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

August 20, 2017

Democrats Beating the Spread in 2017 Special Elections

As part of our continuing look ahead at 2018, I offered these thoughts about 2017 developments at New York.

Projecting what will happen in midterm elections is always tricky. Yes, the party controlling the White House almost always loses House seats — though that didn’t happen in 1998 and 2002. Sure, the president’s approval ratings seem to have a very significant impact on the White House party’s losses or (in rare occasions) gains. But predicting approval ratings is tough.

But one bit of objective data you can track that’s not simply a matter of projections is the performance of the two parties in special elections heading toward the midterms. And while no one special election necessarily has predictive value, if you add them up it starts mattering.

That’s what Harry Enten did today at FiveThirtyEight, and better yet, he scored all these elections like a bookie would score a sporting contest: with a “spread.” In this case the spread was the partisan “lean” of every congressional or state legislative district that’s had a special election so far this year, based on its performance in the last two presidential elections, with the last one weighted most heavily (as one would expect). There have been five U.S. House special elections this year. Democrats beat the spread in all five, by an average margin of 16 percent of the total vote (ranging from 6 percent in Georgia’s sixth district to 23 percent in Kansas’s fourth district). That’s a lot.

There have also been 25 state legislative special elections this year. Democrats beat the spread in 21 of them, by an average of — again — 16 points. None of the four races where Democrats failed to do better than the partisan lean were competitive contests.

Enten notes that Trump’s approval ratings would historically suggest an 11-point GOP deficit. The generic congressional ballot has been showing a 9-point GOP deficit at present. So the special elections are showing a stronger swing to Democrats than the standard data points.

In any case, it represents a lot of arrows pointing in the same direction.


Creamer: Are There Really ‘Two Sides’ When It Comes To Political Violence In The U.S.?

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

Three days after the violence in Charlottesville, Donald Trump doubled down on his shocking accusation that when it came to political violence in the United States, there were “two sides.” In fact, he argued that the media simply ignored the “Alt-Left” and left-wing political violence in general.

The notion that there is any moral or empirical equivalency between the political violence of the right and the left in the United States is simply wrong. It is wrong empirically. And just as importantly, it is wrong because when it comes to the use of violence, there is a massive difference in values between the left and the right.

First, consider the facts.

The violence in Charlottesville was precipitated by a crowd led by self-proclaimed Neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan – two organizations whose histories are steeped in the most extreme forms of political violence.

Trump’s assertion that it included many “good people” ignores the fact that the crowd was chanting the Nazi slogan “blood and soil” and “the Jews will not replace us.” It would not take but a second for any “good people” who joined the crowd to realize they were in the wrong place and leave.


Trump Joins and Then Re-Joins the Neo-Confederacy

Like most everyone else, I was shocked by the president’s nonchalant and false-equivalence-laden initial reaction to this last weekend’s white riot in Charlottesville, and wrote a take for New York that delves a bit into the history involved:

There is a sinister congruence between the president’s reaction to the white-supremacist riot in Charlottesville yesterday and the object the rioters assembled to defend: the city’s doomed Robert E. Lee statue. Both are manifestations of Neo-Confederacy, the fierce, century-long effort of the Southern ruling class to normalize white racism so long as it did not degenerate into extralegal violence.

Like most of its counterparts across and beyond the South, Charlottesville’s Lee statue was not erected during the Civil War or in the period when ex-Confederates might be expected to remember the famed military leader of the planter’s rebellion. It was commissioned in 1917 and erected in 1924 as a monument, not to the Confederacy, but to the rebellion’s posthumous victory over Reconstruction and the Civil War amendments to the Constitution.

The Neo-Confederates and their many Yankee sympathizers viewed Jim Crow as a peaceable compromise between slavery and racial equality. In that regime’s latter days, whole generations of white Southern politicians posed as civil upholders of law and order equally opposed both to civil-rights “agitators” and to the white-trash hoodlums of the Ku Klux Klan, who were successors to the white terrorists that the “better element” of Southerners strongly supported during and immediately after Reconstruction. These politicians often condemned, as Donald Trump did yesterday, the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides,” that threatened the quiet tyranny of Jim Crow. They preferred a “civil” resistance to equality in Congress and the courts, and in the genteel Citizens’ Councils that, as one sociologist aptly put it, “pursued the agenda of the Klan with the demeanor of the Rotary Club.”

The Neo-Confederates lost the battle against civil rights, but maintained a cultural rearguard for many years. You heard at least a faint echo of their words every time a conservative Southern politician hailed “law and order,” or attacked “the welfare,” or demanded maximum incarceration of African-American “predators.” This sort of politics maintained an unmistakable connection to nostalgia for the Old South, an imagined tranquil place of good manners and interracial understanding.

But until Donald Trump’s election, it seemed Neo-Confederacy had finally about run its course. The display of Confederate regalia on state flags, public buildings, and even football mascots gradually became distasteful, even to many conservative politicians. In 1993, when Georgia governor Zell Miller (later a conservative hero) proposed getting rid of the Confederate symbolism on Georgia’s state flag (imposed not during or after the Civil War, but during the period of white resistance to desegregation), soon-to-be House Speaker Newt Gingrich supported him. And by the time South Carolina governor Nikki Haley finally had the Confederate Battle Flag taken down from the statehouse after an outburst of racist violence — nearly 20 years after a Republican predecessor had proposed the same thing — it aroused little public opposition.

Yes, even hard-core conservatives began to understand that Confederate insignia were not just parts of history that today’s Southerners should “cherish,” to use the president’s startling allusion to the Lee statue, but part of a retroactive effort to whitewash history in the pursuit of racist lies.

But then, in the blink of an eye, the backlash to acts of simple racial decency began. It was not confined to Donald Trump’s campaign, but in many corners of the right, hostility to “political correctness” — defined as sensitivity to the fears and concerns of, well, anyone other than white men — became a hallmark of the “populist” conservatism Trump made fashionable and ultimately ascendent.

And so the relatively uncontroversial movement to get Jim Crow era Confederate insignia and memorials out of the public square and back into museums and history books suddenly faced renewed opposition — not just from the motley crew of open white supremacists who viewed the 45th president as their hero, but from politicians who saw a broader constituency for a brand-new era of white backlash. It is no mistake that Corey Stewart — who was Trump’s 2016 Virginia campaign chair until he was dumped for excessive public hostility to anti-Trump elements in the Republican National Committee — seized on the decision of the Charlottesville City Council to remove the Lee monument as an example of contemptible “political correctness” in his surprisingly successful 2017 GOP gubernatorial campaign (which fell just short of upsetting the heavily favored Ed Gillespie). Stewart, who is now running for U.S. Senate, not only defended Trump’s refusal to distinguish between white supremacists and their opponents in the Charlottesville violence, but took it to the next level in an interview with Breitbart News:

“We have the violent left which recently attacked a U.S. Congressman [Steve Scalise], which has been attacking Trump supporters across the country, and I never hear Democratic politicians condemning them. I’m not going to play their game. I am not going to condemn anyone other than the criminal. We always have to protect citizens who are trying to exercise their First Amendment rights. From my perspective, there were a lot of left-wing agitators who violently attacked citizens who were trying to espouse their views last night and today.”

So there you have it: Not only were the Nazis, Klansmen, and other white supremacists who chose Charlottesville for their big rally simply trying to “espouse their views,” but also conservatives should not say a discouraging word to them so long as they aren’t “the criminal,” however that is defined.

Perhaps the president will eventually be convinced by his more politically pragmatic allies to draw a clear line between himself and the racists who revere him. It would be immensely more valuable if he condemned not just idiot Klansmen and neo-Nazis but demagogues like Stewart whose idea of “Trumpism” is to champion any and all types of white backlash to “political correctness” and “the Left” as legitimate.

As we now know, Trump did briefly (and not very convincincly) clarify his feelings about the white supremacists of the Unite the Right demonstration. And then he showed his truer colors in a subsequent press conference wherein he expressed solidarity with the “fine people” amongst the Klansmen and neo-Nazis who just wanted to revere the memory of Gen. Lee. And so he rejoined the neo-Confederacy after a couple of days apart.


Political Strategy Notes

At npr.org Domenico Montanaro notes “A majority of Americans think President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., was “not strong enough,” according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll….Fifty-two percent of respondents said so, as compared with just over a quarter (27 percent) who thought it was strong enough…As to be expected when looking at questions of the president’s leadership, there’s a partisan split — 79 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents agree that Trump wasn’t strong enough, but 59 percent of Republicans believe he was…The poll also found a strong consensus across the political spectrum that the car attack should be investigated as an act of domestic terrorism — 67 percent overall said it should be. By party, 76 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents, 60 percent of Republicans, even 58 percent of Trump supporters agree.”

Ronald Brownstein explains “How Trump’s Reaction to Charlottesville Threatens the GOP” at The Atlantic: “Through Trump’s first months, the danger of him branding the GOP as intolerant has steadily smoldered, as he’s rolled out polarizing policies on undocumented and legal immigration, crime and policing, affirmative action, and voting rights. He’s also moved to reverse protections for transgender Americans in schools and the military…But Trump’s belligerent response to the unrest in Virginia has detonated this slowly burning fuse. His pointed refusal to unambiguously condemn the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups who gathered there may crystallize, in a way no policy debate could, the picture of him as racially and culturally biased, particularly among younger voters. “The truth is, I bet that Millennials have not paid that much attention to the policy stuff he’s done,” said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who has extensively surveyed the generation. “But I think Charlottesville is a whole different thing. This is a watershed moment.”

Harold Meyerson has “A Post-Charlottesville To-Do List for Anti-Trumpers” at The American Prospect, subtittled “Some ways to counter the neo-fascists and their president.” Among Meyerson’s  really good suggestions:”Mount ongoing vigils or demonstrations at the nation’s anti-fascist, anti-racist monuments. In the nation’s capital, that would include both the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II memorial in the middle of the National Mall. The World War II Memorial should get special attention, with demonstrators making constant reference to the thousands of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on—or, among the very old, their buddies—who gave their lives to defeat the most virulent anti-Semitism and racism the world has ever known, and making clear that neo-Nazis and Klansmen make a mockery of that sacrifice, and of the nation’s ideals. Invite World War II veterans to attend—we could start with Bob Dole. If neo-Nazis and their ilk want to show up to counter-demonstrate, so much the better…Progressive elected officials at all levels of government should try to enact resolutions calling for the impeachment or, that failing, the censure of President Trump. Of the various charges that could be brought, my preference is to indict him for giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States…Some Democratic members of Congress have already introduced a censure resolution. Progressives should urge their representatives and senators to support it, as well as to support an impeachment resolution, on grounds including those listed above. Democrats should raise these measures constantly once Congress reconvenes after its summer break, and accuse Republicans who don’t support them of either cowardice or bigotry”

As for neo-fascists using Johnny Cash”s image in their repulsive demonstrations, Johnny Cash’s family ain’t having it. Gabriel Bell shares Cash’s family’s facebook statement at salon.com: “We were sickened by the association…Johnny Cash was a man whose heart beat with the rhythm of love and social justice.” After noting Cash’s extensive involvement in and achievements on behalf of progressive, anti-racist causes and groups, the statement continues, “His pacifism and inclusive patriotism were two of his most defining characteristics. He would be horrified at even a casual use of his name or image for an idea or a cause founded in persecution and hatred. The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are poison in our society, and an insult to every American hero who wore a uniform to fight the Nazis in WWII…We ask that the Cash name be kept far away from destructive and hateful ideology.”

In his article, “How to break the 40-year working class losing streak,” Jeffrey D. Sachs writes in The Boston Globe “So what do workers really need? First, a clear national goal of decent wages and working conditions for everyone; second, a new era of union organizing, aimed especially at the low-wage service economy; third, an increase in the minimum wage; and fourth, a boost in social wages, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicare for all, and free college tuition for all households in need. The improved social benefits would be financed by ending the Middle East wars, closing corporate tax loopholes, and slashing the costs of health care and tuition…Could labor really stage a rebound after 40 years of nearly continuous retreat? You bet. Just look at the defeat of the Obamacare repeal effort, Trump’s collapsing poll numbers, the advance of minimum wage legislation in many states and cities, and America’s growing revulsion at the politics of divide and conquer.”

From “The Sheer Number Of Democrats Running For Congress Is A Good Sign For The Party” by Seth Masket at fivethirtyeight.com: “Since 2010, there had been more Republicans than Democrats filing to run for Congress in every election cycle…Ed Kilgore ran a similar analysis recently at New York Magazine, drawing from a longer time series made available by the Campaign Finance Institute. The main finding was that Democrats hold an enormous advantage in early candidate filings for the 2018 midterm elections. In particular, if we limit the analysis to the number of challengers to House incumbents who have filed for next year and have raised at least $5,000 — in an effort to narrow our sample to truly viable candidates — we see a record advantage for Democrats right now…Of the 237 House challengers who raised at least $5,000 for the 2018 midterms by the end of June, 209 of them (88 percent) are Democrats…What a large number of challengers does create is a better recruitment environment. If there are several challengers from whom to choose in a particular race, a party can pick the strongest nominee.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel reports an interesting development — that “The Democratic National Committee is jumping into the ongoing waves of protests that have followed Saturday’s events in Charlottesville, launching a #RiseAndOrganize campaign to direct activists toward electoral politics…“In addition to calling on Republicans to denounce Trump, the next step is getting people to commit to vote,” explained DNC chief executive Jess O’Connell. “This is a galvanizing moment…The #RiseAndOrganize push is the latest example of the Tom Perez-era DNC taking cues from political protests, in the hope that people will soon be ready to pivot from marches to voter canvasses.”

Using Alan Abramowitz’s model for predicting the outcomes of upcomming gubernatorial races, Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball provides a thougthful reassessment of Democratic hopes for winning governorships in 2017 and 2018, and concludes “After Gov. Jim Justice’s (R-WV) surprising decision to switch parties, the Republicans are at a high water mark of gubernatorial control: They control 34 governorships, the Democrats hold only 15, and Walker of Alaska, an independent, holds the 50th seat. Given how overextended they are, that may be a peak, and Republicans may be down a net governorship by November if Democrats can pull off a sweep in New Jersey and Virginia. We also expect Republicans will lose net governorships next year, but they certainly have the potential to limit the damage, and Democrats will have to work hard and potentially get a few breaks to net the six seats (or more) that the Abramowitz model currently projects. Gubernatorial races are not as nationalized as House and Senate races, but Democrats can potentially weaponize Trump’s poor standing against Republicans this year and next if his numbers don’t start to recover.”

It looks like Democrats are getting ready to test the old saw that you can’t prepare too soon. As Tarini Parti reports at Buzzfeed, “Democrats are already preparing for a possible 2020 presidential bid by Vice President Mike Pence, with a major group dedicating staff — including on the ground in Indiana — to dig up dirt on him, amid rumblings that Pence is positioning himself for a run….American Bridge 21st Century — a Democratic opposition super PAC and nonprofit funded by liberal megadonors — is leading the effort, which started earlier this summer and kicked into high gear following a New York Times story reporting on Pence’s “shadow campaign.”..The vice president has denied having intentions to run, but he has been meeting with top donors and has set up a leadership PAC that has already raised $540,000, as President Trump continues to make comments on race and other issues that are making Republicans increasingly uncomfortable.”


Does the ‘Antifa’ Movement Help or Hurt the Democratic Cause?

The resistance to the Trump Administration’s assault on civil and human rights includes the emergence of a controversial group known as ‘Antifa,’ whose participants have made it clear that they have no objection to using physical violence to challenge hate groups. Most recently, Antifa was highly-visible at the Charlottesville protests, in which a young woman was killed by an auto driven by a right-wing terrorist.

“Antifa is short for anti-fascists,” writes Jessica Suerth at cnn.com. “The term is used to define a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform. The group doesn’t have an official leader or headquarters, although groups in certain states hold regular meetings.” There is a longer tradition of ani-fascist resistance groups in Europe and elsewhere.

As Peter Beinart notes at The Atlantic,

The movement traces its roots to the militant leftists who in the 1920s and 1930s brawled with fascists on the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. It revived in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, when anti-racist punks in Britain and Germany mobilized to defeat Neo-Nazi skinheads who were infiltrating the music scene. Via punk, groups calling themselves anti-racist action—and later, anti-fascist action or antifa—sprung up in the United States. They have seen explosive growth in the Trump era for an obvious reason: There’s more open white supremacism to mobilize against.

As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifa activists generally combat white supremacism not by trying to change government policy but through direct action. They try to publicly identify white supremacists and get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartments. And they disrupt white-supremacist rallies, including by force.

Antifa in the U.S. is really more of a loose aggregation of resistance groups, most of whom share a general belief that progressives should not shrink from returning the violence committed by Klan, neo-nazis or other Alt-right groups. Judging by news videos, the Antifa does appear to be growing in size, which is understandable, given the uptick in hate group activity. Brenna Cammeron reports at bbc.com that the closest thing Antifa has to a web page, the “It’s Going Down” website received around 300 hits daily in 2015, now garners between 10-20,000 hits a day.”

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino said of the Antifa in Suerth’s article, “What they’re trying to do now is not only become prominent through violence at these high-profile rallies, but also to reach out through small meetings and through social networking to cultivate disenfranchised progressives who heretofore were peaceful.”
Beinart argues that “some of their tactics are genuinely troubling.” Specifically,
They’re troubling tactically because conservatives use antifa’s violence to justify—or at least distract from—the violence of white supremacists, as Trump did in his press conference. They’re troubling strategically because they allow white supremacists to depict themselves as victims being denied the right to freely assemble. And they’re troubling morally because antifa activists really do infringe upon that right. By using violence, they reject the moral legacy of the civil-rights movement’s fight against white supremacy.
However, adds Beinart, “saying it’s a problem is vastly different than implying, as Trump did, that it’s a problem equal to white supremacism. Using the phrase “alt-left” suggests a moral equivalence that simply doesn’t exist…Antifa’s vision is not as noxious. Antifa activists do not celebrate regimes that committed genocide and enforced slavery.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Beinart writes, “right-wing extremists committed 74 percent of the 372 politically motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016. Left-wing extremists committed less than 2 percent.” Few rational swing voters are likely to be convinced that violence from the political left is as pervasive as that from the right.

Suerth reports that “White nationalists and other members of the so-called alt-right have denounced members of Antifa, sometimes calling them the “alt-left,” which Trump repeatedly referred to in his widely-criticized remarks yesterday at Trump Tower.

Antifa supporters might argue that a little physical confrontation of the Brooks Brothers Rioters back in 2000 might have prevented a lot of human misery. They also believe that, when a neo-fascist knows that they can easily be on the receiving end of violence, they will temper their behavior.

But opening the door to violent resistence is a more dangerous strategy in that there are millions more guns circulating today than back in the mid-late 1960s, when progressives debated the choice between violent and nonviolent methods for social change. Despite the mass shooting in Alexandria, what is remarkable is how few incidents have occurred in which the perpetrator of violence can be accurately identified as a left-progressive of any sort. How long can this last in a society increasingly poisoned by social anger and the unrestricted proliferation of assault weapons?

Going forward, it seems a sure bet that Trump and the Republicans, particularly their alt-right flank, will make broad-brush characterizations of the American left as violent. Trump’s Tuesday rant is a signal that this strategy, which appears to have  Bannon’s fingerprints, is already being implemented. They will hold up the example of the mass shooting in Alexandria, VA that wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise  as corroborating evidence that the left is as violent as the right, and they will have the bully pulpit and GOP echo chamber to parrot this false equivalence meme. Many will believe them and many others will take the bait just because it fits their comfort zone with their families and friends.

I imagine that many of the Antifa protesters are admirers of Martin Luther King, Jr. But those who would follow Dr. King should remember his insistence that “means and ends must cohere.” Had Dr. King at any juncture legitimated violent resistance to injustice, his credibility would have been squandered, and we would be living in a very different nation. It’s an impressive tribute to his leadership and the dedication of his S.C.L.C. staff and coworkers in the Civil Rights Movement that this principle was never compromised, even when they were being brutalized and murdered by racists.

Adhering to an exclusively nonviolent strategy is not about basking in the glories of ideological purity. It is every bit a strategic consideration. As King often pointed out, nonviolence confers a unique credibility and dignity on its practitioners. When an individual is assaulted and refuses to return the violence as a matter of principled self-discipline, witnesses of the incident, which today could be many millions of television and internet viewers, will be moved toward a profound emotional sympathy with the victim and antipathy towards the perpetrator.

Thus far Antifa has not been very violent, at least in comparison to the alt-right. But they should take care not to project an overly violent spirit, which is easilly captured on video and in photos and can be amplified and exaggerated in different media formats. It wouldn’t hurt to give more thought to the optics of yelling threats and brandishing sticks. They can be made to look more violent than they are in reality.

Regardless of the direction the Antifa chooses, now would be a good time for progressive groups who espouse exclusively nonviolent means to proclaim and amplify their uncompromising commitment to their principles. Enduring credibility is more likely to come from consistent nonviolence than physical retaliation.


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, 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

Regarding Trump’s statements on the racist violence in Charlottesville, one of the better comments comes from Joanathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, quoted in Glenn Thrush’s New York Times article “Trump Condemns Racists, But Creates New Uproar.” Greenblatt cut to the core issue: “The president should make sure that no one on his staff has ties to white supremacists,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a telephone briefing on Monday afternoon. He added, “Nor should they be on the payroll of the American people.”…He said that the Justice Department and the Office of Government Ethics should “do an investigation and make that determination” to see if anyone in the White House has had links to hate groups.” As Thrush notes, “Mr. Trump has had a career-long pattern of delaying and muting his criticism of white nationalism. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he refused to immediately denounce David Duke, a former Klansman who supported his candidacy.”

In the wake of hate group violence in Charlottesville, veteran union organizer Gabriel Kristal suggests “A Working-Class Strategy for Defeating White Supremacy” at In These Times, and notes, “Contrary to the narrative put forth in the mainstream—and even some left—media, some of the most significant work confronting homophobia, sexism and racism has been done by working-class people of all ethnicities through collective struggle in the labor movement…We need to reach working people with authentic left-wing populism, which will win against the phony rightwing variety every time…To advance anti-racism on the macro scale, we need to collectively engage in popular struggle, rooted in a left platform that is relevant and intuitive for poor and working people. There should be an immediate creation of a hopeful, broad-based mission that is winnable, which will serve to expand the resistance movement and create an organized majority to kill pernicious nationalism, masquerading as populism…Let’s build relationships, go organize and actually get regular people excited about politics again. That’s how we do the real work to change people’s hearts and minds on race, gender, sexual identity and ethnicity.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is getting lots of favorable buzz for her Netroots Nation speech, which charted a clear course for progressives and Democrats. David Weigel reports that  Warren said, “We’re not going back to the days when a Democrat who wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street…We’re not going back to the days when universal health care was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected. It’s not enough just to defend the Affordable Care Act, we’re going to improve it, starting with bringing down the costs of prescription drugs — and leading the fight for Medicare for all…We’re going to fight to make it easier for workers to come together to form a union so they can take power into their own hands. And we’re going to turn the minimum wage into a living wage. Fight for $15!…I say we can care about a dad who’s worried that his kid will have to move away from their factory town to find good work – and we can care about a mom who’s worried that her kid will get shot during a traffic stop.”

Former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell urges a more moderate approach and suggests “5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states.” Writing at The Hill, Rendell, considered a centrist Democrat, urges Democrats to: 1. “Recruit good candidates for governor and state elections; 2. Be the big tent party we as Democrats always say we are; 3. Remember what Clinton said: “It’s the economy, stupid”; 4. Take strong positions but explain how to get them into law, and; 5. Continue to push for changes in how redistricting is done.

“Since leaving office, Obama’s approval rating remains high at 63 percent, according to a Gallup survey conducted in June…“President Obama has amongst the highest Q-rating in the world — exceeding LaBron [James], [Lionel] Messi and George Clooney — and is most certainly the most popular active political figure in the U.S.,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. “[He] is incredibly popular with base Democratic voters who are critical cohorts in the midterms from a turnout perspective.”…Democratic strategist David Wade added that “it’s a great moment for President Obama to emerge.”…”Unlike many of his recent predecessors, he left office without scandal and with high approval ratings,” Wade said. “And with the incumbent president in the White House bogged down by investigation and deep unpopularity, the contrast is helpful…“Pundits are always going to overthink and overanalyze the pros and cons of having a former president on the campaign trail, but the truth is, there’s little downside. He has unique convening powers to draw a crowd, energize Democrats, make a closing argument, and then it is up to candidates to close the deal.” — from “Obama to re-emerge in ‘delicate dance’ with Dems” by Amy Parned at the Hill.

At PowerPost David Weigel notes a worrisome trend that Democrats better address sooner than later: “In a Politico column that ran shortly before the conference, former Sanders digital fundraising manager Michael Whitney suggested that the DNC faced a donor crisis. Despite bear-hugging the “resistance” movement, the DNC had raised just half as much money as the Republican National Committee in 2017 — $38 million to $75 million — and lagged almost as badly among donors giving less than $200 apiece….“Republicans have quietly taken a decisive edge over Democrats when it comes to small-dollar fundraising,” wrote Whitney.”

Among the most embarrassing statisics about our country, which purports to be the world’s greatest democracy, are the appallingly-low percentages  of women office who hold office in our national legislature, currently 21 percent of the U.S. Senate and 12.9 percent of the House of Reps. To help correct this dismal reality, check out the Center for American Women in Politics web page, “Teach a Girl to Lead,” scroll down and click on your state in the U.S. map to see what sort of political leadership training is available for girls. There is also a link to a list of 244 organizations providing leadership training for girls nationwide.

For women who are considering running for office, the National Women’s Political Caucus has a 55-page booklet, “Diary of a Frugal Candidate (or Running for the First Time),” which could be helpful. According to the NWPC’s description, “We have updated the original “Low Budget Campaigns” to make it a more realistic campaign product for first-time candidates and those in campaigns which have never raised more than $15,000. The major difference is the inclusion of more and better targeting, data-base building, social media and inspiring women to step up and run for these very important, but seldom glorified positions. School board positions, utility boards, community college boards, Tribal councils, union boards and more. This 55 page booklet will provide the basics on how a woman can take the leap and run for her first elected office.” The NWPC is also offering “‘The Complete Training Manual for Women Candidates’…an updated version of our best-selling foundational basic campaign training manual originally completed with funds from the Revson Foundation…This new updated version explodes with it in addition to more information on data-base building, hiring professionals, image (especially the growing importance of a woman’s voice), including diversity among your targeting efforts, social media: what to do and what not to do, website do’s and don’ts, new ways of handling attacks, responding to sexist or racist comments, and much more. 300 pages with addendums.”

Roll Call’s 2018 Election Guide provides a clickable, color-coded map widget that provides basic information on every Senate, House and Governors race. It has clickable tabs for: “Tossup; Tilt; Lean; Likely; Open Seat; Party Turnover; Non-Solid Races; Dem Projected; and GOP Projected.”


Creamer: Congress Should Curb Trump’s Nuclear First Strike Capability

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

Donald Trump actually threatened North Korea with a nuclear attack if their egomaniacal leader continued to “threaten” the United States.

The idea that the United States of America would seriously consider launching a nuclear war over a verbal taunt is simply unthinkable.

But remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last year is reported to have asked why, if we have nuclear weapons, we shouldn’t use them.

Last January, Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu introduced legislation that would forbid the president to launch a nuclear first strike without a Congressional declaration of war.

It’s time for Congress to enact that legislation.

No one questions that to give deterrence credibility, the president should have authority to retaliate immediately if our country is attacked by nuclear weapons. But a first strike is a different matter altogether.

The Constitution gives the Congress the ability to declare war. A nuclear attack is the most extreme attack on another country imaginable. If the Congress does not have the authority to declare war in those circumstances, the Constitution is meaningless.


Where Trump Is Really Losing Support

As always, Ron Browntein slices and dices public opinion data in an especially useful way, as I was happy to share with readers at New York:

It’s generally conceded (though not by the president himself, who argues the size of his rallies is the best indicator of his popularity) that Trump’s already weak public standing has softened somewhat. But there is less agreement about where he stands with this or that part of the electorate — particularly his “base,” however that is defined.

But now Ron Brownstein, working with some previously unpublished Gallup data from 13 current and projected battleground states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin), has given us the best snapshot yet of exactly where, geographically and demographically, Trump stands as compared to his performance last year. It shows that he is hemorrhaging the most support from college-educated white voters, though he’s lost a crucial bit of his strength from the non-college-educated white voters often considered his “base.”

“Trump’s approval rating among college-educated whites has declined relative to his 2016 vote in all 13 states. In seven of those states, his approval rating stands at least 10 points lower than his vote –a list topped by North Carolina and Florida (both 19 points lower), Georgia (18 points lower), Ohio (15 points), Virginia (12 points), and Michigan and Minnesota (11 points each.) His approval rating among these white-collar whites reaches above 50% only in Texas and Georgia, and exceeds 45% in just two other states, Nevada and Arizona. In seven states, his approval among these well-educated white voters has tumbled to 40 percent or less. (That includes four states essential to his victory: North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.)”

Some might object that Trump managed to win last year despite poor approval numbers then. But that cuts both ways: In 2016, Trump was competing with a pol who was nearly as unpopular as he was. Hillary Clinton will not be on the ballot or in the consciousness of voters in 2018 —or presumably in 2020, either.

“These anemic numbers suggest how much Trump benefited last fall from the doubts these voters also held about Clinton; standing alone, without her as a foil, he’s facing much harsher assessments. (In a separate national Quinnipiac University poll released last week, 59% of college-educated whites said they “strongly” disapproved of Trump’s performance.) “I think the doubts about her blocked how big the potential was for those voters to vote against Trump,” says long-time Democratic pollster Stanley B. Greenberg.”

Relatively speaking, Trump’s support is holding up better among white working-class voters, the core of his base. But there are still problems:

“[Trump’s] standing still represents an erosion from his 2016 vote among blue-collar whites in 12 of those states; in five of them, he’s declined by double-digits. Perhaps most important are the trends in four of the Rust Belt states that proved decisive last year: Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In all of them exit polls found Trump won between 62 and 64% of non-college whites. In each case, that was a substantial increase from Romney’s performance with those voters in 2012, when former President Barack Obama carried the states.”

In those four crucial states, which were where the 2016 upset was consummated, Trump’s white-working-class approval numbers are down around the levels of support Romney achieved in losing all four in 2012.

We sometimes forget in our awe at Trump’s astonishing rise to the presidency that it was a near thing, particularly in the general election. He doesn’t have much margin for error, and nor does his party in a midterm election that usually represents a referendum on the party controlling the White House (and in this case, the much-despised do-nothing Congress as well). The drops in support among white voters in battleground states that Brownstein documents aren’t massive, but they could spell the difference between Republican success and calamity just down the road.


Political Strategy Notes

Netroots Nation’s annual program begins today in Atlanta, and WaPo’s David Weigel has a good preview and backgrounder in his post, “Liberals gather in Atlanta to plan Trump resistance strategy.” As Weigel writes, “Former vice president Gore will speak about the threats to the planet from a president who dismisses climate change as a hoax hatched in Beijing. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will ring alarm bells about domestic policy. And 14 discrete sessions will discuss the best ways to fight the White House and Republican Congress. Jon Ossoff, the Democratic star who narrowly lost Georgia’s special House election in June, will also be there…This year, the focus for nearly 3,000 attendees was back on politics: How do they channel the energy of resistance into helping progressives win elections?” Schedule overview here.

Brian Barrett’s Wired post, “You Can’t Just Riff About Nukes” does make one wonder if CEO Trump has been watching too much Game of Thrones. Trump’s warning to North Korea does sound more like it comes from a ‘Thrones’ potentate, than a thoughtful leader of a great democracy. As Barrett writes, “Trump garnered international headlines Tuesday when he declared that any further threats from North Korea would prompt “fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” His bluster followed a Washington Post report that the Hermit Kingdom had developed a nuclear weapon small enough to deploy on a missile. Lest anyone doubt the president’s intentions, he followed up Wednesday morning with a tweet calling the US nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more power than ever before” and unjustifiably crediting himself with its renovation and modernization.”

Adam Nagourney’s New York Times article, “Democratic Fight in California Is a Warning for the National Party,” explores the ramifications of a leadership struggle for the helm of the state’s Democratic Party. “What we are seeing in California is similar to what we are seeing on the national level,” said Betty T. Yee, the Democratic state controller. “If we don’t do our work to really heal our divide, we are going to miss our chance to motivate Democrats.”…The fight pits Eric C. Bauman, a longtime party leader, against Kimberly Ellis, a Bay Area activist. Mr. Bauman won the election by just over 60 votes out of 3,000 cast at the party convention in May, but Ms. Ellis has refused to concede, claiming voting improprieties, like permitting ineligible people to vote for Bauman…Nagourney notes that “the stakes appear higher in this case. For one thing, California Democrats face a critical political challenge in 2018 as they seek to capture as many as seven Republican congressional seats, most of them in Southern California, a central part of the national party’s effort to win back Congress. California is heading into a potentially turbulent governor’s race next year as Mr. Brown — a widely respected, stabilizing force in Democratic politics — steps down after two terms. The party could also be enmeshed in a Senate race if Dianne Feinstein, who is 84, does not seek re-election next year…”

Also at The Times, Shane Goldmacher reports on the tricky Democratic divisions in New York state politics. Goldmacher quotes State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, who explains, “The winds shifted on Nov. 8. The No. 1 concern I hear from my constituents on the street isn’t Donald Trump. It’s what the Senate’s going to do, and how the Democrats can win it back.”Goldmacher explains, “Democrats hold 32 of the 63 seats in the Senate, yet Republicans control the chamber. The mechanics and math of bringing Senate Democrats together are complex: [State Senate Minority Leader] Ms. Stewart-Cousins leads a group of 23 Democrats, while Mr. Klein leads the breakaway group of eight. The 32nd elected Democrat, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, caucuses with the Republicans but has left the door open to rejoining the Democrats.”

Meanwhile in West Virginia, The Mountain Party is gathering momentum — to the growing concern of the state Democratic Party. But the Mountain Party may provide an instructive template for how Democrats can benefit from strategic voting by non-Democratic progressives, when the candidate is appropriate. As Parker Richards reports in The American Prospect, “The re-energizing of the progressive movement nationally has also helped the Mountain Party. Rhule noted that many of the party’s members and supporters worked for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, with many switching their registration to campaign for the Vermont senator, though most returned to the Mountain Party thereafter. (Sanders won every county in West Virginia during the primary, taking just 26,000 fewer votes than Donald Trump’s total in the Republican primary.) That newfound energy could help the party going forward, particularly if West Virginia Democrats do not adopt many of Sanders’s policies in the future—and there has been little evidence they will.”

Not to harp on Democratic Party divisions today, but we do have to keep it real. In that spirit, Clare Foran’s article, “The Democratic Party’s Abortion Dilemma” in The Atlantic provides an overview of the problems Dems face in navigating reproductive rights leading up to the midterm elections. As Foran observes in a nut graph: “The party’s willingness to support pro-life candidates isn’t novel, and prominent Democrats, along with the Democratic National Committee, have echoed the idea that there should be no litmus test. But that message is at odds with the direction pro-choice activists believed the party had been headed: They want to build on the gains their movement made in the platform by electing a firmly pro-choice majority to the House. Some activists fear, however, that the party is now treating abortion as a negotiable issue, rather than a core priority, as it attempts to broaden its appeal and win back seats in the midterm elections next year.”

There is some good news for Democrats in at least one state, as Ed Kilgore shares in his post, “Democrat Wins Iowa State Legislative Special Election in District Trump Swept” at New York Magazine. Kilgore notes, “A deceased Democratic House member, Curt Hansen, was replaced by another Democrat, Phil Miller, a veterinarian and local school board president. But Miller’s healthy 54/44 win over Republican Travis Harris was significant…this district (in southeast Iowa) is pretty evenly divided between registered Democrats and Republicans, making it an interesting test case. It’s one of those rural/small town Midwestern areas that swung heavily to Donald Trump last year (he carried the district by a 58/37 margin; Obama won it by a narrow 50/48 margin in 2012). So there’s no sign of any fundamental partisan realignment underway, at least down ballot.'” Further, adds Kilgore, “the GOP candidate tried to use transgender bathroom access as a cudgel against his opponent.” While, “It is unclear how the transgender issue ultimately affected the race, aside from the fact that it obviously did not work for Harris.”

“Even as the White House this week firmly insists President Donald Trump is determined to seek a second term, a new analysis of polling data shows that he’s caught in a three-way political squeeze in the states that tipped the 2016 presidential race, and will likely decide the 2020 contest…On one front, Trump faces undiminished resistance from minority voters, who opposed him in preponderant numbers last year. On the second, he is confronting a consistent — and, in many states, precipitous — decline in support from white-collar white voters, who expressed much more skepticism about him last fall than GOP presidential candidates usually face. From the third direction, Trump’s support among working-class whites, while still robust, is receding from its historically elevated peak back toward a level more typical for Republican presidential candidates — especially in the pivotal Rust Belt states that sealed his victory…These are among the key conclusions from a new analysis of the state-by-state Trump approval ratings released recently by the Gallup Organization. Those results, based on interviews with 81,155 adults in Gallup nightly tracking polls from January 20 through June 30, found that Trump’s overall approval rating had fallen below 50 percent in 33 of the 50 states.” — From Ronald Brownstein’s CNN Politics post, “In decisive Rust Belt, Trump’s approval is starting to look like Romney’s.”

At Vox, Jeff Stein explains how “The Obamacare repeal battle showed the power and limits of grassroots organizing.” Stein distills “Five lessons the Obamacare repeal fight taught resistance organizers,” including “1) Resistance bandwidth is limited and must be concentrated…”Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) similarly announced that he’d answer every reporter’s question about Russia by first talking about health care. “When reporters ask me a question about Russia, I now say, ‘I’m happy to talk about it, but you’re going to have to listen to me talk about the health care challenge ahead first,’” Wyden said…“The need for relentless pressure despite mind-blowing distractions is now clear,” said Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn.org. “But at the beginning of this, it wasn’t obvious at all. As the public and as activists, we weren’t used to these political explosions popping constantly from the White House. We really had to train ourselves to ignore them and keep our eye on the ball.”…In other words, activists learned that the Trump show may be flashy and impossible to ignore — but, faced with pending legislation, it’s vital to focus at the legislative mechanics.” Stein’s post should be required reading for all Democratic campaigns.