washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Paul Krugman quote

Trump Will Betray the Interests of the White Working-Class

Everything we’ve seen so far says that Mr. Trump is going to utterly betray the interests of the white working-class voters who were his most enthusiastic supporters, stripping them of health care and retirement security, and this betrayal should be highlighted.”
–Paul Krugman

E. J. Dionne Jr

E.J. Dionne Speaks Out

Donald Trump cast himself as the champion of a besieged American working class and a defender of its interests. His early decisions tell us something very different: This could be the most anti-worker, anti-union crowd to run our government since the Gilded Age.
–E.J. Dionne Jr.

Ed Kilgore

Trump Will Betray His White Working-Class Base

What Democrats should keep in mind, however, is that whichever way he goes he is very likely going to betray his white working-class base — the people who put him into office — sooner or later. The “later” part is the most certain. Donald Trump does not have the power to bring back the Industrial Era economy he has so avidly embraced. He will not be able to reopen the coal mines, rebuild the manufacturing sector, or repeal the international economic trends that would exist with or without NAFTA or TPP. And for that matter, he has little ability to reverse the demographic and cultural trends most of his voters dislike.
–Ed Kilgore

The Daily Strategist

January 18, 2017

Democratic State Attorneys General Prep to Fight Trump, GOP Agenda

Despite the problematic political landscape facing Democrats, the party does have a potent resource, 21 state attorneys general, many of whom are tough advocates of progressive values and reforms, and they are ready to rumble. As Alan Greenblatt writes in his post, “To Battle Trump, Democrats Will Use GOP’s Own Tactics” at Governing the States and Localities:

“Democratic attorneys general are going to be very active, suing a number of regulatory agencies,” says Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University. “They will be prepared to use a kitchen sink strategy against everything coming out of the EPA.”

…Democrats are preparing to fight the new administration with lawsuit after lawsuit. But can Democratic AGs make a difference with their diminished numbers?……The number of Democratic attorneys general has ticked down with recent Republican successes at the state level. But there are still 21 of them — more than the number of Democratic governors or legislatures. Many are already accustomed to working closely on litigation with liberal groups such as the Sierra Club.

As you can see from the wikipedia map below, many of the Republican A.G.s are in smaller population states.

State AGs

And, as Greenblatt notes,”it isn’t really the number of Democratic AGs that matters. A single activist attorney general such as Eric Schneiderman of New York or Xavier Becerra of California can command a small army of lawyers.”

Republicans will surely whine and howl about the Demcoratic state A.G.s doing their job. But they are on very shaky ground expressing any moral outrage about it. As Greenblatt notes,

In his book Federalism on Trial, Nolette found that recent Republican AGs such as Pruitt were far more likely to file lawsuits than earlier generations of attorneys general. By his count, Republican AGs filed a total of five partisan briefs with the Supreme Court during the Clinton administration, compared with 97 during the first seven years of the Obama presidency. Now that the partisan shoe is on the other foot, Democrats will try their best to block much of what they don’t like coming out of the new Washington.

Looking forward, Greenblatt envisions an era of energetic activism on the part of Democratic state attorneys general:

When fighting the administration on labor, immigration and health, Democrats are likely to borrow from the GOP playbook in seeking to block new federal rules through every step of the process. In addition, they’ll try to do something Republicans generally won’t — use their leverage to win multistate court settlements that increase regulation of targeted industries. They could be especially active in areas where Republicans in Washington might be inclined to let corporations off the hook, such as banking and securities.

President-elect Donald Trump is also uniquely-positioned to draw a barrage of legal chalenges from state A.G.s. As Greenblatt explains,

“I won’t hesitate to take Donald Trump to court if he carries out his unconstitutional campaign promises,” Massachusetts AG Maura Healey pledged in a fundraising pitch last year.

…Trump doesn’t come to office with a clean slate when it comes to relations with attorneys general. Schneiderman helped negotiate a $25 million settlement immediately after the election regarding allegations of fraud involving Trump University. He’s still looking into the question of whether Trump’s foundation violated New York law, notably with a $25,000 campaign donation to Florida AG Pam Bondi.

“Donald Trump, citizen, not Donald Trump, president, enters the world of AGs on a watch list,” says James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who now teaches at Harvard University. “He ran a routine, garden-variety fraud — Trump University — and he was caught. Every attorney general I’ve talked to has had complainants in his state. Everybody opened files. When somebody’s a fraudster, they get on everybody’s agenda. It changes the way you look at him or her.”

Republicans will soon have control of the three branches of government and a healthy majority of the state legislatures and governorships. But, Democratic state attorneys general have a full agenda of their own, and they are set to leverage their authority to keep the Trump administration in check.


As New Head of GOP, Trump is both Sore Loser and Graceless Winner

Dana Milbank sums it up well in in Washington Post column:

To Trump’s many self-assigned superlatives, he can now add another: the sorest winner. With charity for none and with malice toward all but his supporters, he has in the past two months set a new standard for gracelessness in victory.

America has never before had such a prickly president-elect, nor one with such a sour disposition. You don’t have to be a shrink to see that Trump’s extreme defensiveness can be attributed to his titanic insecurities. Having lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, his tweets and vents provide a textbook case study of a man living his fear that his fraudulence will be found out. He follows each new outrage with another, in hopes that his shell game will continue to distract the media, and so far it has worked.

As the winner of the Electoral College vote, however, as President-elect of the United States and leader of the Republican Party, you would think he would be smart enough to extend the hand of friendship to his adversaries, to reach out and at least make noises about bringing Americans together. Just the gesture would probably get him an upward bump in his approval ratings.

Somehow, that obvious, no-downside strategy has eluded him. Milbank elaborates on Trump’s increasingly sour disposition:

Instead of brushing off criticism, as a president-elect can afford to do, Trump in recent days marked Martin Luther King weekend by telling off civil rights icon John Lewis (a King acolyte) and his “falling apart” and “crime infested” congressional district. He bemoaned “Saturday Night Live” spoofs as a “hit job” and used the words “crap” and “sleazebag” in his public statements. He called the top Democrat in the land the “head clown” and accused the American intelligence community of acting like Nazis.

He responded to criticism from Meryl Streep by calling her an “over-rated” actress and a “Hillary flunky who lost big.” He likewise cheered that his “Celebrity Apprentice” replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” in ratings compared with “the ratings machine, DJT. . . . But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.” Trump said the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee is discussed only because “the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!”

The losers often have hard feelings after elections. But this much enmity from the winner is extraordinary. Trump, after his election-night promise to “bind the wounds of division” and be a “president for all Americans,” never attempted reconciliation. A day later, he falsely condemned “professional protesters, incited by the media,” and at year end he taunted opponents via Twitter: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

…His behavior during this time has not been what one typically calls presidential. He has echoed both Vladi­mir Putin and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Twitter and blasted away in all caps. He attacked Vanity Fair magazine editor Graydon Carter after an unfavorable review of a Trump Tower restaurant. His attack on a local steelworkers union president resulted in death threats.

 Trump has used Twitter to attack everything from the “Hamilton” musical to the Chinese government, and, in one tweet, he appeared to commit the United States to attacking North Korea to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.

There is no slight too trivial for the GOP’s new leader to ignore. He has a singular genius for converting a one-day story into a 3-day pubic relations disaster. That probably helps explain why his “favorability” rating has tanked in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.  As Milbank notes, “Views about his honesty, leadership and ability to unite the country dropped similarly.”

Jennifer Calfas reports at The Hill:

The ABC/Washington Post poll found that 54 percent of Americans view Trump unfavorably. The unfavorable ratings of former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama ranged from 9 to 20 percent when they entered office. The new poll echoes similar ones produced from CNN and Gallup.

CNN/ORC poll also released Tuesday also found Trump had a 40 percent approval rating — a historically low number for a president-elect.

Gallup poll released over the weekend found similar numbers, with Trump’s favorables historically low.

Trump’s propensity for the endless, nasty gloat may gratify some of his angrier supporters, and he clearly gets off on the feedback they provide at rallies. But how well does it serve his party’s prospects in the 2018 midterm elections? He’s already won a large majority of America’s sourest voters. There is no value added in marinating in bile for him or the Republicans, but that isn’t going to stop him from taking the bait every time.

All of this in stark contrast to outgoing President Obama, who gave Americans a new standard of dignity, grace and scandal-free government, as well as economic recovery, and greater health security. The new Gallup poll reports that President Obama leaves the White House with a 58 percent ‘favorable’ rating.

Despite the daunting landscape Democrats are facing in the 2018 senate races, their competitive position with respect to House races, governorships and state legislatures is improving. If Trump continues his daily temper tantrums, the GOP ‘brand’ could be in serious trouble by November, 2018.


Creamer: M.L.K. Day 2017– A Time for Principled Defiance

The following post by Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

This Martin Luther King Day is an especially important time for us to celebrate and emulate the principled defiance of Dr. Martin Luther King. Persistent, unapologetic – doggedly non-violent – Dr. King stood like a rock – defiant of the bigotry, racism and disenfranchisement of his time. Refusing to bend, he inspired a movement that changed America.

In May, 1940, much of the British army was surrounded by German forces – its backs to the sea on the beaches of Dunkirk.

In the face of looming disaster, Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied his nation and called on his people to take matters into their own hands. In response, hundreds of Brits launched boats of every size, crossed the English Channel, and helped to rescue their surrounded soldiers.

For the British people, the evacuation of the Dunkirk was simultaneously one of the most perilous and heroic moments of World War II.

Ordinary people stood in defiance of certain German victory, refused to accept defeat, helped assure that 330,000 British troops escaped certain disaster, and allowed the British Army to regroup and fight again.

Four years later – together with their ally the United States – many of those British soldiers joined the greatest armada in history as they once again crossed the channel. This time it was to mount the D-Day invasion that turned the tide of the war and ultimately defeated right-wing authoritarianism in Europe three quarters of a century ago.

The spirit of Britain’s defiance of certain defeat at Dunkirk was summed up by Prime Minister Churchill’s “Fight them on the Beaches Speech,” delivered to the House of Commons after the evacuation of Dunkirk was completed on June 4, 1940.

In it he said:

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills… we shall never surrender.

Today, many Americans prepare to confront our own brand of right-wing authoritarianism. As Donald Trump stands poised to be sworn into office, it is once again a time for Dr. King’s principled defiance.

Several weeks ago, my wife, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, hosted a rally in her district to mobilize her constituents to “Join the Resistance.”

It was a windy, bone-chilling, single-digit day in Chicago. Still 1,400 gathered in at the Armory on North Broadway.

Jan’s speech began:

It is a cold day in Chicago. But it will be a colder day in Hell before we allow billionaires like Donald Trump and (Governor) Bruce Rauner to turn the United States of America into a low-wage plutocracy with no place for immigrants, or people of color, or labor unions, or women’s rights.

The emotional high point of her speech was when Jan, who is Jewish, said:

We need to be united – one for all and all for one – when there are attacks… If, God forbid, a Muslim registry – we must all show up to register and tell Donald Trump: “We are all Muslims.”

That brought all fourteen hundred people in the room to their feet in agreement and applause. “We are all Muslims” they chanted.

That is the spirit of principled defiance that must define our movement in the days and months ahead.

There are many pundits who believe it is a foregone conclusion that Trump and his Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress will repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But if we fight hard enough and stand firm enough, that is not inevitable.

When it comes to the ACA, Republicans in Congress are beginning to hear from Americans with pre-existing conditions and chronic diseases who believe that they are alive today because the ACA saved their lives.

They are beginning to hear from the families that would have faced bankruptcy without the ACA.

They are beginning to hear from the tens of millions of Americans who would lose their health care coverage if the ACA were repealed.

They are hearing from the hospitals and health care providers in their districts that would be devastated.

They have begun to face the reality that if they act to repeal the ACA, many of those millions will blame them – personally – for taking away their health care. And it turns out that people get angrier when you take away something they have, than when you refused to give them something they wanted in the first place.

It is not inevitable that Donald Trump will be able to fill the open Supreme Court seat with a right-wing ideologue who would vote to take away our right to vote, or to form unions, or to assemble to seek redress from our government. That seat should have should have rightfully been filled by President Obama.

If Democrats in the Senate stand firm – and insist that any appointee to fill the seat stolen from President Obama must be filled by a person with the same stature and the same views as those an Obama appointee would have held – we can win.

Republicans only have 51 votes in the Senate that right now requires 60 votes to confirm a Supreme Court Justice. And it will be very hard for Republicans to permanently change the rules so that they could approve a Justice with a simple majority, since many of their own number realize that one day they too will once again return to the minority.

But when it comes to these, and other battles, what will be decisive is not what happens in Washington – but what happens in the states and Congressional districts across America.

Don’t let your Republican Senator or Member of Congress attend an event in your community without confronting them. Give them a first hand feel of the passion and defiance of their own voters.

There are few things more powerful in modern American politics than the combination of your Republican Member of Congress, passionate people and a video camera.

We need to follow the example of a man who is now known in Washington, DC as the conscience of the Congress – Congressman John Lewis.

Fifty years ago, John Lewis helped organize the campaign that ultimately resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act and ended decades of disenfranchisement for African Americans in many areas of our country.

Lewis stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in principled defiance of Selma, Alabama’s Sherriff Clarke, whose mounted police and local vigilantes beat him within an inch of his life.

Last week, John Lewis quietly but firmly said he did not believe that President Trump is a legitimate president – that there is real question whether the election was manipulated by a foreign power and whether or not there was collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

A few days ago, the right wing “Washington Times” had a headline reading that “the Left is now permanently in the opposition.” Not unless we completely lose our democracy.

That’s because most Americans are on our side.

The recent Quinnipiac poll showed President Obama with a 55 percent approval rating and Donald Trump at a dismal 37 percent ― lower than any president in two decades as they were being sworn in for their first term. And don’t forget that Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes than Trump.

But more important, Americans support progressive values. They believe in unity, not division. They believe that we should build an economy that works for everyone, not just CEO’s and the wealthy. They believe in public education. They believe that health care should be a right not a privilege. They believe in the right to organize in the work place and negotiate your wages and working conditions. They believe that every American has the right to vote.

They believe that everyone – white, black, Latino, Asian…. everyone… is created equal and endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s everyone – not just the wealthy few. Not just people who are the right color or who are brought up in the “right” end of town.

My wife and I had the privilege of attending President Obama’s farewell address in Chicago. In his address, President Obama laid out his vision for an America that embodied those values. And he showed us the kind of dignity and character and decency that should be the hallmark of an American president.

Here is how he concluded his remarks:

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain. For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes We Can.

Yes We Did.

Yes We Can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

In the months ahead, it is up to us to stand up for that vision forcefully – defiantly.

This week, as Donald Trump takes office, it is up to us to regroup like the British troops who were rescued by their fellow citizens from the Beaches of Dunkirk – and return to the electoral battlefield in 2018 and 2020 to defeat our own, home-grown version of the authoritarian right ― just as they did 75 years ago.


Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times article, “When He Goes Low, They Go … Where? Democrats Mull How to Confront Trump,” Jonathan Martin writes, “Democrats, here and in Washington, say it is folly to engage him on his preferred terrain of insults and bombast. They suggest that one of Hillary Clinton’s mistakes was to try to isolate him from the Republican Party by portraying him as an aberrant figure…The more effective course, Democrats say, is to focus on policy and assail Mr. Trump for not living up to his populist promises as he installs a largely wealthy cabinet and begins rolling back the Affordable Care Act…But, despite all predictions in the Republican primary contests and then in the general election, Mr. Trump’s succession of perceived missteps never proved fatal. It turned out that waiting for his inevitable collapse based on his behavior amounted to a grave miscalculation of what the electorate cared most about.”

Democrats must come up with a credible, explainable plan for addressing the job losses caused by automation. In her New York Times article, “A Darker Theme in Obama’s Farewell: Automation Can Divide Us,” Clair Kane Miller writes, “The next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas,” Mr. Obama said. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete…The inequality caused by automation is a main driver of cynicism and political polarization, Mr. Obama said. He connected it to the racial and geographic divides that have cleaved the country post-election…Fifty-one percent of all the activities Americans do at work involve predictable physical work, data collection and data processing. These are all tasks that are highly susceptible to being automated, according to a report McKinsey published in July using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net to analyze the tasks that constitute 800 jobs…Twenty-eight percent of work activities involve tasks that are less susceptible to automation but are still at risk, like unpredictable physical work or interacting with people. Just 21 percent are considered safe for now, because they require applying expertise to make decisions, do something creative or manage people.”

Here’s some surprisign bipartisanship: At The Washington Post Republican strategist Ed Rogers explains why “Comey should resign“: “No matter what the inspector general report shows — after what will undoubtedly be a very lengthy investigation — there will always be a lingering suspicion that something went wrong with the FBI’s involvement. There will always be a sense that something wasn’t quite right at the top…too much toothpaste has left the tube. The FBI won’t be thought of as being at its best, and the agency’s investigations and actions won’t be met with complete trust, unless there is a change at the very top.” Sen. Bernie Sanders agrees.

From The New York Times Editorial Board tribute to President Obama: “Americans will miss Mr. Obama’s negotiating skills on tough issues and the dignity and character that he and his family brought to the White House. Beyond that, they will also miss an impassioned speaker whose eloquence ranks with that of Abraham Lincoln. The way he has defended the founding precepts of the United States while also arguing that those precepts have to be broadened to achieve a new inclusiveness has been especially striking, as have his remarks delivered at moments of national tragedy.”

Some Democrats believe the question of Putin’s influence on Trump is a distraction from the concerns progressives should keep front and center.  As David Weigel reports at The Washington Post, “In a July essay for the left-wing journal Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson arguedthat Democrats were “red-baiting” by accusing people who benefited from the hacks of being Russian pawns. Last week Robinson wrote a follow-up admitting that the hacks had mattered — but chastising Democrats for their seeming obsession…Every moment spent talking about Putin is a moment not spent talking about mass incarceration, policing, Social Security, Medicaid, public schooling, Chelsea Manning, gun violence, climate change and war,” wrote Robinson. “Trump is giving press conferences in front of factories whose jobs he has supposedly preserved, while Democrats are frantically calling Trump a Kremlin agent. Who is speaking most to people’s real life material interests?”

The Los Angeles Review of Books has “Reimagining the Working Class: A Roundtable on Economic and Racial Justice in the Age of Trump” by Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado, Sue J. Kim, Keona K. Ervin, Andrew Hoberek, Min Hyoung Song and Curtis Marez.Among the insights, is this nugget from Ervin: “…invocations of the white working class often ignore the ways in which the economic resentments of white working-class people are conceptualized and expressed through race. Moving from the assumption that invoking class automatically means that race isn’t at work, commentators who cited white voters’ support for Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections as evidence that white working-class voters for Trump weren’t motivated by racism, for instance, missed how race, as George Lipsitz says, “takes place” or finds expression through economic entitlement and possession. Trump supporters’ racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and support of mass deportations, a wall along the US–Mexico border, and a Muslim registry are inextricably bound up with their economic resentment.”

Michael Tomasky has some salient observations on political clock management in his Daily Beast post, “GOP’s Rush to Rubber-Stamp Trump Nominees: Destroy What We Can, While We Can.” Tomasky observes, “A clock is ticking on the walls of leading Republicans and conservative organizations. They have 80 years of history to undo. Workplace regulations, environmental regulations, workers’ protections, social safety-net provisions, various minority-group protections, non-discrimination laws, and most of all business and corporate regulations—all of these and more have to be, uh, reexamined these next four years. Every day counts…That’s the only way to understand congressional Republicans’ solidarity with Trump: They’ll let him have his Twitter tirades and little victory dances in Elkhart, Indiana, over 700 jobs, as long as he lets them take apart the New Deal. That’s what explains McConnell’s hurry to fill Trump’s Cabinet.”

Paul Rosenberg’s “Don’t think of a rampaging elephant: Linguist George Lakoff explains how the Democrats helped elect Trump: Democrats played into Trump’s hands, Lakoff says — and they won’t win until they learn how to frame the debate” at Salon.com provides some painful insights. Lakoff explains in the interview, “The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters…Another problem was the assumption that all you have to do is look at issues, and give the facts about issues, and the facts about the issues supposedly show up in polls, and then they apply demographics. So there was this assumption, for example, that educated women in the Philadelphia suburbs were naturally going to vote for Hillary, because they were highly educated. They turned out also to be Republican, and what made them Republican was Republican views, like Republican views about the Supreme Court, abortion, things like that. So they didn’t all go out and vote for Hillary.”

From “The Rust Belt whips and snaps after eight years of Obama,” a Washington Post op-ed by novelist Justin Torres: “I disagreed with a number of Obama’s policy decisions, but always unforgettably admirable will be the way he took kindness with a mortal seriousness. The great work of my adulthood has been to find more and more compassion, to be honest about the grace and beauty I knew alongside the racism and homophobia and spite. First, I had to tease out the complexity, the love and failure, in my own troubled family, and I’ve been working on solidarity, on teasing out the love and failure of that place as well, the place I am from — it has seemed essential to do this work. Today I am bitter, smarting, hunched. I taste once again the rust in my mouth, metallic, bloodlike, as if I’ve been dragged backward across time to a place, a town, I left for good. I can and will be bitter; I can and will resist; I won’t be made unkind.”


National Democratic Redistricting Committee Launched to Fight GOP Control In States

Elena Schneider reports at Politico that “Former Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday officially launched the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, billing it in a speech to the Center for American Progress Action Fund as the center of Democratic rebuilding in the era of President-elect Donald Trump and as Democrats’ main hope to roll back Republican gains in state legislatures and prepare for redistricting in 2020.”

The goal of the project is to position Democrats to win “House majorities in Congresses elected after 2020,” which should be doable. It’s a commendable initiative. Clearly, there is not enough being done to challenge Republican gerrymandering, since Republicans now have “trifecta” control — the governorships and majorities in both state senate and house — in 25 states, compared to just 6 for Democrats.

According to the NDRC’s web page:

The NDRC will target races in every election cycle through 2020 – including gubernatorial, state legislative and ballot initiative campaigns where Democrats can produce fairer electoral maps in 2021. Holder highlighted these major focal points in a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, including: 

1. ELECTORAL – The NDRC will coordinate and support the critical state-based electoral work led by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and Democratic Governors Association to identify and invest in key down-ballot races with redistricting implications. 

2. LEGAL – The NDRC ensures that ongoing infrastructure is in place and adequately resourced to guide a proactive legal strategy using data, technical, and map drawing resources.

3. BALLOT INITIATIVE – The NDRC will support state ballot reforms where this is the best strategy to produce fairer maps.

The NDRC will have the active support of President Obama after his term expires. The hope is that his fund-raising cred can be leveraged to help finance promising Democratic candidates, as well as the organization’s projects. Former Presidents Carter and Clinton have done great work as ex-presidents, and President Obama could also make a tremendous difference for the better after his presidency, by empowering the NDRC to achieve its goals.

Schneider explains further,

The top of the NRDC’s priority list, Holder said, is simply winning state legislatures and governorships. Holder noted that three dozen upcoming gubernatorial races in 2017 and 2018 offer a direct path to affecting redistricting in many states. Holder also noted that other, less-noticed statewide officeholders, such as secretaries of state, are positioned to affect the redistricting process in certain states.

“Four of the nine House seats gained by Democrats this year were a result from new maps that came from redistricting cases in Florida and Virginia,” Holder said. “The NDRC is poised to seize on these early gains by advancing a very aggressive legal strategy.”

Over the years, Democrats have beneftted from the leadership development programs of both partisan and nonpartisan organizations like Emily’s List, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Center for American Women in Politics, Emerge America, the Latino Victory Project and the National Democratic Training CommitteeActBlue is helping more than 1800 state and local Democratic candidates and campaigns at the grass roots level. But all of these groups together likely have but a fraction of the economic resources Republican candidates and political groups receive from their corporate and wealthy contributors.

The NDRC will bring long-overdue attention to the urgency of Democrats mobilizing to challenge Republican gerrymandering and provide resources needed to make Democrats more competitive in the states. You can support the project right here.


Trump Can’t Leave Republicans Alone To Repeal Obamacare

After watching Donald Trump’s first press conference as president-elect, I spent some time trying to refix my dropped jaw, and then wrote at New York about the damage the man had done to his party’s plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act:

Yesterday, President-elect Donald Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, threw all sorts of sand into the gears of the congressional GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. As Jonathan Chait explained, what he was saying made absolutely no sense:

“Trump stated that the Senate must repeal Obamacare ‘probably some time next week,’ and that ‘the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.’ That is completely impossible. It takes months to design a comprehensive reform plan for one-seventh of the economy, even if you have a party committed to a shared vision. And Republicans aren’t remotely committed to a shared vision: They’re promising wildly different things, from covering everybody (a promise they have no way to pay for) to a bare-bones dog-eat-dog free-market system where the poor and sick are mostly left on their own.”

So unsurprisingly, at today’s bizarre press conference, the first he has held since being elected president, Trump was asked to restate his basic views on how Congress should deal with Obamacare. And he responded with a somewhat different but equally screwed-up scenario:

“We’re going to be submitting, as soon as our secretary is approved, almost simultaneously — shortly thereafter — a plan. It will be repeal and replace. It will be, essentially simultaneously.

“It will be various segments, you understand but will most likely be on the same day or the same week — but probably the same day — could be the same hour. So we’re going to do repeal and replace — very complicated stuff. And we’re going to get a health bill passed — we’re going to get health care taken care of for this country.”

The new criterion Trump threw into the mix is that nothing at all will happen until Tom Price is confirmed as secretary of HHS. Price has to go through two confirmation hearings. The first is on January 18, at the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The second and “voting” committee on his confirmation is Finance, which hasn’t even scheduled a hearing. But the Senate is voting on amendments to the basic blueprint for Obamacare repeal right now; final passage in that chamber will probably occur tomorrow after votes today and tonight on literally more than a hundred amendments that could shape the repeal. If Trump thinks nothing should happen for weeks, he should have probably shared that sentiment with congressional Republicans, who have been talking for months, publicly and privately, about moving on Obamacare before Trump’s inauguration.

Beyond that new problem, Trump is also suggesting “we” will be “submitting” a “plan” for the whole set of problems. Who is “we?” HHS? The White House? The Republican Party? That’s unclear. Again, if he has policy preferences he has not yet shared with congressional Republicans, why aren’t they awaiting them obediently?

Finally, Trump went out of his way to confirm some of the craziness from the Times interview. “Repeal” and “replace” will happen “most likely on the same day or the same week — but probably the same day — could be the same hour.” Surely someone has told him by now that anything worth calling a “replacement” for Obamacare, with its many insurance regulations and other non-budget features, cannot be done via a budget measure, and thus will require 60 Senate votes. How is that going to happen? It won’t if it resembles any of the plans that Republicans are currently discussing.

Now maybe Trump is alluding to some talk from Paul Ryan about handling repeal and replace “concurrently” — which seems to mean including a few budget-germane elements of a replacement in a bill that repeals Obamacare. According to one report, that eternal conservative policy hobbyhorse, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), could get some new money as a sort of down payment on a replacement plan that could be part of a package that needed no Democratic votes.

If HSAs are to represent the “replacement” that’s not delayed significantly, Trump may have created another problem in today’s press conference in a complaint about Obamacare:

“You have deductibles that are so high that after people go broke paying their premiums, which are going through the roof, the health care can’t even be used by them because the deductibles are so high.”

HSAs are a central part of a standard conservative health-care-policy scheme encouraging “personal responsibility” for routine medical expenses. That means paying for them not through insurance, but through out-of-pocket spending supplemented by HSAs. High deductibles and other cost-shifts from insurance companies to consumers are indeed a major complaint you hear about Obamacare. But the problem is going to get a lot worse under any GOP replacement plan we have seen so far.

So Trump cannot open his mouth without complicating the already near-impossible job his party faces in satisfying conservative demands that Obamacare be repealed immediately, while dealing with the objective reality that it cannot be done without huge and politically damaging fallout.


Political Strategy Notes

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik surveys the upcoming Governor’s races for 2017 and 2018 and observes, “More than four-fifths of all Americans live in states holding gubernatorial elections over the next two years. Two states, New Jersey and Virginia, will elect governors in 2017, and 36 other states will hold their elections next year. That includes nine of the 10 most populous states…the 2017-2018 slate of governors provides many opportunities for Democrats. Republicans currently control 33 of 50 governorships, while Democrats hold only 16 (there’s one independent, Bill Walker of Alaska). Of the 38 governorships being contested over the next two years, Republicans already hold 27 and Democrats control 10 (Walker is also up for reelection). Additionally, and here’s where the statistics about the power of gubernatorial incumbency come into play, many of these governorships will be open-seat races. Neither New Jersey nor Virginia will have an incumbent on the ballot in November, and next year roughly half or slightly more of the gubernatorial races will be open seats (a few incumbents are still deciding whether to run again)…As we head into the Trump era, history tells us that the president’s party often loses ground up and down the ballot over the course of his term. That extends to state-level offices: Every post-World War II president, starting with Harry Truman, saw his party lose net governorships from when he took office to when he left office. The average loss during the postwar presidencies is 11. It seems likely, though far from guaranteed, that Republicans will lose net governorships during Trump’s presidency: That’s partially because of history and partially because the Republicans already control a lofty 33 governorships, their highest total in the postwar era.”

Some revealing statistics from Sue Sturgis at Facing South: “According to a Harvard Medical School study, number of North Carolinians who are dying each year because of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid: 1,100Number of Americans who stand to lose health care coverage if ACA’s Medicaid expansion provision is scrapped: 11 millionProportion of Americans who support allowing states to expand Medicaid under ACA: 8 in 10Proportion of Trump voters who do: 2/3.”

WaPo’s Aaron Blake reports on new polling data: “Quinnipiac is the first high-quality pollster to poll on Trump twice since the election. And while its poll in late November showed his favorable rating rising from 34 percent to 44 percent, that number has dropped back to 37 percent, which is about where it stood for much of the campaign. That’s tied for Trump’s worst favorable rating in a poll since his election. And a majority – 51 percent – now have an unfavorable view of him…While 41 percent thought he would be a better leader than President Obama, it’s now 34 percent. While 52 percent thought he would help the nation’s economy, it’s now 47 percent. While 40 percent thought his policies would help their personal financial situation, it’s now 27 percent. While 53 percent thought he’d take the country in the right direction, it’s now 45 percent.”

For a revealing round-up of the effects of voter suppresion in the 2016 election, check out Gabrielle Gurley’s American Prospect post, “Voter Suppression Works Too Well: The Republicans’ quest for a permanent political majority culminated in mammoth voter suppression in 2016. The 2018 midterm election promises both to embolden these efforts and energize resistance.” But also read Greg Palast’s “The Election was Stolen – Here’s How…” for an informative look at “Crosscheck,” the GOP’s voter purge operation, which Palast and others believe to be the most effective disenfranchisement strategy. 

Heather Digby Parton’s salon.com post, “Donald Trump’s new Russian scandal: We don’t know how much is true — but we know James Comey behaved shamefully” underscores an important point. After Sen Ron Wyden asked Comey in a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee “Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships, and, if so, what are the agency’s findings?,” Parton reports “Comey responded by saying, “I would never comment on investigations, whether we have one or not, in an open forum like this. So I really can’t answer it one way or another.” Considering his notorious behavior with respect to the Hillary Clinton email server investigation, this naturally elicited some incredulous reactions, notably from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who followed up quickly by asking if Comey planned to answer Wyden’s question. And when Comey repeated his statement, King archly replied, “The irony of your making that statement here — I cannot avoid.” Parton adds, “Then Comey attempted to cover his gaffe by saying that he is known to be “politically tone-deaf” and then patted himself on the back, saying that was “how it should be.” But he has given the appearance of a blatant double standard on this ever since it was revealed that the FBI knew about alleged Russian interference and Comey refused to divulge it prior to the election, citing ethics rules barring the FBI from interfering in elections.” It looks like there will be no legal or political accountability for Comey. But he has certainly earned the shame of his name being forever tainted as a betrayer of the nonpartisan integrity that should be a pillar of law enforcement in America.

4 pieces of evidence showing FBI Director James Comey cost Clinton the election.” While many factors should be taken into account in analysing Clinton’s Electoral College defeat and what Democrats must to to improve their chances in the next election, the authors make the most compelling case yet, based on polling data, that Comey’s  statement was pivotal.

At The Week, Ryan Cooper faults Democrats, with the exception of Al Franken, for wimping out on their responsibility to be tough and relentless at the hearings on Jeff Session’s nomination to be Attorney General. As Cooper arguees, “When facing someone like Sessions, the objective should not be to graciously allow him to defend his long record. It should be to attack, to undermine, and to humiliate. Find the most embarrassing parts of his record, and hammer him on them, with the objective of producing the most hilarious and cringeworthy soundbites, as Trump did to Jeb Bush.”

It really does seem that Democrats have to be more assertive and project more quotable soundbites to prevent Trump from dominating the news in a way that shrinks Dems’ image down to a litter of yapping  Chihuahuas nipping at the heals of a Great Dane. Paul Kane’s “Democrats still grappling with how to navigate the new normal of a Trump news cycle” at PowerPost explores the problem further: “In almost any other political orbit, Wednesday would have been a great day for Democrats. Republican nominees to be secretary of state and attorney general were under fire, other Cabinet nominees’ hearings were delayed and no one could explain when exactly the Republican-controlled Congress or incoming administration would repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act…While Trump did not completely blot out a busy news day on Capitol Hill, he became the sun, the moon and the stars. He consumed the news, and he made it all about himself…That didn’t make it a good 24-hour news cycle for Republicans. But it didn’t quite feel like Democrats were in control, either…Democrats have spent much of their time after their election defeat focusing on how to plot a new course on messaging — how to sell their ideas in the media and to the broader general public. That gets difficult when Trump goes full Trump — not just wandering into treacherous areas that few political figures like to go, but then seemingly enjoying the street fight with his opponents and the media that typically ensues.”

It can be done, but Nathaniel Rakich explains why “It’s Really Hard To Block A Cabinet Nominee” at FiveThirtyEight, and notes, “Cabinet nominations tend only to fail when dragged down by scandal or impropriety.”


Collins Advocacy for Sessions a Marker for the End of Republican ‘Centrists’

It’s been a long time since “moderate” Republicans had significant influence in their party, which is now an instrument for the worst policies of the right-wing ideologues who currently dominate the GOP’s inner councils.

Those who have lived long enough can remember a time when Republicans like Sens. Javitz, Weicker, and Governor Rockefeller actually played leadership roles in defending and promoting civil rights and needed social programs. But, one by one, RINOs, Gypsy Moths, Rockefeller, Ripon and other moderate Republicans have become extinct.

Those who were holding on to the fading hope that, somehow the centrist Republican would rise again as a force in the GOP, now must face the fact that the most prominent of remaining ‘moderate’ Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins, has abandoned all pretense to carry water for one of the Senate’s most relentless opponents of racial justice, Jeff Sessions. OK, Collins hasn’t been a genuine moderate for a long time. But now she is making a big show of her defection. At The Nation, John Nichols writes,

Thirty years ago, moderate Republicans upheld the basic standards to which presidential nominees must be held. But not anymore. So-called “moderate” Republican Susan Collins abandoned that standard on Tuesday and championed President Trump’s nomination of Sessions to serve as attorney general of the United States.

Because of some past breaks with party orthodoxy, particularly on social issues, Maine’s Senator Collins is still imagined by casual observers of the Senate to be a “moderate Republican.” It’s an image that Collins has fostered over the years, as she has sought to retain a Senate seat representing a New England state that regularly backs Democrats for the presidency.

This false yet lingering impression that Collins is a “moderate” made her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee one of the major moments of the first day of hearings on the Sessions nomination. Collins was portrayed in media reports as an “unlikely ally” of her fellow senator. In fact, she appeared before the committee as an ardent partisan, supporting a Republican president-elect’s most controversial Cabinet pick—and doing her best to dismiss credible criticisms of the nominee.

Nichols notes that “Collins’s offices in Portland and Bangor were packed with protesters this morning,” Maine Public Radio reported Tuesday morning. “They are calling on Collins to withdraw her support for Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator Donald Trump has nominated for U.S. Attorney General.” Nichols quotes Maine State Representative Diane Russell, who said, “Senator Collins is leading the fight to confirm the most racist, homophobic, anti-woman, anti-immigrant person we could possible imagine to be the defender of the U.S. Constitution.”

Nichols acknowledges that “Susan Collins has never been so outspoken or effective a dissenter as former Maine Republican senators such as Margaret Chase Smith and Olympia Snowe,” two of the most admired Republican moderates of the Senate’s history. But in recent times, Collins was regarded as one of the more ‘centrist’ Republicans in the distorted context of the GOP’s tea party era.

That illusion is now shattered, as Collins lends her rep to help one of the most retrogressive Attorney General nominees ever. Republicans hoping for a resurgence of moderate leadership in their party will have to look elsewhere, and the pickings are growing slimmer every day. It’s unclear whether Collins intends to run again for Senate or, perhaps Governor. If so, her support of Sessions may prove to be the decision that sank her prospects with Maine voters who are concerned about human rights.


President Obama’s Farewell Address

President Obama’s farewell address to the nation at McCormick Place in Chicago on Tuesday (full text is available here):


McConnell’s Hypocrisy, Trump’s Cruelty Sour Inaugural Environment

Ten days out from the 2017 presidential inauguration, the president-elect still can’t find a bona fide A-list star to add a little lustre to the inaugural festivities. Meryl Streep probably narrowed his options with her speech at the Golden Globe Awards, citing Trump’s horrific mockery of a disabled reporter, which re-sparked storms of outrage using the Trump video in both traditional and social media (plus over 2 million Google citations this morning).

Trump’s inaugural committee will probably find a Hollywood Republican or two to glitz up the procedings. But, to put it generously, January 20th is not shaping up as a joyful outpouring of national unity and bipartisan goodwill like President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

Kellyanne Conway and the GOP spin machine are working overtime to pin the blame for the utter lack of national unity on Democrats and the media. It’s a tough sell when your client lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots cast and the country is genuinely divided on many issues. But you would think Trump’s PR wizards would persuade him that a little grace and outreach to the opposition, or maybe selecting a moderate or two among the cabinet picks could at least open the door to the possibility of a less divisive political environment on the eve of the inauguration. You might think so. But, alas, you would be wrong.

Moreover, leaders of the Donkey Party are not the ones who have been tweeting rancid insults and winking at hate groups for more than a year now. Nor did Democrats create the scorched-earth, no-quarter, no-compromise, politics-as-total-war environment that characterizes American politics on the eve of the 2017 inauguration. For that, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can serve as poster boy, as well as anyone.

In his Esquire post, “Noted Grown-Up Mitch McConnell Wants Democrats to ‘Grow Up and Get Past’ Trump’s Win,” Charles P. Pierce puts the Trump and McConnell contributions to the souring mood of the U.S. in perspective. Here’s a taste:

Apparently, we must begin with the lovely and talented Ms. Meryl Streep, who took the opportunity at Sunday’s night’s Golden Globe Awards to express her disapproval of the president-elect, and the campaign he ran to become president-elect, and all his pomps and all his allures, besides. Naturally, this set off the expected Category Five tweetstorm from the president-elect, who really should have better things to do, and who also called some poor New York Times grunt in the middle of the night to lie once again about mocking a disabled reporter…

It was Charlatan Sunday on the The Sunday Showz. For an awfully long time, I thought Tom DeLay was the most mendacious, odious public servant the country ever saw, at least in the modern era, at any rate. I hereby apologize to Mr. DeLay. He was a rank amateur compared to Mitch McConnell, who isn’t even a very good liar, and apparently doesn’t care to learn how to be a better one. After several days in which everyone from the ethics offices of the various branches of government, to people who unearthed e-mails from 2009 in which McConnell argued from a point 180 degrees different from the one from which he’s arguing now, McConnell went on with John Dickerson and, right there in front of the chair once occupied by former Seleucid military correspondent Bob Schieffer, lied even more clumsily than he had previously.

“You know, what this is about, John, the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Senator Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you’re coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election. So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.”

(Ed Note: “Little procedural complaints” is a nice touch.)

And, out on the veranda in Bimini, Merrick Garland hurls his mai tai through the TV screen and orders up two more from room service. God, what a perfectly formed hack McConnell is.

Even before the Trump-Streep dust-up and McConnell’s latest hypocritical outburst, Trump’s inauguration was going to be greeted by massive protest demonstrations, not only in the nation’s capitol, but in cities across the U.S. With McConnell and Trump feeding the animosity on a daily basis, it can only get worse.

The irony is that the Republicans could have gotten most, if not nearly all, of what they wanted without doubling down on the polarizing tactics and rhetoric. Trump and, yes McConnell, could have made a significant contribution to dismantling the partisan gridlock that now paralyzes congress. But they simply lack the maturity, grace and goodwill that empowers reconciliation, and Trump has surrounded himself with people who don’t even understand the concept.

The Republicans have set the stage for four years of bitter political conflict, beginning with what is shaping up to be the most divisive presidential inauguration in memory. They have only themselves to blame for the consequences.