If you aren’t telling your story, your story is going to be told for you. I mention this in nearly every speech to highlight the importance of being proactive in crafting and sharing your own identity and narrative for impressionable audiences. Another oft-repeated and true statement is “No story, no sale!”
Unfortunately, according to a revealing new CBS poll, the public isn’t buying what the Democrats are selling. The poll revealed that only 10 percent of Americans say they know the specifics about Biden’s Build Back Better plan—extra points for alliteration!—which Democrats have repeatedly said is the critical centerpiece of his domestic agenda. Awesome. Perhaps there is some lateral thinking and unorthodox strategy at play where Democrats expect voters to “guess” or telepathically know how this bold plan will transform their lives?
It’s easy to blame an obstructionist and extremist GOP, media outlets thirsting for sensationalism and Trump, and an exhausted and fickle majority. However, in order to have any chance of success, the Biden administration and Democrats need to stop behaving like nerdy policy wonks, stop blaming the Squad, and instead learn to create and deliver an accessible message around their otherwise popular policies.
The most successful talking points around President Biden’s plan and his proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package are currently crafted by Republicans. You must have heard the following by now: “But what about inflation? How will we pay for it? Democrats just spend, spend, spend! Let’s just slow down!” Cable news hosts and columnists repeat it non-stop in their doomsday pieces about Biden’s failed presidency. Meanwhile, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are neither “moderate” nor “centrist,” have instead emerged as the mighty obstructionist duo who have no problem taking money from corporate lobbyists opposed to Biden’s plan to pay for their respective houseboats and Lululemon bags.
So far, only 36 percent of Americans think the plan, which includes funds for childcare, education, health care, and combating climate change, would actually help them and their families. According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll, only 38 percent of the people who received the recent child tax credit credited President Biden, whose administration and party delivered a $300 payment per month for every child under 7 during a pandemic—a program that could potentially “reduce monthly child poverty by up to 40 percent.” When I received $900 in my bank account I felt like it was manna from heaven. I was grateful that Biden won the 2020 election.
However, I’m in the minority and follow the news because I’m a political dork and it’s my job. The majority are more concerned about Jon Gruden’s resignation, the identity of the Masked Singer, and if their son is going to have gay sex with Superman. If you don’t create and communicate the message and gloat about your success, don’t expect the masses to give you any credit.
After the 2020 elections, some “moderate” Democrats blamed the Squad and progressive policies like “defund the police” and labels like “socialist” for their weak performance in the House races, but if you make yourself vulnerable to these ludicrous attacks that’s a reflection on your failure to connect and communicate with voters. If Democrats continue on this path of messaging inertia, Republicans are definitely going to take back Congress, obstruct every one of Biden’s legislative goals, strangle the majority until the inevitable 2024 constitutional crisis, and succeed along with “moderate” Democrats in neutering or killing the Hail Mary bill that could help millions of Americans.
However, don’t start taking ivermectin and beet juice just yet! All is not lost, and there is still time to reverse the course. The poll revealed that when aspects of Biden’s plan are polled separately, they receive massive support. Nearly 88 percent of Americans approve of lowering the price of prescription drugs, which will save lives in a country where Joe Manchin’s daughter helped jack up the price of an Epipen. Seventy-three percent of Americans support paid family and medical leave in the only industrialized country that does not guarantee paid parental leave. Sixty-seven percent want universal preschool and kindergarten, in a nation that’s only seemed to care about children when they’re in the womb.
Only 54 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s plan, but when you just mention Medicare and family leave, that number jumps to 67 percent.
Health care is what helped Democrats take Congress in 2018. Republicans have offered zero plans except killing Obamacare and replacing it with Regeneron, “inshallah,” and death. Why not start with how the plan strengthens Medicare, lowers the price of prescription drugs, and allows for paid parental leave?
Unlike the GOP, which is all white all the time, save an occasional Tim Scott, Democrats can use their diverse body and allies across media and send different messengers to different communities. Democrats need a full media blitzkrieg, right now, with people with the standing to speak for the party and its constituencies appearing on every talk show, cable news channel, radio station, podcast, YouTube channel, hell, even TikToks, to start telling Americans how Biden’s plan will help them and their families. Create easy graphics and videos that can be shared by influencers across social media platforms.
Democrats need to unleash their most powerful weapons: President Biden and Vice President Harris, the duo that won over 81 million votes not even a year ago. When Manchin and Sinema try to say they’re representing the concerns of the “moderate” base, Biden needs to step in and flex and remind everyone that this is his plan, and he’s the moderate who won the election and the party’s nomination over Bernie Sanders, the progressive candidate.
Biden needs to be the Democrats’ best messenger and asset for his own transformational plan. It’s true that he’s no Obama on the stump, and Democrats remain concerned about his gaffes and his long-winded answers, but the majority doesn’t care and voted for him anyway when the alternative was spewing racist invective and verbal diarrhea at rallies across America.
Have Biden appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and pitch the plan to fellow Americans starting off with a story about Scranton and his family. Have Harris and Sanders go on The View together and talk about the need to reduce the price of prescription drugs and strengthen Medicare. Have Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a former teacher, talk about the importance of subsidized pre-K on cable news channels. Unleash secret weapon Jon Tester, the Democratic senator from the red state of Montana, and have him “plainly” talk to “regular Americans” about why he supports the plan.
While Democrats and their allies are united in educating and informing the public about Biden’s Build Back Better plan, they should also drop haymakers against Republicans and ask them how come they opposed the popular COVID-relief bill? How come they’re not for paid parental leave? What are their proposals, if any, to help Americans who are mired in poverty? How come they weren’t concerned about the deficit or spending when their party was rushing through an unpopular $2 trillion tax cut for the rich that Trump signed and that will be paid for future generations? Keep attacking them and every single one of their bad-faith talking points. Be relentless and concede nothing.
When the question comes to the price tag, Democrats must keep reminding Americans it will be mostly paid for by taxes on the rich and corporations, a move that is supported by more than two-thirds of Americans according to the CBS poll.
If Democrats remain focused and committed to a messaging strategy, the popularity of Biden’s plan will easily reach into the 60s and increase pressure on Manchin, Sinema and other obstructionist Democrats to get in line or at least refrain from butchering the final deal.
No story, no sale. It’s time for Democrats to start messaging and selling.