Political Journal Entry #2: The Long Road Ahead

August 18th, 2019

We have our work cut out for us in 2020.

Though I find myself being an optimist about our electoral chances, even after the cautionary tale of 2016, there have been several signs this week that we have a LOT of work to do if we’re going to defeat Donald Trump, and the GOP, next November.

Warning Signs

Crooked Media, a company that we’ve looked to as a major inspiration for this site, conducted a poll earlier this week of Wisconsin in coordination with Change Research. The purpose of the poll was not only to take a snapshot of the race in the state that, according to experts, would be the tipping-point (deciding) state in the Electoral College if the election were held today, but also to test what kinds of messages Democrats and Republicans may be vulnerable to moving forward.

The top-line results of the poll were alarming: If the election were held today, just 46% of Wisconsin voters say they would vote for a generic Democratic candidate for President. 45% said they would vote for Donald Trump, 3% would vote third party, and the remaining 6% said they were undecided.

Donald Trump was found to have a 48% approval rating in the state compared to 51% disapproving of his job performance. That puts his approval in Wisconsin about 6% above what his current approval rating is estimated to be nationally according to FiveThiryEight. He also has room to grow, as 50% of voters said they approved of his handling of the economy, the key issue that typically decides elections.

The good news for us, though, is that a substantial number of voters aren’t aware of many of the bad things Trump and the GOP have done, especially on economic issues. That suggests we have a major opening to put a dent in his, and the Wisconsin GOP’s, numbers.

Dan Pfeiffer, former White House Communications Director for Barack Obama, wrote a memo that detailed what the most effective attacks are on Trump. These fact-based criticisms, if sustained by an aggressive digital advertising campaign that starts ASAP, could be what moves Wisconsin from a toss-up, to a comfortable Democratic win like Barack Obama had here in 2008 and 2012.

This data works as a massive warning sign to all of us who want to see Donald Trump and the GOP defeated in 2020. If we don’t start putting in the work to win right now, Trump may have an unassailable advantage by the time we have a Democratic nominee.

Fortunately, our new leadership in the state party, under the guidance of Ben Wikler, gets this. We’ve already been in the field now for several weeks registering new voters, and working on identifying persuadable voters that will tip the scales in 2020. This is how we win elections.

Now is the time to donate to and/or volunteer for the Wisconsin Democratic Party. You can also find other ways to get involved with progressive causes here on our Take Action Page. We need your help in this cause!

A Story of Three Voters

Last weekend, I helped organize a canvass for the Wisconsin Dems in Grafton in coordination with the Ozaukee County Democratic Party. The goal of this canvass, like many we ran last weekend for our “Weekend of Action,” was to knock on doors of voters who we know are registered to vote, but we don’t know the party affiliation of.

I was sent on a shift to knock on doors in a series of apartments in Grafton. Out of the conversations I had at the doors, I noticed that voters tended to fall into three different camps.

  1. Republicans who plan on voting Republican again in 2020 without much thought
  2. Democratic voters who are really alarmed by what’s going on and want to take action
  3. Disaffected voters who aren’t sure what to make of what’s going on.

The third category of voters I talked to provided some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with voters since I started knocking on doors all the way back in 2011.

The common theme I heard among these handful of voters was that they felt hopeless. With so much disinformation existing out there, they weren’t sure what to believe or who to trust. They felt our political system wasn’t representing them. Even if they didn’t like Donald Trump, they weren’t sure whether casting a vote would really make a difference in this chaotic environment, especially given what they perceive to be corruption on both sides of the isle.

One person I talked to who felt this way was a Hispanic woman who called herself an independent. She said she found the task of keeping up with everything, in an era where disinformation is rampant, hard to do. Even though she wanted to be informed about what was going on, she wasn’t sure of the best way to go about doing this.

I also heard some alarming things from her that speak to the challenges we have as Democrats trying to persuade these voters moving forward, especially given what bad information is out there.

  1. She told me that she thought the media was too favorable to Democrats. The example she cited was a false claim that the 2016 Republican National Convention wasn’t carried on regular TV, unlike the DNC.
  2. She didn’t blame Donald Trump for the inflamed racial tensions in this country. Rather, she wrongly believed that former President Barack Obama was responsible for state of divisiveness that we currently face. When I asked her to cite a specific example of what he did to cause this, she wasn’t able to.
  3. She also repeated common GOP talking points that I’ve heard from countless people in red areas before like: Democrats want to give out free stuff to people while no one is helping someone like her who’s barely getting by.

Later in our conversation, I discovered that this woman had watched a LOT of Fox News during the Obama Presidency. Her ex used to watch it all the time. She said he went from an Obama supporter in 2008, to becoming a hardcore Republican after that election because of what he saw on Fox News. This is how she came to hear many of these false points.

I think one of the most difficult things we have to figure out is how we reach people who’ve been badly misinformed about what’s going on. This isn’t just a Fox News problem. It’s something I hear quite often from people who get their information from ALL FORMS of media, especially here on the internet. It’s something that exists across all voter groups too, not just persuadable voters.

How do we reach people who are persuadable, but don’t know what to believe or who to trust? How do we get people re-engaged when they feel powerless by what’s going on, but are likely to vote if we can show them that this isn’t the case?

These are the core questions we not only need to be grappling with now. It’s something we’re going to be combating long after Donald Trump is gone.

A Note of Encouragement

One note of encouragement I want everyone to be aware of is, despite some of the difficulties we face, there is still real energy on our side. Energy that will lead to us saving our country and bringing about real, substantive change.

The canvass we organized last weekend was a last minute event. In fact, we were only able to spend 4-5 days recruiting people for the event because we didn’t have the details nailed down on it until the weekend before the event.

Despite those limitations, I spoke to dozens of people on the phones and in person. Though most weren’t able to make to this particular event, they absolutely said they wanted to get involved ASAP.

As bad as things may seem, we have dozens of volunteers, even in a deep red county, ready to take action and help us put in the work to win 14-15 months before the election. The energy we have now is something that I haven’t seen since Barack Obama’s ’08 campaign. Even then, I think the energy we have now exceeds what we had then.

We’re living a moment where we can still reverse course and bring about real change, change that can finally help us address the complex issues that we face. This is what keeps me hopeful, even when everything else seems bleak.

People get that we’re living in an emergency. People get that human beings are losing their lives because of the policies of the GOP and Trump. They’re willing to make sacrifices, often substantial ones, to make sure we’re doing everything we can to end this madness.

That’s what keeps me going.

3 thoughts on “Political Journal Entry #2: The Long Road Ahead

  1. What a great article. You are correct, how do we battle the “What is real?” conundrum? I am alarmed with all the negative rhetoric directed towards people who are seeking change, accurate information, and to help others. What are you thoughts as to how to go about doing this?


    1. It’s a great question, and I don’t think there are any easy answers.

      One of the ideas that Dan Pfeiffer has been pushing is to get people who know people who are misinformed to share factual information with them, whether it’d be on Facebook, by phone, etc. People are more likely to believe something from someone that they know than they are from a complete stranger.

      I also think getting progressive media out there might be a good way to break through, so long as we are being as exact in our work as possible. We need to acknowledge that the modern media environment isn’t going to do our work for us, so we need to think of ways to get our message out there.

      Liked by 1 person

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