Republican congressman Andy Biggs isn’t anybody special. He isn’t one of the Republican leaders in the House and he isn’t one of the party’s anointed “rising stars.” But he recently did something that was extremely illustrative to me of the considerable Democratic failure on getting a message out.
Biggs opposes the Capitol insurrection commission, which is a stupid and anti-democratic position to have. But that isn’t the point.
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On May 19, Biggs stepped outside his congressional office and into the hallway and recorded a two-minute video detailing his opposition to the commission and pushing other members of Congress to vote against it (he also posted it to Facebook). The video is not slick, it has echoes and background noise. It appears to have been done in one take and then it was posted online.
As I write this, the video has over 200,000 views on Twitter and while Facebook stats for videos are not public, I’m guessing the numbers are probably pretty good.
The point is that Biggs said something. What he said wasn’t particularly good, or helpful, or pro-American, but for the purpose of getting a message out, he said something.
Democrats in Congress are often too fearful of saying anything, and then they wonder why they lose public debates and elections. Democrats are ironically extremely conservative, always looking for the “right” time to weigh in on issues, as if they choose just the right spot, the message will perfectly resonate and trigger a set of dominoes in public opinion and legislation.
By comparison, Republicans are always saying things. They opine on every issue under the sun. They give their two cents on the rise of the sun and the setting of the moon, and if there is any negative connotation to either event, it is the fault of the Democratic Party.
Not every Republican statement is a hit. Not everyone becomes a meme or a public idea or legislation, but the party and the affiliated movement understands that we live in a media-driven world and injecting bits of information into the public consensus has a very real effect.
Biggs’ video will help to shape the public discourse over the commission in a small way. His two-minute message will at a minimum reach his base of voters and tell them that he is active and engaged on their behalf (for a bad thing) and ideally, the same message will filter into media coverage at both the local and national level.
Meanwhile, Democrats generally hunker down and keep waiting to pick their shots. It doesn’t work, and while Democrats can and have won elections with this flawed strategy in place, always being a part of the public dialogue is one-way Republicans have been able to win elections even when things are going well under a Democratic majority.
It seems foolish to me for Democrats to only have electoral successes following the disaster of Republican rule. If they created messages boosting their own positions and (more importantly) negatively framing the opposition, they could increase their hold on power when in the majority and fight effectively when out of power.
I know the objections to this. Democrats don’t have Fox News. They don’t have right-wing radio. They don’t have the networks of right-wing sugar daddies (and mommies) willing to finance media like the right does.
I get it. I’ve reported on these elements of the right for over a decade, and I’ve written about it for over two decades in a personal context as well.
But it’s also an excuse from Democratic voters/supporters that gives elected officials an out for the things they could be doing now.
Biggs frequently appears on Fox News and right-wing radio but that had nothing to do with his video on the commission. His message was not crafted for a media hit. It was built for his supporters so they could be aware he is doing something.
There’s no reason every single Democrat in office can’t duplicate what Biggs did, at a minimum. They should be doing much more, but two minutes in a noisy hallway is not a big ask when such vital issues are on the line.
Democrats are very capable of creating an echo chamber and affecting the discourse when they choose to do so. The unified message attacking the post-election laws in Georgia, describing them as “Jim Crow 2.0,” put Republicans on their heels. They had to defend themselves against an onslaught, and the resulting friction brought media coverage and pressured corporate America to follow public opinion. It was quite effective.
It shouldn’t be a one-off. It shouldn’t have to be on a core Democratic issue like the right to vote to get the Democrats to simply say something. It should come as naturally to them as breathing does, as lying does to the right.
There are some Democrats who get this. One of the best is Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who jumps on top of most issues and frequently fires off a tweet, quickly advocating a progressive point of view and boxing in Republicans for their stupidity.
He shouldn’t be so lonely in this pursuit. It is easy to do and every elected official who has simple tools like Twitter/Facebook and a cell phone camera has the equipment to get it done.
They just need the will to actually execute.
But they have no excuse.
Follow me, Oliver Willis, on Twitter @owillis
See Barry Eisler, The Ass is a Poor Receptacle for the Head
Why Democrats Suck At Communication, And How They Could Improve - https://www.barryeisler.com/books/essays/