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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“The Brookings Institution noted that by the end of June, 209 Democrats not currently in Congress had registered with the Federal Election Commission to run,” notes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.  “That was nearly triple how many Republican challengers had registered at this point in 2009, when the G.O.P. was galvanized by antipathy toward President Obama and new candidates were coming out in what was then considered droves. Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House the following year… 23 Republican incumbents represent congressional districts that Clinton won last November…“You have to shoot for the stars,” the Democratic operative Hilary Rosen told me. “You might just reach the moon.”…But even as Rosen said that, she hedged any prophecy of a rout, in a manner that spoke to the difficulty of properly calibrating optimism in 2018. She worried about Democrats’ policy agenda. She worried about the party’s tone. “I still think we lack a sunny, aspirational outlook,” she said. “We’re going down in the mud with Donald Trump.”…She added that the party wasn’t focused on change in the right, compelling fashion. “The change that Donald Trump was selling was blowing up the system,” she observed. “What’s our change? Is our change to patch up the system? Not very sexy.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. boils it down nicely in his column, “The only thing the Republican Party knows how to do” at The Washington Post: “The party of Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell has abandoned the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, who championed the Homestead Act and land-grant colleges; Teddy Roosevelt, who protected vast tracts of nature on behalf of future generations; and Dwight Eisenhower, who pushed for student loans and the Interstate Highway System…The only thing today’s Republican Party knows how to do is cut taxes for the very rich.”

If you were looking for a couple of soundbite-sized stats to frame the Republican’s tax “reform” bill, WaPo’s Kelsey Snell has it at PowerPost: “…Democrats and some outside groups say the outline favors top earners over the middle class. A study released Friday by the nonprofit Tax Policy Center found that the top 1 percent of earners would see nearly 80 percent of the benefits under the GOP tax plan, while those earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would see a slight tax increase.”

At The Fix, Amber Philips provides three reasons Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s entry into the contest for Republican Jeff Flake’s U.S. senate seat in Arizona is a “big deal,” including: “1. Flake is one of two vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection next year; 2. Sinema is the Democrats’ top choice to take on Flake; and 3. Democrats needed a good candidate in Arizona to help them hold the line against Republicans and Trump.” Sinema’s compelling announcement:

PowerPost’s David Weigel  notes another great ad produced by Cheri Bustos (D-IL): “At one point, the candidates saw a direct-mail advertisement Bustos had sent after passing a bill that required the federal government to buy U.S. flags that had been entirely made in the United States. “Made in America, thanks to Cheri Bustos,” read the front of the ad….“It’s the best piece of mail I’ve ever sent,” Bustos said.”

A couple of salient points from  Justin Gest, author of “The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality,” from Chauncey Devega’s interview at salon .com: “The people who I encountered in Youngstown and its surrounding areas were people who voted for Trump not because they thought he was brilliant or he was a once-in-a-generation politician. It was because they had a sense of desperation. They voted Democrat before. They voted Republican before. They had just sat out before as well. They tried everything and they couldn’t get their way. They couldn’t get someone to pick up their issues, to actually empathize with their plight. Because, remember, in Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin they have been feeling a Great Recession way before 2007, going back to the ’70s. Yet no one has come to rescue them. They said, “Hey, what do I have to lose?…I don’t think white working-class people thought the Democrats gave a damn about them in 2016. You know what the truth is? They were right. I don’t think white working-class voters are necessarily “low information.” The truth is, they could easily discern that Republicans didn’t care about them. They were right, which is why they voted for someone who is effectively neither a Democrat or a Republican. That is why I bristle a little bit at the narrative that white working-class people vote against their interests. They are just not voting in their material interests. They’re voting in their cultural interests.”

Michael D. Shear and Yamiche Alcindor report at The New York Times on the Democrats’ strategic dilemma regarding immigration policies: “Fearful of concessions to Mr. Trump that could increase immigration enforcement aimed at their families and friends, the activists are targeting Democratic congressional leaders with loud political protests. And Democratic politicians may be vulnerable. They have already shifted to the left on a number of issues, such as health care, as they try to take advantage of liberal fervor stoked by the Trump era….But moving too far to the left on border security could hold serious risks for a party that lost the presidency with defeats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa — all states where immigration remains a hot-button issue.” Nonetheless, “We are determined to get Republicans votes to pass the clean Dream Act,” says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In his Plum Line column, “Why Democrats aren’t tearing themselves apart — yet,” Paul Waldman shines some sobering light on the “Dems in Disarray” meme that has become a staple of lazy political journalism: “…The market for ideological warfare within the Democratic Party just isn’t as robust as it is within the Republican Party…That doesn’t mean that liberal Democrats are going to eschew strongly liberal candidates and flock to centrists. But it may mean that at certain times, they’ll decide to put aside ideological fights for another day. They may look at a race like Arizona and say, “okay, so Sinema is never going to be my favorite senator. But if she’s the strongest Democratic candidate in this particular election in this particular state, I’m not going to try to turn the primary into an ideological bloodbath.” With 2018 presenting the possibility of a genuine wave election that gives Democrats the House and maybe even the Senate, the stakes of every race become incredibly high…It’s good to remind yourself now and then that Twitter is not America. There will certainly be raging fights in some quarters about this or that 2018 candidate, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you pull out and look at the broader picture, the Democrats seem polite, cooperative and reasonable in their internal debates — particularly when you contrast them with the Republicans.”

From Joy Reid’s MSNBC interview with Faiz Shakir, national political director of the ACLU, about his organization’s new state-specific project to end voter suppression:

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Jack Olson on

    Justin Gest argues that white working class voters chose Trump because they correctly suspected that neither the established Republicans or the established Democrats cared one bit about them. Trump had become a Republican only recently. Does this also explain why so many voters chose Senator Sanders, who had only recently become a Democrat? That would imply that the white working class voters for Trump and the Sandernistas were both frustrated with political party elites who generally ignore them between elections.


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