Democrats desperate to keep hope alive


Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Democrats desperate to keep hope alive

DEMOCRATS DESPERATE TO KEEP HOPE ALIVE. President Joe Biden said he is optimistic about the Democratic Party’s chances in the midterm elections. “Folks, I’m not buying the notion that we’re in trouble,” Biden told the crowd at a party fundraiser in Chicago Friday night. “I really mean it. … I think we’re going to keep the House and we’re going to keep the Senate.”

What else can the president do? He can’t very well say, “You know, I think we’re going to get clobbered Tuesday.” So he puts on a confident face, which is probably what Democratic voters want him to do, even though they know it’s not the real story.

Biden is backed up by a few Democrats, and some in the media, who are insisting that the apparent increase in Republican momentum is not real. Perhaps chief among them is Simon Rosenberg, a Bill Clinton campaign veteran now running the New Democrat Network, who has emerged as his party’s chief optimist this election cycle.

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On Sunday, Rosenberg tweeted: “Dems are kicking ass in the early vote. Non-partisan media polls show close, competitive race. Red wave may come, but it’s not here yet. Despite it all, we’ve got a shot.” Later, he tweeted, “You think Rs getting worried about their s***ty performance in the early vote? Should be.” On Friday, Rosenberg joined other influential Democrats in a podcast titled, “The Myth of the Red Wave: Encouraging Signs the Pundits Have Missed Leading to the Election.”

Rosenberg has also led Democratic critics of polling. “In six major battleground states, more than half the polls conducted in October have been conducted by Republican firms,” he told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Oct. 31. “That means that, basically, we can’t trust the data on RealClearPolitics or FiveThirtyEight any longer because it’s essentially Republican propaganda.” That is not true, but it is the kind of thing that comes from both parties. Anyone who has hung around Republican campaigns and heard staffers trashing the polls, incorrectly in 2012 and correctly in 2016, has heard talk like that.

Indeed, anyone who has covered politics or participated in a faltering campaign can empathize with the desperate search for good news, for someone who says that things are not as bleak as they seem.

Some Democrats are taking hope from an article on FiveThirtyEight in which the election analyst Nate Silver created a conversation between himself and an imaginary Democratic strategist. “The truth is, nobody knows how this election is going to turn out,” the strategist said. “Right now, the take everyone wants is ‘Republicans are going to win.'” That has been a key talking point on the Left recently — it’s impossible to read the election correctly, so all the talk about a red wave, or even a narrow Republican victory, is unfounded.

When Silver protested — “Turn on MSNBC and you’ll see plenty of hopium for Democrats about early voting and turnout,” he said — the imaginary strategist said that he, the strategist, had himself once been gloomy about Democratic prospects. But then he went to Kansas and saw voters energized against the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. “Things changed after Roe was overturned,” he said.

Silver reminded the strategist that that was months ago. “I’m telling you we’re not in Kansas anymore,” he said. “I’m telling you that Democrats’ position has deteriorated since then. You hold this election in August, and yeah, I think Democrats keep the Senate and maybe even the House. But the polls have been pretty clear in showing a Republican rebound.”

That’s where Rosenberg’s the-polls-are-corrupt theory comes in. It gives Democrats emotional options. A politically passionate Democrat looking for strength and solace can believe that abortion will still power the party to victory. Or he can believe that the polls showing that abortion has faded as an issue are rigged. Or he can believe that the Democrats’ new, final-days pitch, that voting for Republicans would mean the end of American democracy, will scare enough voters into supporting Democrats.

The point is, there is always something to believe. And some Democrats will embrace anything in the final hours before the election.

Meanwhile, there’s an update on Friday’s newsletter, the one that said, “Welcome to the hysterical stage of the 2022 campaign.” Things are working out exactly as predicted. After Biden sought to make the election a choice between voting for Democrats and ending American democracy, some high-profile officials and talking heads chimed in to agree. And then, a very senior Democrat, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), took things to their inevitable conclusion by playing “The Hitler Card.”

“This is what happens in a country that follows what happened in Germany in the early ’30s,” Clyburn told Fox News. “This country is on track to repeat what happened in Germany when it was the greatest democracy going, elected a chancellor who then co-opted the media, and that’s what’s going on in this country. That is what will lead to the destruction of this democracy.”

Appearing a couple of days later on Fox News Sunday, Clyburn did not back down. “The facts are very clear,” he said. “I studied history all of my life. I taught history, and I’m telling you, what I see here are parallels to what the history was in this world back in the 1930s in Germany, in Italy.”

That’s what the hysterical stage of the campaign is all about. People either lose their heads and say things they don’t really mean, or they say things they know are ridiculous because they hope it will bring their party some advantage. Either way, crazy stuff gets said. And this election is having quite a hysterical stage.

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