Democratic Senate candidate Deedra Abboud was asked what legislation she’d introduce if elected. Her response (I’m going by memory, so this may not be exact): “Children shall not be placed in cages in America.”
Campaigns are about messaging. Abboud’s message in her short response was loud and clear: The madness needs to stop, and her priority number one was stopping the madness.
Contrast that to Abboud’s primary opponent, Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema is running ads about her priorities. Priority number one for her is working across the aisle to improve veterans’ health care.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with improving veterans ‘ health care, right? Of course not. Just the opposite. We owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans, even if many of the wars in which our political leaders induced them to serve were for causes less than noble. Regardless, they made huge sacrifices for the good of all of us. We owe them.
The thing is, though, there’s also nothing inherently wrong with fiddling, either.
Indeed, fiddling can be downright heroic, if you do it in Georgia when confronted by the devil, when he’s looking for a soul to steal.
But not if you do it in Rome, when it’s burning.
Prioritizing veterans is straight out of the Democratic establishment playbook for candidates running in “tough districts” or red states. I learned that over the course of my own campaign. Once I gained the attention of the DCCC and hired staff recommended by it, supporting veterans became the centerpiece of the positive side of my campaign. (Targeting an incumbent, the campaign was more focused on the attack side) That happened through zero effort of my own. I of course was in favor of measures to support veterans, but that was not what inspired me to run.
There was a phoniness to my prioritization of veterans issues that I regret and I’m sure played a role in the size of my loss.
But in 2008, when I ran, Rome wasn’t burning until 6 weeks or so before the election, when Lehman Brothers collapsed. At that point, the focus of our messaging turned away from support for veterans.
Today, Rome is not just burning, it’s fully ablaze, and the flames, if not doused, will destroy it. America has become a pariah on the world stage. We have incarcerated children and separated families, in a manner so incompetent we can’t reunify them. We have the elected representatives of one political party actively undermining the investigation of serious corruption involving the president. We have withdrawn from a treaty into which all but one of the 200 odd nations of the world have entered, thereby increasing the likelihood the planet, including Rome, literally will burn. We are implementing trade policies that parallel those that precipitated the Great Depression.
So, why would a U.S. senate candidate make veterans health care the main focus of her campaign messaging?
Because it’s really safe. Nobody opposes veterans. At the same time, veterans and their family members tend to lean right politically. Prioritizing veterans, the thinking goes, could win a Democratic candidate support from folks who otherwise would be highly unlikely to vote for her Republican opponent.
Some might doubt how much juice that strategy will have against the likely Republican candidate, Martha McSally, who herself is a veteran.
But that’s almost besides the point. My concern is about that message Abboud was so willing to communicate — the madness needs to stop — and Sinema’s seeming avoidance of it.
Don’t get me wrong. If she wins the primary, as all the reported polling indicates she will, I’ll vote for Sinema without hesitation.
I just think the votes she needs to win are not coming from those she believes will respond to her focus on veterans.
Rather, I think the votes she needs belong to folks who want the madness to stop.
And those folks would be a lot more inspired by a firehose, than by a fiddle.