By Robert Reich
Biden’s advisers are saying that the crisis in Ukraine presents a chance for a reset — Biden’s best opportunity to restore his standing before the November midterms.
But what’s the message for the reset?
Despite falling coronavirus positivity rates, a bipartisan infrastructure package, and rising employment numbers — and even foreign policy leadership — Biden’s approval ratings remain in the 40s. With inflation soaring and gas prices spiking, the Democrats could soon find themselves in the basement.
Biden’s advisers point to the State of the Union address — which emphasized pragmatism over bold progressive goals — as a blueprint for his message in coming months. They note that, according to their research, cutting drug costs was among the most popular proposals in the speech. But this is a policy, not a message.
The problem isn’t just Biden. To Democrats, a “message” consists of policies they’ve enacted or want to enact. Republicans don’t bother with policies. For seventy years they’ve stayed relentlessly “on message” with a narrative about Democrats as socialists and communists who want to take away peoples’ freedoms. More recently they’ve also used thinly-veiled racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia to suggest that Democrats are allowing the nation to be taken over by “them.”
Democrats offer white papers and they talk in paragraphs. Republicans offer fearful stories and talk in bumper stickers.
Republicans have their own message problems, of course. As long as the former guy retains his grip on the GOP, Democrats have a chance to remind up-for-grabs voters what is at stake this year and beyond.