The Ezra Klein Show: Can Democrats Turn Their 2022 Around?

New York Times Opinion New York Times Opinion 4/19/22 - Episode Page

With the midterms just over six months away, the electoral prospects for Democrats are looking bleak. President Biden’s approval rating is at 42 percent, around where Donald Trump’s was at this in his presidency. Recent polls asking whether Americans want Republicans or Democrats in Congress found that Republicans are leading by about 2 percentage points. And with inflation spiking to its highest point in decades, Covid cases rising and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continuing to send economic and humanitarian shock waves across the globe, things don’t look as if they are going to get better anytime soon.

What will it take for Democrats to turn things around? What fights should they be picking with Republicans, and how should they be making the case that they deserve another chance at leading the country?

Sean McElwee is a co-founder and the executive director of Data for Progress, a research organization that gathers polling data to strategize on behalf of progressive causes and policies. Anat Shenker-Osorio is a principal at ASO Communications, a political communications firm that conducts analytic and empirical research to help progressive political campaigns. She also hosts the “Words to Win By” podcast. McElwee and Shenker-Osorio have deeply influenced my thinking on how words work in American politics: how campaigns can meaningfully address what voters want and how they can persuade swing voters and motivate the party’s base.

In this conversation, McElwee and Shenker-Osorio help me understand where Democrats stand with the electorate and what, if anything, they can do to improve their chances in 2022. We discuss why Biden’s approval rating is so low, given the popularity of his policies, why governing parties so often lose midterm elections, whether Democrats should focus more on persuading swing voters or on mobilizing their base, why it’s important for Democrats to get their base to sing from the same songbook, what Democrats can learn from Trump about winning voters’ attention, how Republicans are running politics on easy mode, whether it was wise politically for Biden to double down on the message to fund the police, what political fights Democrats should pick in the lead-up to the midterms, how the party should handle spiking inflation and more.


"Democrats, Here's How to Lose in 2022. And Deserve It." by Ezra Klein

Book recommendations:

Anat Shenker-Osorio

A Theory of System Justification by John T. Jost

Memorial by Bryan Washington

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

Sean McElwee

The Course by Ed Miller

The Precipice by Toby Ord

The Climate War by Eric Pooley

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at />
“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris and Kate Sinclair; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.

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