washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ruy Teixeira

Democrats Need to Be the Party of and for Working People—of All Races

And they can’t retake Congress unless they win over more white workers.
by Robert Griffin, John Halpin & Ruy Teixeira

Read the article…

Matt Morrison

Rebuilding a Progressive Majority by Winning Back White Working-Class Moderates

From the findings of Working America, the AFL-CIO’s outreach program to non-union working people.
by Matt Morrison

Read the article…

The Daily Strategist

July 26, 2017

Creamer: How to Really Make the Affordable Care Act Even Better

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

Republican fantasies about “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are crashing on the rocks of two-to-one public opposition, and a tidal wave of ordinary people who are demanding their Members of Congress vote NO.

So what about a real plan to make the ACA even better? What about a plan to provide even more access to health care and make premiums more affordable – especially for working people — rather than the GOP plan to take health care away from millions?

The Affordable Care Act has massively increased coverage at much more affordable prices for many, many Americans. What’s more, it has prevented insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, installed many consumer protections for consumers and helped lower the rate of health care inflation. Most importantly, it established that in a civilized society, health care is not a commodity to be bought and sold, but a right.

The ACA was a major step in the right direction. And in many respects, the United States has a spectacular health care delivery system. But in others we still have a great deal of room to improve.

Let’s start by remembering that health care costs per capita in the United States remain the highest of any industrial nation, even though our health care outcomes remain well below the best performing nations in the world.

The ACA has indeed improved outcomes for many, many Americans. And it has bent the cost curve. Health care cost inflation is much lower today than it was in the pre-ObamaCare era to which the GOP seeks to return.

The last way to “improve” the health care system is to repeal the ACA and return to the bad old days before health care was considered a human right in the United States. The same obviously goes for partial repeal proposals like the House or Senate TrumpCare repeal and replace bills.

In fact, to the extent the ACA could be improved it’s because it doesn’t provide enough of a good thing.

There are three major factors driving health care costs in the United States. First are payment systems that incentivize the numbers of procedures that are performed rather than the outcomes they produce. Second are the costs of prescription drugs – which are much higher than they are in the rest of the world. Finally are the excessive costs of administration, marketing and profit that are associated with private insurance companies. Remember, Medicare’s administrative cost is a fraction of the combined costs of profits, administration and marketing for private insurance companies.

The best way to improve the health insurance system in America and simultaneously cut costs would be to follow the lead of most other industrial countries and set up a single-payer system for everyone like the Medicare system that covers senior citizens in the U.S. today.

Such a system would not only assure that everyone has health care, it would also allow the purchasing power of the single-payer to negotiate with drug companies for much lower prices, eliminate massive amounts of insurance company bureaucracy and allow for new systems of provider payments that would incentivize results rather than the number of procedures that can be billed out to insurance.

A single-payer system would without doubt be the best way to finance health care in the United States. Regardless of what is done with health insurance today, the odds are good that one day the U.S. will ultimately have a single payer system.

Short of a single-payer system, there are, however, three specific policies that would greatly improve the availability and affordability of health insurance.

The current ACA system has three major shortcomings.

  • First, some especially hard to serve markets have only one – or in some cases potentially fewer – insurance plans offered on their ACA exchange. That leaves consumers captive and defeats to purpose of the exchanges. Of course a big part of this problem results from intentional policies of the Trump administration that are intended to sabotage the ACA. Many of the companies who have exited these markets have done so because of uncertainty whether Trump would fund the subsidies provided by the ACA.
  • Second, the ACA left in place policies that allow the pharmaceutical industry to charge U.S. consumers much more than they charge consumers abroad.
  • Third, subsidies for insurance plans stop at income levels that still make individual or family policies purchased on the Exchanges unaffordable to many working families.

These two problems could be effectively addressed by three progressive policies that are all very politically popular:

1). Increase substantially the income levels at which working people can receive subsidies on the exchanges. The dollars needed to finance these subsidies should come from additional taxes on the wealthy, health insurance companies and especially the giant pharmaceutical companies.

Remember that the pharmaceutical companies have made record profits by gouging U.S. consumers substantially more than they can charge consumers in other countries. That is especially due to the limits on re-importation of pharmaceuticals and the fact that Medicare is prevented by law from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for cheaper drug prices. So a pharmaceutical company tax is a fair source of revenue for increased subsidies for working people.

Recall, by the way, that when the Medicare Part D plan was passed that outrageous provision banning negotiation was itself negotiated by Republican Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Bill Tauzin who then promptly left Congress to make millions of dollars as head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

2). Repeal the prohibition against Medicare negotiating with the drug companies for lower prices and require that they provide pharmaceuticals to consumers on the exchanges at the Medicare-negotiated rate. In addition, allow re-importation of pharmaceuticals from suppliers in other countries who can obtain drugs at prices below which these companies sell to U.S. consumers.

3). Set up a public insurance option offered nationwide that can compete in every market in America. A public option, like Medicare, would have low administrative and marketing costs and major market clout, and would provide an affordable insurance option whenever private carriers abandoned insurance markets. In addition, competition from a public insurance option would force down private insurance costs.

A public insurance option is pretty much a no-brainer. It was passed by the House of Representatives when the ACA was on the way to becoming law, but ultimately dropped by the Senate as a result of a massive insurance industry lobbying and the work of the former “Senator from Health Insurance” Joe Lieberman.

Together, increased subsidies for working people, a public insurance option and lower pharmaceutical prices would solve most of the shortcomings of the current Affordable Care Act.

They work as policy – unlike GOP proposals like health savings accounts that mainly benefit the wealthy. And they are also very popular politically. They represent the high political ground.

Once ordinary people have administered the coup de grace to GOP proposals to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, Democrats should forcefully advocate these three policies to make ObamaCare even better.

And they should dare the Republicans to pass these proposals that would actually address the issues people care about – increasing the availability and affordability of health insurance coverage – rather than taking health care away from millions of their fellow Americans.


Working America: Be Bold, Be Visible: Central Ohio Midterm Voters’ Outlook on Policies and Politicians

The following article is cross-posted from the Working America Front Porch Focus Group Report:

OVERVIEW

Working America canvassers held face-to-face conversations with 355 likely midterm swing voters in central Ohio in early June. During these front-porch discussions, we surveyed midterm voters on their top issues and 11 public policies designed to address economic and public health concerns. The list included eight middle-class-oriented policies, two policies targeting low-income workers, and the American Health Care Act, or Trumpcare. We wanted to understand if and where working people are feeling pinched and what solutions they believe will deliver meaningful change to their lives. We also asked about their source for political news and views of politicians. Here are our findings:

There is strong support in Ohio for an array of progressive policies to expand and strengthen the middle class. During our 355 face-to-face conversations, we found solid support across partisan lines and income levels to curb the outsourcing of jobs, address the opioid crisis and pass paid family leave. These three policies have such high levels of support and intensity that they could prove persuasive even for Trump swing voters in 2018. In addition, five other progressive policies promoting middle-class well-being are backed by more than 70 percent of Clinton voters and at least a plurality of Trump voters we spoke with during this project.

Trumpcare is intensely opposed by Clinton swing voters and weakly supported by Trump swing voters. Only 39 percent of Trump voters — and a mere 2 percent of Clinton voters — support the passage of Trumpcare. Overall, 60 percent of Ohio swing voters we spoke with chose it from a list of 11 policies as the one that would have the most negative impact on their family. Voters in both camps identify health care as their most important issue, so a candidate’s stance on Trumpcare could be hugely persuasive in 2018.

While there is a path forward for Ohio progressives in 2018, voters’ low information about elected officials is helping to drive a low opinion of all politicians. Our conversations with Ohio swing voters reveal they know little about their elected officials; half of them say they do not know or have no opinion of either U.S. senator. And a substantial share of voters told us they get their news from right-leaning media sources; 49 percent of Trump voters rely on Fox or other TV news as their primary news source. Overall, voters are far more likely to hold “all politicians” responsible for the state of the economy rather than one political party, Wall Street or corporations. In 2016, Democrats in Ohio tried and failed to use conventional paid media to push back against right-wing messages. In 2018, progressives need to change the way we get information to voters and do far more direct outreach. Having better policies won’t make a difference if voters never hear about them.

KEY FINDINGS

  1. Policies to expand and strengthen the middle class have broad and intense support among Ohio swing voters. Stopping outsourcing, addressing the opioid crisis and establishing paid family leave are all backed by at least two-thirds of Trump voters and an overwhelming majority of Clinton voters with whom we spoke. These policies are strongly supported across income and party lines, and appear to have sufficient intensity to be persuasive with voters.
  2. Health care is currently Ohio voters’ No. 1 issue, and the deep unpopularity of Trumpcare could make it a highly persuasive issue. A full 87 percent of Clinton swing voters oppose Trumpcare. Even among Trump voters, the bill is unpopular, with a majority either neutral on (44 percent) or outright opposed (17 percent) to its passage. When queried about health care, voters from both parties and at all income levels prioritize affordable and accessible care. Given the highly negative perception of Trumpcare, even many Trump swing voters could be persuaded by arguments against it.
  3. Ohio voters are highly polarized over raising the minimum wage, but it has strong support with the lower-income voters that Democrats struggle to get to the polls in midterm elections. The partisan divide over the minimum wage is stark: 79 percent of Clinton voters support it, while 58 percent of Trump voters oppose it. However, 68 percent of all low-income voters, including Trump voters, back a minimum wage increase. This could make the issue a powerful mobilization tool for progressives.
  4. Conventional paid media has not been getting through to voters, leaving them with little information about elected officials. In Ohio’s 2016 race for the U.S. Senate, the two top candidates and their supporters spent an estimated $90 million, with a huge share going to TV ads and other paid media. Yet 53 percent of the swing voters we surveyed did not know or had no opinion of Sen. Rob Portman, one of the candidates in that race. This shows the limited effectiveness of conventional advertising and paid media in reaching voters.
  5. Voters’ low information is combining with right-wing media narratives to cement a low opinion of all politicians.Progressives need to change how they get information to the public. Our conversations reveal that voters across the political spectrum do not differentiate between Democrats and Republicans when assigning responsibility for their economic woes during the last decade. Two out of five voters we spoke with told canvassers “all politicians” were at fault. Voters repeatedly said they do not see elected officials dealing with issues important to them. The upshot is that voters blame elected officials writ large for the state of the economy more than they blame the corporate beneficiaries of rigged rules. If progressive candidates want to change that narrative in 2018 and beyond, direct outreach to voters like door-to-door contact will be essential.

The findings in this report are based on “front porch focus groups” — interviews held in person at voters’ front doors.Working America canvassers conducted the interviews from June 5 to June 16 in working- and middle-class neighborhoods in Columbus and several surrounding towns as well as in Circleville, Delaware and Mansfield. The people we spoke with voted in at least one nonpresidential election since 2010, which suggests they are likely to vote in 2018. These voters landed squarely in the middle of the partisan spectrum with an average Catalist Vote Choice partisanship score of 48.2 (on a scale of 0-100, 0 being most Republican and 100 being most Democrat). The estimated household income of voters averaged roughly $88,000 a year. Ninety-eight percent of voters were white, 1 percent were African-American, none were Latinx and 0.3 percent were Asian; the ethnicity of 0.3 percent was unknown.

DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS

1. What Voters Think About Policies to Strengthen the Middle Class

Working America canvassers talked with Ohio swing voters about eight policies designed to strengthen and expand the middle class. Their responses show there is broad support, even among Trump swing voters, for many progressive policies.

In South Columbus, one of our canvassers talked with Robert, a 51-year-old white Trump voter who wanted Democrats “to stop with the [Russia] investigation crap.” But Robert supported all eight progressive policies, including making it easier to unionize. He related how he’d tried to form a union at work and feared he’d lose his job. On many issues, Trump swing voters shared powerful stories from their own lives that explained why they backed progressive policies. This doesn’t mean Trump swing voters will automatically pull the lever for a progressive in 2018. But it’s a good reminder that some of these voters swung from Barack Obama to Trump and that policies relevant to their lives may help swing them back in a progressive direction.

For all the policies that follow, we measured both the level of support and the level of intensity that voters had for each policy. We measured the level of support by asking voters whether they supported, opposed or felt neutral about each policy. We measured intensity by asking voters which policies they thought would have the greatest positive or negative impact on their families. For the full set of results, please see the charts in the Appendix.

1.A. Broad, Intense Support for Three Policies to Bolster the Middle Class

Chart 1 shows three middle-class-oriented policies that garnered the support of at least two-thirds of Trump voters and an overwhelming majority of Clinton voters. Trump voters also ranked these policies as the top 3 out of 8 middle-class-oriented policies that would have the greatest positive impact on their lives. All three policies had strong support across income and party lines, and they appear to have sufficient intensity to be persuasive with voters in 2018.

Looking at support, three policies rose to the top across partisanship: curbing outsourcing, addressing the opioid crisis and passing paid family leave. Looking at intensity of support, we see that among the broadly supported policies, these three also ranked as the most likely to have a positive impact on the lives of Ohioans. They resonate across the board. Beneath the charts is a more detailed analysis of each policy.

CHART 1. MIDTERM VOTERS’ MOST POPULAR POLICIES

Stopping Outsourcing – Overall, 79.3 percent of Ohio swing voters told us they want lawmakers to discourage companies from outsourcing jobs and encourage them to provide good wages and benefits through tax incentives. Voters ranked it first among the eight middle-class-oriented policies as the one that would have the greatest positive impact. Stopping outsourcing received more support from Trump swing voters than any other policy, with 83.2 percent of them backing the measure. And it wasn’t just displaced factory workers who complained about outsourcing. White-collar workers had concerns as well.


Teixeira: How Vulnerable Is Trump?

The following article, by Ruy Teixeira, author of “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think” and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog, The Optimistic Leftist:

Some have argued that the emotional bond between Trump and his supporters is so strong that it’s nearly impossible to break.

I don’t believe this is true for a couple of reasons. First, Trump is attached to the GOP and the GOP is remarkably out of touch with the voters who supported Trump. This is a non-trivial problem, as Ron Brownstein explains in The Atlantic.

The Senate Republican health-care bill has been repeatedly crushed in a slow-motion collision between the party’s historic ideology and the interests of its modern electoral coalition. Yet congressional Republicans appear determined to plow right through the wreckage.

Even as the Senate’s latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed on Tuesday, the House Republican leadership released a 10-year federal-budget blueprint that points them toward a similar confrontation, between their dominant small-government dogma and the economic needs of their increasingly blue-collar and older white base.

The Urban Institute found that 80 percent of those who would lose coverage under the Senate repeal-and-replace bill were non-college educated, 70 percent worked full-time and 60 percent were white. Rural areas would be particularly hard hit by the Medicaid cuts and so on. Candidate Trump of course said he would do none of this stuff but that went out the window once he started dealing with Congressional Republicans and their libertarian proclivities.

This matters. Brownstein notes that Trump’s approval ratings among white noncollege women is now 19 points lower than his vote support among this group back in November. Will all of these voters abandon him? No, but if a serious chunk does it will hurt both him and the GOP.

But isn’t it true that Trump’s overall support has been rock-steady? On net, aren’t his voters sticking with him? This is a myth. It is certainly true that he retains most of this support. But that’s different from all. Brendan Nyhan points out in a New York Times Upshot column that the seeming stability in Trump’s approval rating among GOP partisans may be an illusion. This is because Republican identifiers who disapprove of Trump may cease identifying as Republicans, thereby propping up his numbers among that group. But he’s still losing support.

A new Ipsos poll finds that one in eight Trump supporters from last November now say they aren’t sure they’d do it again after the last six months. We don’t know of course whether these voters would actually follow through on their sentiments. But it is not a good sign, either for Trump or the GOP.

People are reluctant, understandably so, to believe in Trump’s vulnerability. People will not soon forget the night of November 8, 2016 when nothing turned out like it was supposed to. But if his supporters have a fear of falling downward economically, what happens if they conclude he can’t stop the fall, much less lift them up? He will be punished like all politicians. It is just a matter of when and how much.


Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article, “These Americans Hated the Health Law. Until the Idea of Repeal Sank In,” kate Zernicke and Abby Goodnough write “…After years of Tea Party demands for smaller government, Republicans are now pushing up against a growing consensus that the government should guarantee health insurance. A Pew survey in January found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have health coverage. That was up from 51 percent last year, and the highest in nearly a decade….The belief held even among many Republicans: 52 percent of those making below $30,000 a year said the federal government has a responsibility to ensure health coverage, a huge jump from 31 percent last year. And 34 percent of Republicans who make between $30,000 and about $75,000 endorsed that view, up from 14 percent last year.”

When it comes to the GOP’s failure to enact any significant legisation, conservative NYT columnist David Brooks says it about as well as it’s been said: “Over the past few decades Republicans cast off the freedom-as-capacity tendency. They became, exclusively, the party of freedom as detachment. They became the Get Government Off My Back Party, the Leave Us Alone Coalition, the Drain the Swamp Party, the Don’t Tread on Me Party…Philosophically you can embrace or detest this shift, but one thing is indisputable: The Republican Party has not been able to pass a single important piece of domestic legislation under this philosophic rubric. Despite all the screaming and campaigns, all the government shutdown fiascos, the G.O.P. hasn’t been able to eliminate a single important program or reform a single important entitlement or agency…Today, the G.O.P. is flirting with its most humiliating failure, the failure to pass a health reform bill, even though the party controls all the levers of power. Worse, Republicans have managed to destroy any semblance of a normal legislative process along the way…A party operating under this philosophy is not going to spawn creative thinkers who come up with positive new ideas for how to help people. It’s not going to nurture policy entrepreneurs. It’s not going to respect ideas, period. This is not a party that’s going to produce a lot of modern-day versions of Jack Kemp.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. mines a similar theme in his nationally-syndicated  column, “Why Obamacare won: Republicans spent seven years complaining without seriously thinking about health care.” As Dionne writes, “The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously…One Democratic senator told me early on that Republicans would be hurt by their lack of accumulated expertise on health care, since they largely avoided sweating the details in the original Obamacare debate after deciding early to oppose it. This showed. They had seven years after the law was passed and could not come up with a more palatable blueprint.”

And Paul Krugman underscores the importance of good intentions in making health care reform serve the public interest: “You can see this dependence on good intentions by looking at how health reform has played out at the state level. States that embraced the [Obamavare] law fully, like California and Kentucky, made great progress in reducing the number of the uninsured; states that dragged their feet, like Tennessee, benefited far less. Or consider the problem of counties served by only one insurer; as a recent study noted, this problem is almost entirely limited to states with Republican governors…But now the federal government itself is run by people who couldn’t repeal Obamacare but would clearly still like to see it fail — if only to justify the repeated, dishonest claims, especially by the tweeter-in-chief himself, that it was already failing. Or to put it a bit differently, when Trump threatens to “let Obamacare fail,” what he’s really threatening is to make it fail…So this isn’t about policy or even politics in the normal sense. It’s basically about spite: Trump and his allies may have suffered a humiliating political defeat, but at least they can make millions of other people suffer.”

Salon.com’s Amanda Marcotte makes the case that “Democrats are still chasing rural white voters, and it’s a strategy doomed to fail,” and notes that “the roller-coaster politics around health care really drive home how much Republican base voters view politics through a culture-war lens. Progressive policy is, however appealing in the abstract, is a secondary concern to the desire of angry white conservatives to exert or reassert their cultural dominance. Which goes a long way towards explaining the loathing of Obamacare: It was the “Obama” part, not the “care” part, that riled up the GOP base. Now that Barack Obama is gone, anger over the health care bill is rapidly receding…The problem for Republicans with Obamacare wasn’t that it offended some sense of fiscal conservatism. It’s that it was President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, and many white conservatives hated Obama because — simply by being black and intelligent and urbane and a Democrat — reminded them of the declining cultural dominance of conservative Christian whites like themselves. Electing Trump has allowed this group of voters to believe they are culturally ascendant again — and repealing Obamacare, which was always mostly about sticking it to the liberals, has lot much of its salience as an issue…The issue isn’t with Democratic policy, but with Democrats, who are perceived as snooty, educated, racially diverse city-dwellers, and therefore hated.”

Ryan Struyk and Grace Hauck present “Five poll numbers that should make Democrats uneasy” at CNN Politics. The one to worry about, in my view, is “A majority thinks Democrats don’t stand for anything other than being against Trump. Only 37% of Americans say the Democratic Party “stands for something,” while 52% say it just stands against Trump, according to the same ABC News/Washington Post poll. It comes at a time when Democrats are left without a clear figurehead and many, both inside and outside of the party, have criticized its leaders for lack of a clear message.” Thus far Democratic efforts to coin a message that resonates have been less than impressive. That’s got to change if Dems expect to do well in 2018 the midterm elections.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 143 counties across the U.S. that supported Obama in 2012, then Trump in 2016 indicates that 51 percent in those counties disapprove of Trump’s job performancer, while 44 percent in the counties approve of his job performance, reports Michael P. Buffer at The Citizen’s Voice. “In the poll’s 143 “flip” counties, 52 percent currently view Obama positively and 33 percent view him negatively. For Trump, it was 37 percent positive and 47 percent negative,” writes Buffer.”

“The truth can’t be repeated often enough: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which held its first meeting last week, is a sham and a scam. It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square…In short, the commission is a fraud on the American people, and a far greater threat to electoral integrity than whatever wrongdoing it may claim to dig up. From the NYT Editorial Board’s “The Bogus Voter-Fraud Commission.”

At Roll Call, Bridget Bowman reports, “The Pew Research Center found that nearly six in 10 women say they are paying more attention to political developments since President Donald Trump was elected. That’s compared to to 46 percent of men who said they are more attentive. More Democrats than Republicans surveyed also said they are paying more attention, the survey found…EMILY’s List, which supports women candidates who are pro-abortion rights, has heard from scores of women interested in running. A spokesperson told Roll Call in early Junethat the group had heard from 14,000 women interested in running for office from local to federal levels — more than 15 times the total number of interested candidates who contacted the group in the entire 2016 campaign cycle.”


From 2016 Landslide to 2018 Defeat: Why Some “Safe” House GOP Seats Really Aren’t

I ran across a fascinating analysis of House midterm elections at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and condensed and extended it at New York:

The good news for House Republicans, according to a detailed analysis of the midterm landscape from Kyle Kondik of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, is that 226 of the 241 GOP winners last year won by a double-digit margin, typically the definition of a “landslide.”

The bad news is that in the last three midterm elections (2006, 2010, and 2014), the average House incumbent representing the party that controlled the White House suffered a negative swing of 12 points. So even “landslide” winners in the previous cycle got quickly into hot water when the midterms rolled around.

Indeed, fully 21 House Republican incumbents won by 12 points or less in 2016. Ten of them also represent districts won by Hillary Clinton.

[E]ven if all 21 seats fell to the Democrats — and they lost none of their own — that still wouldn’t be enough to flip control of the House.

The hunt for additional pickups might begin with the 13 House incumbents who did win by more than 12 points in 2016 — but whose districts were carried by Hillary Clinton. And perhaps even more promising are open seats, as Kondik notes:

“[T]he results in open seats defended by the presidential party [in the last three midterms] saw huge swings in favor of the opposite party. In such seats, the presidential party share declined about 11 points from the presidential to the midterm elections — or 22 points in terms of margin — and the president’s party only held 25 of the 46 seats included in the study over the three midterms.”

At the moment, there is only one open GOP House seat where the Republican stepping down won by fewer than 22 points (the 27th district in South Florida, long represented by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which Hillary Clinton carried by nearly 20 points). But additional retirements in the next few months will produce more open GOP seats, and probably more targets.

There is no guarantee, of course, that 2018 will be an “average” midterm. But given President Trump’s persistently low approval ratings and the current high level of political engagement among Democrats, if anything, the next midterm is likely to produce an anti–White House wave that is above average. So while Republicans have done a good job via gerrymandering in making a very high percentage of their incumbents safe, the benchmark for “safety” may be higher than ever, too.


New Survey Provides 2018 Midterms Turnout Estimates, Reveals Challenge Facing Democrats

In a new Lake Research Partners/The Voter participation Center report, “Comparing the Voting Electorate in 2012-2016 and Predicting 2018 Drop-off,” Celinda Lake and Joshua E. Ulibarri offer data-driven projections of voter turnout in the 2018 elections. The study should be required reading for all 2018 Democratic candidates and campaigns. As Lake and Ulibarri report:

  • Using a predictive methodology for population growth and likely turnout patterns, it is projected that the RAE [Rising American Electorate – “unmarried women, Millennials (ages 18-34)*, African Americans, Latinos, and all other people of color (as defined by the Census) – now accounts for more than half of the voting eligible population in this country (59.2%)”] will comprise 61.6% of those who will vote in November 2018. This means that one in three voters who turned out in 2016 will NOT turn out in 2018 (35.1% of those who voted in 2016, or 25.4 million RAE voters, will stay home).
  • The predicted drop-off among non-RAE voters is only 22.1% or 14.4 million voters. In fact, of the nearly 40 million Americans predicted to drop-off from 2016, two-thirds will come from the RAE (remember, the RAE represents 59.2% of the vote eligible population).
  • Turnout is predicted to drop the most among Millennial voters and unmarried women. In fact, this is true in patterns seen between 2008 and 2014. Drop-off among Millennials is predicted to be 54.1% (or 17.2 million voters) and 33.4% among unmarried women (or 11.1 million voters).
  • Regionally, the biggest drop-off of RAE voters is predicted to take place in the Mid-Atlantic states (NY, PA, and NJ – Census defined region). Here, 39.6% of RAE voters are expected to drop-off in 2018.
  • Among target states, Virginia, North Carolina, and Nevada are expected to see the biggest drop-off rates among RAE voters. 48.7% (or roughly 1,106,000 voters) of RAE voters are predicted to drop off in Virginia in 2018, while 44.2% (or roughly 309,000 voters) and 43.4% (or roughly 1,135,000 million voters) of RAE voters will drop off in Nevada and North Carolina, respectively.

The study includes national, regional and state data, and the authors note that “Drop-Off – refers to the loss of voters from 2016 to 2018. The average of turnout in 2006, 2010, and 2014 was applied to 2018 population estimates to calculate 2018 turnout. Percentage drop-off is the difference between 2016 and 2018 turnout as a percentage of 2016 turnout. Number drop-off is that percentage of the 2016 electorate.”

The study underscores the profound disadvantage Democratic candidates face in midterm elections, since the RAE is composed of largely pro-Democratic constituencies. The 2018 vote total could be even worse, if the Republicans are able to expand their voter suppression impact. If, on the other hand, Democrats are able to run really good candidates and mobilize more effective voter registration, education and turnout campaigns, the 2018 results could be significantly better in key states.


Sessions Defines Trumpism, But Russia’s More Important To the Boss

After reading the president’s remarkable interview with the New York Times, I had this to say at New York about one strange revelation:

[T]he president extensively vented his fury at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election, inquiring minds obviously wanted to know if Sessions might be stepping down. Trump had, after all, basically said he regretted his choice of Sessions and would not have made it had he known what he knows now.

But today Sessions briefly and mildly responded to questions about Trump’s comments by saying he planned to stay on in the Justice Department “as long as that appropriate,” as the Times reported.

Trump has complained about Sessions’s recusal before, though in the past his anger has been expressed behind the scenes and via intermediaries. But more generally, this is also not the first time the president has accused subordinates of fireable offenses without trying to fire them, as my colleague Olivia Nuzzi has pointed out:

“Although Trump once tried and failed to trademark the words, ‘You’re fired!’ — his catchphrase from The Apprentice — it seems that he doesn’t actually enjoy repealing and replacing the loyalists that surround him. Like so much with the president, it’s shtick designed to make him look tough. ‘At the end of the day, he’s a natural-born salesman and he likes people to like him,’ a…senior administration official said. ‘He’s a conflict-avoider. He hates firing people.'”

So long as Sessions is willing to put up with his boss’s public abuse, his job is probably secure for the time being. That is particularly true because Trump’s post-Sessions options at Justice are not good, and a Senate confirmation hearing for a subsequent nominee might not go very well.

But Sessions’s feelings aside, the optics of Trump’s tirades against the attorney general are terrible. He owes an awful lot to Jeff Sessions, his earliest real supporter on Capitol Hill. They have no significant policy disagreements that we know of. If there is such a thing as “Trumpism,” Sessions is its chief acolyte.

For Trump to ignore all that and repeatedly trash-talk his attorney general because of his prudent recusal over the Russia investigation is a pretty clear indication that the president is not just distracted by the probe, but intensely fears it. He can claim all he wants that the whole thing is “fake news” that the failed media or the loser Democrats invented, but his behavior shows otherwise.


Political Strategy Notes

Paige Winfield Cunningham reports at The Daily 202 that “Conservatives are furious – furious – that Senate Republicans got close to repealing big parts of Obamacare and are now on the verge of walking away from the effort altogether, possibly leaving President Obama’s health-care law on the books for the foreseeable future…Now, nothing is turning out as they’d hoped. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intends to hold a vote early next week to start debate on a repeal bill. But unless senators can hash out an agreement on how to treat Medicaid spending — as they tried to do in a meeting last night in Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-Wyo.) office — it will likely fail…” Cunningham reports that groups like Freedomworks, Tea Party Patriots and Club for Growth are so angered that they have initiated ‘shaming’ campaigns to punish conservatives who announced against the GOP ‘repeal and replace’ bills.

In his syndicated Washington Post column, “Why Obamacare won and Trump lost,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health-care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously…They had seven years after the law was passed and could not come up with a more palatable blueprint.” However, adds Dionne, “Supporters of the 2010 law cannot rest easy…On Wednesday, the president demanded that the Senate keep at the work of repeal, and, in any event, Congress could undermine the act through sharp Medicaid cuts in the budget process and other measures. And Trump, placing his own self-esteem and political standing over the health and security of millions of Americans, has threatened to wreck the system.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore explores three interim health care reforms, which could possibly leverage bipartisan support to help bridge the transition from Obamacare to a single payer or public option health care system: 1. Stabilizing individual insurance markets; 2. Keeping the maximum number of younger and healthier people in insurance risk pools; and 3. Broader nonideological reforms of the health-care system., including more flexibility at the state level for administering Medicaid and allowing people nearing retirement age to buy into Medicare coverage.

A stray, but hopeful thought, tickled by a friend’s Facebook observation: As health insurers realize how fast the public is warming to Medicare-for-all/single payer/public option, the insurance companies will fight harder for Obamacare. “We’re not seeing any evidence of a death spiral or a market collapse,” said Cynthia Cox, Kaiser’s associate director of health reform and private insurance (quoted in Paul Demko’s “Despite doomsday rhetoric, Obamacare markets are stabilizing” at Politico on July 17th). “Rather, what it looks like is insurers are on track to have their best year since the [Affordable Care Act] began.”

Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority” has a New York Times op-ed, “The Democratic Party’s Billion-Dollar Mistake.” Among his observations:  “In the 2016 election, the Democratic Party committees that support Senate and House candidates and allied progressive organizations spent more than $1.8 billion. The effectiveness of that staggering amount of money, however, was undermined by a strategic error: prioritizing the pursuit of wavering whites over investing in and inspiring African-American voters, who made up 24 percent of Barack Obama’s winning coalition in 2012..”

At The Fix, Aaron Blake sees trouble ahead for Democrats in the new WaPo/ABC News poll, which “presents a pretty mixed bag for Democrats. It shows that registered voters say they want Democrats to control Congress to be a check on Trump by a 52-38 percent margin, but it also shows Democrats are — rather remarkably — less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans are. While 65 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning adults say they are “almost certain to vote,” just 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults say the same.”

Brendan Nyhan notes at The Upshot: “A new working paper by the Emory University political scientists B. Pablo Montagnes, Zachary Peskowitz and Joshua McCrain argues that people who identify as Republican may stop doing so if they disapprove of Trump, creating a false stability in his partisan approval numbers even as the absolute number of people approving him shrinks. Gallup data supports this idea, showing a four-percentage-point decline in G.O.P. identification since the 2016 election that is mirrored in other polling, though to a lesser extent…When the Emory political scientists use the Gallup data to account for Republicans who have stopped identifying with the party since the election, they find that partisan support for Trump could be substantially lower than it appears.”

For a little heavier lifting, check out Gabriel Winant’s “The New Working Class” at Dissent, which includes this take on the potential for working-class solidarity: “To imagine that we should look for “class” and see hard-hats mistakes a particular historical manifestation—the industrial working class—for a general category whose ranks are always changing. But while the idea of a new working class is not yet widely accepted, its distinguishing features are, on their own terms, familiar. We can reduce them down roughly to feminization, racial diversification, and increasing precarity: care work, immigrant work, low-wage work, and the gig economy. There’s also a host of interlinked forces shaping working-class life from outside the workplace: policing and punishment; housing insecurity; indebtedness; the costs of education; and the difficulties of caring for the young, the disabled, the sick, the addicted, and the old. A set of shared experiences coheres here, and a potential set of shared enemies: landlord, lender, bill collector, manager, cop. Racialized and gendered unevenness in exposure to these forces is real, but that portion of experience that is shared appears, quite clearly, to be growing year by year at the intensifying intersection points of race, gender, and class. This, the growing stock of common experience, is the process called “class formation.””

Trump as Buchanan 2.0: “The “miracle” of the mogul’s campaign, apart from his cunning success in manipulating negative media coverage to his advantage, was capturing the entirety of the Romney vote, without any of the major defections (college-educated Republican women, conservative Latinos, Catholics) that the polls had predicted and Clinton had counted upon. As in an Agatha Christie mystery, Trump eliminated his dazed primary opponents one after another with murderous innuendo while hammering away on his master themes of elite corruption, treasonous trade agreements (“greatest job theft in the history of the world”), terrorist immigrants, and declining white economic opportunity. With the support of Breitbart and the alt-right, he essentially ran in Patrick Buchanan’s old shoes.” – From Mike Davis’s “The Great God Trump and the White Working Class” at The Jacobin.


ABC/WaPo Poll: Dems in Good Position for 2018

Yes, it’s still early, but a new ABC/Washington Post Poll shows Democrats with an impressive lead among potential midterm voters. As Sofi Sinozich writes at abcnews.com:

There is a Democratic preference: Among all adults, 53 percent say they’d prefer to see the Democrats take control of Congress “to act as a check on Trump,” vs. 35 percent who’d like to see the GOP retain control “to support Trump’s agenda.” That said, among registered voters, it’s a 52-38 percent split, and among likely voters, 50-41 percent — the Democratic margin drawing in from 18 to 14 to 9 points as voting likelihood increases.

Drilling deeper, Sinozich adds:

In the question on control of Congress, registered partisans nearly unanimously back their respective parties, leaving the result driven by independents: Half prefer Democratic control of Congress, 36 percent, Republican.

Among white registered voters, men without college degrees, some of Trump’s strongest backers in the 2016 election, prefer Republican control, 60 vs. 34 percent. By contrast, among white women with college degrees it’s the opposite — 59 vs. 35 percent for Democratic control.

Democratic control wins only a slight edge among returning voters, 49 vs. 41 percent, while potential new voters prefer it by 2-1, 64 vs. 30 percent. That reflects the fact that new potential voters are younger and more likely to be nonwhite, two groups that consistently lean Democratic. And it underscores the Democratic Party’s need to boost turnout in these groups.

Sinozich’s report emphasizes that “Despite Trump’s historically low approval rating, opposition to him is not producing appreciably more 2018 voting intention than is support for him” and she notes that “51 percent of registered voters say Trump won’t be a factor in their vote for Congress. The rest split closely between saying they’d vote to support Trump (20 percent) or to oppose him (24 percent), a non-significant gap.” Other poll analysts have noted a long-standing relationship between the midterm performance of political parties and the President’s approval ratings.

In any case, the Democratic Party is not going to hang all of its 2018 midterm elections hopes on Trump’s sinking popularity, despite the media’s narrow construct of Democratic strategy as a choice between focusing on Trump or local issues. Very few Democratic candidates are counting on Trump’s approval ratings to get elected. While Trump is undoubtedly doing some damage to the Republican “brand” among swing voters, the more interesting question at this juncture is how much damage McConnell and Ryan are doing to the GOP’s image with their ‘repeal and replace” follies. All of this may matter less in November, 2018 than the voting public’s perception of economic realities.


Martinez: Virginia Can Light Path to Victory for Dems

Leopoldo MartínezBoard Chair for Latino Victory Project, limns a victory strategy in his HuffPo article “Organizing a Democratic Comeback” at HuffPo — beginning with the Virginia Governorship:

Trump did not win the national popular vote. Further, his margins of victory were dismal in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — less than 0.5%. We know that this was merely due to thousands of registered democrats in those states not showing up to the polls or them being diverted to protest for Johnson or Stein. It is also clear that voter turnout in red states, like Arizona or Texas, was worse for Trump than for the past two Republican presidential candidates. And yes, we now know that according to America’s intelligence community, the Russian government did meddle in the 2016 Presidential election. For these reasons, and Trump’s poor presidential performance thus far, we must maintain our fight for “resistance,” and continue to “re-litigate,” with much help from the media, the 2016 election.

 …Does it make sense to brand “impeachment” and “resistance” the center of the political strategy to regain power? I see the merits of “resistance tactics” to prevent the extreme, such as the possibility of passing Trumpcare 3.0. I do agree that Congress should make Trump accountable for his affair with the wealthiest in America. However, for an impeachment to occur, Democrats need to be in the majority in Congress. Resistance alone, or the prospects of impeachment, are banking on the actions by others, namely Republicans.
Democrats need to convert the popular vote majority we uphold, into seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Furthermore, Democrats need to gain control of the state assemblies where the two biggest threats to democracy are emerging due to voter suppression and gerrymandering. Alternatively, we need to elect a governor who will veto every piece of legislation that could reverse our civil rights, like Governor Terry McAuliffe has done approximately 111 times in Virginia.
It is well over time to move from resistance to action, from being in the defensive to rolling out an offensive. We must communicate how the lives of working Americans, the middle class, and those most vulnerable matter. And, we must move beyond traditional partisan politics and coalitions, and activate independents whose aspirations would be better served with the ideas, laws and policies of Democrats. Also, we need to go local the message, issues and policies. We need to listen and develop progressive common sense responses that can be carried by local and state governments, we also need to find common ground with those who have good ideas to solve those problems.

This strategy will move our country forward and better the chances of electing Ralph Northam for Governor of the state of Virginia. Building a majority in the state legislature would not only stop the bigotry reigning in the DC-VA corridor, it will signal a path to reclaim a Senate majority in 2018.

We cannot win, of course, by negatively campaigning against Trump or making Russia and a potential impeachment the central theme in our narrative…The message in this Virginia governor’s race should be about hope and what the people need, preserving the economic and social progress we have made under President Obama, and fixing what needs fixing with specific proposals to mobilize the majority of the people.

“Let’s make Virginia the case to replicate nation-wide in 2018 and 2020,” Martinez concludes. “Building a majority, empowering and mobilizing a broad coalition, and public engagement with a positive policy message is the winning strategy. This will not only benefit the Democratic Party, but it will bring progress for our nation to move forward.”