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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Clinton in Reno

A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Clinton: Trump campaign built on ‘prejudice and paranoia’

Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Hillary Speaks in Reno About Trump’s Predjudice

Trump’s lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough. But what he’s doing here is more sinister. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters. It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of President he’d be.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Alternative Right

The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alternative Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Don’t Be Fooled

No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves “racialists.” White supremacists now call themselves “white nationalists.” The paranoid fringe now calls itself “alt-right.” But the hate burns just as bright. And now Trump is trying to rebrand himself as well. Don’t be fooled.

The Daily Strategist

August 31, 2016

Trump’s “Outreach to African-Americans” a Disaster

Before lurching off into a reformulation of his immigration policy and then jetting down to Mexico, Donald Trump had been focusing on an alleged outreach to African-Americans. It’s been a disaster, and I explained some of the reasons why at New York earlier this week.

There are a couple of reasons Trump’s “outreach” could be not only failing but backfiring. For one thing, he is rather conspicuously conducting it via nearly all-white campaign appearances in nearly all-white communities. Yes, he’s going to Detroit next weekend to attend services at a black church. But he’s not risking an actual speech to the congregants there; he will instead do a one-on-one interview with the church’s televangelist minister.

But just as damaging as the medium is Trump’s message itself. Its heart is familiar to those accustomed to conservative agitprop on race: Black folks are dupes for a Democratic Party that has enslaved them on a “plantation” where they give up their freedom and any chance at dignity or equality in exchange for the idle life of welfare beneficiaries. According to this revisionist theory, the modern welfare state is just a continuation of slavery and Jim Crow, with the Democratic Party serving as the continuous oppressor from antebellum days until now, and Republicans offering a continuous option of liberation via self-sufficiency and capitalism.

As Jamelle Bouie observes, the “plantation” theory may be comforting to Republicans who want to deny their party’s incorporation of white racists from 1964 on, but it’s deeply and inherently insulting to African-Americans:

“Beyond incoherent, the ideas underlying Trump’s narrative are racist, full stop. If ‘plantation’ theory is true, then black voters are the mindless drones of American politics. Nefarious Democrats gave them a taste of government, and they never abandoned the hand that fed them. White voters, by contrast, are active citizens—noble republicans in the best tradition of the founders. It’s ironic: For as much as they disdain Democrats as the real racists, it’s the proponents of plantation theory who echo the arguments and propaganda of the pro-Southern, anti-emancipation Democrats of the Civil War era. ‘The Freedman’s Bureau!’ sang one poster from the 1866 Pennsylvania gubernatorial election, advocating on behalf of Hiester Clymer and his white-supremacist platform. ‘An agency to keep the Negro in idleness at the expense of the white man.'”

To put it another way, it’s probably not a coincidence that Trump’s view of black people as lazy freedom-despising dependents living in a hellish prison built of their own pathologies happens to coincide with that of white racists everywhere, past and present. Black people do tend to notice that.

And then, of course, there is this question of the political leader who, according to the “plantation” theory, is the chief straw boss for the Man, the great betrayer of African-Americans: Barack Obama. Bouie puts it well:

“Tens of millions of black Americans hold the president and his family in high esteem as exemplars of the black community. For them, he deserves respect regardless of your politics. And if there’s anything that defines the GOP in the present age for black voters, it’s the outsized disrespect for Obama, from South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s ‘you lie’ to the birther crusade pursued so vigorously by Trump and others. Black Americans see this, and they remember.”

Observers who are mystified by Trump’s low standing among African-Americans do not seem to grasp the deeply racist subtext of birtherism: that the first African-American president must by definition be an “alien” and the product of a white-hating, “anti-colonialist” point of view, injected into the mainstream of U.S. politics by subterfuge. That first impression of Trump as a political figure was searing and enduring for voters who are intensely proud of Obama and what he represents.

So the failure of Trump’s “African-American outreach” so far is not very surprising; when you talk smack about people to their suspected despisers (conservative white voters) and then aggressively peddle a theory that reduces them to an easily duped collection of scary predators and helpless dependents, they do not respond well. The transparent nature of the whole exercise may even be apparent to its actual target: white voters who are made uneasy by the white identity politics Trump has so notably championed.

It’s unclear Trump’s support among African-Americans could have gotten much weaker. But ending his “outreach” to them is probably the best way to avoid finding out for sure.


How Dems Could Retake the House

Until recently, most experienced political observers agreed that Democrats winning back a majority in the House of Representatives on November 8th would be a long shot, even considering Trump’s abysmal poll numbers. At Vox, however, political reporter Jeff Stein reports that some commentators now see a path that could give Dems majority control:

Geoffrey Skelley, who closely tracks congressional races at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, suggests there’s a crude shorthand for evaluating the battle for the House: Look to see if Clinton can beat Trump by 6 points or more in the presidential race. If that happens, Skelley projects 50 seats would be in play.

..By most projections, Democrats look more likely to get closer to 15 or 20 seats, not the 30 they’d need. Many states have gerrymandered safe Republican seats that would require an extraordinary landslide to do the trick. In 2012, for instance, Democratic House candidates won 1.7 million more votes than their Republican foes — and still ended up with 33 fewer members of the House. This is why even many Democrats believe taking the House is unlikely.

But unlikely doesn’t mean impossible. Here’s the math behind how Democrats’ long-shot dream might just become a reality.

Get a district to vote for your party’s presidential nominee and your party will also probably win its House seat.

That’s not an ironclad rule, but it’s a pretty good indicator — in 2012, only 6 percent of districts that voted for Barack Obama voted a Republican into the House.

This is the key to understanding why Skelley thinks a 6-point Clinton win could put the House in play. That kind of national victory would likely mean 50 House districts currently controlled by Republicans would vote for Clinton — therefore suggesting they have a good shot of also going blue at the House level.

Of course, a Clinton win in these 50 districts wouldn’t guarantee House Democrats will pick up all of those seats. (Many are held by powerful or longstanding Republican incumbents who are well-funded and enjoy good reputations at home.) But it does mean that Democrats could lose 40 percent of the House races in districts won by Clinton and still take back control of the House.

And here’s the interesting thing: The polling suggests this is not only a possibility but exactly what’s projected to happen. Averages of all the major polling firms compiled by both RealClearPolitics and the Huffington Post currently put Clinton’s lead right around the 6-point mark.

Stein argues that a 4-point Clinton victory probably wouldn’t do it. That would replicate Obama’s last margin of victory, which only netted 28 seats, two short of what Dems would need to reclaim the Speaker’s gavel this year. A 5-point margin favoring Clinton might do it, according to Skelley’s calculations, but a 6-point lead should give Dems realistic reason to hope for a House majority.

Stein also cites Sam Wang’s calculation that, with just two exceptions since 1946, Democrats have always won back the House when they’ve won the “two-party vote” (voting that excludes third parties). “If the election were held today,” says Wang, “House Democratic candidates would win the popular vote by 5 to 8 percent..Judging from the last few cycles, that level of public opinion appears to be right on the edge of being enough to give Democrats control of the House.”

Before Dems get too optimistic, Stein notes that the Cook Political Report projects that “the party is only on track to nab an additional 16 seats and argues that only 33 seats are vulnerable at this time. Further, adds Stein, Alan Abramowitz’s calculations indicate Dems have about a 15 percent chance of retaking the House majority.

So we have a fairly wide range of informed opinions based on data among some of the smartest political observers about the possibilities for winning back a Democratic majority of the House this year. That’s a lot better than what we were looking at a year ago.


Russian ‘Leaks’ and Election Hacks Appear Designed to Help Trump

If half of the warnings in Dana Milbank’s WaPo column “A Putin-sponsored October surprise?” pan out,  the closing weeks of the 2016 election could make the ‘Brook Brothers Riot,’ hanging chads and  voter suppression scams of the 2000 election seem like a day at the beach.

The really scary thing is, Milbank’s warnings seem plausible, considering what we know of Putin’s character, track record and priorities. Milbank elaborates:

We learned earlier this summer that cyber-hackers widely believed to be tied to the Kremlin have broken into the email of the Democratic National Committee and others. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima reported Monday night that Russian hackers have also been targeting state voter-registration systems. And, in an apparent effort to boost Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, they’re leaking what they believe to be the most damaging documents at strategic points in the campaign.

Last week, we learned something else: The Russians aren’t just hackers — they’re also hacks. Turns out that before leaking their stolen information, they are in some cases doctoring the documents, making edits that add false information and then passing the documents off as the originals.

Yes, that’s right. Forgeries crafted to obliterate the integrity of U.S. elections and create an outcome that serves Putin’s agenda, specifically the election of Donald Trump. Milbank continues:

Foreign Policy’s Elias Groll reported last week that the hackers goofed: They posted both the original versions of at least three documents and their edited versions. These documents, stolen from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, were altered by the hackers to create the false impression that Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was funded by Soros. A pro-Russian hacking group, CyberBerkut, had inserted Navalny’s name, bogus dollar amounts and fabricated wording.

This raises an intriguing possibility: Are Vladimir Putin’s operatives planning to dump edited DNC documents on the eve of the presidential election?

At this point, maybe the smart answer is another question: Why wouldn’t they? If they can hack the Soros Foundation, perhaps they wouldn’t have too much trouble hacking into the offices of Secretaries of State, particularly “red” states where Republicans run election day operations.

And what sort of b.s. memes might the Russians try to implant? Milbank offers a few possibilities, including “Perhaps they’ll show that the Clinton Foundation has been funding the Islamic State, or they’ll have Hillary Clinton admitting that she didn’t care about those Americans who died in Benghazi after all.”

If this sounds a little too ‘out there,’ consider Milbnk’s reminder that “Russian “dezinformatsiya” campaigns such as this go back to the Cold War; the Soviet portrayal of AIDS as a CIA plot was a classic case.” Milbank conceders that “this type of cyberwar — email hacking and, now, the altering and release of the stolen documents — is a novel escalation.” Further, adds Milbank:

…On Sunday, Neil MacFarquhar wrote in the New York Times about Russian attempts to undermine a Swedish military partnership with NATO. The campaign is spreading false information that there’s a secret nuclear weapons stockpile in Sweden and alleging that NATO soldiers could rape Swedish women with impunity. This Russian use of “weaponized information” helped cause confusion in Ukraine in 2014, when conspiracy theories spread by the Russians about the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet helped Russians justify their invasion of Crimea.

…Putin has meddled in domestic politics in France, the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere, helping extreme political parties to destabilize those countries. He appears to be doing much the same now in the United States, where, in addition to the DNC and state voter system hacks, there have also been reports this summer about Russia hiring Internet trolls to pose on Twitter and elsewhere in social media as pro-Trump Americans.

Could Putin make Trump his puppet? Trump is still hiding his taxes from public scrutiny, but it appears that they have some economic interests in common. As Milbank observes, “Trump and Putin have expressed their mutual admiration, and even after the departure of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump and several top advisers have close ties to Moscow.” It’s even been reported that Trump’s daughter is hanging out with Putin’s wheeler-dealer girlfriend.

“The hyper-competitive American media environment,” concludes Milbank, “is vulnerable to the sort of technique the Russian hackers used in the Soros case — stealing documents, altering them, then releasing them as the original.” Given all of the above, the biggest surprise would be if Putin decides not to meddle in our presidential election to help elect Trump.

It may seem counter-intuitive that Putin would prefer Trump to Clinton, since Democrats are far more of a pro-worker party than Republicans. Russia as a whole has prospered in recent years under Putin, but is now mired in a deep recession. The World Bank projects Russia’s poverty rate to increase to over 14 percent this year. Never much of a socialist, Putin has not been an enthusiastic champion of Russia’s workers. He has put his KGB cronies on industrial boards, not workers, and he has restricted human rights in general.

The labor movement is still weak in Russia, but there have been wildcat strikes and protests in recent years. Putin has been able to deflect much worker discontent with nationalist distractions, like the invasion of Crimea. It’s not hard to see why he would like Trump better than Clinton, with whom Putin clashed during her tenure as Secretary of State. Don’t be surprised if Russian-doctored emails and other forged documents designed to discredit Clinton suddenly appear in the weeks ahead.


Political Strategy Notes

The Washington Post editorial “Republicans can’t pretend not to know what fuels the Trump campaign” offers some salient observations about Clinton’s speech to a community college in Reno, NV calling out the “alt-right,” especially: “In a major speech Thursday, Hillary Clinton linked Donald Trump to bigoted elements on the fringe of American politics. But she got it wrong when she said, “Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters.”…It’s not a “dog whistle” if everyone can hear the bigotry.” The only ‘pivot’ emerging in the Trump campaign is a stronger tilt toward neo-fascism.

Regarding the buzz about the pros and cons of  Clinton’s “alt-right” speech, my take is that it had to be done — at  least the part calling out the Trump campaign for advocating unprecedented bigotry for a major political party (the second video here defines ‘alt-right’). Once was OK for Clinton, but I think it’s a mistake keep on using the ‘alt-right’ term, which suggests something shiny and new, instead of the same old bullying racism, sexism, religious bigotry, homophobia that was more recently attributed to the tea party. What’s new is that they have taken over the GOP, and perhaps the escalated intensity with which they sneer at Republican conservatives who still believe in civility. Remember, the ‘tea party’ term got a long ride – a few years – before it was rendered counter-productive to their cause. This election is 9 weeks away. The media will continue to use ‘alt-right’ as their new rhetorical toy, but Dems need not help bigotry get all gussied up in fancy new clothes. Somewhere Frank Luntz is smiling, but George Lakoff is not.

At The Fix David Weigel explains, contrary to a recent New York Times article by Jennifer Steinhauer, that Democrats are in pretty good shape in terms of this year’s U.S. Senate races. Weigel notes, “Had the party failed at recruiting, it might be leaving races uncontested. It didn’t. There’s a credible Democratic candidate in every presidential swing state. The party is staring at a brutal 2018 midterm map, and it has no short-term solution to the gerrymandering-enabled wipeout of its suburban legislative bench. This year, remarkably, they’ve held off the crisis.” Check out all of the Democratic Senate candidates right here.

From Jessica Wehrman’s Dayton Daily News post “GOP worried Trump could bring down others on ballot: Since 1948, Ohio has split the president, Senate votes just three times“: “In 1984, for example, roughly half of the states holding U.S. Senate races chose a Senate candidate from one party and a president from another…But by 2012, only one in five states holding Senate races split tickets, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College…The last time Ohio voters backed a Senate candidate from one party and a presidential candidate from another was 1988, when Democrat Howard Metzenbaum won the Senate race while George H.W. Bush took Ohio on his romp to the presidency.” However, adds Wehrman, “As of June 30, the last reporting period, Portman had $13.2 million to Strickland’s $3.7 million. Portman has been airing ads since June, while Strickland began airing his first TV ad in August.” To help level the campaign finances playing field, check out Ted Strickland’s ActBlue contributions page.

Television still rules in terms of political ad revenues, but the picture looks a little different in terms of influence on voters. “Facebook, in the years leading up to this election, hasn’t just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way. According to the company, its site is used by more than 200 million people in the United States each month, out of a total population of 320 million. A 2016 Pew study found that 44 percent of Americans read or watch news on Facebook. These are approximate exterior dimensions and can tell us only so much. But we can know, based on these facts alone, that Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America.,” notes John Herrman’s New York Times Magazine article, “Inside Facebook’s(Totally Insane,Unintentionally Gigantic,Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine: How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds,”

Andy Schmookler, a former Democratic candidate for congress (VA-6) in 2012, has an interesting column, “Should Democrats use Trump as wedge or millstone against Republicans?” in the Augusta Free Press. Schmookler urges both, but with a strategic distinction: “Let the Democratic candidates for President and Vice-President use Trump as a wedge, differentiating Trump from the Republican Party whose face he’s become. And let other Democrats use him as a millstone, to sink the Republican Party in its current form. And perhaps together, these two approaches can loosen the stranglehold that today’s Republican Party has had over America’s ability to make progress as a nation.”

With respect to the Clinton campaign’s ‘wedge strategy,’ Rick Perlstein raises some perceptive concerns at The Washington Spectator about overdoing it, particularly if it throws Paul Ryan a life raft — instead of an anvil.

At The Hill, Niall Stanage discusses another strategic dilemma facing the Clinton campaign: how much to emphasize Trump’s flip-flopping on immigration, vs. focusing more strongly on his lack of qualifications and gravitas. Stanage quotes Joe Trippi, who was the campaign manager of Howard Dean’s 2004 bid for the White House: “Sixty percent of the population thinks he is not fit to be president…I would reinforce that and not do anything to take people off it. If the race is about who is fit to be president, Donald Trump is not likely to win.” Stanage reinforces Trippi’s argument: “In a Bloomberg poll released earlier this month, only 38 percent of likely voters said that Trump was ready to lead the nation “on day one in office.” Clinton’s rating on the same question was almost 20 points better, at 56 percent…A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found 66 percent of likely voters saying that, whether they planned to vote for her or not, Clinton was “qualified” to be president. Only 40 percent said the same about Trump.”

This should be the front-runner for “most unwanted endorsement of 2016.”


Creamer: How Trump Helps ISIS, Threatens Our National Security and Betrays American Values

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

I recently returned from an international seminar where one of the scholars argued a point that is very important for every American to hear before November 8th.

He said that democracies come in many different forms with various structures and systems. But authoritarian regimes all have four characteristics in common:

  • Grievance-Driven Nationalism.
  • The narrative that the majority of people have been victimized by enemies – foreign and domestic.
  • The legitimation of conspiratorial thinking.
  • The argument that only the one strong man can come to the people’s rescue.

These things are true whether they describe the authoritarian regimes of history like Mussolini and Stalin, or those of the current period, like Kim Jong-un in North Korea, or Putin in Russia – both of which Donald Trump apparently admires.

And those four characteristics practically define the Trump political message. Trump argues that he will make America “Great Again” — that he will address the legitimate grievances of those whose incomes have stagnated by throwing out the immigrants, the Muslims, the “others” that have made it so — none of which has anything whatsoever to do with the economic pain he alleges to address.

Many Americans have seen what happens when a strong man blames the “other” for a nation’s sense of victimization. It always ends in tragedy, whether for the Jews of Europe or the Tutsis of Rwanda.

Trump has no compunction creating and legitimating conspiracy theories such as his “birther” fantasy that President Obama was born in Kenya and is not the “legitimate” President.

And Trump makes it clear every day that only he can fix the country’s problems — apparently through the force of his own will.

The so-called Alt-Right Movement championed by Brietbart.com, whose CEO is now directing the Trump campaign, is the face of right-wing authoritarian nationalism in the United States.


Democrats Are on the Brink of a Historic Presidential Winning Streak

As the two major political parties struggle once again for the presidency, it’s being largely missed that Democrats are likely about to break a record of presidential election success that dates all the way back to 1828. I discussed this development and its significance at New York:

When you think of the great political coalitions of the past that were dominant for long stretches of time, you’d probably include the Democratic “New Deal” coalition, the Republican “Gilded Age” majority, and maybe the antebellum Democratic and post–Civil War Republican winning streaks. More recently, you might consider the Republican-dominated period from Nixon to Poppy Bush with its suggestion of a GOP “electoral college lock” pretty notable.

But as Ron Brownstein notes today, the contemporary Democratic Party is on the brink of exceeding them all by one key measurement. If Hillary Clinton wins this year, the Donkey Party will have won the popular vote in six of the past seven presidential elections.

There are some qualifications that must be attached to this accomplishment, of course. Most obvious, the Democratic popular-vote victory in 2000 did not lead to a Gore administration; Democrats suffered the same fate after winning the popular vote in 1876 and 1888. In three of the five most recent victories, the Democratic candidate did not win more than 50 percent of the popular vote (and the odds are pretty good that even with a comfortable decision Hillary Clinton will be a plurality winner as well). And most significant, Democratic success at the presidential level has not been accompanied by consistently strong performances down ballot, especially in midterms, where Republican landslides during Democratic presidencies (1994, 2010, 2014) are becoming pretty common.

Still, something is going on that makes the presidential-popular-vote winning streak possible, particularly when you add in the Democratic near-miss in 2004 and contrast this era with the 1980s and its three straight Republican wins by large margins. Brownstein points to a common feature of all dominant presidential coalitions: the close alignment of a party with “growing groups in the electorate.” For today’s Democrats, that means “minorities, Millennials, and whites who are college-educated, secular, or single (especially women).”

Today’s Republicans, of course, by nominating Donald Trump, have gambled everything on winning a supersize and super-energized share of the declining groups in the electorate: white folks, old folks, non-college-educated folks, self-consciously religious folks, and married folks (especially men). If that strategy fails, as appears likely at the moment, then the GOP will have the dual problem of a continuing and intensified misalignment with prevailing demographic trends, and a disappointed and angry old-white-male “base” that may be even more radicalized by the election of the first woman president following the first African-American president. It’s not a scenario that will lend itself to a quick recovery, which means the Democratic winning streak could grow even longer.

Or so Democrats hope. Karl Rove had similar visions of a permanent Republican majority in the early 2000s, but objective reality rudely interfered. That can always happen.


Political Strategy Notes

Here we have an excellent example of the self-defeating myopia of single-issue politics. If one of these GOP Senators wins, and his victory denies the Democrats a Senate majority, not only would President Clinton’s ability to enact significant gun safety legislation be destroyed, but her ability to get a strong gun safety advocate confirmed to the Supreme Court would also be badly compromised.

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz reports on the findings of the Generic Ballot Forecasting Model, including: “…In order for Democrats to gain the minimum of four seats they need to regain control of the Senate (if there is a Democratic vice president to break a 50-50 tie), they probably would need a lead of at least two or three points on the generic ballot and to gain the minimum of 30 seats they need to regain control of the House, they probably would need a lead of at least 13 points on the generic ballot…According to HuffPost Pollster, results of recent national polls give Democrats an average lead of five points on the generic ballot. If that lead were to hold up until the week after Labor Day, the traditional cutoff date for the generic ballot forecast, Democrats would be expected to gain about 16 seats in the House and about four seats in the Senate — not enough to flip control of the House but enough to flip control of the Senate if Clinton wins the presidential election.”

Crystal Ball also spotlights another model, which is more more favorable to Democrats, “The Seats-in-Trouble House and Senate Election Forecasts” by James E. Campbell, which finds that “Based on seven House Democratic seats being rated as only leaning to the Democrats, toss-ups, or tipped toward going to the Republicans, and 33 House Republican seats being rated as only leaning to the Republicans, toss-ups, or tipped toward going to the Democrats — a net of 26 more Republican than Democratic seats-in-trouble — the model predicts that Democrats will gain 32 House seats in November. This would bring the number of House Democrats up to 220 members, two seats more than required for a bare majority. The forecast was made on Aug. 18, 2016…Based on one Senate Democratic seat being rated as a toss-up or tipped toward the Republicans and eight Senate Republican seats being rated as toss-ups or tipped toward the Democrats — a net of seven more Republican than Democratic seats-in-trouble — the model predicts that Democrats will gain seven Senate seats. This would bring the number of Senate Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with Democrats) up to 53 seats, a majority. The forecast was made on Aug. 19, 2016.”

Too often tragedies like the mass poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water supply fade from the headlines after a short burst of public outrage, with few corrective measures in place, thanks to obstruction by Republicans. The crisis in Flint is symptomatic of other disasters in waiting as result of decades of Republican infrastructure neglect all across America, and there is a disturbing pattern of law enforcement making examples of mid-level officials bureaucrats and letting it go at that, while the more culpable CEO’s and top administrators who threw public safety under the bus are let off. Chase Madar’s NYT op-ed, “The Real Crime Is What’s Not Done” explores the political ramifications of infrastructure neglect, noting “A well-enforced regulatory regime lacks the TV-movie narrative arc of a criminal trial. But none of these crimes could have been committed if the government had been doing its job properly.” What Democrats must do is make it clear that it is the Republicans who are putting public safety at risk with obstruction and neglect across the nation.

Steve Bousquet of the Miami Herald reports that “Republicans and their allies in the state Capitol are flexing muscle in at least three hotly contested Democratic primary races in a covert attempt to define the makeup of the Florida Senate for years to come…In Tampa Bay’s most hard-fought Senate primary where black Democrats could be decisive, a new mailer in support of Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, makes it appear he has the support of President Barack Obama (he doesn’t). The mailer was paid for a committee backed by Republican interests…In Palm Beach County, the same group, operating under the nebulous name Floridians for a Better Florida, is helping Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, with mailers attacking his rival, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.” It would be good if there were more examples of Democrats successfully deploying such a strategy, as did Sen. Clarie McCaskill in her U.S. Senate re-election bid in 2012.

Democrats now know exactly which House seats the GOP is prioritizing to protect or flip, as a result of the GOP Super-PAC, The Congressional Leadership Fund’s (CLF) decision to allocate their $10 million investment, reports Ted Barrett at CNN Politics. “The Congressional Leadership Fund’s spending on TV and digital advertising — as well as get-out-the-vote efforts — is aimed at 12 of the most competitive seats this fall that could determine if Democrats can make up the 30-seat deficit they face now and reclaim the majority after six years out of power.” The targeted congressional seats are in south FL, CA, NB, IA, WI, NY and TX. The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation reported that CLF had a 58.05% return on investment in 2012. The CLF’s largest donor in 2012 was Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5 million. Other major donors included Chevron.

Ben Rosen notes at The Monitor, “Larry Grisolano, who oversaw paid advertising efforts for the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns, predicted in June 2015 that the presidential campaigns will devote nearly a quarter of their spending to digital media…But Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, says online advertising is only effective in raising money or increasing voter turnout, not persuading voters to choose one candidate over another…“Television is the most powerful form of persuasion,” he tells the Monitor in a phone interview Wednesday. “The internet is not as effective in changing people’s minds.””

Can Hillary Clinton win a healthty share of the votes of blue collar youth? Rebeccca Nelson probes the possibilities in her TNR article, “The Forgotten Millennials” Nelson observes, “When Clinton talks about millennials, she tends to use the word interchangeably with “college students.” But millennials with university degrees don’t represent their entire generation—just those with the greatest economic and educational advantages. A full 40 percent of young people never made it past high school, according to a recent analysis by CIRCLE, a research center that specializes in youth issues…Politicians tend to ignore working-class millennials for a simple reason: They don’t show up on Election Day. Just 29 percent of blue-collar youth turned out to vote in 2012—about half the rate of those who’d attended college. But in market terms, that political disengagement represents an opportunity for Clinton: CIRCLE estimates there are more than 17 million eligible voters under 35 still waiting to be mobilized—the last big segment of American voters that is genuinely up for grabs….Working-class youth should be Clinton’s for the taking: Fifty-two percent lean Democratic; 34 percent tilt Republican. And because so many are politically disengaged, their leanings are considered “soft,” in campaign parlance: They could be swayed by any candidate with a message that resonates.”

Shameless Gov. Chris ‘Bridgegate’ Christie vetoes a NJ Motor Voter Bill, which “would automatically register voters who are renewing or applying for a driver’s license.” As the Star-Ledger’s editorial “Christie tries to rig the system by vetoing motor-voter bill,” notes “Of all the ways Republicans use voter suppression to influence elections – gerrymandering districts, voter ID laws, purging rolls, shorting voter periods, preventing ex-cons from voting – this is especially odious, because MVC already makes you jump through hoops to prove that you are who you say you are. The only fraud here is the governor’s brand of politics.”


Clinton Could Create Most Progressive SCOTUS Since the Warren Court

It’s not an especially novel observation to note that the future shape of the Supreme Court is at stake in this presidential election. But more specifically, the long-time control of SCOTUS by Republican nominees could be coming to an end, a possibility I examined at New York.

[T]rue domination of the Supreme Court by one party or ideology takes time, and usually consecutive presidencies of the same party. A Clinton presidency following an Obama presidency could do the trick.

That would be a really unusual opportunity for the Donkey Party, which has not had more than eight consecutive years of controlling the White House since Harry Truman left office. Republicans have had vastly better luck in securing SCOTUS nominations. Indeed, because Jimmy Carter did not have a single SCOTUS vacancy to fill, Republican presidents appointed an astonishing ten consecutive justices between 1969 and 1991. The only reason this did not produce a profoundly conservative SCOTUS era is (as any conservative, and especially Christian conservative, will tell you) that multiple Republican-appointed justices turned out to be relatively liberal on certain issues (notably abortion) or liberal altogether (e.g., John Paul Stevens and David Souter).

As Dylan Matthews explains at Vox, a second President Clinton (especially if she won a second term) would have a good shot at creating the first unambiguously liberal Court since 1971, and perhaps a 6-3 liberal majority on SCOTUS in fairly short order. Aside from stopping a conservative trend on the Court in areas ranging from campaign-finance reform to business regulation to labor law, such a development could lead to progressive constitutional landmarks unimagined for decades, such as prohibitions on mass incarceration and establishment of a truly national right to vote without state and local obstruction and harassment.

It is theoretically possible, of course, that Clinton appointments could disappoint liberals the way Nixon and Ford and Reagan appointments have disappointed conservatives. But probably not: The brouhaha over “treacherous” Republican justices has made it vastly more acceptable to vet potential nominees carefully for their past record and their judicial philosophy. There may be some doubt about what Donald Trump will do in the way of shaping the Supreme Court in a coherent manner. But Hillary Clinton’s direction in judicial appointments should be clear enough, and will probably motivate an unprecedented degree of conservative resistance in the Senate and beyond.

If we are lucky, conservative resistance to progressive SCOTUS nominees will be a worst-case scenario for Democrats.


Lakoff: Why Progressives Must Better Understand Trump’s Language

Trying to better understand Donald Trump’s use of language may seem like one of the least agreeable chores a sensible person would want to embrace. As George Lakoff acknowledges at HuffPo in the final installment of his two-part analysis of how to understand Trump (we flagged part one on August 1) :

Responsible reporters in the media normally transcribe political speeches so that they can accurately report them. But Donald Trump’s discourse style has stumped a number of reporters. Dan Libit, CNBC’s excellent analyst is one of them. Libit writes:

His unscripted speaking style, with its spasmodic, self-interrupting sentence structure, has increasingly come to overwhelm the human brains and tape recorders attempting to quote him. Trump is, simply put, a transcriptionist’s worst nightmare: severely unintelligible, and yet, incredibly important to understand.

…Trump’s crimes against clarity are multifarious: He often speaks in long, run-on sentences, with frequent asides. He pauses after subordinate clauses. He frequently quotes people saying things that aren’t actual quotes. And he repeats words and phrases, sometimes with slight variations, in the same sentence…Some commentators have even attributed his language use to “early Alzheimer’s,” citing “erratic behavior” and “little regards for social conventions.” I don’t believe it..

As unappeling as studying Trump’s communication may be, it is pretty important to do so. As Lakoff puts it, “the very fate of the nation, indeed human civilization, appears destined to come down to one man’s application of the English language — and the public’s comprehension of it.” Lakoff cautions, however, that ridiculing Trump’s language and dismissing it as unworthy of analysis may be a mistake:

…I have found that he is very careful and very strategic in his use of language. The only way I know to show this is to function as a linguist and cognitive scientist and go through details.

Let’s start with sentence fragments. It is common and natural in New York discourse for friends to finish one another’s sentences. And throughout the country, if you don’t actually say the rest of a friend’s sentence out loud, there is nevertheless a point at which you can finish it in your head. When this happens in cooperative discourse, it can show empathy and intimacy with a friend, that you know the context of the narrative…

Trump often starts a sentence and leaves off where his followers can finish in their minds what he has started to say. That is, they commonly feel empathy and intimacy, an acceptance of what is being said, and good feeling toward the speaker. This is an unconscious, automatic reaction, especially when words are flying by quickly. It is a means for Trump to connect with his audience.

With respect to the way Trump addresses his adversary’s attitude toward the Second Amendment, for example,  Lakoff notes, “his words are carefully chosen. They go by quickly when people hear them. But they are processed unconsciously first by neural circuitry — and neurons operate on a thousandth-of-a-second time scale…Trump begins by saying, “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment.” He first just says “abolish,” and then hedges by adding “essentially abolish.” But having said “abolish” twice, he has gotten across the message that she wants to, and is able to, change the Constitution in that way.”

Never mind the “well-regulated militia” part of the second amendment. Trump, like all Republicans and NRA minions, ignores it. “The Second Amendment has been reinterpreted by contemporary ultra-conservatives as the right of individual citizens to bear contemporary arms (e.g., AK-47’s),” adds Lakoff.  “The term “Second Amendment” activates the contemporary usage by ultra-conservatives. It is a dog-whistle term, understood in that way by many conservatives.”

Lakoff quotes Trump, who explains, “By the way, and if she gets to pick [loud boos] — if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Lakoff breaks it down:

“By the way,” marks a parallel utterance, one that does not linearly follow from what was just said, but that has information relevant to what was just said.

“And” here marks information that follows from what was just said.

“If she gets to pick …” When said the first time, it was followed immediately by loud boos. The audience could finish the if-clause for themselves, since the word “pick” in context could only be about Hillary picking liberal judges. Trump goes on making this explicit, “if she gets to pick her judges…”

“Gets to” is important. The metaphor here with “to” is that Achieving a Purpose Is Reaching a Destination” with the object of “to” marking the pick. The “get” in “get to” is from a related metaphor, namely, that Achieving a Purpose Is Getting a Desired Object. In both Purpose metaphors, the Achievement of the Purpose can be stopped by an opponent. The “if,” indicates that the achievement of the purpose is still uncertain, which raises the question of whether it can be stopped.

“Her judges” indicates that the judges are not your judges, from which it follows that they will not rule the way you want them to, namely, for keeping your guns. The if-clause thus has a consequence: unless Hillary is prevented from becoming president, “her judges” will change the laws to take away your guns and your Constitutional right to bear arms. This would be a governmental infringement on your freedom, which would justify the armed intervention of ultra-conservatives, what Sharon Angle in Nevada has called the “Second Amendment solution.” In short, a lot is entailed — in little time on a human timescale, but with lots of time on a neural timescale.

With respect to Trump’s “Nothing you can do, folks,” Lakoff explains, “This is a shortened version in everyday colloquial English of “There will be nothing you can do, folks.” That is, if you let Hillary take office, you will be so weak that you will be unable to stop her. The “folks,” suggests that he and the audience members are socially part of the same social group — as opposed to a distant billionaire with his own agenda.”

Then Trump’s punch line, which created a media mess that lasted for days: “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.” Lakoff adds “Although the Second Amendment people” calls up the alternative for those who would act violently to protect their Second Amendment right.” Lakoff continues:

“I don’t know” is intended to remove Trump from any blame. But it acts unconsciously in the opposite way. It is like the title of the book I wrote, “Don’t Think of an Elephant.” The way the brain works is that negating a frame activates the frame. The relevant frame for “Second Amendment people” is use of arms to protect their rights against a government threatening to take away their rights. This is about the right to shoot, not about the right to vote. Second Amendment conservative discourse is about shooting, not about voting.

The point here is that Trump’s use of language is anything but “word salad.” His words and his use of grammar are carefully chosen, and put together artfully, automatically, and quickly.

Trump never overtly used the word “assassinate.” He says he was just suggesting that advocates of the Second Amendment vote, and was being sarcastic. A sarcastic invocation to vote would sound very different. A sarcastic invocation to vote might be, “The American way to change things is to vote. But maybe you care so much about shooting, you won’t be able to organize to vote.”

It’s important for Dems to understand that this is not just verbal diarrhea. “He chose his words very, very carefully.”

Lakoff has much more to say about Trump’s deployment of carefully-chosen terms like “believe me” and “many people say,” as well as the reasons Trump appears to ramble “off topic,” when really he is “always on topic,” as Lakoff sees it.

…But you have to understand what his topic is. As I observed in my Understanding Trump paper, Trump is deeply, personally committed to his version of Strict Father Morality. He wants it to dominate the country and the world, and he wants to be the ultimate authority in this authoritarian model of the family that is applied in conservative politics in virtually every issue area.

Every particular issue, from building the wall, to using our nukes, to getting rid of inheritance taxes (on those making $10.9 million or more), to eliminating the minimum wage — every issue is an instance of his version of Strict Father Morality over all areas of life, with him as ultimately in charge.

As he shifts from particular issue to particular issue, each of them activates his version of Strict Father Morality and strengthens it in the brains of his audience. So far as I can tell, he is always on topic — where this is the topic.

Lakoff cautions that “He is a talented charlatan. Keeping you off balance is part of his game. As is appealing to ordinary thought mechanisms in the people he is addressing.” Further, “It is vital that the media, and ordinary voters, learn to recognize his techniques. When the media fails to grasp what he is doing, it gives him an advantage. Every time someone in the media claims his discourse is “word salad, “ it helps Trump by hiding what he is really doing.”

Lakoff also flags Trump’s fake ‘apology’ and Trump’s disclaimer: “Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.” However, says Lakoff, “note how carefully he has chosen his words. And what is the intended effect? He should be excused because inaccurate word choice is so natural that it will inevitably occur again, and he should not be criticized when the stress of the campaign leads inevitably to mistakes in trivial word choice.”

“The words he carefully uses,” concludes Lakoff, “often over and over, get across his values and ideas, which are all too often lies or promotions of racist, sexist, and other un-American invocations. When these backfire mightily, as with the Khans, there can be no hiding behind a nonspecific “regret” that they were just rare, accidental word choice mistakes too trivial for the public to be “consumed with.”

Once Dems understand that Trump’s ‘word salad’ is not mere buffoonery, but a carefully calculated ploy to mask his anti-democratic ideas in a self-righteous cloak, then Dems can begin to refute his real agenda and media domination with more compelling responses.


Greenberg: Dems Must Seize Chance for Wave Election

The following memo by Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg is cross-posted from Democracy Corps.

Date: August 22, 2016

To: The progressive community

From: Stan Greenberg, Democracy Corps

The Wave

America is about to experience a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake of an election, but progressives do not seem to trust the new American majority and its ascendant values and thus, continue to be tactical, reactive, and fight old wars. As a result, they may miss the chance to create a governing majority after November 8th.

Hillary Clinton is beginning to emerge with the kind of lead you would expect in a country where over 60 percent of the electorate will be racial minorities, single women, millennials, and seculars and where the positive sentiment about the Democratic Party is 9 points higher than for the Republicans.(1)

Progressives, pundits and the media are consumed with the pivotal role of angry white working class men when their vote share is declining every presidential election and will be only 18 percent of the electorate this year. When Clinton’s margin was only 3 points, their share of the electorate would have to jump to 25 percent to push the overall vote to parity.(2)

I am the person who invented the term “Reagan Democrats” and took Bill Clinton to Warren in Macomb County, Michigan. But then, the white working class men’s share of the electorate was twice what it is today.

Today, I want progressives to embrace an economic narrative that seeks to “level the playing field,” because that is key to motivating working class voters, white and minority, including women who are now a majority of the working class, not because of its appeal to Reagan Democrats.

Because progressives did not trust the new American majority, they thought Donald Trump’s dark convention and speech was effective and waited for the polls to be sure. They thought Pennsylvania would be close, underestimating the new dynamics in the state. And their priority and strategy was to stop Trump in the Rust Belt states to stamp out any chance of Trump being elected.

But Trump already lost this election before his disastrous last week, as only 6 percent of Clinton voters would even consider supporting Trump. The number of potential switchers in this election has shrunk to just a third of what it was in the last three presidential elections.

This misplaced priority comes at the expense of efforts to produce the biggest possible wins in the elections for the U.S. Senate and House and state elections.

Campaigns and media should be focused on this number: 38 percent. That is the percent of the vote that Trump is likely to win in this multi-party election, matching the vote share for George Bush in 1992 when he lost to Bill Clinton by 5 points. That 38 percent should concentrate the mind on what is the real opportunity for Republican votes and voters to disappear down the ballot.

Here is what progressives should focus on to maximize that opportunity.

Task 1: Get Clinton voters to vote Democratic down-ballot

Clinton is beginning to build comfortable leads in the diverse and Rust Belt battleground states, but the Democratic Senate and House candidates are performing less impressively.

We know from the WVWV/VPC June state battleground research that 16 percent of the likely electorate in these states are Clinton voters who are not yet voting for the Democratic candidate for Senate. Three-quarters of these unconsolidated voters are members of the Rising American Electorate – minorities, unmarried women and millennials at the heart of the progressive coalition. They are mostly Democrats (70 percent), yet half said they were casting ballots for the Republican Senate candidate, and about 40 percent are undecided.(3)

We know who they are, but we need to learn what gets them to cast a Democratic vote down- ballot.

 Trump ticket and nationalized election. The DCCC correctly points out that our presidential election years are increasingly nationalized. They are rightly attacking Republican candidates for continuing to support Trump. Whether this will work long- term is an empirical and testable proposition. It is critical to learn whether it will work when an increasing number of Republicans are putting distance between themselves and Trump. Will it impact down-ballot voting at the state level?

It is quite possible that this strategy helps to build a GOP brand image that is independent of Trump and rationalizes split-ticket voting. Or not.

The Republican brand values at the national and state level. We need plan B, and it may be one that focuses on the GOP itself. At the national and state level, the Republican Party is associated with extreme positions on abortion, guns, discrimination against the LGBT community, and women. With the goal to get Clinton voters to vote straight ticket, informing voters of these GOP positions may prove more motivating – as you can see in the graphs below. Two-thirds of Clinton voters not yet supporting the Democrat for Senate become very certain to switch their vote when they hear that list of Republican positions.

(click here for graphic, “Voting for Clinton, but not for Senate Democrat”)

This underscores the critical need for a strategy for these unconsolidated Clinton voters that could readily produce a major shift to the Democratic candidates for Congress and state legislatures. The right strategy could be embraced by the Senate and House campaigns, the state parties, as well as the national Clinton campaign.

Task 2: Getting Trump voters to punish GOP establishment candidates

While Trump is getting 38 percent of the vote, some proportion of them will not vote Republican down-ballot if Trump is angry at candidates who are distancing themselves from him. This is a potential gold mine. There is a reason why so many Republican leaders are tongue-tied in the face of today’s election. A GOP House candidate who does not support Trump pays a much higher price with GOP voters than one who supports him and this is quantifiable: almost one in five of those voting for the Republican House candidate (or undecided) are much less likely to support him or her – if they are not supporting Trump.

(Click here for graphic on those voting/not voting for GOP candidate who supports Trump)

Trump will do most of the work for progressives on this task, though pressing all Republicans on where they stand on Trump increases the number of campaigns Trump voter resentment becomes a significant factor down-ballot.

Task 3: Fueling the Republican civil war and getting moderates to vote Democratic

This is the biggest opportunity for progressives to play offense and produce a sustainable fracturing of the Republican Party that impacts the Congress, the states and the issues that get taken up after this electoral earthquake.

His vote would not be at 38 percent but for these Republicans who are holding back. Public research shows 20 percent of Republicans are currently not voting for Trump, and we know from Democracy Corps’ Republican Party Project that most of those self-identified Republicans are moderates.(4)

(Click here for graphic on GOP moderates president preferences)

The fracturing and potential is very real: moderates comprise 31 percent of the Republican base electorate. These are college-educated, socially liberal voters in a white working class, socially conservative GOP. They feel alienated from their own party, which means it may be possible to shift the partisan plates.

Our research from the Republican Party Project done earlier this year says it is possible to move them to vote for Clinton and Democrats down-ballot, but Democratic campaigns and progressive institutions have been reluctant to reach this far.

Again, because these are college-educated, moderates and socially liberal, they respond to a Democratic candidate who says let’s get beyond divisive social issues, supports infrastructure investment, encourages long-term corporate investment, supports work and family policies including equal pay for women. They should be a visible target for campaigns at all levels, and these college-educated registered Republicans are easily targetable.

Progressives need to become strategic and opportunistic to make sure this year is really an electoral earthquake.

_______________________________________

(1.) Huffpollster average, August 11, 2016. Democrats viewed favorably by 44 percent, Republicans by 35 percent.

(2.) In a three way race, white non-college educated men vote for Trump over Clinton, 58 percent to 22 percent. In a two way ballot, 61 percent vote for Trump and 35 percent vote for Clinton. With all else equal, white non-college men would need to count for 25 percent of voters in order for Trump to tie Clinton in a competitive three-way race and they would need to count for 36 percent of the electorate in order for Trump to tie Clinton in a two way race.

(3.) On behalf of Women’s Voice. Women’s Vote Action Fund and the Voter Participation Center, Democracy Corps conducted a nine-state battleground survey of 2700 likely voters from June 11th – 20th. Three hundred cases were completed in each state: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The margin of error for the entire survey is +/- 1.89 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error within each state is +/-5.66 percentage points. Margin of error is higher among subgroups.

(4.) Democracy Corps national web-survey of 800 likely Republican voters conducted February 11- 16, 2016 using a voter file sample; 81 percent of Republicans were voting for Trump in the August NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 800 registered voters, July 31- August 3, 2016 and see “Can Trump Catch Up?” Amy Walter, Cook Political Report, August 11, 2016.