Throwing Verbal Grenades at Trump Won’t Work, but This Might…

Today we examine reports from two highly respected political pundits, one on the right, David Brooks, and one a moderate-left leaning, Heather Cox Richardson.  Together, they suggest a more effective Democratic campaign message that is more dignified than attacks on Trump and likely to be far more effective.

David Brooks on How Dem Attacks on Trump Only Solidify His Support & Divide the Country

First, we consider Brooks’ piece from The New York Times: “Why Is There Still No Strategy to Defeat Donald Trump?” Brooks describes why Democratic attacks on Trump have had almost no impact on GOP polling, GOP leadership, and Trump election prospects.

“One of the stunning facts of the age is the continued prominence of Donald Trump. His candidates did well in the G.O.P. primaries this year. He won more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016. His favorability ratings within his party have been high and basically unchanged since late 2016. In a range of polls, some have actually shown Trump leading President Biden in a race for re-election in 2024.

His prominence is astounding because over the past seven years the American establishment has spent enormous amounts of energy trying to discredit him. Those of us in this establishment correctly identified Trump as a grave threat to American democracy. The task before us was clear. We were never going to shake the hard-core MAGA folks. The job was to peel away independents and those Republicans offended by and exhausted by his antics.

The net effect of these strategies has been to sell a lot of books and subscriptions and to make anti-Trumpists feel good. But this entire barrage of invective has not discredited Trump among the people who will very likely play the most determinant role. It has probably pulled some college-educated Republicans into the Democratic ranks and pushed some working-class voters over to the Republican side.

The New York Times: “Why Is There Still No Strategy to Defeat Donald Trump?

Brooks goes on to describe the various messages used to try to discredit Trump, but then offers:

The barrage has probably solidified Trump’s hold on his party. Republicans see themselves at war with the progressive coastal elites. If those elites are dumping on Trump, he must be their guy.”

The New York Times: “Why Is There Still No Strategy to Defeat Donald Trump?

Brooks concludes that clearly the Dems need a better messaging campaign if they are to prevent major losses in the midterm or, the unthinkable, a Trump return to power. As luck would have it, the piece by Heather Cox Richardson points to what that strategy could and perhaps should be: Biden is able to work with others, even those with whom he disagrees, and through compromise he gets things important things done. Things that matter to American voters.

Heather Cox Richardson:
The Rail Strike Defused, Another Biden Success

Late Thursday news broke that rail carriers and union leaders had reached an agreement to avoid a national rail strike. A rail strike would have been a very big deal. It would have badly snarled the supply chains that are only recently starting to flow again. And supply chain delays impact a good deal of what matters to Americans, affecting everything from the chlorine to purify urban water systems (which is shipped by train), to an array of consumer goods. It was estimated that a rail strike would have cost up to $2 billion a day and likely trigger job losses and spark renewed inflation just as it is appearing to ease. From HCR:

“Like many of the victories President Joe Biden has celebrated during his term, this deal was complicated, requiring the administration to bring together a number of moving pieces. In the 1980s and the 1990s, the U.S. railroad industry consolidated into seven main carriers, which are now making record profits. In 2021, profits for the two largest railroad corporations in the U.S.—the Union Pacific and BNSF—jumped 12% to $21.8 billion and 11.6% to $22.5 billion, respectively.

HCR: ” Letters from an American, Sept. 15, 2022″

But those profits have come from cost-cutting measures that included job losses from an industry that had remained stable for the previous 25 years. Between November 2018 and December 2020, the industry lost 40,000 jobs, most of them among the people who actually operated the trains, as the railroads adopted a new system called Precision Schedule Railroading (PSR). This system made the trains far more efficient by keeping workers on very tight schedules that leave little time for anything but work. Any disruption in those schedules—a family emergency, for example—brought disciplinary action and possible job loss. Although workers got an average of 3 weeks’ vacation and holidays, the rest of their time, including weekends, was tightly controlled, while smaller crews meant more dangerous working conditions.

The kind of overly tight staffing structure may be efficient from management and shareholder perspective, but just as in Amazon warehouses where every movement of workers is monitored, pressure is borne by workers.

Union leaders and railroad management had been negotiating for more than two and a half years for new contracts, making no progress. And so, in July, Biden established a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to try to resolve the differences before the September 16 deadline.

The PEB’s August report called for significant wage increases but kicked down the road the problems associated with PSR. The National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents the railroads, called the report “fair and appropriate”; not all of the 13 involved unions did.

From HCR:

“Thanks to the 1926 Railway Labor Act, Congress can force railroad workers to stay on the job, and that is precisely what Republicans proposed in this crisis: forcing workers to accept the recommendations of the PEB. This had political fire just two months before the midterms, as Republicans were trying to force Biden and the Democrats either to abandon the workers they claim to champion or to accept responsibility for a devastating strike. The railroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and business groups all favored this approach.

The administration put its weight behind negotiations, including not only three cabinet secretaries—Labor Secretary Marty Walsh (who is himself a former union official), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack—as well as Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, but also the president, who worked the phones and got mad that management would not loosen scheduling rules. The details of the deal are not yet published, but it appears to have accepted most of the PEB recommendations on pay, given workers a day of paid sick leave—union leaders wanted 15, up from none—and, apparently, removed the penalties for missing time for illness or medical emergencies, one of the workers’ key demands. The deal is a big deal, but it has not yet been accepted by the union members, who will still be on tight schedules although they can now take unpaid time off for medical emergencies without losing their jobs.”

The deal does, though, highlight that Biden is using the power of the presidency to protect the American people while trying to be fair to labor and management, a system pioneered by Republican president Theodore Roosevelt and adopted afterward by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Republican Dwight Eisenhower, among others. It’s a very different principle than the idea that workers should accept whatever conditions management imposes on them.”

HCR: ” Letters from an American, Sept. 15, 2022″

The Wall Street Journal editorial board yesterday wrote: “You’d think some $5 trillion in new spending by this Congress, much of which will fatten union bottom lines, would be enough to buy some labor peace. If not, Democrats on Capitol Hill have the power to impose another cooling off period so the two sides can negotiate without a strike. Let’s see if Democrats side with their Big Labor allies, or with the U.S. economy that needs the trains to run on time.” Leave it to the Wall St. Journal to pose justified labor demands in opposition to our economy, as if safe, sane working conditions jeopardize our economic future. In short, Biden put significant energy and the power of the presidency to get things done. It is hard to imagine Donald Trump finessing such a difficult deal. Or using finesse in any context. And that is the message Dems should be using during the midterms:

  • We helped the country get through COVID, saving at least hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of lives while providing essential financial support to struggling families and businesses, a stark contrast to Donald Trump, who minimized the pandemic and offered a different remedy of the month, which included drinking bleach.
  • We passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will significantly curb pharmaceutical costs and invest in infrastructure, paying for it by increasing taxes on corporations and the rich. The IRA and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act together provide almost a Trillion dollars in infrastructure investments.
  • We restored some semblance of dignity to public debate on the issues, turning down the temperature in Congress and the nation.

Those are talking points that the GOP can’t easily rebut. Yes, the IRA is flawed, but facing a Congressional straightjacket and an intransigent Sen. Manchin, it was either the IRA or nothing. Biden worked to get the best deal possible, hoping to shore up Dem. Power with some unexpected Midterm wins and go for more in 2023. And he didn’t call Manchin or anyone else an idiot.

And for those of us on the left and for less compromising environmentalists, the only way to get better bills is to send Senators Sanders and Warren and Reps. AOC, Jayapal, Lee, and Omar some reinforcements. NM has a candidate who precisely fits that role — Gabe Vasquez — and he is holding a slim, risky lead in his race against Yvette Herrell. And for all you ABQ readers, I was told by Gabe that 38% of the Democratic votes in CD 2 are in Bernalillo County. And for Santa Fe readers, that is just an hour drive. By the time you read this, I’ll be in Albuquerque canvassing for Gabe. There are lots of options for helping:

Not able to canvass? There are opportunties to make calls from your couch. These calls are critical to getting out the vote. 

In solidarity & hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: National Politics

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1 reply

  1. Brooks, Richardson and Gibson write with wisdom. However dire our situation, and I think it more perilous than anyone imagines, what you counsel aims for resolution that will enable us to face crises. NM2 has had some outstanding Democratic figures like Rocky and Xochi. Gabe, however, represents lessons learned from those leaders. His is an authentic New Mexican voice that interprets our current needs with honesty and intelligence.

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