• (Biden’s) campaign has cautiously been exploring new ways to keep supporters active but the Democratic frontrunner is still grappling with how to adapt to the new challenges. His first live-streamed town hall, on 13 March, was hampered by audio and technical difficulties. “I’m sorry this has been such a disjointed effort here because of the connections,” Biden said.
  • He then seemed to fade from the national stage, eclipsed by Trump’s daily White House coronavirus briefings and by governors including Andrew Cuomo, whose daily updates on the toll of the crisis in New York have become must-watch TV for many Americans.            The Guardian, March 28
  • We will figure out how to put together a general election campaign for this difficult time,” Biden senior advisor Anita Dunn. He’s started to consider possibilities for a running mate. But no vetting process has begun in earnest.
  • Biden’s campaign has little choice but to embrace an unprecedented political purgatory. Associated Press, March 19

After failing to use its primary season to combat the relentless attacks on its principles and history, the Democratic Party now seems to be waiting for something that has long since disappeared from presidential politics: a “campaign season.” Joe Biden is apparently “waiting,” to develop a campaign.

Trump’s Republican Party campaigns every single day. Every turn in the news cycle is an opportunity to attack the Democratic Brand (socialist, do nothing, dangerous, crazy) and its presumptive nominee. This often requires astounding feats of illogic and disengenousness but the effort is relentless and effective.

By contrast every single day the Republican Senate and President offers the Democrats a smorgasbourd of outrageous, corrupt, illegal and incompetent actions and statements that would only require the Democrats to tell the truth to effectively attack the Republican Brand. And yet, national level Democrats scratch their heads, “hmmm, how might we develop a campaign?”

If the GOP attacks the “Democrat” brand as “leftist” and “socialist” the presidents tweets and rallies/press conferences, and the ridiculously inept reponse to COVID-19 underscores the key aspects of what should be a relentless Democratic portrayal of the “Republic” (why not?) Party: incompetent, risking public health, hostile to a free press, shoveling money to corporations that lay off workers, corrupt, divisive, racist, etc.

The Democrats were unable or unwilling to do this work as it sorted through two dozen candidates. If they squander the spring and summer, waiting for the “general election campaign season” it may be too late. The President is a master at preemptively undermining the credibility of his opponents. And it is highly likely that if the Democrats wait till August to get serious the President will be able to derail those efforts by creating an event or taking an action that will swamp whatever belated message the Democrats try to send. (After Ukraine is there any doubt that he would create a crisis overseas if it would secure his re-election? In light of his preoccupation with the 2016 election and his previous public statements, is there any doubt that in a close election he would “uncover plots” designed to elect the Democrat, and suggest that his (disproportionately well armed) supporters should defend America from dangerous socialists?)

So the time is now. Of course, corporate ownership of news outlets, the institutional advantages of the Presidency, Trump’s skill, and the lack of any meaningful ethical scruples give the Republican party enormous advantages. Only massive media buys and a digital campaign, a Presidential candidate who can use every news cycle to highlight the Republican failures, and a willingness of all Democrats to follow the lead of the themes and vulnerabilities raised by media buys and by their candidate can counter these advantages.

Even this last requirement–that “all democrats follow the lead”–while it has traditionally been a pipe dream, should be acheiveable because there is a huge expanse of consensus territory that doesn’t require progressives and centrists to agree on the details of health care policy: STOP hiring chemical and oil industry executives who allow dangerous toxins into rivers and streams; CONFRONT Russian interference in American elections; STOP rolling back climate change initiatives; ; STOP the Soviet syle purges of those who respect the law and RESTORE respect for science and evidence based government.

This list could go on for pages and pages and that doesn’t count literally hundreds of opportunities to simply show a film clip of the President telling an outrageous lie or making another incendiary or garbled statement blaming others or accusing people of disloyalty, followed by the tag line “Vote Democrat.” I know that some of this is going on now, and I presume (or perhaps pray) that the Democrats are smart enough to mine the treasure trove of consensus material but if most markets see nothing till late summer I think we can all hear the proverbial person in the street dismissing it as “that’s just politics–both parties do the same thing.” The time is now: Americans are spending more time than usual in front of TV sets and devices. Unfortunately, I must close with one of the scariest quotes of recent weeks from a reflective Joe Biden:

“My whole focus has basically been how we deal with this crisis, and quite frankly, thus far it’s been less about how we campaign or make stark differences between the President and I,” he said. “I think some are just self-evident.” CNN POLITICS, March 21.

This is a recipe for disaster. If we have learned anything from the Trump term in office is that NO IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES ARE SELF-EVIDENT. Brietbart and the New York Times are equally reliable, the Ukraine is just as likely to be the source of 2016 election interference as Russia, the President’s hunches about the virus get as much play as medical science.

Joe Biden is imagining an earlier time, when there were widely respected arbiters of facts, where a rough consensus could form regarding a politician’s accumulated record of truth telling and integrity.  Those days are gone. 

If there is a reason for hope it lies in Democrats at the state and local level. Everyone I know who is organizing at the county and precint level, or working on local and state campaigns understand how high the stakes are and are fully engaged now. So this column is not a call to turn away from the party but to expand your participation. We can only hope that the putative national “leadership” may yet learn from the foot soldiers.

CCDP Chair: chair@charlestondemocrats.com

Volunteer Info: volunteer@charlestondemocrats.com

News & Events: newsletter@charlestondemocrats.com

Precinct Leaders: precinct@charlestondemocrats.com

Charleston Peninsula: chspeninsuladems@gmail.com

James Island/Folly Beach: JIFBdems@gmail.com

Johns Island/Wadmalaw: mm.mcd5040@gmail.com

North Area: ncharlestongotv@gmail.com

West Ashley: westashleydemocrats@gmail.com

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