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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: October 2014

October 31: The Lost Tradition of Believing Everybody Should Vote

As we sort through the various voter suppression measures being deployed by Republicans in the several states, it’s important to remember that pretty recently it was Gospel Truth that everyone should vote. That tradition has slipped away, to be replaced by a number of disreputable ideas, as I discussed today at the Washington Monthly:

There’s an age-old conservative ideological argument often embedded in the contrary presumption against universal voting–I discussed it at some length here. But people naturally are reluctant to fully articulate the belief that only those who hold property or pay taxes should be allowed to vote; that’s why such beliefs are typically expressed in private, with or without a side order of neo-Confederate rhetoric.
More often you hear that poor voter turnout is a sign of civic health. Here’s an expression of that comforting (if not self-serving) theory by the Cato Institute’s Will Wilkinson in 2008:

[L]ower levels of turnout may suggest that voters actually trust each other more — that fewer feel an urgent need to vote defensively, to guard against competing interests or ideologies. Is it really all that bad if a broad swath of voters, relatively happy with the status quo, sit it out from a decided lack of pique?

First of all, everything we know about the people least likely to vote is not congruent with an image of self-satisfied, happy citizens enjoying a “lack of pique” or trusting one another too much to resort to politics. But second of all, nobody’s asking anyone to stop living their lives and raising their kids and going to work in order to become political obsessives. Voting, and even informing oneself enough to cast educated votes (or to affiliate oneself with a political party that generally reflects one’s interests), requires a very small investment of time relative to everything else. And if the concern here is that voting interferes too much with “normal” life, shouldn’t we make it as convenient as possible?

The big issue here is that the presumption that universal voting is a good thing has been gradually replaced by the presumption that Americans must prove their worthiness to vote. And that’s a big deal:

Hedging on the right to vote takes you down a genuinely slippery slope that leads to unconscious and then conscious oligarchy and even authoritarianism. And so to paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, we should not look at eligible voters and ask why they should vote, but instead ask why not? There’s no good answer that doesn’t violate every civic tenet of equality and every Judeo-Christian principle of the sisterhood and brotherhood of humanity.

Restricting the franchise is a old and disreputable idea whose time has nonetheless come once again. It’s important to throw it right back once again.


The Lost Tradition of Believing Everybody Should Vote

As we sort through the various voter suppression measures being deployed by Republicans in the several states, it’s important to remember that pretty recently it was Gospel Truth that everyone should vote. That tradition has slipped away, to be replaced by a number of disreputable ideas, as I discussed today at the Washington Monthly:

There’s an age-old conservative ideological argument often embedded in the contrary presumption against universal voting–I discussed it at some length here. But people naturally are reluctant to fully articulate the belief that only those who hold property or pay taxes should be allowed to vote; that’s why such beliefs are typically expressed in private, with or without a side order of neo-Confederate rhetoric.
More often you hear that poor voter turnout is a sign of civic health. Here’s an expression of that comforting (if not self-serving) theory by the Cato Institute’s Will Wilkinson in 2008:

[L]ower levels of turnout may suggest that voters actually trust each other more — that fewer feel an urgent need to vote defensively, to guard against competing interests or ideologies. Is it really all that bad if a broad swath of voters, relatively happy with the status quo, sit it out from a decided lack of pique?

First of all, everything we know about the people least likely to vote is not congruent with an image of self-satisfied, happy citizens enjoying a “lack of pique” or trusting one another too much to resort to politics. But second of all, nobody’s asking anyone to stop living their lives and raising their kids and going to work in order to become political obsessives. Voting, and even informing oneself enough to cast educated votes (or to affiliate oneself with a political party that generally reflects one’s interests), requires a very small investment of time relative to everything else. And if the concern here is that voting interferes too much with “normal” life, shouldn’t we make it as convenient as possible?

The big issue here is that the presumption that universal voting is a good thing has been gradually replaced by the presumption that Americans must prove their worthiness to vote. And that’s a big deal:

Hedging on the right to vote takes you down a genuinely slippery slope that leads to unconscious and then conscious oligarchy and even authoritarianism. And so to paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, we should not look at eligible voters and ask why they should vote, but instead ask why not? There’s no good answer that doesn’t violate every civic tenet of equality and every Judeo-Christian principle of the sisterhood and brotherhood of humanity.

Restricting the franchise is a old and disreputable idea whose time has nonetheless come once again. It’s important to throw it right back once again.


Millennials Demand Action on Climate, Will Punish “Ignorant” Politicians Who Deny Climate Change

Millennials Demand Action on Climate, Will Punish “Ignorant” Politicians Who Deny Climate Change


Creamer: GOP Fears, Suppresses African American Voters

The following article, by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win,” is cross-posted from HuffPo:
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis didn’t have any problem jamming through a so-called “voter ID” law that was intended to take away the voting rights of thousands of North Carolinians — including many African Americans.
But the moment Democrats or civil rights organizations exhort African Americans to go to the polls and stand up for their right to vote — and prevent Tillis from being elected to the U.S. Senate — the Republicans squeal like stuck pigs.
“Oh, that’s unfair, that’s playing the racial card,” they say. Wrong. That’s being held accountable for policies that intentionally attack the interests of African Americans and millions of other ordinary voters.
With Tillis as speaker, the North Carolina legislature passed “Stand Your Ground” legislation similar to the law that allowed the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in Florida. But the GOP thinks it is utterly unfair for him to be tied to the real-world consequences of his actions in government.
Community and civil rights organizations throughout the South — and around the country — are exhorting African American voters to go to the polls in the mid-term elections by pointing out that when African Americans don’t vote they get outcomes like Ferguson, Missouri. And they are dead on. Sixty-seven percent of the city’s 21,000 residents are black, but only 12 percent of the voters in the last municipal election were black. The result: a city council with only one African American member and a police force of 53 officers — of which only three are black.
There could be no better example of what African Americans get if they don’t vote. Yet the Republicans think that reference to Ferguson is “inflammatory.”
It’s not the least bit “inflammatory.” It simply means that the African American community intends to stand up for itself in the political process.
It is tribute to the fact that the leaders of African American organizations realize that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu — and that goes for all of us.
Democrats and everyday Americans of all backgrounds should take a lesson from the way African American leaders are standing up for President Obama. They are pointing out in radio spots and mailings that while it is perfectly legitimate to criticize the president in a democratic society; many of his Republican and right-wing critics have crossed the line to disrespect. They are telling African American voters: “It’s up to us to have the president’s back — vote.”
Republicans don’t like to hear that. In fact, the corporate CEOs and Wall Street billionaires who control the Republican Party — in coalition with groups of tea party extremists — don’t want most ordinary Americans to wake up and go the polls.
That doesn’t just go for African Americans. They are hoping that Hispanics, women, working people, and young people of all sorts stay home and forget there is an election. That way they hope they can elect a Republican Senate so that if a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court they can prevent President Obama from appointing a justice that is not in Wall Street’s back pocket.
They want a Senate that can work with the tea party-controlled House to hold the president and the country hostage unless they are allowed to slash tax rates for big business, eliminate the Medicare guarantee, cut Social Security benefits, gut the regulation of Wall Street, dramatically restrict women’s right to choose and limit access to contraception. And none of that is an exaggeration. Those are the positions they put right on their campaign websites.
If you are reading this article and haven’t voted, make a plan right now for how you plan to vote before Tuesday. In most states you can vote by mail, vote early at many locations or — of course — go to your precinct on Tuesday and cast your ballot.
Figure out now what time you plan to vote and how you plan to get to the polls or the early vote location. Don’t put it off.
Many critical elections in state after state are on a knife’s edge — they will be decided by a handful of voters.
Tens of thousands of Americans have given their lives — on battlefields far away and in struggles for voting rights here at home — so that every single American can have the right to have a say in determining our country’s leaders.
If you think that it doesn’t matter — or that it won’t affect you, or that your vote won’t influence the outcome — you are simply wrong.
In the end the big issues that completely shape our individual lives and the future of our society are decided by who votes.
Will there be job opportunities for our kids? Will a small group of Wall Street speculators be allowed to sink our economy once again like they did in 2008? Will you have the right to control your own reproductive decisions? Will your monthly Social Security check be cut? Will we leave our kids a planet that is so filled with carbon pollution that we can’t grow enough food or our cities are regularly swamped by monster storms like Hurricane Sandy? Will ordinary people finally get wage increases from our growing economy or will all of the growth continue to be siphoned off by the wealthiest one percent?
If you don’t plan to vote, are you really willing to allow the billionaires and CEOs to get what they want? Are you willing to let them steal your family’s security while we sleep through the election?
Don’t let it happen. Get up off the couch and go vote. Better still, call your neighbors, your sons and daughters. Tell your spouse to vote. Volunteer with a campaign to get other people out to vote — it works.
The plain fact is that if we don’t vote it won’t just be some politician who loses an election. If we don’t vote, we lose.


October 30: Meanwhile, Back in the States

As we near election day, after months of speculation about U.S. Senate races, it’s good to remember there are important downballot elections, and not just for statewide offices. State legislative races are hanging fire, too, and I wrote about them today at Washington Monthly:

Governing‘s Louis Jacobsen had an update of his unique race ratings just last week. The landscape is a lot like that of the U.S. House, and for a lot of the same reasons: Republicans will benefit from turnout patterns and redistricting, but their gains will be limited by Democratic under-exposure (when you’ve recently lost a lot of seats, there are far fewer marginal seats to lose).
Jacobsen shows a total of 18 chambers at some risk of changing party control, 11 from D to R and 7 from R to D. The biggest disruption could occur in Colorado, where Democrats control the governorship and both legislative chambers; all three are up in the air at the moment, with a shift to all-mail voting creating a lot of uncertainty. Republicans could gain total control in Arkansas by winning the governorship and hanging onto the House. Democrats hope finally to gain control of the New York Senate. And there will be some states where big shifts short of a change of control could be significant: e.g., in California, where Democrats are in danger of losing a supermajority in the Senate, and in North Carolina, where the backlash against a GOP legislature could give Democrats significant gains in both chambers.
As always on and after election night, beware of assessments of shifts in total state legislative seats, since those are wildly overinfluenced by the 400-seat New Hampshire House, where Republicans are very likely to make significant gains.

As the dust slowly settles, we’ll have a sense of the extent to which Republicans have consolidated the strong position they achieved through redistricting in many states, and the implications for policy ranging from abortion and voting rights to Medicaid expansion and economic development.


Meanwhile, Back in the States

As we near election day, after months of speculation about U.S. Senate races, it’s good to remember there are important downballot elections, and not just for statewide offices. State legislative races are hanging fire, too, and I wrote about them today at Washington Monthly:

Governing‘s Louis Jacobsen had an update of his unique race ratings just last week. The landscape is a lot like that of the U.S. House, and for a lot of the same reasons: Republicans will benefit from turnout patterns and redistricting, but their gains will be limited by Democratic under-exposure (when you’ve recently lost a lot of seats, there are far fewer marginal seats to lose).
Jacobsen shows a total of 18 chambers at some risk of changing party control, 11 from D to R and 7 from R to D. The biggest disruption could occur in Colorado, where Democrats control the governorship and both legislative chambers; all three are up in the air at the moment, with a shift to all-mail voting creating a lot of uncertainty. Republicans could gain total control in Arkansas by winning the governorship and hanging onto the House. Democrats hope finally to gain control of the New York Senate. And there will be some states where big shifts short of a change of control could be significant: e.g., in California, where Democrats are in danger of losing a supermajority in the Senate, and in North Carolina, where the backlash against a GOP legislature could give Democrats significant gains in both chambers.
As always on and after election night, beware of assessments of shifts in total state legislative seats, since those are wildly overinfluenced by the 400-seat New Hampshire House, where Republicans are very likely to make significant gains.

As the dust slowly settles, we’ll have a sense of the extent to which Republicans have consolidated the strong position they achieved through redistricting in many states, and the implications for policy ranging from abortion and voting rights to Medicaid expansion and economic development.


Political Strategy Notes

Greg Sargent has a “hopeful but realistic” interview with Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, at the Plum Line.
The Upshot’s Nate Cohn reveals “Why Polls Tend to Undercount Democrats,” cites “extensive research, suggesting that many of today’s polls struggle to reach Democratic-leaning groups.”
Jamelle Bouie reports at Slate.com on “The Most Brazen Attempt at Voter Suppression Yet”: “According to a six-month-long investigation conducted by Greg Palast for Al Jazeera, “voting officials in 27 states, almost all of them Republicans, have launched what is threatening to become a massive purge of black, Hispanic, and Asian-American voters. Already, tens of thousands have been removed from voter rolls in battleground states, and the numbers are set to climb.”
Jeremy W. Peters reports in The New York Times that “Democrats have said they need to raise the share of the electorate that is African-American to 21 percent, from 19 percent in the last midterm election in 2010, to prevail over Republicans, who control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.”
At HuffPo Pollster Ariel Edwards-Levy and Mark Blumenthal discuss the game-changing potential of “late shifts” in voting, particularly among undecided voters.
Andrew Kohut’s “Registered voters, likely voters, turnout rates: What does it all mean to 2014 election forecasts?” at Pew Research Center provides a useful primer for the midterm elections.
At The Fix Aaron Blake explains why Latino voters are not turning away from the Obama Administration as a result of its immigration policies.
Robocalls, candidate visits to voters homes are down from 2010 midterm elections, according to new Pew Research survey.
Democratic candidate for Governor of Florida Charlie Crist has opened up a huge lead with independents — 18 points — in new Quinnipiac poll.


DCorps: If Dems Hold the Senate, Here’s Why

From a DCorps e-blast:
Reason #1 African American turnout surprised everyone. Black voters are now high turnout voters even in off-year elections — we saw this in Virginia last year and James Carville says it will happen in Louisiana this year. There and elsewhere voter suppression is a visible, ugly race-motivated effort to deny African Americans and Latinos the right to vote and they noticed.
Reason #2 Democrats in Senate and Governor’s races ran on economic issues that affected unmarried and working women and these notorious non-presidential year drop-off voters decided the election matters. Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund and the House and Senate Democratic leaders have been pressing just such an agenda and Ron Brownstein just spotlighted where they are making the difference in the National Journal. Republican opposition to equal pay for women has been the strongest attack against GOP candidates.
Reason #3 The conservative Republican governing model that swept the states in 2010 is deeply unpopular, and conservative governors are immensely unpopular. We see this in North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Maine.
Reason #4 Latino voters notice that Republicans are running as the anti-immigrant party, and they begin to emulate African Americans who see important reasons to vote. They may notice ads from the RGA that accuse Democrats of favoring welfare for illegal immigrants or that the Republican House voted to rescind President Obama’s executive order on the ‘Dreamers.’
Reason #5 The Republican party brand and Republican Party priorities — both deeply unpopular with voters – mattered more than President Obama in the contested states. The national coverage centered on President Obama, but successful Democratic candidates in the states were using paid media to remind voters each day what today’s GOP really believes.
Read on our website.


Brownstein: Dems’ Must Turn Out Educated Single White Women

All indications are that Democrats are doing a good job in mobilizing African American voters, or rather the African American communities are doing it for themselves. It would be good to see some encouraging indicators that the same is true for the mobilization of Latino voters. All of that taken into consideration, Ronald Brownstein, editorial director of The National Journal, has a compelling article up underscoring the pivotal importance of single, educated white women for Democrats in the midterms: As Brownstein sees it:

…In surveys of both individual Senate races and national preferences on the generic congressional ballot, Democrats are showing stubborn strength with college-educated and single white women.
That performance–combined with preponderant leads among minority voters in almost all surveys–represents the Democrats’ best chance of overcoming gaping deficits with the remainder of the white electorate in the key contests. Yet in a measure of the party’s vulnerability, even that advantage rests on an unsteady foundation: National Pew Research Center and ABC/Washington Post polls conducted in October found that college-educated white women, though strongly preferring Democrats on issues relating to women’s health, actually trust Republicans more on both managing the economy and safeguarding the nation’s security.

Getting down to particular races, Brownstein adds:

On Sunday, the NBC/Marist Poll released results in five hotly competitive Senate races: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, and Iowa. (NBC and the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion also surveyed South Dakota, but the poll found that Republicans have reestablished a wide lead there.)
In all five of those races, the Democratic (or in the case of Kansas, independent) candidate ran better, usually much better, with college-educated white women than with any of the three other groups of whites.
In the NBC/Marist Polls, Iowa Democratic nominee Bruce Braley led among those well-educated white women by 5 points; Sen. Kay Hagan led by 6 points in North Carolina; Sen. Mark Pryor by 7 points in Arkansas; independent Greg Orman by 21 points in Kansas; and Sen. Mark Udall, who has emphasized social issues probably more than any other Democrat, by a resounding 27 points in Colorado.
The latest University of New Hampshire poll showed Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen holding a commanding 61-percent-to-28-percent advantage over Republican Scott Brown among college-educated white women. Quinnipiac University polls this month in Iowa and Colorado also recorded big advantages for Braley (25 percentage points) and Udall (16 points) with those women. “College-educated white women are Republicans’ biggest hurdle in terms of white voters,” says a top GOP strategist working on independent expenditure campaigns this year. “In those blue states, college white women are the equivalent of minority voters … they are how the Democrats start their base. That’s why you have seen such a focus, particularly in Colorado, with the war on women.”

Brownstein also cites an ABC News/Washington Post poll showing Democrats with a substantially better generic congressional ballot lead with educated white single women voters than was the case in 2010 and even 2012. Dems are going to need this edge to prevail next Tuesday, since they are lagging badly with almost all other groups of white voters. Dems are doing better than they did in those years with less educated white women, but they still lag behind Republicans with this demographic in key battleground statewide races.
If Democratic campaign workers needed an incentive to get extremely busy working the educated single white women demographic, Brownstein has it:

In 2016, a strong performance among the growing populations of minorities and college-educated or single white women might be all Democrats need to hold the White House: Their support allowed Obama to win a relatively comfortable reelection in 2012 despite struggling among most other whites. But maintaining Senate control behind such a narrow coalition is a much stiffer challeng–especially when the road to a majority runs through so many interior states dominated by the older and blue-collar whites hardening in their alienation from the Democratic Party.

As we enter the final week of the midterm campaign, the MSM is talking up a perceived edge for the Republicans in the battle for Senate control, based on some recent polls. But it’s the polls in the last two or three days before the election that have the most cred for predicting the result. For Democrats, however, our best midterm outcome has always been about GOTV in the battleground states — and early voting indications suggest that Dems are in pretty good shape.


Early Voting in Big Easy Bodes Well for Landrieu

From “Early voter turnout explodes in New Orleans; could be good sign for Mary Landrieu” by Robert McClendon at The Times-Pacayune:

New Orleanians have been voting early in droves, according to the Orleans Parish registrar of voters.
About 17,430 city residents have cast ballots during early voting, which ends today, said Sandra Wilson, registrar of voters. That’s nearly twice as many early voters as the last midterm election in November 2010, when 9,031 voted early in person, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s figures.
…The big early voting turnout this year may be a good sign for Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu as she fights to keep her Senate seat. African-Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Democrat, have much higher early voting rates than whites, and maximizing voter turnout in New Orleans is seen by many as key to Landrieu’s electoral hopes.
..Wilson said that there has been steady increases in early voter turnout since Hurricane Katrina, but this year’s jump is unprecedented. “It has been amazing,” Wilson said. “It seems like early voting is really taking on.”

“Wilson said that some of the rise in early voting can be attributed to the addition of a new early polling-place,” reports McClendon. “She also said hundreds of “Vote Early” signs that have sprung up in neutral grounds across the city have helped.”
The hope is that those are indicators that New Orleans Democrats have got their act together and intend to hold this seat for Mary Landrieu and the Democrats.