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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 Weekly Standard, David Byler addresses the question, “Can Sherrod Brown Take Back the Working Class Vote in Ohio? His Senate race is a test of whether Obama-Trump voters are reliable Republicans.” Byler writes that “For decades, Ohio has been a political bellwether—a quadrennial swing state that often voted for the winning presidential candidate. But in 2016, something odd happened—Ohio jerked sharply to the right, giving now President Trump an eight-point win despite his two-point national popular vote loss. Some Republicans hoped that Trump’s win was a sign of permanent shift that would allow them to unseat progressive Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018…But a new Baldwin Wallace poll is throwing some cold water on those hopes…Baldwin Wallace found that Brown leads two possible Republican challengers, Jim Renacci and Mike Gibbons, by 12 and 10 points respectively…According to the poll, 13 percent of Trump voters favor Brown. Some of those voters may be the much discussed Obama-voting white working class Democrats that Trump won over in 2016. Ohio is flush with those voters…More broadly, it might be worth thinking of these Obama-Trump voters not as reliable Republicans but as possible swing voters. They have, after all, swung from Obama to Trump recently and have reasons to vote for either party (cultural commonality with Republicans and economic agreement with Democrats).”

Yet more evidence that voter enthusiasm is high among rank and file Democrats. “Democrats turned out for Illinois’ primary in higher numbers than the left-leaning state has seen for a midterm election in more than a decade, deciding several hotly contested races and signaling the November election could be even tougher than usual for the GOP,” report Sara Burnett and Sarah Zimmerman of Associated Press. “More than 1.2 million people voted in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. That was nearly double the number who cast Republican primary ballots and a roughly 25 percent increase over 2010, the last time Democrats had a competitive gubernatorial primary.”

The gang at FiveThirtyEight addresses a question of interest to political strategy wonks and Democratic headhunters looking for potential senate candidates in 2020: “Which U.S. House Race Is The Best 2018 Bellwether?” At one point Clare Malone makes the case for CA-45: “It’s held by Republican Mimi Walters, but Hillary Clinton won it by 5 percentage points in 2016. It’s in the general Los Angeles area, and it has the suburban voter types who I think are the sort that we’ve seen be more persuadable to the Democratic side in the special elections we’ve had since President Trump’s election. I’m interested in that particular group of voters this year and think the California 45th would give me a decent handle on them if it were the only race I were allowed to know the result of.” Nathaniel Rakich agrees with Malone that CA-45 is “the ideal test case” for guaging college-educated voter trends. Other districts noted in the article include ME-2, IL-6, TX-32, TX-7, CA-25, NY-19, OH-12, KY-6 and VA-10.

In her Newsweek article, “We need Stronger Labor Unions to protect the Middle Class,” Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife program at Harvard Law and a former member of the NLRB,  shares some disturbing statistics: “Its failure can be summed up in one surprising statistic : the percentage of American workers who are members of unions is lower now than before the NLRA passed. ..Think about that; workers were more likely to be union members (13.2 percent) when they had no right to do so than they are now (10.7 percent) after more than 80 years of having a federally protected right. This decline is having a dramatic effect on all American workers – because the decline in union density suppresses wages for all workers, it accounts for about one-third of income inequality over the past several decades.” Block suggests amending The National Labor Relations Act, which “pre-empts ” – any state or local law that even arguably affects the rights covered by federal law…One big way to change labor law would be to allow states and even cities to enact their own rules for the future of the labor movement.”

Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reports on “the outrage created by the invasion of an estimated 50 million Facebook accounts for the ultimate benefit of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” and adds, “we have a right to worry about the ability of a researcher to use voluntary answers to a survey of 270,000 Facebook users to “scrape” information on 50 million people, later used by Trump’s campaign. We have a right to be outraged about Facebook’s failure to inform users that their data had been harvested. “They keep saying, ‘Trust us, we can take care of our own people and our own website,’ ” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Well, that’s not true.” She and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., have called for Judiciary Committee hearings, and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia also called on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress.” It’s one thing for a political campaign to have your phone number, Dionne argues. “But no campaign is permitted access to your hopes, fears, worries, passions or day-to-day business,” which they can get from you Facebook posts.

The Trump Administration’s failure to address the crisis in Puerto Rico with a serious relief plan could have some unintended consequences that backfire badly. As Manuel Madrid writes in The American Prospect,  “Clustered along Florida’s I-4 corridor, a political bellwether for the state, Puerto Ricans in central Florida are increasingly considered a counterweight to the state’s Republican-leaning Cuban American population, over half of whom voted for Donald Trump. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, a state-provided count claimed that the number of Puerto Ricans who had settled in Florida by December 2017 could be as high as 280,000—a figure that has since been questioned by experts. A newer estimate from University of Florida economists, using school enrollments and requests for state aid as a guide, put the total closer to just 50,000. But this number could grow. Recently, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York released a study projecting that Puerto Rico could lose as many as 470,335 residents between 2017 and 2019. If recent trends serve as any guide, many if not most of those migrants will end up in Florida.”…“Very soon, the Puerto Rican vote will be in the driver’s seat in Florida,” says Garces of Mi Familia Vota, one of the Florida groups in discussion with the DNC. “But this work is year-round, it won’t be solved in one election cycle or just on even years.”

The appointment of John Bolton as Trump’s national security advisor can only signal an even more contentious and belligerent era for U.S. foreign policy. Heather Hurlbert explains why in her article, “John Bolton’s Incompetence May Be More Dangerous Than His Ideology” at New York Magazine: “…He seems to relish the role, going out of his way to argue that the Iraq War wasn’t really a failure, calling for U.S.-led regime change in Iran and preventive war against North Korea, and writing the foreword for a book that proclaimed President Obama to be a secret Muslim. He is a profoundly partisan creature, having started a super-PAC whose largest donor was leading Trump benefactor Rebekah Mercer and whose provider of analytics was Cambridge Analytica, the firm alleged to have improperly used Facebook data to make voter profiles, which it sold to the Trump and Brexit campaigns, among others. Recently Bolton’s statements have grown more extreme, alarming centrist and conservative national security professionals along with his longtime liberal foes.”

Geoffrey Skelley shares the good news at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) endured a difficult night on Tuesday. Although he won his party’s primary to earn a reelection shot in November, the contest in some ways confirmed his overall weakness as the most endangered incumbent Republican governor facing the voters in 2018. As such, the Crystal Ball is moving the Illinois gubernatorial contest from Toss-up to Leans Democratic, the first time in the 2018 cycle that we have rated an incumbent U.S. senator, U.S. House member, or governor as an underdog for reelection. Rauner’s vulnerabilities are two-fold: his party base is not solidly behind him — the GOP primary made this abundantly clear — and he faces an energized Democratic Party in what is typically a blue state….With our ratings change, [Democratic nominee J. B.] Pritzker starts the general election campaign with an edge over Rauner. On top of Rauner’s intraparty problems,..At the starting gun, Pritzker holds an early advantage.”

Few will be shocked by the headline of Margot Sanger-Katz’s, “Getting Sick Can Be Really Expensive, Even for the Insured” in The New York Times. But her findings in the article helps to explain why health care reform remains a leading priority for many voters in 2018, particularly high-turnout seniors. As Sanger-Katz notes, “New research shows that for a substantial fraction of Americans, a trip to the hospital can mean a permanent reduction in income. Some people bounce right back, but many never work as much again. On average, people in their 50s who are admitted to the hospital will experience a 20 percent drop in income that persists for years. Over all, income losses dwarfed the direct costs of medical care…On average, uninsured people in the study owed the hospital $6,000, compared with only $300 for those with insurance. But the average decline in income for both groups was much larger — an average earnings hit of $11,000 by the third year. Much of that average — around 60 percent — came from people who never returned to work at all…To the authors, the lesson of the paper is that standard health insurance isn’t enough — policymakers need to think about ways to better protect people against the income risks that accompany illness.” Clearly America’s health security system should include better wage replacement insurance, sick leave provisions or and broader disability insurance — reforms that could prove popular with senior voters and thise with chronic disabilities.

Teixeira: A Plug for the White Working Class Roundtable Website

by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis (cross-posted from his facebook page): 

Since we’ve been talking about the white working class and its importance to the Democratic party, allow me to point you toward a new website dedicated to that very proposition. Published by the good folks at The Democratic Strategist (a site I co-founded many moons ago) the site allows you to access the entire contents of the recent book, Democrats and the White Working Class, which has twelve–count ’em, 12!–great essays on this topic. The site also contains a variety of other useful materials on the issue.

I particularly recommend Andrew Levison’s summary essay, “Five Fundamental Challenges Democratic Candidates Must Get Right If They Want to Win the Support of Non-Racist White Working Class Americans”.

The White Working Class Roundtables

(Read More here)

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Resolving the Democrats’ False Choice: How the party can win both the “missing Obama millions” and the Obama-to-Trump voters” at The New Republic, Joshua Mound writes, “Instead of pitting voters of color against white working-class voters in an imaginary election, Democrats should target their policy proposals and political appeals to voters who bridge the gap: the black working class…But the Democrats don’t have to choose between working classes of different colors. African Americans are to the left of whites on just about every economic issue. That means that in order to target the needs of the black working class, Democrats will have to adopt the type of populist economic policies that, many observers argue, are Democrats’ best hope of winning back some of the Obama-Trump voters that Cohn and others believe are necessary for the party to be competitive in presidential and congressional contests…The white voters for whom racism trumps all are lost to Democrats. So there’s no sense, morally or politically, in the Democrats’ returning to Sister Souljah–style racial pandering to whites. But by combining racial and cultural progressivism with an economic platform that’s equal parts Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter, Democrats can turn out Obama voters who stayed home in 2016 and win back some Obama-Trump voters.

From Jane Kleeb’s contribution to an intra-progressive debate on “Should We Primary Every Democrat? Three views on left electoral strategy ahead of the 2018 midterm elections” at In These Times: “Primarying conservative and moderate incumbent Democrats simply because they are not as progressive as other Democrats, as Dan advocates, has never made much sense to me. Call me whatever label you want, but I would rather have a Democrat who is with us 70 percent of the time than a Republican who is against us 100 percent of the time. Even more than that, I firmly believe that diversity is a strength—not just diversity of race, or religion, or nationality, but also of ideas. A Democratic Party that has both Elizabeth Warren and Heidi Heitkamp makes us stronger. For example, when a farmer with a rural perspective on how healthcare improvements could impact their community sat at the table with an economics professor, those perspectives joined together to make Obamacare stronger…But to primary people not as part of a well-thought-out strategy, but simply because they do not hold the progressive line 100 percent of the time, is short-sighted and ultimately weakens us as a national party. I prefer to walk the road of building the party so our bench is broad and we put an end to the current one-party rule governing many of our states and our country.” Kleeb Kleeb is the founder of Bold Nebraska, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, a member of the Democratic Party’s Unity and Reform Commission, and an Our Revolution board member. The other contributors include Dan Cohen, president of Blue Sun Campaigns and a pollster and strategist for progressive electoral and issue campaigns and Dayton Martindale, an assistant editor at In These Times.

In the same forum, Cohen writes, “We need Democratic elected leaders who will actually lead, and who embody a true commitment to social and economic justice, inclusion and respect. That means we need contested Democratic primaries: on every level of government, in nearly every district, as often as possible. We should be challenging not only conservative or centrist Democrats, but any Democrat failing to act so as to restore confidence in our party and in government…But there’s a caveat. If we are running to transform the party in a more progressive, inclusive direction, we must foster a culture of respect for those with whom we, at least for now, disagree…our primary opponents are not the enemy, nor are the voters who put them in office. We need not compromise our values, but there is a world of difference between saying, “My opponent is a corporate shill,” for example, and saying, “I respect my opponent and we agree on some issues, but we disagree on the need for a living wage now…We must remember that we build movements over a longer time frame than one election cycle. Many of our challengers will lose, at least their first run…What’s more, if we don’t beat them this time, it gives us leverage to hold them accountable. All of which helps move the party left, because when politicians publicly endorse progressive policies, it tells voters, “That’s what Democrats are about.”

Michael Tackett reports that “White Evangelical Women, Core Supporters of Trump, Begin Tiptoeing Away” at The New York Times. “While the men in the pulpits of evangelical churches remain among Mr. Trump’s most stalwart supporters, some of the women in the pews may be having second thoughts. As the White House fights to silence a pornographic actress claiming an affair with Mr. Trump, and a jailed Belarusian escort claims evidence against the American president, Mr. Trump’s hold on white evangelical women may be slipping…According to data from the Pew Research Center, support among white evangelical women in recent surveys has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. That is even greater than the eight-point drop among all women…“That change is statistically significant,” said Gregory A. Smith, Pew’s associate director of research, who also noted a nine-point drop among evangelical men. “Both groups have become less approving over time.”

If you noticed a recent diminishing of Republican candidate quality independent of ideological considerations, it’s not just a vague impression. As Paul Blumenthal notes at HuffPost, “Republicans Have 4 Convicted Criminals Running For Congress In 2018,”and notes that, in addition to Joe Arpaio’s Arizona campaign for U.S. Senator, “convicted criminals running for office as Republicans are Don Blankenship, the former head of the coal mining company Massey Energy who is running in the Republican primary to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.); former Rep. Michael Grimm, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) to reclaim the Staten Island congressional seat he once held; and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who is running for re-election.” Read the article for more details.

Others have noted a similar downtick in the credentials of presidential appointees under Trump. Ryan Koronowski’s Think Progress article, “Trump’s new economic adviser is really bad at economics. Here are the receipts: Larry Kudlow has made some astoundingly bad predictions, even for a CNBC pundit,” points out that the President’s pick for director of the National Economic Council is much in keeping with his habit of making one of the worst possible choices. Along with a litany of Kudlow’s laughable predictions, Koronowski writes: “Past NEC directors have had law degrees from Yale or Harvard or Cornell, MBAs from Harvard or Wharton (not a bachelor’s with an economics major like the president), a Ph. D in economics from Harvard or MIT, decades of business experience, or taught at the London School of Economics..Kudlow has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and did not complete a master’s degree in economics at Princeton. He has worked at a junior level at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and also in the Reagan Office of Management and Budget. He worked at Bear Stearns from 1987 to 1994, until he was fired for cocaine abuse. After working for Arthur Laffer’s firm, he got into journalism, most notably hosting a business show on CNBC.”

At BuzzFeed News, Ryan C. Brooks writes that “Democratic strategists argue that there is a cost to the “churn-and-burn” fundraising strategy that outweighs the extra dollars it brings in. The cost of the spammy, fear-based communications, they say, is depressed and alienated voters and the public impression of the Democratic Party as just another arm of a cynical, dishonest establishment…“I think the DCCC’s email strategy is a wasted opportunity for Democrats. They have this expansive email list that they could be using to cultivate and motivate voters to flip congressional seats in 2018,” said Laura Olin, a Democratic digital strategist who’s worked with a host of progressives including Barack Obama’s digital team….“The thing is that fundraising campaigns from Obama, Warren, and Bernie showed us that we don’t need to use those scare tactics to raise money, and those tactics don’t make us lose our values by being inclusive, engaging, and honest rather than being alarmist and misleading,” said [Democratic digital strategist Matthew] McGregor.”

Jefferson Morley drops a political strategy nugget about the importance of personal contact with voters in his article, “The Democrats’ Sweet Spot: Diverse, Young, Working-Class People Who Didn’t Vote” at Alternet: In a large-scale study Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, Jesse H. Rhodes and Brian F. Schaffner of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Bernard L. Fraga of Indiana University  “studied the ballots of 64,000 voters in 2012 and 2016 and came away with a key finding: The number of voters who cast a ballot for Obama in 2012 and did not vote in 2016, or voted for a third-party candidate, outnumbered those Obama voters who pulled the lever for Trump…The Obama voters who stayed home, while generally liberal, were significantly less liberal on four of five key policy questions than the loyal Democratic voters who voted for both Obama and Clinton. In other words, more liberal policy positions were not sufficient to lure them to the polling booth…What made the difference for these non-voters was personal contact, or the lack thereof….“Only 43 percent of Obama-to-nonvoters reported being contacted by a candidate in 2016, compared with 66 percent of Obama-to-Clinton voters,” the authors say.”

Among the political campaign insights shared by long-time labor organizer Marshall Ganz in his article, “How to Organize to Win: Rebuilding the democratic infrastructure is too important to leave up to the consultocracy” in The Nation: “Organizing people is not only about solving immediate problems, like making sure your candidate gets the most votes or putting up a stop sign. It is about doing this and, at the same time, developing the leadership, organization, and power to take on structural challenges in the long run. It is not about fixing bugs in the system, like a safety net. It is about transforming the cultural, economic, and political features of the system. One of the main reasons I got hooked on organizing in the civil-rights movement was that it allowed me to work with people to find the resources within themselves and each other to create the power they needed to change the institutions responsible for their problems in the first place. That is what healthy democracy requires…This kind of organizing, however, is a far cry from the political marketing campaigns run by the electoral-industrial complex today…In a consultant-driven model, volunteers show up but get no training, receive slipshod or inaccurate materials, and are ignored by campaign higher-ups, who could care less about what they learned by talking with real voters. Who cares? It’s all taken care of by polling, targeting, and modeling. The role to which ordinary citizens are relegated in most campaigns is that of “real people”—RPs in campaign-speak—props for a photo op…Mobilizers only turn out people with whom they agree. Organizers engage these people in reaching out to other people with whom they don’t agree. Mobilizing spends down resources. Organizing generates new ones.”

Teixeira: Conor Lamb’s Campaign Formula in PA-18 May Help Other Dems

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his facebook page

The PA-18 model for 2018?

Tuesday’s the big day in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD. Will Democrat Conor Lamb pull off the big upset of absurdly reactionary Trumpian Republican Rick Saccone?

To be honest, this one could go either way. But the very fact that the race is so tight and that Lamb could easily pull off the upset is amazing in and of itself.. This is a district that Trump carried by almost 20 points and it is about 60 percent white noncollege. According to Ron Brownstein, there are only six (!) districts that are more white than PA-18.

So how is Lamb making this election such a contest? The just-released Monmouth Poll tells the story. He is cleaning up among college-educated voters–winning them by 22 points–while being very competitive among noncollege voters–a modest 6 point deficit. (Given how white this district is, we can take these figures as close approximations of preferences among white college and white noncollege voters.)

This is a great formula and the key to a Democratic wave election that pushes into areas–and there are many–where minority voter concentrations are relatively small and white noncollege voters dominate.

If this election is a win for Lamb or even a very close loss, there is much to be learned here for a successful Democratic 2018.

How Dems Could Benefit from ‘Digital Precinct Captains’

In his Rewire post, “Digital Precinct Captains: A New Strategy for Democrats,” Jeff Hauser writes:

…By focusing less on the traditional advertising tools of the 20th century and more on the new digital organizing tools of the 21st, Democrats can have a true 50-state strategy without all the costs it used to entail.

One way to do this would be by identifying and supporting a team of thousands of “digital precinct captains” around the country who would be supported and organized by paid staff members. These highly motivated super volunteers would serve an organizing role between both ordinary voters and occasional activists and the formal political party itself.  They would seek to engage, serve, and mobilize voters—not just the party—and in doing so, Democrats could become an actual energized community whose leaders and members are perpetually talking to and learning from one another. Their success would be based on engagement, not fundraising.

The idea, in the words of the article’s subtitle, is “move the Democratic Party much closer to being a meaningful organization instead of a mere ballot label.” Hauser adds that “The rise of Indivisible and countless other #Resistance groups have revealed an unprecedented interest in political activism and the power digital organizing tools can wield.”

“Such activism within the Democratic Party itself would increase the people power available to candidates who inspire communities,” argues Hauser. “From incubating voter registration drives to promoting a community picnic, captains would choose the activities that their communities desire while also communicating with the tools that best speak to those communities.”

Untilnow, says Hauser, “digital strategy has essentially been used as a different way to raise money. Everyone’s gotten those emails (probably too many of them) asking if you “can chip in just $5” for a given occasion…That means that the party’s digital strategy has largely been a one-way street: send out a message and judge its success by the dollars it generated.”

Hauser believes the digital precinct captains “would engage a broad swath of voters and ensure a meaningful and consistent point of contact with the Democratic Party.” It would provide “the tools they need to engage and organize throughout the year while informing the party how politics is happening at the most granular level.”

Another benefit would be that the digital precinct capatains could organize by geography, neglected constituencies, “like the parents of kids with disabilities or senior citizens in nursing homes,” or issues, or a combination of those factors.

Digital precincts “could create an enduring semi-decentralized digital-oriented permanent campaign structure.” Utilizing tools like Facebook, Instagram and texting, “this structure would take advantage of the reduced costs of two-way communications between the federal party and grassroots outside the strictures of TV ads or mainstream media.”

Precinct captains once played a much larger role in Democratic politics, particularly in cities where population was concentrated. Neighborhood-level political groups still have an important role to play, but it would be political malpractice for Democrats not to leverage digital tools to strengthen the bonds between the national, state and local Democratic parties on the one hand, and the myriad grassroots groups now proliferating in the Resistance nationwide.

Top Dems Say Russians Still Trying to Influence U.S. Elections

At PowerPost, Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey and Craig Timberg report that “Top Democrats on Tuesday called on Facebook and Twitter to investigate what lawmakers said are Russian efforts to promote the release of a classified Republican memo criticizing the FBI probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign.”Further, say the PowerPost writers,

Hashtags such as “#ReleaseTheMemo” have been trending on Twitter in recent days, and accounts affiliated with Russian influence efforts have been supporting this campaign, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a U.S.-based group that examines efforts by Russia and other nations to interfere in democratic institutions.

“If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process,” said a letter to Facebook and Twitter from Rep. Adam B. Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats from California who are the top members of their party on the House Intelligence Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively.

The revelations won’t come as a jaw-dropper to anyone who has been paying attention to Putin’s doings in recent years. The notion that Russian meddling in U.S. presidential elections was a one-time project, never to be again repeated makes no sense, considering Putin’s aggressive approach to international relations and his commitment to leveraging Russia’s intelligence resources to the fullest.

Democrats, however, have dismissed the Republican campaign to publish the memo as a bid to undermine a legitimate law enforcement investigation into Trump’s campaign and transition. Democrats also have said that releasing information in the memo would amount to a break from past practice in the handling of classified material.

…In alleging involvement by Russian trolls and bots, Schiff and Feinstein cite the Alliance for Securing Democracy, part of the German Marshall Fund. The group hosts on its website a dashboard that tracks roughly 600 accounts that the group says echo or otherwise support Russian influence efforts, though in some cases this is done unwittingly, according to information posted on the site.

…“This should be disconcerting to all Americans, but especially your companies as, once again, it appears the vast majority of their efforts are concentrated on your platforms,” Schiff and Feinstein wrote. “This latest example of Russian interference is in keeping with Moscow’s concerted, covert, and continuing campaign to manipulate American public opinion and erode trust in our law enforcement and intelligence institutions.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

Instead of Counting on Scandals to Flip Trump Supporters, Dems Should Listen Better

Yesterday J. P. Green noted that sometimes an outsider perspective can help illuminate our politics. Venezuelan Economist Andres Miguel Rondon takes a crack at it in today’s Washington Post, and makes a compelling argument that, rather than hoping Trump will be undone by scandals, “To beat President Trump, you have to learn to think like his supporters.” As Rondon writes,

If you’re among the majority of Americans who oppose Trump, you can’t understand why. And it’s making you furious. I saw the same thing happen in my native Venezuela with the late Hugo Chávez, who ruled as precisely the sort of faux-populist strongman that Trump now loves to praise. Chávez’s political career (which only ended with his untimely death) seemed not only immune to scandal, but indeed to profit directly from it. Why? Because scandal is no threat to populism. Scandal sustains populism.

…I know how you feel. You are outraged. What did you ever do to these people to deserve their hate? What can possibly be going on? How can they, for example, make sense of so many former Goldman Sachs men in the Trump Cabinet? Weren’t the bankers supposed to be the enemy? Not to mention Russia? All your senses (and your Facebook friends) tell you that, with all this hypocrisy, justice demands that Trump be impeached, indeed it should have happened long ago. For your sake and for his supporters’ sake, too. Instead, it continues, and each day that goes by, it makes less sense to you. As Venezuelans used to tell one another: Chávez te tiene loco. Trump is making you crazy. Making you scramble for ways to make this end.

Rondon reviews the  litany of Trump’s scandals, from the Access Holywood tape to the recent Mueller indictments and concedes that Trump’s approval ratings have been driven down. Yet, noted Rondon, “in one November poll, only 7 percent of his supporters from last year said they’d vote differently.” Scandals may influence public opinion, but don’t expect much change among his supporters. Further, “If you want to fight Trump effectively, you have to learn to think like they do and give up altogether the prospect that scandal will one day undo him.”

Rondon argues, “his supporters are convinced that you are to blame. Until you can convince them otherwise, they will cheer him on. The name of the game is polarization, and the rookie mistake is to forget you are the enemy.” Trump’s supporters have been whittled down to hard-core ideologues and those who are willing to cut off their noses to spite your face.

Many of Trump’s supporters do harbor an intense hatred of liberals, who they perceive as elitist snobs. Indeed, some may be more driven by this animosity than diferences on policy. But it’s doubtful that they add up to 40+ percent of the electorate.

Although political illiteracy is not exclusive to Trump voters, there are a large number of low-information voters in Trump’s hard-core base. As political researchers Richard Fordling and Sanford Shram note in their Monkey Cage article, “‘Low information voters’ are a crucial part of Trump’s support“:

Our research finds that Trump has attracted a disproportionate (and unprecedented) number of “low-information voters” to his campaign. Furthermore, these voters are more likely to respond to emotional appeals — whether about the economy, immigration, Muslims, racial relations, sexism, and even hostility to the first African American U.S. president, Barack Obama. They are the ideal constituency for a candidate like Trump.

We define low-information voters as those who do not know certain basic facts about government and lack what psychologists call a “need for cognition.” Those with a high need for cognition have a positive attitude toward tasks that require reasoning and effortful thinking and are, therefore, more likely to invest the time and resources to do so when evaluating complex issues. Those with a low need for cognition, on the other hand, find little reward in the collection and evaluation of new information when it comes to problem solving and the consideration of competing issue positions. They are more likely to rely on cognitive shortcuts, such as “experts” or other opinion leaders, for cues.

Fording and Schram conclude that “a core part of his base is made up of low-information voters who appear more susceptible to Trump’s appeals based on race and religion and less prepared to challenge his misstatements and untruths.” It’s hard to credibly quantify this segment, and even harder to ennumerate another group of Trump’s base, who are high-information, low-compassion voters focused more on their portfolios than what may be good for America.

But the most relevant segment for Democrats is the percentage of Trump voters who are now open to voting for Democratic candidates. Some statistical indicators, including recent generic ballot trends, suggest that readiness to vote Democratic is making a dent, however small, among Trump’s suporters. Harry Enten reports that “the Democratic advantage in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot aggregate is up to about 12 points, 49.6 percent to 37.4 percent.with an 18-point advantage among registered voters in the generic congressional ballot question.” And It only takes a small change to make a big difference.

But it does no good to point out to persuadable Trump supporters that they are low-info or morally-challenged. Rondon advises, “before you try to persuade them that they are being racist, or worse, ignorant by believing in Trump, you should ask yourself: Will this help convince them that I am not their enemy? Because what can really win them over is not to prove that you are right. It is to show them you care. Only then will they believe what you say.”

Democrats just might get an edge with ‘persuadable’ Trump voters by ascertaining their fears, hopes and policy priorities. To do this credibly will require some targeted polling, followed by a real commitment to reach out to them with empathy, instead of the anger and condescension of facebook rants.

“So as the second year of Trump’s administration approaches, stop,” concludes  Rondon. “Take a deep breath. Let all the hatred circle from afar. Don’t let it into your echo chamber.”

Rondon may be overstating the uselessness of scandals in changing political opinion. Certainly, there is a distinction to be made between sex scandals and the smell of massive corruption and election-rigging emanating from the Trump Administration’s dealings with Putin and Russian oligarchs. But Dems would be wise to focus their criticism on Trump and Repubican leaders — not on their supporters.

Creamer: Tax Bill Puts GOP Brand in Free Fall

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

In the long struggle to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, the forces of greed and inequality have just won a battle.

The owners of the Republican Party – a small, elite class of wealthy investors and CEO’s – successfully ordered their minions in public office to massively lower their share of the taxes that we all pay for the things we do together, as a country.

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center has found that when all of the provisions of the Republican tax bill are in full effect by 2027, 82.8 percent of the bill’s benefits will go to the top 1 percent ― and 53 percent of Americans would actually pay more in taxes.

The bill also contained provisions that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says will mean 13 million fewer Americans will be covered by health insurance and that premiums will increase by double digits for millions more.

The GOP was successful at teeing up its next campaign – to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education in order to offset the rising federal deficits that will result from their tax cuts for the very rich.

They have won that battle. But the battle will actually make it more likely that progressives will ultimately win the war.

Winning wars is not just a story of individual victories. It is about maneuvering, the alignment of forces, the morale of the troops, the underlying geography defining the conflict. It is about who can take and seize the high ground – in this case, the high political ground.

The Republican Party will pay a huge political price for their tax “victory.”

Granted that the rulers of the Party may not care. The owners of the Party made it ever so clear that their Congressional troops were expected to pay any price to give them the trillions of dollars they will receive from the Republican tax bill.

The GOP foot soldiers were told pretty explicitly that the Party’s owners had invested millions over the last two decades, and now that they were blessed with a once-in-a-generation control over both Houses of Congress and the White House, they expected to be paid their return right now – while the getting is good.

A Senate Budget Committee Analysis shows the kind of payoff the GOP tax bill gives to big GOP donors.

Goldman Sachs for example invested $26,894,393 in donations to Republicans from 1990 to 2017. It will receive about a $6 billion tax cut.

Here are some of the biggest winners:

Goldman Sachs: Contributions, $26,894,393 – Tax Cut, $6,091,800,000

General Electric: Contributions, $20,025,764 – Tax Cut, $15,990,000,000

Citigroup: Contributions, $19,759,908 – Tax Cut, $9,165,000,000

Microsoft: Contributions, $17,934,790 – Tax Cut, $27,690,000,000

Exxon Mobil: Contributions, $16,845,751 – Tax Cut, $10,530,000,000

Pfizer: Contributions, $15,673,394 ― Tax Cut, $38,794,080,000

Walmart: Contributions, $12,894,979 – Tax Cut, $ $5,187,000,000

Chevron: Contributions, $12,779,874 – Tax Cut, $9,048,000,000

Eli Lilly: Contributions, $9,764,311 – Tax Cut, $5,460,000,000

Google: Contributions, $7,392,522 – Tax Cut, $11,836,500,000

Johnson & Johnson: Contributions, $5,636,745 – Tax Cut, $12,909,000,000

Proctor & Gamble: Contributions, $3,682,275 – Tax Cut, $9,555,000,000

IBM: Contributions, $1,873,305 – Tax Cut, $13,923,000,000

Apple: Contributions, $500,381 – Tax Cut, $47,970,000,000

Total: Contributions, $178,903,432 – Tax Cut, $236,453,880,000

As a group, these firms will see tax cuts 1,321 times their original investment in contributions. You have to admit, the GOP is delivering for those who own the Party.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the bill will be, as Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said during floor debate, an anchor around the ankles of every Republican candidate for office in 2018 – and in 2020.

Progressives gained three major advantages from this year’s tax battle.

1). First, Progressives crushed the opposition when it came to framing the tax battle and branding Republican tax policy.

The GOP tax plan is now politically toxic. The most recent NBC poll found that by a margin of 63 percent to 7 percent, Americans believe the GOP tax plan was designed to help corporations and the wealthy, not the middle class. Majorities also say they expect their own taxes and those of middle-class families to stay the same or go up under the bill, while taxes for corporations and the wealthy go down.

The forces opposing the tax bill wanted to brand it as a tax cut for millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations paid for by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education – and by raising taxes on the middle class. They were successful.

A recent CNN poll found that only 33 percent of Americans supported the bill and 55 percent opposed. A Quinnipiac poll had disapproval of the Republican plan at 55 percent, vs. 26 percent approval.

Progressives also won the underlying debate over whether tax cuts for the rich ultimately “trickles down” to ordinary people. According to a recent USA Today poll, most respondents believe it would not materially help grow the economy. White House arguments that the tax bill would raise wages by $4,000 per person were written off by the public as being laughable.

Does all of this matter politically? Quinnipiac found that 43 percent say they are less likely to vote for a U.S. Senator or Member of Congress who supports the plan, with only 18 percent saying they would be more likely. That is a net deficit of 25 percent who are less likely to support those who voted yes on the bill.

Some Conservatives argue that the bill will actually become more popular as working people see cuts in their taxes next year. But as pollster Geoff Garin points out:

Here’s the truth: 80 percent of taxpayers will see an increase of less than 2 percent in their after-tax income (it is not until you get to the 95th percentile that the after-tax income benefits are much greater). There is NO history of voters being grateful for tax cuts that small – in fact history suggests that most taxpayers do not even recognize having received a tax cut when it is that small. The problem is compounded for the Republicans in two ways: (1) they have raised expectations in people’s minds that they would receive a much larger tax cut, and (2) people will feel their tax cut is especially paltry when they hear about the size of the tax cuts that millionaires and billionaires are receiving.

The Republicans have another, even bigger problem: Voters pay more attention to what they are losing than what they are getting. And going forward every proposed Republican cut to things people care about – including Medicare, Medicaid, and education ― can credibly be described as occurring in order to pay for the GOP’s tax cuts for millionaires and big corporations.

And organizations like Not One Penny and Americans for Tax Fairness that spearheaded the campaign against the Republican tax bill plan to run major efforts over the months ahead to drill this frame into the consciousness of the voters.

2). Second, the campaign against the tax bill put large numbers of people into motion. There is nothing more important to engage people in politics – or in a political movement – than motivating them to take action. When people go to a demonstration or town hall meeting or press event – when they make a phone call to Congress or share a Facebook post – they become emotionally invested in the issue and feel a sense of empowerment that spurs further action.

The Republicans and the Tea Party understood that in 2009, when they launched their war on the Affordable Care Act. That paid off in a highly-motivated Republican volunteer and activist base in the 2010 elections.

The tax battle drew from – and added to – the already robust ranks of the Resistance to Trump and GOP policies. Many of those tax warriors will turn their attention to voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities in the months leading up to next fall – the same way they have in Virginia and Alabama.

3). Third, the fact that the campaign to stop the Trump Tax Cuts made the proposal politically toxic, helped insure that not one Democrat voted to support it. You could not ask for a more iconic example of the difference in Republican and Democratic economics. It is a clear example that Democrats support the interests of ordinary people, while the Republican Party is in business to defend the interests of the 1 percent.

Every Republican in the Senate voted to do the will of the GOP donor class.

Susan Collins, often referred to as a “Moderate,” stood up, saluted and did the bidding of the Party’s owners on Wall Street.

Lisa Murkowski – who was a heroine of the ACA battle earlier this year, got down on the proverbial floor and kowtowed to the oil barons who wanted drilling rights in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge and the Koch Brothers who wanted huge corporate tax cuts.

“Deficit Hawk” Bob Corker apparently felt just fine abandoning his “principled” stand against increasing the deficit once huge tax cuts for real estate investors like himself and his friends were added to the bill.

The tax battle has already changed the perceptions of the Republican and Democratic brands.

In June, the NBC/WSJ poll showed Americans preferred Republicans over Democrats to handle the tax issue by 4 percentage points. Now, they prefer Democrats by 4 points. Republicans have moved from a 7 percentage point advantage to a 5 percentage point deficit when it comes to which Party voters think is best equipped to handle the economy.

That is one reason why a new CNN Poll finds that voters prefer Democrats over Republicans by a whopping 18 percent point margin – 56 to 38 ― as their choice in the 2018 Mid-Term elections. And when asked about the Presidential election in 2020 in an NBC poll, 52 percent said they would definitely or probably vote against Trump while only 36 percent said they would definitely or probably vote for his re-election.

The combined effects of the tax battle, the fight to prevent the GOP from taking away people’s health care, Trump’s unpopularity – and the impact of the GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore ― resulted in the surprising result that the Republican Party was actually more unpopular than the Democratic Party in exit polls taken after the Senate election in Red State bastion Alabama.

Nationally, the Republican brand is in a free fall.

If the GOP pursues its goals of “reforming” – actually cutting – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, this trend will intensify and harden.

As we saw during the battle to defend the ACA, people get really riled up when someone tries to take something away from them – like their health care. We saw the same thing in 2005 when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security and during House Speaker Ryan’s previous attempts to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Remember, from the voter’s point of view it isn’t just who wins that matters – it’s who is out there fighting for them. It’s all about who is on your side.

And don’t expect the fact that they now have one “legislative” victory to bolster the GOP’s position with the voters. Only Washington pundits think about putting legislative points on the board – ordinary voters couldn’t care less.

Barack Obama put dozens of legislative points on the board in the first two years of his administration. That didn’t do Democrats any good at all in the 2010 mid-terms.

In 2010, the GOP successfully mobilized millions of people to vote against Democrats who they claimed were trying to “take away their health care.” That was, of course a complete lie. The ACA and the other pieces of legislation passed in Obama’s first two years were actually good for ordinary people – and now they are all very popular.

The GOP tax plan is horrible for ordinary voters. Many might see piddling reductions in their taxes next year or the next. But they will hardly be noticeable. And in the end, whatever benefits there are for ordinary people will expire and those for huge corporations will go into the future – or at least until they are repealed by a Democratic Congress and President. Most people already think they have been had, and they won’t change their minds because they have, in fact, been had.

The GOP tax “victory” won’t look so glorious from the standpoint of late November 2018. As my wife Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky says, we can’t yet see the huge Democratic wave next fall, but we have begun to feel the spray.

Political Strategy Notes

Could Al Franken’s resignation from the senate help to defeat Roy Moore? Don’t get trapped in a false equivalency snare here, because the magnitude and context of the allegations against Sen. Franken and Judge Moore are not the same. In fact, the difference in severity of the accusations may boost the vote  against Moore in the December 12th election. We can hope, at least, that some Alabama voters who have been on the fence about voting against Moore may now decide that Franken’s resignation signals an opportunity to set a higher standard of decency and dignity in the behavior of members of  ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body.’ Whatever happens in December 12th election, it will provide a symbolic metric for Alabama values in the minds of many. Kira Lerner reports at ThinkProgress that “The GOP for Doug Jones movement is real: Alabama Republicans are doing something they never thought possible: Voting for a Democrat.” Lerner notes that there is a “Republicans for Doug Jones” Facebook page with 2000 members. Those who want to support a higher standard of decency in the U.S. Senate can contribute to the Doug Jones campaign right here.

“Jones will also need solid turnout among African-American voters to have any chance of winning,” writes Geoffrey Skelley at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “If black voters make up about 25% of the electorate and Jones wins at least 90% of them, that would mean that Jones would probably have to win at least one-third of the white vote to have a chance of winning, assuming a small portion of the white vote goes for a write-in choice and accounting for a small percentage of other nonwhite voters who are Democratic-leaning. The most recent available exit poll in Alabama is from 2012, which found that Barack Obama won just 15% of the white vote. In 2008, the exit poll found Obama just won 10%, and in 2004, it found John Kerry won about 20%. Even when accounting for the potential error in such findings, it’s clear that it’s been a while since a Democrat won anywhere near one-third of the white vote in Alabama.”

Dahlia Lithwick has a thought-provoking column on the wisdom of Democrats “going high, when they go low” at slate.com. Read her whole article for context, but give some thought to this section: “My own larger concern is that becoming the party of high morality will allow Democrats to live with themselves but that the party is also self-neutering in the face of unprecedented threats, in part to do the right thing and in part to take ammunition away from the right—a maneuver that never seems to work out these days. When Al Franken, who has been a champion for women’s rights in his tenure in the Senate, leaves, what rushes in to fill the space may well be a true feminist. But it may also be another Roy Moore. And there is something deeply naïve, in a game of asymmetrical warfare, and in a moment of unparalleled public misogyny, in assuming that the feminist gets the seat before it happens…This isn’t a call to become tolerant of awful behavior. It is a call for understanding that Democrats honored the blue slip, and Republicans didn’t. Democrats had hearings over the Affordable Care Act; Republicans had none over the tax bill. Democrats decry predators in the media; Republicans give them their own networks. And what do Democrats have to show for it? There is something almost eerily self-regarding in the notion that the only thing that matters is what Democrats do, without considering what the systemic consequences are for everyone.”

Don’t worry too much about Franken’s seat going to a Republican any time soon. “Democrats Will Likely Hold Franken’s Seat, But Minnesota’s Not As Blue As It Seems,” reports Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com. Enten adds, “Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement (possibly Lt. Gov. Tina Smith) who will hold the seat through the 2018 midterm elections. In 2018, a special election will take place to determine who will hold the seat until the regularly scheduled election in 2020. Whether Dayton’s pick runs in 2018 or not,1 the eventual Democratic candidate will likely be favored to win that race — though it’s not a sure thing….The good news for Minnesota Democrats is that the political environment is, at this point, heavily in their favor. They hold an 8 percentage point lead on the generic congressional ballot.2 If that holds through 2018 — not a bad bet…”

In any case, it looks like the issue of sexual harrassment by members of congress is not likely to fade away anytime soon. As Jake Novak reports at cncb.com, “Remember, this harassment storm is far from over. There are a total of 264 harassment settlements made by the House’s Office of Compliance just since 1997. Many more Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem likely to be forced out as the pressure mounts to reveal the details of those agreements and the names behind them. There’s a potential thinning out of the incumbent ranks that could spell doom for Pelosi even if people like Rice weren’t challenging her.

It appears that Trump has handed his Democratic adversaries a shiny new cudgel in his decision to return public lands, including beautiful natural treasures, to the states. As Christopher Barron, an ardent Trump supporter, writes at The Hill, “President Trump announced that he will dramatically reduce the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Trump made the announcement in Utah, where both of these national monuments are located…During the Republican primaries, Trump…said, “we have to be great stewards of this land. This land is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.”…Unlike the rest of the GOP field, who parroted the establishment talking points, Trump made it clear he would oppose efforts to return public lands to the states, saying, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do with it…Now, despite these promises, Trump is choosing the Republican establishment over working-class Americans.”

Joining the fray, The Washington Post Editorial Board writes, “This single move constituted the largest ever reduction in protected federal lands. Then on Tuesday it emerged that Ryan Zinke, Mr. Trump’s fox-in-henhouse interior secretary, will recommend paring back or loosening restrictions on 10 more national monuments around the country…The federal government owns some lands that are simply too precious to permanently sully in pursuit of temporary economic gains. Bears Ears, with its spectacular canyons, buttes and unspoiled archaeological sites, is one such place. Grand Staircase, a natural wonderland of ancient topology and fossilized prehistory, is another. When administering such unique places, the government must err on the side of conservation.”

I think Tory Newmyer’s The Finance 202 post, “Democratic split on Wall Street threatens party’s economic message” may overstate divisions within the Democratic Party in calling out a “profound problem confronting the party as it struggles to refashion its message ahead of the 2018 midterms.” But Newmyer is more on target in saying that “Most Democrats think they have a potent case to make that Trump’s GOP pulled a bait-and-switch on voters by promising populism and delivering a cascade of breaks to financiers (read my colleagues John Wagner and Juliet Eilperin on how Trump is governing like a traditional conservative).”

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have a disturbing read at Vox, “The GOP is trying to pass a super-unpopular agenda — and that’s a bad sign for democracy: Political science (and common sense) says they ought to pay a price at the polls. They might not.” There’s a lot to worry about in this post, including, “They’ve gotten very good at distracting voters. Research on public opinion suggests that voters have relatively short memories and that voter attention is critical to vote choice. What voters are focusing on when they head to the polls may matter more than their more considered thoughts about the issues…Given Republican leaders’ control of Congress, as well as Republican voters’ fierce attachment to right-leaning media, Republicans now have much greater capacity than Democrats to shape the short-term political agenda. (The attention-grabbing capacity of the tweeter-in-chief surely doesn’t hurt.) This isn’t always a good thing for Republicans, but in the run-up to a fiercely contested election, the ability to direct attention away from unpopular policies and towards whatever stokes tribal loyalty could make the difference.”