Lever Time - The Midterm Shellacking That Never Was (w/ Krystal Ball)
1:34AM Nov 10, 2022
Hey there and welcome to lever time the flagship podcast from the lever, an independent investigative news outlet. I'm your host, as always David Sirota on today's show. We're going to be talking about, of course, the midterm election results. First, I'll be joined by the levers entire reporting staff to drill down on some of the pivotal races, the upsets the surprises, the exit polling data, and some more interesting demographic results. Our reporters did a ton of top notch election coverage this past month, and they've got a lot to say on how everything shook out on Tuesday night. Then I'll be joined by the one and only crystal ball to discuss the big picture takeaways from the election results. Which party will end up controlling Congress? What will the rest of Biden's first term looked like? How concerned should we be about the 2024 presidential election, crystal has one of the sharpest minds in politics and media, so you do not want to skip that one. This week's episode will also include a bonus segment for our paid subscribers, a deep dive into how a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government, a former senator is also running one of the Republican Party's largest Super PACs, which is definitely not a conflict of interest. This is a really crazy story at the intersection of foreign policy and electoral politics. If you want access to lever time premium, head over to lever news.com To become a supporting subscriber that gives you access to all of our premium content. And you'll be directly supporting the investigative journalism that we do here at the lever. Speaking of which, if you're looking for other ways to support our work, do us a favor, share our reporting with your friends and family leave this podcast a rating and review on your podcast player. The only way that independent media grows is by word of mouth, and we need all the help we can get to combat the inane bullshit. That is corporate media. And of course I'm here with producer Frank. What's up Frank? How you feeling about the elections?
Exhausted? Tired? I want to go to sleep, David, which is I think exactly how you're feeling today. Right?
I'm I'm pretty beat after you know, I spent last week in western Pennsylvania with Josh Shapiro, for that big story we did on the governor's race there a huge he had a huge win in Pennsylvania in a race that was, in my view, the most important election in the entire country. And you
wrote a really, really fantastic piece about Josh, I highly recommend if you have not read it yet go to LeBron news.com. Check out David's piece. It is a it is an opus, I would say thank you.
Thanks for saying that. I've known Josh Shapiro, by the way for God 30 plus years because we grew up in the same town and he was a basketball buddy of mine in the junior Jewish basketball league in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I was a huge star in the junior Jewish Basketball League, I wanted to become an NBA player. Then I realized I wasn't good enough and was too short. I actually told Josh that we were joking about it on his campaign bus that in about 10th grade, you go from my height, you go from being like a I'm gonna be like a power forward to like I can barely play point guard because you end up going from tall to like short compared to everybody else. So I encourage everybody to read that that story. It's not about my illustrious career as a junior Jewish basketball player. It is about as I said, that was one of the most, if not the most important elections in the country. And I think it got kind of overshadowed by the Fetterman race, don't you Frank?
What Josh's wind got overshadowed by that. It's just the whole race. Oh, yeah, I think Fetterman and Oz had much more national attention thrown on them simply because of just sort of like the drama of the race, you know, you have Dr. Oz who is a cartoon, you know, evil TV doctor. And then you have better man who is like, you know, I think we would say like one of the more hopeful progressive, you know, politicians that has come on the scene in the last few years. And they had the stroke, which is, you know, like, very sad. And I know, it's been very tough for him. So I think, yeah, I think the dramatic narrative of that race kind of like soaked up all of the all of the discourse in Pennsylvania,
right, even though as I said, the implications for democracy in the Pennsylvania race in that governor's race, were just so huge. The Secretary of State there appoints assuming the governor appoints the Secretary of State there, and Josh was running against an election denier. So I'm, I'm feeling pretty good that Josh won. And I encourage again, I encourage folks to read the piece because it's not just about that race. It's also about and please read to the end. It's also about how we should look at all of these races, whether we should look at politicians as messianic saviors, or whether we should look at them a little differently. I would argue we should look at them a little differently. Now. I also would argue that the election was salts were very good overall in the sense of it seems like the fascists lost. And we're going to discuss that in my conversation with the leverage reporters, and we're going to hear their analysis of what the hell happened on Tuesday night. Wow. If you live in a cave or under a rock, you might not know that the midterm elections happen this week. And it didn't go exactly as corporate media predicted, shocking, everyone, including Democratic leaders themselves, Republicans failed to engineer the massive so called red wave that they were expecting. As of now, it looks like the Democrats got their best midterm election when they've controlled the presidency since 1998. Joining me now for the eight big takeaways from this election are the level reporters who've been breaking big stories about the elections. To kick this off, I want to start with what we learned from exit polls that voters believe what what was on their mind, what beliefs they expressed, whether it really is a right of center electorate or a left of center electorate. So we'll start on that with Andrew Perez, of the lever, who has been reporting on that in our big piece looking at all of this, Andrew, what's going on, man? Hey, David. Alright, so look, you looked at the Fox News, exit polls about where people are in America on basic issues, which provide some context for what the electorate would support and not support. So tell us a little bit about what that Fox News exit poll shows?
Well, so this, the Fox News, voter analysis that we are looking at here is really kind of fascinating. It definitely indicates that the electorate is substantially more progressive than than any kind of pundit or corporate media analyst would have you believe. You know, one thing that we noticed here, it says that 65% of Americans think that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage. And, you know, this actually sort of almost meshes pretty well with results they had in 2020, showing that, that 70% of Americans support the idea of allowing people to buy into a government health care plan, like a public option. You know, you hear really often from these kind of the the pundit class and these sort of democratic data gurus that Medicare for All is never is never going to pass that it won't happen. And it's because the public doesn't want it. You know, that was a quote we just saw just last week from David shore, in political magazine, and, you know, I think these these poll results really kind of really dovetail well with, you know, that kind of narrative really, really push back on it really thoroughly in a way that, you know, you don't see often and that I'm sure that these pundits will never exactly admit either.
Okay, so take away one, the electorate is actually surprisingly progressive, contrary to how the electorate is portrayed, let's go to take away two, which is about some of the issues that proved salient in this specific midterm election. Julia, you've done some reporting some digging into student debt cancellation now. I thought I was told that student debt cancellation Biden's plan to cancel student debt. I thought I was told that that was going to be terrible politics, everyone. Everyone on TV told me that that was the worst possible political move to do before an election. Julia, tell us about about that.
Well, yeah, David, we were being told that that student debt cancellation, you know, was a terrible inflationary policy, despite the fact that nobody had been making, you know, student loan payments since the pandemic hit that it was bad politics. And honestly, what really backstop the Democrats this cycle, are young voters, voters under the age of 30, who are some of the primary people who benefited from Biden student debt relief plan. And of course, you know, this is something that the advocates pushing for student debt cancellation had been saying the entire time, if you want to turn out young voters the cycle which you need to ensure you don't get shellac by the Republicans cancel student debt. And the the numbers are just remarkable. I mean, voters under the age of 30, supported Democrats, I think the data are only here for House races right now, but by a two to one margin. There's no other age group that has such amazing support for Democrats.
I mean, there's this quote in the piece that you wrote up about this. Julia from David from the bush speechwriter, conservative who is you know, says he's an anti Trump guy. He says, quote, I thought student debt relief was bad policy and bad politics. I still think it's bad policy. Okay, great. So he's like reassuring everyone. He's still an elitist. But look at and then he goes on, but looking at the youth vote surge, it's hard to deny its political impact. And if it helped save the country from Trumpism the positives more than pay for the negative so it seems to me that we're still We're gonna get the kind of the kind of eye rolling and sighing about, oh, we have to actually help young people to get them to vote for us. But it I guess I want to ask, did it boost youth turnout? Right? Did it did it? Is there evidence that it actually boosted the number of young people voting or merely did it boost the size of the Democratic vote among young people
that the youth surge that from is referring to isn't quite the right framing here, actually, the youth percentage of the electorate for like the past 20 years has been basically the same around 12%. And that was true this cycle as well. But you know, Biden's approval ratings were lowest among young people democratic approval ratings were like at the floor among young people just a few months ago. And so I think the counterfactual here was just a terrible turnout among youth voters and youth voters not coming out for Democrats. So I think, you know, if that's the alternative we're looking at, it's a pretty clear endorsement of student debt cancellation, which, you know, by the way, it was pulling extremely well, among young people. I think the you know, the massive Harvard youth poll, that's done every year in the spring found that something like 85% of people under the age of 30, supported student debt cancellation.
So according to David Frum, student debt cancellation saved democracy. So I'm actually for that I can't stand David Frum I find him gross. But if he wants to say student debt relief, saved America, Great, then we should probably do more student debt relief. Okay. So that's takeaway to take away three, we're going to turn to the levers, Rebecca burns, Democratic voters, nonetheless remain dissatisfied. There. There's some numbers in the in these exit polls that show well, Democrats did better than they expected than really, most people expected. That this isn't to suggest that voters are like super psyched about the Democratic Party or even super psyched about Joe Biden or even their democratic candidates. Rebecca burns. Tell us a little bit about that.
Hey, David. Yeah, so I think when we're when we're looking at, you know, sort of the Democrats outperforming their admittedly dismal expectations, a factor we sort of can't discount is just absolutely rock bottom expectations of their voters. So we had one NBC exit poll, you know, that that talked to folks who approve, somewhat approve disapprove of Joe Biden's job performance. And what it found is that among people who somewhat disapprove of Joe Biden's job performance, Democrats are actually winning that group. And then we have polling that sort of shows the great uniting factor. Edison Research has seven and 10 voters saying they're dissatisfied or angry at the moment.
Okay, so people are still ticked off. I think that's fair to say. And I think this was ultimately about who they blamed to echo the earlier point. I guess, Rebecca, the the follow up question I would have for you is, what do you think that means? That Democrats should take away from that in terms of what they should do, right? I mean, if they win an election, they're like, Yo, we just we just won the election. It's a validation of us or we didn't get as shellac as we thought we were gonna get that's a validation that we weren't doing things totally wrong. But then also baked in here is people are still ticked off. What should be the takeaway in terms of real world lessons here moving forward over the next two years? Yeah, well,
so another sort of interesting piece of polling that familiar this year that didn't get a lot of attention, but I think you David flag this in a piece is that two thirds of Democratic voters and an NBC News poll said that they wanted a candidate who, quote proposes larger scale policies that cost more and might be harder to pass into law, but could bring major change. And not just someone who's sort of fiddling around the margins of major policies. We saw that sort of sentiment again last night, and the you know, much more comprehensive voter analysis survey of 10s of 1000s of voters that Fox News does, that said that 53% of Americans said the government should do more to solve problems. So I think, you know, there's a sentiment out there clearly that there are some pretty big pressing problems that just sort of talking about stopping Trump, you know, is is not sufficient to solve and I think we once again see an appetite for sort of big, big policy solutions.
Okay, so that's takeaway three. takeaway for I will handle here the economic populism and how it worked in swing states. I reported last week it was in Pennsylvania on the campaign trail with Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania. And the former state auditor, their statewide elected official, a guy named Eugene Deepa Squall said that Shapiro, quote, maintained a center left profile the whole time. And I think that's critical to winning statewide in Pennsylvania. Now, that's interesting. You don't usually hear that all that much. But actually, the polling data seems to suggest that's true in Pennsylvania. Both Josh Shapiro and Senate candidate John Fetterman ran successful populist campaigns on economic issues. And here's the thing they significantly outperformed President Biden in 2020, in the most traditionally Republican parts of the state, that same trend held up in Ohio, although Tim Ryan lost that race, he campaigned on a very pro worker agenda that was a big part of his advertising efforts, and democratic performance similarly increased in the state's Republican strongholds. Colorado similar thing Michael Bennett not exactly a super progressive senator, for much of his career, he has since become a lot better he led the fight for the child tax credit and the like. And he campaigned on a lot of economic issues. And, and he, in his election, again, in Republican areas, he outperformed overperformed Joe Biden from 2020. Now, I guess I would turn to Andrew, I'll ask you this. What's the flip side of this in places like North Carolina, Iowa, Virginia, where candidates tried to campaign as kind of, quote unquote, centrist or really conservative Democrats?
The results were not good for, for those kinds of conservative Democrats. You know, you look at in North Carolina, Sherry Beasley did not do well. You know, we also noted that in this piece in Virginia, we heard this, you know, one Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Moria, she wants she wants to close race, where she was attacked for, you know, calling the idea of banning congressional stock trades, bullshit. And so she she lost that race, a close race last night as well.
Okay, that was takeaway for takeaway five, let's go back to inflation for a second, inflation, top of mind, among voters in this election, every poll showed that the exit polls showed that, but Julia rock, let's talk about what the inflation situation meant in terms of who voters were blaming for inflation. This to me is absolutely fascinating. There was a presumption that voters, most voters are all voters, you know, huge margins of voters would go into this election, blaming exclusively, Joe Biden and the Democrats for inflation. But that's not necessarily what the data really shows. Julia, tell us about that. Yeah, I
think this is one of the most surprising findings for me from this massive voter analysis that Fox News did. And here's the finding 54% of Americans believe that inflation is a result of Biden's policies. But 40% 46% Blame factors outside of Biden's control, which, again, is extremely striking, given that, you know, most media coverage of inflation has blamed the American rescue plan and other government spending programs. For inflation. You have, like top politicians, like Joe Manchin and Christian cinema blocking policies, on the premise that government spending, you know, is going to cause spiraling inflation. top economists are all over the news saying, you know, oh, it's the American rescue plan, the stimulus checks that cause inflation. And, of course, you know, as we've been reporting for months, the reality is that corporate profits are at historic highs and corporate profiteering is driving price increases. But that has not really been the media narrative. And so I was surprised to see that voters are basically split on whether, you know, these government policies are causing inflation despite just overwhelming, you know, noise about how it's been government spending,
right. I mean, 46% of the of the electorate basically flipped off Larry Summers. I mean, I saw Larry Summers on Twitter, say, you know, this is a repudiation of extremism. And actually, these exit polls show the election in a lot of ways was a repudiation of Larry Summers, the former Clinton economist Obama official who's been running around saying that the American rescue plan and spending to help people is the driver of inflation. Basically 46% of the country despite all of that noise, just said, you know, gave the finger to Larry Summers they don't they don't buy that garbage. That's I find that really encouraging. I think it by the way ties into The exit polls that also show a huge number of people saying they do not trust the media. I think the media, the corporate media, in particular has been just hammering away at this idea that, that Joe Biden's spending to help people through the pandemic is the central cause of inflation. And lots and lots of Americans went to the polls, just not buying that horseshit, you really, really, truly love to see that. Okay. The sixth takeaway from the election, let's talk about progressive candidates, specifically, candidates who may be coming to Congress, who campaigned on as progressives also progressive wins on ballot measures and the like. Andrew Perez, tell us about the what you think are the major progressive victories that stick out to you out of this election?
Yeah, there will be several new Congressional Progressive Progressive Caucus members, including summer Lee, in Pennsylvania, who you just, you know, wrote about a few days ago, David, who had milk millions of dollars spent against her by by a Super PAC run by AIPAC by the pro Israel advocacy group, both in the primary and then in the general to you know, we also saw Maxwell frost, one in Florida, as well as Delia Ramirez in Illinois. You know, beyond that, there were there were also a lot of progressive policy wins at the ballot box period, via ballot measures and referendums. You know, one of the things we saw in this shouldn't be a surprise at all, but abortion measures, pro choice advocates actually had a had a clean sweep. They won every ballot measure race. You know, there were efforts in California, Michigan and Vermont to enshrine constitutional protections for abortion. There was also these, these pro choice groups also defeated an anti abortion measure in Kentucky. And you know, so what we're seeing is that, in this this is borne out in exit polls to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade ending the constitutional right to an abortion federally is wildly unpopular. And it almost definitely helped drive turnout to in states like Michigan where Democrats won really, really a pretty substantial victory. It sounds like they might actually, you know, win a trifecta there when, you know, there's a question of whether the governor might might win reelection at all. So it's it's definitely a really positive development.
Okay, the seventh of eight takeaways revolves around climate action. We've reported at the lever that on the data that shows that neither party did much advertising at all on climate. I mean, there's a climate emergency happening, and it just wasn't very much part of the campaign advertising discourse. But there also is a silver lining here in the sense that it wasn't a an effective attack point against Democrats, by Republicans, Julie Iraq. Tell us about that.
Soon, Republicans have been you know, denying the existence of climate change for decades attacking, you know, Democrats is crazy leftist for wanting to do anything about climate. And yet this summer, the Democrats passed, you know, the biggest climate bill in US history. And as you point out, David, Republicans barely attack Democrats for it on the campaign trail, which is pretty striking. And, you know, part of the reason for this might be that, you know, this comprehensive voter analysis showed that most Americans believe us energy policy should be aimed at expanding, you know, non fossil fuel energy sources, not investing in fossil fuel production, which again, you know, given all the yelling about gas prices, and inflation is, you know, pretty striking. News from voters.
Okay, the eighth and final takeaway. I want to preface with a clip from one of the most famous political movies of all time, the 1972 film The candidate, Marvin, what do we do now? That's the end of the movie where a Democratic Senate candidate wins an election kind of unexpectedly, turns to his aid, as everybody is celebrating euphorically and asks, as you heard, what do we do now? And I feel like there's a similar dynamic at play right now. Whether the Democrats surprise everybody and hold the House and Senate or even whether they just hold the Senate. The question of what do they actually do now, after running a campaign that really didn't offer up much of a specific agenda, other than promising not to let Republicans you know, steal elections, or further erode? Reap? productive rights. So I think the open question here, the big takeaway here is, what is the Democratic Party do now, after, I guess, notching a victory and not getting completely shellacked, but also not really campaigning on anything? There's two more years to go before a another presidential election? So the question is, I don't I'm not sure anybody knows what they're going to do now. So I'm gonna go around the the panel here and just ask folks, both what do you predict they're going to do? What do you think they should do? What do you think they even can do? We're gonna start with let's start with Rebecca burns.
Great. Well, let me answer, you know, what I think they should do. We've mentioned that, you know, sort of an exciting development is the squad effectively, it's doubling its ranks. The last couple of elections, sort of one brightspot has been that we do have this larger block of people in Congress, you know, aligned to some degree with progressives with the left, I think we're now we're really at a critical juncture where we see whether they can translate that into, you know, real gains for people, by working with labor by working with youth activists, by working with climate activists. And if we don't start to see that, you know, certainly I think it's going to be even more disappointing.
Andrew Perez, what do you think? I mean, and I should ask, do you think they're going to be complacent? Do you think they're going to take the wrong Lessons from the election?
Who? Yeah, I definitely expect more complacency? Yeah, without a doubt. I mean, I feel like what we're going to actually see is that Democrats are going to once again try to pass the mansion, you know, mentioned Schumer permitting reform the natural gas export bill, I feel like, that's what we're gonna end up hearing. Right, is that this, this was actually, there was actually consensus for the Joe Manchin approach to governing. You know, I think that's kind of what I would worry about.
Julia Rok, your predictions for what the Democrats will do. And I guess what you think they should do after this election, looking at all the data we just reviewed? I think the
what the Democrats will do in the short term, doesn't seem like very much. You know, one thing that remains true is inflation is very high. And I mean, first, Republicans might take the House and the Senate. But second, I think the federal government is still going to be very hesitant about doing any big social spending, I do wonder if there's going to be sort of a longer term shift or, you know, bigger picture takeaway here, which is, it seems like a big and open question of the first two years of the Biden administration is, you know, whether Biden was sort of going to reject the deficit hawk curry and austerity of the Obama years. And this does seem like if not, you know, a mandate for any particular policy, at least evidence that going in a different directions spending money, you know, defending those policies, even amid high inflation was a good move. And do I think the people in charge of the Democratic Party are stupid? I won't answer that. But I think it would be a mistake not to, you know, learn a lesson from from these midterms on that question.
And look at Joe Biden, today, as we just before we were recording this, Joe Biden came out and said that he is not going to negotiate with Republicans over cutting Medicare and Social Security if they win one house or both houses of Congress. So that's, you do really love to see that. I've been worried about that, because Joe Biden has tried to do that with Republicans for many, many years before becoming president. So you do love to see that I think that reflects the change to politics, underneath Joe Biden, the the change politics of the country, and the changed politics of the of the Democratic Party. So that's a good thing. But I agree with all of you that, that I worry about complacency. I worry about, frankly, forget about the politics of complacency. I worry about the complacency for you know, the society, the civilization, right. Just because an election wasn't as bad as it could have been. Doesn't mean the country is not hurting doesn't mean the country the world doesn't need a good climate policy. I mean, I'm just gonna throw it out there you guys respond? I mean, this is why I think I was like, kind of breathed the sigh of relief, like okay, the fascists didn't win, or they didn't have as big a win as they thought they were gonna have. But I also felt kind of like, not let down. But sort of like, like that clip from the candidate like what's gonna happen now? Like, can we really legitimately hope for more of what we saw in the very beginning of the Biden administration, which I have said all along was the best thing I've seen out of a Democratic president probably in my lifetime. I'm talking about the American rescue plan. So I had these conflicting feelings of, of breathing unexhausted sigh of relief, but also feeling a little bit. I don't want to call it let down. I mean, did did any of you feel those sort of conflicting feelings?
Yeah. I mean, it's funny to be in the position of sort of proclaiming a Democratic victory when again, they might lose both the House and the Senate, which is just going to completely change, you know, the landscape of national politics. And so I think in that sense, it's a bit funny that we judge elections, you know, based on bad the expectations of bad polling and punditry. And in that sense, I think there's certainly a little bit of a, an ambivalence about it.
Right. But I would also say I would challenge you a little bit on that it is the pundits, and it is the media that kind of created an idea of a red wave and the like, but it was also history. Right? I mean, history has told us that usually the party in power in a first president's midterm, the President's party's midterm, the party in power gets shellacked. And it doesn't look like this was a full shellacking. And I saw some I saw, I think, was Matt Stoller, who who mentioned that Obama, a seemingly much more popular president than Joe Biden got absolutely shellacked in his midterm elections, I mean, absolutely crushed. This was a, it's looks like it's going to be a much a much better election for Democrats. So I think there was history there. I would ask you, Andrew, I mean, what were your feelings after the election, like is like a sigh of relief, but also kind of like a man? What was it? You know, my
takeaway is that things could have been like, a hell of a lot better if Democrats had just, you know, governed more actively for the last year and a half, right, like, they really did kind of start with the bang. And then, you know, what we, what we saw as the economy took a turn at the, you know, inflation, you know, got kind of out of control at the same time that Democrats, you know, in Republicans cut off, you know, any aid to people, like any any aid during what, you know, during a pandemic, that is ongoing, right. And so, you know, we're seeing that, that people's personal financial situations have gotten just drastically worse over the last year. And, you know, Democrats managed to, you know, eke out either kind of narrow victory or a narrow loss in that environment. But if they had not been really kind of pulled around by, you know, the Joe Manchin and the KEARSON cinema, of the party, think things might be very, very different today.
Rebecca, your final thoughts on sort of your your feelings after the election, whether on election night or today, I told you mine, how are you feeling about it?
Yeah, you know, I think a lot of this cycle, I've been really angry at the cynicism of Democrats after so long, you know, of failing to protect abortion rights of insisting that abortion is a wedge issue, that they're not that they're not going to, you know, run on or meaningfully defend, to then turn around at the moment where roe falls and say, Okay, we're only going to run on this, you know, our whole sort of slew of talking points as anti Trump and abortion rights. You know, we'd better see some movement on on codifying both abortion rights and access to abortion. I think we'll certainly see, you know, continued organizing around this, as Andrew mentioned, you know, pro choice advocates had a clean sweep. We've seen huge protests over this issue. But that, if anything, I think sort of encapsulates one of the big problems with where the Democrats are at at the moment.
Rebecca burns, Andrew Perez, Julia rock of the lever. Thanks. As always, for all of your reporting on the election. I know everyone's really exhausted. Me, as well. It's been it's been a long election season. We've broken a lot of stories. So thank you for your for your hard work on this. And thank you for all the takeaways today.
Thanks so much, David. Thanks, David. See you David.
We're going to take a quick break, but we'll be right back with my conversation with crystal ball about some of the big picture takeaways from the election results, and where we go from here. Once the dust settles. Welcome back to labor time. For our interview. Today, I'll be speaking with one of my favorite people in media, the co host of breaking points crystal ball. Crystal is one of the sharpest political commentators working today. And she has been doing extensive election coverage for years, and always brings the kind of nuanced thoughtful analysis that you really don't find anywhere else. Crystal and I discussed the big picture takeaways from last night's election, from the national trends to the next two years of the Biden presidency. What it all could potentially mean for that. And for the 2024 presidential election. Hey Crystal, how you doing?
Good. How are you?
I'm good. You feeling good about the election results this week?
Yeah, I mean, I am very surprised, out ultimately, when, because, you know, as I was looking at this, I thought Dems might be able to hold on to the Senate, I called some of these races correctly, I did not call the Pennsylvania Senate race correctly. But I just thought, Okay, if we look at the polls, and we acknowledge, you can't really trust the polls at this point, which, you know, we sort of doubly can't trust the polls now that we had a miss in the other direction than what we're used to. I just thought, Okay, well, then let's look at the fundamentals. And the fundamentals were atrocious for the Democrats. I mean, you have history weighing on them. You have a low presidential approval rating, you have bad economic numbers, you have high inflation, it seemed like everything was sort of in the closing stretch moving towards the Republicans. And I just thought, you know, this looks really ugly. But then when I would look at the individual candidates and races, especially at the Senate level, I couldn't really bring myself to believe that they were going to be able to pull it off in all these instances. And obviously now, here we sit the morning after, we don't even know if Republicans are going to get control of the House, which is not something that I expected to still be questioning at this point.
You know, I mean, it seems to me I have two takeaways from this. I was I was somewhat surprised as well. I think there's a couple of points in the I think in some of the exit polling that hasn't really been pulled out yet. I mean, I saw one stat really sticks out to me that the Democrats were able to in some Fox exit Fox News exit poll, the Democrats were able to effectively in voters mind fight the inflation issue in terms of blame to a 5050 Draw. This is an incredible kind of stat that basically, when in this FoxNews exit poll, it asked people what is to blame for inflation is it Biden's policies? It was I think it was 52 said yes. 46 said no. Which is incredible, because the media conversation for months, the Republican political argument for months had been that Biden spending money to on pandemic rescue efforts or pandemic relief efforts, etc, etc. The spending the Democrats policies created in inflation, and why essentially, half the country was like, That's horseshit. And like, Republicans can't effectively make that argument. That is a that ended up being, in my view, a huge missed opportunity. I mean, essentially, voters rejected the argument, or at least half of the country rejected the argument that Larry Summers and the kind of Washington elite had been making that spending to help people is the real problem in the economy. So I guess I, I miss, I guess I underestimated that. Like I miss perceived that I, I figured that, that the Republicans would have more traction on that. And to be clear, I also think the Republicans while they criticized inflation, they didn't make a cogent argument about what they would do differently. Right. There was just that was like a Republican senator who tweeted out just a picture of him at a gas pump, as if that's that's the only thing that he had to say. So I guess my question to you then is knowing this, what do you think, in a macro sense, the election results, say about what Democrats can do, for instance, on economic policy that would prove to be popular? In other words, is there a mandate here that says actually, the public kind of likes what Biden has been doing in terms of spending and economic policy?
So first, let me echo the points that you're making there, because that was, that was what I initially went to as well, is that, you know, I had seen polling previously, and I know you did as well, where you would ask people, okay, what do you think this inflation situation is all about? And they're like, Well, Jesus Christ, there's corporate profiteering, and there's a frickin war going on in Ukraine. And we just went through COVID. And I should have put two and two together, that people were savvy enough to realize like, this is not all to lay, you know, at the feet of Joe Biden. They sort of recognize the realities of the economic situation, and you know, what was actually causing the dynamics that they were genuinely suffering with, in their own lives? I think Democrats, you know, I still think they missed an opportunity to make an affirmative economic case, they didn't do that they leaned all the way into abortion, but who can second guess them at this point, given how, historically, you know how historically surprising these results ultimately are? And then for Republicans? This is another thing that I got wrong. Mitch McConnell the whole time was like, we don't need to run on anything. We don't need to have a platform. We're not going to say what we're going to do. And I was like, that's probably their best bet. Because honestly, if they did lean into the shit that they actually want to do, it probably would have been even worse for them. But clearly for voters, they saw through the fact that Republicans were railing about inflation but didn't have anything to say to them about how they would fix it, what they would do differently. So that's number one. Number two, you ask, what is the say in terms of the Biden economic agenda, which, you know, at this point, he has some wins to point to, you have the chips Act, which you know, you are concerned and I think rightly so about whether that's going to end up just being a giveaway to corporate America, whether it's really going to bring the job jobs back, TBD. But I think that's probably popular in the industrial Midwest, you do have the inflation Reduction Act, you have infrastructure. So you have a number, you have student loan debt relief, you had, you know, federal pardons on weeds. So you had a number of actual legislative achievements. And lifan point, and I thought this was an important note, that may be part of the strength in the industrial Midwest, is that Biden's economic policy on antitrust, on China on trade on reshoring has been good for that part of the country, it's been much better than Trump. It's been way better than Obama. And so maybe part of why you see these regional variations is that Biden's policies have been genuinely good for the industrial Midwest. And so of all the places in the country, that's where you see the greatest over performance. The other thing I would point to here is, after Biden did student loan debt relief, you had a whole whole discourse about how working class people were going to revolt over this, then it was elitist, and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Young people showed up for Democrats in overwhelming numbers. And I cannot help but think that the fact that the Biden administration delivered for a large chunk of them very clearly, materially in recent months in the Republicans were very clearly on the other side of that, I have to think that that also makes a difference as well, acknowledging no doubt, abortion, Trump extremism, January 6, election denial, like those are all incredibly significant, probably the most significant factors. But when you think about how regionally uneven and demographically uneven this midterm election is, I think you have to look at some of those material policies to really make sense of that.
I totally agree. I mean, I think, but I would broaden it out a little bit more on the on the youth vote. I mean, if you look at the CNN exit poll, it showed the Democrats won, I think the demographics of 39 and under, so it wasn't just young people who are in college, it's the populations that are most affected by and close to and carrying student debt. I think that can't be overstated. Like I think it's now look in the same exit polls, it shows that student debt relief is still only at about 5050, maybe 50 to 48 in terms of overall support. But I definitely think the party benefited from that, in the sense of those were the the the the age demographics that really carried the day for the Democrats because above 39, Democrats did not win and and of course, above 39, you have voting blocks that turnout in actually higher levels of turnout. So the party really was buoyed by big margins among young people. Let's let's talk about a couple of these races. I mean, racist for high profile progressives John Fetterman pulling out a win and Pennsylvania summer Lee, in the Pennsylvania 12th. District out in Pittsburgh, I saw her trip to Pennsylvania, she successfully fended off over $4 million in spending from AIPAC, their new Progressive House members like Maxwell frost, Greg Caesar, Delia Ramirez. Was this a particularly good night for progressives? I think a lot of people feel a lot of progressives rank and file progressive people out there feel like there hasn't been a particularly assertive progressive bloc in the Congress. Do you think that changes now?
Um, no. I don't think it particularly changes. I mean, listen, it's a little bit early for me to look at all these races and really sort of suss out like, who are the really strong progressives who's who said, What about different issues? Are they going to be squat aligned? Are they not? Are they gonna be more forceful than squat and like more willingness to stand up to Democratic leadership? You know, I think this really, this election result really strengthens the hand of the Democratic establishment. I mean, this was phenomenal for Joe Biden, who up to this election. There were a lot of questions over whether this guy would run again, would he be the nominee, and it wasn't just the left that was like, we should move on. If a majority of the Democratic base is like, We want someone else. You had people like Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney up in New York, you know, longtime democratic stalwarts, questioning whether he should be the nominee Next, you're not going to hear that anymore. So it really strengthens the hands of the Democratic Party establishment. The things we're saying about student loan debt relief and material policies impacting the electorate. That's not going to be their tight take away, their takeaway is going to be like abortion and democracy. That's all we needed to really do. And that works for us. And again, it's hard to argue with that case. At this point, when you look at the numbers, even though I think some of those underlying economic policies end up being determinative and some of these key races. So do I see more path for progressives to stand up to Democratic leadership? No, not really. On the other hand, going back to the inflation conversation, it really looks like Biden and CO had kind of bought into the Republican line about inflation. And they were going to be very reluctant to do anything else to pass any more legislation that you know, Child Tax Credit, or anything that would be helpful to working class people because they were worried about getting tarred with like, you're exploding the deficit and inflation and blah, blah, blah. I don't think there'll be as afraid of that anymore. Now, are they going to have a Senate Majority? Don't know, looks pretty good. But don't know. Are they going to have 51 seats? In which case you can, you know, tell Joe Manchin or Kiersten cinema one or the other to go fuck themselves? That would be great. I don't know that either. And the Republicans still favor to keep the house even though you know, that's in serious doubt. So if you have divided government, they're basically not gonna get anything done either way, but I think there'll be sort of less timid about this whole inflation discussion going forward. So David, what did you take from the Fetterman outperforming Biden in Pennsylvania?
I honestly think it was like two things. And I traveled in Pennsylvania at the last week of the campaign with Josh Shapiro who ran for governor. My take on that is that Dr. Oz was kind of a uniquely ridiculous candidate, just just like a just a blatantly ridiculous kind of Nick flavor to his candidacy, which I think helped Fetterman. And I also think no one really talked about this, that having two strong candidates at the top of the ticket for the Democrats and the Republicans only having one semi strong candidate at the top of the ticket in that state, I think definitely has ramifications for turnout for the field program, etc, etc. So I guess my my point is, is that Josh Shapiro, the candidate who won for governor, his opponent was not even funded by the Republican Governors Association was considered so toxic that that he didn't get the funding he needed to be to really be on TV at all. So the Democratic ticket had two very strong candidates at the top and the Republicans only had really one. So I think that helped Fetterman in a huge way. I mean, there's an interesting stat by the way, I I tweeted about it, which is they asked, you know, Shapiro, do you worry that he's too extreme or just right. Same thing for Fetterman. The numbers were opposite. Shapiro was 57% said, you know, not worried about him being extreme, with Fetterman it was 57% said that they were they were somewhat concerned that he was too extreme. And what I think the takeaway from that is, that's the power of television advertising, right when when somebody isn't on TV, hammering you every day, as Josh's opponent wasn't because he was didn't have any money. He was able to kind of kind of rise above it Fetterman was being hammered. Every time I was there, watching the World Series. And it was like literally in the middle of innings. It was like four ads against Fetterman. It's kind of amazing that he survived that barrage. And I think it bodes really well. I mean, the former State Auditor of Pennsylvania, told me when I talked to him about the race. He said about Shapiro, he has cut a kind of center left profile, and he said, which is necessary to being elected in statewide in Pennsylvania. So here's a guy who was one statewide telling me something that you would never hear in corporate media that, hey, somebody has to be actually a Democrat has to be kind of left of center center left to win in this very, very difficult swing state. It's the kind of thing you don't hear, but it's the kind of thing that that I think the election results bear out.
You know, I also think there's just like a simple factor. And it is interesting, because with Shapiro and Fetterman, they didn't just outperform and like the suburbs or the cities, they literally outperformed Biden in every single county in the state. So it was rural. It was urban, it was Suburban. I think you had two guys who both had great statewide profiles that people liked already and you know, felt like sympathetic towards which I think for Fetterman became really important once he had a stroke and was obviously clearly still recovering from that. I think oz just came off as a dick. You know, I mean, that should have been the approval ratings, like people liked Fetterman. And they thought Oz was just an asshole.
I've got to do a comparison. I want to take a look at the county by county data. But Josh Shapiro said something to me. He said, listen, the way I've won statewide and Pennsylvania in part is it's not just getting big turnout in Pittsburgh and Philly. It's not getting as destroyed. As the typical Democrat has gotten destroyed in the red County, so it's like, I'm not going to win the middle of the state, you know, 5545. The key is to not get destroyed at 20. The key is to like, fight it to 6040. And then you can win, I have to take a look at whether that that that happened, I presume it did. And the key is, is that in 16, when he won statewide in that state, he did that in the red red areas of the state while Hillary Clinton was losing like 80 to 20. And that's why she ended up losing and he ended up winning in the same year that Donald Trump won the state. And I think there's a lesson there, by the way, not just for Pennsylvania, it's for all of these states, when you're running statewide. Part of your job is to do a massive turnout in the Democratic areas. But the other part is to even in the places you're overall losing the counties that you're losing, it's to not lose by so much. That is a really important and under discussed kind of factor in these races. Yeah, on the Republican side. The exit polls also show that Donald Trump obviously a big factor in people voting against the Republicans, people. Donald Trump, obviously, in the mogga movement as a whole seems to be a pretty unpopular, this seems to be a repudiation of that brand. I think regardless of policy, just that that brand. And of course, Ron DeSantis, winning huge in Florida. I mean, to my mind, on their side, this sets up Ron DeSantis, as if not the presumptive nominee for 2024, then at least in a pretty good position. Because what I've been saying for a while is, is and I I'm guessing you agree with part of this, which is that Donald Trump was not didn't become such a polarizing figure over his necessarily his policies. I mean, I didn't like his policies, but Donald Trump kind of, I think, exploded his own presidency through his own brand through his own I mean, it also benefited him among the hardcore base of the of the modern movement, but I think his antics are what kind of got him booted out of, of the White House that and and, and COVID. And I think Ron DeSantis is the kind of guy who optically can present as a more quote, normal version of Donald Trump to essentially evade some of that radioactive Maga brand, but also he is, I think, known as a kind of conservative firebrand among the Maga crowd. So it seems to me he, the Republican Party has in their view, again, I'm not I'm not saying this is the best of my world, but he kind of presents them with the best of both worlds somebody who has appeal in the module world without necessarily the negative brand do you think he's set up as as their as their guy,
I think he had as good a night as he possibly could have had. I mean, he romps in Florida when he wins Florida, which like a minute ago, was a swing state by frickin 20 points, but he barely won the governorship last time around to Andrew Killam. And now he completely romps and at the same time that he's romping in Florida, and Republicans across the map in Florida are cleaning up actually very different from the rest of the country. At the same time, you have the utter implosion of effectively every Donald Trump candidate, and almost every stop the steel cannon, in the governor's races, with the exception of Carrie Lake, which is still undecided. Every single Republican gubernatorial nominee who said they weren't sure whether they would certify the elections in their state or not, they all lost. So it's like, as clear a repudiation as you can possibly get. And as clear a contrast as you can possibly get if you're a Republican elite, who cares about power and cares about the future of the party. Now, why I'm skeptical that even given that portrait and that landscape, that Republicans, the base is really ready to move on for from Donald Trump. I just demoed, the Democratic base cares everything about electability way too much like obsessively, like turning into little like pollsters and pundits. I don't see any sign the Republican faces like that. They like Donald Trump. They love Donald Trump. They're gonna buy he's gonna announce in a week, they're gonna buy whatever line he has to say about this election. He'll probably like blame it on Mitch McConnell, the fact that the Republicans did so poorly, they'll completely believe it. He'll get indicted that will only rally them to him more. So I see a lot of conversation among like the Fox News's which is the part of the Republican intelligencia National Review types daily wire types who have always been sort of Trump skeptical, but do I see that the Republican base is definitely moving on from Donald Trump? I don't see that that's necessarily the case.
So here's my concern with just forgetting about who's going to win who's going to lose here. Here's my concern and tell me if you think this is The right concern. My concern is that after this election, like to be clear, happy that the authoritarians, the election deniers the fascist didn't win. Yeah, glad about that. That's a relief. My concern is that the Republican Party having such an extremist brand, and the Democrats winning in the way that they won, which was a fairly weak economic message, but they were with an electorate that was actually pretty smart and didn't blame them for inflation, and winning on the abortion issue, obviously, and winning on the kind of appeals to democracy, although that didn't pull all that high in terms of what people thought was important in the election. But abortion did, that this dynamic creates a situation where the Democratic Party, the people who make the decisions of policy and the like, say, Listen, we can continue touring the Republicans, rightly so as crazy extremists. And we don't really have to do anything more aggressively, to really structurally fix the American economy, and really, to do anything to better appeal to the working class of this country, that that could be a takeaway, that, hey, we've got it. We campaign on kind of cultural issues, non economic issues, because we can simply anytime somebody thinks about going to the Republicans, we can just say look at them, they the Republicans are complete freaks. And and the Republicans are complete freaks. But the problem is, is that that politics then leaves us, I think, in a situation where the economy is completely fucked. And the they're still nibbling at the edges when it comes to actually structurally fixing it. I'm afraid that that politics kind of locks that in, is that a fair thing to be concerned about?
Yes, absolutely. I mean, that is going to be their takeaway. And again, like, with some justification, they have a great case they can make here. I mean, you can look at like, Okay, why did why did New York do poorly? Where other states did? Well, well, in New York, voters felt comfortable because they had democratic control of the State House and State Senate that they weren't going to lose abortion rights. And I do think that's a big part of the story of why New York went in kind of a different direction than a lot of the other places in the country. So yeah, when I watched MSNBC last night for a bit after our coverage, they were absolutely insufferable. I mean, they were on there, like, you know, all these people who said, you have to talk about the economy that are totally wrong. They're ridiculous. Like, obviously, it was only about abortion. And that's the only thing that really mattered here. And all this stuff, that's 100% gonna be their take away, there's no doubt about it. So yeah, that's gonna be some
things like health care. Right. So things like health, like there is a massive health care crisis in this country. And finally, Fox News is poll, it has that stat that shows what 65% of Americans want some sort of government program, government to actually extend. It's an incredible stat. But my point is, is that, you know, and I think it was 55, or 60% of people generally say, they're worried about climate change in their communities, etc, etc. Like, I think in the exit polling there is you see the economic angst and by the way that you see the climate angst, but the political dynamics right now are ones that kind of reward, not necessarily doing what's necessary to address those massive structural, effectively, economic issues. And I would agree with you like MSNBC pundits can look at that and be like, Haha, see, they don't have to, they don't have to do anything. I just worry about what that means. For like, the country like literally the society, the civilization,
it's so weird to that, that would be like something that you think is an own, like, see, we told you, nobody has to care about these working class people, like how dare you, you know, but that was the reality of what they were saying last night. So I'm just, you know, conveying the messaging over that in that corner? No, I mean, there's also a sort of self fulfilling prophecy here, where it's like, if neither party delivers on economics, voters don't expect either party to deliver on economics. So they're like, I'm gonna vote based on the things that culture war issues that I think there actually might do something on. So it does become sort of a self fulfilling prophecy. I mean, I do want to give the Biden administration some credit for the things that they have done that, in my opinion, have been the best are student loan debt relief, which Biden really didn't want to do. But he had to promise that on the campaign trail, and he sort of got, like, pressured and shamed into doing it, and I do think that with young voters, that was incredibly, incredibly important. And as you say, I'm you know, as a 40, almost one year old person myself, I'm calling young voters, anyone under the age of 40, who sat on a student learned and I think that was incredibly significant. I think, the personnel at the NLRB that has enabled the search in unionization, I think that's One of the most transformational things that the Biden ministration has done and the new stance on antitrust, and I want to give them credit for those things, because that's a real break from the Clinton Obama mode of the Democratic Party. But yeah, I think I think they're going to look at the results and say, well, we don't have to be afraid the way we were of doing anything because of inflation and these Republican talking points. But nor was this, you know, a requirement to do anything, they didn't run on an affirmative economic agenda. They didn't promise anything in terms of an economic agenda. So they don't have to really deliver on anything. And even on abortion, they don't actually have to deliver anything, they just have to be not the Republicans and a bulwark against something like a national abortion ban. So on that, too, there's no like requirement that they actually deliver on anything other than just not being the Republicans. So yeah, that's definitely the lesson they're going to learn.
I would agree that there's not a requirement out of this election. I'm I'm I'm guessing you agree to though, that each election is a snapshot, that if the economy keeps having the problems that it has two more years in if inflation continues, etc, etc. And they still don't have a message? Right? I mean, I'm the I'm one of the believers in the kind of the permanent campaign. I mean, that was a kind of concept that was made famous by Bill Clinton, right that you even when you're in power, you're kind of permanently campaigning, you're you're permanently calling out, you know, what the problem is, and showing yourself as doing something about the problem. I agree. We just had an election where there really is no, no affirmative economic mandate. But I also think you're right, that there is no economic repudiation, or appreciation of what's happened. And so I think, I think it leaves the question of, well, well, what comes next? Right? I mean, if the Democrats actually hold the Congress, what I don't like I have no idea what they're gonna do. Like, do you have any idea like Joe Biden still is president?
I know from some Democratic staffers, they're like, freaking out. Like, what if we keep the house we don't have anything planned, we don't have any bills lined up to pass. So they're scrambling to figure they they didn't, like contemplate the possibility that they might be able to continue passing legislation.
I mean, it reminds me of the end of the movie, the famous scene, the candidate, it's like the most one of the most famous scenes in all of movies, where he wins the election. And then he says, what do we do now? I mean, like, literally, it's like, it's almost like a perfect, perfect analogue, like the Democrats like, oh, we actually won, like, we didn't really campaign on much of anything other than to not do what Republicans want to do. But what do we actually do now is a huge open question. And I might, I'll just, we'll leave it here with my hope. And then I'll ask you for your hope. My hope is that they look back to the American rescue plan, which I think on top of the things that you just said about what the Biden administration has done, I actually think that was the biggest tectonic shift that I have ever experienced, I've ever seen, in my lifetime, in this way, that the idea of spending to help people and directly spending into the middle and bottom income tears is not something that has ever happened, I think, in my lifetime at all. It was a huge break from the Obama administration, from when in its first two years. It was a something that Joe Biden himself a guy who was a Mr. Austerity for a long time in Washington was not prone to necessarily do but there was a kind of an aha moment. So my hope is that if things continue to be bad, I don't hope for that, that they will look back on that and say, Look, our polls were high when we did that. We were not we were punished at the next election for doing that. And we should do more of that. What kind of hopes do you have?
Yeah, I hope that they also learn similar lessons and have similar takeaways around student loan debt relief, where I think it's really clear, you can see like, oh, young voters, Biden's approval rating was in the tank, with voters under 40. And the minute he did student loan debt relief, and a couple other things, it skyrocketed, and then you have young people turning out to vote and with some of that abortion, no doubt about it was some of it. Wow, you actually you actually materially delivered for me like to in a life changing way. And these guys are clearly opposed to it. Yeah, I think you have to attribute some of it to that. And then I also think you have to dig into why did we do better in the industrial Midwest than the rest of the country? And when you look at some of the positives from the Biden trade, and reshoring, and NLRB like an antitrust agendas, those are things that disproportionately benefit that part of the country so I hope that those are some of the things that they kind of take away that this direction the Madan America direction, the lifting the minimum wage for federal government employees direction that direction is actually paying off for us politically right now
crystal ball, the co host of breaking points one of my favorite people in politics. Thank you as always for taking time with us.
Always great to chat with you, David.
That's it for today's show. As a reminder, our paid subscribers who get lever time premium get to hear our bonus segment, my interview with journalists Eli Clifton, who recently wrote an article about former US Senator Norm Coleman, who manages one of the Republican Party's largest Super PACs, while simultaneously working as a foreign registered lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government.
You know, the guy was definitely flexible and fluid in his political identity and party affiliation. But at least he kind of did one at a time. And in it roughly in 2014, is when he signed up to become a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia. And already he was one of the Republican Party's biggest fundraisers, he was already affiliated with the Congressional Leadership Fund at that point.
And please be sure to like, subscribe and write a review for lever time on your favorite podcast app. One last favor to ask. If you liked this podcast and our reporting. Please tell your friends and family about the lever and the work we're doing here forward our emails to them, encourage them to subscribe. The only way independent media grows is by word of mouth. So we need all the help we can get to continue doing the work that we're doing. Until next time, I'm David Sirota keep rocking the