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Did Facebook Just Cave to the GOP?

Yesterday J.P. Green noted an article in Campaigns & Elections underscoring the high regard Repubican party political operatives have for Facebook as a media outlet for their ads — despite the efforts of Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to discredit Facebook as tainted by liberal bias.
But Thune’s record suggests more than a little hypocrisy, as Steve Benen noted at Maddowblog:

…John Thune says he’s concerned about Facebook’s “culture” and the integrity of its mission statement, but again, how in the world is that any of his business? Isn’t the Republican model based on the idea that the free market should decide and if online consumers don’t like Facebook’s “culture,” we can take our clicks elsewhere?
But even more striking still is Thune’s uniquely weak position. When the South Dakota Republican became Congress’ leading opponent of net neutrality, Thune made the case that any political interference in how the Internet operates is inherently unacceptable.
Worse, in 2007, Thune railed against the “Fairness Doctrine,” arguing at the time, “I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction.”

For the sake of argument, so what if Facebook had more “liiberal” content? Fox News, Breitbart and the Drudge Report display relentless conservative bias every day, and no Senators are trying to intimidate them to change their polices to reflect a more liberal point of view. Not all media has to be nonpartisan.
But Facebook has 1.6 billion “users,” and dwarfs all other websites in some key metrics that measure influence, which explain Thune’s meddling.
In reality, however, the political content of Facebook is mostly determined by the public, as its “users” choose which articles, videos and other content to share with their FB friends. It’s different for every user, from moment to moment. Liberals see mostly liberal content, and the same principle applies for both conservatives and moderates. Facebook does provide a powerful forum for peer-to-peer political education. But everyone can choose what to read and view and what to ignore, and that includes content spotlighted by Facebook’s administrators and staff.
But Brian Fung’s Washington Post article, “Facebook is making some big changes to Trending Topics, responding to conservatives” raises a disturbing possibility that facebook is caving to political pressure. As Fung reports,

Facebook said Monday it will stop relying as much on other news outlets to inform what goes into its Trending Topics section — a part of Facebook’s website that despite its small size has grown into a national political controversy amid accusations that the social network is stifling conservative voices on its platform.
Under the change, Facebook will discontinue the algorithmic analysis of media organizations’ websites and digital news feeds that partly determines which stories should be included in Trending Topics. Also being thrown out is a list of 1,000 journalism outlets that currently helps Facebook’s curators evaluate and describe the newsworthiness of potential topics, as well as a more exclusive list of 10 news sites that includes BuzzFeed News, the Guardian, the New York Times and The Washington Post.
…Facebook’s policy change Monday appears to be aimed at defusing the palpable tension between it and Republicans outraged over reports that Facebook’s Trending Topics could be biased against conservatives. Facebook’s announcement ending the scraping of news sites and RSS feeds for Trending Topics came in a response to Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the top Republican on the powerful Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Thune demanded on May 10 that Facebook answer a series of questions in light of the mounting outcry over the perceived bias.

Facebook has reponded that “Suppressing political content or preventing people from seeing what matters most to them is directly contrary to our mission and our business objectives.” But the changes regarding the selection of ‘Trending Topics” content suggest otherwise.
Most Facebook users will probably not notice much change in political slant and tone. That will still be largely determined by user posts. But the possibility that Facebook’s content policy can be influenced by political intimidation, especially from the politician who leads the opposition to net neurtrality, is disturbing.


Political Strategy Notes

At The Fix, Kim Soffen, Amber Phillips and Kevin Schaul have an update on Graham-Cassidy’s prospects, “Republicans are voting to repeal Obamacare, but they might not have enough votes.”  The authors provide a head count, nting that only 14 Republican Senators have announced they support the proposal, 34 are “unknown/unclear,” 3 “have concerns” and 1 Republican senator, Rand Paul has announced his opposition to the bill.

Insurance companies were pretty quiet about previous GOP Obamacare repeal bills. But not so about  the Graham-Cassidy bill. “The two major trade groups for insurers, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans, announced their opposition on Wednesday to the Graham-Cassidy bill. They joined other groups fighting the bill, such as the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, AARP and the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society,” reports Robert Pear in The New York Times…“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,’’ said Scott P. Serota, the president and chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. “The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.”

“Some Democratic leaders think single-payer goes further than voters might want, but a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows the proposal is fairly popular — at least in principle,” notes Steven Shepard at Politico. “Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say they support “a single-payer health care system, where all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan” — greater than the 35 percent who oppose such a plan. Seventeen percent of voters have no opinion. Two-thirds of Democratic voters support single-payer, while 18 percent oppose it…A single-payer system is even more popular than the “public option,” described to poll respondents as “a government-run health insurance agency that would compete with other private health insurance companies within the U.S.” Forty-four percent of voters back a public option, compared with 33 percent who oppose it. More voters, 22 percent, have no opinion.”

When a conservative columnist for the Washington Post concludes her latest opinion article about a suppressed bipartisan health care initiative with “McConnell will not change, and so only a change in the Senate and/or House majority will bring about a new approach to governance. Tuesday was a vivid example of why good governance and Republican majorities no longer mix.,” it merits a read. So check out Jennifer Rubin’s “The McConnell mentality keeps the Senate and Congress dysfunctional” at her ‘Right Turn’ perch. Her article will leave readers wondering how Sens. Lamar Alexander and John McCain could possibly be sincere about bipartisanship if they vote for Graham-Cassidy, after McConnell’s put-down.

Here’s another conservative Republican expressing utter disgust with his party’s push for the bill:

Mark Murray reports at nbcnews.com that “President Donald Trump’s approval rating has inched up, and more than 70 percent of Americans support his recent deal with Democratic leaders to provide hurricane relief and keep the government open for 90 days, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll...But the same poll finds that only a third of the public believes Trump has accomplished much as president, and fewer than 30 percent back his handling of health care, race relations and the violent episode in Charlottesville, Va…The ratings of Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have fallen to new lows…By party, 83 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance (up from 80 percent in August), compared with 41 percent of independents (up from 32 percent in August) and 10 percent of Democrats (compared to 8 percent in August)…Looking ahead to the 2018 midterms, Democrats enjoy a six-point advantage over Republicans on which party should control Congress, with 48 percent of voters preferring the Democrats and 42 percent the Republicans. That six-point edge is down from the Democrats’ 50 percent-to-42 percent advantage in June, although it’s within the margin of error.”

Stanley Greenberg, author of “America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation’s Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and Leading the 21st Century,” has an article at The American Prospect entitled “How She lost: The deeper malpractice of Clinton’s campaign was not equivocation on message, but, of all things, technical incompetence” that’s sure to get a lot of attention from the more astute political commentators. A teaser to encourage reading of the entire article: “From my vantage point as lead pollster for the Democratic nominees in 1992 and 2000, part of the closing clutch of pollsters in 2004, and invited noodge in 2016, I have little quarrel with the harshest of these criticisms. Malpractice and arrogance contributed mightily to the election of Donald Trump and its profound threat to our democracy. So did the handling of the email server, paid Wall Street speeches, and the “deplorables” comment. And her unwillingness to challenge the excesses of big money and corporate influence left her exposed to attacks first by Bernie Sanders and then by Donald Trump and unable to offer credible promise of change…Yet the accounts of Hillary Clinton are very incomplete, miss the reasons for her ambivalence, and miss most of the big structural forces at work that made it hard for her to commit to a different path. That is where we learn the most about the progressive debate ahead.”

“The extreme alt-right are benefiting immensely from the energy being produced by a more moderate — but still far-right — faction known as the “alt-light,” notes Jesse Singal in his op-ed “Undercover With the Alt-Right” at The New York Times. “The alt-light promotes a slightly softer set of messages. Its figures — such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich — generally frame their work as part of an effort to defend “the West” or “Western culture” against supposed left-liberal dominance, rather than making explicitly racist appeals. Many of them, in fact, have renounced explicit racism and anti-Semitism, though they will creep up to the line of explicitly racist speech, especially when Islam and immigration are concerned…The alt-light’s dedicated fan base runs into the millions. Mr. Watson has more than a million YouTube followers, for example, while Mr. Yiannopoulos has more than 2.3 million on Facebook. If even a tiny fraction of this base is drafted toward more extreme far-right politics, that would represent a significant influx into hate groups.”

Democrats looking for a succinct soundbite about Trump’s United Nations speech can’t do much better than syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s comment “And his threat “to totally destroy North Korea” is what you’d expect to hear in a bar conversation from a well-lubricated armchair general, not from the leader of the world’s most powerful military.” Dionne adds, “But the most alarming part of an address that was supposed to be a serious formulation of the president’s grand strategy in the world was the utter incoherence of Trump’s “America first” doctrine….The speech tried to rationalize “America first” as a great principle. But every effort Trump made to build an intellectual structure to support it only underscored that his favored phrase was either a trivial applause line or an argument that, if followed logically, was inimical to the United States’ interests and values.”


Measuring the Political Influence of Fox News vs. MSNBC

In his column “Study: Democrats vulnerable to Fox News’s magical powers,” WaPo media commentator Erik Wemple looks at the political influence of the conservative network. Among Wemple’s observations:

“Were a viewer initially at the ideology of the median Democratic voter in 2008 to watch an additional 3 minutes of Fox News per week, her likelihood of voting Republican would increase by 1.03 percentage points,” reads the study by Gregory J. Martin and Ali Yurukoglu of Emory and Stanford universities, respectively. Another finding: Fox News holds more sway over Democrats than MSNBC holds over Republicans.

Numbers go with that assertion. According to the study, published in the American Economic Review, Fox News racked up “persuasion rates” of 58 percent in 2000, 27 percent in 2004 and 28 percent in 2008. What’s a persuasion rate, anyway? It’s a thingy in which the numerator measures Fox News viewers “who are initially Democrats but by the end of an election cycle change to supporting the Republican party. The denominator is the number of [Fox News] viewers who are initially Democrats.” Corresponding figures for MSNBC — Republicans converting to Democrats, that is — are 16 percent, 0 percent and 8 percent. Asked about Fox News’s Democratic audience, Martin told this blog via email, “Given Fox’s content, yes, it is likely that these Democrats are relatively less ideologically committed and more persuadable compared to Democrats who don’t watch Fox.”

At Vox, Dylan Matthews reports that “A stunning new study shows that Fox News is more powerful than we ever imagined: It could even be flipping elections.” Mathews adds,

Fox News is, by far, America’s dominant TV news channel; in the second quarter of 2017, Fox posted 2.35 million total viewers in primetime versus 1.64 million for MSNBC and 1.06 million for CNN. Given that Fox was founded by a longtime Republican Party operative and has almost exclusively hired conservative commentators, talk radio hosts, and the like to host its shows, it would stand to reason that its dominance on basic cable could influence how Americans vote, perhaps even tipping elections.

A new study in the American Economic Review (the discipline’s flagship journal), with an intriguing and persuasive methodology, finds exactly that. Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimate that watching Fox News directly causes a substantial rightward shift in viewers’ attitudes, which translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates.

They estimate that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008.

For context, that would’ve made John Kerry the 2004 popular vote winner, and turned Barack Obama’s 2008 victory into a landslide where he got 60 percent of the two-party vote.

Matthews continues,

The effects of CNN and MSNBC on centrist voters are mostly negligible; MSNBC, in 2000 and 2004, modestly increased odds of voting Republican, before it turned left in time for 2008. But Fox News increases Republican voting odds for centrists, for Democratic viewers, and even, in 2004 and 2008, for Republicans already strongly inclined to vote that way. Watching three minutes more of Fox News per week in 2008 would have made the typical Democratic or centrist voter 1 percentage point likelier to vote Republican that year.

“Fox is substantially better at influencing Democrats than MSNBC is at influencing Republicans,” the authors find. While most Fox viewers are Republican, a sizable minority aren’t, and they’re particularly suggestible to the channel’s influence. In 2000, they estimate that 58 percent of Fox viewers who were initially Democrats changed to supporting the Republican candidate by the end of the election cycle; in 2004, the persuasion rate was 27 percent, and 28 percent in 2008. MSNBC, by contrast, only persuaded 8 percent of initial Republicans to vote Democratic in the 2008 cycle.

These are big effects, with major societal implications. The authors find that the Fox News effect translates into a 0.46 percentage point boost to the GOP vote share in the 2000 presidential race, a 3.59-point boost in 2004, and a 6.34-point boost in 2008; the boost increases as the channel’s viewership grew. This effect alone is large enough, they argue, to explain all the polarization in the US public’s political views from 2000 to 2008.

…”Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure,” economists Stefano DellaVigna (Berkeley) and Ethan Kaplan (Maryland) found in a seminal 2007 paper.

Fox still has a lot of clout, but TV Newser’s A. J. Katz reports:

…For the 4th straight month, MSNBC finished 1st in A18-49 for weekday prime (M-F 8-11pm) in the month of August 2017, according to Nielsen. MSNBC averaged 364,000 viewers A18-49 (vs. FOX News’ 348,000 and CNN’s 358,000); 514,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 448,000); and 2.31 million viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.28 million viewers). In total viewers, MSNBC finished at #2 among all cable networks in weekday prime (ahead of HGTV and TBS, just behind FOX News), posting the network’s best viewer delivery ever and topping CNN in total viewers for the 9th month in a row. In A25-54, MSNBC also beat CNN for 6th month in a row. Additionally, MSNBC outpaced FOX News’ and CNN’s growth year over year in the key demographics: +62% in A18-49 (vs. FOX News’ +13% and CNN’s +39%), +61% in A25-54 (vs. FOX News’ +22% and CNN’s +44%), and +63% in total viewers (vs. FOX News’ +4% and CNN’s +32%).

MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” was the #1 show across all of cable news, beating FOX News and CNN in the key demographics of A25-54 and A18-49 and total viewers. This is the 6th consecutive month in A25-54 and the 4th straight month in total viewers that “Maddow” topped all of cable news. “Maddow” delivered its best total viewer delivery ever for a month, averaging 2.8 million total viewers and 630,000 viewers A25-54.

Writing in the conservative webzine, The Blaze, Chris Enloe explains why “Rachel Maddow is dominating cable news — and it’s not even close.” and notes, “When it came to the coveted 25-54 demographic, Maddow blew her competition out of the water. The liberal darling also led her competition in the younger 18-49 demographic.”

In addition to Maddow’s growing popularity, MSNBC has benefitted from improving viewership figures for both late evening liberal political talker Lawrence O’Donnell and center-right ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough. Further, notes Enloe,

It’s not immediately clear what is leading to MSNBC’s ratings surge. But one has to believe that the shake-up plaguing Trump’s White House and near-constant unfavorable coverage of his administration is playing a part.

It’s likely that Fox News’ own turmoil has played a role in mediocre ratings. This year, the network has seen the departure of its two biggest stars — Megyn Kelly, who left for NBC News, and Bill O’Reilly, who was fired — while accusations of workplace sexual misconduct continue to plague the network.

Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, it’s clear that Fox News is still a powerful source of political opinion-shaping, but MSNBC’s influence is rising very fast. CNN is going to have to do some more creative news programming to get in the political influence game.

Television remains the the powerhouse in terms of political ad placement, as Steve Lozano reports in his post, “TV Continuses to Thrive in an Increasingly Digital World” at Campaigns & Elections.  It’s unclear, however, if TV News is still the dominant media for shaping political opinion and voter choices, given the rapidly rising influence of social media (even if much of it is ‘preaching to the choir’). What is absolutely certain is that Democratic candidates better have a savvy strategy in place for both.


Political Strategy Notes

Matt Zapotosky reports at The Washington Post that “A group of attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop the administration from winding down the DACA program, which granted a reprieve from deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The lawsuit “alleges that rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a “culmination” of President Trump’s “oft-stated commitments — whether personally held, stated to appease some portion of his constituency, or some combination thereof — to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots…The lawsuit says that one expert estimated that rescinding the DACA program would cost New York state $38.6 billion over the next 10 years…The suit says revoking DACA would violate components of the Fifth Amendment, along with the Administrative Procedure Act, which “prohibits federal agency action that is arbitrary, unconstitutional, and contrary to statute.”

Thomas B. Edsall observes in his New Yok Times column that “The debate going into the next election cycle raises the question of whether the Democratic Party will be most successful with continued — or enlarged — support from a segment of the white working class: 34 percent of non-college white women and 23 percent of non-college white men voted for Clinton in 2016. Can these numbers be maintained or improved or should Democrats look elsewhere — for more votes from minorities and deeper support from women, along with continued improvement among upscale whites — to piece together victory in 2018 or 2020?” Edsall notes the rising influence of left-leaning groups like Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, and cites a study by the Pew Research Center showing that the percentage of Democrats describing themselves as “liberal” grew from 27 to 48 percent from 2000 to 2017, while self-identified Democratic moderates fell from 45 to 36 percent. Conservative Democrats dropped from 23 to 16 percent.”

The shelf life of Trump’s comments on various issues has been pretty short, to put it generously, since he often reverses himself within 24 hours. But two of his comments this week are drawing grumbles from the GOP for being excessively postive for Democrats: First, his calling Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp a “good woman” at a North Dakota event is noteworthy because Heitkamp is a top GOP target in 2018, and also because her Republican opponent was at the event. Second, “Republicans left the Oval Office Wednesday stunned. Trump had quickly sided with Democrats on a short-term debt ceiling increase, even overruling his own Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to concur with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he later called them on Air Force One,” report Rachel Bade, Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey at Politico. It’s easy to read too much into these developments, but, considered along with the firing of Bannon, Sacaramucci and the sudden departure of Gorka, we can hope that Chief of Staff Kelly is talking sense to his boss and some of it is beginning to register.

Ryan Lizza explains how “How Democrats Rolled Trump on the Debt Ceiling” at The New Yorker: “…When conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items…in the Oval Office, Ryan, McConnell, Schumer, and Pelosi sat down with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, to negotiate. The Republican leaders—at first—stuck to their demand for an eighteen-month debt-ceiling increase. But the Democrats held fast as the Republicans dropped their request to twelve months and then to six months. Mnuchin argued that the financial markets needed a long-term deal. Trump cut him off and abruptly sided with Schumer and Pelosi on their three-month request…After the deal was announced, Republicans inside and outside of government were shocked. Ryan was left looking ridiculous.”

From the Executive Summary of a 2016 “landmark report is based on a sample of more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states” by the Public Religion Research Institute: “White Christians, once the dominant religious group in the U.S., now account for fewer than half of all adults living in the country. Today, fewer than half of all states are majority white Christian. As recently as 2007, 39 states had majority white Christian populations… Jewish Americans constitute 2% of the public while Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus each constitute only 1% of the public. All other non-Christian religions constitute an additional 1%…Atheists and agnostics account for only about one-quarter (27%) of all religiously unaffiliated Americans. Nearly six in ten (58%) religiously unaffiliated Americans identify as secular, someone who is not religious; 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans nonetheless report that they identify as a “religious person…There are 20 states in which no religious group comprises a greater share of residents than the religiously unaffiliated.”

Philip Bump mulls over the role of Facebook in the 2016 election and concludes that “in an election that gave Donald Trump the White House thanks to 78,000 votes in three states, it’s possible that the targeting of voters on Facebook played a bigger role than expected.” Further, notes Bump, “The 2016 campaign marked Facebook’s arrival as a political force, though not necessarily in the way the company expected. The Trump campaign invested heavily in Facebook, using the tool to target voters with very specific messages and, it hoped, to spur people to the polls.” Bump also cites another Post Politics article by Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, which observes that a “Russian troll farm” bought Facebook ads “pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.”

At The Guardian, read “Trump’s voter suppression efforts must be defeated. Here’s one thing we can do” by former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who calls automatic voter registration (AVR) “one of the single greatest ways to improve the legitimacy of our elections, and in turn our democracy. It results in a default “opt-out” system, whereby people have to take action to opt out of being registered, rather than having to go out of their way to register to vote. Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, captured it perfectly when he said: “Citizens should not have to opt in to their fundamental right to vote…in states that have enacted AVR, it has significantly increased voter registration, and initial indicators point to increased voter participation in elections…A national AVR bill was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in June, and if enacted would result in the automatic registration of eligible voters who interact with federal agencies, with the option for individuals to opt out…AVR is now standard practice in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and legislation has been introduced in as many as 30 other states.”

Writing at FiveThirtyEight, Dave Wasserman explains why “2018 Could Be The Year Of The Angry White College Graduate: And that’s bad news for Republicans.” The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal national survey found that whites with a college degree disapproved of Trump’s job performance 61 percent to 37 percent, with 51 percent strongly disapproving — a remarkable level of intensity for a group that he carried just 10 months ago. By comparison, non-college whites approved of Trump 56 percent to 38 percent, with only 27 percent disapproving strongly…If numbers like these hold through November 2018, college-educated voters could swing hard toward Democrats at a time they represent a disproportionate share of the electorate. Somewhat counterintuitively, the impact of these angry graduates won’t be felt only in highly educated districts. That’s because the story isn’t just about them. It’s just as much about their non-college counterparts dropping out of the electorate.”

Dylan Matthews discusses “What America would look like if it guaranteed everyone a job” at Vox and writes, “In the wake of the 2016 election, liberal commentators have latched onto the job guarantee — an idea pushed by some left-wing economists for years — as a way to forge a cross-racial working-class coalition. They need a plan that appeals to both to the white Wisconsin and Michigan voters who switched from Obama to Trump and to black and Latino workers left behind by deindustrialization. The ideal plan would both improve conditions for lower-income Americans while supporting Americans’ strong intuition that people should work to earn their crust.” Further “A federal job guarantee is both universal—it benefits all Americans—and specifically ameliorative to entrenched racial inequality,” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie notes, and “If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump’s empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one,” writes Bryce Covert in the New Republic. “It’s time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party’s platform.”


Political Strategy Notes

Aaron Blake reports that “President Trump’s own pollster just confirmed his base is cracking” at The Fix. As Blake notes, “Trump’s own pollster just shared data showing 1 out of every 4 Republicans (25 percent) disapprove of Trump — a number that has increased by 6 percentage points since June. If that’s not losing your base, I’m not sure what is. Does it mean the base has completely deserted him? Of course not. But it shows the steady deterioration from other polls is confirmed by Trump’s own pollster. And it sure as heck rebuts Trump’s recent claim that his base is “stronger than ever.”

Joan C. Williams, author of “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America,” offers several good insights in her article, “Liberal elite, it’s time to strike a deal with the working class” at The Guardian, including: “The Democrats have become a regional party, confined to blue coasts and blue-dot islands, leaving an ocean of Republican rural and rust belt red in between…For Democrats to make progress in that sea of Republican red, we need to be willing to address what’s fueling economic populism: economics. When Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock, asked Trump supporters what Democrats needed to do to win their votes, a 27-year-old apprentice in a metal shop answered: “Get us good jobs. Plain and simple. Seems like I got to work my butt off, and I barely get by…Democrats need to prioritize good jobs for non-college grads affected by or alarmed about the hollowing out of the middle class ahead of some issues that matter more to me personally, notably abortion rights and gun control…Democrats need to thread a necklace that includes four overlapping groups: the liberal-to-moderate college-educated elite, the white working class, communities of color, and the progressives and millennials who flocked to Bernie Sanders. Good jobs hold deep appeal for both communities of color and the white working class. College-educated liberals and moderates will vote Democratic regardless. Democrats need to thread a necklace that includes four overlapping groups: the liberal-to-moderate college-educated elite, the white working class, communities of color, and the progressives and millennials who flocked to Bernie Sanders. Good jobs hold deep appeal for both communities of color and the white working class. College-educated liberals and moderates will vote Democratic regardless.”

Williams also provides this perceptive take on ‘litmus tests,’ and she obnserves, “To build a coalition, everyone has to give a little. But saying abortion should not be a litmus test is very different from saying the party is backing off support for reproductive rights…What “litmus tests” should mean is that we won’t hold candidates in red districts to progressive “purity”. Whose issue should we trade off? Trade-offs should be balanced and situational. Announcing that you are always going to abandon the most cherished priority of a single group is a recipe for discord…The Democratic National Committee should make a considered assessment of who the most viable candidates are in a given district, and make trade-offs about whom to run so that no one group’s ox gets gored consistently…No one gets their way all the time: that’s called a coalition. And it’s coalitions that win, folks. If you want purity, become a priest…”

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, has an update on U.S. Senate races, with detailed analyses for a score of contests. Kondik also looks at the big picture, and onbserves, “Republicans currently hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate, and they would need to gain eight seats to get to the magic 60-seat threshold needed to overcome Democratic filibusters. Such a gain does not seem like a realistic possibility with an unpopular Trump as president, although the map is so attractive that the Republicans easily could start 2019 with more seats than they hold now. A Democratic takeover seems very unlikely given that they have so many seats to defend and only two real targets, Arizona and Nevada. The best possible scenario for Democrats, barring an unexpected vacancy triggering a special election, would seem to be a 50-50 Senate with a Republican vice president breaking ties, and even that seems improbable from the perspective of August 2017…Regardless, the best bet right now seems to be one in favor of only marginal net change either way in the next Senate.”

In her Washington Post column, Katrina vanden Heuval notes the pivotal role of “citizens movements,” which have helped to “stiffen the spines of Democrats and enforce unity in opposition to the right-wing agenda of Trump and the Republican Congress. The mobilization against the Republican health-care plan, which would have stripped millions of health care to pay for tax cuts for the few, included virtually the entire activist base of the party — unions, senior groups, women’s and civil rights groups, online activists such as MoveOn.org, grass-roots groups such as People’s Action, and more. They enforced Democratic unity while challenging Republicans in their offices and town-hall meetings.” She adds that “activists will challenge Trump’s infrastructure plan, which appears to feature the worst forms of crony capitalism: “public private partnerships” that privatize highways and bridges and impose tolls on users; tax giveaways to companies stowing profits abroad.”

At vox.com Sarah Kliff and Jeff Stein post on a boomlet in support for a Medicaid buy-in among Democrats. “In an interview with Vox, [Sen. brian] Schatz [D-HI] revealed that he’s preparing a new bill that could grant more Americans the opportunity to enroll in Medicaid by giving states the option to offer a “buy-in” to the government program on Obamacare’s exchanges…That would make Medicaid into the Affordable Care Act’s public option, creating another insurance plan in markets with few or no private plans and putting private payers in competition with the much cheaper Medicaid system…One of the unintended consequences of the Republicans trying to cut Medicaid is they made Medicaid really popular,” Sen. Schatz said in an interview…Schatz said he would support Medicare-for-all, even as he puts forward a different proposal. “If there’s ever a vote for single-payer, I’m a ‘yes,’” he told Vox. “But there are lots of things we can do in the meantime to make progress for tens of millions of Americans. And we should do those things…His proposal would expand the public health insurance program from one that covers only low-income Americans to one open to anyone seeking coverage, depending on what each state does. The idea is similar to the government-run “public option” that some Democrats advocated for during the battle over the Affordable Care Act’s passage.”

Paul Krugman concludes his New York Times column, “Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good” with this salient observation: “So the odds are that we’re stuck with a malevolent, incompetent president whom nobody knowledgeable respects, and many consider illegitimate. If so, we have to hope that our country somehow stumbles through the next year and a half without catastrophe, and that the midterm elections transform the political calculus and make the Constitution great again.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall sheds light on Trump’s ‘white identity’ politics: “…The president has capitalized on the increasing salience of race and ethnicity in recent years. The furious reaction to many different historical and cultural developments — mass immigration; the success of the civil rights and women’s rights movements; the election and re-election of a black president; and the approaching end of white majority status in the United States — has created a political environment ripe for the growth of white identity politics…Once Trump secured this “white identifier” base — making him competitive in a multicandidate field — he was positioned to expand his traction among traditional Republicans, including a decisive majority of those who backed Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush…Trump has mobilized the white identity electorate, and in doing so has put the tenuous American commitment to racial and ethnic egalitarianism on the line…now, under siege, his only strategy for survival is to pour gasoline on the flames.”

Eric Alterman explores “How Conservatives Manipulated the Mainstream Media to Give Us President Trump” at Moyers & Company. Alterman draws from an “extremely critical” Harvard/MIT report on the impact of journalism on the 2016 presidential election authored by six academics. Noting that the report received “almost no attention in the mainstream media,” Alterman adds, “The report, titled Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 US Presidential Election, deploys the device of a “media cloud” to help us visualize the manner in which media is actually consumed. Because people tend to get their news in a haphazard way these days — picking up stories from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, local TV, talk radio, cable, network news, newsweeklies, daily newspapers, and the websites that may or may not be part of a daily diet — it doesn’t make sense to simply treat media consumption as a matter of statistics. Sure, many sources — like this one, for instance — are far more trustworthy when it comes to facts and evidence than many others, but most news consumers do not make this distinction…The media cloud project clarifies a number of points that ought to alarm anyone who cares about the future of American democracy and the ability of the mainstream media to cut through the massive layers of propaganda purposely created by far-right elements to confuse facts and undermine evidence. Indeed, what the cloud shows is that the mainstream media is much more likely to follow the lead of the liars than to challenge them.”


Political Strategy Notes

At npr.org Domenico Montanaro notes “A majority of Americans think President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., was “not strong enough,” according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll….Fifty-two percent of respondents said so, as compared with just over a quarter (27 percent) who thought it was strong enough…As to be expected when looking at questions of the president’s leadership, there’s a partisan split — 79 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents agree that Trump wasn’t strong enough, but 59 percent of Republicans believe he was…The poll also found a strong consensus across the political spectrum that the car attack should be investigated as an act of domestic terrorism — 67 percent overall said it should be. By party, 76 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents, 60 percent of Republicans, even 58 percent of Trump supporters agree.”

Ronald Brownstein explains “How Trump’s Reaction to Charlottesville Threatens the GOP” at The Atlantic: “Through Trump’s first months, the danger of him branding the GOP as intolerant has steadily smoldered, as he’s rolled out polarizing policies on undocumented and legal immigration, crime and policing, affirmative action, and voting rights. He’s also moved to reverse protections for transgender Americans in schools and the military…But Trump’s belligerent response to the unrest in Virginia has detonated this slowly burning fuse. His pointed refusal to unambiguously condemn the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups who gathered there may crystallize, in a way no policy debate could, the picture of him as racially and culturally biased, particularly among younger voters. “The truth is, I bet that Millennials have not paid that much attention to the policy stuff he’s done,” said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who has extensively surveyed the generation. “But I think Charlottesville is a whole different thing. This is a watershed moment.”

Harold Meyerson has “A Post-Charlottesville To-Do List for Anti-Trumpers” at The American Prospect, subtittled “Some ways to counter the neo-fascists and their president.” Among Meyerson’s  really good suggestions:”Mount ongoing vigils or demonstrations at the nation’s anti-fascist, anti-racist monuments. In the nation’s capital, that would include both the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II memorial in the middle of the National Mall. The World War II Memorial should get special attention, with demonstrators making constant reference to the thousands of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on—or, among the very old, their buddies—who gave their lives to defeat the most virulent anti-Semitism and racism the world has ever known, and making clear that neo-Nazis and Klansmen make a mockery of that sacrifice, and of the nation’s ideals. Invite World War II veterans to attend—we could start with Bob Dole. If neo-Nazis and their ilk want to show up to counter-demonstrate, so much the better…Progressive elected officials at all levels of government should try to enact resolutions calling for the impeachment or, that failing, the censure of President Trump. Of the various charges that could be brought, my preference is to indict him for giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States…Some Democratic members of Congress have already introduced a censure resolution. Progressives should urge their representatives and senators to support it, as well as to support an impeachment resolution, on grounds including those listed above. Democrats should raise these measures constantly once Congress reconvenes after its summer break, and accuse Republicans who don’t support them of either cowardice or bigotry”

As for neo-fascists using Johnny Cash”s image in their repulsive demonstrations, Johnny Cash’s family ain’t having it. Gabriel Bell shares Cash’s family’s facebook statement at salon.com: “We were sickened by the association…Johnny Cash was a man whose heart beat with the rhythm of love and social justice.” After noting Cash’s extensive involvement in and achievements on behalf of progressive, anti-racist causes and groups, the statement continues, “His pacifism and inclusive patriotism were two of his most defining characteristics. He would be horrified at even a casual use of his name or image for an idea or a cause founded in persecution and hatred. The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are poison in our society, and an insult to every American hero who wore a uniform to fight the Nazis in WWII…We ask that the Cash name be kept far away from destructive and hateful ideology.”

In his article, “How to break the 40-year working class losing streak,” Jeffrey D. Sachs writes in The Boston Globe “So what do workers really need? First, a clear national goal of decent wages and working conditions for everyone; second, a new era of union organizing, aimed especially at the low-wage service economy; third, an increase in the minimum wage; and fourth, a boost in social wages, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicare for all, and free college tuition for all households in need. The improved social benefits would be financed by ending the Middle East wars, closing corporate tax loopholes, and slashing the costs of health care and tuition…Could labor really stage a rebound after 40 years of nearly continuous retreat? You bet. Just look at the defeat of the Obamacare repeal effort, Trump’s collapsing poll numbers, the advance of minimum wage legislation in many states and cities, and America’s growing revulsion at the politics of divide and conquer.”

From “The Sheer Number Of Democrats Running For Congress Is A Good Sign For The Party” by Seth Masket at fivethirtyeight.com: “Since 2010, there had been more Republicans than Democrats filing to run for Congress in every election cycle…Ed Kilgore ran a similar analysis recently at New York Magazine, drawing from a longer time series made available by the Campaign Finance Institute. The main finding was that Democrats hold an enormous advantage in early candidate filings for the 2018 midterm elections. In particular, if we limit the analysis to the number of challengers to House incumbents who have filed for next year and have raised at least $5,000 — in an effort to narrow our sample to truly viable candidates — we see a record advantage for Democrats right now…Of the 237 House challengers who raised at least $5,000 for the 2018 midterms by the end of June, 209 of them (88 percent) are Democrats…What a large number of challengers does create is a better recruitment environment. If there are several challengers from whom to choose in a particular race, a party can pick the strongest nominee.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel reports an interesting development — that “The Democratic National Committee is jumping into the ongoing waves of protests that have followed Saturday’s events in Charlottesville, launching a #RiseAndOrganize campaign to direct activists toward electoral politics…“In addition to calling on Republicans to denounce Trump, the next step is getting people to commit to vote,” explained DNC chief executive Jess O’Connell. “This is a galvanizing moment…The #RiseAndOrganize push is the latest example of the Tom Perez-era DNC taking cues from political protests, in the hope that people will soon be ready to pivot from marches to voter canvasses.”

Using Alan Abramowitz’s model for predicting the outcomes of upcomming gubernatorial races, Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball provides a thougthful reassessment of Democratic hopes for winning governorships in 2017 and 2018, and concludes “After Gov. Jim Justice’s (R-WV) surprising decision to switch parties, the Republicans are at a high water mark of gubernatorial control: They control 34 governorships, the Democrats hold only 15, and Walker of Alaska, an independent, holds the 50th seat. Given how overextended they are, that may be a peak, and Republicans may be down a net governorship by November if Democrats can pull off a sweep in New Jersey and Virginia. We also expect Republicans will lose net governorships next year, but they certainly have the potential to limit the damage, and Democrats will have to work hard and potentially get a few breaks to net the six seats (or more) that the Abramowitz model currently projects. Gubernatorial races are not as nationalized as House and Senate races, but Democrats can potentially weaponize Trump’s poor standing against Republicans this year and next if his numbers don’t start to recover.”

It looks like Democrats are getting ready to test the old saw that you can’t prepare too soon. As Tarini Parti reports at Buzzfeed, “Democrats are already preparing for a possible 2020 presidential bid by Vice President Mike Pence, with a major group dedicating staff — including on the ground in Indiana — to dig up dirt on him, amid rumblings that Pence is positioning himself for a run….American Bridge 21st Century — a Democratic opposition super PAC and nonprofit funded by liberal megadonors — is leading the effort, which started earlier this summer and kicked into high gear following a New York Times story reporting on Pence’s “shadow campaign.”..The vice president has denied having intentions to run, but he has been meeting with top donors and has set up a leadership PAC that has already raised $540,000, as President Trump continues to make comments on race and other issues that are making Republicans increasingly uncomfortable.”


Despite’s Trump’s Pandering in Youngstown, Obamacare Repeal Threatens Working Class Communities

The following article by labor experts John Russo* and Sherry Linkon* is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump visited the Youngstown area three times. On Tuesday, President Trump returned. Officially sponsored by his 2020 campaign, the rally at Youngstown’s Covelli Center provided him an opportunity to be buoyed by the cheers of 7,000 fans.

While many of those attending Tuesday’s rally came from outside of the city and the region, Trump has significant support here, rooted in the politics of resentment. Distrust of government—and especially of politicians—developed in the aftermath of plant closings and downsizings that began in the late 1970s, as tens of thousands of workers in Youngstown and the surrounding Mahoning Valley lost jobs in steel mills, auto plants, and related industries. Many blamed environmental regulations, trade agreements, and corporate pursuit of cheap foreign labor, and they vowed to make those who negotiated NAFTA pay a price. Political resentment grew as candidate after candidate used crumbling steel mills as backdrops for speeches promising to rebuild the local economy—and then failed to take real action to create change. Resentment deepened over the last decade, as many working- and middle-class people lost their homes and jobs in the foreclosure crisis, even as wages declined and work became more precarious.

That’s why Trump’s focus on illegal immigration, trade, government regulations, and betrayal by elites resonated with local residents in this historically Democratic region. In the Republican primary, thousands of previously unregistered voters turned out to support him, and a number of long-time Democrats crossed party lines. During his Tuesday visit, Trump claimed to have won Mahoning County in the general election. In reality, he lost it narrowly to Clinton, though he did win in Trumbull County next door. But he wasn’t wrong that he had shaken up local political patterns. In both counties, Republicans had their strongest showing since 1972.


Political Strategy Notes

Paige Winfield Cunningham reports at The Daily 202 that “Conservatives are furious – furious – that Senate Republicans got close to repealing big parts of Obamacare and are now on the verge of walking away from the effort altogether, possibly leaving President Obama’s health-care law on the books for the foreseeable future…Now, nothing is turning out as they’d hoped. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intends to hold a vote early next week to start debate on a repeal bill. But unless senators can hash out an agreement on how to treat Medicaid spending — as they tried to do in a meeting last night in Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-Wyo.) office — it will likely fail…” Cunningham reports that groups like Freedomworks, Tea Party Patriots and Club for Growth are so angered that they have initiated ‘shaming’ campaigns to punish conservatives who announced against the GOP ‘repeal and replace’ bills.

In his syndicated Washington Post column, “Why Obamacare won and Trump lost,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health-care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously…They had seven years after the law was passed and could not come up with a more palatable blueprint.” However, adds Dionne, “Supporters of the 2010 law cannot rest easy…On Wednesday, the president demanded that the Senate keep at the work of repeal, and, in any event, Congress could undermine the act through sharp Medicaid cuts in the budget process and other measures. And Trump, placing his own self-esteem and political standing over the health and security of millions of Americans, has threatened to wreck the system.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore explores three interim health care reforms, which could possibly leverage bipartisan support to help bridge the transition from Obamacare to a single payer or public option health care system: 1. Stabilizing individual insurance markets; 2. Keeping the maximum number of younger and healthier people in insurance risk pools; and 3. Broader nonideological reforms of the health-care system., including more flexibility at the state level for administering Medicaid and allowing people nearing retirement age to buy into Medicare coverage.

A stray, but hopeful thought, tickled by a friend’s Facebook observation: As health insurers realize how fast the public is warming to Medicare-for-all/single payer/public option, the insurance companies will fight harder for Obamacare. “We’re not seeing any evidence of a death spiral or a market collapse,” said Cynthia Cox, Kaiser’s associate director of health reform and private insurance (quoted in Paul Demko’s “Despite doomsday rhetoric, Obamacare markets are stabilizing” at Politico on July 17th). “Rather, what it looks like is insurers are on track to have their best year since the [Affordable Care Act] began.”

Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority” has a New York Times op-ed, “The Democratic Party’s Billion-Dollar Mistake.” Among his observations:  “In the 2016 election, the Democratic Party committees that support Senate and House candidates and allied progressive organizations spent more than $1.8 billion. The effectiveness of that staggering amount of money, however, was undermined by a strategic error: prioritizing the pursuit of wavering whites over investing in and inspiring African-American voters, who made up 24 percent of Barack Obama’s winning coalition in 2012..”

At The Fix, Aaron Blake sees trouble ahead for Democrats in the new WaPo/ABC News poll, which “presents a pretty mixed bag for Democrats. It shows that registered voters say they want Democrats to control Congress to be a check on Trump by a 52-38 percent margin, but it also shows Democrats are — rather remarkably — less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans are. While 65 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning adults say they are “almost certain to vote,” just 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults say the same.”

Brendan Nyhan notes at The Upshot: “A new working paper by the Emory University political scientists B. Pablo Montagnes, Zachary Peskowitz and Joshua McCrain argues that people who identify as Republican may stop doing so if they disapprove of Trump, creating a false stability in his partisan approval numbers even as the absolute number of people approving him shrinks. Gallup data supports this idea, showing a four-percentage-point decline in G.O.P. identification since the 2016 election that is mirrored in other polling, though to a lesser extent…When the Emory political scientists use the Gallup data to account for Republicans who have stopped identifying with the party since the election, they find that partisan support for Trump could be substantially lower than it appears.”

For a little heavier lifting, check out Gabriel Winant’s “The New Working Class” at Dissent, which includes this take on the potential for working-class solidarity: “To imagine that we should look for “class” and see hard-hats mistakes a particular historical manifestation—the industrial working class—for a general category whose ranks are always changing. But while the idea of a new working class is not yet widely accepted, its distinguishing features are, on their own terms, familiar. We can reduce them down roughly to feminization, racial diversification, and increasing precarity: care work, immigrant work, low-wage work, and the gig economy. There’s also a host of interlinked forces shaping working-class life from outside the workplace: policing and punishment; housing insecurity; indebtedness; the costs of education; and the difficulties of caring for the young, the disabled, the sick, the addicted, and the old. A set of shared experiences coheres here, and a potential set of shared enemies: landlord, lender, bill collector, manager, cop. Racialized and gendered unevenness in exposure to these forces is real, but that portion of experience that is shared appears, quite clearly, to be growing year by year at the intensifying intersection points of race, gender, and class. This, the growing stock of common experience, is the process called “class formation.””

Trump as Buchanan 2.0: “The “miracle” of the mogul’s campaign, apart from his cunning success in manipulating negative media coverage to his advantage, was capturing the entirety of the Romney vote, without any of the major defections (college-educated Republican women, conservative Latinos, Catholics) that the polls had predicted and Clinton had counted upon. As in an Agatha Christie mystery, Trump eliminated his dazed primary opponents one after another with murderous innuendo while hammering away on his master themes of elite corruption, treasonous trade agreements (“greatest job theft in the history of the world”), terrorist immigrants, and declining white economic opportunity. With the support of Breitbart and the alt-right, he essentially ran in Patrick Buchanan’s old shoes.” – From Mike Davis’s “The Great God Trump and the White Working Class” at The Jacobin.


Political Strategy Notes

Medicare for all advocates will find some useful statistics in Robert H. Frank’s article at The Upshot, “Why Single-Payer Health Care Saves Money,” including: “Total costs are lower under single-payer systems for several reasons. One is that administrative costs average only about 2 percent of total expenses under a single-payer program like Medicare, less than one-sixth the corresponding percentage for many private insurers. Single-payer systems also spend virtually nothing on competitive advertising, which can account for more than 15 percent of total expenses for private insurers…The most important source of cost savings under single-payer is that large government entities are able to negotiate much more favorable terms with service providers. In 2012, for example, the average cost of coronary bypass surgery was more than $73,000 in the United States but less than $23,000 in France.”

“My view is that it’s probably going to be dead,” John McCain said of the Republican tax-bill-posing-as-health-care legislation on the CBS program Face the Nation. “Yet even McConnell cast doubt on the bill’s prospects for passage last week,” Reuters reports. “Speaking at a luncheon in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell said if Congress failed to follow through on a seven-year pledge to repeal Obamacare then it must act to shore up private health insurance markets, comments seen as providing a pathway to a bipartisan deal to fix the health system.” Sen Grassley isn’t optimistic about the bill’s prospects, either. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will try to hold a vote on the bill before the six-week recess that begins on July 29th.

Viral video about Trump’s awkward and weak presence at the G-20:

Sarah Jones explains “How the Democrats’ online outreach strategy went haywire” at The New Republic, and warns that the “churn and burn” email fund-raising strategy used by Jon Ossoff  may be played out. As Jones writes, “The Ossoff emails warned of electoral doomsday. The subject lines often contradicted emails that had been sent earlier that day. As election day neared, the pace increased. The campaign bombarded its email list with increasingly desperate pleas for money—or psychological intervention, depending on your interpretation…“There’s a limited pool of Democratic small-dollar donors out there,” said Kenneth Pennington, former digital director of Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, quoted by Jones. “When the Ossoff campaign and DCCC run a churn-and-burn program like this, it sullies the pond for every other Democratic cause. When people get turned off by fundraising emails, they tune out. Not just from the bad programs, but from the good ones. Everyone from Elizabeth Warren to UNICEF is going to feel that.” Jones adds, “but there’s no denying that the churn-and-burn strategy gets results. Ossoff did raise a lot of money. His fundraising helped him remain competitive with Handel…” Jones cites the more measured email fund-raising strategy of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, which was also highly-effective, not only in rasing money, but also in generating engagement.

At Salon, Conor Lynch ruminates on “Why we need the left-wing critique of liberalism: Because liberals got us where we are today. Too many American liberals have betrayed FDR’s legacy — and the attacks from both left and right have some merit.” Lynch makes his case and offers some worthwhile insights, including “At first it may seem that conservatives and leftists are criticizing liberals for opposite reasons: Right-wingers think that liberals are far-left ideologues, while actual leftists think that liberals lack core beliefs and are practically conservative.” There are grains of truth, as well as overstatement, in both characterizations, and the souring dialogue between liberal and moderate Democrats could use some adult supervision, as is often suggested by sniping and snarkage in Facebook and other social media. The ‘big tent’ party has both purist ideologues and moderate centrists, and tension between them is inevitable and needed for developing sound Democratic policy. Despite the divisions, liberal values affirming an increased role for government helping people and expansion of human rights generally hold sway with most voters who cast ballots for Democrats. What Democrats agree on remains far more significant than their more frequently-publicized disagreements.

Nobody should be surprised by all of the Pelosi-bashing. It’s what Republicans do to progressive women who have political power. Now that Hillary Clinton holds no political office, it would be surprising if the GOP did not come after the highest-ranking Democratic woman. Reasonable Democrats can disagree about whether Pelosi or another Democrat should be the next House Speaker. What is certain, however, is that, when Paul Ryan finally surrenders the Speaker’s gavel, his accomplishments will pale in comparison to what was achieved under Pelosi’s speakership.

The New York Times editorial board addresses measures for “Combating a Real Threat to Election Integrity,” and explain “Last year, Russian hackers tried to break into voter databases in at least 39 states, aiming to alter or delete voter data, and also attempted to take overthe computers of more than 100 local election officials before Election Day. There is no evidence that they infiltrated voting machines, but they have succeeded in doing so in other countries, and it’s only a matter of time before they figure it out here. R. James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, wrote in an introduction to the Brennan Center report, “I am confident the Russians will be back, and that they will take what they have learned last year to attempt to inflict even more damage in future elections…The question is this: Can the system be strengthened against cyberattacks in time for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential race? The answer, encouragingly, is that there are concrete steps state and local governments can take right now to improve the security and integrity of their elections. A new study by the Brennan Center for Justice identifies two critical pieces of election infrastructure — aging voting machines and voter registration databases relying on outdated software — that present appealing targets for hackers and yet can be shored up at a reasonable cost.”

Marcus H. Johnson offers an idea for combatting voter suppression at Alternet: “Framing the issue is important because it is an effective way for voting rights advocates to expand the base of support for their fight. Twenty years ago, there wasn’t broad support for legalizing marijuana. But an effective messaging campaign turned marijuana legalization into a medical issue instead of a recreational one, leading to an increase in support and over two dozen states legalizing medical marijuana. Instead of visualizing teenagers smoking marijuana, legalization advocates got voters to think about cancer and epilepsy patients and others who use the drug to relieve pain…In the same vein, voting rights advocates can draw in a bigger base of support by framing voter suppression as an issue of political corruption. Currently, voter suppression is a problem known to the Democratic base and activists, but it isn’t covered extensively by the media and is openly dismissed by Republicans as a partisan issue. Framing voter suppression as political corruption would put Republicans on the defensive and force them to answer for stealing political influence from minority voters. It would also garner more media coverage, because corruption and theft sounds juicer and more pressing than “partisan differences.””

“A trio of new political action committees – the People’s House Project, Brand New Congressand Justice Democrats – are looking for ways to support candidates with economically progressive platforms and to challenge the party establishment, especially in rust-belt states where President Donald Trump saw much unexpected success last November,” reports Katishe Maake at mcclatchydc.com. “The People House Project says it will run candidates in every Republican-held district in 2018, with an emphasis on Midwestern and Appalachian states. A central tenant of the organization’s platform is that candidates cannot receive donations from big money donors, who Ball said have distorted the party’s messaging and intentions.”


Lux: Three Keys to a Winning Strategy for Democrats

The following article by Democraic strategist Mike Lux, author of “The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be,” is cross-posted from HuffPo:

The Democratic talking points after losing two more House special elections, including one in Georgia that many people thought they would win, were partly right. All four of these congressional races were in deeply red districts, and we did considerably better than past Democratic candidates in those districts had done. If we over-perform based on past numbers in the competitive districts on the map in 2018, we’ll have a good year.

But with Trump’s numbers in the toilet, lots of Republicans with mixed feelings about the Donald, and Democratic outrage unleashing a flood of money, volunteers, and voter turnout, we had four special elections with legit opportunities to win… and we blew them all. We need to do a serious re-evaluation of our strategy as a party, and we need to do it right damn now.

I say this with a hyper-awareness that we are entering the week where the Republicans will try to not only repeal the Affordable Care Act, but will in the same bill be repealing Medicaid itself, one of the landmark achievements of the 20th century progressive movement. You heard that right, and this isn’t getting nearly enough attention: we’re not just talking deep cuts in Medicaid funding, we’re talking about ending the guarantee of health and nursing home care for the people dependent on Medicaid.

The money instead will be shifted into block grants, where the states — which for the most part aren’t exactly bastions of compassion — can do whatever they want with the far smaller amount of money they will be given. And understand this: Medicaid is not just for a small number of the poorest people in America. Twenty percent of Americans get their health coverage from Medicaid. Two thirds of the people in nursing homes have those bills paid for by Medicaid. And if you have disabilities and need medical care, odds are that those bills are paid by Medicaid as well. This is a BFD of maximum proportions.

You know what else I am hyper-aware of? That Donald Trump is turning America into a banana republic. He is a dangerous corrupt man giving largesse to his cronies and wreaking havoc wherever he goes. If Democrats don’t start winning elections in this election, in big numbers, our democracy will be in peril, as will the achievements of the last century in terms of civil rights, workers’ rights, the environment, health care, education. So much that is decent and good about our country will be blown to dust.

So when I say Democrats need a new strategy, that we need to start winning elections right away, I’m not just talking about how it’d be a little nicer to have more Democrats win. We are at the edge of the abyss, folks, and we desperately need to try something new when it comes to elections.

Here’s what we need to do:

1. Compete everywhere, districts that are more blue collar and rural included. Too many Democratic Party leaders have decided that we can’t compete very well among the “white working class.” That is one reason why the Kansas and South Carolina races were virtually ignored by the national party, and why national Democratic groups got out-spent almost ten to one in the Montana race, while a higher income suburban district in Georgia that was just as Republican as the other three got the lion’s share of money and attention from national Dems. In this political environment — where Trump and the Republicans are deeply unpopular, and where Democrats have far more enthusiasm about voting, volunteering, and giving money online — we should be competing everywhere and paying attention to the kinds of races we normally don’t.

Just because a lot of working class voters supported Trump last year doesn’t mean they will never vote for Democrats, a lot of those same voters voted for Dems in 2012. And news flash: white working class voters aren’t the only working class voters around. When you talk about issues that matter to blue collar voters — health care, Social Security, raising taxes on the wealthy, getting tough on Wall Street abuse of power, creating jobs and increasing wages, paid family and medical leave, child care — you are also reaching African-American working class folks, Latino working class folks, unmarried women, and young people who are working class folks.

2. Stop thinking of populism as some crazy lefty Bernie thing that can’t win in tough districts, that the message needed is safe and cautious “centrism” (whatever that means). Jon Ossoff ran a campaign very similar in targeting, message, and overall strategy to Hillary’s campaign — target upper-income suburban Republicans with an overwhelming amount of TV ads and mail with a safely centrist message mostly devoid of issue specifics and a ton of attacks on the opponent. But neither Hillary nor Ossoff won very many of those voters in spite of the millions spent on trying to do so.

Now, I will be the first to say that a candidate and their message need to fit the district, and GA-6 is a mostly suburban and upper-income district. I get how Ossoff was trying not to scare people that he was a crazy lefty, but there are plenty of older voters in GA-6. The Republican health care plan is unpopular everywhere, including GA-6, and he could have attacked it using quotes from popular groups like AARP and hospital CEOs. Social Security and Medicare are popular everywhere, and he could have talked more about the critical threats they face.

Running safe, mushy campaigns doesn’t win over very many Republicans; doesn’t usually work in getting swing voters on board; and doesn’t help turn out Democratic voters either.

At the same time, national Democrats didn’t think the more populist candidates in the more blue collar districts would appeal in the other three districts and made only very small investments in those districts while Ossoff was raising money hand over fist — more than $40 million was spent between the two candidates, making it the most expensive House race ever. Yet, we came closer in the South Carolina district totally ignored by Democrats, and we came very nearly as close in Kansas and Montana. If we had invested a fraction of the money spent in Georgia — 10% would have been $4 million — in those other three races, we might have picked up a couple of those seats. Populism sounds different from different candidates; different issues resonate in different districts, but in general, populism plays well in blue-collar districts.

Too many party strategists seem to believe that bland mushy messages win elections, but Republicans keep electing boldly conservative tea partiers and people like Trump. Democrats need to take populism back.

3. Less TV, more Facebook. Hillary vastly outspent Trump on TV in 2016. Multiple Democratic Senate candidates in swing races out-spent their opponents on TV and lost. Ossoff vastly out-spent Handel on TV and lost. Notice a pattern here? Republicans from Trump on down consistently spent more than we did on Facebook.

The reasons Democrats should be paying far more attention to Facebook and far less to TV are many. Fewer and fewer people are watching traditional TV, and when they are, they are figuring out plenty of ways to avoid watching commercials. And more and more people are spending more and more time on Facebook. TV commercials are the least trusted source of political information while content from your Facebook friends is among the most trusted sources of information. Most importantly, you can target individual voters on Facebook and learn from their reactions to ads and organic content. Democrats have many weaknesses in their electoral strategy, but if the only thing they did was shift 50% of their TV spending to Facebook (both in terms of turning out the vote and persuasion), they would start winning far more elections.

In order for our democracy and our decency as a country to survive, Democrats need to start winning elections again. But we won’t get there without a new strategy that actually reaches out to working class voters of all races and ages, and fights for issues that matter to their every day lives. Our strategy must shift from TV into the age of Facebook, and it needs to happen now.