It is folly for progressives to avoid the obvious: The reason they are far from achieving their policy aims goes beyond the notion that moderate Democrats are clods who can’t play the game. There are many places in the country where progressives need better arguments to reach people who don’t currently support their goals.
The post-election memo by four progressive groups — New Deal Strategies, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement and Data for Progress — came closer to the mark than Ocasio-Cortez’s interview. It called for a new set of policy and rhetorical appeals that seek to merge the Black Lives Matter message with an economic message that would also appeal to less-prosperous and less-educated whites who have been attracted to Trump. There is not abundant evidence that this can be successful, but it is at least more attuned to the genuine challenge than scolding fellow Democrats for not being with it on Facebook.
Ocasio-Cortez has earned the right to lecture moderate Democrats like Conor Lamb on how to connect with a rising generation of impatient progressives. Lamb has earned the right to lecture Ocasio-Cortez on how to take a seat that used to be held by Republicans and put it in the Democratic column. But a more promising strategy likely would put listening before lecturing.
“What planet is she on?” a veteran Democratic operative scoffed to me over the AOC interview, which he took as denying the reality that movements like “defund the police,” even while at the fringes of Democratic politics, were a serious headwind in many places that the party urgently needs to win to hold power.
It was a rhetorical question. But let’s answer it seriously. She is on a political planet where she is amply rewarded for her uncommon skill at framing issues in bold terms, for her stylish spontaneity, for her comfort with political combat, for her instinct to open her sails rather than trim them.
What planet is Conor Lamb on? He’s on a political planet where Democrats can’t win unless they constantly practice the politics of reassurance, and he’s been amply rewarded for his self-discipline and skill in softening sharp edges that can be used as a knife against him.
Although the liberal media won’t admit it, there’s a deliberate effort to try to discourage evangelicals from voting and being involved. That’s why we’re seeing an almost daily rehashing of Trump’s past. Americans can’t make it through a half-hour of cable news without hearing about the president’s behavior back in 2006. They can’t open a newspaper without another columnist shaming Christians for supporting Trump. That’s by design. Liberals know that if they can shame evangelicals for supporting this president, they can suppress their enthusiasm. Their aim is to translate that into a decline of our record participation in 2016. If that decline happens — even a little bit — they can retake Congress. And they understand as well as we do that if Republicans lose either chamber, the president’s conservative agenda is as good as dead
Perkins repeats a version of the old “mulligan” argument. I have addressed this in multiple places, including here and here and here and here.
Perkins devalues evangelical voters. He makes it sound as if they are too easily swayed by the media and are incapable of making up their own mind. This might be true (i.e. Fox News), but usually it is those on the Left who say this about conservative evangelicals.
Perkins is engaging in the usual paranoia and scare tactics that we usually see from the court evangelicals. Perkins knows that the success of his message is dependent upon his ability to cultivate fear in ordinary evangelicals. I develop this point more fully in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. (Don’t forget to pre-order!)
I don’t know how many evangelicals in this special election voted for Democrat Conor Lamb, but I would guess that many did. These evangelicals sent a message to people like Tony Perkins and Donald Trump. Perkins assumes that Lamb beat Rick Saccone because evangelicals did not come out and vote. But what if Lamb beat Saccone because evangelicals did come out and vote and in the process rejected Trump’s agenda?