The months after the November election were supposed to be a quite(r) period. I had planned to use that period to reflect on what happened, think about what came next, and chart out a post-2020 election course for this newsletter. The coup attempts, Georgia runoffs, and protracted Congressional negotiations gave me plenty to write about, but continually pushed off any planning for the future.
Ultimately, I took the plunge into newsletter writing last summer with the idea that I could offer an analysis of the 2020 campaign through the perspective of a practitioner of politics rather than a pundit and provide actionable political and message guidance for readers who were helping in the election at all levels.
With the election in the rear view mirror, I wanted to let you know my current thinking about Message Box in 2021 and beyond.
A Focus on the Big Things: So much of the 2020 campaign — and the entire Trump era — was about the outrage, scandal, tweet, or failure of the moment. From a newsletter perspective, my goal was to contextualize these moments and provide some guidance on how readers could talk about them with the persuadable voters in their lives. The behavior of Republicans not named Trump since the election makes it very clear that things aren’t returning to “normal” any time soon (sorry!). My goal for this year is to spend less time on the shiny objects and more time on the huge structural issues that define American politics. For example, 90 percent of political analysis is about campaign tactics and 10 percent is about the structural impediments to Democrats building a governing majority commensurate with their numerical majority. Those numbers need to be inverted because if we don’t deal with the structural problems, it won’t matter what slogans we come up with or which ads we run. Therefore, expect a lot of focus on Republican efforts to curtail democracy, the Right Wing media advantage, the shifting electoral coalitions, and the Democratic disadvantage in the Senate and Electoral College.
Curation for Donating and Volunteering: During the campaign season, you were bombarded with donation requests and volunteer asks. While it was a challenge to wade through them, there was no shortage of opportunities to get involved for those inclined to do so. Finding ways to make a real impact is going to be harder in 2021. I want to help Message Box subscribers find meaningful opportunities to advance progressive goals by featuring political organizations that are doing critical, sustainable work and highlighting the important political fights around the country where help is needed. Some examples:
Introducing subscribers to the groups around the country that are doing local organizing with the long-term goal of turning Red areas Blue much like Stacey Abrams, Latosha Brown, and Nse Ufot did in Georgia.
Connecting subscribers with state and local referenda that advance key progressive policy goals like the recent ballot initiatives in Florida to restore the voting rights of the recently incarcerated individuals and raise the minimum wage to $15.
Testing a Modern Model of Communications: Most political communication strategies adhere to an outdated and inefficient model that depends on the goodwill of the editors of the New York Times. Every supporter with a smart phone and a social presence can be leveraged as a messenger to persuade voters and shift the political conversation to the left. To accomplish this goal, we must treat our volunteers like political pros and offer them sophisticated political analysis, strategic advice, and specific guidance on how to communicate with the people in their personal networks. A massive distributed network of grassroots messengers is the only way Democrats can compete with the Fox News and Facebook-fueled Republican propaganda apparatus. I want to continue to test out this model by proving readers with the same message advice that I would provide candidates and politicians responding to the same news events.
Be a Resource for Down Ballot Candidates: In the age of social media, all politics are national. What happens in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and on Twitter will impact candidates running for city council and school board all across the country. Most local campaigns are boot strapped operations with no budgets for political consultants or opinion research. My long-term hope is that the messaging guidance and polling analysis in Message Box can be a resource for people running for office and working on campaigns at every level. I don’t mean to suggest that a newsletter can replace the expertise of local organizers and operatives, but hopefully it can serve a complementary function.
Thank you to everyone for reading this newsletter over the last many months. A special thanks to those who have supported this work by becoming paid subscribers. For those that have not, I hope you will consider doing so. Paid subscribers to Message Box receive additional posts every week and the ability to participate in a Q&A thread where we discuss every political issue under the sun.
I look forward to working with all of you to build on the successes of 2020 and realize the promise of the diverse, progressive majority that sent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House.