Get ready for a Build Back Better messaging spree
The ability to sell public policy is critical. But the stakes are higher for Democrats, who find themselves reaching out to an electorate that's unsure of the specifics of this landmark package.
As Democrats work to put the finishing touches on the package of economic and climate investments known as Build Back Better, the party’s leadership indicated this morning that voters should prepare to be on the receiving end of a nationwide campaign to promote the package.
“We are going to message with simplicity and repetition about all the good, big, transformative, bold things that we have done for the American people,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who also serves as the House Democratic chairman, the fifth-highest-ranking position in the chamber, said today during a press conference. Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado added that when the bill passes, which feels less of a foregone conclusion depending on the day of the week, Democrats will sell it accordingly and expressed sincere confidence that voters would be responsive to the messaging.
Since Democrats started negotiating which policies would make it into the final legislation a few months ago, leaders from the conservative and progressive corners of the party have appeared on the Sunday morning news shows, written op-eds and posted impassioned Twitter threads in support of their preferred provisions. So it’s unclear what this will look like in practice. Spokespeople for Jeffries and Neguse did not respond to follow-up questions from Supercreator News.
For politicians, the ability to sell public policy is critical. But the stakes are higher for Democrats, who find themselves reaching out to an electorate that’s unsure of the specifics of this landmark package. As I mentioned last month , Build Back Better would uplift working people and families in ways we haven’t seen in generations. From funding for education and health care to housing and environmental justice — generated from a fairer tax code — this legislation is certain to impact the lives of the people you care about, if not your own directly.
Democrats are also challenged with breaking through an opposition party with a media ecosystem that’s as sophisticated as it is adversarial. No Republican in Congress is expected to vote for Build Back Better, even though their constituents stand to win from its passage, and you better believe GOP surrogates will continue counter-message with their go-to dog whistles like “socialism,” “open borders” and “reckless spending.”
Build Back Better is the legislative output developed from a jobs and families plan President Biden put forth a couple of months after his inauguration and embraced by most congressional Democrats and voters alike. It picks up where an infrastructure deal the Senate passed in August focused on roads, bridges, transit systems, broadband internet and clean water left off. Democratic leaders linked these two bills together to increase the odds they’d both pass since conservative Democrats are gung-ho about the infrastructure bill but less so about Build Back Better and progressives are the opposite.
Before the president left to attend economic and environmental summits in Europe last week, he announced a framework he believed would pass the Senate and met with House Democrats to rally support. “I am back here to tell you [the framework] will get 50 votes in the US Senate … I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week,” Biden reportedly said during the meeting. “I need you to help me. I need your votes.”
However, Biden’s promise was thrown into question yesterday when Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of two conservative Democrats who have stalled negotiations with their opposition to some of the package’s most popular provisions, said in prepared remarks that he still had major — albeit disproven — concerns about Build Back Better, while calling on the House to pass the infrastructure deal, which he helped broker, by the way. “Simply put, I will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact that it’ll have on our national debt, our economy, and most importantly, all of our American people,” Manchin said. “Enough is enough. It’s time our elected leaders in Washington, all of us stop playing games with the needs of the American people and holding a critical infrastructure bill hostage.”
In response, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri called Manchin’s position “anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-immigrant” before adding that Black, brown and Indigenous communities are “overwhelmingly excluded from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.” (Experts I’ve talked to suggest nine in 10 infrastructure jobs would likely go to white men.)
And if you’re curious where the White House stands on this, look no further than the statement Press Secretary Jen Psaki — in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus — released moments after Manchin’s monologue. “Senator Manchin says he is prepared to support a Build Back Better plan that combats inflation, is fiscally responsible, and will create jobs. The plan the House is finalizing meets those tests—it is fully paid for, will reduce the deficit, and brings down costs for health care, child care, elder care, and housing,” she said. “As a result, we remain confident that the plan will gain Senator Manchin’s support.” President Biden added this evening in a press conference with reporters overseas: “I believe Joe [Manchin] will be there,” when asked if he believed Manchin would support the final Build Back Better proposal.
Despite what feels like a never-ending series of fits and starts, it looks like we’ll find out how effective the Democrats’ messaging will ultimately be soon enough. At press time, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said his goal is to bring the bill to the floor on the week of Nov. 15 (Republicans will be unable to block a vote on Build Back Better, as they have legislation on voting rights, gun control and police reform.)
And earlier today House and Senate Dems agreed on a deal that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices on the most expensive prescription drugs, including insulin, which will be capped at $35. (This provision was left out of Biden’s framework last week and a top Build Back Better priority for one in three voters.) They also agreed on a five-year delay on the cap on state and local taxes, a critical win for lawmakers who represent voters in states like California, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey where property taxes tend to be higher and populated by Democratic majorities. Leaders are still working to include immigration reform and paid family leave — the latter issue feels like a hail Mary though.
After months of negotiations though, there’s an intensifying sense of urgency to wrap this up. “This process cannot go on week after week, month after month, it’s finally got to come to an end,” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said. “I will do everything I can to see that we get a vote on the floor of the Senate as soon as possible.”
Supercreator Weekly is a reader-supported newsletter, anchored by a vibrant community of premium subscribers who enable the hours of reporting that goes into the unbossed, unbought and unfiltered journalism you’re reading. If you know someone interested in the intersection of national politics and pop culture and who feels creative professionals should be able to live off their work, feel free to forward this post to them. And if you’d like access to bonus updates beyond this free weekly newsletter from my weekly conversations with policymakers, business leaders, scholars and fellow creators, subscribe for the full experience.
Read All About It
Laura Pitcher on the return of the Hollywood cringe couple. Myles Tanzer on why Lil Nas X is the new King of Pop. Amy Harmon on the left’s debate over language. Sarah Zhang on how America lost the plot on COVID. Walter Shapiro on Joe Biden, who never campaigned to be FDR. Jacob Bogage and Alyssa Fowers on why workplace strikes won’t stop anytime soon. Caroline Chen on the babies who are dying of syphilis. Ben Smith on learning to live with Mark Zuckerberg. Meg Jones Wall on how payment processing companies like Stripe decide who is empowered to buy and sell online. Kaitlyn Tiffany on the art of the boyfriend “soft launch”. David D. Kirkpatrick, Steve Eder, Kim Barker and Julie Tate on why so many police stops turn deadly. Simran Jeet Singh on why America’s corporate boards keep failing to diversify. Robinson Meyer on Biden’s amazing, disappointing climate triumph. Michael E. Mann on how delay became the new form of climate crisis denial. Emily Bazelon on Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court. Hannah Dreyfus on how Liberty University discourages and dismisses students’ reports of sexual assaults. Ethan Zuckerman on how the metaverse was lame even before Facebook. Jesse Barron on the soft sell of Hims health care. Deah Berry Mitchell on why Southern fried chicken — aka the “gospel bird” — is one of the most debated dishes in Black food history. Brian Merchant on the real reason Facebook changed its name.
The Pain Gap: How Sexism and Racism in Healthcare Kill Women by Anushay Hassain ($25): If you’re looking for a reason why we need all the pro-women and -child provisions in the Build Back Better, this book is it.
Crate & Barrel White Snowflake Pretzels ($25): These yummy treats have me feeling the holiday spirit already.
Everlane Heavyweight Overshirt ($88): I’ll style this heavy cotton twill button-down over turtlenecks and under a coat this winter to show off my layering prowess.
Want more reading and product recommendations? In addition to this newsletter, premium subscribers also get Supercreator Select, a Saturday edition of Read All About It and Michael’s Picks to inspire you during your leisure time.
Subscribers also get Supercreator Review, an exclusive and in-depth recap of the week’s interesting and essential stories in national politics and pop culture — and their impact on online creators and their fans.
Not a subscriber? Upgrade your media diet for just $5/month or $50/year. Already a premium subscriber? Then I’ll see you in your inbox on Friday morning!