Press: Fixing the Democratic message machine

Press: Fixing the Democratic message machine
© Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Democrats are good at a lot of things. They have a lot of good ideas, like child care, universal pre-K, cheaper prescription drugs, and family and medical leave.

But here’s one thing they’re not good at: selling their own story.

The Democratic Party’s message machine sucks! Just look back at the last three months, ever since Aug. 10, when the Senate voted 69-30 to pass President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, soon known as the “BIF.” Ever since then, every story’s been about the chaos among House Democrats.

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Progressives refused to vote for the so-called hard infrastructure bill unless they could vote on the companion “soft” infrastructure measure at the same time. Moderate Democrats insisted on voting for the physical infrastructure bill before even considering the human infrastructure bill. And, of course, the media loved nothing more than fanning the flames of a civil war among Democrats – ignoring the fact that Republicans had simply checked out, refusing to support any infrastructure bill, no matter what was in it nor how much it cost.

Meanwhile, nobody was talking about content. Democrats were so busy fighting over how to deliver the product, they spent no time selling the product itself. When the BIF finally passed the House 228-206, with the help of 13 Republicans, only a small percentage of Americans knew what was actually in the bill: what it meant to them or how it would help their state or community. And yet it will reach every corner of the country and totally transform the American economy.

In itself, the BIF is the largest public works investment since President Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System in 1956. But its impact will be far greater. Biden’s bill is not just about roads, bridges, and tunnels. It also covers public transportation, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicles, ports and airports, water and wastewater treatment plants, the electric grid, and broadband access.

Associated Press reports that adds up to: $110 billion for roads and bridges; $73 billion to upgrade the electric grid; $66 billion for improving passenger and freight rail service; $65 billion for expanding broadband access into rural areas; $55 billion for new water quality treatment plants; $50 billion for climate change measures; $21 billion for environmental cleanup; $15 billion for electric vehicles, including new charging stations; $39 billion for public transit; and $42 billion for upgrading ports and airports. Taken together, those programs are estimated to create 2 million new jobs per year.

As Naomi Biden, the president’s granddaughter, tweeted out Friday night when the bill passed, “I’ll say it: This is a Big F---ing Deal!” But the BIF does more than pump money into the economy. It also serves a greater purpose: to prove, once again, that government can be a force for good and -- as Joe Biden promised but nobody wanted to believe – that Democrats and Republicans, working together, can still get big things done.

Our broken-down infrastructure’s not the only thing that needs a good fix. So’s the Democratic Party’s message machine. Democrats need to stop playing defense and start playing offense. Stop explaining process and start talking product.

Their message should be loud and clear. You elected us to end the Trump chaos and get big things done and we delivered: the biggest public works program ever. And we’ll soon add, in the “Build Back Better Bill,” the biggest boost for families ever and the strongest action ever taken to combat climate change.

Democrats have a great product. Now it’s time to sell it.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”