• Carin Elam

Democratic Voter's 'Anger Translator'

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

A huge thank you to the Lincoln Project

It could be argued that Democrats are too nice and play by the rules. Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry. Guys you marry, not the ones you date. The Democratic Party is a big tent party of inclusion and political correctness. For example, in 2009, when the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, Democratic Leadership wanted to play nice and work across the aisle. In that year, newly elected President Obama invited Republican leadership for oatmeal cookies and cocktails (separate events). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent more than a year trying to pass a bi-partisan Affordable Care Act (leveraging key elements of then-Govenor Mitt Romney's plan for Massachusetts ('Romneycare'). And, more recently, in response to Donald Trump's presidency and the #metoo movement, Democrats became the party of zero tolerance, ending the careers of party favorites like Al Franken (MN), John Conyers, Jr. (MI) and Katy Hill (CA).

All the while, the Democratic base patiently watched and waited. Immigration reform waited. Climate change policy waited. Criminal justice reform waited. Merrick Garland waited. Many Democrats were disappointed when HRC lost, but democrats were too proud of Obama's eight years and wanted to live-up to Michelle's example of "when they go low, we go high". So, patiently, they waited.

And, after the Trump presidency moved from a weird start with "falsehoods" and "alternative facts", reports surfaced of his use of non-secure phones, non-secure email, issuing public policy by Tweet, "state"-like dinners with world leaders AT HIS OWN GOLF COURSE. Then, a trial about campaign violations, then a hearing about Russian adoption, and a hearing about something, then a phone call, then an impeachment trial, followed by the Senate's we-will-never-ever-again-be-able-to-serve-as-a-check-on-any-president acquittal, then firings and QAnon-Pizzagate-Pepe-Breitbart-AlexJones-JerryFallwellsexscandal-GeorgeFloyd-ShutUpAndPlayBall and COVID and chaos.

Democrat Leadership's responses to the President's abuse of office were not breaking through. And, serious gaps in the Constitution were revealed, making it impossible to place a check on this president. If Donald told his staffers to ignore a subpoena, Congress had no leverage other than shame and publicity. Given that this is a shame-free president, many investigations and hearings were sidelined. Democrats were maybe playing too nice.

Then, finally, as one Democratic presidential nominee emerged; a moderate Democrat with a potential cross-over appeal to former Republicans and independent voters, the Lincoln Project arrived like a breath of fresh air . . . no, nope, not, STOP! Try again.

Then, finally, the Lincoln Project arrived like angry dragon fire.

Much like an 'anger translator', the Lincoln Project would levy some of the harshest criticisms against President Trump and Trump-ism; criticism that leaders within the Democratic couldn't.

'Anger Translator'

For those forgetting the premise of an 'anger translator', a brief reminder of the popular Key & Peele comedy sketch. When a calm President Obama, played by Jordan Peele, would address 'his fellow Americans', he would sometimes use his anger translator Luther, played by Keegan-Michael Key, to cut through polite, careful language and state, shout, profess what was truly on his mind at the time. President Obama had the last laugh when he invited Key to join him on stage at the 2015 White House Correspondence Dinner.

President Obama's Speech at the 2015 White House Correspondence Dinner

The Lincoln Project

The organization was founded by three veteran Republican campaign strategists, Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson, John Weaver, and the husband of Kelly Anne Conway attorney George Conway. All are considered to be at the "center of the Republican world, respected by conservatives who shared their vision". Lincoln Project ads range from funny to biting, and all have the polish of seasoned professionals. What's apparent in most videos is a sense of joy in directing their frustration toward the greater purpose. If Democrats don't want to offend undecided voters, independents, and potential cross-over Republicans, the Lincoln Project will use their experience and hatred of Trump-ism to speak truth to their party.

Although formed in December 2019, their political ads, videos, and podcast didn't become part of the national conversation until late into the summer's primary season. In fact, in early August, Washington Post columnist Gary Abernathy wrote, "I highly doubt Trump thinks about the Lincoln Project nearly as often as the Never Trumpers imagine." (In a separate article, Abernathy praised Pence's "poise, knowledge and preparedness" during the debate against Kamala Harris. So, take these comments about 'Never Trumpers' knowing Abernathy's underlying bias.) Despite this early criticism, it appears, the Lincoln Project has successfully "gotten" under Trump's skin.

More importantly, the Lincoln Project has rallied support among two key voting blocks within Trump's base: veterans and older Americans. Trump no longer has an advantage with seniors due to his mishandling of the COVID19 pandemic and his lack of empathy for those in this vulnerable population.


The Project is not only committed to defeating the sitting president, but equally committed to helping Democrats win back the majority in the U.S. Senate. These life-long Republicans, John McCain Republicans, have shared that they're incredibly frustrated by the erosion of check and balances. In an interview on MCNBC with Chris Hayes, Schmidt said that he was disgusted by the Senate's "organized conspiracy to maintain power".

The Lincoln projected is investing in key battleground states to help Democrats win in competitive Senate races, such as Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Colorado, Iowa and South Carolina.

Brutal Videos

The team at the Lincoln Project have a library of videos on their website. These are a few targeting the Senators who may lose their seats next week:

Lincoln Project Podcasts

Ron Steslow hosts a weekly podcast. For Democratic voters, it may offer a different perspective on the issues. The political strategists and analysts are spending the final weeks of the election cycle looking at the battleground states and vulnerable Republican Senators.

The Lincoln Project may emerge as one of the Democratic Party's best 2020 allies.

@lincolnproject.us #wewillnevereveragainbeabletoserveasacheckonanypresident #representationmatters #ifwedontflipthesenatenothingchanges


  1. Michelle Obama 2016 Convention Speech

  2. Key & Peele - Obama's Anger Translator - Meet Luther - Uncensored

  3. President Obama's Speech at the 2015 White House Correspondence Dinner

  4. The Lincoln Project Feels Scorned, but the GOP never loved it back

  5. Articles by Gary Abernathy

  6. HLS Responds to the Nomination of Merrick Garland '77 to the U.S. Supreme Court

  7. Steve Schmidt MSNBC July 10, 2020

  8. What the Lincoln Project Ads Makers Get About Voters (And, What Dems Don't)

  9. Biden Gains as Suburban Women and Elderly Turn Back on Trump

Photo Credits

President Obama's Speech at the 2015 White House Correspondence Dinner, USA Today

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