Just as Governor Jay Inslee is seeking to transition the United States to a green economy, I continue my transition from unpaid comedic genius to unpaid political strategist (despite loving The Dark Knight like a child I have never quite heeded The Joker’s advice of “If you’re good at something never do it for free”). After watching the first debate I offered the Inslee campaign some reminders and some unsolicited advice on how Governor Inslee should adjust his messaging (right down to word choice) and debate approach. HERE IT IS if interested. But with Kamala Harris taking over the second debate and possibly snatching frontrunner status from Joe Biden (with a combination of charisma, a deft challenge to Biden, a host of platitudes, a major inconsistency, usage of clichés and the lifting of not one, but two winning lines from Governor Inslee) I thought there was no time like 530am on a Tuesday in my underwear to start drafting my next set of tips for the Governor’s team:
- Unions will be a big topic in Detroit at the end of the month. Governor Inslee was the only one to mention them in the first debate. Whether it’s Kamala Harris doing her second backflip on Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan, Julian Castro guaranteeing the right to abortion for trans women or Beto O’Rourke busting out his Spanish, the debates are going to be full of pandering. And with the second debate, union labor and working class American will surely be courted heavily (won’t people find it odd if the economy only gets talked about for 15 minutes in 4 hours in Detroit the way climate change was only talked about for 15 minutes in 4 hours in Miami?) by the candidates. Governor Inslee has made reinvigorating organized labor a centerpiece of his Evergreen Economy plan. And he drew some bipartisan pundit praise for being the only candidate to mention the need (and his plan) to strengthen unions. Well, he will be one of 19 other candidates to do so in Detroit (I cannot guarantee what the hell Marianne Williamson will say). Without appearing to be whining he MUST make sure that the rust belt knows that he made unions a centerpiece of his plan and has not just talked about them while pandering in Detroit (language might seem strong, but so what – use it). “Not one other candidate talked about union labor in the first debate. But don’t trust what I say in Detroit. Look at my state of Washington. Highest minimum wage in the country. #1 in employee satisfaction and in state GDP. And look at my Evergreen Economy Plan. Union labor and strengthening collective bargaining are the centerpieces of my plan to transition our 20th century economy into a 21st century economy. It has a GI Bill to help workers move from fossil fuel industry to clean energy economy. Labor and factory workers will not be left behind in a Jay Inslee economy – they will be out in front leading it. And you don’t have to take my word for it because I’ve already done it in Washington State.” and related to that…
- Make One Page Summaries for The Various Plans. Governor Inslee’s plans are in depth and rigorous. They also don’t make for easy sharing except among the deeply interested and learned. Make one page, bullet-pointed summaries of the plans, especially the Evergreen Economy. Easier to share and digest for the average person and voter. Debates do no play to all of Governor Inslee’s strengths, given the number of candidates and the brevity of answers allowed and 36 single-spaced pages do not allow for easy mass consumption.
- Iowa Cynicism. For much of the year Joe Biden has led in Iowa polls. In second has been Bernie Sanders. They could not be much more opposite as far as Democrats go, but oddly enough, in Iowa, the supporters of each had the other as their second choice. Since we are all adults here, the message in that is clear – an older white man still represents tradition, stability, comfort and “Presidential” to that segment of the electorate. There is no other explanation since their politics are as different as their demographics are similar. That simply means that from a political and, sadly, a demographic stand point, Governor Inslee can probably pick off votes from both of those camps, especially Biden. This does not mean change messaging or pander, but facts are facts and Governor Inslee is a steady, telegenic leader like Biden (but not too old), but with a consistent and progressive record to assuage Bernie Bro concerns. I guess this just means that making a big splash in Iowa in January is not just necessary for Inslee, but also possible.
- Do not let Warren skate and do not let Harris get away with stealing lines. As I wrote last month naming one’s opponents is a clear winner, as those who attacked Beto can attest to. Saying that Warren has good ideas, but that Inslee has actually already made them law is more like a backhanded compliment than an attack and I think could work, at least in terms of making people look at the Governor’s record and give him serious consideration. And Harris claiming “I call it the climate crisis” or using his winning line from the end of the first debate about Donald Trump being the biggest threat proves she is a Pitbull (yes as a prosecutor, but also as someone who samples others’ work and makes it shittier).
- Make Donald Trump’s incompetence a new, main line of attack. I am very proud Governor Inslee has repeatedly, forcefully and unequivocally condemned Donald Trump’s entire political career as a racism-driven movement. From Birtherism on, Governor Inslee has called it as it is. But the cold facts are that some people are numb to the accusations of racism. Others are turned off by it. I don’t agree with or condone that apathy or ignorance, but the goal is to win the nomination and beat Donald Trump. As someone who has plainly called out Trump’s racism and has an impeccable progressive record, the lane that really could work well for Inslee (and yes, while courting some of those Biden and Bernie voters from #3) is to highlight the massive incompetence of Trump and his administration (thanks to Pete Dominick of Sirius XM who got me thinking about this line of attack):
- His diplomatic, ego-driven failures (Saudi, North Korea, Iran, etc)
- That he exited the TPP, but then wanted back in when he realized it was the best way to fight China (but he was more concerned with continuing his attacks on our First Black President – double whammy – incompetent and racist, without saying the R word)
- His tax cut failure – did not help the middle class, but sure helped real estate developers (self-dealing)
- His record turnover of cabinet officials – claiming they are the best people and then within a year trashing them as (insert some of the insults)
- The corruption within his administration
- His lies about coal
- His inability to heal the nation even in the most obvious and painful of tragedies like Charlottesville
I made many other suggestions in my last three political blogs about how Governor Inslee should approach debating and how he should get his message out, so hopefully some people have read them (including a social media ad campaign of 30 second videos on issues where other candidates are scoring rhetorical points for policy, but Governor Inslee has already implemented them as law). The voters are not set in stone as the Harris rise and Biden fall showed this week. But Governor Inslee needs to be more forceful and carve out a unique path that highlights his considerable strengths while not treading the familiar ground of failed candidates past and present.