37 Comments
May 22·edited May 23

This is pretty depressing. I thought they just weren’t very good at getting the word out. Now I see it’s very deliberate. And rather old school. Like pushing the principle that a president (at least the Democratic one)is president for Everyone, serving ALL interests and not taking sides, and appearing to encourage balance and cooperation when interests are obviously opposed and power is clearly one-sided and increasingly predatory.

The Biden folk are apparently uncomfortable saying anything that might be perceived as negative by the voters and contributors in the demographic of big business. With the exception of appearing to support *some * of the interests of other voters that traditionally vote Democratic—like boosting labor unions and forgiving some of what have become clearly predatory student loans and Investing in infrastructure that creates local jobs.

But it seems pretty risky, and stupid to keep avoiding the appearance of taking sides (against global corporations). When their ongoing agenda shows they know just as ordinary people do that these businesses are gradually destroying the planet and the health and wellbeing of their “customers” and that government would be reckless not to try to do something about that. *sigh* Honestly this is scary. And I hope you and others can persuade this administration’s “marketing arm” to change their strategy.

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I would not say deliberate in the sense that they want to have poor messaging, just that the effect is that. I would say that this detail is a lot better than the alliterative slogan "Build Back Better!"

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The poor messaging of this administration has been a great source of frustration for this nervous progressive voter.

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Agreed. Not just the administration to be fair, the entire party.

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May 22·edited May 23

this is interesting. I think Biden has done more than any president in recent memory around anti-trust and consumer protection and his appointees show that. IDK why they haven't shouted it from the rooftops frankly. Most of the public would support any of the things you highlighted.

Followup, I can see why his spokesperson might not want to comment on cases before the Dept. of Justice in litigation, etc. but the 'no comment responses Matt sited could have been something along the lines of "while I can't comment on individual cases that might be in litigation or investigation right now, I can tell you President Biden and his administration is 100% committed to free, open, competitive markets, and to vigorously going after businesses that don't follow our strong anti-monopoly laws. All you have to do is look at the work the people he's appointed to key positions in the FTC, etc. are doing and what they have accomplished to see the President really cares about making people's live better ". Sadly a lot of PR people just don't get it. They use doublespeak, or no comments, instead of the way, to their credit and my surprise, Nina Khan and Johnathan Katner spoke at the Anti-Monopoly summit recently. They were a breath of fresh air and made me realize, whatever his limitations, why Biden deserves re-election.

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Right now Democrats Abroad, a voting organization with its own delegates to the DNC, and a voting power of 1 million that helped win Georgia for Dems. There are potentially 11 mil Americans Abroad and while some are Republican a lot just are not involved in the election process. If you know anyone living abroad or who will be traveling abroad during the election here is the organization to join. It is a branch of Voters Abroad. https://www.democratsabroad.org/

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Biden and his team leave in such a neoliberal bubble that they aren’t even aware which accomplishments to tout and which to downplay. So they play up student loan forgiveness which the working class could care less about and ignore anti trust which actually might get some traction. It’s amazing. Trump is the opposite…he does very little actually positive for labor but at least give him credit that he knows to fake it.

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The so called "Working Class" can't be bothered to get off their generous asses and actually VOTE. And the WH KNOWS this.

Seriously... More ppl watch an episode of Real Housewives than will time into the debate in June. So the WH's attitude is screw em.

Just like the UK is now over run w terrorist supporters in so many ridings BECAUSE only 20%went out to vote... Whaddya expect?

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Hope this isn’t true. Were this an actual strategy, it seems rather short-sighted, as all the millennial moms I know very much care about how much corporate power and greed has impacted consumer rights, innovation, the job market, access to healthcare, and the planet. And we do vote at a relatively solid rate. I am frustrated that on all my group text chats I am forced to highlight the Biden administration accomplishments because the administration isn’t doing so. I’m glad Matt just called it out.

Silly Side note: At some point I think Lina should take a swag at merch because the women in my group chats would def rep on her behalf. We were all chatting just last week about the toll the last five years has taken- and to some degree the last fifteen as my cohort entered the work force around 2007 -2009 and still holds a lot of mistrust towards both Wall Street and the government. Also this is the same group of moms that had to deal with baby formula shortages during the pandemic and one suffered through the Southwest debacle. While we know it’s a wee bit pathetic, we have all admitted that sometimes we are just looking for a hero to do the hard work of making things better in this polarized hot mess of a political landscape. Since Biden isn’t making much of a PR effort on this topic (outside of the State of the Union), Lina is our Go-To Hero when we get super down about the news. :-)

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A lot of "working class" are voting for Trump even though he is supported by and supporting of the billionaire/millionaires, against them. Appealing to White male Christian pride is working for the Republicans. Of course, Hitler had the same people backing him in Germany, titans of industry who were terrified of Labor unions and their ties to Marxism, so they backed Hitler because he shared their hatred of Communists. Sound familiar? Anyway, while they thought Hitler would be their useful idiot, they ended up being his, or having to leave the country. Clearly most "working class" Americans do not know that much modern history, at least not European, which would be very instructive right now.

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There's a larger ideology at work here that produces this deference. It reminds me of Larry Summer's warning to Elizabeth Warren: "But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders. I had been warned.” Or look at the catastrophically stupid deference of the university presidents to the House committee that led to their resignations. Some insiders still insist that was the right approach. (Huh?) It's a question of who you think matters, who's inside.

I think you mean "the most popular musician in the world in concert,” not "concern."

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author

Fixed. Thanks! Apologies all.

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May 23Liked by Matt Stoller

I'm a little baffled that both the major players in this election don't seem to be electioneering particularly loudly or well. It's as if November were a year off instead of a few months away. Not complaining exactly - I hate all that noise as much as anyone - but if my candidate does poorly because he didn't exdigitate, I'ma cry. I can see the cheetoh-head being distracted by, you know, ourt-cay ases-cay. What's Biden's excuse? Is he waiting for the other guy to die of apoplexy?

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May 22·edited May 22

Excellent article, I was wondering about this a few weeks ago. My take is that the Biden crew is out of touch and living in a bubble, with Biden railing about “insurrectionists” and “black men being shot down in the streets”. Instead of speaking of the FTC findings, the cadaver goes on national TV and tells people that they have no gripe because they have “plenty of money in their pocket”.

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Mike. You obviously hate Biden despite his reviving anti-trust prosecutions that have been largely dormant for the past 4 decades.

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I do not like Biden but believe that antitrust is one policy of his administration that I agree with.

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author
May 23·edited May 23Author

It’s frustrating both parties focus on the partisan polarizing stuff instead of the populist arguments.

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May 23Liked by Matt Stoller

Hey, you try explaining to people that the two senators who are most reliably opposed to corporate power are Warren and Hawley. I usually get blank stares followed by comments about "Pocahontas" or "Fascist" depending on the smooth brained audience. Of course they also have really positive views of people like Schumer, McConnel, Cruz, and Schiff so I guess those corporate press puff pieces are doing their jobs.

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author

Yup

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Seems like the White House communications team are captured by corporate media the way that the FDA and CDC are captured by Pharma.

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Always follow the $$…

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founding

BIG

Holy shit! The Biden team is shooting itself--fatally, I might add--by failing to trumpet all of the great work it is doing in the anti-trust space. Is it possible that the communications folks are not equipped to discuss anti-trust work? Not confident enough? Or does the Administration fear pissing off big business, which makes no sense, inasmuch as the FTC and Lina Khan are habitually getting nailed in the libertarian press. Big business already detests the FTC; why be concerned with how it feels? Whatever it is, it's a suicide mission and helps explain why lots of folks do not appreciate the work of this administration. Given the tight poll numbers, the Biden team needs to release whatever reservations it has about its accomplishments and figure out a way to remind the public daily of what this administration is doing for the American people and why it deserves another term to complete its agenda. Thanks, Matt, for the muckraking. Izzy Stone is smiling somewhere right now.

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Matt, I agree that Biden administration could be messaging its considerable anti-trust actions, but you seem to give a pass to right wing Senators and the Federal Society who once in a while say some positive ani-trust things but who are actually the ones who derailed anti-trust actions since Bork in the 1980s.

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Could there possibly be any legal reason for their reluctance to speak on these matters? If not though, then I wholeheartedly agree that Biden's political messaging has been severely lacking.

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author

No

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founding

I hear your frustration and share it. FTC, CFPB, and DOJ Antitrust are very effectively attacking the root causes of problems most voters are most concerned about. Sadly, voters don’t yet know it, and as you note, there’s no apparent urgency at Team Biden around telling them. Restoring the rule of law over economic and financial power is the key to wielding broad-based political power. Taking back political power from oligarchs and monopolists should be a riveting and easily-told story that speaks directly to people’s core concerns. Obviously, it’s not a story donors and monopolists want to have told. I hope your urgent message to Team Biden ends up in the right inbox.

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Two things stuck out to me.

1. There are leaders, who have deeply held convictions and attempt to convince people that their convictions and policies are the correct path forward. And then there are politicians, who attempt to measure public opinion and follow polling, not understanding the inadequacy of such measurements. Those who attempt to bow to public opinion will never make enough people happy because it is constantly shifting and depends on so many factors. This strategy of walking the middle of the road and trying not to upset anyone almost always leads to people being upset at you anyway. It's much better to go all in on what will help your constituents.

2. The separation of economics and politics is absurd. To act as if only specific people can comment on economics (economists), but everyone should be involved in politics in a democracy is a farce. Economics is political (possibly much more so than other fields), and "experts" have shown that their advice can be trusted only in a narrowly proscribed area that is often well-removed from people's actual lives and experiences. That's not to say there's no use for economics, just that it is only one of many, many ways to analyze and understand (and influence) how our social systems function.

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I commented below, but on my drive to work I thought more about this and got so riled. I do think the Biden administration has done a lot of good in many areas, not just Anti-Trust. While I won't pretend to understand campaign/election strategy, during my commute I wondered if they are thinking that the threat of Trump, and the Republican-led assault on bodily autonomy, are enough to bring in the vote. Maybe this time, but they are muppets if campaign strategists think that's enough to keep my vote longer term. Bring back Fireside Chats! The White House needs to take notes from Jeff Jackson's social media presence - just tell is like it is, in plain terms, and trust that people want to hear from someone watching out for them, even if the 'watching out' is imperfect. That's better than most of us going to the polls pondering which party is the Man in the woods, and which party is the Bear in the woods, and rooting for a third option.

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1. Biden didn’t know his Secretary of Defense was in the hospital and MIA for nearly a week.

2. KJP is a diversity hire and totally incompetent.

3. The entire cabinet “that looks like America” are diversity hires and incompetent, including his V.P. Biden bragged about it.

4. Biden is not in charge of the executive branch. Is it Jill? Is it Obama? Who knows?

5. The neocons run his foreign policy, which has been a disaster, and that’s what Americans are aware of.

6. It is a blessing that few Americans know about the accomplishments of Lina Kahn and the FTC. They are operating under the radar, making it hard for the opposition to gin up a public outcry.

We’re grown-ups, supposedly too old to pretend the president is cognitively healthy. He’s not. There is literally no elected official running the executive branch.

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Biden’s a procrastinator. It’s not that he’s old, he just indecisive.

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Lina Kahn has done most of the outreach herself. She is smart to be making alliances across the political spectrum and speak at places like the Federalist Society. She's not taking anything for granted.

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