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Biden Must Reinvent What a Presidential Campaign Is

Here are four things he should do before the November election.

Mark Peterson/Redux

I start off 2024 very optimistic about Joe Biden’s reelection and excited for what a second Biden term may bring. My working take on 2024 is that Joe Biden is a very good president, the country is better off today than when he came to office, and he will have a persuasive case for reelection. The Democratic Party has been winning elections all across the country, particularly since the Dobbs Supreme Court decision in 2022. The Republicans, on the other hand, are making a huge mistake in renominating Donald Trump, who is far more degraded, extreme, and dangerous than he was in 2016 or 2020. Current commentary is wildly discounting his negatives, but it will be hard for him to overcome them once the Biden campaign reminds voters of what Trump has done and plans to do. For all these reasons, it is far more likely that Joe Biden wins than loses this year.

But the aspiration of Democrats and our pro-democracy allies must be not just to win the election, but to win big, making 2024 a clear and unequivocal rejection of MAGA. For only once Republicans view MAGA as a political loser will they begin to walk away from their recent reckless embrace of extremism.

So, in that spirit of going big, here are four things Biden world should consider (and in some cases may already be working on). The first two are campaign-related. The second two for when the president begins to roll out his agenda for a second term:

Reimagine and Reinvent the War Room.

When we think of the campaign war room, we think of 20 sweaty kids drinking Red Bulls and cranking out TikTok videos. But this year, I hope the Biden campaign can reimagine the war room as two, three, four million patriots networked together, amplifying the good works and the second-term agenda of the president through their networks. Republicans have what I call a “loudness advantage” over Democrats, and for Democrats to have the election they want this year, they need to be creative in finding ways to close that gap. The Biden team should ask supporters not just to help on campaigns in all the traditional ways, but also to become “information warriors” this year and help their side get very, very loud. We left the broadcast era of politics long ago, and it is time to start building campaigns not around top-down advertising but around bottom-up and shareable organic content appropriate for the networked information age we are now in.

Build the Largest Youth Engagement Program in History.

Democrats should no longer accept that the voters who give them the biggest margins in our elections vote the least. Democrats simply must change that in 2024. In an analysis I released last year, I showed that if you hold all the 2020 results in place and change only one thing—get 18- to 44-year-old voters voting at the same rate as their distribution in the population—Biden wins by 10 points in 2024. There is perhaps no more important way for Democrats to turn 2024 into a big and historic election than by pushing the youth vote to the upper end of what’s possible.

As young people live in a vastly different information and cultural universe than older Americans, this youth effort should be a “campaign inside a campaign” and be allowed to experiment and invent new ways of engaging, registering, persuading, and turning out young Americans.

Anchor the Second Term Around Countering Climate Change and the Fight for Democracy.

If the primary job of the first term was about successfully getting America to the other side of Covid, the second term should be about mobilizing unprecedented resources around tackling the next two existential challenges of our time–countering climate change and accelerating the energy transition from fossil fuels, and ensuring that freedom and democracy prevail here in the United States and everywhere.

The president should talk directly and forcefully to the American people about the existential nature of these dual challenges, particularly the rise of what is perhaps the most serious threat we’ve ever seen to the American-led, rules-based order; and he should prepare Americans for what could be years or even decades of hot and cold conflict with authoritarians at home and abroad. The president began that process this year with his compelling speech near Valley Forge in early January.

As part that mobilization, we will need to keep our economy strong and prosperous, persistently proving that democratic capitalism remains the best system for human advancement; develop a long overdue national strategy to restore integrity to our daily discourse, making it far harder for authoritarian forces to manipulate and control speech in open societies; build greater governmentwide institutional capacity to advance pro-democracy initiatives here and across the world; and be direct in asking the American people, as President Kennedy once did, to become active partners in ensuring we prevail in these deeply consequential struggles in the coming decades.

Offer a Big Reform/Clean Up Washington Agenda, and a Strategy to Raise Life Expectancy.

The president should commit to making progress in at least two other areas during his second term—cleaning up a city and a democracy that have been weakened by corruption and illiberalism of all kinds, and raising American life expectancy so it is again at the level of peer nations’.

I think Joe Biden should promise to clean up the city he has so long been a part of. Among the things we can tackle are the influence of foreign money, the need to raise ethical standards at the Supreme Court, eliminating the debt ceiling and the ability to shut down the government, and the wild abuse of Senate holds on nominations. Perhaps Biden could set up a commission to make broader recommendations on how to modernize and reform a city desperately in need of it.

The president faces a similar opportunity to address an unacceptable decline in American life expectancy in recent years. Life expectancy continues to decline, and we’ve fallen behind peer nations. We should use this as a sign that a new emphasis on the health and well-being of Americans is needed, and the president should commit to reversing this decline in his second term. All ideas need to be on the table—better mental health and addiction recovery programs, more aggressive steps to stop the flow of foreign drugs into the country, better gun laws, the restoration of women’s reproductive freedom and addressing unacceptable levels of maternal mortality, fighting to restore trust in vaccines and the broader concept of public health.

Joe Biden has largely risen to the challenges presented to him and followed through on the promises he made in 2020. Now he has two more important challenges he must meet—build a campaign that can go big, unleash the patriotism and love of country that is driving Democratic politics today and make 2024 a clear repudiation of MAGA; and give us a second term that ensures that the opportunities we’ve all had are there for our kids and grandkids. As successful as he has been, it is possible that Joe Biden’s most important work still lies ahead of him.