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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“To resist the Trump presidency effectively, Democrats have to go beyond the defensive posture of relying exclusively or even primarily on protests, demonstrations and other forms of opposition. Instead, Democrats must seek to establish an independent and strong political base from which to articulate an alternative vision for the country. One way to do this would be for the governors of the blue states — California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Connecticut and Colorado, to name some of the mightiest in numbers and weight — to form a very public council to articulate that alternative vision and publicly seek to make that vision a reality within their respective states: a vision that includes universal health care, strong support for labor unions, a humanitarian approach to immigrants and refugees, protection of the environment, among other morally necessary and compelling elements…This kind of public group stance by those representing the people who actually provided the popular vote majority for Hillary Clinton would be the assertion of a positive vision supported by a real political base to realize that vision. It would give people everywhere a sense of hope and strength from which to fight the larger national battle. And it would offer up a highly visible, positive alternative worldview to Trump’s dystopian picture of social reality that lacks any idealistic social elements.” – from “Going on the Offensive: A State-Based Strategy for the Democratic Party” at Truthout by Peter Gabel, editor-at-large of Tikkun magazine and author of Another Way of Seeing: Essays on Transforming Law, Politics, and Culture.

The Upshot’s Nate Cohn is geting some buzz with his post, “Democrats’ Best Bet to Retake the House? Follow the Sun.” Cohn explains, “Mrs. Clinton’s success in Orange County, and in well-educated and Hispanic areas elsewhere in the Sun Belt, helped her win the popular vote — though there was no payoff in the Electoral College. But it’s districts like these that will decide whether the Democrats can make a serious run at control of the House…There is no guarantee that the Democrats can put the House in play, even if Mr. Trump’s approval ratings remain as low as they are now or slip further. The Republicans have so many safe seats that they could even survive a so-called wave election like the ones that swept Democrats to power in 2006 and out of power in 2010. The Democrats need 24 seats to retake the House…But whether the Democrats can do it will come down to places like Orange County, which is more populous than Iowa. Four congressional districts that have at least some territory in the county still have Republican representatives, and all four were carried by Mrs. Clinton…It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the road to a Democratic House begins and ends at Laguna Beach.”

At The Plum Line Greg Sargent, who likes Cohn’s analysis, believes the 2018 outcome may turn on the answer to a key question: “One of the big questions in American politics right now is how deep public support really is for the agenda loosely known as “Trumpism.” Did the 2016 election represent a fluke-like confluence of factors that enabled Trump to eke out a narrow electoral college win, despite having his worldview repudiated in the popular vote? Or are we in the midst of a genuine turn in public opinion — away from the inclusive, cosmopolitan pluralism that seemed to be gaining ground and toward restrictive, America-first, wall-them-off nationalism?

In his post at The Fix, “Donald Trump is losing his war with the media,” Aaron Blake notes “A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that while people may be broadly unhappy with the mainstream media, they still think it’s more credible than Trump. The president regularly accuses the press of “fake news,” but people see more “fake news” coming out of his own mouth…The poll asked who registered voters “trust more to tell you the truth about important issues.” A majority — 52 percent — picked the media. Just 37 percent picked Trump…The poll did find that registered voters by a narrow margin think the media has treated Trump unfairly, with 50 percent saying they disapproved of the coverage of Trump and 45 percent approving. But voters are even more critical of Trump’s treatment of the media, with 61 percent disapproving and 35 percent approving…Even 23 percent of Republicans say Trump is mistreating the media, and independents disapprove 59-35.”

In his  Politico post “Poll: Support for Obamacare is rising” Steven Shepard writes “…A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows voters are now split evenly on the law. Forty-five percent of registered voters approve of the law, the poll shows, and 45 percent disapprove…Of nine separate provisions of the law tested in the poll, more poll respondents want to repeal only one — the individual mandate that Americans purchase health insurance — than want to keep it…Other provisions are resoundingly popular. Nearly two-thirds of voters, 65 percent, want to keep prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions, including 59 percent of Republicans. Sixty-three percent want to keep allowing those younger than 26 years of age to stay on their parents’ plan, including 56 percent of Republicans…Voters even want to keep provisions of the law opposed by most Republicans. Only a quarter want to repeal requiring businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance, while 59 percent want to keep it. Just 28 percent want to repeal requirements that insurance companies cover birth-control medication, and 55 percent want to keep it. And one-third, 33 percent, want to repeal taxes on medical devices, while slightly more, 39 percent, want to keep those taxes in place.”


Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and Jim Kessler, both vice presidents of the centrist think tank Third Way, write in their Washington Post op-ed, “Why demographics weren’t — and won’t be — destiny for Democrats” that “Democrats need to dig themselves out of a big hole from state legislative races on up, and it starts by treating voters as more than a check box on a census form. It will require building a big-tent coalition based on values and experiences, not just demographic groups, and rethinking the party’s pitch and policies to respond to the needs and concerns of Americans across the country, not just in cities and on coasts. Only if the Democratic Party can transform itself to meet those goals will it be ready to counter Trump and his noxious, dangerous strain of right-wing populism over the long term.”

NYT columnist David Leonhardt explains why “The Democratic Base Isn’t Enough“: “Winning back the House and Senate requires doing better in heavily white, nonmetropolitan America, which tends to be conservative…Democrats would be crazy to alienate the growing voting groups, such as millennials, Latinos andAsian-Americans, that now support the party so strongly. The answer for the party is almost surely more complex than simply moving to the right. Instead, it likely revolves around an economic message that appeals to both center and left…But if Democrats want to return to power — not just in the White House, but in Congress and at the state level too — they need a strategy that appeals to more white voters.”

Well, here’s a telling moment of candor from Montana GOP Chairman Jeff Essman, as reported by Tom Lutey of The Billings Gazette: “In an email to party members, Jeff Essmann warned Republicans the mail-in election would “give the Democrats an inherent advantage in close elections due to their ability to organize large numbers of unpaid college students and members of public employee unions to gather ballots by going door to door….At issue is state Senate Bill 503, which would require a mail ballot election this spring when Montanans are likely to vote to replace U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Republican nominated by President Donald Trump to be Interior secretary. The Senate is expected to vote on Zinke’s confirmation next week. A special election would follow within 85 to 100 days.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Jack Olson on

    Gabel’s proposal is sound. If the Democratic Party can demonstrate successful policies on a regional basis, other states and regions will take notice and follow their example. It’s a great way to rebuild the party’s strength where they need it most, at the grassroots.


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