I spent the last few days recovering from a hell of a case of food poisoning, and I have to say, sweating out a fever and losing all the fluids imaginable led to some weapons-grade nightmares, one of which troubled me in a kind of bespoke, only-this-guy way. I dreamed that Trump was taking the platform again in January of 2024, smug and glistening, holding up his hand and taking the oath of office for a second time.
This article is in the tough love category, which, to be frank, is the best kind of love in politics. Too often, people treat political alliances as a matter of overly delicate politesse, a careful dance around the flaws and shortcomings of members of your coalition. This happens more in the Democratic political space, given that my former party loves hierarchy like a dog loves a bone.
Resting on their 2022 laurels
The forces of democracy and decency held the Senate, key governors’ mansions, and vital secretaries-of-state positions. It’s a win and deserves to be celebrated.
Now, get back to work.
First, the GOP took the House, and the shitshow about to prevail in the lower chamber will be one for the ages. It’s going to get loud, ugly, distracting, and vicious.
Next, despite the GOP’s terrible, horrible, misfit-toy parade of candidates, they still came within a few hundred thousand votes nationally of taking the Senate. Despite spending over $180 million dollars in Georgia, Raphael Warnock barely…barely….made it past Herschel Walker, who is unarguably the Platonic ideal of a flawed candidate.
In Florida, the deficiencies of the state Democratic Party operation were both evident and inexcusable. Perhaps -- just a thought -- the national party needs to invest in giving the third-largest state in the nation some resources and guidance.
Gen-Z voters gave the Democrats the 2024 win in key states and races; they’d better see some actual organizing love. Democrats are learning the painful lesson that taking African American and Hispanic voters for granted is a political death wish. They’d be wise not to make the same mistake with Gen-Z.
At the state level, spend more time and money on voter registration and redistricting. The first is simple blocking and tackling. It’s not sexy, but the GOP is flooding the zone on this. The second is likely only accomplished by pushing redistricting ballot measures in GOP states, legal action, and in some places, legislative programs. Want to break MAGA? Break the hold redistricting has on the GOP, where the negative incentives to draw more and more edge-case districts are massive.
The Policy Addiction
The big ballgame this cycle wasn’t decided on inflation or prescription drug coverage or the rest of the conventional wisdom bullshit that the media loves. It was about the issue the DC democrats eye-rolled and laughed at for months: democracy. “No one cares,” they opined endlessly.
The temptation will be powerful to try to push Senate bills on climate and gun control, and the rest of the things consultants imagine will be the sexy issue in 2024.
First, those bills are going nowhere except the political killing fields of the House. Second, the political utility of symbolic legislation is asymptotically approaching zero. In the Before Times, saying, “I sponsored the Puppies and Kittens Protection Act” worked because there was no Google. People saw DC as an arcane black box. Today, show bills with no hope of passage make your voters more cynical rather than less so.
So long as Donald Trump breathes air into his lungs, the 2024 race will be about him. This isn’t debatable or arguable; it’s a fact of basic American political physics. Every legislative action should be to highlight the MAGA takeover of the GOP, its insanity, cruelty, and lawlessness. The rest is noise, at best.
Not Playing The Game They’re In
2023 is the year of battlefield preparation. The GOP knows this. The MAGA base knows this. The vast, crapulous enterprise of their mighty media Wurlitzer knows this. The only people who seem not to fully grasp this yet are the Democrats.
The House will perform one function in 2023; to be the center of endless show trials, witch hunts, circle-jerk investigations to feed the ravenous maw of the Fox media vortex.
Democrats will not win over a single wavering Republican voter with doe-eyed pressers saying, “We’re so disappointed the GOP won’t back the Toilet Seat Safety Bill and are instead pursuing a political witch hunt of Hunter Biden’s laptop.” Stop it. The correct phrasing is: “Jim Jordan wants to show America Hunter’s dick pics in a live hearing.”
Hold up the mirror of MAGA insanity to the Bannon Line cohort of educated GOP voters and make them own it. The Lincoln Project does this every day, to powerful effect. Steal the play, Democrats. It works.
The most important thing Chuck Schumer can do in the Senate is to provide a counterweight to the spectacle of the House. If you think that means sober and boring, think again. Spectacle matters. It’s the real realm of politics in the attention economy.
Besides, if the Senate isn’t dragging the crapulous apparat of the authoritarian movement -- Bannon, Stone, Eastman, Patel, Jones, et al before committees, why even have a majority?
You don’t have to like it, but unless and until you’re ready to play the game, you’ll hear the same sad song over and over again; “Why are we so bad at messaging? How do Republicans get people to buy this crazy garbage? Why is Fox so powerful?”
The 2024 race is on. 2023 will decide much of the political landscape for that titanic battle. Let’s get it right.
Coming Next: The 3 Big Mistakes the GOP Will Make in 2023