Here again, I’m Stephen Dames, co-Editor-In-Chief—along with Inica Kotasthane—of the Next Gen Politics Blog. As I wrote last week, in order to connect the new editing team with you—the readers—and to honor the great traditions of the Saturday Evening Post, I will be writing a short blog entry every Saturday night. These pieces will attempt to blend political news with advancements in the arts and culture in a way that strives to meet the lofty standards of the original Saturday Evening Post. In addition to these thoughts and opinions, I will be sharing updates from the realm of NGP. So, without further ado, here is the second issue of the Saturday Evening Post.
Campaigning Complacently: Democratic Denial and the Biden Ethos
While it might seem hyperbolic—or at least tiresome—the claim that this is the most important election of this century does seem to bear merit. Donald Trump—along with the Republican establishment—has brought our Republic to its knees. The following, along with a few hundred other examples, shows just how bad a President Donald J. Trump has been:
(1) He has grossly mismanaged the nations corona-virus response;
(3) His administration has continued to widen the gap between the rich and the poor;
(4) He promises routinely to cut the meager social programs this country has;
(5) He has harmed nearly every democratic institution we have.
For these and a myriad of other reasons, it is a moral imperative that we remove Donald Trump from office.
To accomplish this, however, we must vote in Senator Joe Biden, an old school neo-liberal Democrat whose campaign has been based on the principle that if he gets elected, “nothing would fundamentally change.” To the average leftist, it feels like we need to sacrifice some of our core values in order to support the Senator who authored the ’94 crime bill, refused to stop being friends with segregationists, publicly said he would veto Medicare for All, and whose climate plan is nowhere near aggressive enough to tackle the existential threat that is climate change. However, as recent polling indicates, nearly all leftists have—for the moment—put aside their differences with the Biden campaign and are supporting him in order to take Donald Trump out of office.
What is troubling about this moment is that even with the support of hesitant leftists, virulent liberals, and perhaps even a spattering of #nevertrump Republicans, the Biden campaign is losing ground. Throughout recent weeks the presidential polls have tightened, leaving some Democrats worried that the Biden message has failed to resonate with both former Trump voters in the rust belt and the suburban moderate women whom the Democrats owe for taking back the house. Messaging aside, one problem that many political strategists are seeing in the Biden campaign is that it has failed to assemble a pandemic-safe ground game. While it has been reported that the Trump Campaign is knocking over one million doors every week, the Biden campaign isn’t doing in-person campaigning at all and is, in fact, not even opening offices in critical swing states such as Michigan and Florida. Due to (partially valid) concerns around safety, the Biden campaign is forgoing all door-knocking and in-person canvassing during the 2020 election. Some liberal groups are starting to campaign for Biden in person—wearing masks and staying 6+ feet apart from voters at all times—but even those groups with no official ties with the campaign are starting to get blowback from Biden campaign leaders, who instead of focusing on in-person canvassing are prioritizing online methods to reach voters. This is in sharp contrast with the Trump campaign which had nearly fifteen hundred paid staffers across twenty-three states as of August.
Biden’s campaign manager—a deputy campaign manager for Obama’s 2012 campaign named Jen O’Malley Dillon—has told reporters that Biden isn’t focused on in-person campaigning, and isn’t worried about Trump’s numbers as the Biden campaign’s “metric of success” is “conversations.”The metric of “conversations” is, of course, maddeningly vague. There are only a few statistics which it could possibly be referring to. One method of conversing with voters is through phone-banking, which—according to some political scientists—is more effective than door-knocking in reaching key demographics. It would seem logical that if the Biden campaign has opted against in-person canvassing, they would invest in a great phone-banking operation. However, according to the New York Times, “The Biden campaign still has not begun using some of the more modern dialing technology on the market… and is instead… using a system that multiple operatives described as slow, cumbersome and clunky.” From personal experience— as someone who has phone banked using both types of systems—without a shadow of a doubt it is true that the Dialer (the system the Biden campaign is yet to acquire) is a far more effective system—especially for large campaigns. These facts are puzzling and perhaps a bit terrifying to anyone who has been involved with a political campaign, as it has been well demonstrated that the campaign with the stronger ground game often wins.
Another metric that we can use to judge “conversations” is digital. While Trump’s campaigns have always used the internet to espouse their right-wing beliefs, (with a good deal of help from the Russians) the internet increasingly seems to be a place where liberals go to die. With help from social media companies, the Biden campaign seems to be falling into a hole of digital irrelevance. It has been reported that the Biden campaign is also failing massively at reaching voters online, making this potential strategy seem more and more like a failure.
Recently Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said that we must “trust in what we cannot see” in terms of the campaign. Increasingly, it has become harder and harder to trust in the same people who allowed a massive Trump upset in 2016, all while we see warning signs flashing around us once again. The Biden campaign must run a tougher and more rigorous ground game if we hope to oust the predatory populist in the White House.
Agree? Disagree? Have another take on this? We’d love to hear from you, even and especially if you see things differently. Here at NGP we promise to honor your views and values, as we believe that authentic cross-partisan dialogue is the key to a functioning democracy.
The Week in Next Gen Politics:
As I’m sure many of you are, this evening I’m mourning the loss of Supreme Court icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her life, vision, and work is something that should never be forgotten, and in the upcoming weeks, the blog will pay proper tribute to it. On that note, I’m glad NGP’s Social Issues Cinema Club will be streaming and discussing RBG: the movie tonight at 8 pm EDT. If you’d like to join, you can sign up here. Each week, participants in the Social Cinema Club vote from among 3-5 teen-nominated films to watch that weekend. Recent films include Hate U Give, When They See Us, BlackKklansman, Harriet, Moonlight, and Parasite. Sign up and vote anytime here.
Next Gen Politics recently celebrated the one year anniversary of our podcast The Round Table! If you haven’t tuned in yet, now is a great time to check it out and listen to the first two podcasts of Season 2–To Open or Not To Open? That’s the 130,930 Question about school reopening and Will Facebook Really Do It? about Facebook’s recent decision to ban political ads in the week leading up to the election. We think our podcast is pretty special in striving to model civil dialogue across various divides–socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, political, and regional–as well as to challenge norms and represent all kinds of diversity, especially of perspective and ideas. While an increasing number of teens are listening to podcasts, to our knowledge, there aren’t many podcasts BY teens, nor that really foster the breadth of perspectives we aim to. Listen in on any podcast platform of your choice–and stay tuned for a more in-depth blog piece about the podcast by my co-Editor in Chief Inica Kotasthane.
In other exciting news, our 2020-21 Next Gen Politics Civic Fellowship is getting ready to launch in two weeks! If you’re in high school anywhere in the country and interested in participating in conversations that emphasize multiple perspectives with civic-minded peers, apply to become a Next Generation Politics Civic Fellow. The Fellowship includes an online Sunday Civic Forum series in the fall and an optional Civic Action Internship in the spring. The Civic Forums Orientation is on Sun, Oct 4 so apply ASAP here.