The Kamala Harris soundbite of the day

This one’s a keeper.

Although, notably, it’s not part of the now familiar genre of Harris being caught off-guard by a question, not knowing how to answer, then stumbling Billy-Madison-style through an incoherent attempt to wing it. What she said last night in Jamaica was part of her prepared message. And when you watch, you’ll understand what she was trying to say, sort of: Part of the damage done to Jamaica by COVID is economic and the U.S. is prepared to help with the country’s recovery.

But Harris doesn’t always study her briefing materials and she’s clearly not confident in her ability to speak extemporaneously, for good reason. So, sometimes when she begins to trip up, she just sort of … derails.

Her worst moments come when she’s trying to engage in formal diplo-speak, a foreign language to her. She should just speak plainly. “We know Jamaica’s been hurt by COVID, as all countries have. We’re here to help.” A strict straight-talk policy in which she’s not straining to sound polished would help with her public image, frankly.

As it is, we’ve ended up with an administration in which neither the top guy nor his number two can reliably get through short public statements without mega-cringe. At least in the previous administration Mike Pence could always be counted on to sound lucid.

I’ll give Harris this much: At least she didn’t stumble into calling for regime change in Russia. If you’re going to gaffe, make sure you don’t risk starting a nuclear war by doing so.

In possibly related news today, Democrats are fretting that the midterm enthusiasm gap between their voters and Republican voters has become a chasm that’s somehow still widening, with NBC and Morning Consult each showing double-digit leads for the GOP lately. Not all Dems are coping with that reality well:

It’s beginning to look like nothing is going to bail the party out this year. The last time the enthusiasm gap was this wide, in 2010, Democrats lost more than 60 seats in the House…

“Goddammit man, it’s so infuriating,” said Kelly Dietrich, a former Democratic fundraiser and founder of the National Democratic Training Committee, which trains candidates across the country. “It’s easier to tear sh*t down than it is to build sh*t up … It’s much easier to frame people who are actively trying to build and accomplish things as failing and incompetent than it is to provide your alternative solution.”

He said, “What I’m seeing — and from talking to people — is a little bit of this exasperation. We’re trying to do the right things here … But our society seems to have gone batsh*t.”

There’s your midterm slogan. Democrats 2022: Why Doesn’t Our Batsh*t Society Appreciate Us More?

Last night I flagged a recent post from Ruy “The Liberal Patriot” Teixeira pleading with his party to pivot away from progressivism and towards moderation on cultural issues. He’s back today with a new post doubling down on centrism. Ignore the AOCs who are forever threatening that the left will be demoralized if it doesn’t gets its way, he argues. If you want to win elections, the middle is the place to be:

Embedded in the disparagement of appealing to the electoral center is a quasi-religious faith in the power of base mobilization to solve all political problems. This faith tends to attribute Biden’s win in 2020 to this mobilization, especially his victories in the relatively diverse states of Georgia and Arizona, newcomers to the Democratic coalition.

But this is wrong too. Despite the acres of commentary that echo this interpretation, the hard facts of the matter are that Biden improved on Hillary Clinton’s performance not by improving Democratic performance among the classic locus of the Democratic base—nonwhite voters—but by improving Democratic performance among white voters, both college and working class. In fact, Democrats actually lost ground among nonwhite voters, especially Hispanics (Catalist data).

That’s correct. If Trump had held onto white voters at the same clip Republicans have in recent year, his modest but meaningful gains with minorities would have won him the election. His cultural stances obviously appealed to some. It’s because he alienated so many white voters with his antics, especially in the suburbs, that Biden was able to squeak through. Teixeira draws the obvious conclusion: Moderation on cultural issues by Dems could bring some of those minorities back into the fold while reassuring white swing voters that it’s still safer to have Democrats in charge in Washington than a Trump-dominated GOP. But oh well.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. For all the heavy breathing about where liberals should position themselves on cultural matters, the thing that sent Biden’s approval rating plummeting last year was the debacle in Afghanistan. Once the public’s confidence in his competence shattered, it was never fully pieced together again. The daily gaffes from him and Harris may be small things in isolation but cumulatively they reinforce the sense that the administration just isn’t up to the challenges America faces. Dems may be doomed in November at this point even if they take Teixeira’s advice.