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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: July 2013

Greenberg: Obama Is Still a Terrible Salesman for Obamacare: It’s time for a presidential moment

The following article, by Stanley Greenberg, is cross-posted from The New Republic:
We need a serious and sustained presidential conversation with the country about the new health care reform laws–or progressives risk losing ownership of this once-in-generation liberal reform.
If you listen to people in focus group discussions right now, they are clueless about the most basic policies in the reforms, even though parts of the law are already in place, the exchanges are to be launched in October, and the law’s requirements and benefits will become fully operative in January. Yes, people know about college kids staying on their parents’ plans; some women notice they no longer pay for birth control; and some acknowledge a mysterious rebate check from insurance companies refunding excessive administrative costs to consumers.
However, when we talk to Americans in focus groups around the country, nobody has heard anything about the impending state health care exchanges–now called, “the health insurance marketplace.” Indeed, barely half of the uninsured know they will be required in six months to carry health insurance. And in the most recent national surveys, more people think their health insurance situation will be made worse by the impending changes.
The inability of the president to fashion public clarity on his major policy initiatives is hardly confined to health care reform. The president rescued the economy from crisis and has nearly brought it back to a growth path but nobody in a focus group can answer the query, “what’s the president’s approach to the economy?”–except maybe spending. Of course, the president did a lot more tax cutting than spending, but that has been kept secret from ordinary citizens. This week, the president put the spotlight on the broken link between productivity and wages and how reversing that is central to restoring the economy and middle class. He did get traction in the election year and ultimately won a mandate to prioritize the middle class, but that has faded. We all know that a litany of sensible policies to help the middle class will die in the congressional killing fields and Washington will fall into the next epic fight over austerity or not-so-epic fight about the IRS or Bengazi or whatever.
The president has laid out an impressive and probably effective approach on climate change, but the public will never be brought along, as the president will only intermittently reference the epic battle he has joined. It will be left to us and history to divine the common thread in his much less impressive approach to Syria, Egypt, and the ‘Arab Spring,’ as the president has decided affirmatively not to speak publicly on these events, supposedly emulating President Dwight Eisenhower’s approach, according to Peter Baker of The New York Times.
With the public uncertain of the president’s direction in so many areas, his approval rating has slid down to 45 percent in the polls, emboldening his critics.
With the national news dominated by the travails of Anthony Weiner and Edward Snowden and the George Zimmerman jury verdict, it would be hard to get heard on the new health care law or anything else. But the White House has been tongue-tied on health care from the beginning, so there are more enduring reasons why the president has not made the case or educated the country about these major reforms.
But with Republicans waging all out war to make it fail and some evidence they have successfully elevated public fears, the president has no choice–and he has told many of his allies he intends to do just that.
The conservatives are right. Health care reform is the biggest use of government to reshape major parts of the economy, regulate business, create a new form of social insurance, restructure the distribution of public health, redistribute wealth and benefits, and create new rights since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid under Lyndon Johnson and Social Security under Franklin Roosevelt. Because Obama rejected a Canadian-style single-payer system or Medicare for all and instead built on the current private insurance system and expanded markets, progressives hardly considered the reforms progressive–even if they welcomed the very important changes. But it is now apparent under attacks from conservatives that the Affordable Care Act makes fundamental changes and takes the country into new territory.
The American health care system had reached such an absurd, corrupt, inefficient, and immoral state that it could no longer be patched. Insurance premiums increased 119 percent in the decade before the financial collapse, and health care as a share of the economy grew to 16 percent–despite no evidence of better health outcomes. The link between a job and health insurance was broken. In the decade before the health care law was passed, the percentage of people with job-based health insurance dropped from 69 to 59 percent, while employers pushed more of their costs on to employees. Today, just one quarter of the new jobs for high school graduates offer health insurance.
The health care reform creates a new system where large employers and individuals all have health insurance and where individuals and small businesses get substantial financial help to purchase it. It creates an on-line insurance marketplace in your state where individuals and small businesses will get expanded choices and lower costs, perhaps even dramatically lower costs. Medicaid and public health clinics are expanding to cover low-wage workers. This new system is paid for by a new tax on individual income over $200,000 a year. Insurance packages now must include an essential benefit package with no-co-pays for preventive services, and insurance companies can not take into consideration a person’s health, pre-existing conditions, chronic illnesses, or gender and cannot place life-time limits on care.
So, Vice President Biden is right, “this is a big deal.”


Sargent: ‘Ostrich Pundits’ Should Stop Hiding from Reality

In his Plum Line post, “Ostrich Punditry refuses to reckon with reality of today’s GOP,” Greg Sargent addresses the ‘blame both parties equally’ school of political commentary, with a focus on AP’s Ron Fournier, who recently criticized the president for not being able to make much progress against Republican obstructionism. Sargent responds to Fournier:

If anything, it’s punditry such as Fournier’s that constitutes a surrender of sorts. It’s not enough to claim Obama’s legacy will inevitably seen as a failure to overcome GOP intransigence (should that happen), because history isn’t fair. The question is, should that be the case, and would blaming Obama for failing to overcome it be a reasonable and accurate assessment? Fournier, in effect, is giving up on the pundit’s ability to engage this question forthrightly and directly, and by extension, on his ability to influence public and elite perceptions of what’s happening. Fournier regularly derides “partisans” on both sides of this argument. But the refusal to apportion blame accurately — when the facts plainly merit assigning it overwhelmingly to one side, and not the other — is itself a form of partisanship and bias that impairs judgment and, in the end, misleads readers.

Fournier, of course, is not alone in his inability to get real about where the gridlock is coming from. The U.S. seems awash in mainstream reporters who suffer from this malady. Fortunately, there are a few reporters like Sargent who are unafraid to tell it straight.


Poll Distorts Business Attitudes Toward Obamacare

It does seem that sometimes pollsters and their sponsors get a little too cozy. Glenn Kessler’s Washington Post article, “A misleading ‘Obamacare’ poll, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce and Harris Interactive” provides an illuminating case in point:

…The polling company, Harris Interactive, and the sponsor, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, presented the data in a highly misleading way — and then made false claims about the type of poll that had been conducted.
Perhaps that is not surprising, given that the Chamber has been a fierce opponent of the health-care law, a.k.a. Obamacare. One must always be skeptical of polls peddled by partisan organizations. Perhaps it should be no surprise that this poll was released just as the GOP-led House of Representatives scheduled a vote to repeal the law.
Given the way the data was presented, Republican lawmakers thought they had been handed a gift — and ended up with egg on their faces.
Looking at the language in the report, highlighted above, is it any wonder that House Speaker John A. Boehner would tweet: “Study: ‘74% of small businesses will fire workers, cut hours under #Obamacare.'”
Or that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would write: “75% of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours.”

On closer scrutiny, however, Kessler notes,

…As for the factoid eagerly repeated by Republican foes of Obamacare, there is a hint in the Chamber news release (but not in the more detailed Harris poll document) that a crucial piece of information is missing: “Among small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate, one-half of small businesses say that they will either cut hours to reduce full time employees OR replace full time employees with part-timers to avoid the mandate. 24% say they will reduce hiring to stay under 50 employees.”
“Among the small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate” suggests that these figures come from a subsample of the poll.
A Chamber spokeswoman, who declined to be identified, acknowledged that only 17 percent of the businesses surveyed said they would be affected by the employer mandate. Put another way, the poll found that 83 percent of small businesses surveyed said they would not be affected by an employer mandate that the Chamber of Commerce has said is a burden on small businesses.
Instead, Harris and the Chamber highlighted the answers of only those affected by the employer mandate. Moreover, they did not disclose that respondents could select as many options as they wanted, meaning the numbers could not be added up, because some executives may have selected more than one answer.
To find out the real values, a two-step process is necessary. First, the numbers have to be significantly reduced to account for the fact that only 17 percent of the sample (222 businesses) answered the question. Then you have to account for the possibility of multiple answers.
We will spare you the calculations, but here’s the bottom line: just 4.5 to 8.5 percent of small business executives surveyed said they will reduce hours or full-time staff in response to the employer mandate. That certainly has a different ring than “74 percent.”

A certain amount of skepticism is appropriate when analyzing the results and methods of any opinion poll. When the Chamber of Commerce is the sponsor, however, better make that a double-dose.
For now, it’s fair to say that, while many small businesses would welcome some adjustments to Obamacare, few, if any, are laying off workers or reducing work hours of their employees because of it.


DCorps, Roosevelt Institute Release Report on the New American Economy

The following is cross-posted from an e-blast by Democracy Corps:
We wanted to get to you this new report on The New American Economy. It is really important, first, because of what President Obama is saying about the broken link between productivity and wages and the fact that most people have not gotten a pay increase since 1999. This report underscores that jobs that don’t pay enough to live on is now the starting point of the new economy. The analysis of the past is very important, but for people, they are focused on the present and future, which starts with jobs that don’t pay enough. When the president talks about the recovery, like “we’ve fought our way back,” and “there’s more work to do” — that does not click. They think this is a new economy, not a recovery. The voter might be right.
Second, it is important because this study comes out at a time of major studies on what is happening with work, incomes, and social mobility. One Harvard and Berkeley study suggests a child born in poverty in one city does not have the same chance of climbing the economic ladder in another. And an AP report released this week shows 4 out of 5 adults in the U.S struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives.
And third, it comes out at a time when many minimum wage workers are conducting rolling one-day walkouts to underscore what is happening with wages. This report is the context for those events.
Democracy Corps and the Roosevelt Institute are happy to share this report with you.


Lux: Why Yellen at Fed Would Be Better Strategy, Economics

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of “The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be,’ is cross-posted from HuffPo:
I am always glad when President Obama gives a good populist speech on economic issues. Unlike many folks both on the left and right, I believe that speeches and words do matter, and I’d always rather have Obama framing the message in a populist way.
The irony, though, is that the hot rumor blazing through D.C. right now is that Larry Summers is about to be named as Obama’s pick for the Chair of the Federal Reserve. Larry Summers, the ultimate anti-populist. Larry Summers, the guy who helped pushed the bank deregulation bill that created these monstrous Too Big To Fail banks. If the rumor is true, well… wow, that is depressing. It is hard to imagine a worse pick politically for Obama than Larry Summers. There are so many reasons that this is the wrong pick for that job that I will run out of time to write them all long before I stop thinking of new reasons to list.
It’s not just that Summers is the poster child for banking deregulation. It’s actually the gender thing that has to top the list. The other leading candidate is achingly obvious: Janet Yellen is incredibly well-experienced, incredibly well-credentialed, and highly respected by policymakers and economists alike. And Obama is going to blow off this kind of woman, is going to blow off a perfect chance to make history by appointing the first woman Fed chief, so that he can appoint a man fired by Harvard for making sexist comments about women? Seriously, Mr. President?
And the quote is hardly the only time Summers is known for treating women with disrespect. There were his arrogant power plays against Brooksley Born in the 1990s, when she was right about regulating derivatives and Summers was dead wrong. There were multiple references in Ron Suskind’s book, where he was described as being demeaning to women like Christina Romer. There is Sheila Bair’s book, where she describes being repeatedly undermined by Summers. In fact, from my years in the Clinton administration and my friendships in Obama administration, I can tell you that I have yet to talk with a woman who has worked with Summers who has many good things to say about him.
I’d say gender politics are rather important for this president, who is only president because he has done well with women voters, and because he was able to energize so many women volunteers and donors. What does it do to your gender politics, Mr. President, to pick a man with Summers’ sexist history and reputation over a very well-qualified, experienced, and respected woman?
Then there is this factor, which is a very big deal with Larry Summers: As one friend of mine who knows Summers well puts it, the first requirement for a Fed chief is that you always think before you speak, and Larry has proven he lacks this skill set. Markets have been known to react very quickly (and badly) to thoughtless remarks by Chairs of the Fed, the result being billions of dollars of wealth vanishing in a matter of hours, and Larry Summers has a history of saying and writing thoughtless things. Is this really the kind of person we want in this job?
There are plenty of other reasons this is bad idea for economic policy and political reasons, but what this choice boils down to is, what kind of Fed Chief do we want? There is a very senior White House official who has been calling around to influential people in town advocating for Summers, and the big reason he says he is the right choice? That Summers will have the courage to say yes to Wall Street.
Let me repeat that: Summers will have the courage to say yes to Wall Street.
I guess because that sure did the trick for Alan Greenspan in the lead-up to the financial crisis? What is fundamentally wrong with America’s economy, the deepest source of our economic misery, is that way too many policymakers have had the “courage” to say yes to Wall Street. By deregulating the big banks, by not prosecuting the financial fraud that led to the 2008 collapse, by giving the biggest banks almost unlimited subsidies and bailouts, we have created an economy of, by and for the top 1 percent, and it needs to change. Larry Summers is not that change. The “courage to say yes” statement only reinforces that this pick would be for all the wrong reasons.
Here’s the deal: Larry Summers was one of the central players over the last 20 years who made America’s economy what it is. From helping to push through the repeal of Glass-Steagall and other financial industry regulatory reform, to stopping Born from regulating derivatives, to the cautious pro-Wall Street, modest-stimulus policies of the early Obama years, Summers helped create an economy where financial crises happen, Too Big To Fail banks get bailed out and keep getting bigger, 90 percent of the wealth being created goes to the top 1 percent, wages keep getting eroded, and job creation is still moving way too slow. Larry Summers owns this economy; it is his baby, and do we really want the father of this warped economy picked as Fed Chief? The politics of that are just horrendous for the middle class that Obama continues to give speeches directed toward.
Larry Summers is the wrong guy for the wrong job at the wrong time. This pick is terrible politics and worse substance. Progressives and women’s groups will fight this tooth and nail, and any chance of the president looking like he is a fighter for the middle class on the economy will go up in smoke.


Creamer: Republican ‘Trickledown Economics’ Still Elitist B.S.

The following article is excerpted from HuffPo’s “Evidence Is In — Again — GOP ‘Trickledown’ Economics a Failure” by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win“:
…For several years the same “cut deficits at any cost, austerity for the poor and middle class” economics that is espoused daily by the Republican Party in the U.S, has swept the capitals of Europe. It has been a disaster. GDP in the Euro-area dropped in 2012 and continued to decline in 2013.
At last week’s meeting of the G-20 finance ministers — whose governments oversee 90 percent of the world economy — there was a clear consensus on the need for robust fiscal stimulus in order to spur worldwide economic growth and a rejection of austerity.
The New York Times reported that:

…most governments see recovery as too weak to risk reducing spending on unemployment benefits, job training, education and other public sector outlays….The debate between growth and austerity seems to have come to an end,” the official said.

That consensus of economists was reflected by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when he testified before Congress a week ago. Bernanke said that the greatest threat to the recovery were attempts in Congress to slash spending investments that are critical to our economic growth.
And that risk is very real, since Republicans in Congress have been passing the most radical cuts in critical investments in a generation.
House GOP appropriators are preparing legislation to cut the EPA budget by a third, slash Administration requests for renewable energy investment by two-thirds, eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, cut education grants to poor students by 16 percent, cut the Department of Labor by 13 percent, cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities in half, and cut the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27 percent.
And of course, Budget Chair Paul Ryan has proposed a budget that would eliminate Medicare and replace it with vouchers for private insurance.
Ryan is quoted in The New York Times as saying: “It’s about time we cut some spending around here…” — all so that he can cut taxes for the wealthy.
Only trouble is, most economists agree that it is precisely the elimination of critical government expenditures that threaten the economy’s ability to create new jobs.
Since President Obama’s stimulus program stopped the Great Recession and began to turn the economy around, there have been 40 straight months of private sector job growth — and the creation of 7.2 million new jobs. But at the same time we have lost 600,000 public sector jobs.
Those losses in government jobs have resulted mainly from the GOP’s demand for major, immediate spending cuts at the state and federal level. Just two years ago, the GOP held the entire economy hostage, demanding huge spending cuts as the price to allow the government to raise the debt ceiling and pay its bills. Those demands resulted in the “sequester” — the meat cleaver cuts that the Federal Reserve estimates will cost 1.5 percent growth in our economy this year.
Now the GOP is at it again — threatening to throw America into default if the Democrats don’t agree to inflict more economic pain on their fellow citizens with even more draconian cuts, when the debt ceiling must be increased again this fall.
Republicans talk endlessly about “waste.” But let’s be clear that real waste is what happens when big chunks of the workforce sit idle, not producing goods and services. That creates waste that will never be recovered and it causes all of us to have a lower standard of living. The unemployment of our people — and our plants, equipment and resources — is the major threat to America’s economic well-being, and that is exactly the result of Republican policies every time they are tried.
But this should not come as any surprise to anyone with even a modicum of memory. This is not the first time in recent history that the evidence has indisputably shown the bankruptcy of GOP economic policies. It was just five years ago this September that the same “trickle down” economic policies resulted in the greatest financial and economic collapse in 60 years.
When the Republicans passed the Bush tax cuts in 2003, they promised massive economic growth. The notion that cutting taxes for the rich would “lift all boats” turned out to be sheer fantasy. The Bush years were the first period in modern American economic history to experience zero private sector job growth — zero.
And of course the Republican commitment to allowing Wall Street bankers and speculators to run wild ultimately resulted in the September, 2008 financial meltdown.
That commitment has not waned. The House GOP plans to cut $200 million from the budget of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would have been spent on investigations and enforcement actions against Wall Street. Note, by the way, that since the SEC is paid for by Wall Street, the $200 million will find its way directly into the pockets of the big Wall Street banks.
The lesson is simple. The evidence is in. If you believe the Republican notion that economic growth happens from the top down, I have some great swampland to sell you.
Economic growth happens from the middle out. It happens when everyday people have money in their pockets and can buy the products and services that cause companies to invest and hire.
Economic growth happens when everyone shares in the fruits of our economy — not just the top 1 percent.
Economic growth happens when together – through our government — we invest in the education and health care and infrastructure and research that provide the foundation for the entrepreneurial energy of the private sector.
The best days of America could certainly be ahead of us. And the greatest threats to that future are policies that seek to benefit the wealthy few instead of the vast majority of our people — and the policy makers who are willing to threaten our entire economy if they do not get their way.


Strategic Investments in Infrastructure: A Reaction to President Obama’s Jacksonville Speech

The following article by William A. Galston and Korin Davis is cross-posted from Brookings:
In his speech today from Jacksonville, FL, President Obama called again for an increase in infrastructure investment in order to modernize our ports, roads and rail and create jobs. In our recent paper, “Setting Priorities, Meeting Needs: The Case for a National Infrastructure Bank,” we laid out the argument for the creation of an infrastructure bank that would leverage private money to meet public needs and would allow us to invest in much needed upgrades to our aging infrastructure.
The choice of Jacksonville to give this speech allowed the president to highlight the potential of public-private partnerships in infrastructure investment. The port of Jacksonville received $10 million in federal funding in 2011 to help complete an intermodal container facility. The federal support helped to close the gap in funding for the $45 million project. Unfortunately, however, the news is not all good, as the president conceded. Jacksonville is not prepared, nor are any other ports in the U.S. save Norfolk, VA, to accept the new “supertankers” that will begin to pass through the Panama Canal once its expansion is complete in 2014. The president emphasized the regional economic gains that come from increased capacity, but stated, “If we want to compete, our ports have to be ready,” and he urged Congress to join him in making infrastructure investment a priority. Strong infrastructure, the president said, is a “key ingredient to a thriving economy.” Infrastructure projects create good middle class jobs, and intermodal facilities such as those at the port of Jacksonville spur economic growth.
Yes, public coffers are strained at the federal and state levels, but by neglecting to invest in our infrastructure we would be undermining our future competitiveness. We must find more effective and efficient ways of using public resources to catalyze private investment. A National Infrastructure Bank would do just that, encouraging private investments in our nation’s infrastructure without putting undue pressure on strained public budgets.
President Obama is right to call for increased investments in needed upgrades, and the Congress should consider one of the numerous bills that have proposed an infrastructure bank to help support those costs. It would help to create good jobs now and make us a more competitive nation in the future–just the combination our economy needs.


Dems Must Also Address Fear of Poverty Among Whites

From the Associated Press article, “80 percent of U.S. adults face near-poverty, unemployment, survey finds“:

Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”
…While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government’s poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.
The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.
Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.
…Nationwide, the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the predominant face of the poor is white.
More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
Sometimes termed “the invisible poor” by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.
…By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

Further,

–For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.
–Since 2000, the poverty rate among working-class whites has grown faster than among working-class nonwhites, rising 3 percentage points to 11 percent as the recession took a bigger toll among lower-wage workers. Still, poverty among working-class nonwhites remains higher, at 23 percent.
–The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teenage pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17 percent of the child population in such neighborhoods, compared with 13 percent in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.
The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped from 43 percent to 37 percent, while the share of Latino children went from 38 percent to 39 percent.
–Race disparities in health and education have narrowed generally since the 1960s. While residential segregation remains high, a typical black person now lives in a nonmajority black neighborhood for the first time. Previous studies have shown that wealth is a greater predictor of standardized test scores than race; the test-score gap between rich and low-income students is now nearly double the gap between blacks and whites.
Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, a biannual survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.
The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class. Forty-nine percent say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67 percent of nonwhites who consider themselves working class, even though the economic plight of minorities tends to be worse.
Although they are a shrinking group, working-class whites — defined as those lacking a college degree — remain the biggest demographic bloc of the working-age population. In 2012, Election Day exit polls conducted for the AP and the television networks showed working-class whites made up 36 percent of the electorate, even with a notable drop in white voter turnout.

In terms of political implications,

Last November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since Republican Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide victory over Walter Mondale.
Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential “decisive swing voter group” if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections. “In 2016 GOP messaging will be far more focused on expressing concern for ‘the middle class’ and ‘average Americans,'” Andrew Levison and Ruy Teixeira wrote recently in The New Republic.

As Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, explains in the AP article, “Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them’, it’s an issue of ‘us’…Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.”


Political Strategy Notes

Republicans Sabotaging, Not Governing. This Is Who They Are Now” by Dave Johnson at Campaign for America’s Future blog says it clear and simple: “This is who they are now. This is who the Republican Party is now. It is RedState, Limbaugh, Coulter, Drudge Report, etc. It is not Bob Dole or John McCain or even Ronald Reagan. It is not Ronald Reagan playing poker with Tip O’Neill…Ronald Reagan would be primaried out as a “RINO” in today’s Republican Party…If you don’t get it yet, let this sink in: Mitch McConnell is being primaried for being “a big government guy” and too “progressive” and working with Democrats. Mitch McConnell!”
“I don’t know enough. I’m sorry. I haven’t read that portion of the bill,” says N.C. Gov. McCrory of the voter suppression package he is about to sign. The bill is “being called the most suppressive voting law in the nation.”
This idea probably won’t get much traction. Meanwhile Dems couldn’t ask for a better poster boy for crude nativism and outright bigotry than Republican Rep. Steve King, who has driven a deep spike into the heart of his party’s already limp efforts to win Latino votes in 2014.
Todd Leopold’s post, “The Republicans of the future?” at CNN Politics reads more like an exercise in wishful thinking than a harbinger of things to come. Don’t be too surprised if many of the young Republicans quoted in this post end up bailing out of the GOP and joining the Libertarian Party out of frustration — and embarrassment about bigoted bomb-throwers like Rep. Steve King.
Kyle Kondik’s Crystal Ball post on “Senate 2014 and Beyond” sees GOP Senate gains next year, but stops short of predicting a Republican takeover.
Michael Langenmayr, campaign director of Daily Kos, reports in an e-blast that the Koch brothers are trying to recall two of the best Democratic state legislators in the country, Colorado Democrats John Morse and Angela Giron, whose leadership was instrumental in enacting “a slew of new good government and progressive laws this year–background checks, civil unions, online voter registration, and more.” Langenmayr urges Democrats to contribute to protecting Morse and Giron, to help offset the big money right-wingers are dumping into defeating them, and you can do that right here.
Paul Waldman’s American Prospect post, “GOP Circular Firing Squad Locked and Loaded” is chicken soup for the Democratic Soul.
At Politico James Hohman reports “A statewide survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, shared first with POLITICO, focused on which messages might get women who voted in the 2008 or 2012 presidential elections, but not for governor in 2009, to show up…They found that statements about Cuccinelli’s position on abortion had a bigger effect among this group than any other issue in generating both the level of support and intensity for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. “Protecting a woman’s right to choose” trumped health care, guns, transportation, spending and college affordability. This held true in each of Virginia’s three-biggest media markets.”
Dan Balz’s WaPo post “How the Obama campaign won the race for voter data” illuminates the data driven method used to get to 270 ev’s.
Copycats. Not sure this is going to work out all that well for them, since their grass roots activists are increasingly detached from reality.


Ornstein: Republican Sabotage Shows Contempt for Democratic Process, Health Concerns of Americans

Norm Ornstein’s National Journal article, “The Unprecedented–and Contemptible–Attempts to Sabotage Obamacare” provides a compelling indictment of the Republican party’s abandonment of democratic principles and concern for the health of the American people. As Ornstein explains:

When Mike Lee pledges to try to shut down the government unless President Obama knuckles under and defunds Obamacare entirely, it is not news–it is par for the course for the take-no-prisoners extremist senator from Utah. When the Senate Republicans’ No. 2 and No. 3 leaders, John Cornyn and John Thune, sign on to the blackmail plan, it is news–of the most depressing variety.
I am not the only one who has written about House and Senate Republicans’ monomaniacal focus on sabotaging the implementation of Obamacare–Greg Sargent, Steve Benen, Jon Chait, Jon Bernstein, Ezra Klein, and many others have written powerful pieces. But it is now spinning out of control…It is important to emphasize that this set of moves is simply unprecedented.

Ornstein relates how Republicans “pulled a bait and switch” double-cross back in 2003, during the effort to pass a Medicare prescription drug plan, ripping our progressive measures from the legislation in a late night vote in violation of established procedures. Democrats chose not to use disruption or obstruction at the time, opting to work instead for an acceptable compromise. As Ornstein adds,

Almost certainly, Democrats could have tarnished one of George W. Bush’s signature achievements, causing Republicans major heartburn in the 2004 presidential and congressional elections–and in the process hurting millions of Medicare recipients and their families. Instead, Democrats worked with Republicans, and with Mark McClellan, the Bush administration official in charge of implementation, to smooth out the process and make it work–and it has been a smashing success.

Regretfully, the Republicans chose not to emulate that cooperative spirit, as Ornstein notes:

Contrast that with Obamacare. For three years, Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm anybody to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the post that McClellan had held in 2003-04–in order to damage the possibility of a smooth rollout of the health reform plan. Guerrilla efforts to cut off funding, dozens of votes to repeal, abusive comments by leaders, attempts to discourage states from participating in Medicaid expansion or crafting exchanges, threatening letters to associations that might publicize the availability of insurance on exchanges, and now a new set of threats–to have a government shutdown, or to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, unless the president agrees to stop all funding for implementation of the plan.

Ornstein says that “What is going on now to sabotage Obamacare is not treasonous–just sharply beneath any reasonable standards of elected officials with the fiduciary responsibility of governing.” He cites as another example the letter Republican Leaders Mitch McConnell and Cornyn sent to the NFL, “demanding that it not cooperate with the Obama administration in a public-education campaign to tell their fans about what benefits would be available to them and how the plan would work–a letter that clearly implied deleterious consequences if the league went ahead anyhow.”
Ornstein describes the right way for an elected official to try an correct a law they disagree with in a democracy. Then he describes the modern Republican way:

When a law is enacted, representatives who opposed it have some choices (which are not mutually exclusive). They can try to repeal it, which is perfectly acceptable–unless it becomes an effort at grandstanding so overdone that it detracts from other basic responsibilities of governing. They can try to amend it to make it work better–not just perfectly acceptable but desirable, if the goal is to improve a cumbersome law to work better for the betterment of the society and its people. They can strive to make sure that the law does the most for Americans it is intended to serve, including their own constituents, while doing the least damage to the society and the economy. Or they can step aside and leave the burden of implementation to those who supported the law and got it enacted in the first place.
But to do everything possible to undercut and destroy its implementation–which in this case means finding ways to deny coverage to many who lack any health insurance; to keep millions who might be able to get better and cheaper coverage in the dark about their new options; to create disruption for the health providers who are trying to implement the law, including insurers, hospitals, and physicians; to threaten the even greater disruption via a government shutdown or breach of the debt limit in order to blackmail the president into abandoning the law; and to hope to benefit politically from all the resulting turmoil–is simply unacceptable, even contemptible. One might expect this kind of behavior from a few grenade-throwing firebrands. That the effort is spearheaded by the Republican leaders of the House and Senate–even if Speaker John Boehner is motivated by fear of his caucus, and McConnell and Cornyn by fear of Kentucky and Texas Republican activists–takes one’s breath away.

For voters who believe that real patriotism includes a concern for the health and well-being of vulnerable Americans, the Republicans’ growing contempt for Democratic values is nauseating.