns project, as well as other data we have seen, we are convinced that there is a strong, effective strategy for gaining ground with working-class voters that Democrats have been struggling to win in recent elections. A strategy based on economic populism, community building, and person-to-person organizing starting early in the election cycle will pay real dividends, and help us make significant progress with these voters, which will make victory in 2024 far more likely.

Democrats need to understand that we can win big in 2024. It will take a lot of hard work, significant financial investment, and the right strategy, but we go into this election with a lot of confidence that we have a strong chance at a Democratic trifecta.

Like we said, some cautious optimism to start off with. To which we will add some Democratic schadenfreude: the state Republican Party organizations in two major swing states -- Michigan and Arizona -- are essentially broke. It seems Republican donors have turned off the money spigot because they are refusing to fund what their state's parties have become: seething cesspits of election-denialism and other assorted lunacy. These are two very important states, it is worth pointing out, where the MAGA crazies have been hoist by their own petard.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate are getting increasingly worried that the issue of abortion is going to cost them any chance of winning back control of the chamber, even with a very favorable map. Republicans are only defending 10 seats, to the Democrats' 23, for this cycle. An anonymous GOP strategist summed things up (as he or she saw it):

"In the Senate, Republicans have a huge opportunity to get the majority back, but suburban women voters will not vote for our candidates if they are turned off by what they feel are extreme views," the source continued.

"Any state where Republicans have trouble with suburban voters because of the Trump brand, they had double trouble with suburban voters because of abortion politics, and it was for no reason because there is no chance a federal ban on abortion happens, ever," the strategist added.

At the top of the ticket, President Joe Biden has rolled out his big push on "Bidenomics Is Working!" by sending cabinet members and other administration spokespeople out into the countryside to make Biden's case. The economy is a lot better than most Americans think, and Biden himself hasn't gotten nearly enough credit for the things he has accomplished, which is what this blitz is designed to counteract.

In one key presidential state, Biden is already leaning heavily on the White House making fixing the I-95 bridge that collapsed in Philadelphia their top priority. Rather than months, it took only 12 days to rebuild the freeway and open it back up to traffic. That's astonishingly fast, and the Biden team does deserve a decent amount of credit for facilitating it -- which you can bet they'll be pointing out whenever they visit the Keystone State.

One good sign is that Wall Street is finally getting a wee bit cautiously optimistic that the long-foretold recession may, in fact, not actually be happening. Or even looming ominously on the horizon. Another good sign was the release of good numbers on both inflation and jobs.

In foreign policy news, today it was announced that Biden has approved sending cluster munitions to the Ukrainians, to use against the Russian invaders. The Russians have been using these weapons against the Ukrainians, so this might level the battlefield a bit.

On the other side of the presidential race, Donald Trump went into a rage for July 4th, in a manner even more classless than usual (for him). But most of the Trump news centered on his various legal problems once again. It was revealed that the special counsel has been examining Trump pressuring the Republican Arizona governor to overturn the election and just award the state to Trump, just like he did down in Georgia.

A former Trump White House communications director and press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, made some news this week by answering the question: "Is it plausible Trump was showing classified documents to people in private meetings?" with the following:

The short answer is yes. I watched him show documents to people at Mar-a-Lago on the dining room patio. So he has no respect for classified information. Never did. You know, listening to that exchange every time, it just makes me so angry.

To be helpful, the Washington Post had a long rundown of Trump's sordid history of mishandling and revealing classified information, if anyone's interested.

The price of doing legal work for Trump continues to climb, as former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has now been officially recommended for disbarment in Washington D.C., while a second ex-Trump lawyer (Lin Wood) has now avoided disbarment by voluntarily giving up his law license in his home state of Georgia. These two, Wood and Giuliani, were both neck-deep in the efforts to create "fake electors" and overturn the 2020 election, so it is entirely fitting that they not be allowed to practice law in the future.

Trump, meanwhile, continues to practice stochastic terrorism (defined as: "the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted"). Trump publicly posted what was purported to be Barack Obama's address in Washington, and soon after a deranged man showed up in the neighborhood in a van containing "a machete, two guns and 400 rounds of ammunition." In an article pointing out the lack of outrage this caused, it was noted:

Despite the week-old disclosure -- and further detail emerging Wednesday -- Trump's Truth Social post featuring the address remained live on Thursday morning.

You could perhaps understand Trump's original post of Obama's alleged address as unwitting -- it was a small detail in a series of four images of the article posted by Trump -- but leaving it up after all this time must be a choice.

Well, we were shooting for "short-ish" and we may have failed, so we're just going to whip through a few other things before moving on.

The Republican National Committee sent out a tweet for July Fourth with two flags on it. Problem was, they weren't American flags -- they looked a lot closer to the flag of Liberia, in fact. Whoops!

The investigation into the Secret Service intentionally deleting messages sent during January 6th has now become a criminal investigation, it was reported this week. So maybe eventually someone will be held to account for this shameless coverup. One can only hope....

The big gay rights case at the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that discrimination against gay people is somehow constitutional, was based on an entirely fictional person. It was literally a made-up case. This shows the utter contempt for both the facts and the law that this Supreme Court has now truly embraced.

Ron DeSantis, still trailing Trump badly in the polls, released an ad that is so over-the-top and extreme in its hatred and fearmongering over L.G.B.T. rights that it has to be seen to be believed. Here's part of one New York Times article about the ad, just to give you a taste:

Initially distributed by a Twitter account called Proud Elephant, it presents a bizarre montage that's superficially an anti-woke battle cry, pitting a truculent DeSantis against a scourge of degenerates. But while his viciousness comes through precisely as planned, so does something unintended: an undercurrent of homoerotic kink. Up pops a shirtless hunk with a ripped chest. Here's a glowering Brad Pitt in his "Troy" drag. Are honchos with a Homer fetish some new thing? I need to get out more.

Amusing, but the creators of one of those uber-macho images was decidedly not amused, as the show Peaky Blinders roundly condemned the ad. Even some Republican presidential candidates denounced the ad.

But there was one more bit of news that everyone can agree is a good thing. Marjorie Taylor Greene has now been expelled from the House Freedom Caucus. You read that right: M.T.G. is so batcrap-crazy that even the GOP's "extreme crazy caucus" couldn't take it anymore. And that's really saying something, considering who they still have in their ranks!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We did write earlier in the week about Representative Adam Schiff's impressive fundraising haul last quarter ($8.1 million, a record for any Senate candidate), but just raising money wasn't impressive enough for this week's award.

Instead, our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week was Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.

Apparently, it is an annual sport in the Badger State (which both parties have used to their advantage) to see how creative the governor can be in wielding the line-item veto like a surgeon's scalpel. This has led to the legislature pushing back and explicitly banning such things as "the Vanna White veto" (where the governor would strike out all but individual letters in a word or phrase, to make the remaining letters spell out something entirely different), the "Frankenstein veto" (where one sentence was constructed from parts of two), and the "thousand-year veto" (where the year 2018 was changed to read "3018"). So Evers amusingly creating what might be called the "400-year veto" was pretty much par for the course, for Wisconsin.

Here's what happened. First, here is the original budget line item, as passed by the legislature:

121.905 (3) (c) 9. For the limit for the 2023-24 school year and the 2024-25 school year, add $325 to the result under par. (b).

And here is what the governor struck out:

121.905 (3) (c) 9. For the limit for the 2023-24 school year and the 2024-25 school year, add $325 to the result under par. (b).

Due to the shortcomings of the "strikethrough" font, you can't see it but the hyphen before "25" is also stricken. After the veto, here is how the text that the governor signed read:

121.905 (3) (c) 9. For the limit for 2023-2425, add $325 to the result under par. (b).

Violà! Instead of a two-year rule, it will now be in place for 402 years.

For good measure, the governor also changed a tax cut for the wealthy from $3.5 billion to only $175 million. As one news article put it: "Republicans, who control both houses of the Wisconsin legislature, were livid with the move."

Of course, any future legislature and governor could overturn the new 402-year rule, but for now it appears safe enough -- there aren't enough Republicans in the statehouse to override the governor's veto.

For giving everyone a laugh with his creative use of editing, we have to declare Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We're going to go ahead and make the assumption of political affiliation and just hand the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to whatever numbskull dropped a small bag of cocaine in the West Wing of the White House.

Being a slow news week, "Cocainegate" (as it was quickly dubbed by those who insist on the "-gate" suffix for all political scandals) immediately became the go-to story of the week. But it looks like whatever lunkhead dropped his or her blow will likely never be caught, at least according to some experts.

Our favorite part of the whole foofaroo was when the media got around to listing all the other times drugs were (or may) have been used in the White House. We found it so enjoyable, we joined in on the fun by reprinting the firsthand account of the plot to dose Tricky Dick Nixon with LSD (which is our all-time favorite story in this particular genre).

Anyway, to all future visitors to the White House: please leave your nose candy at home before the tour. Sheesh!


Friday Talking Points

Volume 714 (7/7/23)

Coincidentally, for anyone who lived through the drug-soaked 1970s, this is volume 714 of our Talking Points. And no, we're not going to explain that to those who don't immediately giggle at it.


Since it is the week of Independence Day, and since we truly are trying to make this short this week, we are going with a very simple format: listing seven freedoms Democrats are for. Almost all the culture war issues that Republicans have been desperately ginning up all have one similarity: removing freedoms.

Democrats, or some of them at least, are leaning in to using the language of freedom in making their own case. This is smart, and should continue, which is why we've got some very simple campaign slogans for Democrats this week.


   Learn the truth

"Freedom" is a good buzzword in politics. So is "truth." Put them together, and you've really got something!

"I stand strongly for the freedom for all schoolchildren to learn the truth about American history. I condemn Republicans who want to hide this truth from our children."


   It's my kid, not yours

Pushback is necessary on this one, since the tiny minority on the other side is so loud.

"I support my kid having the freedom to learn and read books without some other kid's parent deciding that they can't. Go ahead and ban books for your own children in your own house, but don't try to take that freedom away from mine."


   The freedom to live

Republicans' inaction on this is a strong issue, so use it.

"I want the freedom to send my children off to school in the morning without worrying that they'll be shot full of holes by some lunatic with a weapon that should only be used on a battlefield."


   My body, my choice

Obviously a big one as well.

"I want the freedom for all American women to have complete control over their own bodies and for them all to be free to make life-changing decisions in consultation with their doctors -- and not have a bunch of old male politicians in the room."


   Free to be, free to love

Republicans have been leaning into this one hard, so lean right back!

"I want the freedom to be whomever I want to be and to love whomever I want to love without the government telling me I can't. Period."


   Free and easy

Republicans are getting more and more outrageous, as they desperately try to cling to power by suppressing votes.

"I wan the freedom to vote -- to freely and easily cast my ballot -- without having to jump through a lot of completely unnecessary hoops. Democrats want everyone to be able to vote as easily as possible, while Republicans keep trying to make it harder and harder."


   I want democracy to work

Also an important point to make, with Trump still running for office.

"I want the freedom to know that the government won't be overrun with thugs if one side loses an election. I want the freedom to live in a country where all sides condemn the use of violence in politics. Sadly, for the first time in a very long time, this is no longer universally true. I want the freedom that comes from knowing that democracy in America actually works."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


15 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Some Cautious Optimism”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In foreign policy news, today it was announced that Biden has approved sending cluster munitions to the Ukrainians, to use against the Russian invaders. The Russians have been using these weapons against the Ukrainians, so this might level the battlefield a bit.

    Both Ukraine and Russia have been using cluster bombs in this war. Now, the use of these weapons by both sides is set to increase.

    Why is the US sending them? Because Ukraine and its many suppliers, including the many US depots, are all running very low on conventional weapons. What does THAT mean?

  2. [2] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    About Rep. Green's expulsion from the so-called Freedom Caucus, you wrote that 'You read that right: M.T.G. is so batcrap-crazy that even the GOP's "extreme crazy caucus" couldn't take it anymore.'

    Ah, that's an odd take. Every other piece of political analysis I've read on this latest House GOP clownery says that M.T.G. was expelled because she had become too closely aligned with Speaker McCarthy and the dreaded RINO mainstream House membership. In other words, the "extreme crazy" Freedom Caucus believes she is insufficiently batcrap-crazy to be part of their group anymore.

    Is there any way to find out which is the correct interpretation of this action of "a bunch of useless loonies"?

  3. [3] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Nice set of talking points around a common theme, Chris!

    It's a reminder of the Four Freedoms advocated by one of our greatest Presidents:
    ' In an address .. [FDR] proposed four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy:

    Freedom of speech
    Freedom of worship
    Freedom from want
    Freedom from fear'

  4. [4] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    I agree with this week's MIDOW, both in substance and as a messaging coup.

    Two other Democratic governors deserve at least an honorable mention for MIDOW.

  5. [5] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    First honorable mention for MIDOW:
    'During the waning days of Louisiana’s legislative session, lawmakers passed a series of controversial bills: a ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors that includes puberty-blockers, hormone treatment and surgery; a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that broadly bars teachers from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in public school classrooms; and a measure requiring public school teachers to use the pronouns and names that align with what students were assigned at birth. Edwards vetoed all three bills.

    Edwards — who is in his final six months of office, unable to seek reelection this year due to consecutive term limits — has repeatedly described the bills as wrong, divisive and targeting a vulnerable group of people.'

  6. [6] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Second honorable mention for MIDOW:
    'Adults in Arizona can now obtain contraceptive medications over the counter at a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription under a governor’s order announced Thursday.
    “We are building an Arizona for everyone, which means ensuring people across the state have what they need to live a free and healthy life,” the Democratic governor [Gov. Katie Hobbs] said in a statement. '

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Oxidized Italian [3]

    Re. FDR's "Freedoms"

    I understand freedoms of 'action' (speech, practice of religion, etc.), but the concept of freedoms 'FROM' externalities (want, fear, and similar unpleasantries) seems to imply that somebody else be burdened with the responsibility for your happiness, or at least for the prevention of any unhappiness for you.

    What could possibly justify the imposition of those burdens on others, and who gets to decide who those 'others' are?

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the framers of the constitution had an answer to that question, and they put it in article I of the constitution.

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    pardon, the preamble is not technically part of article I, i was simultaneously wrangling a toddler and attempting to talk to a spouse as i was writing.

    anyhow, WE THE PEOPLE (that's who) established the constitution to form a more perfect union (better government), establish justice (i.e. courts), ensure domestic tranquility (cops, social services), provide for the common defense (armed forces), promote the general welfare (that's why they call it that), and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity (protect us from losing the freedoms we've gained, regardless whether it's OF something or FROM something).

    i know it's a logical fallacy to appeal to authority, but that's literally what the constitution said our country is for.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I haven't completely lost faith in the 'promise of America' and many of your posts here are one important reason why.

  11. [11] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    CRS on [7]
    Who will be burdened with ensuring FDR's general freedoms 'from' something, whether want or fear? It's called 'taxes' and 'government', as nypoet22 also explains pretty clearly.

    Now I know that, as you suggest, one might not agree that police are a necessary part of any government, or courts of law and a military establishment. One also might not agree that welfare programs, retirement insurance, public housing, and nationalized medicine are a necessary part of government. One might even not agree that nationalized industry and capital markets are a necessary part of government.
    But where the line is to be drawn is hardly obvious. FDR drew it at one point, his Republican opponents at another, the democratic socialists of Europe at another, and totalitarian systems like Stalinism and fascism at another.

    So, "who gets to decide?" you ask. It seems to me the people get to decide via a legal, fair, and open democratic process. Could that process get corrupted or hijacked by minority or privileged special interests? Again to me, it seems like it could. Politics is politics, and so there is no one answer to the questions you raise concerning FDR's famous "Four Freedoms", and the more general one about what, exactly, "freedom" means in our political culture.

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    OK guys, all that sounds great! BTW, I'm currently afflicted with a serious "want" for a brand new $60K pickup truck to replace my 30 yr old one. Please relieve me of this "want' problem ASAP!

  13. [13] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    You're going to have to change your voting patterns. The 'free pickups for all' party, which is slightly to the left of Bernie and AOC, hasn't gotten very far at the polls, but maybe you can make the difference for them!

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i'd love a new car too, but you're intentionally conflating the economic definition of "want" from an entirely different lay definition:

    Want (2 of 2 - noun):
    suffers from a want of good sense
    b: grave and extreme poverty that deprives one of the necessities of life

    being probably the only one of us alive in FDR's era, you know full well that 1b is the definition he meant.


  15. [15] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I'm overjoyed that in the internet age somebody else here would have any idea whatsoever what the term "Merriam-Webster" even refers to!

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