19 Comments

IMO: Biden could use a “ Sister Souljah” moment, against the left on some of the identity stuff. He needs something, to appeal to Working class men, that he’s still “Middle class Joe”. He seems unwilling or unable so far.

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My gut feeling is even though Josh is correct about the overlapping themes, the message just won’t have the same ring in today’s environment (social media, criticism from right and left, etc.). But Biden should still pound it into voters’ heads. He will very unlikely win in a landslide, even if it’s Trump, but a win is a win, regardless of how close it is. However, a solid victory over Trump and the toxic brand of Trumpism would be a big triumph and very, very emotionally satisfying.

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Another key factor I would suggest is that Reagan did not face the social media onslaught that Biden does.

Seems much easier for both sides to create & maintain fear today than 40 years ago.

That's a tough one to overcome with any rational messaging.

The Fear Banter just keep coming.

Understanding Biden is the FAR better choice of the two we will probably get, are these really the best choices the country can offer?

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I'm pretty sure if we had seen numbers as good as 3.7% unemployment coupled with 4% inflation during the Reagan administration, it would have been hailed as a success of historic proportions.

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I’m old enough to remember 84, and one big difference is that back then the media bought in to the whole Morning in America narrative, but that’s not happening now, at least not yet. Every time you turn on the news, even mainstream media, all you hear is gloom and doom on the economy and inflation. For a year they have been predicting a recession to begin any time now, but it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s looking like we may even get a soft landing. However, the media doesn’t show any sign of acknowledging that. Of course in 1984 there was no internet or social media, and most importantly, no Fox News.

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Next fall, voters won't care very much about the state of the economy in the summer of 2023.

Predictions about the economy a year plus from now are guesses, but my guess is that things will be worse not better. Don't underestimate the impact of all the Covid era assistance programs sunsetting or the bite of the rise in interest rates. As well, we may be in the midst of a financial asset bubble, and if so and if it pops before the election, that will be a huge headwind.

I think Biden will likely win, but as a "better than the alternative" not necessarily due to the strength of the economy.

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Josh, it would appear that Biden is following your advice with his Bidenomics version of Morning in America. I'm still not convinced it will be successful for the reasons I stated before, but I would be a lot happier if Biden followed your advice on politics all the time. So maybe this is the first step to Barro for Chief of Staff.

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Josh,

I've been thinking about this post for a while and have collected my thoughts. I don't think this rhetoric would work. The first problem is that I don't think Biden really ran on making the economy better as a main focus. Yes, unemployment was at 6.7% in November of 202 but prior to COVID it was at 3.5%. I think there was a priced-in expectation that unemployment would decrease as the pandemic wound down.

Second is inflation. When Reagan ran in 1980, inflation was the number one issue for voters and it was down substantially by 1984. The number one issue for the Biden campaign was not being named Donald Trump (which he admirably succeeded on). In 2020, inflation wasn't an issue. I don't think voters will give as much credit to Biden for lowering but-still-higher inflation when all of the inflation was on his watch.

Third, and I think most important, is consumer sentiment. In November of 1980, the consumer sentiment index was 76.7, up from that summer where it was as low as 51.7. By 1984, the consumer sentiment index was anywhere from 95.5 to 101. People thought the economy was getting better. In contrast, consumer sentiment was at 76.9 in November of 2020 and currently sits at 59.2.

The "Morning in America" framing worked because that's how the public was viewing the economy (regardless of what metrics you point to or what Reagan's opponents said). The framing doesn't work, even if it was 100% correct, if the consumers/voters aren't in the mindset to buy it. And right now, I don't think the consumers/voters are in that mindset.

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Great piece!

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