The Democratic Playbook
Following the 2008 Presidential election, when Barack Obama became the first Black President of the United States, Republicans launched Project Redmap. Their goal was to control Congress and prevent President Obama from passing any meaningful legislation. But by targeting state legislatures they were also playing the long game. While Democrats celebrated their wins at the federal level, Republicans methodically invested dark money in little known state races. Project Redmap was a success and the consequences were monumentally devastating for the country and for democracy. In the 2010 midterms, Republicans flipped over 680 state seats, picking up majorities in twenty state chambers out of the eighty-eight that held elections that year and resulting in a whopping twenty-two Republican-controlled state trifectas, compared to a paltry nine for Democrats. 2010 was a census year, which meant redistricting would take place. In most states, it is the state legislatures that are tasked with drawing the Congressional maps. With their new majorities, Republicans embarked on a partisan gerrymandering tirade to ensure they would secure their seats for the foreseeable future. The Republican playbook can be boiled down to one word: CHEATING.
Republicans knew their extremist agenda was not popular with the majority of Americans, and would not help them win in the future. In fact, in seven of the last eight Presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has won the popular vote. So Republicans rigged the elections through gerrymandering, effectively determining the outcomes. Their bottom up approach allowed them to pass extremist laws and dismantle rights throughout the country. Like banning abortion and other access to reproductive healthcare, or restricting voting rights.
After Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, Democrats finally started to catch on and fight back. Prior to the 2018 midterms, Democrats held eight state trifectas while Republicans controlled twenty-six states. At the start of the 2023 session, Democrats had narrowed that margin, gaining control of seventeen states compared to twenty-two for Republicans. And the differences could not be more stark. In states where Democrats have controlling majorities, they have passed laws and ballot initiatives that the majority of voters support, such as codifying abortion rights, passing safer gun laws, and creating independent bodies to draw the maps. Republicans, on the other hand, continue to restrict rights. Like banning books in schools, or making it illegal to provide gender-affirming healthcare to minors.
Trump created an elevated level of falsehoods during his presidency. His lying was so pervasive that journalists started to keep track. The Washington Post claims Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims during his four years in office. Worse, he gave license to an entire party to wage a shameless misinformation war against the public. Democrats have begun to go on the offensive with facts to counter the GOP misinformation narrative. For example, our economy does better under Democratic presidents. And it turns out we have exploding deficits under Republican presidents, while Democratic presidents create policies that lower the deficit. The Democratic Playbook can also be boiled down to one word: FACTS.
Republicans don’t want to govern. They are anti-democratic, cheating to get elected and hold onto their power. They thrive in chaos, in creating performative clown shows. They don’t even use the word “democracy” in their talking points anymore. They are anti-workers, anti-women and most importantly, they no longer stand for our most American aspiration: Freedom. Since the founding of our country we have strived to move forward to create more freedoms for all. But when an extremist right-wing majority Supreme Court removed a woman’s constitutional right to a safe abortion, Republicans solidified their legacy of dismantling our freedoms.
The 2024 election will be about choosing freedom over extremism. The message may not be the same in every state. Or even every district. But with an increasingly deeply unpopular agenda, the Republicans need to cheat to win. Democrats can win with a clear message based on the facts.
Simon Rosenberg, founder of liberal think tank NDN, likes to say, “I’d rather be us than them,” and “I’m proud to be a Democrat.” Democrats may not always get it right, but I agree with Simon. I’d rather stand for love than hate. For the rights of all than for the powerful few. For the well being of our planet than for the enrichment of fossil fuel companies. For freedom over oppression. For the lives of children over guns. For democracy over extremism. For the facts over cheating.