On this week’s episode of The Brief, hosts Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld were joined by Joe Trippi, longtime Democratic strategist who worked as a media strategist and senior advisor on Doug Jones’ campaigns in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election in Alabama and again in 2020. The trio discussed the Democratic strategy for retaking the Senate come January, what’s at stake with local and state level elections, and what’s in store for 2022.
Kerry opened they show by reminding everyone that the Trump campaign’s avenues to contest Joe Biden’s victory are closing off quickly, but she acknowledged that state Republican parties’ attempts to remove Republican leadership—like Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Georgia—resemble the start of an attempted coup. As she elaborated, this is all part of Mitch McConnell’s plan:
What is enduring, at least for now, is Trump’s hold on the party, because now the state party chairs are in open warfare with the state elected officials. On top of that … the three Republican members [of the joint committee that oversees the inaugural events] voted against acknowledging that the inaugural ceremonies would be recognizing President-elect Joe Biden. So it’s mostly ceremonial, but it’s very symbolic, that now literally Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who just several weeks ago was reassuring reporters there would be a peaceful transition to power—is voting against the inaugural committee doing this sort of perfunctory approval of a coordination between the joint committee and President-elect Biden’s inauguration committee. What this tells me is, not only at the state level does Trump have a hold on these state party chairs, but at the congressional level, where you kind of thought that at some point those lawmakers would peel off, especially in the Senate, and start to be a little more reasonable, they’re continuing to back Trump’s coup. I just imagine that this is a preview of exactly where McConnell thinks he has to go for the next couple of years.
Joe Trippi came on for this segment to talk strategy in the South, what’s going to happen between now and January, and competitive upcoming races. Joe feels positive about turning the South blue and believes that there’s a good chance that Democrats can flip more U.S. Senate seats in 2022. As he said, “I’m convinced that the South is much more competitive for Democrats than the world believes, than we believe. I think Doug Jones’ victory in 2017 proves that.”
Calling out the Democrats’ consistent lack of investment in the South, Joe noted that Stacey Abrams and many other BIPOC-led groups took the lead in Georgia, when the DNC did not step in. Looking toward January and beyond to 2022, Joe thinks that the Democrats need to focus on the local level more to generate more turnout—and this would mean less investment in things like TV ads, which Markos has noted were extremely ineffective this past cycle, and more investment in community organizations doing organizing work on the ground.
Markos asked Joe if there was room for more activation, and Joe had this to say:
It happened for Doug Jones in 2017, it happened for a lot of Democrats in a lot of marginal battleground seats in 2018, it happened for Biden. Suburban women, a lot of GOP suburban women, were at that [breaking point with the Republican party]. And what they were saying was, ‘Please God, I’m thinking about voting for a Democrat for the first time in my life. Please just make it somebody who’s not crazy left, screaming at me, angry.’ It’s, by the way, one of the reasons why I think Biden just turned out to be the best nominee. But they found him real okay — yeah, that’s somebody I could trust.
You should see these groups [in Alabama and other parts of the South.] These women would sit there agonizing, looking at their shoes, and then blurt out, ‘I can’t believe it, but for the first time I’m actually thinking of voting for a—’ and the word ‘Democrat’ came out like it was poison. You have no idea how poisonous the Democratic brand is, how much they’ve poisoned it with these kinds of voters. My point is, those voters are gettable, they did move, and that’s where a realignment could happen here—particularly if Trump keeps pushing the Republicans to keep his stuff up.
Looking toward 2022, Joe thinks that preaching pragmatism and pushing hard while understanding our limits is the best strategy for Democrats.
You can watch the full episode below: