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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

According to the New York Times editorial board, Democrats and progressives should be encouraged by the appointment of Robert Mueller III as special counsel charged with investigating Russian interference in U.S. elexctoral politics. The editorial calls Mueller “one of the few people with the experience, stature and reputation to see the job through. Mr. Mueller led the F.B.I. for 12 years under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In 2004, he and Mr. Comey, then deputy attorney general, threatened to resign if President Bush allowed a domestic-surveillance program to continue without Justice Department approval.” However, notes the editorial “This appointment does not lift the burden on Congress to conduct its own, bipartisan inquiry, nor does it end the need for an independent commission. But under Justice Department regulations, Mr. Mueller will have significant latitude, including to pursue criminal prosecutions, if necessary — although Mr. Rosenstein has the power to overrule him…”

In his Washington Post column, “Trump Has Caused a Catastrophe’ Let’s End It Quickly,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “There is really only one issue in American politics at this moment: Will we accelerate our way to the end of the Trump story, or will our government remain mired in scandal, misdirection and paralysis for many more months — or even years? There is a large irony in the politics behind this question. The Democrats’ narrow interest lies in having President Trump hang around as close to the 2018 midterm elections as possible. Yet they are urging steps that could get this resolved sooner rather than later. Republicans would likely be better off if Trump were pushed off the stage. Yet up to now, they have been dragging their feet…Nothing could be worse than slow-walking the Trump inquiries.” It’s about striking the optimum balance between taking the time needed to adequately address key concerns, while moving forward to complete the investigation and then act end the chaos. It’s going to take a while, but Democrats should do what they can to move the process along briskly — for the overriding good of the nation.

But NYT’s  Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns report that “Democratic Leaders Try to Slow Calls to Impeach Trump,” and write “The barrage of reports about Mr. Trump’s chaotic and controversial administration has helped revive Democrats, raising their hopes that they can ride a Trumpian backlash to great success in next year’s elections…Party strategists fear that Democrats might sacrifice the moral and political high ground by appearing too eager, and some leaders worry that an impeachment drumbeat would drown out Democrats’ message to voters on kitchen-table issues like health care and taxes…The fear, Democratic officials say, is that they will invite the sort of backlash from their base that Republicans got for overpromising about what was possible while President Barack Obama was in office. They argue that methodically building a case — obtaining and revealing any memos or White House recordings, for example — is the soundest approach if they are to bring Republicans along.”

Democrats would be guilty of  political malpractice, however, if they failed to leverage Trump’s troubles in order to fight his regressive agenda, issue by issue. Josh Keller and Adam Pearce of The New York Times provide a handy, continually-updated widget  “Tracking Trump’s Agenda, Step by Step,” Dems can use to quickly check the status of 14 of Trump’s most frequently-cited policy goals.

“Russian strategic doctrine suggests that it sees hacking as a very specific kind of warfare,” writes Zack Beauchamp in his Vox post, “Vladimir Putin took time at a press conference to gloat about Trump.” Beauchamp further illuminates Putin’s grand strategy: “In an influential 2013 article, Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery V. Gerasimov argued that “non-military means,” including “new information technologies,” have eclipsed traditional weaponry in their strategic importance…The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.”…The goal of Gerasimov-style interventions isn’t solely to elect leaders who will pursue Kremlin-friendly policies. It’s also to exacerbate internal divisions in hostile countries — to distract them with paralyzing infighting that makes it difficult for them to counter Russian strategic moves internationally.”

It’s one thing, when a Democrat accuses top GOP leaders of being paid off. But it’s quite another when it comes from the Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy:

In Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson has an update on Democrat Rob Quist’s campaign to take Montana’s sole House seat away from Republicans in the May 25th special election. It appears Quist is a genuine ‘outsider’ candidate in the sense that he isn’t getting much help from the national Democratic Party. “The Montana special election has laid bare a strategic disconnect between the Democratic Party’s base and the DCCC,” writes Dickinson. “And it underscores just how much work remains to rebuild a robust and effective DNC – the Democrats’ top committee, responsible for keeping all parts of the party working in concert…Montana has demonstrated, on one hand, the free-spending, go-for-broke ethos of the Democratic grassroots – activists eager to charge, uphill, into any battle against the Trump administration…Victory in a red state would make Republicans in swing districts fear for their political lives in the 2018 midterms – driving a wedge between GOP moderates and a president pressing to advance his extreme agenda…On the other hand, a cautious DCCC understands its mission as finding the path of least political resistance to rebuild a House majority for Democrats. Eager to keep its powder dry in advance of the crucial 2018 midterms – where the committee has identified dozens of winnable races in traditional swing districts – the DCCC is reticent to follow party activists into expensive red-district fights, where it does not see a clear path to victory. “We want to maximize gains,” a DCCC spokesman says, “competing in districts where we have a really good shot to win.” On May 3, the DCCC gave Quist’s campaign $400,000, and now he is just single digits behind his Republican opponent in recent polling. Those who want to help Quist can find his ActBlue donations page right here.

If ever there was an issue that will excite the Democratic base, particularly younger voters, it is net neutrality. Tony Romm reports at Recode that “Democrats are readying an all-out war to stop the FCC from killing net neutrality rules: Their hope: Generate enough backlash that Republicans cave.” As Romm explain s, “In many ways, net neutrality is the internet’s longest war: So far, it has spanned two decades, four presidents, scores of court challenges and multiple, wonky rulemaking proceedings at the nation’s telecom regulator, the FCC. It has pitted the country’s cable and broadband giants, which abhor regulation, against the likes of Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter and a host of startups that firmly believe net neutrality rules are critical to their existence….Huddling with reporters in the basement of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz put it plainly: “I just don’t think [Republicans] understand the ferocity of the resistance that they’re about to encounter…Part of our approach right now is to educate the public about the need to weigh in…I think the aperture for legislating in this moment is vanishingly narrow.” The danger is that the conflict will get lost in the media shadow of Trump’s debacle du jour.

Rachael Bade and Kyle Cheny report at Politico that “More than 10 centrist Republicans over the past 48 hours have criticized Trump for reportedly sharing classified information with Russian officials or allegedly trying to quash an FBI investigation. Many joined Democrats in calling for a special prosecutor to take the reins of the Justice Department investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. (The DOJ named a special counsel on Wednesday.) Others want a select congressional committee to be appointed…The break from Trump among centrist Republicans is especially notable because some of them had stuck by the president through the brutal fight over Obamacare repeal legislation two weeks ago, backing an unpopular bill despite great political risk at home…“Any member of Congress who represents a marginal or swing district better develop their own brand very quickly,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who leads the moderate Tuesday Group. “It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the opposition’s attacks on them will be: They’re going to call everybody a rubber stamp” for Trump.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Captain Dan on

    The overriding good of the nation is to destroy the Republican Party so that another Trump type person is never elected to national office!

  2. James Harris on

    “Military means” are used to fight wars, and saying you have substitued other “weapons” is admitting you consider yourself at war. If the Russians regard themselves as being at war with the United States, then we should not delude ourselves that we are at peace with them. If this is what war now looks like, we should not be outgunned.


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