On a Swing and a Prayer | Crooked Media
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December 02, 2022
Positively Dreadful
On a Swing and a Prayer

In This Episode

Because elusive swing voters wield outsized influence over elections, different candidates try different things to motivate and reach them. Democrats believe sticking to bread-and-butter issues is strategically optimal, while Republicans focus on fabricating spectacles that dominate the media ahead of elections. And the only thing we can say for sure is that some Republican spectacles, like the Ebola blitz, work like a charm. What can Democrats learn from their opponents? And how can they anticipate and neutralize Republican propaganda blitzes? Where should Democrats be trying harder to draw attention to real things? And shouldn’t Democrats have the upperhand, as Republicans criminalize abortion, engage in wild corruption scandals, and have dinner with Nazis? Crooked Media’s own Jon Favreau joins to talk about the challenge of reaching swing voters, how the two parties approach that challenge differently, and what, if anything, Democrats could do better since so much turns on how well they perform in elections.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Brian Beutler: Hi everyone. Welcome to Positively Dreadful with me, your host Brian Beutler. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving break. Donald Trump spent his having dinner with a neo-Nazi, so there’s the bar you have to clear. We’ll actually probably talk about that dinner on this week’s show because it’s relevant to the topic I have in mind. Something I wrote a lot about in the run up to the midterms, which is about how parties and party leaders can help determine what themes dominate politics and thus what voters think matters most as they prepare to cast their ballots. So I should acknowledge up front, most voters are regular partisans. They’re probably like you they’re probably like me, very likely to vote no matter what, and even more likely to vote for candidates of their own party. If you’re a politician, you’re probably likelier to influence whether these partisan voters vote than which party they vote for. But some voters have little, if any, partisan allegiance at all. The increasingly elusive, but still decisive swing voters who’s thinking about whether to vote and whom to vote for and why remains confounding despite their outsized influence over elections. And because these voters are so hard to pigeonhole, there are different theories about what motivates them and how best to reach them. Different candidates tried different things. I think the candidate who had the most success motivating swing voters to cast ballots of any kind is Donald Trump. By dint of just inspiring such strong emotions in people, Trump generated the highest turnout election in American history in 2020, which by definition meant he reached deep down in the electorate and motivated the least well understood voters in the country to pick a side. Fortunately, unbalanced, they chose Joe Biden’s side, but for now, by grace of God, there’s only one Donald Trump. And generally speaking, the actual parties take very different approaches to trying to reach these swing voters and win them over, even if only for one cycle. Democrats reason. I think pretty rationally that these voters are a bit weird. They’re ideologically cross pressured. Aren’t conventionally left or right, but they are still people and as such, they have material concerns, which means the safest bet is to present Democrats as normal unflappable problem solvers who have ideas that’ll help people pay the rent or afford prescription drugs or whatever else. The Republican approach is almost like the opposite, and a big part of the reason why is that their policy agenda offers very little of material value to swing voters. So their objective can’t be defined themselves by their policy agenda and then try to enact it if they win. Instead, they have to, one, discourage swing voters from viewing Democrats as reasonable, moderate politicians focused on bread and butter issues, and two, relatedly create a kind of information shock in the run up to elections that makes as many people as possible think that wickedness lurks everywhere and that electing Democrats will let the wickedness in. You don’t really trust those tax and spending communism, loving, critical race theorists to keep terrorists from smuggling Ebola across the southern border, or to stop the caravans from bum rushing the southern border. Do you? In 2022, the boogeyman was crime in blue America and a crime issue like Ebola and caravans wasn’t completely made up, but it was also plainly not something Republicans cared about or had a plan to do anything about. Now, how do I know that? Well, first, because the crime increase began under Donald Trump and is on its way down. Second, because it increased homogenously that is not just in blue America, but in red America too, and is worse per capita in parts of red America than parts of blue America. Third and most importantly, because if they really cared about it, they wouldn’t ramp up agitprop about crime ahead of elections, then ramp it back down again. But that’s just what they’ve done. Just like the caravan scenes disappeared from Fox News after the last two elections, the scare stories and security cam footage of people committing random crimes in New York City stopped being so interesting to Republicans at Fox News on about November ninth. All the effort they poured into making crime and inflation dominate our word bubbles has given way to giddiness over getting to dig through Hunter Biden’s underwear drawer. Now, how well this tactic works is hard to say. Republicans haven’t done great in the last three elections, but we also can’t say whether they would’ve done worse if they’d refrain from using these kinds of tactics. Moreover, we know that this kind of spectacle fabrication has worked for them in the recent past. The Ebola blitz worked like a charm. The constant hounding of Hillary Clinton over Benghazi yielded yet more hounding about her emails. And you know how that story ended. And so what I wanna talk about today is what Democrats can and should learn from their own opponents. What do I mean by that exactly? Well, what I don’t mean is that Democrats should start whipping up needless fear and hatred and bad faith for votes. Even if I did think that, I don’t mean that they could just flip a switch and start running Republican style campaigns because Republicans have built a huge apparatus that allows them to inject propaganda into the information environment at a whim. But I do think a couple things. First is that Democrats could be better at anticipating these information shocks and at learning how to diffuse them without seeming like they don’t care about crime, for example. Second is that Democrats could try harder to draw attention to things, real things, so that ahead of elections our news media and social media aren’t inundated with right wing coated language and appeals. And the reason I think that is they have a lot to work with the criminalization of abortion and the horror that have flowed from that wild corruption scandals, or even just the leader of the opposition party spending his Thanksgiving holiday with America’s most prominent anti-Semites. With all that said, we have a surprise this week. We’re gonna talk to Crooked Media’s very own Jon Favreau about all of this. From the challenge of reaching swing voters to the different ways the parties approach that challenge and what, if anything, Democrats could do better since so much turns on how well they perform in elections. Jon, as you probably know, is co-host of Pod Save America, host of the interview series Offline and the Serial podcast, the Wilderness, through which he’s traveled all over the country trying to figure out what makes actual swing voters tick. He was also my boss until he hired someone else to do that job. So I feel totally unencumbered to mix it up with Jon Favreau. Welcome to Positively Dreadful.

 

Jon Favreau: Thanks for having me. This is the crossover event of the year.

 

Brian Beutler: The century possibly.

 

Jon Favreau: That’s what’s everyone’s been waiting for [laughter] Offline and Positively Dreadful together at last. No, I’m excited to do this.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. So first, uh, I just wanna throw the floor open to you in case you want to take issue with anything I said in that, uh, endless wind up.

 

Jon Favreau: Um, no, I don’t think I do take issue with anything you said. We should get into the specifics of it all and then maybe I’ll have—

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah

 

Jon Favreau: —some knits here and there. We should tell people that you and I have had sort of a long running, I think healthy and productive debate about the Democratic Party and what it could be doing better. Mostly in our like private Slack channel. [laugh]

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, so we should just publish that in, call it a day.

 

Jon Favreau: We should just, I, we might as well. But, um, so I think this is a great opportunity for us to sort of talk about that debate to everyone else because I think it is actually more productive than, um, most of the debates I see play out on Twitter.

 

Brian Beutler: I think that’s right. Um, so what would you say you’ve learned about swing voters that you didn’t know before you started doing The Wilderness?

 

Jon Favreau: I think the main thing I learned is that they just do not pay attention that closely to politics. They do not consume politics that closely. I think that swing voters can be sort of ill-defined or oversimplified, um, when discussed in the media or by pundits, and there’s a tendency to think that they’re all moderate. There’s a tendency to think that they don’t have sort of strongly held political beliefs or opinions, and that’s not necessarily the case. It turns out the cases that they just don’t, in the course of their lives, they might follow the news. They might scan headlines, they might check in a couple times a week, but they don’t follow the news closely. They often have political views that are strongly held, but sometimes in conflict with one another in terms of what would categorize them as one. As an ideolog in one party or a partisan in one party or the other. Um, and they are willing to change parties between elections and sometimes they’re willing to vote and sometimes not vote at all in an election. So they come in and out of the electorate and they go back and forth between parties.

 

Brian Beutler: So my sense of it is because they don’t pay a ton of attention to the news and because they’re sort of ideologically cross pressured or inconsistent hold, sort of conflicting views in their own heads, um, that they’re, they’re very different from one another. And, um, to the extent that they have commonalities, it’s not in their politics. So much is in there. Uh, Their circumstances in life, right? These aren’t typically like wealthy people, right? They’re not, um, they’re not business magnates or professionals or, or, or people with graduate degrees who in general do tend to follow this stuff closely. And I, I think that helps explain why, um, democrats like to appeal to them on the basis of their economic circumstances. Um, maybe that’s wrong, but if it—

 

Jon Favreau: I would say that they have a few, common traits we just talked about, why they’re different, I’ll tell you why they’re all sort of similar to one another. I think they tend to be, um, you’re right, they tend to not have a college degree. Uh, again, there’s plenty who do have college degree too—

 

Brian Beutler: Right, sure.

 

Jon Favreau: —most tend to not have a college degree disproportionately, um, non-college educated. Um, they tend to be disproportionately a little bit older. Um, I think in terms of race, there are quite a few, uh, people of color who are also swing voters, even though people wouldn’t necessarily think that.

 

Brian Beutler: And increasingly so in the last couple elections, right?

 

Jon Favreau: Increasingly so. And, uh, so demographically it sort of runs the gamut, but education is the real divide. And, um, I also think that what they tend to have in common is distrust of institutions. And so they don’t feel that, uh, in general government is looking out for them. They don’t have a lot of trust in the media either. They don’t have a lot of trust in. In businesses big, especially big corporations. And so there’s a general distrust of institutions that sort of characterizes a lot of these people. And so when you ask them about politics, it’s like, oh, I don’t pay attention to that as much. Partly because no one seems to be standing up for me. And they’ll say things like, I think the Republican party’s actually pretty extreme, but the Democratic party can’t seem to get it’s shit together anyway, so I don’t really know, you know, what the difference is. There’s a little bit of that. Um, and yeah. And then the complaints you get when you ask them like what issues are most important tend to be, well, I’m struggling to. Pay the rent, pay for my mortgage, pay for college, pay for education. So you do get a lot of economic concerns raised when you ask them what their concerns are about politics.

 

Brian Beutler: So the reason I ask is because given that they’re kind of all over the map, um, but somewhat united, um, by being consumed by the regular lives and not politics, I’m, I’m wondering why they swing, like why aren’t they more regularly voting for the party that offers the more popular policy agenda and has a better track record over not, you know, 50 years, but just even the last decade or so, um, on economic growth and job creation and deficit reduction or whatever metric you, you wanna point to. Um, and these are facts that Democrats do brag about a lot, I think. And nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to affect their decisions about, about whom to vote for. They don’t seem to be asking which party tends to do better at making people’s incomes go up.

 

Jon Favreau: Right. So I did a group in Vegas, uh, it was mainly, um, non-college educated Latino voters. And, um, one man said, you know, I used to vote Democrat because, uh, they were the party of the working class. And now I think Republicans are the party of the working class. Started complaining about Obamacare, started saying that the Affordable Care Act, um, gave too many subsidies to, um, poor people. And that the Republicans are for the rich and the Democrats are for the poor, and no one’s for the middle class. So for almost every issue, there’s a theory about the Democratic party not being on the side of working people when it comes to the economy that you hear pop up every now and then.

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: And then you hear from people who do think that Democrats are more on the side of working people and Republicans are for the rich, but that Democrats can’t seem to deliver for them. And Republicans somehow know how to manage the economy better. So there’s this weird split where they think Democrats are on the side of, of middle class people and working class people, but Republicans know how to like, quote unquote, “manage the economy better.” And so they give them more credit for that. I, I just think just that some of, some of these views are so, they have been set for decades. Right? And, and some to the Democrats favor, right? Like the belief that Republicans are the party of the rich has been true for many decades. The belief that Republicans also somehow have business sense and know to manage the economy is also deeply ingrained

 

Brian Beutler: Right, like, these are cliches that I’ve lived with my whole life.

 

Jon Favreau: Mm-hmm.

 

Brian Beutler: But they’re, you know, they’re mediated. You pick them. In the course of listening to something on the radio or, or catching a snippet of something on tv, right? Like these ideas don’t kind of arrive fully formed in people’s minds. So, so like, like where are they getting them? And if somebody could reach them with the idea that although Republicans care too much about the rich, they’re also better stewards of the economy. Why can’t they, why can’t somebody incept a different idea into their head?

 

Jon Favreau: I mean, I think they can, I think Democrats have successfully in the past, right? Like I think, I mean people in the middle of the greatest economic crisis of our generation, people took a flyer on a, uh, freshman senator from [laugh] Illinois, um, who didn’t have a ton of economic experience, um, because they believed that he would be the, a better steward of the economy than the guy who in the Obama campaign, we framed as too close to the incumbent president who had just helped crash the economy in the first place.

 

Brian Beutler: Right. It just, but it swings right back. Right. Like, like the, the old idea that actually Republicans really are better can just roar right back into, into the, like, subliminal consciousness.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s why you, you have to, you have to prosecute the case over and over again.

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. So then as far as reaching and persuading and prosecuting that case goes, what does peak performance to you look like? Like who is the Democrat that other Democrats can learn the most from? Um, but don’t say Barack Obama. I’m conflicting you out of saying Obama. Um, let’s just like limit it to Democrats serving in office in the, in 2022.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah, I would two, I think two great examples from the campaign we just had are John Fetterman and Katie Porter. Um, and of course Katie Porter got elected in 2018. She had a very, very tough race, uh, this time around. And, um, I interviewed her for The Wilderness and we talked about sort of the threat to democracy, which she is quite concerned about, but she also said like a strong democracy depends on a strong economy. And I, she’s like, I know that sounds cliche or whatever, but like, I, I think that if, if we don’t give people sort of, if, if we don’t help people believe, give people good reason to believe that democracy can deliver for them financially, can actually make their lives better, can improve their standard of living, then they’re not gonna have faith in democracy. And I think that’s a core issue. Similarly, then you’ve got John Fetterman, who very early in that race, defined Dr. Oz as an out of touch super rich guy who was also, you know, not not from Pennsylvania.

 

Brian Beutler: We’re gonna, um, come together on Fetterman in a minute. I’m certain of it. [laughter] Um, but the re I, I asked all these questions just sort of as, as stage setting for what I was alluding to in, in the intro about the difficulty of getting. Um, economic messages to stick in, in voter’s minds and, and in a sort of, either in a lasting way or at least at the right moment so that you, you get this perfect storm ahead of an election and it gives you that boost you need to, to get over 50%. Right. Um, versus some like sort of lower brow [laugh] things kind of like what you were alluding to about how Fetterman was able to define Dr. Oz, uh, by just kind of brutalizing him. Um, and so I think we agree that that Democrats not named Fetterman, or not named Katie Porter, kind of fumble the ball, um, or throw the game when it comes to, uh, picking those kinds of quote unquote “earned media fights” or just trying to attract cameras to cover what they think is important. Um, but sometimes I think I skip a step when you and I are having this discussion or, or even when I’m writing Big Tent or whatever else. That when I get worked up about like, why aren’t Democrats attacking or showboating or investigating or whatever else. Um, and the step I’m skipping is the assumption that political journalists are fairly predictable and that you can draw them in with scandal and high dudgeon and, and conflict and fighting, but you’ll, you’ll never get them to pay as much attention to kitchen tables, uh, as they will to like caravans coming up from Central America.

 

Brian Beutler: And so I, I wonder if you think I’m wrong about that, and if so, like what would it look like for Democrats to do a caravan’s type messaging blitz, but around the struggles of middle class swing voters?

 

Jon Favreau: So, I have a few thoughts on this. The first is, I, I, I totally agree with you. It is, it’s much harder to get reporters to cover economic issues. Um, but I also think. To, to your point on this is that like Democrats aren’t doing as good a job on this as they could be because I think to get, so not to always I I’ll, the Fetterman campaign did this. We did this against Mitt Romney in 2012, right? These were not campaigns about economic issues. Per se, but they were campaigns about the economy, about who, who is on your side. So it was much more of a character campaign on both the Fetterman case and the Obama case than I think we usually see from Democrats when they talk about the economy in which they just sort of like list out various economic issues, like—

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: —like John Fetterman’s whole campaign was like, Dr. Oz does not give a shit about you. He is a rich guy who is not going to fight for you. I am going to fight for you. Here’s why, here are my policies, here are his policies. So you still talk about the policies, you still talk about the agenda, but you do it in a way that sort of fits in with the larger, um, characterization of your opponent that is about their values, that is about what they care about, what they stand for, who they are, where they come from. Like you’ve gotta fit all of that in into the story. And I don’t think Democrats do that well. And I think that. If you do that in a way that Fetterman did or we did in 2012, then then reporters are more likely to cover the conflict because now it’s sort of like your traditional conflict, and it’s more about character attacks. Reporters love things that are about characters instead of about policies, right?

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: And so I do think that the, I think the reason that some Democrats shy away from this. Is actually because, um, there’s this fear of economic populism that comes from like, you know, a lot of the people that Democrats hang out with now being a very college educated party, uh, whether it’s donors, whether it’s media elites, whether it’s whoever, um, they, they don’t approve of economic populism. They don’t, they think it’s, I don’t know, it’s like beneath us or something

 

Brian Beutler: A little dirty. Well, so, I mean, I am obviously a big fan of, um, Barack Obama’s political skill and John Fetterman’s political skill. I think these are very talented politicians in defensive of all the other Democrats who don’t tend to do as good a job as those two. I mean, both of them were blessed to run against obscenely rich—

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: —guys, Fetterman in particular was blessed to run against an obscenely rich guy who had nothing of merit to offer, right? Like just a clown who got rich because he was a TV guy. Um, Obama had to contend with Mitt Romney, who is actually a pretty talented politician and had done some stuff and had, could, could, you know, uh, could point to things that made the case for his business experience, the thing that made him rich being good for, for regular people. But, you know, I think Obama lucked out a little bit insofar as they chose to go that route, right? Like, Mitt Romney chose to pick Paul Ryan as, as his vice president and just say, we’re gonna run on, on the Paul Ryan budget plan and, and cutting taxes at the top end and, and slashing entitlement spending and, and Medicaid. Um, and, and, and we’re, we’re gonna lean into it. And it ended up being like the most substantive campaign I’ve ever recovered as a, as a reporter. Um, and probably like the most honest campaign. I’ve watched a Republican run, even though they obviously like, you know, hit the ball about all kinds of numbers and stuff like that. And Democrats writ large can’t, I don’t think they can take a flyer on always being able to draw, you know, a club for growth Republican who is worth $50 million or a hundred million dollars and wants to cut his own taxes. Right. Like, and when you can, then you’ve got everything you need to run exactly the kind of campaign that you’re talking about. But when, when your opponent is. Not kind of like a caricature of himself. It becomes harder and maybe you have to look even like deeper than their, than their wealth to, to like deeper down into the mud for like things about them that are just kind of stinky. Do you know what I mean?

 

Jon Favreau: We were definitely helped by um, Mitt Romney being the opponent and Mitt Romney picking Paul Ryan, right? Who’s like you said, whose plan to cut Medicaid, social security and the tax cut. It was, it was like a gift to us, right? A political gift. But Obama laid out a speech before Rom— during the Republican primary, before Romney was chosen as the nominee. That was all about how this election would be defined by like, who’s going to fight for the middle class. And the reason it was, is because that is, that anxiety is what kept popping up every focus group, every voter that we spoke to. So, and we also knew that no matter who the Republican nominee was gonna be, there, that would be a nominee who, um, it, you know, either had voted to support Paul Ryan’s plan or had a lot of the same policies that Mitt Romney did, or was it, now were they gonna be some rich out of touch guy? I don’t know. Right? Like, what if it was Newt Gingrich? [laughter] Right? That’s a very dif— but we would’ve been able to prosecute an economic case against Newt Gingrich based on contract with America, everything he did in 1995, right? So, like there, you, you do have to have, make sure that your case is true to the person that you’re running against. But I think that you have to start with, okay, what is it that people care about right now? What do they wanna see from their government? And then make a case based on that and then figure out why your opponent, in what ways your opponent stands in the way of that vision. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Brian Beutler: I’m just imagining myself right now covering the Obama Gingrich 2012 race that ever happened and screaming at the TV that Obama refuses to talk about Gingrich’s extramarital affairs or whatever else, and not get down in the mud and like, why won’t you do it?

 

Jon Favreau: Well, but no, this is, this is, [laughter] it’s a great point because I think that sometimes we, the way this debate plays out is like there’s people who want Democrats to talk about kitchen table issues, and in fairness, a lot of democratic politicians do just talk about kitchen table issues. And then there’s people who say like, you gotta hit harder and you gotta go after character, and we gotta talk about things like democracy and abor— and I don’t, I don’t really think that’s the right way to think about the debate because when I talk to these, when I talk to focus groups, when I talk to voters, they did talk a lot about costs, right? That was like the, the first thing you hear. But I also heard in a lot of these groups, at least in this election, um, I heard about abortion, especially after Dobbs, and people were very, very afraid, uh, about abortion bans. I heard about gun violence. Like this is the first year now where I had, I had like multiple focus group participants talk about like friends that had been involved in gun violence, like gun violence that they seen, gun violence that affected their communities. And so I do. And then when I, when I say in every focus group, I would say like, what does the media cover too much? And what does the media cover not enough? And when I say, what does the media cover too much? I heard over and over again the January 6th hearings. And then I would say, okay, well what do you think about January 6th? And they were all like, oh, it was awful. It was heinous. It was scary. Trump was responsible. [laugh] And then like later in Vegas when I, I talked to some guy who was like, uh, leaning towards Ron DeSantis in 2024. I was like, oh, are you gonna then vote for Adam Laxalt over Cortez Masto? And he goes, oh, no, no, no. Adam Laxalt. Big lie. Big lie believer. And so like, he got like, they’re sick. So it’s a weird thing where people are sick of the coverage and they think it’s like there’s, there’s just certain things that voters don’t like and it’s usually things that don’t directly affect them. Right. And if you can make your case for your, about yourself and about your opponent as in term, if you can, if you can talk about that case in terms of how that affects the voter and not abstract theories, or not just attacks on someone else, but like attacks on what someone’s going to do to you, [laughter] if they are elected into office, then I think you’re, you’re much more effective.

 

Brian Beutler: Sure. Yeah. I would, I mean, I don’t disagree with that at all. And like, you know, I think I, I sort of staged the conversation a bit. Um, to put me on the, on the side of being a bigger critic of the Democrats than you. And maybe that’s not totally fair, but like the, you know, the, the thing I, I think that they did, like, the best thing they did all last Congress other than like the Inflation Reduction Act, was the finally empaneling, the January 6th committee. And I find myself wishing that they had leaned into even harder in the aftermath of the election because, you know, I always detect this sort of palpable unease, like, at least at the leadership level, you know, okay, we’ll try to get Republicans to buy in on a January 6th investigation and waste six months when they finally like throw it back on our face. Then we’ll do the House select committee. And they had the big fight and they put Liz Cheney and, and Adam Kinzinger on it. And then they kind of like turned the committee over to Liz Cheney. Cuz I think that a, they thought she’d be a better messenger for an anti-Trump committee, which is true. And also I think that they wanted Democrats to kind of, be a little bit aside from the, like, the ugliness of investigating and rubbing in America’s face how awful Trump was. Um, and then the election happens and it turns out that like, even if people say that their top concern is the economy or cost or whatever, like they think the Trump stuff, the MAGA stuff is disgusting. And like the, the Republican candidates who did the worst were the ones most tightly identified with January 6th and the Big Lie and Donald Trump. Um, and the, you know, I, I’d have to do a, a rundown, but like it only took Republicans to give themselves a little bit of distance from that for them to, to perform really well irrespective of the kitchen table attacks that they were on the receiving end of. Um, and to me it was just like, here’s a case in point where it’s if the leadership was just willing to be a little bit more nimble, um, and confident, then I think they’d all be better off and they’d have more members, [laugh] and, uh, like, you know—

 

Jon Favreau: But I guess this is where I’m, I get confused about like, where you, where you stand on this. Cause I’m like, I don’t, I don’t know that if we talked more about January 6th or if Democrats had leaned in more, and I don’t, I don’t even know what leaning in more actually looked like. Like how does, I think a lot of people, I think most people in the country, we’ve seen this in polls for a long time now. Um, thought January 6th was horrendous. Um, hold Trump at least partially, if not fully responsible, abhor the violence around January 6th and sort of, um, penalize him for that as well as Republicans who embrace that and embrace his coup, his attempted coup, right? His attempt to overturn the election. And I think that in a way is baked in and I’m not sure how, I don’t, I’m not sure who is out there, what voter is out there that is like, I have not made up my mind on January 6th, but if I hear more, then that will be what makes me vote for a, a, a Democrat over a Republican.

 

Brian Beutler: So when I sit down to write anything that’s sort of like, Democrats should lean in more, I don’t wanna like leave it at that. I, I want to try to like say specific things that would make me feel like they were pushing in the right direction and confident that this was an effective line of attack and sort of like understand what the value was. So to me the value is that when you’re in the, like last two weeks before the election, there is some population of voters that is, that are gonna make a call. These are the swing voters and we don’t really know what it is at the end of the day. Makes them choose one candidate over another. And one thing that might. Be decisive for a, a fraction of them is what’s kind of ambient at the moment, right? Like, and Republicans I think understand that and so they’re like, let’s make stuff that’s good for us, ambient. And they, you know, I think they do it in all kinds of disgusting ways and usually it’s about stuff they don’t even personally think is super important, but they’re kind of flooding the zone with, with that stuff. And Democrats don’t do that really with the, with the issues that they think, like, sort of like what you were saying, they’re like, look, we have maxed out on outrage against Trump. Um, nothing we do or say now about him is gonna affect the way the election comes out. And I just don’t know if that’s true, right? Like, we’re talking about how, how people’s minds can be changed about who’s better on the economy from day to day, from election to election, um, and so they could just as easily be like, okay, yeah, I didn’t like Trump when he was doing January 6th, but he is not president anymore and that’s yesterday’s news. And today’s news is crime and so I’m gonna cast a vote for Republicans. And I, that’s what I think like the, the lost value is, is like you, you have a, you have a homestretch of a campaign and you, you wanna catch people wherever you might happen to, to catch them with ideas basically, or memes or whatever you want to call them, that remind them of what’s, what they don’t like about your opponent or what they do like about you. And I think reminding them what they don’t like about their opponent is in the easier thing to accomplish and like, we pass the Inflation Reduction Act. It does this, this list of things, and we’ll do more if you give us more votes.

 

Jon Favreau: I mean, how do you think Democrats closed in the final weeks of this midterm campaign? Because if I, if I had to summarize how the campaigns closed by both, um, what the candidates were saying, what their advertising was saying, what they tried to make news about, and then sort of what party leadership tried to make news about.

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: I would say, um, they were, they closed an abortion and um, they were very tough on Republicans. I, it was, it was a contrast, right? It was, here’s what we’re for, and I know. Uh, this happened because of you, even though you don’t get enough credit for it. [laughter] But, um, and you know, the party, at least party leadership coalesced around two more pro-choice senator, pro-choice anti filibuster senators, keep the house and then will codify Roe. So there was a positive message, there was a contrast message. And then, um, on democracy, president Biden gave that big speech, uh, in a couple days before and brought in the Paul Pelosi attack. And then, and I heard candidates do this at a couple of the events we went to, they would say, oh, you know, inflation is a huge deal. Republicans talk about inflation. They don’t have a plan on inflation. And by the way, you put them in power. Not only they’re gonna not reduce inflation cause they have no plan, they’re gonna ban abortion and take away a whole bunch of our other freedoms. That was the message I heard over and again. So to me that’s sort of how Democrats close.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, I think that’s basically how I see things too. You know, to give ’em a grade or whatever. Like, I think they did like better than I was anticipating they would do in like April when it looked like they were gonna get wiped out and all they could think about was like, how are we gonna overcome the inflation, uh, anchor around our ankles? And it, you know, things looked really bad then, and I thought that they were just gonna slip and just apologize for existing. Right.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: And then that’s not really what they did. Um, you know, it also gets hard because it’s like, where, where do you. Where do you stop the, like, uh, the, like where do you draw the line at? Like, who’s propounding? The Democratic message? Like if it’s the candidates themselves, they did pretty, pretty well. If it’s like the Democrats who go on TV as surrogates, I think they did really badly. Like they were just spooked in talking about how like, oh, we really blew it. Like we went all in on abortion and, uh, and democracy in, in the, um, in the summer. And, and it turns out voters only care about crime and, and inflation. And, and really they were just responding to like Republican propaganda telling them that that’s what voters cared about. To the exclusion of, of everything else.

 

Jon Favreau: This is sort of an an offline pet peeve here for— [laugh] it’s like the Democrats who did that, right. Who like went on TV and were like ringing their hands, right. It’s like, like Hilary Rosen did this on CNN, right?

 

[clip of Hilary Rosen]: Voters have told us all year what they care about, and I think we have focused on other things and I think the President’s closing message last night about democracies on the ballot again, is frustrating to, to people like me who you know, don’t want to see half the voters in America alienated

 

Jon Favreau: And that clip gets shared and then everyone online gets really mad about Hilary, at Hilary Rosen for saying that. And there’s a few others. It’s not, it wasn’t just her, but there’s probably like a handful, like five or six because there’s just not that many pundits on cable television.

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: And then they go on there and they say something stupid and then it gets everyone else in the sort of Twitter sphere. And, and, and I would just say like in the media, the media and the punditocracy, right? It gets everyone riled up. I got ri— I saw it. I was like, why would you say that before the election? Right. [laughter] like whether it’s true or not, why would you say that before the election? But she did. And then her position become like, like the Democratic party gets assigned with like Hilary Rosen’s pre-election take on [laughter] what the party did wrong. And I’m like, you know what? Like Joe Biden’s out there given a fucking democracy speech, his 10th democracy speech [laughter] in the week before the election.

 

[clip of Joe Biden]: I’m not the only one who sees it. Recent polls have shown that overwhelming majority of Americans believe our democracy at is at risk, that our democracy is under threat. They too see that democracy is on the ballot this year and they’re deeply concerned about it.

 

Brian Beutler: That that’s why, that’s why I caveat it, is like it’s hard to know where exact, like who falls on what side of the, of the responsibility line.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: I assume though that if, you know, senior democratic strategists are saying that on tv, that it’s, you know, there’s a sense within the party, if not, you know, probably contested. Not everyone agrees that, that that’s a actually correct analysis and that maybe, maybe what we need to do here at the last moment is really change everything. I’m glad that, like, that didn’t prevail on Democrats. They didn’t spend the last week apologizing for the blue crime wave [laugh] or whatever, but I thought Joe Biden’s abortion messaging was correct. It’s the one that I wanted him to, to adopt. The way I would like embed a, a critique into that is to bring us back to what this is all about, which is like, can Democrats do a better job of making the people on TV and on social media who disseminate Joe Biden’s message and torque it and make them talk about that more, right? So he says, give me that house and two more democratic senators and I’ll sign a bill codifying Roe in January. Like crystal clean message. Beautiful message. Simple to understand. You also want the senators to be saying that, and you want them maybe even to be like proving it. Like, take another vote. We got 48 votes to change the filibuster and codify row. That means two more and we got it done right? And you know, it’s like tacky or whatever. And it’s like, you know, there’s also going to be some asshole on TV who’s like, well this is just a show vote. This is like the politics, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like Democrats are just playing for the cameras. And it’s like, okay, yes, we are playing for the cameras to, to tell America about this. And now, instead of like playing random clips of somebody getting beaten up on the subway, the the TV is chitter chattering about how Roe might be codified in January, but it will require this. And like you could fantasize at least about an election where it was in the states where, where, um, abortion rights were, were ballot referenda, right? But everywhere, because every, every regular democratic voter who cared about abortion rights knew that their district mattered. Um, and, you know, they tell their friends like, this house seat matters, even though we probably aren’t gonna win it. Um, and I don’t know where that, you know, obviously you can only run the election once. Um, but it’s that kind of, not just. Here’s what we stand for and we’ll, we’ll, we’ll lay it out in a speech, but like, we are gonna make some kind of performance out of it to draw attention to it so that it sticks in people’s minds, especially the minds of people who are really hard to reach in general and don’t normally pay attention to like a presidential speech.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: So that’s sort of how I think about it. Um, so like, I was pretty happy with how the election came out. I, I, I like lean into the, the criticism thing cuz like, I, I think that it’s healthy for the party to think about how they could do even better still. Um, I, so I don’t want like be here talk, like presenting myself as somebody who thinks they just totally fucked it up because I don’t, um, but that, that it could have gotten better probably. And these are ways I kind of think might help.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: Um, but that the, but that the people in charge of the party, maybe not Biden, cuz Biden actually is in charge, but like the people in charge of like the, the congressional campaign committees and the, and the, the house and the Senate. Don’t agree or, or else they think it’s too risky or something like that. And that’s, that’s like, that’s the source of concern for me about like, where’s the party gonna go from here? And how, how are they thinking about dealing with the fact that Republicans just keep buying up more media to disseminate more ideas?

 

Jon Favreau: Well, yeah. So I think that the, the source of the problem here is, and, and I’m not saying that you think this, but I, I think that it is not Democrats feeling like it’s too risky, like they’re afraid, like, uh, they, they need to go high when the other team goes low that they don’t wanna fight. Like, I don’t think that’s the source of a lot of the problems here, because I think we have seen that Democrats, especially in this last election, will punch pretty hard, um, if there is an issue or that arises where they feel like they have the upper hand. Right. Um, I think the abortion fight is a great example. I think the democracy fight is a great example. Um, I think that there to deliver a message in this fractured media environment requires an unbelievable amount of coordination and repetition. And that coordination and repetition is far easier on the right because of the propaganda machine that you just mentioned. And because of the homogeneity of their voters and caucus, right? [laughter] The more they shrink, right? And that they’re a minority in this country, but it is a minority of mostly non-college educated white folks, and they sort of are you know, bound by similar beliefs, at least in the, in the, especially around in the MAGA crowd, right? They believe the same thing. They, they have the same views. They can get consensus among their leaders, among their politicians, far easier than we can now representing this sort of broad pro-democracy coalition that spans AOC and Bernie Sanders all the way to Joe Manchin and the never-Trumpers, right? And that’s, and so it’s much harder for us to have one consistent message that everyone feels like, okay, I’m gonna deliver that message. Because there’s a lot of individual actors in this coalition who are like, you know what? My politics in my state, I don’t care if Joe Biden told me to say, you know, two more pro-choice anti filibuster senators and we’re gonna codify Roe. I’m Joe Manchin and I don’t fucking wanna codify Roe. [laugh] You know what I’m saying? Or, or I’m like, Joe Manchin—

 

Brian Beutler: Like Joe Manchin is the exception that like, we need the votes because of this guy Joe Manchin. It kind of helps—

 

Jon Favreau: Right. It was so funny cause I was listening to, um, Jamelle Bouie on this podcast a couple weeks ago with you and he was like, well the one thing Democrats really have to do now is codify Roe cuz they said they were gonna, and I’m like, no, we’re not gonna be able to [laugh] like, like we didn’t get the two we we didn’t get the house number one, and then we even in the Senate we’re still one short. And so like, is that now, is that gonna be laid in the feet of Joe Biden the Democrats? It shouldn’t be. It’s not. We just didn’t elect enough people.

 

Brian Beutler: No, yeah. I mean I, it it, when we recorded that in, in, in, in partial fairness to Jamelle.

 

Jon Favreau: Right, right.

 

Brian Beutler: The house had not been called yet. Um, and I think his idea was like, look, if you get the house in 51, you gotta at least make an effort.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: And I think probably that, that. If that had happened, there would’ve been an effort and it probably would’ve failed.

 

Jon Favreau: Right.

 

Brian Beutler: And we’d all be tearing our hair out. And I, you know, I don’t, I don’t think it’s just, I think there are some Democrats who, who, who think that the, you know, the very partisan fights, the, like, just savaging your opponent in that Fetterman-esque way is, is beneath them. And that like, you know, Democrats are liberals and they wanna persuade people and not just by making people hate the other party. So I think that there is some of that—

 

Jon Favreau: There’s a little—

 

Brian Beutler: —in the party, but it’s not the main thing that I’m concerned about. I think that there’s a lot of, if we say what’s on our minds about these people who wanna throw out the democracy established dictatorship, make women carry pregnancies to term, um, the, the, it’s gonna be really hard on Abby Spanberger and thus not worth the risk and, fortunately, Abby Spanberger won despite a more, um, like a punchier campaign than I was expecting. But I think that that explains why Nancy Pelosi was so reluctant to just do to Donald Trump what Republicans are about to do to Hunter Biden, right? Like go through everything.

 

Jon Favreau: But I think it goes, this is why I brought up emphasizing how issues or fights will affect people’s lives.

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: Because I think that the reason that the Democrats. Leaned in more on January 6th than some of these democracy issues than your typical investigation of Donald Trump, let’s say the first impeachment, right?

 

Brian Beutler: Right.

 

Jon Favreau: Is because you could more clearly draw a line from Trump’s actions and potential future actions and what that could mean for the average voter, which is that, um, either there’s violence or even in, in the best case scenario, um, you vote for someone and your vote is thrown out, right. That is like a real life effect on someone. Abigail Spanberger, the reason she was ran a bunch of very tough abortion ads in that race is because that it, it, that is an issue where it’s like your, like this is about your freedom and your body and they want to take it away. And I don’t, and, and, and she was not afraid of that. But if you’re investigating someone and it’s like, oh, Donald Trump had some shady dealing. It’s, it’s just, it’s horrible, but it’s harder to make that connection to like people’s lives.

 

Brian Beutler: I go back and forth on how much the people’s lives, I mean, with the abortion thing, obviously like, it, it’s not just like—

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: —that seems wrong to me. It’s like, this is fucked up in, in very obvious ways and ruining people’s lives all over the country. Right. The January 6th stuff and the, and the Big Lies stuff, did that resonate because people are like, oh, well, like, you know, if elections aren’t free and fair, then down the line, that might cascade into my own life and, and have a, a personal impact on me. Or is it just like, these guys are thieves and liars. These are crooks. Sometimes like I, maybe it’s just a case by case thing, where like when there’s like a real nexus to, to your, to, to people’s lived experience, you, you make the connection. But when it’s just that you have the goods on them as a crook like that, that’s should be enough. Right? [laughter] [both speaking]

 

Jon Favreau: It should be. I think the challenge is a lot of voters, particularly some of the swing voters that we started talking about originally, um, believe that both parties have crooks in them and that all politicians are corrupt. And it’s a matter of degree, and maybe Republicans are a little more corrupt than Democrats. This is partly the fault of a mainstream media that for decades has tried to prove its worth by saying, I’m gonna take down Democrats and Republicans. Right? I’m gonna be tough on both sides. And the results of that is sort of degrading people’s faith in institutions writ large and both parties. And so there is this—

 

Brian Beutler: Sometimes institutions suck. [laughs]

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah, no, sometimes they do. Sometimes you have to. But the result is a lot of voters thinking about politicians, oh yeah, he’s a crook and liar. But I guess that’s what politicians are. I think there’s like one piece of data on this election, which is that these Republican MAGA Secretary of State candidates who were like very willing, openly willing to overturn the next election and do Donald Trump’s bidding like they did worse than even the—

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: —other Republicans on the ticket, the Senate candidate or the gubernatorial candidate, whatever, like, and I was worried about that because I thought, these are races where people aren’t paying as much attention and they might just go and vote their party. And so it might look closer to the split, the partisan split in the state or the district. And sure enough, like those candidates lost badly. And I think it’s because people were like, oh, this fucking person is going to like overturn an election that I’m gonna go vote in. No, that’s crazy. [laughter]

 

Brian Beutler: So I think the election shows, although it might take time to actually. Uh, like prove this mathematically that as a Republican you’d be worse off as a Big Lie Republican who had no dirty hands about social security, you claim some level of economic populism, then the reverse that you’d be better off as like a, I want to privatize social security, but I think that the Big Lie is nonsense, right?

 

Jon Favreau: Mm-hmm.

 

Brian Beutler: Like, um, which it, I think that there’s like a lesson to draw there about like the, you know, the how powerful the, the pocketbook like rhetoric is when you’re talking about two people head to head, who are at least viewed by, by voters as being honest arbiters or whatever, like re— you know, reasonable people. Um, but apart from that, like the, the question of whether they were voting against these Big Lie candidates because they were offended by the notion of these people meddling in the elections that they had just voted in, versus them just being liars is like, you know, I acknowledge that when Trump was president and he was, um, you know, having Secret Service pay for the privilege of him golfing every weekend so that he could line his pockets with Secret Service money and having, um, Amirs come to his hotels to overpay for, right. That you could do an investigation on that. And like, it’s obvious corruption. It’s terrible. It’s hard to make a connection to, to people’s concerns. And it’s harder still maybe to make them realize that that’s worse corruption than anything that we’ve seen, uh, from any president in history, any American politician probably in history. Right? I think it’s a, it’s doable, but you don’t always know what you’re gonna come up with when you begin one of these. Fishing expeditions. Right. And like it was Benghazi that led to emails that led to, I don’t know what the live connection to [laugh] to Hillary Clinton’s email server is, but it pissed off a lot of people.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: Um, and at the very least, it was something that, that was in their heads when they went to vote, like the Gallup word cloud, um, of, of things that voters said that they had picked up during the election. It was like emails was the biggest one. It was like, that’s the like, sort of the power of like, creating media around your opponent that’s negative even if there’s no nexus to, to the, the everyday lives of people. And like, that’s why I think that Republicans want to do the same thing with Hunter Biden. And like, I, you know, I don’t know what they’re gonna find.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: I’m, I’m pretty certain it’s not gonna be anything actually disqualifying about Joe Biden, but it might be just enough to get, you know, hamster wheel turning again, and that could be very damaging and like that, the fact that Democrats are hesitant to do that because they’re thinking two chess moves ahead and how it’s gonna play in swing districts seems like just leaving opportunity on the table. Especially when the people you’re investigating, it’s not really a fishing expedition, they’re, they’re the most corrupt American politicians in the country’s history.

 

Jon Favreau: First of all, I don’t know what they’ve left on the table. Like I think that they have—

 

Brian Beutler: We don’t know. [laughter]

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. Right, right. We don’t know what they know. They have opened a lot of investigations over the last several years. I think the question is, there is a finite amount of time and space to discuss politics every day, particularly in a fractured media environment where it’s hard to get a message out. And what do you focus the message on? What do you make news on and not make news on or try to prioritize over something else? And those decisions, I think Democrats are more likely to prioritize, okay, what are, what are these swing voters going to care about Republican politicians for good or for ill? And you could argue for the last couple elections it’s been for, ill tend to prioritize, um, what’s just gonna get our people excited and angry?

 

Brian Beutler: So I think it’s, well, I think it’s kind of two at once, like I think. I think that Democrats think we’re gonna meet the swing voters where they are, and Republicans think we’re gonna tell ’em where we want them to go, and it happens to be where our base already is, right? Like that’s what emails was about. It wasn’t just about the base, it was about swing voters. And I think that the Hunter Biden thing, they hope is gonna be similar. And I think that that’s smart when you’re dealing with a, a subset of the population that has proven election in an election out that they’re pretty whimsical about what drives the vote?

 

Jon Favreau: Even the, even the Hillary thing, like the emails became a, like it played into long standing concerns about Hillary Clinton, right?

 

Brian Beutler: Sure.

 

Jon Favreau: I think, what did Kevin McCarthy do the last couple weeks? There’s all, like the Hunter Biden stuff is swirling around there. There’s all the investigations he can do. He goes down to the border and he makes it about the border, right? That is something that on the flip side, a democratic leader would do because he’s looking at polls and he’s thinking to himself their real political liability. The administration is how many people are upset with what’s going on at the border, and even folks who are in favor of a pathway to citizenship, there’s enough of them that tend to think the border’s outta control whether they think it should be tighter border security or, or less restrictive border security, they think it’s outta control. And so they feel like that’s pushing on an open door. Like if I, I don’t think that Kevin McCarthy right now is thinking like, oh, this Hunter Biden thing, this is political gold for us. [laughter] Like, I don’t think, and that’s why some of these, some of the moderates, or at least some of the Republicans not, I won’t call the moderate, but some of the Republicans who were just elected in Biden districts are very weary of going down this path on some of these investigations. But I think McCarthy thinks, well, I can, I can get everyone together on this border issue. That’s gonna be easier Politics.

 

Brian Beutler: So I think Kevin McCarthy is just smart enough to do both things at once, but no smarter than that.

 

Jon Favreau: [laughter] I was gonna say. Yeah. I wouldn’t give him that much credit either—

 

Brian Beutler: Because of this same Kevin McCarthy who like lost the speakership in 2015 or whenever Paul Ryan took over.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: Because he went on TV and he said, we created the Benghazi Select Committee to trash Hillary Clinton. And look at her poll numbers going right, like that’s the same guy.

 

[clip of Kevin McCarthy]: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable. Right. But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. Sorry. Gave away the game. Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: Um, and so I think that he’s like, he’s not sure what the, what the Hunter Bi— and he has no problem letting it, uh, Jim Jordan run wild on that and like he’s gonna let whoever the, um, Comer, I forget who’s gonna run point on impeaching Mayorkas just cause just for fun, um, uh, you know, some, something about the border probably, [laugh] and just like, just like see where it goes and not, you know, yes. Probably the, like the newly elected New York Republicans who, if they want a second term, are gonna need some distance from that kind of thing, or think that at least are gonna plead with him to not let that get too outta control. And like the flip side of it is Kevin McCarthy could go to them and say, look, if we drag Joe Biden’s approval ratings from 46 down to 40, you’re gonna get reelected.

 

Jon Favreau: And he will, he’ll say how, that’s exactly what I’ll say to them. [laughter]

 

Brian Beutler: But like, like Nancy, like Nancy Pelosi could say that to whoever’s nervous in her caucus about whatever else. Um, and, and this is ultimately the core of what, like exasperates me is like, but so like the, the risk reward calculation seems all off to me. Like the risk of going after your opponent seems very low. The reward, if you strike gold, seems like you win the election. [laughter]

 

Jon Favreau: It might be easier to sort of like, let’s look ahead over the next couple years and like what Democrats. Could do, should do to get themselves in a better position for 2024 to get themselves in a position to win 2024, right? Like I, I would argue that the economy is still going to be a huge issue, right? And if inflation continues to stick around or gas prices go up again, which is, are, are two things that it, the President Biden has very little control over. They are going to have to prosecute a case on the economy. Um, that is sharper and breaks through more than it has over the last several years, right?

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: But they are also going to have to be opportunistic in terms of jumping on controversies issues and creating controversies and issues around, um, positions that Republicans have taken that are incredibly unpopular, or associations they have that are incredibly unpopular. So for example, we’re, we’re recording this on Monday, um, but the news is all about Trump’s dinner with—

 

Brian Beutler: Mm-hmm.

 

Jon Favreau: White supremacists, Neo-Nazi, Nick Fuentes and Kanye West. And I’ll tell you, like I saw the reporter ask Joe Biden over the weekend, like, hey, what do you think about this? And he’s like, oh, you don’t, you don’t wanna know what I think about it. And I was like, uh, yeah, I do. [laughter] [both speaking] This is a free one. This is a freebie.

 

Brian Beutler: The worst answer there is, I don’t think about him much, which he’s said before which drives me nuts. The best answer is he’s a disgrace. And any Republican who doesn’t condemn it is owns what he did. And then like the middle answer is like, I would say swear words if I [laughs] you know? It was like, it’s, it’s better than the worst possible answer. But yes, I wanna know what he thinks and like what the rest of the party thinks. And there have been Democrats who have, who have said their piece about Trump dining with Nick Fuentes, but it’s, you know, basically backbenchers here and there. There’s like, there’s no, well, and here, here’s where hard communication around it.

 

Jon Favreau: Here’s where I would get into strategy and maybe even tactics less than strategy, which this is what bothers me about this. Cause they think about these swing voters, right? What do we know about them? They, they have a loose connection to politics. They don’t consume the news very closely. So if they hear or they see that like Donald Trump, uh, had dinner with some guy who might have said something antisemitic. Right? Right. That like, that’s what, because it comes across everyone saying there’s no place for antisemitism. It’s like, okay, there’s a lot of antisemitic people out there. There’s a lot of statements that could be qualified. The classified as antisemitic. Nick Fuentes like wants Jewish people to leave the country. He believes in racial segregation. Right? Like these are like, and I think Democrats can’t just, if they’re gonna talk about it, it’s not enough to just condemn Donald Trump and ask people to condemn Donald Trump. Like, you actually have to give people the information about the controversy and, and especially one, especially someone this extreme in a very clear way over and over again. And I would, if I was, if I were Joe Biden, if I was the Democratic leaders of Congress, I would’ve every Democrat out there talking about this for at least a couple days to get it out there.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. And let it ride. Because some Republican is gonna come to Trump’s defense and then it, you, you, it snowballs and you just keep it going. And like, you know, I wanna defend Biden. Cuz I think that he’s actually been kind of a bright spot in all this. Like he’s the first, first Democrat who like, decided he should say that what Republicans are embracing with, with the Big Lie and, um, you know, trying to subvert elections is, is semi fascism, right? Like, got half the way there. [laughs] Um, and like if and when he breaks his silence, which he might by the time this—

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah, totally.

 

Brian Beutler: —like, I think that what he would say about Trump dining with the Neo-Nazi will be pretty good. It’s, it’s just that like, I, I don’t think that, um, you know, Ilhan Omar is not a neo-Nazi, but like, she doesn’t even have to say anything that’s even that controversial for the whole Republican party, just in an instant, you know, they send an email around to all their members, they’re all talking about it. There’s a vote on the house floor Democrats join to condemn her. And, and it’s that like instinct that sort of, oh, this is of course an issue that benefits us. We should definitely press it. That I think has been missing from the, the, the current congressional leadership. So I guess maybe we can close the conversation by talking about what you anticipate from the new class that’s coming in. Cuz cuz since the last episode of Positively Dreadful, Nancy Pelosi announced that she, she will not seek the leadership position again. All the existing senior leaders are stepping down. They’re all very old, they’ve all been there forever, but they’ve essentially anointed Hakeem Jeffries to take over as minority leader. And sitting here, I’m gonna forget the other two.

 

Jon Favreau: Katherine Clark—

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar. Right. Um, are gonna be the, the, the two deputies. And, um, I, I’m curious for your sense of like, whether you think that that’s going to bring with it a bit more of this kind of nimbleness, the willingness to like just jump on the Nick Fuentes thing, or if you think that the fact that they were sort of hand selected by the outgoing leaders is a sign that. They were selected for their willingness to continue running the machine the way it’s been running.

 

Jon Favreau: I think they will, I think Hakeem Jeffries will be a bit more pugnacious probably not as, as pugnacious as you hope— [laughter]

 

Brian Beutler: Probably not.

 

Jon Favreau: I would imagine. But look, I think what we are seeing, well, at least what I’ve seen over the last couple years, is they’re getting the, the example you use of like the entire Republican machine turning on a dime with a, you know, to condemn a statement that Ilhan Omar makes. I think that the Democratic Democrats over the last couple years have gotten better at that. There’s still it, there’s always like a, a couple day lag, which we’re in right now, [laughter] you know, like I would. Look, I’d be shocked if by the end of the week, like most Democrats hadn’t come out and said something about Trump and Fuentes. Right? Unless they just like avoid the cameras and the microphones and they’re all crazy, right? Like they, they shouldn’t, right? Like they shouldn’t shy away from it. Um, I think it, it takes us a little longer to get there, but I think it, it sort of like, you know, figuring out how to use a muscle, right?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. [laughter]

 

Jon Favreau: It’s like, like they’re trying to exercise that muscle and they haven’t for a long time. Um, and so I, I think it’s gonna get better, but probably, you know, not as fast as we’d like.

 

Brian Beutler: I actually wrote out like a, a, a good note to close on because I kind of anticipated we’d end here. Um, and it’s, I saw that Brian Schatz, whose, whose friend of all of the pods, um, make the point, um, which is true that, uh, that if Raphael Warnock wins the runoff in Georgia, um, the majority of go from 50-50 to 51-9, which frees up Democrats in the committees where they’ll have a one vote majority to issue subpoenas unilaterally if and when that happens. If, if we’re lucky enough for that happens, then Democrats can, they can fight Republicans. Subpoena for subpoena, investigations for investigations, real investigations to both neutralize, um, the Benghazi effect and root out real corruption. Um, and I guess the importance of the, uh, Warnock race and a good place to end is that, um, we’ll have like a, like a little test case of whether they would put that extra increment of power to real use. Um, and if they don’t, if they like, uh, hold their fire because they’re worried about Mark Warner’s senate seat or whatever, then you’ll haul Chuck Schumer onto Pod Save America and they can explain himself. [laughter]

 

Jon Favreau: Look, yes, yes, I will. And I will just say like, Chuck Schumer, I, I have given him a lot of crap over last year, like Chuck Schumer did okay.

 

Brian Beutler: He did.

 

Jon Favreau: He did. Okay.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah.

 

Jon Favreau: You know, for all the, like he landed the Inflation Reduction Act. He kept that, they kept the Senate, you know, it’s pretty, it’s could have, you know.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. I, I don’t wanna end up any place. Sticky, but like the—

 

Jon Favreau: Look, I, I am not some huge Chuck Schumer stan—

 

Brian Beutler: No, no—

 

Jon Favreau: —I give him some credit. I give him a lot of credit.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. I mean, the Senate Democrats performance in 2020 and 2022, I think in general was better than the House Democrats performance, those same elections and

 

Jon Favreau: Yeah. And look, I think, and that’s a tough election, and obviously, you know, the 2024 is going to be a brutally tough election. But I, I agree with you that Republicans start down this investigation path and Democrats have the power to go subpoena for subpoena, then they should, of course, if nothing else, then to defend themselves.

 

Brian Beutler: Yep. So, all right. Why don’t we leave it there?

 

Jon Favreau: Perfect. This was fun.

 

Brian Beutler: I think, I think now we agree on everything. Yeah.

 

Jon Favreau: Great.

 

Brian Beutler: Jon Favreau thanks for spending the last hour with us.

 

Jon Favreau: Thanks for having me on.

 

Brian Beutler: Positively Dreadful is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is Michael Martinez. Our producer is Olivia Martinez. And our associate producer is Emma Illick-Frank. Evan Sutton mixes and edits the show each week. Our theme music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.