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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his Houston Chronicle article, “Beto O’Rourke carries Texas Democrats’ hopes in 2018 run against Ted Cruz,” Kevin Diaz takes the measure of Rep. O’Rourke’s U.S. Senate campaign and observes, “Cruz’s evident ambition – seen in his first trip to Iowa, within months of being sworn in as a senator – will be central to O’Rourke’s case as he crisscrosses Texas trying to rally long-marginalized Democrats, independents, first-time voters, Latinos, the anti-Trump “resistance,” and anyone else who might have grown weary of post-Trump Republicanism…Strategists on both sides know that the backdrop for the U.S. Senate race in Texas – possibly one of the marquee races of the 2018 midterm elections – will be the push or pull of Trump, who bested Hillary Clinton in Texas by 9 percentage points…For O’Rourke, a Spanish nicknamed, fourth-generation Irish-American from El Paso, that is a source of hope. But first, the 45-year-old ex-punk-rocker with the toothy, Kennedyesque smile will have to prove it can be done – even as he eschews polls, Beltway consultants and, most importantly, political action committee money…O’Rourke could boast of 7,000 more individual donors than Cruz through the end of September, when their last financial reports were filed. But from a modern campaign perspective he will be fighting with one hand behind his back: Though he’s accepted campaign contributions from political action committees in the past, O’Rourke has sworn off PAC money in the race against Cruz.” Democrats can contribute to O’Rourke’s campaign at his ActBlue page right here.

This could be a good issue for Democratic candidates running in Appalachia: “The working class still carries the burden for American wars,” writes Jacob Stump at the Bristol Herald. “Michael Zweig, professor of economics and director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, conducted a study of the nearly 1,800 combat deaths in Afghanistan from 2001-2010. Zweig shows that while 62 percent of Americans are working class, 78 percent of the war casualties have come from working-class families. Overwhelmingly, those who fought and died in Afghanistan were working-class Americans…The main reason that working class youth from Appalachia and the South are over-represented in war fatalities has to do with economics. Poor and working class young men and women flee economically depressed areas and dead-end jobs in what critics like Joe Bageant call “economic conscription.” With no real prospects, a modest $1,300 per month salary, along with free room and board, skills and training, and the prospects of money for college make the U.S. military seem like a better future than one at home…The men and woman of Congress who authorize war are much-less likely to have served in the military and are much-more likely to come from upper-income families…The issue of working-class Appalachians and Americans carrying the burden of U.S. war-making is an important matter to consider, especially in light of the saber rattling with North Korea.”

It looks increasingly like the tax bill gives Democratic candidates from New York and New Jersey some added leverage in the upcomming elections for seats in the House of Reps. As Nicole Guadiano writes at USA Today, “If there’s going to be a Democratic wave in the 2018 midterm elections, look for it to wash ashore in New York and New Jersey. House Democrats have targeted all but one Republican — Rep. Chris Smith in New Jersey’s reliably conservative fourth district — in the two states, where former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton beat President Trump in 2016. They need a strong showing there and in other states, such as California, to win back the House majority – a prospect that, while difficult, increasingly looks possible…Based on 2017’s election results, the question for New York and New Jersey will be whether Democrats see a surge in turnout and defections among higher-educated, white-collar Republicans, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. Another factor could be the recently passed GOP tax bill, which could hurt high-tax states like New York and New Jersey by limiting deductions for state and local taxes.”

At Blue Virginia lowkell notes that, “A sure applause line for Virginia Democrats is to rail against gerrymandering, blame it for most/all of our problems in the Virginia House Delegates, and vow to do something about it. Yet for years, I’ve argued that a FAR bigger problem than gerrymandering is that Democratic voter “dropoff” from presidential years to “odd-year” Virginia elections is far, far greater than Republican voter “dropoff.”…The two key takeaways here are: 1) Democratic “voter retention” went from a pathetic 57.82% in 2013 to a MUCH more impressive 72.59% in 2017 — an increase of 15 percentage points, corresponding to a huge increase in the number of Democratic voters (~1.4 million in 2017 vs. ~1.1 million in 2013); 2) Republican “voter retention” actually increased a bit between 2013 and 2017, but only a bit, from 64.51% in 2013 to 68.63% in 2017; 3) the massive increase in Democratic voters in 2017 vs. 2013 completely overwhelmed the much smaller increase in GOP turnout, both at the statewide level and also in the House of Delegates districts.”

Conor Lynch’s Salon post, “Republicans are waging class war: It’s time for the left to fight back” lays down the challenge for Democrats in 2018: “Under the leadership of Trump, the Republican Party is no longer even attempting to hide the fact that it is waging a class war on behalf of the 1 percent. Republican leaders either believe that American voters are too stupid and uninformed to realize whats going on in Washington, or too deeply immersed in the culture wars to care about economic issues (which has often been the case over the past few decades)…It will ultimately be up to the left to make sure that class and the economy are at the front and center of the debate in 2018 and 2020, and to highlight the Republican assault on poor and middle-class families. For decades, Republicans have employed a populist-toned rhetoric that focuses almost exclusively on cultural and social issues, while enacting a pro-corporate agenda behind closed doors. Over this same period, Democrats more or less abandoned class politics and embraced a moderate form of neoliberalism themselves (especially during the Bill Clinton years). This turn away from class politics on the left enabled Republicans to portray themselves as populists — a trend that culminated with the election of Trump…According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, only 24 percent of Americans support lowering corporate tax rates (as the Republican tax bill does), while 52 percent support raising them…The new tax bill is a gift to the richest of Americans, but it is also an opportunity for the left to start playing offense in the class war that is currently being waged by the richest and most powerful people in our society.”

Elizabeth Kolbert New Yorker ‘splains “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds: New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason,” and shares this insight: “Steven Sloman, a professor at Brown, and Philip Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado, are also cognitive scientists. They, too, believe sociability is the key to how the human mind functions or, perhaps more pertinently, malfunctions…People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people…“As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration.”

Among the reasons for Democratic optimism cited by Fenit Nirappil in “Democrats eye state legislatures in 2018 after stunning gains in Virginia”  at The Post: “Democrats say their gains in the Virginia House were all the more impressive given that Republicans drew the playing field more specifically, they drew the legislative map in the last round of redistricting, in 2011…“We beat a gerrymandered map,” said Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the party’s main organ for state legislative races. “Everything is on the table.”…Post said the DLCC thinks that it can flip as many as 10 legislative chambers — including in Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Michigan, Arizona and Iowa.”

Dem prospects are also looking better in the great swing state of North Carolina, as AP’s Gary D. Robertson reports: “Eager to reassert their longtime influence on North Carolina politics, the Democrats already have already fielded an unusually large pool of candidates for 100 seats in the 170-member bicameral legislature…With the GOP holding a 75-45 majority in the North Carolina House and 35-15 Senate advantage, Democrats would need to flip 16 House seats and 11 Senate seats in November to take back the General Assembly. Ending veto-proof majorities, which would force Republicans to negotiate with Cooper and some Democrats on some issues, would require only four House seats or six Senate seats. All legislators serve two-year terms…Rep. Graig Meyer of Orange County said the party is well on its way to fielding candidates for all 120 House seats. “Recruitments definitely got easier after Virginia,” said Meyer, who is helping to recruit candidates like LeGrand through the state party’s new “Pipeline Project.” Meyer and others have highlighted new female and LGBT candidates.

At The Atlantic, Clare Foran previews the next big House of Reps election: “The next closely-watched special election is set to take place in a conservative Pennsylvania House district that will test the Democratic Party’s appeal with white, working-class voters who now reliably vote Republican…Democrat Conor Lamb will face off against Republican state Representative Rick Saccone on March 13 in a race to replace former Republican Representative Tim Murphy, a pro-life congressman who resigned earlier this year after reports surfaced that he had allegedly asked a woman with whom he had an affair to get an abortion…Democrats have not yet shown they can win congressional seats in the Rust Belt and industrial midwest states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which flipped from blue to red in the last presidential election…“This gives Democrats an opportunity to go to the blue-collar, white voters that Trump won in 2016 and say, ‘Trump betrayed you. He said he was going to be a populist president, and fight for you, but all he’s done so far is favors for corporate America,’” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist and president of Bannon Communications Research, a Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Jack Olson on

    Thank you, J.P. Green, for linking to the report on the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. It is a good idea for The Democratic Strategist to pay attention to the down-ballot races since that has been one of the party’s main weaknesses in recent years. Victory there will be a sign that the party is strengthening at the grassroots.


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