Am I Missing Something?

I got this interesting email from TPM Reader CN. I disagree with it. And I think it illustrates a kind of self-reinforcing way people think about politics and particularly the Democratic Party. But I wanted to share it with you because I wanted you to be able to make your own judgment. CN’s note comes with the subject line: “You’re wrong and Bernie’s right, Josh.” This is a reference to my post yesterday disagreeing with Bernie Sanders’ argument that Democrats shouldn’t center the final weeks of the campaign on abortion but rather economics and economic justice. As I said in that post, my argument isn’t trying to settle the general direction or focus of the Democratic Party. That’s never going to be one thing. It’s about what makes sense over the next three weeks.

Here’s CN’s response …

At least here in Wisconsin.  Ron Johnson and the Republican PACs are hammering away at Mandela Barnes – about “defunding the police”, sending 87,000 IRS agents and raising the taxes on the middle class, paroling murders and child rapists (even though he has nothing to do with the Parole board). They show a Black family, afraid of what will happen.

They take clips from Barnes’ commercials to use in theirs and then call him a liar, tell you he’s a soft on crime tax dodger who will join AOC and Bernie in destroying the country.  They even have a commercial that shows a young girl being abducted at knifepoint and tossed into a van. A commercial when you go to view it off a website or on YouTube comes with a content warning, viewer discretion is advised.  But it’s shown over and over again during primetime.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGum-odSIXY

Barnes keeps plugging along.  He doesn’t play dirty. The Democratic support commercials for him address abortion, with one single commercial mentioning Johnson’s business dealings with China. The racist lies being put out on Barnes non-stop are working. With every poll, he drops further.  I wish they would support him the way they are for Evers. 

I fear that when this is over, people will shake their heads in disbelief and ask “how could Wisconsin reelect Johnson to a third term?” I really don’t want to respond with “I told you so.”

Unfortunately, I think Barnes is on his way to losing this race. I’m not saying it’s over at all. I’m just being candid about what I expect and the trajectory of the race.

What confuses me about this response — and I only highlight it because I’ve seen the same argument a lot — is this: Based on CN’s own evidence Barnes is being mauled by a nasty and aggressive culture war campaign focused on crime and culture war issues which is overtly playing on the fact that Barnes is Black. He’s a left-wing angry Black guy who’s going to let his scary friends abduct your daughters and let them out on bail while they’re awaiting trial, the ads veritably scream. It’s hard not to note that Gov. Evers is in a tight race but running several points ahead of Barnes, who is his lieutenant governor. Evers is white. He’s not as vulnerable to this kind of campaign. I’m not saying it’s all that. Evers may simply be running a better campaign. He’s also much more of a known quantity.

In any case, I guess the argument is that if Barnes were focusing on economics rather than abortion, which he doesn’t seem to be focusing on that much, that he’d be winning. Or perhaps that Johnson is winning the argument on the economy? I see no evidence of that.

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