Going After Wall Street is Good Politics
Latinx voters were an important community to turn out to vote, and also one heavily hit by subprime mortgage lending and the financial collapse in 2008. So we targeted them in the Heller race in Nevada and in two key House races in Texas, against Hurd and Sessions, which we figured would also help Beto’s efforts to turn out the vote. We targeted a multi-racial set of voters in NJ 3, represented by MacArthur, and mostly white voters in Iowa 3, against Young. At the last minute, we also put a smaller amount of resources into the Nebraska 2nd district, against Bacon, working with other progressive groups to help Kara Eastman.
This was a small test and more experimentation is needed in the 2020 cycle, but for progressives looking for a populist message that works, this message works. It worked for undecideds, as well as people already planning to vote for the Democrat. Our callers found that in the House races, the working-class demographic was more than a third undecided, but were moved by this message. Based on the view and engagement rates on social media, and the strongly positive reactions on the phones, we think this program was a major success. Add to that the results in the races we targeted:
- Heller lost by a worse than expected margin to Jacky Rosen.
- Colin Allred’s victory against powerful GOP House incumbent Pete Sessions, a member of the House Republicans’ leadership team, was described by many political analysts as a “major upset.”
- We might be headed to a recount in a race with a razor thin margin in South Texas, a race where Gina Ortiz Jones had been abandoned by most of the big players in the Democratic Party after polls showed her down by 15 points. FAB PAC stayed in the race partly to turn out votes for Beto in that district, partly because Jones was such an impressive candidate that I thought the polls were off, and partly because our message seemed to be really resonating there.
- Cindy Axne’s win was another upset surprise of 2018: her district went solidly for Trump in 2016, and her opponent, David Young, had run a strong campaign.
- The Tom MacArthur/Andy Kim contest was one of the closest in the country all the way through, but most people expected MacArthur to pull it out because he was so strongly established in the district. Health care gets most of the credit here, but based on our telephone conversations, we think the Wall Street issue played an important role here as well.
- In Nebraska 2, most pundits and DC Democratic groups wrote Kara Eastman off early. DailyKos even downgraded the race to Likely Republican the last week before the election. Even though we lost here, Eastman came a lot closer than expected.
As well as Democrats did on health care this year, we are not going to win the presidency and Senate back next year without having a strong economic message. Right now, the Republican Party is favored over the Democratic Party on this issue, in part because voters don’t know what we stand for economically. We need to tell a story about how Trump is trying to divide Americans on the basis of race, and his big money, special interest cronies like the Wall Street banks are using those divisions to distract us, so that they can get even richer and more powerful. We need to tell voters what we are going to do for working folks of all colors to stop big business from exploiting them, and to help them get better jobs, bigger raises, and decent housing at a fair price.
The Race/Class Narrative ideas developed in another study by Demos; Celinda and her colleague Jonathan Voss; Ian Haney Lopez; and Anat Shenker show that we should lead with a narrative that goes straight at the racism and divisiveness of Trump’s Republican Party. This kind of narrative works better than either a vague agenda that barely mentions economic issues on one hand, or an agenda that talks about economic issues, but never mentions the racial issues Trump keeps stoking on the other.