Biden Can — And Must — Deliver a Bold Economic Vision for a Sustainable Future
By Jenifer Fernandez Ancona
Donald Trump has presided over the worst economic and public health response to COVID-19 of any country in the world, allowing us to slide into the twin disasters of a pandemic and a depression. Yet he holds a polling edge on the economy, the single most important issue to voters, and is now within striking distance of Joe Biden in several key swing states. But defeating Trump on Election Night is just the beginning; defeating Trumpist economics requires bold action to change a system that is designed to benefit corporations and the ultra-rich while everyday Americans struggle to make ends meet.
The economy is the number one issue for voters. Biden enjoys strong polling, and it may be tempting to stay hidden and allow Trump’s narcissism to implode his own campaign. But if he seeks a true mandate to govern, Biden must speak to voters forcefully about the economic changes they will see under his administration, to get us through the COVID crisis and beyond. That is how he and his party can inspire and mobilize the multiracial Obama coalition that will seal victory.
The good news is, Biden’s existing economic policy proposals are solid, and point to a path out of the Trump-created COVID-19 and economic disaster that millions are experiencing. What he needs is a better way of communicating an economic message that can stand up against Trump’s racially charged economic attacks (we all know what he means when he warns that a Biden presidency will spell “hell for suburbia”). Too often, Biden engages in a race-blind economic message, and research and recent experience has already proven that approach insufficient.
And perhaps most troubling, new research funded by Way to Win shows that Trump’s economic message splits key components of Democrats’ multiracial coalition and actually appeals to some segments of these critical voters.
So, what must the Biden campaign do to change the narrative and seize the economic high ground? The message is simple:
Americans are struggling right now. We need good paying jobs, humane leave policies, and quality health care. We also need leadership to steer us out of the COVID crisis. We are the richest country in the world, there is an abundance of resources — we are not a country that should have scarcity around these basic needs. The only thing standing in the way is Trump and the Republican Party. They have no answers to offer us, and in the middle of a crisis they are not even making it a priority. They are doing this all while stirring up racial fear, division, and violence as a deliberate tactic to detract from the pain that people are feeling economically — pain for which they themselves are to blame. To distract from their devastating policies they blame Black people, immigrants, those of us protesting in the streets for justice. That is what stands in the way of us coming together for a vision that says we have enough, we can support one another and have a government that cares for all of us.
Between now and Election Day, Biden and his surrogates must blare this message in every possible outlet. He must not cede the high ground on this issue to a president and a party that have no clue how to build an economy that works for all, and wouldn’t want to even if they did. They depend upon economic injustice to create the ground for their hatemongering to flourish. When all Americans prosper, their whole strategy for holding onto power crumbles. Biden must call out Trump forcefully and personally for the way he manipulates white racial resentment to distract from his economic failures.
By leaning into a narrative that addresses race and class together, we have a chance to both increase voter turnout by the margin we’ll need to combat voter suppression, and attack a traditional GOP strong point that is going to be pivotal to victory in November, and for successful governing in the months and years beyond the election.