What drives this perception that Democrats are fixated on cultural issues?
We probably haven’t been as focused on the economy as we should be. I think some of that is voters reading us talking about things that aren’t economic issues. Part of it is just a natural reaction, too: We’re in an economy they feel is tough. It’s hard for them to think we’ve solved problems when they see so many.
How do Democrats balance a commitment to core constituencies while at the same time addressing economic issues that voters are confronting every day?
The No. 1 issue for women right now is the economy, and the No. 1 issue for Black voters is the economy, and the No. 1 issue for Latino voters is the economy. I’m not advocating for us ignoring social issues, but when we think broadly about voters, they actually all want us talking about the economy and doing things to help them out economically.
So what can Democrats do going into the midterms?
A big part of the problem was that people didn’t feel they knew enough about McAuliffe and what he had done. Governors, in particular, during Covid were on TV all the time, talking to people about Covid. So it’s all anybody knows of what they’ve done. So you need to tell your story about what you’ve been doing, to the press and in paid communications, outside of Covid. And that applies to members of Congress, state legislators, everyone on down.
Is there any silver lining to be found for Democrats?
If the country is in a better place next year, we’re likely to be rewarded for that. Voters are responding to real-world frustrations; this isn’t some manufactured narrative.
I want to cite a few things from your memo that struck me, one of which was that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which became law in March, may as well not exist.
Voters don’t remember things. They have short attention spans. One bright spot, though: If we have an economy that voters feel like is starting to pick up, being able to point back and remind them, “Hey I did XYZ, and that really got things rolling.”
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