Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Opinion | The analyst who saw through 2022’s red mirage has a prediction for Biden 2024

Opinion | The analyst who saw through 2022’s red mirage has a prediction for Biden 2024

Throughout the 2022 elections, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg offered up a counterintuitive diagnosis: Confident GOP predictions of a “red wave” weren’t just wrong, they were designed to deenergize Democratic voters with “negative sentiment.” He insisted Democrats would ignore this script and that MAGA extremism would alienate the mainstream.

Rosenberg was vindicated when Democrats vastly overperformed expectations last year. Abortion rights fired up Democratic voters, and MAGA’s hostility toward democracy and embrace of Donald Trump drove swing voters away from the GOP, puncturing the red-wave fantasy.

Now, with President Biden announcing his reelection bid, Rosenberg is similarly arguing that despite Biden’s age and anemic approval ratings, he is in a strong position to win in 2024 — and possibly win big.

For that to be the case, Rosenberg must be right about his core idea: Despite pundits’ tendency to overestimate MAGA, its rise has given Democrats a major opening to expand their coalition.

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I talked with Rosenberg, who writes the Hopium Chronicles newsletter on Substack, about his optimism for 2024. (Disclosure: he’s a friend.) An edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.

You write that Biden’s argument for reelection is simple: He’s done a good job, and the country is better off. Yet you also acknowledge that Democrats are underwater on the economy. It seems as if Democrats aren’t really confident that Biden’s economic agenda is really a selling point going into 2024. Can they turn that around?

I think this is work that’s not done. But this work can get done during the campaign. The facts are that the country is better off. We’ve come out on the other side of covid. We’ve seen the lowest peacetime unemployment rate since World War II, the lowest poverty and uninsured rates in American history. We’ve made future-oriented investments in infrastructure and tackling climate change. There’s an enormous amount to work with here.

Do you think that some of these big climate and infrastructure investments — which are going to spur green manufacturing jobs in some very red places — can shift the paradigm on how working-class White people view climate change and government spending?

There’s no question that our orientation this cycle should be around geographic and demographic expansion. This is not a time to be defensive. In 2022, we saw Democrats grow their vote percentages in seven battleground states. We just got all the way up to 55 percent in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. Republicans and MAGA have left a lot of political real estate for us to go claim if we are aggressive about it.

Abortion clearly shifted the playing field in some of these places, and so did the MAGA extremism of some of the GOP candidates. You seem to be suggesting that to grow further, just campaigning on abortion rights and attacking MAGA extremism isn’t enough: There has to be something more proactive and positive to really expand the coalition.

It’s important that our goal is not just to win the election but to have it feel like a profound repudiation of MAGA.

The reason we need to do what you’re describing — which is to go into places that weren’t available to us before — is that we need this victory to be as big as possible. It’s essential to loosening the dark grip of MAGA over the Republican Party.

We got to 59 percent in Colorado in 2022. We got to 57 percent in Pennsylvania. We got to 55 percent in Michigan. We’ve demonstrated that in the current political environment, we can grow the coalition. This has to be the driving goal of the party this cycle.

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One big obstacle to that coalition growth project is that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tends to fare better against President Biden among college-educated Whites than Donald Trump does. If DeSantis can energize the MAGA base while partially reversing the educational realignment that Trump ushered in, that’s a major problem, no?

Possibly. First, DeSantis has to win the primary, which doesn’t look very likely at this point. Second, he has to bring the Republican coalition together, which would require political skill that I don’t know that he possesses.

Third, he would somehow have to obscure the rightward lurch he just went through in the current legislative session — the six-week abortion ban, the permitless carry, the assaults on public education and diversity. This legislative session has cemented him as an extremist. There’s no way that they’re going to be able to reposition him over the next year and a half.

Speaking of DeSantis’s rightward lurch, Biden’s reelection video cites GOP book bans and attacks on LGBTQ rights as threats to American freedom and equality. Yet Democrats often refrain from challenging right-wing culture-warring, as if they believe those are losing issues. Does the Democratic Party have a liberal cultural answer to DeSantis?

I think it’s still yet unarticulated and undeveloped. I think it’s still immature. From this video, it’s very clear that Joe Biden is going to go there. By doing that, he’s going to create a permission structure for the whole Democratic Party to follow him.

This work really does have to be done, right?

It’s my view that the energy that generated this anti-woke boomlet on the right is dissipating. It was really a late-covid manifestation, and as covid has receded in people’s lives, the conditions that created that conversation have evaporated.

The Republican argument looks today even more preposterous and ridiculous. Which gives us far more running room to go contest it. Democrats need to go on offense on these issues.

Everyone covered the Democratic Party being in a defensive crouch last year. Now we’re talking about expansion. I can’t tell you how fired up the Democratic grass roots is right now. People are ready to fight.

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