Losing the narrative
Published July 28, 2022
By Thomas Mills
Joe Biden started his presidency with a bang. His vaccine roll out quickly got shots in lots of arms, saving literally millions of lives. He got money to families struggling to recover from the economic pain caused by the pandemic. He oversaw the creation of most jobs of any president in recent history. He ended the war in Afghanistan. Most importantly, he passed an infrastructure bill that has eluded presidents for decades.
The infrastructure bill was the beginning of the downfall. Instead of celebrating the bill and bragging about its success like Trump would have, Biden and the Democrats just checked it off their list while their left flank complained that they didn’t get their reconciliation bill, later to become Build Back Better. Within weeks, if not days, of the bill’s passage Democrats were casting the administration as a failure for not getting a transformative budget passed with their evenly divided Senate and single-digit majority in the House. Today, nobody even remembers the infrastructure bill happened. They just remember the fight over Build Back Better and, now, Joe Manchin is the best known Democrat in the Senate.
According to Third Way, only 24% of the people know that the infrastructure bill passed and was signed into law. The rest either don’t know the status or think it’s still being worked out in Congress. Almost 10% think that it’s a bill that won’t pass. That’s a failure of communication.
Democrats are lost in the today’s media environment. They’ve lost the narrative of Joe Biden’s presidency, in part, because they’ve forgotten the fundamentals of messaging. While the expansive right wing media infrastructure hammers the same points over and over again, progressive media jumps from one hot story to the next, never creating a storyline or overarching message.
The right understands that if they repeat a lie long enough, it becomes true. The same is true of the truth. If Democrats would tell the story long enough, people would start to hear it. They should have been saying, “Joe Biden brought Democrats and Republicans together to pass the largest infrastructure bill in modern history, fixing our deteriorating roads, bridges, ports, and rail system and expanding the internet to areas across the county.” And they should work it into every conversation they have with reporters.
They should also have been saying, “Joe Biden ended the war in Afghanistan after three consecutive presidents failed to do it.” Was it ugly? Yeah, but that’s war and no more Americans are dying on foreign soil. At this point, more people would remember that we’re out rather than how we got out.
And they should always remind people that more jobs have been created since Joe Biden took office than at any time in the history of the country.
I assure you, that if Donald Trump, or any other Republican, had those accomplishments, we would be hearing about them ad nauseam.
I understand that even the best message discipline would not knock inflation or gas prices out of the news. I know that the war in Ukraine and other news is going to dominate headlines, but the fact that nobody remembers the infrastructure bill is a failure. The fact that nobody’s talking about ending the war in Afghanistan is a failure. The fact that Democrats can’t seem to craft a coherent message and stick to it is incompetence.