September 1, 2020

Don’t lose sight of the goal post

Scott Pastrick

Don’t lose sight of the goal post

By: R. Scott Pastrick

Scott was the Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee during President Clinton’s 1996 re-election. He now serves as the President and CEO of Prime Policy Group.

Earlier this year, when the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination were bickering and drawing ideological lines in the sand, no one could fathom that mere months later Democrats would march in lockstep behind former Vice President Joe Biden. But march, they did, into the first virtual party convention in history as united as they have been in a quarter century. Two weeks ago, they demonstrated that the unity many of us thought unachievable is, in fact, possible. It was on full display at a convention imbued with hope, energy, and excitement – a stark contrast to the divisive identity politics and democratic socialism seemingly inevitable just months ago.

In many ways, this year’s Democratic National Convention was reminiscent of 1992, when then-Governor Bill Clinton pushed the party down a centrist path. He called on fellow Democrats to put aside concern for ideological purity, and focus, instead, on taking back the White House after 12 years of Republican dominance. Biden’s first task must be to mirror Clinton’s 1992 approach: hold a divided party together, and project the stability and measured change necessary to unite an anxious country, while threading the election needle.

Remember the words James Carville screamed, “it’s the economy stupid”? The 2020 iteration of that slogan might well be, “it’s leadership stupid” – leadership that Biden aims to bring through a consensus-driven agenda wrapped in decency and a renewed sense of hope, security, and calm. Our path to continued party unity must embrace these ideals and we can’t afford to lose sight of that fact.

Pre- and post-convention polling indicates a significant lead for the Biden-Harris team, and many of the Democratic incumbents seeking reelection, several of whom represent swing states and districts where Democrats have been less than competitive in recent years. However, Democrats’ glee and poll-driven confidence must be tempered and thoughtfully administered with focus and realistic expectations. Hard work and consistency are needed, unrelentingly, until November 3.

The Electoral College has never been friendly to the Democrats – remember 2016? Despite the current large polling leads in many swing states, we cannot lose sight of the endgame.

This is the most important election in decades and demands a disciplined strategy that doesn’t waste resources chasing rainbows. We must keep our focus on winning the White House and bringing an end to four years of deceitful, self-serving demagoguery that has left America void of moral leadership and a collaborative world standing.

Yes, it would be ideal for Democrats to win back the Senate and increase our margins in the House of Representatives. But that goal should not be chased by investing in marginal districts and pie-in-the-sky Senate races that eat into badly needed resources and undercut the needs and strategy of the Biden-DNC coordinated campaign effort. As we close in on November, the big polling margins for Biden-Harris that we are witnessing today will narrow, turning the long-shot states that many Democrats are infatuated with into losing propositions.

There are lessons we must remember from the past; lessons that the 1988 Dukakis, 2000 Gore, and 2016 Clinton campaigns learned much too late.

Joe Biden made it clear to all of us that he is waging a values campaign built on decency. If elected, he will reinstitute statesmanship, diplomacy, and foreign policy collaboration with our allies, while restoring respect to the Office of the Presidency. We can expect these values to be reinforced and woven into each and every decision he makes and every policy his administration executes. Leading up to November, Joe Biden must remind and reassure voters that this is who he is, and this is how he will govern,  countering concerns that he is a risky choice – unfounded concerns which the Trump campaign will seek to inflame and build their reelection efforts around.

The goal post is in sight, the ball has been snapped, now Joe Biden needs to execute the kick.