May 12, 2022 | Reading Time: 5 minutes

Actually, the Democrats are pretty good at messaging

The problem isn't messaging. The problem is infrastructure.


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The Democrats are bad at messaging.

That complaint is so common, I say no thanks whenever an Editorial Board member pitches the idea. (Well, most of the time.) Yes, the Democrats could do better, but honestly, I don’t see how much better – not without their own media.

Fact is, the complainers want the Democrats to be as loud as the Republicans. They want the Democrats to bend political reality in their direction the way the Republicans bend political reality in theirs.

But the Democrats don’t work that way. 

They might not ever. They are the party of reform. 

The status quo hates reform. 

The status quo, whatever that is, however bigoted it might be, is in the Republicans’ favor. The status quo is in the favor of the people who own the most lucrative media properties. We have seen attempts by liberals to create a liberal Fox. Guess what? They can’t make money.

The status quo, whatever that is, however bigoted it might be, is in the Republicans’ favor. The status quo is in the favor of the people who own the most lucrative media properties. We have seen attempts by liberals to create a liberal Fox. Guess what? They can’t make money.

Another fact: the Democrats do say the things their critics say they should say. It’s just that the Democrats say it in scattershot fashion.

Instead of being concentrated, as rightwing voices are via Fox, Breitbart and talk radio, the voices of democracy and liberalism are atomized.

Their messaging never has the same pop.

So today, I’m going to show you a few things the Democrats have been saying in order to push back, at least a little, against the widespread and confused notion that the Democrats are bad at messaging. They are good at it. That doesn’t matter. Even the best messaging sinks out of sight unless supported by a robust and effective infrastructure. 

An infrastructure like that takes resources. 

Defenders of the status quo have resources. 

The Democrats are the party of reform.

Defenders of the status quo hate reform. 

So the Democrats do what they can do.

Face it, they want a god-emperor

The president is now in the habit of using the phrase “ultra-maga.” It’s a signal for ordinary Republican voters who might want to vote for him but worry about reneging on commitments to the Republican Party.

Yesterday, he added a twist. 

Donald Trump, he said, is “the great maga-king.”

I love this. It gets to the heart of democracy itself. True republicans (small r) want to rule themselves by way of democracy. Ultra-maga Republicans, on the other hand, want to be ruled by way of a king.

Below is a reaction from Benny Johnson, the grand pooh-bah of putzes as well as a propagandist for the Republicans. I put his comment in context with Paul Weyrich, the late founder the Heritage Foundation who was writing for the Post, and Richard Spencer, an American Nazi.

Joe Biden, Wednesday
“Under my predecessor, the great maga-king, the deficit increased every single year he was president.”

Benny Johnson, Wednesday, on “great maga-king”
“Seriously confused how this is supposed to be insulting.”

Paul Weyrich, 1987, in the Post
“Many conservatives are monarchists at heart.”

Richard Spencer, 2016

“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

“Why are you such a hater?”

Hakeem Jeffries sits on the House Judiciary Committee. The panel passed last night a bill requiring a code of ethics for the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court. (It has none.) The bill expands the law overseeing recusals. All of this was with Clarence Thomas in mind.

The Supreme Court justice’s wife, Ginni Thomas, was apparently thick as thieves with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. They exchanged several text messages while the J6 insurrection raged on. The takeaway is she appeared to favor overthrowing the republic.

Clarence Thomas recently complained about demonstrators protesting outside the homes of Supreme Court justices in opposition to their imminent overturning of Roe. He said the protests were a form of bullying. He added that, “we are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like.” 

The congressman from New York had a few words.

Hakeem Jeffries on Clarence Thomas
I’ve got some advice for Justice Thomas. 

Start in your own home. Have a conversation with Ginni Thomas. 

She refused to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. 

Why? Because she didn’t like the outcome. 

Instead, she tried to steal the election, overthrow the United States government and install a tyrant. 

That’s bullying. 

That’s being unwilling to accept an outcome because you don’t like the results, because the former twice-impeached so-called president of the United States of America lost legitimately to Joe Biden. 

How did she respond? 

She said the Bidens should face a military tribunal and Guantanamo Bay on trumped up charges of sedition. 

You’ve got to be kidding me. 

And lastly, let me ask this question of brother Thomas. 

Why are you such a hater?

Hate on civil rights. 

Hate on women’s rights. 

Hate on reproductive rights. 

Hate on voting rights. 

Hate on marital rights? 

Hate on equal protection under the law. 

Hate on liberty and justice for all. 

Hate on free and fair elections? 

Why are you such a hater? 

And you think you can get away with it, escape public scrutiny because you think that shamelessness is your superpower …

The truth is your kryptonite.

Republicans put in the corner

Dick Durbin is normally pretty boring. Scratch that. He’s always pretty boring. That’s part of his appeal, I think. He might take liberal positions on things, but he does so in ways that can’t possibly arouse a reaction.

During the Senate vote yesterday to codify Roe (which failed 49-51), Durbin took to the floor to challenge the Republicans. If you want to say protesting justices outside their homes is bad, you have to also say that the sacking and looting (my words) of the US Capitol was bad. 

They won’t do that. 

Durbin knows it. 

He’s putting the Republicans in the corner where they belong.

Dick Durbin on violence
Let’s make it clear, unequivocally clear, in a bipartisan fashion, violence is never acceptable. 

Violence is never acceptable against Supreme Court justices, their families, their staff or anyone associated with that branch of government. 

Nor was violence acceptable on January 6, 2021, in this chamber when the insurrectionist mob leaving a Trump rally came here and tried to stop the business of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. 

We left as fast as we could move out the back door to try to escape them. That was violence which led to five deaths and the assault on 150 members of law enforcement. 

That violence is unacceptable as well. 

I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle, who vetoed an effort for a bipartisan commission to investigate the violence of January 6, will step up now and say they were wrong. 

Violence against the Supreme Court Justice, violence against members of the House, members of the Senate – none of those are acceptable. 

The Pete principle

When US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was running in the 2020 Democracy primary, he was asked where he stood on third trimester abortions. That’s a tricky question, but then-Mayor Pete handled it so well other Democrats should copy-cat his response.

And finally …

When they say this, they do not mean it. 

They want you to believe they mean it. 

What they mean, but do not say, is that “the point of birth” is the same thing as “the point of viability.”

In other words, that the point at which the baby can survive outside its mother’s body, which is generally about 24 weeks into a pregnancy, is the same thing as carrying a pregnancy to term.

No parent on this planet thinks they’re the same. 

No parent thinks the “point of viability” — “the point of birth” — is the same as the due date. 

They’re lying to you. 

My hope is now you know.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. John Smart on May 12, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    Love your posts, but you’re simply wrong about this. Yes, the problem is messaging. And consistency. A lack of media is ALSO a problem, but it is not THE problem. The Democrats problem IS messaging and everything that goes along with messaging. They could compete. They could destroy the GOP on one issue after another if they upped their messaging game. Democrats STILL react , when they should be attacking. Even a year into majorities, the GOP is STILL driving the conversation. Why? Democrats REACT but don’t attack. Sustained , on going attacking on GOPS would level them. MTG freaks out with mild occasional push back. Democrats are the only group on earth who think bullies stop being bullies because the people they are bullying get “outraged”.

    Democrats are utterly unwilling to think like warriors – and like it or not elections in the US are war games. Fact of life. And it’s not that they can’t message like warriors, (James Carville does, Harry Truman did, Late night talk show hosts effectively do it nightly) it’s that Dems regularly refuse to until it’s almost too late. They treat going on offense as “beneath them.” It took years after Trump was in office for most elected Democrats to even say the word “lie”. The GOP depends on this Democratic silliness.

    The GOP is SO good at lies via messaging there’s actually a phrase for it now “Swift boating” – though it’s obvious, and Dems COULD “swift boat” – i.e. go on offense, stay on offense – (And they wouldn’t even have to lie!!!!) they refuse to. Why are we so excited when one politician FINALLY goes on OFFENSE like McMorrow or Jeffries? Because we know they should and can do this every day, all the time…. Trust me – MEDIA would FOLLOW.

    It is perversely belligerent that Democrats won’t go on offense and stay on offense. They could. They should. IT’s arrogant that they don’t. It loses winnable elections, which in turn leads to death. That last sentence is not hyperbolic.

    • Thornton Prayer on May 13, 2022 at 4:35 pm

      EVERYTHING you said is on the mark. For whatever reason or reasons, Democrats seem to operate that simply passing bills will suffice as effective messaging.

      The reality is that most voters simply don’t have the time or interest to follow politics closely, let alone legislative language and policies. With the reactionaries constantly screaming simplistic but emotion-driven lies, most voters will just pay attention to that. The Democrats COULD destroy the GOP with a full throated and proactive messaging campaigns, but are too half-hearted and weak minded to do so. It’s the same weakness that the center-left in 1920s-1930’s Germany operated from and we all know how that turned out.

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