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.