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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Ari Berman cuts to the chase in his article in The Nation, “In E-mails, Neil Gorsuch Praised a Leading Republican Activist Behind Voter Suppression Efforts. Gorsuch’s ties to Hans von Spakovksy suggest a hostility to voting rights.” As Berman writes: “Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote. But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration. When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!””…At very least, the e-mails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights. Given that we know almost nothing about Gorsuch’s views on the subject, this is something the Senate needs to press him on during confirmation hearings next week…Given that von Spakovsky hailed Gorsuch as “the perfect pick for Trump,” it’s safe to assume he believes that the Supreme Court nominee shares his views. The Senate needs to aggressively question Gorsuch to see if that’s the case.” Democrats must understand that voter suppression is the single issue that matters more for their party’s survival than any other, and not get suckered by the meme that Gorsuch is a moderate conservative.

In his New York Times Magazine article, “The New Party of No, How a president and a protest movement transformed the Democrats,” Charles Homans shares a statistic which helps explain why Repubicans have an easier time with party discipline in congress than do Democrats: “In a 2014 Pew survey, 82 percent of people who identified as “consistently liberal” said they liked politicians who were willing to make compromises; just 32 percent of “consistently conservative” respondents agreed.”

“Buckle up:Trump faces his most consequential week yet,” write Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann at NBC News. They pinpoint four key questions that will be addressed this week, which will likely have a decisive impact on Trump’s prospects for finishing his term. The questions include: 1. Does FBI Director Comey publicly repudiate Trump’s wiretapping charge?…2. How far does Comey go on Russia; Does the health-care effort survive — or die? and Is Gorsuch’s confirmation still on track?

At The Daily 202:, James Hohman reports that “Reagan Democrats give Trump a long leash – but deeply distrust GOP,” and makes the case that “The Reagan Democrats who delivered the Rust Belt to Donald Trump last fall will blame congressional Republicans, not him, if Obamacare repeal fails…The president is flying to Detroit later this morning to talk about the future of the auto industry during a roundtable with union workers and CEOs. He is expected to relax fuel economy standards. Trump was the first Republican to carry Michigan since 1988 because of his outsized strength among non-college educated independents and traditional Democrats…Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg coined the term “Reagan Democrats” in the mid-1980s to describe just these sorts of blue-collar whites in Macomb County, Michigan, mostly autoworkers, who had shifted from staunchly backing John F. Kennedy to going gaga for Ronald Reagan. He helped his client Bill Clinton assiduously court this constituency and bring them back into the Democratic fold…Barack Obama easily carried Macomb twice. Then Trump won it with 54 percent…To understand what happened, Greenberg went back last month to conduct four focus groups with 35 non-college educated whites who voted for both Trump and Obama…There was no buyer’s remorse. Despite the drama of the opening weeks, not one of the participants regretted voting for the president. They described Trump as sincere, complained about unfair media coverage and criticized protesters for not giving him a chance to do good things. They love that he remains politically incorrect. They remain confident that he is a strong leader who will shake up Washington, secure the border and bring back manufacturing jobs. Their faith is strong. Their doubts are sparse…At the same time, no one in the focus groups trusted congressional Republicans to do the right thing, particularly on the economy and health care. The Trump/Obama voters were asked to react to pictures of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Among the responses: “shifty,” “they only look out for themselves,” and “like the CEOs.” They want these guys to support Trump and his agenda, not the other way around. Asked for impressions of Republicans generally, several volunteered that the party cares primarily about the rich…“Nothing has happened that has broken their trust in him and their belief that they cast the right kind of vote,” Greenberg explained in an interview yesterday afternoon. “That doesn’t mean it won’t break at some point, but it gives him a lot of space for now. They also know regular Republicans were not with him. They’re very conscious of this.”…Greenberg was also struck by how much health care dominated the conversation in his focus groups, which was not by design. Nearly everyone told a story about how the Affordable Care Act is not affordable enough for them. They almost all have struggled to afford their insurance plans, co-pays and medications. Some expressed frustration about having to subsidize coverage for the poor and minorities. One man lamented that he cannot retire because he needs to pay for health care. A woman complained about her son having to pay a penalty because of the individual mandate.” It appears that educating persuadable Reagan Democrats about how closely Trump’s policies line up with the Republican Party line could be an effective strategy for Dems.

A new Fox News poll out this week shows Sanders has a +28 net favorability rating among the US population, dwarfing all other elected politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. And he’s even more popular among the vaunted “independents”, where he is at a mind boggling +41…Sanders’ effect on Trump voters can be seen in a gripping town hall this week that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes hosted with him in West Virginia – often referred to as “Trump country” – where the crowd ended up giving him a rousing ovation after he talked about healthcare being a right of all people and that we are the only industrialized nation in the world who doesn’t provide healthcare as a right to all its people.

“What we call populism is really in large degree white identity politics, which can’t be addressed by promising universal benefits. Among other things, these “populist” voters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won’t hear about it or believe it if told. For sure many if not most of those who gained health coverage thanks to Obamacare have no idea that’s what happened. That said, taking the benefits away would probably get their attention, and maybe even open their eyes to the extent to which they are suffering to provide tax cuts to the rich.” — from Paul Krugman’s Consience of a Liberal; blog on Populism and the Politics of Health.

At The New York Times, Carl Hulse explains why the “Gorsuch Confirmation Presents Democrats With 2 Difficult Paths.”: “When it comes to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, Senate Democrats appear to have two options: Get out of the way or get run over…Senate Republicans’ enthusiastic backing of President Trump’s nominee ensures majority support even before the confirmation hearing begins Monday. But the Republicans also hope that enough Democrats are won over by Judge Gorsuch — or recognize the inevitability of his confirmation — that they join in efforts to head off an explosive showdown over a filibuster…Some Democrats believe that Republicans are posturing in an effort to intimidate the opposition and don’t yet have the votes to end the filibuster. They also worry their party could face a severe political reprisal from its energized liberal backers if they do not do whatever they can to oppose Judge Gorsuch no matter the consequences. Other Democrats privately take a different view. They say the party shouldn’t test the limits on the Gorsuch nomination since his approval won’t change the ideological makeup of the court from when Justice Scalia served. They believe Democrats should hold their fire in the expectation of another vacancy. Then, if Mr. Trump goes with a staunch conservative, dig in against that person and argue that Republicans are instituting a partisan rules change to drastically reshape the court.”

Alex Seitz-Wald reports at nbcnews.com that Blue Dog Democrats in congress can expect primary challenges from several new groups of progressives:” “One called #WeWillReplaceYou has warned specific members of congress it may challenge them. But it promises to use discretion in targeting only those Democrats it feels have strayed from the party…Another new group staffed by ex-Sanders aides, Justice Democrats, has less clear plans. While their audacious talk isn’t backed up at the moment, they have an innovative model that could be used to run a large slate of candidates on the cheap against possibly dozens of incumbents…This week, Justice Democrats merged operations with another anti-incumbent group founded by former Sanders aides, Brand New Congress, which started last year.”

McClatchy’s Alex Roarty reports that “Establishment Democrats aim to adopt the anti-Trump movement“: “A ragtag group of political amateurs has driven the protest movement against President Donald Trump, and now the heavyweights of the Democratic Party are trying to bring these novices into the institutional fold. Next month, the liberal movement’s leading think tank is convening about 50 of the top activists for a daylong convention in Los Angeles. Those protest leaders who plan to attend say it will be their first chance to meet many fellow organizers who have become full-blown activists since Trump’s election. The session, organized and co-hosted by the Center for American Progress’ political arm, is ostensibly meant to share best practices with these volunteer-driven groups, on subjects ranging from fundraising to organizing. But it also reflects the effort underway within the Democratic Party, where operatives who have battled Republicans for years are now trying to cooperate with newcomers who have been more successful capturing the energy of anti-Trump Americans than the professional class was during the 2016 campaign…It’s a process both sides say needs to go well if Democrats want to turn the so-called anti-Trump “resistance” movement into a force that can win elections. “In the very beginning, there was just a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, a lot of frustration, and groups like mind swelled in numbers,” said Andy Kim, founder of Rise Stronger, a group that seeks to connect grass-roots organizers with policy experts. “This next phase is the strategic phase.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Jack Olson on

    According to the report on Greenberg’s focus groups, “We showed these voters pictures of Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and by their responses it was clear they do not trust them. They describe them as “shifty,” “only look out for themselves,” and “like the CEOs.”

    What did they say when the focus group leaders showed them pictures of Minority Leader Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer? If the leaders didn’t show them pictures of Pelosi and Schumer, as they did pictures of Ryan and McConnell, their objectivity is doubtful. They may reveal ways to attack Congressional Republicans but what the Democratic Party needs is ways to elect Congressional Democrats.


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