The Meatsack Candidacy and Theories of the Election

Let’s suppose, for discussion’s sake, that Biden does win. What would this mean for the consulting class? I realize this sounds like “will no one think of the overpaid consultants?”, but successful presidential campaigns usually have implications for how parties run future campaigns. Both Clinton and Obama had ‘theories of the election’ which were then promulgated by a coterie of consultants and used by other campaigns, with various levels of success. There was a playbook, regardless of quality or appropriateness, that could be followed.

But Biden is essentially running a ‘meatsack candidacy.’ Trump is a historically unpopular figure, and has horrifically mismanaged both a pandemic response and the economic response to said pandemic. Biden’s strategy is essentially to fill a sack with meat, tie up the sack, paint “NOT TRUMP” on its side, and then count on enough people ranging from conservatives for whom abortion isn’t a strict litmus test (an unspoken, but defining characteristic of Never Trumpers) to leftists who oppose a second Trump term to vote out Trump. Hence, the “meatsack candidacy”, as it’s not really based on the Democratic candidate per se.

I’m not savvy enough to know if this will work–it very well might. But it certainly is unusual. Yes, Biden does have a slew of policies, some quite progressive and others quite… incremental. But he’s not really running on those policies, he’s running as NOT TRUMP. Moreover, he’s not aggressively campaigning in swing states, nor is he doing the usual things like trying to win the yard sign battle (and his citizen phonebanking operation seems clunky as well).

So suppose Biden wins. What does this mean for how Democrats run campaigns? The strategy of ‘sit back while the most unpopular and psychologically dysfunctional president in U.S. history mismanages a pandemic response to the point where it should be considered a crime against humanity while simultaneously doing almost nothing to help tens of millions of economically desperate Americans’ isn’t exactly a reproducible strategy. If I’m a consultant, I can’t go to some district and say, “We’ll run the Biden meatsack playbook.” It’s a one-off strategy (hopefully).

This strategy also means that a Biden win would do very little to settle the post-election intraparty battles. If you’re not running specifically for certain things, front and center, it becomes much harder to claim that a particular policy is essential for success in 2022 and 2024. Without a theory of the election, there are multiple theories of governance–which might be a good thing.

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8 Responses to The Meatsack Candidacy and Theories of the Election

  1. No one votes for a candidate. No one votes for a party. Everyone votes against a party. Individual candidates do not exist. Their names do not mattter and ideally would not even be published. It is called “scrutin de liste”.

  2. Jay says:

    I think it is a good thing. Realistically, what the Democrats need to do immediately is voter reform – anything and everything to make it easier for people to vote. Then statehood for DC and PR, abolishing gerrymandering would help as well. Nothing is going to change unless we take apart the processes the GOP has put in place to keep themselves in power. If a Biden Administration can accomplish this, it will set the stage for future (hopefully progressive) administrations.

  3. jmagoun says:

    I agree with Jay that the Democrats’ highest priority as a party (as opposed to their highest priority for governing the nation, which I think should be combating global warming) has to be a lockdown of the principles of democracy and majority rule.

    It’s very clear to me that the Republicans have given up on the idea of actually winning free and open elections with their current policy positions, and are ever more dependent for political power on suppressing the vote for their opponents. They are mobilizing the inherent distortions of the federal system, wherein the Senate and the associated Electoral College for the presidency facilitate minority rule at a national level, to pack the courts; and they have similarly been cementing their electoral base at both federal and local levels by controlling their messaging and their ‘facts’ via a self-contained media delivery system.

    Jay’s ideas are all good. Should the Dems control the Senate and the presidency next year, plus the House, they will have all of two years to pass a New Deal’s worth of reform legislation to reverse decades of Republican moves to enact minority rule. (Not to even mention reforming the executive branch’s overreach; prosecuting the criminals of this administration; fighting off the GOP minority led by Trump and his people; dealing with the economy and the plague; rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and social equity; and, oh yeah, beginning the massive economic dislocations that may start to slow the acceleration of global warming while also moving to mitigate the oncoming consequences of the warming that’s already locked in.

    Two years.

    • Jay says:

      Agreed! It’s also worth noting we may have four years – even though the midterms usually do not favor the incumbent party, the Senate landscape is in favor of the Democrats again in 2022 (20 GOP up for re-election vs. 12 for the Dems). And quite a few pickup opportunities there (Murkowski, Blunt, Burr, Toomey, Johnson and, if we want to go for the gusto, Rubio).

      But the earlier these things get done, the better.

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