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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: August 2013

‘Fix It, Don’t Nix It’ Still Dems Best Play in Defending Affordfable Care Act

From Greg Sargent’s Plum Line post on the Republican’s war against the Affordable Care Act:

…Democrats can continue to stand behind the law’s general goals — expanding coverage to the uninsured; protecting consumers; reining in insurance industry abuse — while signaling a willingness to fix the law as we go along. Indeed, the expert in House races told me Dems must signal this flexibility or put themselves at risk. But he also notes that the GOP position — pushing for full repeal without proposing a meaningful alternative — is also risky, because it could make Republicans look unwilling to solve people’s problems, a potentially toxic position among less partisan voters.
Drew Altman, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has done sophisticated polling on Obamacare for years, agrees. Dems, he told me, “can stand on the benefits of the law, which are popular, and talk about improving the law. That’s a position which will be popular with the public.”
This isn’t to say Dems will win the battle over Obamacare. The law remains unpopular and implementation is a big unknown. Rather, the point is that the GOP position is not a clear winner either. Republicans know this, which is why they are claiming yet again that they will roll out an alternative to Obamacare this fall. But herein lies the Obamacare Trap. If that effort crashes and burns under conservative criticism — as it did last time — it will reveal yet again that Republicans simply have no vision for a meaningful role for government to play in fixing the health care system, whether it comes to the consumer protections that are being debated today or anywhere else.

In essence, Dems should always be able to respond to Obamacare repeal-obsessives by saying something like “Look, Medicare wasn’t perfect when it was first passed. It had to be tweaked over the years to get it right and adjust to changing times. The Affordable Care Act is no different in that respect. There are some great provisions in that law and we should keep them, not matter what right-wing extremists say.”

Kilgore: Will GOP Base Cave on De-Funding Affordable Care Act

The following article by TDS Managing Editor Ed Kilgore is cross-posted from the Washington Monthly:
So the big buzz in Washington today is that House Republican leaders have turned the corner in tamping down sentiment for a suicidal drive to shut down the federal government unless the administration and Senate Democrats suicidally agree to “de-fund” (or as some argue, systematically delay) implementation of the Affordable Care Act. National Review’s well-sourced Robert Costa offers a tick-tock on the House GOP leadership’s campaign against a shutdown, concluding with Eric Cantor’s appearance at “the Weyrich lunch,” the regular Washington gathering of “movement conservatives” named after its original convener, the late Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage Foundation and ALEC.

Later Wednesday, around noon, Cantor headed to the Weyrich lunch, an off-the-record gathering of conservative-movement leaders chaired by Morton Blackwell, the president of the Leadership Institute. Cantor reiterated what Boehner had told the conference that morning, and he talked about the shutdown question in a clinical way, telling the conservatives that he was with them on tearing apart and delaying the law wherever possible, but he didn’t want to risk the House GOP’s political capital on an unwinnable play for Senate votes. If the votes for defunding somehow emerged, he said, he would bring such a continuing resolution to the floor; but if the votes were not there, he’d advise against it.
There was disappointment at the Weyrich lunch, just as there was disappointment in the Capitol basement. But there was no uproar. A day later, on August 1, the “Big Four,” as the group of four top-ranking House Republicans is known, met to go over the events of the previous day and the state of play, pre-recess. Boehner reflected on the relative peace of the conference meeting, and Cantor relayed stories from his lunch. Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and conference chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers of Washington relayed what they were hearing from members. The consensus from the Big Four was that they’d keep moving ahead with their soft push to avoid a shutdown. They’ll aim to nudge the GOP caucus in this direction, and hope members will see it their way once the House reconvenes.

After a while, you get used to reading these insider accounts of Republican leaders talking to representatives of their own party’s “base” as though they are small children with learning disabilities, who must be calmed and coaxed into rational behavior and then rewarded with condescending praise and a sugary snack. I honestly can’t think of any parallel on the Left in recent memory; Democratic leaders are more likely to lecture “base activists” on responsibility and the awful alternative of Republican rule when they resist the party line. Lord knows there are plenty of things the federal government spends money on that are offensive to liberal activists. But even in the rare occasion when they’ve demanded a hard line on, say, funding the Iraq War, the debate has been over the possibility of discomfiting the Pentagon or interrupting “funding for the troops,” not the apocalypse of a government shutdown or debt default. And intramural disputes have largely been conducted in the open, without the strange and duplicitous tactics we are seeing today as Republican leaders claim to share the same atavistic goals as their activists but are simply pursuing a smarter, more “adult” strategy.
Whatever Costa is hearing, moreover, it’s not clear that the “adults” are winning the internal war even if they manage to win the immediate battle. One child who clearly hasn’t been given enough sugary snacks to stand down is RedState’s Erick Erickson, who pitched a veritable hissy fit today under the headline “Wimps, Frauds and Charlatans:”

The whole of the GOP save a handful is so intent on winning reelection they’re perfectly happy to lose the country. They will not do what is right because they might put in awkward positions. When groups like the Heritage Foundation pressure them, they send out Jenn Rubin to bad mouth the Heritage Foundation on the Washington Post’s website.
On Sean Hannity’s radio program yesterday, Senator Mike Lee and Karl Rove debated defunding Obamacare. Lee just devastated Rove and made the point, which had to be conceded, that the GOP always caves. Leadership, Jenn Rubin, and Karl Rove say the President will never blink. They presuppose that they themselves will blink.
As Ted Cruz said at the RedState Gathering, it is very simple. Just don’t blink.
It is time conservatives throw out their own bums. It is time to stand with the challengers. It is time to replace the wimps, frauds, and charlatans with men and women who will stand up and do the right thing. It’s time for a change. Until conservatives collect scalps from their own side, nothing will change. Obamacare will be funded. The GOP will keep claiming they oppose it. And conservatives will keep being lied to.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz goes to Iowa and is treated like a conquering hero and a “unifying” figure for Republicans.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for any concession to sanity in the GOP ranks, and am happy to hear that Boehner and Cantor may well be able to negotiate the next few months without bringing Washington to a standstill or wrecking the economy. But they will pay a price for any success in “tamping down” activist hysteria, whether it’s quiet concessions on the next policy battle in Congress, or primary challenges, or a revolt against Boehner’s speakership, or a broadly accepted “stab in the back” myth that makes today’s sensible accomodations of reality a legendary “abandonment of principle” that will keep the rightward pressure on the GOP ratcheted up for years to come.

Sargent: GOP’s Messy Retreat from Shutdown Not Likely to Help Image

From Greg Sargent’s Morning Plum post, “GOP leaders retreat from the abyss“:

The conservative push for a government shutdown over Obamacare has created a dilemma for GOP leaders. They know a shutdown fight is dangerously insane for the party. But they are reluctant to say so out loud, because that will give the shutdown brigade something to organize around (that liberal squish GOP establishment is too weak-kneed to do whatever is necessary to finally defeat Obama tyranny). GOP leaders paper over this problem by claiming GOP unity behind the general goal of defunding Obamacare while refraining from the argument over tactics, but this only leaves the central tension unresolved.

The Republicans appear to be splitting into two factions: the Crazies vs. the Malevolent Pragmatists, if pegging their party’s identity to a hopeless effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act can be thought of a s pragmatic. Sargent continues:

Jonathan Chait noted recently that the problem with the GOP establishment’s discomfort with the shutdown push is that those same establishment figures believe “all other measures to attack Obamacare are fully justified,” from the withholding of bipartisan support for fixes to the law to the vow by some GOP officials not to help constituents with it. That’s true, but it may also be true that the push for a shutdown — combined with the fact that the law is gearing up this fall — is shining a harsher light on the reality of the GOP position on Obamacare, in the process rendering it less tenable…
Republicans have devised two ways out of this predicament. The first is to promise yet again to roll out an alternative to Obamacare this fall, one focused on keeping the popular parts of the law, as GOP leadership pollster Winston again hints at above. But if this is met by a conservative revolt, as happened last time, it will only underscore the problem with the GOP position in the first place, i.e., that many Republicans simply don’t envision a meaningful role for government to play in fixing the health care system.
The second is to continue pledging fealty to the destruction of Obamacare as a higher calling while retreating from staging a shutdown over it, a strategy Costa has forced out into the open above. But there is no telling whether this is possible. Thanks to heightened conservative expectations for a series of Apocalyptic showdowns this fall — expectations fed by literally years of acquiescence to The Crazy by GOP leaders — we don’t know if House Republicans are capable of passing a measure temporarily funding the government even at current levels. It’s very possible a shutdown will be averted. But even if it is, the process may well be messy and destructive, possibly damaging the GOP posture on Obamacare even further, just as the law’s benefits kick in.

Shutdown or not, it appears that the Republicans have blundered themselves into an embarrassing dilemma, and it’s hard to see any way they come out of it looking unified or smart to rational swing voters. All Dems need to do is to keep shining light on their extremists, and holding their “moderates” to account for it.

Schakowsky: GOP Practices ‘Politics of Subtraction’

The following article, by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), is cross-posted from HuffPo:
The saying goes that politics is the art of addition. Even first time candidates for any elective office quickly realize that their circle of friends and family is not enough, that they need the support people unlike themselves if they are to have any hope of winning. It’s elemental.
That’s what makes the Republican game plan (assuming there is one) so baffling to me. As each day goes by, they seem to alienate another sector of our society, and most of the time it seems absolutely intentional.
While they are home for the August recess, I just wonder who’s left for them to subtract from their ever shrinking universe of supporters.
The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans made themselves safe districts, ones made up of homogeneous conservative constituents who appreciate their uncompromising and dismissive attitude toward those who disagree. I have to wonder about that.
So far they have managed to be equal opportunity offenders, turning of voters in all walks of life, regardless of age, religion, race, or sexual orientation. Many of those voters surely live in their districts. They includes:
WOMEN: Women are not only the majority of the population, but the majority of voters in most jurisdictions. Just about all of us heard about Todd “Women’s bodies have a way of discerning legitimate rape” Akin and Richard “Pregnancy from rape is God’s will” Mourdock. Women and plenty of men too punished them and they lost their elections. But far worse than stupid remarks are the laws passed particularly at the state level by Republicans that defund Planned Parenthood, restrict access to contraceptives (birth control for God’s sake!), make abortions illegal after 6 weeks before a woman even knows she’s pregnant, force women to have invasive procedures that are unnecessary and possibly harmful, allow doctors to lie to their patients about fetal abnormalities, make criminals out of doctors, put arbitrary requirements on clinics in order to force them to close, and on and on. During the first six months of this year alone, more than two dozen anti-choice bills have become law in 15 states. These laws say to women, we don’t trust you to make your own decisions. Women really hate being talked down to.
But it’s not just women’s bodies that the Republicans don’t understand or care about. It’s our economic well-being. They don’t support equal pay for equal work, or increasing access to quality child care, or expanding the child tax credit, or ending discrimination against pregnant workers, to name a few. It’s no wonder there is a gender gap on election day. As far as I know, redistricting didn’t eliminate fed up women.
Subtract lots of women from the Republican column.
LATINOS: Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King was so insulting that Speaker John Boehner found it necessary to condemn King’s words not once but twice. Referring to the “Dreamers” who came to the United States as undocumented immigrant children, King said, “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Oh me, oh my. What a bad boy Steve King is! Only problem with Republican handwringing is that just a few weeks earlier, that same Steve King offered an amendment on the House floor that called for the deportation of all of those young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. And guess what? It passed with almost all the Republicans, including majority Whip Eric Cantor, voting for it.
The math is really quite simple. 70 percent of Latinos voted Democratic in the last election, and the Latino population continues to grow. If the Republicans don’t get right on immigration, they will never elect a Republican President for generations, and states like Texas will turn solid blue.
Subtract Latinos.
IMMIGRANTS: While 70 percent of Latinos were voting for Obama, 73 percent of Asians did the same. Broad coalitions of immigrant groups are banding together in support of comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. If the Republicans appear to be standing in the way — which they are right now — they will lose these ethnic voters for generations to come.
Subtract immigrants
AFRICAN-AMERICANS: In a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court with all the Republican appointees voting together, a major portion of the Voting Rights Act was overturned. It was barely hours later when states that had been covered by Section 4, the overturned section, including Texas and North Carolina, began changing their laws to make it harder to vote. These laws requiring photo IDs, limiting voter registration drives and voting hours disproportionately affect minorities, low-income people, students and senior citizens.

Political Strategy Notes

Brian Bennett and Joseph Tanfani explain how “Immigration reform creates odd political alliances” at the L.A. Times. As the authors observe, “An unprecedented collection of political bedfellows has coalesced this year on the reform side of the immigration debate: liberal Latino organizations and Republican operatives, the Chamber of Commerce and labor unions, faith groups and high-tech companies. And as with the Sharry contribution, some left-leaning groups are financing Republican pro-immigration groups…During the first half of the year, reform backers outspent opponents in advertising by more than 3 to 1: $2.4 million to $700,000, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.”
At Bloomberg.com Ezra Klein asks and answers the question of the hour: “How Dumb Is Immigration Debate? This Dumb.”
Jacquellina Carrero’s NBC Latino post “Florida voter suppression is a disgrace” says it plain: “Why is Scott revisiting the idea of a voter purge? Because he is up for re-election in 2014, and his numbers are shaky. Many of his Tea Party supporters are unhappy about his decision to allow the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. A June poll found Scott trailing former Florida Governor Charlie Crist in a hypothetical matchup (Crist is expected to challenge Scott next year). Only 35 percent of Florida voters say Scott deserves a second term. So in order to re-energize his conservative base, Scott is throwing Hispanics under the bus and taking on the mythical problem of non-citizen voting.”
True enough. But where in this era of widening economic inequality is the literature of class conflict?
In his PoliticusUSA post, “Republicans Are In a Full Blown Panic as the Affordable Care Act Grows More Successful,” RMuse writes, “…In New York, premiums are set to fall by roughly 50%, and in California, this author’s premiums fell by about 40% after 17 years of perpetual increases and that does not include rebate checks that began rolling in last year according to the 80/20 rule. It is the health law’s success stories like these that have Republicans in a panic and it is the third reason they are going all in to sabotage the ACA; it is successful.”
Nonetheless,, I hope this is true. One day a happier generation will look back on the pre-single-payer era policy of predicating the health security of millions on the quality of individual employers’ consciences as madness.
In his New York Times Opinion post, “How Twitter can help predict an election,” Fabio Rojas writes, “In a paper to be presented Monday, co-authors Joseph DiGrazia, Karissa McKelvey, Johan Bollen and I show that Twitter discussions are an unusually good predictor of U.S. House elections. Using a massive archive of billions of randomly sampled tweets stored at Indiana University, we extracted 542,969 tweets that mention a Democratic or Republican candidate for Congress in 2010. For each congressional district, we computed the percentage of tweets that mentioned these candidates. We found a strong correlation between a candidate’s “tweet share” and the final two-party vote share, especially when we account for a district’s economic, racial and gender profile. In the 2010 data, our Twitter data predicted the winner in 404 out of 406 competitive races.”
Leading minimum wage hike opponent Walmart is definitely not a mighty job-creator, as Kathleen Geier shows at Washington Monthly.
At The Atlantic, Molly Ball addresses the question that has Republicans very worried: “Are Seniors Souring on the Republican Party? The GOP has lost more support among voters over 65 than any other demographic group in recent months, according to a new poll“. As Ball notes, quoting DCorps’ Erica Seifert: “The economy is the biggest underlying factor in the shift, Seifert said. In November 2010, 49 percent of seniors said Republicans were the better party on the economy; just 34 percent said Democrats were. In the July 2013 poll, the parties were essentially tied on this metric, with 43 percent saying Democrats and 42 percent saying Republicans.”
Not a bad analogy, actually.

Political Strategy Notes

Greg Sargent’s Plum Line post “How to win the war over Obamacare” explains why ‘mend it, don’t end it’ is the most viable strategy for Dems contesting the estimated 35 house seats that are in play next year.
Keith Griffin writes in his Facing South post, “in the Deep South and Florida, Republican governors and state legislatures have turned down the funding, citing cost concerns and philosophical opposition to the safety net insurance program, which was signed into law on July 30, 1965. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, the move will exclude 2.7 million low-income residents from Medicaid eligibility, according to the Urban Institute.” If that doesn’t give Dems some leverage with southern voters, what will?
Democrats, do you know what your charge card is doing while you are asleep?
Odd that this Gallup Poll of Immigrant and U.S.-Born Hispanics did not factor in citizenship or RV’s among the variables. Good, nonetheless, that “Hispanics in the U.S. identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party over the Republican Party by about a 2-to-1 margin, regardless of whether they were U.S.-born.”
This Fox News Poll, conducted though it was by both Democratic and Republican pollsters, strikes me as biased towards Republicans, with 38% of respondents who “think of yourself” as a Democrat, vs. 37% Republicans. But the questions about attitudes toward recipients of public assistance are nonetheless interesting. For example, 94 percent of respondents said they are “Okay” with “a laid-off worker who wants a job and doesn’t have the money to feed his family” receiving food stamps.
At last, some very good news for the AFL-CIO.
At the Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore addresses growing evidence that senior voters are getting fed up with the GOP: “If the trend holds, this is a very big deal, folks, not just in the long term but in the immediate future. It’s the grip the GOP had on white seniors that made the 2010 GOP landslide possible, and which had convinced most attentive observers that Republicans possessed a big advantage going into 2014 no matter what was going on across the issue landscape, given the disproportionate turnout of seniors in midterms.”
David Brooks makes a case for some, gasp, “modest paternalism.” Expect splenetic denunciations from Rand Paul, Ted Cruz.
Another great Krugman column, with a clear prescription for Democratic messaging: “…What we’re looking at…is the normal aftermath of a debt-fueled asset bubble; the sluggish U.S. recovery since 2009 is more or less in line with many historical examples, running all the way back to the Panic of 1893. Furthermore, the recovery has been hobbled by spending cuts — cuts that were motivated by what we now know was completely wrongheaded deficit panic. …We need to stop talking about spending cuts and start talking about job-creating spending increases instead. Yes, I know that the politics of doing the right thing will be very hard. But, as far as the economics goes, the only thing we have to fear is fear-mongering itself.
Always thought Santorum was a little weird, But this remark is bizarre.