Democrats Must Flip the Script on the GOP to get their Agenda Passed — Karen Finney

Point of View
6 min readJan 4, 2022

What do Democrats and the Biden-Harris Administration need to do to pass the rest of their agenda in 2022? Republicans in Washington have made clear time and again they will put partisan games ahead of even helping their own constituents. The federal infrastructure plan has been passed and signed into law but when Congress returns in January 2022, Democrats will again try to pass some version of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda. The overwhelmingly popular plan would help change the lives of millions of Americans, addressing long ignored issues like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, paid family and medical leave, climate change, universal childcare, and expanding access to affordable health care.

So how can Democrats flip the script and go on offense? While much has been made about the negotiations within the Democrats, we can’t let the republicans off the hook. These were some of the issues I discussed recently on the Deep State Radio podcast, the episode is ironically called “Everything is Peachy Keen”.

I also raised the need to address one of the biggest threats to our democracy and the midterm elections: partisan gerrymandered “redistricting” and the torrent of GOP led anti-voter legislation being introduced and passed in states across the country. These bills make it harder for certain groups of Americans to exercise their constitutional right to have a say in our democracy. With President Biden making clear he supports a filibuster carve out to protect voting rights, the issue is sure to be front and center in January 2022.

On Holding Republicans Accountable:

“The GOP has made very clear a couple of things: they are the party of Trump, they are the party that is still perpetrating the big lie, they are the party that doesn’t want to talk about or acknowledge the attack on our democracy on January 6th, they are the party that blocked the American Rescue Plan — which put money in people’s pockets and shots in people’s arms and the child tax credits — they are the party of obstruction.

“But here’s the big problem: they now don’t see the American people as Americans. To them, we’re partisans, so it’s all about their partisan games. To them, republicans see this as they don’t want to give Joe Biden a “win” and they are willing to go to those lengths that are at the expense of their own people.

“We’re talking about childcare; we know that women for example have been kicked out of the workforce and can’t go back to work because of childcare at record numbers. I’ve been listening to focus groups this week. We know that there are parts of this country where businesses can’t open because they don’t have enough staff. In a recent focus group, one business owner talked about how they open at four o’clock every day because that’s when school gets out. They have to do this because either the teenagers can come and work in their business or can go home and babysit and the mom or dad can come. They do not want to invest in that, they don’t want to make these long overdue investments, like universal pre-k, the latter part of this sentence doesn’t flow nicely….

They don’t want to expand the affordable care act in the middle of a pandemic, instead they want to obstruct and put partisanship over getting things done for the American people.”

“People are still hurting. I heard that loud and clear, I do some polling and research work and in focus groups we’re hearing people say they need more help. Seniors need more help. We also have a pattern where a lot of people were forced into retirement due to COVID-19 repercussions and they’re now trying to navigate living on a fixed income. Housing costs have doubled in lots of parts of the country, so again in families yes, the child tax credit was a big help, let’s make it permanent people. Part of what you hear from voters is that as people are trying to get back on their feet, they need help to do it.”

“I would go on offense and dare the republicans to be against it.

On Re-framing the narrative and flipping the script:

“Instead of making the public conversation about $6B or $3B, or $1.5B or $2B again, talk about childcare and people going back to work, businesses being able to open, healthcare, that that’s what we’re fighting for.

“I would put everybody on the road selling what is in the package. Talk about it in the context of things that we’re trying to do, like roads and bridges and the jobs. I would go to every state and talk about how many jobs that it is going to create in that state, how many women and families can get back to work if we get childcare, how many more people could actually have health care.

“I would go theme by theme, every day and again, a whole of government approach and have everybody out there; my surrogates, every podcast, every television show, every radio program, you name it, get people out there and change the conversation. They would remind the American people that ‘this is what you voted for, this president is trying to do exactly what he said he was going to do, but it’s not going to happen without your help.’ That’s the kind of approach I think we need.

“I would push to get all of these republicans on record, on camera and take video of them voting against the rescue plan, voting against the reconciliation package. I would run the ads that said — remember what happened after the American rescue plan passed, they voted against it and then went home and took credit for it — so you got to also make sure that they don’t run home and take credit for it. So, you have to run ads that show people ‘here’s who stood up for you, here’s who was fighting for you.’

‘The other thing that I would do, if it was my strategy, would be putting more real people who represent these issues on television. I would put voters, children, working mothers, people who need health care from these targeted districts. Put them out there, make it so that they have to say no to those folks.”

On the threat to Democracy, Voting Rights and Reproductive Freedom:

“There are two issues hanging out there that to my mind as a democratic strategist are going to be make or break for democrats and that is: protecting the constitutional rights of women and protecting the rights of the freedom to vote. If those two things don’t happen, it’s game over, you might as well forget about trying to win in 2022.”

“If we don’t get this done, the measures that are passing, sweeping this country that are disenfranchising, that are literally anti-voter, anti-voting measures. They make it harder for rural voters to vote, native Americans, seniors, young people, disabled people, and Black and brown people. Democrats cannot win anymore without multi-cultural coalitions.”

“I sat in a meeting with the Vice President with Black women leaders from around the country from some of the top organizations. We also had a woman from Fulton County, Georgia, an African American woman who was kicked off — the republican governor kicked her off the local election board, that’s another thing that’s happening. The dire need at the local level — we had activists in there who said ‘we literally are doing everything we can. We did everything we could to turn it out in 2020, there’s nothing else we can do without your help’. Part of the goal of the meeting was to impress again on the White House how urgent and dire this really is at the grassroots level.”



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