As expected, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill passed the House and was sent to the President's desk late on Friday. It didn't happen without some challenges, not least of which, was the fact that 6 Dems voted against it. I've read various assessments as to what the political dynamics were surrounding this dissent on the part of the progressive caucus. Whilst I'm mildly disappointed at their position, I do understand why they did it and respect speaker Pelosi for allowing them a conscience vote. There has been much debate on social media about their failure to support the bill and I'm sure the GOP will use it to try and grab the news cycle, but that's politics.
I read AOC's comments on the still pending Build Back Better bill and I think it safe to say that in an ideal world, the progressives would have got everything they wanted. However, we don't live in an ideal world and in politics, compromise is the name of the game. I accept that progressives feel they have had to do all the compromising and that is really down to one simple fact. There aren't enough progressives to deliver their entire agenda and even if there were enough of them in the House, the Senate still remains an obstacle. Big tent political parties face a much bigger challenge than say the GOP, simply because Republicans operate within a much narrower political ideology. It has always been a challenge for Democratic presidents to bring their party together and in many ways, that's healthy for democracy. However, there's no question it does put them at a disadvantage when fighting the Republican agenda.
However much progressives think there is a groundswell of social democrats in the country, the US has the word 'moderate' baked into its DNA. Decades of an ever creeping shift to the right, makes it very difficult to shake off the fear of communism instilled during the cold war. The size of the current progressive caucus is an indication that slow change is taking place. The one thing social democrats around the world are guilty of is 'impatience', their movement is by its very nature revolutionary and revolutions are all about swift radical change. The only thing that is happening swiftly is the 'radical' label that the right has stuck on the movement. John Lewis was no stranger to revolution, but he would be the first to tell you that change is a slow painful and even sometimes deadly process. The Biden agenda would be considered political suicide 20 years ago. Whilst his left of centre policy agenda is not radical enough for many progressives, it is a reflection of a public shift to be more open to socially responsible government. However, there's still a long way to go. I do agree though, this moderate default could be shifted significantly by young voters. The only problem is, they often talk a good talk, but when it comes to walking the walk, for some reason, many disengage. It has to be said that members like AOC are definitely pivotal in making politics appeal to young voters.
If you would expect any demographic to embrace socially responsible government, it would be women and yet, many suburban women remain firmly planted in the centre/centre right ground. That remains a mystery to me, but it seems to be supported by recent polling and it certainly played a role in Terry McCauliffe's defeat in Virginia. The takeaway from that loss and also the close run in New Jersey for Phil Murphy, was that Republicans are quietly looking for a Trump alternative that will represent their deep held Republican values. It is a fascinating political dynamic that is fraught with challenges for the Dems.
Anyway, less of the whys and wherefores, where do we go from here? When Biden passed the American Rescue Plan, it was a $2 trillion investment to put America back on its feet. At the time, I feel that Dems were lulled into a false sense of security. They felt they were in the home stretch and that once they fired up the economy, it would be plain sailing. They could not have been more wrong. Putting aside the avalanche of chaos, disinformation and obstruction thrown at the voters by the GOP, the Delta variant of COVID 19 brought a new wave of pain and disruption. I'll not dwell on the Afghanistan withdrawal, or the border crisis, other than to say, this blizzard of negatives literally buried any messaging about the benefits of the American Rescue Plan. A $2 trillion rescue package that did a huge amount of good and cut child poverty in half, is now a messaging footnote in the bargain bucket of political achievement. It was a criminal missed opportunity to highlight the good that was delivered to a nation on its knees, following the genocidal rampage of the previous administration. Democrats can NOT allow this to happen again. This time, democracy itself is on the line in 2022.
The Infrastructure bill and Build Back Better are HUGE transformative investments that have the opportunity to really change public thinking on the role of government. However, to shift the narrative, the messaging must be absolutely on point. The key, is to create messaging that breaks down the elements of the bill into bite sized emotionally connective ads. It's important to help voters understand government is not the enemy and it can be a societal force for good. Given that any messaging will be fighting against a blizzard of misdirection, misinformation and fear delivered by the GOP, it has to be world class to break through.
As an example of the possibilities, I am introducing a series of short ads this week called 'This is'. I want to try and demonstrate that you can sell a connective message whilst at the same time taking firm aim at the Republican agenda. I rather suspect that they have created a monster in the name "Brandon' that will provide an ironic twist very very difficult to counter. I want to embrace Brandon and shift the literal message to the Democratic agenda with some simple ads that cleverly allow us to use their message to help us whilst at the same time hurt them.
Keep an eye out this week for the first ad and let's catch up tomorrow to discuss the bigger picture and the way forward as we sell what is a historical investment in the fabric and families of America. 'Yes we did' and 'Now we can'. Stay safe out there.