Today’s Edition: Bucking conventional wisdom.

October 14, 2021

          In yesterday’s newsletter, I discussed “a bias toward action” as an antidote to pointless worry. If you are worrying about the upcoming elections in Virginia, channel that anxiety into action. I received a note from a reader who is involved in PostCardsToVoters. She writes:

          SOS!!!! We have less than two weeks until the deadline to mail postcards into Virginia! We really need help with PostcardsToVoters.com to remind Virginia Democrats to get out the vote!! The more volunteers writing postcards, the more candidates we can help. Even writing a small number of postcards helps. Every postcard could be a vote! Both the majority of the House of Delegates and Governor’s race are now rated as “Toss Ups." To get started on postcards, send an email to join@TonytheDemocrat.org or text “join” to 484-275-2229, and Abby the Bot will help you sign up! All you need are some postcards and stamps.

          Of course, there are other outstanding organizations involved in defending the Democratic majorities in Virginia. 31st Street Swing Left is looking for volunteers to canvass on October 16, 23, 30, and 31, and is soliciting support for a slate of Democratic candidates in Virginia’s House of Delegates. If you are not sure where to direct donations to help in Virginia, check out 31st Street Swing Left’s website. Also, Vote Forward is soliciting volunteers for an October 16th mailing to encourage voters in underrepresented areas to vote in November. Per Vote Forward’s website, they are looking for volunteers to send the final 55,000 letters. (Vote Forward has already sent 201,697 letters into Virginia.)  

Bucking conventional wisdom in 2022.

          A major theme in news coverage for the last month has been the “counter-narrative” that asserts that Biden’s challenges will make 2022 more difficult for Democrats generally. It is conventional wisdom that the “president’s party” loses ground in the midterms. I won’t argue with the conventional wisdom. Instead, I will argue that there is nothing “conventional” about an election in which one party is led by the only president to incite a violent insurrection and whose incompetence in responding to the pandemic led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. Not to mention extorting Ukraine, coddling Russia, and converting the Oval Office into a “for-profit” subsidiary of the Trump Organization. Oh, then there’s the fact that Trump is saying that unless the “voter fraud of 2020 [is] resolved, Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24.” That same “stay home from the polls” strategy resulted in the unexpected wins for Senators Warnock and Ossoff in Georgia. Conventional? Not by a long shot.

          Here’s my point: Don’t accept the defeatist narrative that says Democrats will lose ground in 2022 because “that is what usually happens.”

          In correspondence with readers over the last several days, one discussion helped me keep perspective about the 2022 and 2024 elections. The conversation turned to the influence of Independents on the most recent election cycles. Recall that Trump won 46% of the Independent vote in 2016 (to Hillary’s 42%), but Biden won 54% to Trump’s 41% in 2020. The reader followed up by sending me a Morning Consult poll that included a question to Independents: “Should Donald Trump run for president in 2024?” Only 30% of Independents said “Yes,” while 58% said “No.” (Twelve percent said, “Don’t know.”)

          To be clear, the question was not whether Independents would vote for Trump in 2024, but their responses align with the erosion of Trump’s support among Independents between 2016 and 2020. So, next time you hear that 82% of registered Republicans view Trump favorably, keep that statistic in perspective by remembering that the Republican Party is the fourth largest voting bloc in America, ranking below “Eligible voters who did not vote,” Independents, and Democrats (in that order).

          If you want to help Democrats protect democracy, the three most fertile areas are (a) persuadable Independents, (b) eligible voters who are not registered to vote, and (c) graduating high school seniors. (As I noted several weeks ago, eight million graduating high school seniors will become eligible to vote between now and the 2024 election. When younger voters register, they tend to vote Democratic. See The Civics Center.) So, there is plenty of opportunity for Democrats to buck the “conventional wisdom” by bringing new voters to the table. We can do that.

House Select Committee turns up pressure on Trump aides.

          The House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection issued a subpoena to the former acting head of the DOJ Civil Division, Jeffrey Clark. See The Guardian, “House Capitol attack panel issues subpoena to Trump official Jeffrey Clark | US Capitol attack.” Clark authored the infamous memo that urged the DOJ to encourage state legislatures to override the results of the election. Clark also promoted ludicrous legal theories that allegedly provided a basis for Mike Pence to refuse to accept the Electoral ballot count.

          Clark’s testimony should be key to the investigation because he spoke directly and privately to Trump about the election—an unprecedented violation of DOJ policy and chain of command that has no innocent explanation. Clark has ruined his reputation and may have placed himself in criminal jeopardy. (Only Merrick Garland knows for sure!) Here’s a thought: Clark seems like a man of few scruples who is seeking to salvage what’s left of his legal career. Perhaps he can flip on Trump, confess his conspiracy to the Committee, and agree to testify against Trump. That would make Merrick Garland’s job of prosecuting Trump a lot easier!

          It appears that Steve Bannon will ignore a subpoena to testify on Thursday, thus setting up a fight to compel testimony. Committee member Liz Cheney said that the Committee is prepared to seek criminal contempt charges against anyone who refuses to comply with subpoenas issued by the Committee. In a positive development, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified voluntarily before the Committee for eight hours on Wednesday. See Politico, “Rosen, former acting AG under Trump, appears before Jan. 6 committee.”

          Americans should feel buoyed by the investigations by the House Select Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the DOJ must move quickly to bring criminal charges against the leader of the coup and his accomplices. Until the DOJ does so, the message being sent is, “You can do it again.”

Concluding Thoughts.

          There is more news on Wednesday, but most of it amounts to incremental developments in existing stories. Rather than creating distractions, let me continue my theme by saying that the coming month will be nerve-racking. (Infrastructure, reconciliation, and the Virginia elections). The media will over-hype the drama of each of those stories and then over-interpret the results as they try to create a coherent narrative. By and large, journalists will tell us that we are doomed to repeat the past because that is the only anchor they have. But we are in uncharted waters, so using “history” or “conventional wisdom” to predict outcomes gives a false sense of certainty.

          Conventional wisdom also ignores the discontinuities between the past and the post-Trump world. Most importantly, it disregards our ability to change the narrative. In the last three decades, the “narrative” has been overwritten by three unexpected developments: Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” President Obama’s unexpected rise and victory, and the Tea Party backlash. We can rewrite the narrative and buck conventional wisdom once again to hold our majorities in Congress during the midterms. Indeed, the conditions are ripe for us to do so. It will not be easy or pretty, but with sufficient dedication and hard work, we can determine our future, conventional wisdom be damned!

          Talk to you tomorrow!