washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff, & Olivia Myszkowski explain why “Absent a MoreProgressive Economics, the Democrats Will Lose” at The American Prospect/Democratic Strategist roundtable on ‘The White Working Class and the Democrats’: “…Too many times, our party has been guilty not just of sins of omission—failing to stand up to the Republicans on critical issues, or even providing the GOP cover in some cases (as when some congressional Democrats supported the Bush tax cuts and the war in Iraq)—but of commission, too. The Obama administration’s embrace of the financial industry early in his first term, combined with its decision not to prosecute any of the individuals and institutions responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, led to a new low point in the Democratic Party’s credibility as a check on Wall Street. In the 2010 midterm elections, voters who blamed Wall Street for the country’s economic problems preferred Republican candidates by a margin of 16 points, despite the Democratic Party’s efforts to deliver a message against Wall Street special interests…Given this reality, it is not particularly surprising that the party has yet to articulate a clearer, more credible, and more commanding vision for the economic revitalization of the country, the middle class, and, more specifically, the hollowed-out communities in which many white working class voters struggle.”

In the same forum, Guy Molyneux, partner and senior vice president at Peter Hart Research Associates, writes, “…Trump will lose ground if and when white working-class voters see that he is not delivering for them, and is in fact serving others. Democrats must aggressively contest Trump’s core promise to the white working class: that he is putting the government to work for them. Much of Trump’s actual agenda is of course devoted to helping millionaires and large corporations. Our job is to make it impossible for working-class Americans to miss, or deny, that reality…In terms of a broader message, Democrats’ traditional economic populism offers a starting point, but we need to also borrow a bit from Trump’s playbook. We must speak not only about inequality and unfairness in our economy, but also about politicians who use their political power on behalf of corporations and the wealthy…We now have a tremendous opportunity to leverage public disgust with government, while focusing it on its proper target: Republicans’ determination to use government power to enrich the rich and empower the powerful. ”

“We need to start winning the trust of working-class voters through year-round, in-person engagement,” writes Matt Morrison, the deputy director of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO,” also at the roundtable on The White Working Class and the Democrats. “In those conversations and subsequent communications efforts, we need to change the narrative so voters’ frustrations are refocused on the appropriate targets instead of on other working-class people who are different from them. By doing so, we can defuse right-wing messages that target “others” and negate demands for racial justice….We must engage voters with face-to-face conversations that are as much about listening as talking. It’s this kind of organizing that persuades the skeptical and mobilizes the committed. As Andrew Cockburn has noted in Harper’s Magazine, “Of all the ways to get people to come out and vote tested by the academics, one emerged as the absolute gold standard. Talking to them face-to-face, the longer the better, turned out to have a dramatic effect. … [T]he effect is infinitely more cost-effective than any traditional media-heavy approach.””

The McCaskill Smackdown:

In his PowerPost article, “Inspired by Sanders, activists push Democrats to the left — or out of the way,” David Weigel notes an important distinction between two different kinds of populism:  “Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a freshman who has become the face of the Justice Democrats political action group, which was set up to beat “corporate” incumbents in primaries, said there was such a thing as too much negativity…“There’s a populism that goes after a villain, and there’s a populism that’s aspirational,” Khanna said. “Aspirational populism cuts across the party. It means talking about single-payer health care. It means the bill I’m working on with [Sen.] Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio] to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Six months ago, people said that was crazy. And now everyone who might run in 2020 is calling and asking if they can endorse it.”

Ronald Browstein writes at The Atlantic: “If the continued decline of blue-collar whites is the principal warning sign for Republicans in the new figures, the red light flashing most brightly at Democrats is the disappointing turnout among minorities. Though Trump presented a uniquely polarizing and provocative foil, the Census figures showed that turnout in 2016 sagged among Hispanics and skidded among African Americans….Among Hispanics, the States of Change analysis found that turnout declined slightly among those with a college education (down from nearly 71 percent in 2012 to just over 68 percent in 2016) and among those without (from just under 44 percent last time to just under 43 percent this time). Overall, the Census put total Hispanic turnout at just under 48 percent, which is within the narrow range of 47 percent to 50 percent over the past four presidential elections that has frustrated Democrats hoping for larger gains and greater impact.” — from Ron Brownstein’s article ..The most positive sign for Democrats was state-level Census data showing Hispanic turnout surging in Arizona and improving somewhat more modestly in Nevada and Colorado, all states where the party made a significant organizational effort. (Surprisingly, the Census data show Hispanic turnout declining from 2012 in Florida and slipping modestly in Virginia and North Carolina.)…In 2016, turnout sagged to about 73 percent among college-educated African Americans (down from nearly 80 percent in 2012) and to about 56 percent among those without degrees (down from over 63 percent in 2016). Overall, the Census data showed turnout among eligible African Americans dropped fully 7 percentage points from 2012 to 2016, the biggest drop over a single election for the group since at least 1980. In the battlegrounds that tipped the election to Trump, state-level Census data show black turnout plummeting in Wisconsin; skidding in North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio; and declining more modestly in Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Those who are concerned about the deployment of pro-Republican groups to provoke physical confrontations and intimidation of Democratic voters should check out “Bikers for Trump dip toe into local politics with Handel-Ossoff contest” by Tamar Hallerman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As Hallerman writes, “It wasn’t exactly your typical Saturday afternoon sight in this sleepy Sandy Plains neighborhood: almost a dozen barrel-chested, leather-clad bikers — led by a quartet of clean-cut high school students, no less — going door to door asking if these 6th District voters plan to support Republican Karen Handel…“We’re here to put Karen Handel where she needs to be,” one of the bikers told a voter at his front door, “in D.C. supporting President Trump.”…So members of the group – some from as far as Florida – dropped in on a Handel campaign event Saturday at Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q in Marietta. The contrast in style was striking: Handel, sporting boat shoes and a white collared shirt, shaking hands with the bikers, clad in leather vests with patches stating “all my ammo is dipped in pig’s blood…“This is not about Karen Handel. It’s about the Republican Party,” said Strzalkowski. “We support Karen Handel because she supports President Trump.”

At FiveThirtyEight.com Harry Enten explains why “Democrats Have A Slight Edge In The Georgia 6 Runoff But the race is too close to call,” noting that “The race remains too close to call. Ossoff’s lead is slim, especially given the past accuracy of special House election polling, and we simply don’t know what to expect voter turnout to be in Round 2 compared with Round 1. Still, it’s significant that Ossoff has maintained and even widened his lead as voters make up their minds, because it suggests that undecided voters aren’t overwhelmingly Republican. It’s possible that Handel will pick up the vast majority of the remaining undecided voters in the campaign’s final days, but there’s no reason to expect that to happen… If the current polling holds, Handel’s just a normal polling error away from winning — but she, not Ossoff, needs that error. Either way, this one’s probably going down to the wire.”

“If Republicans don’t act fast, Democrats will pitch their plan for single-payer, universal health care as a choice between something that costs individuals less vs. more, that is simpler vs. more complicated, that leads to greater equality vs. more inequality,” writes freaked out Republican strategist Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. “Republicans should be on the lookout. While we try to muddle through repealing and replacing Obamacare, Democrats are sharpening their message on health care. In their race to the left, Democrats are increasingly calling for a full-fledged single-payer system. And considering Republican credibility on repeal-and-replace is damaged, if not shot, the Democrats’ message will be compelling to a lot of voters who sense nothing but confusion from the GOP. The momentum is shifting, and the stakes are getting higher for Republicans…And in this fight, Republicans cannot just become the party of no. If Republicans fail to stand up and speak with clarity, we may be forced to defend the remnants of Obamacare as the best option to ward off socialized medicine. The public senses confusion, and the Democrats sense an opportunity. Time is running out.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Jack Olson on

    In the linked article, Matt Morrison argues that “we need to change the narrative…” That sound vague. What is “the narrative”? Where does it come from? Who is the narrator and why does anyone listen to him?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *