POLITICO Cofounder John Harris on the 2020 Election

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - John Harris cofounded POLITICO in 2007. Today, he provides his opinions and insights on the 2020 election.

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John Harris co-founded the news organization Politico in 2007 and served as its editor in chief until 2019.
John Harris co-founded the news organization Politico in 2007 and served as its editor in chief until 2019.

John Harris co-founded the news organization Politico in 2007 and served as its editor in chief until 2019. He was previously a political reporter for The Washington Post and the author of an acclaimed book about President Bill Clinton. Today, he will give his insight into the upcoming presidential election.

John Harris notes that congressional Democrats had electoral success in the 2018 midterms by focusing on issues and raising up their rhetoric. But he sees the current Democratic presidential ticket focused more on the deficiencies of Donald Trump, a strategy that did not work for Hillary Clinton in 2016. He unfortunately thinks both parties will continue to focus on rallying their base and attacking the other side, unless there is a landslide election, which he does not expect in 2020. 

Go to NoLabels.org to learn more about how we are bringing together a bipartisan group of public and private leaders working to solve America’s toughest problems.

In this Episode

Opening Remarks

John Harris:
Oh, well, thank you so much Bill for those generous words. And I hadn't even thought about that definition for my column, but I think it's pretty good one. I'm going to borrow it going forward. I call it altitude and it is trying to rise above some of the kind of daily firefight in Washington and even those team really unprecedented like President Trump's essentially into office, I think have historical antecedents. That's what I've learned from your work and others. And that's what I try to eliminate. So what I thought I would try and do is get a little bit of altitude on this call about how I see what's happening right now in the middle of one convention on the brink of another and then after a couple of years at this election underway, we've got about 10 weeks to go.

Then at least the possibility of another new chapter in Washington, if Democrats are able to keep their currently and come to power. Bill, the way I was looking at this moment in particular of the democratic convention, I think two things are true. One thing that's true is that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 electoral college because she failed to make the case that the choice between her and Donald Trump was urgent enough and that Donald Trump represented a great threat. She failed to make that case in particular with African Americans. And in particular, in those three swing States that we all read so much about Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, there was somewhat depressed African-American turnout there. If it had been at a historical levels, she would be president. So the failure to underline the choice and to present Donald Trump as a moral threat to the most important democratic constituency is one truth.

Another truth that I think is important is that Democrats have had great success in off year elections and in the midterm elections on not by talking about how much they loathe Donald Trump. They tend to take that as a given that voters understand that, but instead by sort of bringing down the anti-Trump rhetoric and bringing up the fact that they've got an affirmative agenda that connects with people in real life ways particularly on the issue of healthcare. That was key to 2018 than the key several of the off year elections that Democrats have won. Clearly so far, the first of those is being addressed in vigorous form. I thought Michelle Obama speech was brilliant in doing so that nobody could listen to that speech and not accept or understand her view that there is a mortal threat in the re-election of Donald Trump in particular to African Americans.

I think Democrats currently are weaker on that second thing. What's motivating the Democratic Coalition right now is disdain for Donald Trump, not that much affirmative enthusiasm for Joe Biden and his agenda, he'll do just fine. I think it's the consensus view of Democrats but it could be more robust and it'll be interesting to see what comes out of the balance of the convention and particular Joe Biden himself addressing it, whether he can put the long arc of his personal story in a contemporary perspective and really have people feeling enthusiastic about the choice of him, rather than just motivated by a disdain of President Trump. The purpose of No Labels as I understand it and the good work that people on this call have done, it seems to me is to revive functional center in American politics and American life.

It's not to repudiate ideology or partisanship as I understand it but it's to make clear that those things are secondary, that they are means to an end. And the end is a solving problems in a practical way that makes the whole of America better. What's the future of that center and can it be revived? I think that's been the big question proceeds President Trump. Plainly President Obama had trouble sustaining a vigorous functional center for much of his term and was disappointed in several aspects because of that and the defiance that he was greeted with by Republicans. It seems to me that that center will never get revived until there is a vigorous and emphatic victory. We've been in kind of a jump ball in American politics, basically for a generation since 2000 control of Congress has traded back and forth.

Democrats have won the presidency but often the Republicans have been able to mobilize perceived overreach and take it to take it back and there hasn't been a decisive victory by one side or the other. In my ideal, perhaps you wouldn't need that. That politicians would act more in public like most of them do in my experience in private. We wouldn't need No Labels, if everybody could act in public as they more or less speak, I'm talking about elected officials and the political class in Washington as they say in private, I think the actual programmatic challenges before us, it wouldn't be that hard to reach a working consensus and it wouldn't require anybody to abandon basic principles.

They just have to compromise it. The failure comes when we step out of private and into public and our public discourse is so tribal. I don't really see that ending until there's an emphatic victory by one side or the other. Is it possible the 2020 represents that emphatic victory? I think it is possible. We are seeing Republicans looking at more losses in the house, the Senate, the Politico are forecasters call it kind of a jump ball, increasingly you're seeing people go out a little further over their skis than we've been willing to do and actually forecasting a democratic victory. And obviously as everybody on this call knows, Joe Biden is in command in the polls. Now are those... They are going to tighten, there's just no way. We are not going to see a reversal of a generation in which elections have been very close and we're not going to see Joe Biden win by 10 points. I don't think so.

So people are going to have to if they want to Biden victory, they're going to have to buckle their seat belts. I think there's going to be... first off he's not going to be in his basement the entire campaign. So that means there are going to be rhetorical bumps, and there's going to be natural tightening of the race, reflecting a genuinely divided electorate. I do think fundamentally Joe Biden is in control of this race because there is no longer a rationale or Donald Trump's candidacy. I'll expand on that just a little bit as we and then turn it open to some questions. I say no longer but because before the pandemic and the national shutdown, Democrats didn't like to hear it but there actually was a strategic case for President Trump's re-election, even there was a strategic theory of how they propose to do it. Even as he's never been above 50% in his approval ratings even for a day of his presidency.

But if you go back in November, December, where I had a number of conversations with the Trump high command. Well, how do you expect to win? And they'd say, "Look, we're going to do three things. One we're going to use our financial advantage and organizational advantage, watches outperform our public polls in swing States. That's what we did in 16 we're going to do it again. If the pulse happens within three or four our turnout and mobilization advantage and also the fact that a lot of people who don't want to pollsters that they support Trump even if they do. That's good for our margin. Two, we're going to cut into Democrats historic strength with African Americans, particularly African American males.@ And there wasn't much prospect of doing it with African American females who really disliked Donald Trump, but there was always some possibility of whopping by several percentage points.

The historic Republican turnout among African American males. It doesn't need to take that much to have very outsized consequences because it's so critical to the Democratic Coalition and third and most important they were going to rewrite the Trump narrative. Like yes he's disruptive. Yes, he says things that sometimes you wish he wouldn't. Yes, he's a divisive figure but that's what it takes to change Washington and he has succeeded in doing that. He's a disruptor and even during the world series had, it takes a Trump. Sometimes it takes a Trump to change Washington. So that was the strategic case, run on a good economy and defy conventional politics by the virtue of their operation. And you couldn't say that it there was no chance of that. Every element Bill, of those strategic pillars that laid out has been demolished during the pandemic. No prospect that they will cut into African-Americans.

I don't think in the wake of George Floyd and President Trump's racial scab picking they need to outperform by a lot more of the public polls and swing States by lot more than three percentage points in order for those States to be in contention currently. And it's really demolished Trump's narrative. It's hard to imagine what that story would be that would say, "Look, I've really done a good job and earned your trust and handling of this unprecedented event." That's really what I'm going to be looking for next week in the Republican Convention, is there any kind of strategic rationale that it's late in the day? And it's really late in the day, if you take into account early voting, the first people are going to start voting and within a matter of weeks and 60% of Americans at least maybe more will vote in that before election day according to estimates, I've seen a case even a historic case like President Trump's mission that he's been handed by history is what? Most presidents do have kind of an assignment from history that they get.

And I think you earlier could say that President Trump had it. Enormous disrespect for institutions, enormous impatience with the status quo, enormous frustration at the way it leads, protect their own interest at the expense of average people's interests. That was this assignment. You might not have liked it but it was plausible in 2016. I see no equivalent of that and I must say I do Bill, remember probably several other people on this call know Doug Sosnick, who was the white house political director and a friend and he writes these political briefings. He says, "President Trump has like Austin Powers." They both sort of woke up and don't realize that they're in a whole new era. And I see President Trump is in that situation. I don't think he realizes that the kind of old signatures of his politics are so misplaced to the current politics of the pandemic.

So for that reason, I do. I'm kind of out of the prediction business since my predictions weren't great in 2016 like many of my colleagues but I do have expectations that there's a high probability of abiding administration. And so then the question there is a what's that like? There's a paradox in that the very in distinctness of Biden's campaign. I don't think he has an indistinct personality, he's ordinarily. If any career he's a kind of vibrant colorful person but for purposes of this campaign he's had to harness that. And really because of the pandemic, it's been a basement campaign with very minimal sort of public exposure and very controlled when they do have that exposure. The very indistinctness of Biden's campaign is a terrific advantage.

It does allow out Democrats to unite. He's the composite Democrat. It's the closest I've seen to a candidate running pollsters sometimes refer to as the generic party candidate. Well, he is the generic Democrat. That's I think a big advantage in the general election. It's going to be a significant challenge if there is a democratic governance. There are so many kind of clamoring ideological demands in particular by an ascendant left. And Biden's going to need you to something that he hasn't really, I think, effectively done in this campaign, which has really established himself as the dominant figure in the democratic party.

So it's the President Biden and the progressive Democrats say, "Well, who says that we can't have a green new deal, or that we're not going to push for Medicare for all." I say that because that's not what I campaigned on and the or as he along with Nancy Pelosi, I guess AJD, older Chuck Schumer and the oldest president in history, will they be able to control this very significant generational change that's going on in politics? That's a real mystery to me that will only see if Biden is able to hang onto it is currently but it will be especially consequential especially if Democrats do a Senate victory. We're going to have to see Biden in a more robust fashion as president than we've seen him as candidates. So anyway, the fact is get the conversation going Bill. That's how I see it. And I think it's going to be awfully interesting period in American politics coming out.

Thoughts on 2020 Election

Question:
John three quick points. One, I thought you analyze the political landscape and your usual insightful and clear manner. I agree with it for what that's worth. So two issues relating to the campaign. One, the counting of the votes, John. We've got an election but we've got to count the votes and to see who won. And that to me is a big outstanding question. The second part you outlined kind of why you thought the president was practically just so far behind and I think you're correct right now. You do have the debates coming up and that could be pretty pivotal. Thirdly, I think very quickly relevant to know light bulbs John, poll after poll show 70, 80% some time for the American people warning Congress to work together, including the executive branch and solve problems and get things done. And yet you spoke about a lack of that ability to govern and the problem and so forth. So comment on those three issues quickly if you will.

John Harris:
Well, I certainly agree with you that the outstanding question is whether we can have a functional election in which the people can have trust in the middle of this pandemic. I happen to believe that President Trump is misreading the advantages of chaos by apparently telling the ground that well, if I lose it's because the election wasn't fair. To me it seems to be mobilizing people's determination to vote and they're really crystallizing the concerns people have the basic functionality of government. We are in this tribal moment but I think at the end of the day, something more important than a tribalism, which is just people's basic sense of security and a desire for functionality and competence.

And I think President Trump's stumbling performance on the pandemic is calling that into question. And I know that he's got a high enthusiasm still among his most intense partisan but I think there's an awful lot of conservatives who would in different ways that held their nose and voted Trump in the past who are rapidly falling out of reach. And I think the election issue is exacerbating that. Mack the general question of whether we can have a functional politics we obviously have to long term have to change the incentives. Right now there are enormous incentives in our media culture and our political culture for extreme rhetoric and extreme behavior. And there are fewer incentives to solve problems on behalf of the public.

And it seems to me until those incentives change. We're going to have a brand of politics that you don't like very much, I don't like very much. I will say and you were on my mind earlier Mack because I was writing about Bill Clinton this morning and irrespective of what one thinks about Bill Clinton as a person or whether they like the politics of the 1990s, Bill Clinton was extremely good. As you and I and Bill for that matter all know, well, he was extremely good at some things that I think we don't have near enough of in our politics today, which is the politics of persuasion rather than the politics of mobilization. I went back and read some of those speeches, some of you probably were present for Bill Clinton speaking of the DLC in 1991 in Cleveland or did at Georgetown University, his new covenant speech.

And to watch those now relative to certainly to President Trump, but even lots of other politicians is to highlight the poverty of our political discourse. Those speeches were conversational. They were an argument as though he was speaking to somebody who was an open mind that could be persuaded and they were completely different than the language of assertion, insult, exhortation, mobilization that marks our speeches today. So we could use more Bill Clinton like politicians, even if we don't want Bill Clinton ourselves, some of us we could use more of that in our politics and by the way the party that needs it most Bill and I were trading messages on this earlier today, the part is really waiting for a latter day, Bill Clinton is the Republican party in my view, especially in a post-Trump environment where they are going to need to offer reassurance to voters that they're not as extreme as the reputation that they're interested in solving problems, that they're taking old values and translating them to a new age.

That was what Bill Clinton did long time ago, now almost 30 years ago. The basic assignment I think is still a good one which is politics of solving problems rather than just a politics of identity, a politics of grievance, politics of mobilization. So I still think there's a lot to learn from Bill Clinton. He's going to when he in, I'll be watching with interest tonight when he speaks.

Could Joe Biden be the first No Labels Problem Solvers president?

Question:
Thank you. Thanks, John. It was a great presentation. I'm curious. I have a couple of questions. I'm just going to ask this one. Do you think that Joe Biden can be our first No Labels problem solvers president?

John Harris:
I think that he certainly has an instinct for that. I think as I read Joe Biden's career, he is somebody who is fundamentally an institutionalist. He has respect for the institutions of government and I think he has respect for most institutions of society and in wants them to work. So yes, I think he no question that he has those instincts and he does practice or wants to practice a politics of respect as opposed to a politics of contempt for these institutions and the established order.

He wants to reform the established order. He doesn't want to banish it whereas I think President Trump would say he wants to humiliate the established order. So there's no question. To my mind there's no question, those are his instincts. There is a big question about how much energy and command he can bring to that and how much he's going to really set the agenda for his own party. As I say, he's helped by the fact that he's a kind fill in the blank candidate in my view but as effective presidents usually are more dominant in mobilizing their parties and making sure that they are the most influential voice in the party. How much is he going to be pushed around by the different clamoring interest groups in his in the party? I don't know the answer to that.

How would you prove a Trump victory?

Question:
Thank you, Bill and thank you, John, for being here. My question is when you go through your analysis, that honestly feels like it holds water, in your mind where are the weak spots or said differently can you prove the opposite, can you prove a Trump victory?

John Harris:
Yeah, I guess if I were like right now is trying to fast forward to the day after the election and Trump has won re-election, what would that be? My guess would be that it would be some combination of a very halting performance by Biden on the stump. I do have great respect for Biden and I want to convey that. I must say before the pandemic and before we all went virtual watching him out on the campaign trail and is where I saw him, spent a lot of time with him not in New Hampshire. He really did seem halting and not losing his faculties or anything like that, but he seemed like a lot of people in their late seventies that I know which was not as vigorous and not as commanding as we remember them.

I really think that's a challenge and then I would say the other element of that would be that President Trump proves me wrong in that. I think I have asserted that Joe Biden is running as the generic Democrat and people who are down in elections say when you tell them, well, the polls say any Democrat can be true, so I'm not going to run against any Democrat. I'm going to run against some Democrat and as long as I'm running against somebody, I can define that somebody's on favorable terms. And so President Trump will use his gifts such as they are to turn Biden from any Democrat into a very particular Democrat and somehow make him lose control of his public image. And the reason I don't think that as big a risk is that Biden is so well known one, two Trump, has you gone to that, well, so many times I think there's a discount factor.

But I guess those would be the things and also we would... The other major ingredient as you guys know that Trump to the extent he has a strategy it's look, there's a whole lot of people that didn't vote last time, just because they're very loose and occasional voters. And there's still more people to mobilize that if they vote they're Trump voters, I'm skeptical that that number is large and I'm certainly skeptical that it's larger than the number of Democrats who are going to turn out this time even if they didn't in 2016, but I think that's what it would look like. That's the nature of media got it wrong or I got it wrong in 2020 like I did in '16.

Comments on the Races in the Senate and House

Question:
My question really is any comments that you can give us on the Senate and the house races. You focused almost entirely out of the presidential one.

John Harris:
We're watching it closely obviously. We're calling it... We've got a guy at the Politico who's kind of our prognosticator who consumes all the polls and he's calling it a jump ball. If there is a true wave, I think it's likely Democrats take the Senate. And if you go back and look at years where these kinds of earthquakes have started with the president but then really changed a lot of the landscape beneath it. Way back when in 1980, I don't think people saw the Senate switching control as it did with Reagan's victory. Much more recently, I think if we look at 2010 you did see that the reach of that backlash to then President Obama's first two year agenda, not only switched to the house but also when deep into State.

So the races that we're all watching are the same ones that you're watching What happens to Susan Collins in Maine, what happens to Colorado, are there going to be some surprises and some of the Southern States, including possibly Kentucky, Mitch McConnell got us prize. I don't have sufficient closeness to those to give you a hot prediction. I'll make a bigger point which is Democrats could really benefit from an election that goes deep, not just past the Congress but in the State legislature and into governorships. If you look at what happened in 2010, it was a lost decade for Democrats. Basically put an end to Barack Obama's legislative agenda. He still had an executive agenda because and it lasted a decade because it put Republicans in control of redistricting in all these States. And I think the opportunity for Democrats is that they get the opposite of that and they give Republicans a lost decade if they can control more State houses than they currently do.

What kind of policy changes will a Biden Administration bring?

Question:
My question is for the middle class person. What can you describe as, if you can, as the policy changes that a Biden Administration will bring? Forget about the personalities, forget about identity politics, but what real significant policy changes will be important for a Vice President Biden to clearly communicate when he does debate? What will make him different than Donald Trump from a policy perspective?

John Harris:
Yeah. I mean, I think the big ones are going to be well known to you. And I think he's been pretty admirably forthright and laying out an agenda that he wants to expand healthcare, does not want to Medicare for all. They had that debate in the campaign but does want a much more robust government role, including a public option that President Obama couldn't push through. I think the changing issue landscape since the campaign and the nomination was wrapped up on police reform is clearly going to be very important for Democrats early on especially given some of us don't. Somewhat tortured history as being so influential the 1994 Crime Bill. I think he could say, "Well, look, this is a chance to come back and deal with some of the defects of that legislation in terms of sentencing and the police accountability."

And I think longterm the issue that is really going to push and challenge older Democrats in the leadership is going to be a climate change and what actions are going to be taken to? Things that I think had would previously never been on the table in terms of the energy taxes and big incentives for clean energy and big including big incentives, I mean, public subsidies. I think we're going to be looking at all of those. Broadly, I would say what's interesting about the possibility of a democratic administration is it will be really the first time in quite a while the Democrats might perceive themselves as being off the defensive and in other words, usually, certainly this was true for all of President Clinton's term and true for a lot of Barack Obama's term. There was an awareness that there was only so much the political market could bear and the Democrats to be effective had to pause practice the politics of reassurance.

Trust me, I won't go too far. I'm not going to raise your taxes too much. I'm not going to back a government that's too intrusive. I see a lot of those... the need for that sort of constant reassurance is lessening. The reason I say that is the Democratic Coalition has expanded, it's not really become that much more conservative if you will... big infusions of suburban white voters into the Democratic Coalition and they've been scared off by President Trump but the issue polling among those people that are not that conservative. They're not kind of holding the progressive wing of the party back as much as you might think they're in favor of expanded role and they're tolerant of higher taxes. Even as those higher taxes likely would affect them and their views of on whether or not the country is kind of still racist have shifted sharply in over six months.

And so we had an interesting conversation at a political the other day. We put together people from different wings of the democratic party and questioned of how they unified and Connor Lamb, who of course had his victory in 2018 and the special election show it was an early indicator that the tide was rising for Democrats. He made it clear like, look, I have to convince my voters. I'm not a socialist, but once he does that, he's got lots of latitude for positions far more progressive than he would have been able to push just a few years ago.

Bill Galston:
Let me just add a couple of points in response to Chris's question, if I may. First of all, suppose you're middle class, you're age 60 and you've just lost a job with health benefits. Biden has proposed and I think this will be a core element of his healthcare plan, allowing people to buy into Medicare starting at age 60. And if you don't have a big income at age 60 you won't be paying much in monthly Medicare costs. That's potentially a big deal. Another potential big deal, if you're a middle class and in your forties and you're staring at an 18 year old high school senior and a 15 year old high school sophomore I'm thinking about college costs, the Biden program would make a tuition at State colleges and universities essentially free for people in the economic range of most middle class families. So those are a couple of things that would be felt worthy to be enacted. But enough of me we go next to Jim Crown. Jim.

Impact of Comments from Republican Leadership

Question:
Hi Bill, thanks. So my question from a perspective of what is persuasive to people is I'm curious whether in your experience John, having people like Governor Kay Zecker or any of the other Republicans who stood up yesterday, Mitt Romney saying what he has said, actually matter in terms of how people act then decide to process this, all these things all pretty much set and that's just window dressing.

John Harris:
Yeah. It's such a good question because there's this whole set of political analysis that says there's really not very many swing voters and people may describe themselves as independents but in fact, they have clear inclinations and clear consistency in their voting patterns and there's just not that many persuadable voters in the middle. And my problem with that is it's never corresponded to the kind of conversations that I have a lot with people. And you'd say, well, you're talking to a certain type of person and that there's actually not that many of them. I happen to believe that there are still plenty of swing voters and it's very effective to have people that are former Republicans as validators for not just Joe Biden, but for the broader argument that our country needs something different than Trump. And that this is one of those signal moments, one of those historic moments where the elections kind of fundamentally be a definitional moment for the country.

And I think for those types of voters and they're influential it really matters. So I thought it was very effective and I thought it was also, you still do have to, even as the pendulum is we need more to the left, you still do have to practice the politics of reassurance. And there's plenty of people who might be nervous by Bernie Sanders or ALC that can say, "All right, well, John Casick is back and Joe Biden, that makes it easier for me to be there." I think it's [inaudible 00:40:48] and point you know Nancy's husband, Mark Penn has made me several times as just the mathematics of voting. If you got a swing voter that's two votes, one minus from one category, one plus from yours. If you're practicing the politics of mobilization, getting people out of who would not otherwise vote, you have to work very hard to do it first off and that's only a plus one, not plus two. So I'm still a big believer in that the politics of persuasion and the politics of speaking to those swing voters is it's enormously important.

Republican National Convention Tactics for Upcoming Election

Question:
Unless Liz tells me not to because I always do what she says. She's giving me the thumbs up. Okay. A question from Marie Levin, do you foresee the Republican Convention trying to mirror the Democrats by trotting out disaffected high profile Democrats to say they're now for Trump? Who could the Republicans present?

John Harris:
I don't know. I think they have to go... I'm sure there'll be some of that because it's such an obvious thing, but I don't think there's people with great or if somebody points out Scott Baio from the chat the guy from Happy Days, that scraping the well pretty low it seems to me. I anticipate if the rather than getting validators for president Trump, what they're going to try to do is do as much de validation of Joe Biden as possible. It doesn't seem like President Trump has that limber as a politician. He's got a couple of things that he has learned to do with the benefactor of form in the past. And so we just turns up the volume to remember the old movie spinal tap or the speakers went up did it go to 10 and they went to 11. Keeps falling to 11, 12 and I don't think anything new, even as the circumstances in which he's governing have changed so dramatically.

What's your view about the size of a shy Trump vote?

Question:
And here I hope I'm going to get the pronunciation of last name correct from John Sanchez, what's your view about the size of a shy Trump vote?

John Harris:
I don't think it's... I think it's out there and what more to me underscores a challenge that Democrats have had for the tire Trump presidency in that motivating that shy Trump voter or the voters who say I don't really... Certainly that wouldn't approve of Trump in normal times with these aren't normal times and he's what we need in this moment. Those people are stimulated by the very indignation and what they would regard as the sanctimonious of the democratic response to Trump. In other words, the more indignant some Democrats get, the more it stimulate some of those voters. I don't like everything President Trump's is, but I love the way that he gets in Nancy Pelosi's face. I love the fact that he doesn't care. Maybe I'm uncomfortable with voting for somebody I think is racist, but I like the fact that he doesn't care that Bill Galston thinks I'm racist or that Politico or the Washington Post, New York Times writes that he's racist, actually stimulates that vote. And so I think that's long been a challenge.


It really goes to... I've had conversations with a lot of Trump voters, and occasionally I opened my column up for comments and urge people to email. And what's really interesting is the number of people who would say, "I find Trump reprehensible. I think he's egotistical. I think he's assaulting. He doesn't reflect my values," and I back him because I respect the contempt he has for political hypocrisy that people see all around them. It's different to say Biden. I think I'm, excuse me, President Obama, I think most Democrats who like president Obama, he would be their ideal president in virtually any time.

That's what I want to go with. Somebody who is progressive and intelligent and disciplined. Most Trump voters don't like them in absolute terms, only like them in relative terms. Relative to the decay and corruption that they see around him in the media and in politics as usual. That's why they back him. Anyway, I think that he's reached the limits of that politics. That's why I don't think he's in good shape for the election. But anyway, the question about the hidden Trump vote is actually stimulates that because I'm certain that a lot of that vote is motivated by the very kind of indignation that you see on the front page of the papers on any given day.

Question (cont'd):
So Donald Trump is a man for one season?

John Harris:
Yeah. That's really a good way of putting it.

Do VP candidates make any difference?

Question:
And from Chad Carpenter, does the vice presidential candidates make any difference?

John Harris:
I mean, the first rule is do no harm and he clearly it seemed to me clear that bar with the selection of Senator Harris. I now predict the ticket will carry California since she joined it. I think there's the best vice presidential picks kind of underline and reinforce a basic message and narrative of the campaign. I think she did that. The messages of the campaign was "Look I'm a coalition candidate, I'm a transition candidate. I'm making the way for a younger generation of leaders. I'm overseeing a diverse party." I think it really did underline that narrative in pretty effective ways, but marginal way, it doesn't matter that much in the end.

Will Trump's stumbles with the pandemic inoculate Biden against charges that he will increase taxes?

Question:
From Diane and Hal Gershwintz, or maybe just one of them. I'm not sure. Will the high cost to the country of the Trump stumbles on the pandemic inoculate Biden against charges that he will impose great tax increases?

John Harris:
The point I've made a couple of times that I see Democrats moving off the pendulum is swinging and that's moving the progressive party off the defensive, which is where they've been for much of the previous generation. I don't see that as the tax issue as it having the kind of salience that it did in the past. People who are anti-tax or voters pretty well in the Republican column, people who want to vote generally have progressive instincts as near as I can tell, they're willing to pay a little more taxes in a way that's different than what the case previously. I still think those people are very functionally minded. Like I don't mind paying more taxes, but I want it for a party that's competent. I want it for programs that I think actually makes sense and enhance the wealth of the country. So I think the tax issue is going to be all in how Joe Biden explains why he needs more revenue.

Impact of Progressive Caucus on No Labels/Bipartisanship

Question:
And it's from a former member of Congress, Lynn Shank, whom you may remember. And it's a question about the squad and by extension, I would say the progressive caucus. The impact of that on what No Labels is trying to do on a bipartisan basis. And I would add especially in a Biden administration.

John Harris:
They are pushing the democratic party and large elements of democratic party outside their comfort zone. I think it's a mistake for Democrats to as some do to get really resentful of that new energy or seen as we're trying to muffle it. I think that the better stance to say, yes, we'll take that energy and those votes that come with that and at the end of the day, the party is going to be measured by how well it is seen as producing results for average Americans. So there's no question. They're brand of politics and the Squad is quite different than the brand of [inaudible 00:51:10] associate with No Labels. It is more parts than it is more ideological. But this is politics and parties they've got to accommodate multiple constituencies and the fact that there's going to be new energy in new generations and new groups of voters and sort of new leaders come into the party. So if you were in a position of bridling at that or patronizing it, I think that's really unattractive place for a party to beat.

Now it's not wrong to insist on a kind of measure of discipline at the end of the day after we have our argument, we are trying to be effective and pass results. And that seems to me that's going to be the challenge longterm for people in a really family member of Congress but it is certainly the members of the Squad as they come back after successive elections level. What have you done? What's been the result of what you pushed for? If you look at how in this convention, different wings of the party even though the differences that were on display in a democratic primary, they weren't made up, they wasn't just a misunderstanding. There's authentic differences of ideology and the priorities. But the party coming together pretty well and Joe Biden, be there's nothing more he could have asked for from Bernie Sanders that he got. And so yeah, if it's a winning coalition, I have some expectations of what's going to happen. It just seems to me that the politics working well that's not politics, so it's failing.

Sign Off with Bill Galston

Bill Galston:
Yup. Well, we've reached the witching hour and I will just comment just on your last point, John. We have in the United States, the minimum number of political parties that a representative democracy requires, at the same time we're buzzing booming diverse country of 330 million people that every political party or each major political party is going to be a very diverse coalition and managing that coalition, synthesizing views whenever possible, making choices only when necessary is part of the art of coalition management that a president and certainly a speaker of the house must perform on a daily basis. We shall see but in the meantime to conclude, let me just thank you for being so generous with your time responding to so many questions and on the theory that no good deed goes unpunished, I hear by extend you an invitation to come back after the election and explain to us what happened and why.

John Harris:
Well, I accept that. That would be fun. So let's do that. Thank you so much for having me and for these good questions. I found them very informative.

Bill Galston:
It's been our pleasure, John. Thanks so much. We are adjourned.

John Harris:
Okay. Thanks.

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