There are two meanings of the word “performance,” and America’s two political  parties have each embraced one of them. 

One definition is “to perform a task”–in this case, to govern. Like President Biden, most contemporary Democrats have concentrated on that definition. I have previously posted about the effectiveness–the performance– of what Republicans dismissively label “Bidenomics,” and others are beginning to report on those positive outcomes as well. 

Robert Hubbell quoted the New York Times for news that direct investment in manufacturing  had doubled between 2014 and 2021. Also, “per the report, foreign direct investment “in the computer and electronics sector rose from $17 million in 2021 to $54 billion in 2022.”

Jennifer Rubin noted that the President has begun running ads touting the effects of his economic policies.

Respondents keep telling pollsters they are pessimistic about the economy and think we are in a recession, perhaps a reflection of the incessantly negative media coverage. However, as the mainstream media catches up with economic reality (admitting we likely will avoid a recession) and as public and private investment running in the hundreds of billions of dollars works its way through the economy, Biden stands ready to explain how his agenda — “Bidenomics” — brought us from fears of a pandemic recession to recovery. With unemployment and inflation in decline and wages rising, the public finally might be more amenable to hearing an uplifting message.

Performance=doing the job.

Then there’s the other meaning of “performance”– “to act for an audience.” That’s the definition chosen by virtually every Republican candidate for public office. The audience they are performing for is the MAGA cult that has replaced what used to be a political party. 

Performance in that latter sense ignores the hard work of policymaking , instead appealing to the grievances of the intended audience–and dismissing the policy preferences of the wider American polity.

I didn’t watch the first GOP debate, but I’ve read about the candidates’ embrace of  positions held by a distinct minority of Americans. As Robert Hubbell summed it up, in addition to pledging support for Trump if he is the eventual nominee, even if convicted,

 the candidates espoused other outrageous positions: climate change is a hoax, support for a national abortion ban, blaming teacher unions and single mothers for the problems in education, proposing invading Mexico with US special forces, and cutting aid to Ukraine. None of the candidates provided an actual proposal for America’s future, other than Ramaswamy’s line, “Drill, frack, burn coal, embrace nuclear.”

I’m bemused by voters who support candidates having no obvious experience with– or understanding of– government, as though  the skill of managing the enormous complexities of that task can just be picked up on the job. If we needed any proof of the wrongheadedness of that belief, the ongoing performance (in both senses of the word) of the GOP’s looney-tunes culture warriors should provide it.

Perhaps instead of “debates,” we should hold public examinations of candidates for public office. We could focus on whether they understand what the duties of those offices are–and aren’t.  (Here in Indianapolis, the Republican candidate for mayor seems to think he’s running for sheriff–his ads give no indication that he understands there are other dimensions of the job.)

Take a look at the positions embraced by that pathetic crew of presidential candidates–positions that disclose their utter ignorance of the proper role of government and the daunting complexity of many issues presidents face. Their lack of intellectual integrity is appalling enough, but their willingness to ignore international law and medical science, disrespect teachers, and deny the reality of climate change disqualifies every one of them for any public office.

As Rubin reminds us, it’s a fearful worldview.

We have become so used to Republicans railing about elites, critical race theory, transgender kids, immigrants, IRS stormtroopers, the FBI and more that we become acclimated to a terribly dark, frightful view of America. 

That “dark, frightful view” runs from local politics (our Republican mayoral candidate’s ads describe my city–which is actually pretty vibrant–as a dystopian hellhole) to federal candidates assuring the MAGA cult that they can return America to an imagined “yesteryear,” when–glory!!– men were men and women were barefoot and pregnant.

Hubbell reminds us that GOP performance has an upside: most Americans reject the party’s few positions (on abortion and climate change, by twenty to thirty percentage points). These  positions ought to render them unelectable in a general election.

Democrats should convert every negative, destructive, mean-spirited notion espoused on the debate stage into a positive, productive, forward-looking message about Democratic accomplishments over the last three years. 

The key, as always, is turnout: the  GOP cannot win a national election–if the rest of us vote. 


  1. In US economics now there’s driving the wealth redistribution up economy (recovered) and another man on the street economy (inflationary yet aimed at soft landing) (troublesome for man on the street, good for investing ) (COVID/Trump leftover) that’s for Republican campaign ads.

  2. I remember back in the day, when Reagan no longer had any acting roles and was a shill for whoever paid him (20 Muleteam Borax comes to mind), he made a PSA decrying the dangers of Medicare and how, if passed, it would destroy the country. When he was elected governor I wished Californians good luck, and when he became president, I wished the country good luck. If only wishes came true. He started a spiral that Newt Gingrich enhanced, then along came the Tea Party, etc, etc, and to paraphrase Paul Harvey, now we know the rest of the story. Republicans don’t need experience or knowledge of government and international law—they operate on grievance, and their supporters respond viscerally to that.

  3. Perhaps instead of solely relying on candidate debates, we should consider implementing public examinations to more thoroughly evaluate potential leaders. It is disheartening to see the media only ask surface-level questions. Unfortunately, any media outlet that dares to critique the government’s fusion with corporations is often dismissed as socialist or communist.

    It may be beneficial to give the socialist party a fair chance to showcase their ideas and policies for Americans, rather than isolating and condemning them. Are they a real threat to the status quo, or do they offer something better for the average American?

    It’s worth noting that our focus on investing in local supply chains was to prepare for potential conflict with China. Dependence on China for microchips would have been a hindrance to any plans for an invasion. This raises questions about whether our priorities as a nation are truly aligned with the well-being of our citizens.

    The funds given to corporations have often been used for stock buybacks and to increase CEO salaries, leading to an alarming disparity between CEO and employee compensation. While the government has imposed taxes on these companies as penalties, these taxes do not directly benefit workers. It is clear that trickle-down economics does not work, in any form, for the majority of Americans.

  4. I highly recommend the League of Women Voters to anyone wanting to know a candidate’s position on policies. They ask great questions of each candidate and publish the full response on their website. What I have noticed more in each election cycle is that fewer and fewer Republicans respond. I’m left to surmise that fewer and fewer have policy positions at all.

  5. Another great source for real information on candidates

    Per my post yesterday, Pew reported they asked voters who were the best presidents of the last 30 years. For DEMs, Reagan got 9%, Biden 8%. Pretty good “acting”.

  6. Lester, my memory dumped Reagan about as fast as he dumped all other Americans but donors paying to advertise him a la what “Extra Tonight” does for other actors.

  7. Unfortunately, “performance” in the first sense is out of sight and invisible to most voters, while “performance” in the second sense is actively and loudly shoved in their faces 24 hours a day.

  8. Two things I read in the last few days. A good economy doesn’t help a president as much as bad economy hurts. So I think the message there is it’s hard to get the message across about a good performance because when things are humming along, it’s boring.

    Secondly, DeSantis gave the obligatory performative speech in Jacksonville yesterday, and the people in the crowd knowing his gun policies, booed him loudly.

  9. As I lamented in a late response to Sheila’s blog yesterday, the “Republican Party” is not a political party anymore. Political parties govern, have platforms indicating how they propose to govern in re the issues etc. The current “Republican Party” has no platform. It has been captured by fascists who are interested only in the acquisition and use of power, who pretend to be the Republicans of old (Eisenhower, Reagan et al) in order to marshal the votes of those who blindly vote for any candidate with an R beside his/her name on the ballot.

    Such pretense, along with an appeal by Trump to the polity’s grievances and approval of their worst instincts on the social side of citizenship, have led to outright prefabrication about the state of our economy. We are in a boom by any metric but are told we are nearing a recession – or worse – that the FBI, the courts, judges, and every other institution undergirding the legitimacy of democratic governing is corrupt etc.

    All this (in my opinion) is part and parcel of the same fascist design employed by Hitler and Mussolini to destroy our institutions so that they can substitute their own, i.e., dictatorship (see Trump, DeSantis, and other wannabes whose record to date include overthrows of our government and firing elected state officials – among other constitutional atrocities).

    Thus the fascist response of everything and everybody is bad and getting worse irrespective of reality is a long-held tool of fascists in the destruction of institutions upon which democracies and other forms of government rest and whose destruction is a necessary precursor to fascist power grabs, and I think we are currently in the throes of such an effort by the captors of the “Republican Party,” and that it’s time to call a spade a spade.

  10. The “people” are lemmings and are likely to follow the former guy right over the cliff!

    Very SAD!

  11. Reagan was a “B” actor, at his best, but his most impressive role was the one he took on to play president.
    The utter idiocy of the GOP candidates resonates well with the utter idiocy of the MAGA crowd, those uneducated folk TFG said he loved, for obvious reasons.

  12. Lester, Ukraine chose a comedian as President. Every really funny person I know is also really, really smart. Regan was not funny and not smart.

  13. Apropos for “performance” –
    A nostalgic look back from Tom Lehrer who retired saying that political satire became redundant (two versions) when Richard Nixon got elected President or when Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize for bombing Cambodia.


  14. In politics, there are show horses and work horses. In the potential re-match of Trump and Biden, it’s very apparent which is which.

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