Yglesias’ advice to Harris is to stop acting like her job is to win the support of the young, highly educated urban activists and progressive donors who play an outsized role in California and national Democratic politics. They already love her. Instead, she should aim to win moderate swing voters by tailoring her public statements to appeal to an imagined 50-something white person without a college degree who lives in the suburbs of a mid-sized and decidedly unhip Midwestern city (like Grand Rapids, Michigan). In concrete terms, this would mean responding to a question about whether the United States is a racist country by expressing the kind of hokey patriotism that comes second nature to Biden. Just say, “America is the greatest country in the world,” and leave it at that.
Could Harris do this? Of course she could. But will she? I have my doubts, if only because so many Democrats from her faction of the party would view such efforts as a moral betrayal. Such Democrats see themselves as a moral vanguard — and they don’t want to practice a politics of compromise with atavistic racists, xenophobes, and the kinds of simpletons who swoon at lies about the exceptionalism of America. This doesn’t mean they hate the country. But it does mean that they place its greatness in a not-yet-realized future and don’t want to pretend there’s much worth embracing about its past.