It may seem a bit premature to do this considering the official results are not in yet, but I think we have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen. The presidency will be close either way and the Senate will be tighter no matter how the runoff elections turn out. Some coaches are fond of saying that you can have learning moments even in victory. So, let me run through some of mine.
Work to activate hearts and minds and not change hearts and minds
The final vote count will be somewhere between 140 and 145 million. That’s a record, but also a little lower than some people projected. Some pundits thought it would be north of 150 million voters. Who knows how many mail in ballots won’t be counted or how many people would have voted if it not for the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Lincoln Project and other prominent conservatives tried to peel off some of the conservative vote to Biden. You had numerous conservatives endorse Joe Biden and a few (most notably John Kasich) spoke at his convention. At the end, Trump received more votes than any GOP candidate in history and a higher percentage than he did in 2016.
There is a hard core of 40 to 45 percent of voters on each side that aren’t changing no matter what. So, your challenge is to activate not, not to convert them. The other challenge is to get that 15-20 percent in the middle to choose your guy or girl.
Be True to Yourself
A friend shared a blurb about me in the high school newspaper. It asserted that I would become an anarchist when I grew up. During high school Government, one of the girls in my class asserted that I was a communist. Granted, they were both jokes I’m sure, but those two stories stuck with me as I pondered the campaign.
Democrats have been called liberals, socialists, and communists. We avoided nominating Bernie Sanders twice because we were afraid he would be labeled a socialist. So, we nominated two centrists and they were still labeled socialists. Biden desperately tried to cast himself as a centrist, so he even bucked the progressive wing of the Democratic party. It didn’t matter. It still doesn’t. Conservatives on social media and in your inner circle are convinced he is either a socialist or a Trojan horse for socialism. You can fight that narrative if you want, but you aren’t getting very far.
So, remember rule number one. We want to activate hearts and minds and not change them. People that want to call you a socialist are going to call you a socialist. My conservative friends will call me what they want to call me and many already have. You simply state your positions on the issues that matter and let the chips fall where they may.
Pete Buttigieg is probably the model for this and he isn’t even a part of the “socialistic” wing of the party. He went on Fox News numerous times and took it directly to them. Don’t equivocate. Don’t aw shucks your way out. Don’t obfuscate when they call you a socialist on a particular issue. Explain your position. You won’t change many minds, but you might energize some people that already agree with you.
Get Better at Branding
This is what I called issue framing in a previous article. The whole concept of “defunding police” is the absolute worst branding of an issue I have ever seen. I know what their aims are. It makes perfect sense. When I hear “defund” I think of the Purge. That’s what conservatives were able to paint without a whole lot of effort.
We live in a 280 character, 30 second sound byte, internet meme kind of culture. One of the things progressives want to do is show a command of the issues. If I had 30 minutes I could tell you about the merits of any issue. We don’t have 30 minutes. Sometimes we might not even have three. We need to do a better job of communicating ideas in short bursts that will resonate and not scare anyone away.
Project Strength and Confidence
This is something Trump has been good at. Think of the end of a football, basketball, or baseball game. The team in front has that moment when they switch from playing to win to playing not to lose. Football teams go into a prevent defense. Basketball teams go into a stall offense. Baseball teams go to their bullpen and start sweating each out.
So, strength and confidence doesn’t mean going to the authoritarian playbook. It simply means remembering your strengths and continually playing to them. If you look at the majority of the issues, progressives have the advantage. When you remove red and blue labels from policy proposals, the people mostly pick the progressive policy. Whether it is education, health care, the economy, or the pandemic response, they mostly favor progressive policies. Some obviously won’t and some will bellow loudly about how stupid or dangerous it is. We have allowed volume to replace multitude.
At the end of the day, if we assume others will be running in 2024 instead of Biden (assuming one term as his critics have said) this isn’t meant as an endorsement of the more progressive wing of the party. It might mean that, but it more accurately means someone that can communicate their vision with confidence and without worrying what someone else might call them. After all, they will call you that no matter what you do. They have been calling me that for 30 years.