The Daily Discourse with Zach and Matt : Episode 6

by Zach Courtney and Matthew Doty

Zach Courtney: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Daily Discourse with Zach and Matt. I’m Zach.

Matt Doty: And I’m Matt.

Zach: We have a great show prepared for you all today and it’s monologue heavy and election heavy. So Matt’s monologue looks back at some 2021 elections and what that will mean for Democrats moving forward. And my monologue takes a look at the Democrats’ chances in 2022 and 2024 and what they should do if they want to lose. 

Matt: First, we have a short message from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. 

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Zach: So we’ll take a quick break and we’ll come back with Matt’s monologue, stay tuned. Alright, and we’re back. We are going to start with Matt’s monologue. Matt has an interesting monologue today taking a look at some gubernatorial elections across the United States and what that could mean for Democrats moving forward. So Matt, with that, I’m excited to hear it, take it away. 

Matt: Political pundits were whipped into a frenzy this last week when Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin edged out his competitor, Democrat Terry McAullife. Their panic may not be completely unfounded — at least since the first election of Barack Obama in 2008 (for 12 years), the state has been decidedly blue-leaning. Virginia’s Democratic tendencies were apparently represented by Joe Biden’s double digit victory in the state over Donald Trump in 2020. Going into the gubernatorial race, it seemed as though the Democrats had a shoe-in candidate. However, as election night neared, a Democratic victory in the state became less and less of a guarantee. Youngkin won, flipping a blue state red. Something had gone wrong. But Youngkin’s win wasn’t the only noteworthy one. Pundits on all sides of the political spectrum pointed to Democratic losses (or close wins) in New York and New Jersey as well. Political analysts even pointed out the fact that Jacob Frey won reelection as mayor of Minneapolis over more progressive candidates, and the fact that ballot question 2 failed in the very city that George Floyd was killed. All of this in combination with Joe Biden’s abysmal 43% approval rating, spells trouble for the Democrats. 

I want to focus on the Virginia race here, as it will prove to be the most informative going forward. Now, I understand the Democratic panic. Glenn Youngkin was not expected to win at the beginning of the race, and Virginia, especially since the Obama years, is supposed to be solidly blue. There is no denying that the loss in Virginia is a bad sign. However, I can’t help but wonder whether or not characterizing it as a sign of an imminent threat to Democrats’ success in 2022 is a little misleading. With a full year before the midterm elections, both parties — not just the Republicans — should see this race as a teachable moment. 

For their part, Republicans will be (and have been) paying close attention to Youngkin’s campaign as a possible blueprint for future elections. Youngkin chose to focus on substance rather than rhetoric, opting for classic conservative policy proposals in the areas of education, taxes and the economy. This stands in sharp relief to the Republicans at the national level, who famously had no official platform at their 2020 convention, and seem more concerned with conspiracy theories than policy. Youngkin’s win points to the electorate’s exhaustion with culture wars and party politics. I should mention here that he did campaign, in part, on banning Critical Race Theory in schools, in what looked to me like a dog whistle to the Trumpian faction, but otherwise, so-called ‘culture war’ topics were lacking in his speeches. 

Another lesson that I hope Republicans take to heart is the continued localization of state politics. There is this broad sentiment in much of the country that the federal government which is, at least right now, perceived to be dysfunctional, that the federal government is infringing on the territory of state-level officials and institutions, and Youngkin contravened this while rival McAuliffe completely conformed to it. While McAuliffe called Youngkin a clone of Trump over and over and invited big names to his own rallies, Youngkin kept the former president at bay. Although Youngkin accepted Trump’s endorsement, he denounced violence at the capitol on January 6th, denied that the 2020 election was stolen, and had Trump join a rally over the phone rather than in person the day before the election. Youngkin may symbolize a step away from Trump’s politics in the future, and I for one, as a left-leaning college kid, hope that he is exactly that. 

But what can Democrats learn from this embarrassment? For one, that establishment endorsements may not be the lynchpin that wins the election. McAuliffe, the previous Democratic governor of Virginia seeking reelection, brought Obama, Biden, and Kamala Harris to his state to speak at his events. They almost always stressed that the country was at a turning point, and that Virginians needed to cast their vote for democracy in the face of autocracy. The issue is, as much as McAullife tried, he simply couldn’t link Youngkin to Trump. Thus, while Youngkin was markedly distanced from the “establishment” and proposing real policy, McAullife tried harder and harder to paint Youngkin as, essentially, a fascist. Voters didn’t see it that way, clearly, and so McAullife wasted his time.

Democrats know what they need to do: they need to pass popular legislation that helps poor and middle class Americans, and unfortunately, they need to back away from certain rhetoric if they want to win in 2022. The tasks won’t be simple. To quote the musical Hamilton, “winning is easy, governing is harder.” And, true, the Democratic party lacks a certain homogeneity that would enable it to pass meaningful legislation, as evidenced by the whittling down of the reconciliation bill from over 3 trillion dollars to just over 1 trillion. But no one said it would be easy — Democrats won in 2020, and now it’s time to govern, and big time, if they want to keep their spot. 

All is not lost for Democrats in the 2022 midterms. Virginia flipped blue to red in a matter of 12 months, and with a strong show by Democrats at the state and federal level, blue states can stay blue. While those in the media were sounding alarms and declaring imminent midterm doom, I hope that the decision makers took note of these state-level races and will adjust their strategies moving forward. Republicans will take Youngkin’s win as a blueprint, Democrats should take McAullife’s loss as a precautionary tale.

Alright, Zach. So, I tend to think of you as a smarter, more informed person on these topics than me and I’m interested to hear, coming out of the monologue, what you may have to add that Democrats need to be paying attention to, specifically in the context of this Virginia race.

Zach: Yeah, well, I think long story short, the Democrats are screwed, but I’ll get to that in my monologue. So my, my thoughts on Virginia specifically is I think this shows that politically it’s not a winning strategy to just say Trump bad. I don’t think that’s a winning strategy anymore. And I think the Democrats need to acknowledge that moving forward, that they need to have something to run on other than Trump bad, because Virginia shows that they got smacked. I mean, Biden won by, what did Biden win by in 2020?

Matt: Double digits.

Zach: 12 was it?

Matt: Yeah.

Zach: 12 points and then you turn around and you lose just a year later. So you got to think about the Biden-Youngkin voters and what’s true about them. They just no longer are really turned on by the idea, just Trump bad and nothing else matters. Something else matters to them. And I mean, really they haven’t seen the Democrats really deliver that much yet. They’re seeing prices rise when they go to the grocery store. And to be honest, I think some of them were still probably pissed off that their kids weren’t in school, as long as they were. I think that plays a large role in it. And then of course there are some people that get riled up by the critical race theory thing. And while definitely not everyone is riled up about that. There is a certain small faction that gets really riled up. And if you really drive up their vote, you know, those types of things matter.

Matt: Yeah. One thing that I think of moving forward is specifically for states like Virginia, who it’s being portrayed as this blue stronghold. And it has been for a while, it’s been pretty consistently voting Democratic since Obama’s first election, but for a long time, it’s been pretty purple. It’s not a state that is super deep blue or super deep red necessarily. And I think because of that, Democrats need to pay attention in states like these because now that it’s been proven that kind of Trump style politicians or Trump himself in 2020, doesn’t win a state like this. Then maybe you need to get down to actual policy and prove yourself as good at governing, rather than good at culture wars. 

Zach: Right. Well, and I think it’s also worth noting that sometimes the state level elections don’t always go the same way as presidential elections. Like Minnesota has gone blue at the top of the ticket since well, before either of us were around. But fairly recently, we had a GOP governor. So these types of things happen where when it’s an off year, especially, and it’s off your gubernatorial elections, you’ll have the other party when, when usually they aren’t supposed to win. So these types of things happen and that doesn’t always mean bad news, but when it’s a 12 point margin the year before, usually you got to think that something’s happening, that they need to turn it around at least.

Matt: Yeah, no, I think that’s, I think that’s a good point. And I think it’s definitely a signal to Democrats that something is going wrong. I mean, like you said, you can’t really win by double digits in a presidential race and then, you know, lose the gubernatorial race after a long stint of being a pretty Democratic state. And just think that it’s all smooth sailing still, that it’s just cause it’s, you know, just cause there’s a Democrat president that voters are gonna vote Republican for a little bit, because that tends to happen. But this is a pretty extreme switch and it should signal something to the Democrats. I just, I’m not sure if I would go as far as to say that this, this election in itself is a disaster or anything like that. 

Zach: Yeah. But also, you know, just the way that Americans are. And like, the thing that I was compared to is like the NFL. Like, if you have one really bad year in the NFL and you’re the head coach you’re gone. And so Trump obviously did a crummy job with the pandemic and he got booted out and now Biden hasn’t had the best start to his presidency. And now Virginia, which people would think should be going blue, his democratic buddy gets booted out before the end of his first year in office, I think these are the types of things that show that

You don’t really have that long of a leash before you need to get things done. And before we go on, I just wanted to point out some of the stupidest words that we use in politics. Gubernatorial is the dumbest word. I don’t know why we can’t just say governor. 

Matt: I was dreading being recorded saying the word gubernatorial.

Zach: It’s kinda like, you know, like the plural of attorney general is attorneys general. 

Matt: Yeah. Something needs to change.

Zach: We’ve got some issues with the English language. 

Matt: The Democrats should propose legislation to ban the word gubernatorial. 

Zach: I think maybe that’s what they need to do to turn things around that would get my vote for sure. But then so Virginia, obviously didn’t go the way they wanted to, states like New Jersey gubernatorial election didn’t go well either. But then I think something that’s also quite interesting is right here in Minneapolis with Jacob Frey winning reelection, despite many people not liking him, maybe being the nice way to say it. He was really the most moderate of the candidates, obviously a Democrat’s going to win, but he was the most moderate. And I think the biggest thing with the election is that the three ballot questions went exactly the way that Jacob Frey wanted them to go. And the most notable one is about question two related to the department of public safety instead of a police department. So change things around police funding and mental health advocates and those types of things. And it’s really notable that in the very city that George Floyd was killed, that ballot question failed. And maybe that just shows that while progressives like me maybe want some major reform around police, a lot of people just aren’t there yet. And I think Democrats need to understand that if they don’t want to get smacked in the midterms and 2024. 

Matt: Yeah. I think there’s this thing that happens in progressive politics that is. People tend to get very, very passionate, very, very excited and very, very, I don’t know, some sort of tunnel vision tends to happen. And this is good, I think it helps progressives focus on issues that help them kind of gain support and gather votes potentially. But when something like this happens, ballot question two failing, it seems like a huge surprise to progressives in their bubble, right? But I think it definitely, like you said, there’s progressive policies and something like creating a department of public safety instead of having the police department per se, is a big step forward. And it’s going to take a lot before everyone’s on board with that. Because people are scared of change.

Zach: Right. And like, you think about the group think mentality, and I don’t know about you, but a lot of people that I’m friends with here at the U kind of think the same way and have a lot of the same politics, and this should be a wake-up call that not everyone even in the city of Minneapolis thinks the same way as far as like police reform. And if police reform isn’t happening for Democrats in a city like Minneapolis, how the heck do they think they’re going to win with that on a national level or even think about like rural Minnesota, my hometown of Willmar. If you can’t get police reform to happen in Minneapolis on this large of a scale, you think it’s going to happen in Willmar, Minnesota? No. People are going to laugh you off stage, and DeSantis or Trump is going to come around and win Minnesota in 2024.

Matt: Yeah. I mean, I have a lot of family in Minneapolis, but I’ve a lot of family, even just in like first ring suburbs and even there, large-scale police reform is not popular, you know?

So I think it’s important, especially as college students on a large urban college campus to think about, you know, what kind of bubble do we live in? What kind of echo chamber are we in? Because it was surprising to a lot of us that Frey won as big as he won. But you know, maybe that maybe that just is reflective of where people are at right now.

Zach: Right. And I mean, for all the downfalls that I would give to Joe Biden, he wrote the crime bill. So I don’t think anyone can really say that he is too down with this defund the police stuff. I mean, maybe he just needs to lean into it a little more moving forward and really make sure that people know where the Democrats stand on it. But I don’t know, leaning into that would be a disaster. And hopefully this is a warning sign for Democrats moving forward.

Matt: All right. So we’re going to take a short break and we’re going to come back, continuing this conversation about Democrats and what they need to do in the future with Zach’s monologue. 

Zach: Alright. We’re back. 

Now that the 2021 elections are over, it’s time for political junkies like me to begin looking forward to the 2022 and 2024 elections. People will oftentimes take the angle of explaining how a political party can win, but let me do the opposite. This is what I like to call my guide for the Democratic Party to lose in 2022 and beyond.

First, if the Democrats are aiming to lose their elections, they should do everything they can to not deliver for the poor, working and middle classes. They should continue to gut the reconciliation bill of any good, like medicare expansion or paid family leave, and they should severely limit and means test any other good proposals like the Child Tax Credit or universal PreK. 

Next would be a tax cut for the wealthy. Tax breaks for the wealthy are quite unpopular, but I think many fail to realize how unpopular they actually are. I was looking at some polling from Trump’s time in office, and you know when Trump was least popular? Near the end of 2017 and early 2018, which is also when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — a massive tax cut for the wealthy passed. It was unpopular and Trump went on to lose in 2020 despite facing a weak candidate in Joe Biden. So if the Democrats want to lose, they should do their best to one-up Trump and the GOP and pass a tax cut for the wealthy, too. If they really want to lose, they could even add it to the reconciliation bill. 

Now that some bad public policy has led the Democrats to lose one or both houses of Congress in 2022, little will happen over the next two years, which means attention will quickly turn to the 2024 presidential election. If the Democrats want to lose, they should run an unpopular moderate that polls at or below the also unpopular Donald Trump. This means running someone like Biden again (who has a 43% approval rating), Kamala Harris (who has a 37% approval rating) or Pete Buttigieg (who found a way in the 2020 presidential primary to be a Democrat that is bad with Black voters). The icing on the cake would be for the Democrats to run two of these candidates on the same presidential ticket in 2024. 

If you’re thinking to yourself, hey Zach, this sounds like what the Democratic Party is currently doing, I’d say you’re right. House Progressives folded and allowed the bipartisan infrastructure bill to pass, giving up any leverage they had in keeping the reconciliation bill from being gutted. The already gutted reconciliation bill only has one year of a child tax credit expansion, a complex universal pre-K system that has means testing and work requirements, and limits medicare expansion to only include hearing not vision or dental and wouldn’t even begin until 2024. Worries over inflation could mean this bill will be gutted even further, or just abandoned altogether. 

And the thing about tax cuts I wish I were joking, but sadly I’m not. One of the few good things that Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did was cap State and Local Tax deductions, better known as SALT deductions, at 10,000 dollars. This meant that people could only deduct 10,000 dollars that they paid in state/local taxes when calculating their income for federal income tax purposes. It was a way to get back at upper-middle class and rich people living in blue states, since the SALT deduction disproportionately benefited them. Now, Democrats seem likely to remove the cap or raise it substantially to something like 72,500 dollars. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a 5-year repeal of the SALT cap would cost 475 billion dollars, with 400 billion of those dollars going to the top 5 percent of households. If included, the repeal of the SALT cap would be the single most expensive piece of the reconciliation bill. 

And lastly, the question of who will be the Democrats’ nominee for president in 2024. Sadly, we all know I’m not joking here. Biden or Harris, though unpopular, seem destined to be at the top of the Democratic ticket, and I have a bad feeling that someone like Buttigieg will find their way on the ticket as well. 

All of this will likely spell electoral disaster for Democrats in the 2022 midterms and 2024 general election. If dare I say when Trump, Ron Desantis or a similar figure wins the White House and the Democrats lose both houses of Congress in 2024, it’s probably because the Democrats followed my guide a little too well. And quite frankly, they deserve it.

And Matt, I’m excited to hear your thoughts, but first I just wanted to give the listeners some insight into how I wrote this. I wrote almost all of this monologue either last night or this morning, and I haven’t been in a great mood, so if it seems like a negative piece, that’s why. I think I write better when I’m in a bad mood though, so maybe it’s for the better.

Matt: Well, it was a great, great monologue. I’m sorry to hear that you’re in a bad mood. But I think you’re kind of a representative of a lot of at least Democratic voters, representative in your frustration. I know one thing that kind of jumps out to me from your monologue, but also just in general from conversations about politics in the last month or so, especially, is this issue of the reconciliation bill. And I know we spent a decent amount of time the last podcast talking about this so we shouldn’t stick to it very long. Or I guess two podcasts ago, but this whole process has seemed so self-defeating to me, that Democrats are really shooting themselves in the foot by creating a bill that in the end, no one is happy with at this point. And it just, it doesn’t, it won’t be a good thing to put on the resume in 2024 to say, we got this thing kind of done, you know? 

Zach: Yeah. And I mean, I’ve said it before, but it kind of is just turning to Biden will take whatever he gets and he’ll check it off on his box that, you know, I got a reconciliation bill done with social infrastructure or whatever you want to call it. 

But, I mean the proposals are almost nothing at this point. And now they’re going to make the biggest thing, be a tax break for the wealthy? The Democrats are going to pass a big tax break for the wealthy? I mean, things are completely turning on its own feet. Like, how are the Democrats going to now be the party that are going to pass the tax cut for the wealthy? And they’re not going to do many of these things for very long that are actually going to help the people. The child tax credit is only going to be a year. The universal pre-K I was trying to read it, you know, I’m a political science student. It’s confusing. It’s got a bunch of things you need to have a work requirement. They’ve got some means testing things that whenever you means test things, you’ve got to think that you’re going to lose out on the very bottom of the population as far as income, because they won’t be able to qualify for it or, you know, you need a work requirement so that’s also going to drop out a large percentage at the bottom. I can already envision Joe Biden going to a swing state and saying, look at all these great things that I pass for you guys. And they’re like, what the heck are you talking about? Like these things didn’t help us. You paid how many trillion for what? Like, none of this is actually helping me.

And I don’t know who’s in these Democrats’ ears. Just, I don’t see this helping them, if anything, I see it being a net negative the way these things are going. 

Matt: Yeah. So I think a lot of people feel that way. And one thing that I wonder a lot looking at kind of the fracture within the democratic party right now is does that moderate and progressive split right, the kind of two faction relationship, I guess. Does that just mean imminent doom for the Democrats or is there something that they can do to work together? What, what would you see as a way to correct some of these issues? Obviously, what has done in the past or what has happened in the past, what has already failed has already failed, but what do you think? We’ve got three years, you know?

Zach: Yeah, well, I mean, I think it’s going to continue to be chaos because, you know, looking back at the Georgia Senate election, everyone was talking about how, you know, if the Democrats win these two elections for the Georgia Senate runoff, it’s going to mean the Democrats have the majority in the Senate and boom, it’s magic, everything’s going to happen, right? And it’s like, well, you still got Sinema and Manchin and Jon Tester from Montana and you got some moderates in the Senate, as well as in the house, you know, the house majority, isn’t very big either. You got to win their votes. So it’s not really like, you know, it’s all perfect now that the Democrats technically have a majority, so people need to acknowledge that.

But also, I’ve been big for forever in maintaining that this isn’t just about moderates versus progressives. It’s also just about like corruption and people having the wrong incentives. And like Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey, representative from New Jersey has kind of been the big person in this push for, you know, he says no salt, no deal. If they don’t either raise or repeal the salt cap, no deal on reconciliation and the progressives and, you know, Biden who I think of Biden as the true moderate, because Biden, I think is actually in the middle of the Democratic party. So there’s people definitely to the right of Biden, but there’s people to the left of Biden, but then there are the people like Gottheimer who say that no salt, no deal. That’s just because they’re listening to their donors. And who are their donors? They are disproportionately, you know, rich people from the suburbs who have a good amount of money. And they just want a tax break, even when they don’t really need it. And there are other people who, you know, could benefit from, you know, things like the child tax credit or things like that. And if we change the incentives through, you know, like publicly funded elections or something where people like Gottheimer don’t need to worry as much about, or at all about donations from these wealthy people from the suburbs, you know, I think that would change incentives and change the way that things happen from the top down almost immediately you would think.

Matt: Yeah. And I know you’ve been, you’ve been big on that kind of looking into how lobbying and donors really shape the policy that ends up being implemented. I wonder what could Gottheimer’s like, so I don’t know a lot about him. But I wonder what the even reasoning, the rationale behind raising the salt cap so high would be other than the obvious, which is your donors want it?

Zach: Well, right. And they try to frame it as like this thing that would help people in the middle-class. So the 10,000, right? You can make, sure, you can make an argument that 10,000 is too low and that it is hurting people who are in the middle class. So raise it to 20,000 or, you know, raise it to 25,000. You’re gonna to raise it to 72-5, or, you know, people have talked about 80,000 or even a straight repeal? Like now you’re not talking about the middle class you’re talking about really rich people for 80,000. Yeah. Middle class people aren’t paying $80,000 in state and local taxes anyway, right? So, and what was my stat that of the 475 billion in a straight repeal, 400 billion of that would go to the top 5%. So, I don’t know how he’s able to spin it off as a middle class benefit, but that’s just total insanity if he’s going to try to argue that. 

And then I wanted to hear your thoughts because of course, politics, we always talk about the presidential election. And I just have a feeling that the Democrats are going to run a really old unpopular Biden or Kamala, which might be even worse than running Biden, just by looking at her popularity and whatnot. And then maybe sneak someone like Buttigieg on the ticket. I just don’t understand how someone like Kamala, she’s so unpopular and she’s not really like doing anything. Like you don’t really see Kamala in the news very much. She’s just kinda there. I don’t know. 

Matt: I mean, so was the question…

Zach: Who do you, how do you think that the Democrats are gonna win with one of these people at the top of their ticket? Cause I don’t see it.

Matt: I don’t think they would. I don’t think they would. I think the way that our national political system is working right now and the way that the parties have become so entrenched, I really cannot see one of these top level Democrats winning. They’re so hated by such a large percentage of the country. Biden’s approval rating is horrible. The way that people talk about Kamala Harris is, she’s really unpopular and she’s associated with this unpopular presidency, at least after its first year. I can’t imagine unless things turn around big time in the next three years, I can’t imagine either of them being successful. Pete Buttigieg, I don’t know. I think he’s, I think he’s a little bit of a different story. But no, I agree. I don’t think that one of those Democrats will win in 2024.

Zach: Pete worries me because it was just, he was, I mean, I don’t have the polling in front of me, but he was atrocious with Black voters. Like if you’re a Democrat and you’re bad with Black voters, that’s not a good recipe for winning elections. I mean, I don’t really know much about her politics, but from what I know, she’s probably a moderate that is similar to Biden, but you think Stacey Abrams would be incredibly popular and would have a good chance, but I don’t know, I think it would be cool if they just opened up and just had a primary and said, have at it. And the DNC just kind of let their hands be off of it and just let a primary happen. I’d be interested to see what happens. I mean, I think we both know where I would land that I would want a more progressive candidate. Like, I don’t know if Liz Warren, it sounds like there’ll be a chance that she would run if there was an actual primary, but just don’t let it be Kamala. Don’t let it be Biden. I don’t think it should be Pete. I think Pete would get smacked. But yeah, I think that would be a recipe for disaster.

Matt: I totally agree. I think we’re in the same boat. Democrats, if they want to remain competitive in 2022 and 2024, need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and figure out what they can do for the American people. 

Alright, I think we’ll wrap it up there. Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of the Daily Discourse with Zach and Matt. We had a lot of fun recording and we hope you had fun listening. We’ll be back with another episode in a couple weeks.