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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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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

Reporting from the DNC meeting in Las Vegas, PowerPost’s David Weigel and Ed O’Keefe have an update on the Virginia governor’s race, focusing on Democratic nail-biting about the possibility of a bad outcome, in part because of statewide polls failing to predict Trump’s November upset in key rust belt states. The Virginia election will be a pretty good test about the reliability of various polls in the contest, most of which show the Democratic nominee with a lead of a few points. But the most accurate polls tend to be in the final two or three days of the campaign. In any event, it’s good to know that Democratic leaders aren’t basking in either overconfidence or hand-wringing. O’Keefe and Weigel quote DNC Chairman Tom Perez, who rebukes Democrats “who believe Virginia is now solidly, safely, permanently blue after years of population growth in the diverse suburbs of Washington.” As Perez put it, “I hear ‘demographics is destiny’ and it’s nails on a chalkboard to me…Demographics is not destiny. Organizing is destiny.” In a close election, it’s all about GOTV. In this case, the GOP mobilizing turnout of Virginia’s suburbs and rural areas vs. the Democratic focus on major urban areas and northeastern Virginia, especially the suburbs around  Washington, D.C. The authors point out that the RNC has 80 staff members on the ground in the state, twice as many as the DNC, and substantially more money. Those who want to help reduce the Republican’s financial edge can support the campaign of Democratic nominee Ralph Northam right here.

President Obama stumps for Democratic nominee Ralph Northam:

But it’s not only the Governorship that is important in Virginia’s November 7th election. In his graph-rich post, “Underneath It All: Elections for the Virginia House of Delegates: The General Assembly’s lower chamber is also up for election on Nov. 7,” Geoffrey Skelley explains at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “While November’s political spotlight will shine brightest on the gubernatorial contest at the top of the Virginia ticket between former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R) and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), there will also be many interesting races down-ballot in the Old Dominion on Election Day. Not only will there be elections for the commonwealth’s two other statewide offices — lieutenant governor and attorney general — but all 100 House of Delegates seats will also be up for grabs. The General Assembly’s lower house will probably look a little different after Nov. 7, but the question is, how different?..As things stand, the Republicans hold a 66-34 edge over the Democrats in the House of Delegates, meaning that the Democrats must win 17 net seats to retake it. Not shockingly, the Crystal Ball can confidently say that the GOP will maintain control of the chamber. In fact, Northam admitted just as much at a dinner recently where he said he looked forward to current House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R) becoming speaker of the House (current Speaker Bill Howell is retiring and Cox is the presumptive replacement). Still, the partisan makeup of the House could change quite a bit…A Northam win by two points or so might mean only two-to-four seats for Democrats, whereas a Northam win by five points could mean more GOP-held seats fall to the Democrats. On the other hand, a nail-biter or Gillespie win could trim the Democratic gains even further. There may be many races decided by just a few hundred votes. These are the kinds of contests that should remind people that every vote really does count.”

Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal-Star reports on recent remarks by Thomas Frank, author of the much-buzzed about “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” As Walton writes, Frank “places the blame for the election of President Donald Trump squarely on the back of the Democratic Party and its abandonment of working-class Americans…They love it when unions work hard for them and give them campaign funds,” Frank said in a telephone interview.  But they aren’t deeply concerned with the problems faced by working-class people,” he said. “They need to stop taking those people for granted…Frank has described the change as a shift of political attention from the working class to professionals, “the highly credentialed and creative class…In the process, he said during an earlier address at the Kansas City Public Library promoting his book, “Listen, Liberal,” the Democratic Party became “a party of New Economy winners.” Democrats, adds Frank, “certainly can beat Donald Trump” in 2020, he said. However, they cannot do it by “going down the road they’ve been going,” he said, and they will need to choose a nominee “who is good on working-class issues.”

At The Daily 202, James Hohman notes a scary Morning Consult poll indicating that Trump’s attacks on the press are getting some traction in the court of public opinion. As Hohman explains, “The president touted a PoliticoMorning Consult poll published last week that found 46 percent of registered voters believe major news organizations fabricate stories about him. Just 37 percent of Americans think the mainstream media does not invent stories, while the rest are undecided. More than 3 in 4 Republicans believe reporters make up stories about Trump…The same Politico-Morning Consult poll that Trump tweeted about yesterday found that 28 percent of Americans think the federal government should have the power to revoke the broadcast licenses of major news organizations if it says they are fabricating news stories about the president or the administration. Only 51 percent think the government should not be able to do that. A plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, thinks the government should have the power to revoke licenses if it says stories are false. As a thought exercise, imagine how much these same people would have freaked out if Barack Obama had called for revoking Fox News’s license to broadcast. Hohman cites other polls, including “An annual survey published last month by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 37 percent of Americans cannot name even one of the five rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. About half of those surveyed got freedom of speech but couldn’t get any of the others…Only 26 percent of respondents could name the three branches of government, down from 38 percent in 2011…Even more worrisome, 39 percent of Americans support allowing Congress to stop the news media from reporting on any issue of national security without government approval.There was less opposition to prior restraint (49 percent) this year than in 2016 (55 percent).”

At The Tacoma News Tribune Matt Driscoll reports on a new study, ““The Other White America: White Working-Class Views on Belonging, Change, Identity, and Immigration,” by Harris Beider, Stacy Anne Hardwood and Kusminder Chahal, and observes, “Among other things, the study argues that as a group the white working class is far more diverse in its views than the stereotype that so often defines it. At the same time, the report is blunt in assessing the challenges of building coalitions across racial lines.,,The report, which was funded by the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, included 415 conversations in five cities across the country between August 2016 and March 2017. Along with Tacoma, researchers spent time in New York City; Dayton, Ohio; Phoenix; and Birmingham, Alabama…Researchers organized workshops and held discussions with people who identified themselves as white working class. Scholars then analyzed and detailed what they said. The hope was to use the data to help pave a productive path forward…In reality, the researchers found a much more fragmented, nuanced and diverse section of society. While a general sense of economic insecurity — living paycheck to paycheck — along with a shared set of values based on work ethic, family, and self-sufficiency were all prevalent, educational attainment, political views, occupations and income levels varied widely.”

Kate Arnoff of the Intercept argues that “Democrats Are letting the Climate Crisis Go to Waste,” and observes “What should be a sparkling opportunity to push forward an ambitious agenda on climate—to condemn Republicans for not just ignoring but fueling a crisis with increasingly human and economic consequences—is going quite literally up in smoke. Even the most dogged climate champions in Congress are doing something Republicans would never dream of: Letting a crisis go to waste…Republicans are doing everything in their power to rip up the regulations and policies that could help mitigate the United States’ contribution to our ongoing climate crisis, most recently in taking their first official step to dismantle the Clean Power Plan…There’s been no unified policy response from congressional Democrats to Republicans’ attack on the Clean Power Plan or recent extreme weather events. Instead, the country’s most progressive Democrats have taken the GOP’s advice of not politicizing the events of the last few months. “We have a lot of time to make that point,” climate hawk Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D.-R.I., told Politico when asked about seeing the storms as a chance to talk about rising temperatures.”

Of course it’s way early, but David Weigel notes at PowerPost that “An early poll of the 2020 Democratic primaries, which kick off in roughly 820 days, finds Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the front of a crowded field — in a race that would bear little resemblance to 2016’s two-candidate marathon…The first 2020 Granite State poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire’s survey center, finds that 31 percent of the state’s Democrats would back Sanders if the first presidential primary were held today. Twenty-four percent would back former vice president Joe Biden, while 13 percent would back Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). No other contender, not even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, cracks double digits.”

But Ed Kilgore makes a case that “Democrats Should Not Consider a Presidential Nominee Who’s Older Than Trump,” noting that “…While no one in the running for 2020 suffers from the exact vulnerabilities created by the massive, decades-long attacks on Hillary Clinton, there is one clear and present danger that needs to be confronted directly and honestly. It’s that Democrats could choose a challenger so old that the prospect of infirmity or mortality — or worse yet, actual infirmity or mortality during the general-election campaign — could give Trump just the kind of advantage he needs…On election day in 2020, Bernie Sanders will be 79 years old, and Joe Biden will be a couple of weeks from turning 78. These happen to be the early front-runners for the Democratic nomination, according to initial polls…Biden 2020 or Sanders 2020 is a really bad idea, for reasons that go beyond the anomaly that either would make the oldest man ever elected president the youth candidate in his reelection bid…If nothing else, this is a subject that demands discussion among political activists and the news media. Perhaps an aging country has all but abandoned the idea that you can be too old to run for president. If not, we need to know that now instead of in the heat of a campaign.”


Political Strategy Notes

Alvin Chang reports at Vox that “Only 1 in 3 voters approve of Trump’s executive order undermining Obamacare,” according to a survey by the Public Policy Polling conducted 10/12-13. Further, 48 percent of registered voters  and 10 percent of Trump voters disapprove of the order. In addition, 52 percent of RVs and 20 percent opf Trump voters want “congress to stand up to Trump on the issue of health care.”

At U.S.News & World Report, Sabrina Corlette Explains why Trump’s executive order is “A Blow to Working-Class Coverage,” and notes “The executive order sets the stage for new health plans that do not have to comply with Obamacare’s insurance rules, including requirements that plans cover a basic set of minimum benefits like maternity care, prescription drugs and mental health treatment, and refrain from setting premiums based on a person’s age, gender or health status…If you’re older or need to use health care services because of a current or past condition, you’ll likely be charged a lot more for your coverage. Many low-income people could be protected from these rate hikes, because the Trump administration can’t repeal the law’s income-related premium subsidies. However, if you’re not eligible for those subsidies – and an estimated 7.5 million people buy insurance on their own without federal financial help – you could face increasingly high premiums…Those hardest hit will be working- and middle-class Americans, who earn just a bit too much to qualify for premium subsidies and have the misfortune of being in less-than-perfect health.”

That’s what I’m talking about. In January, the “2nd Women’s March On Chicago To Draw Attention To Mid-Term Elections,” reports Joe Vince at The Chicago Patch. “Called “March to the Polls,” the 2018 event will be Jan. 20, and like the inaugural demonstration, it will be one of other “sister marches” held around the country. Organizers say the focus of this year’s march will be to draw attention to the upcoming mid-term and gubernatorial elections across the United States, including Illinois…In 2017, activists, new and seasoned, joined advocates in the fight for women’s rights and social justice,” Jaquie Algee, march organizer, said on the event’s website. “In 2018 we celebrate that movement, and march our demands to the polls.”..This year’s march will help launch voter education programs designed to heighten awareness around women’s rights and social justice. Some of the specific issues include affordable health care, living wages, immigration, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom and protections for workers, disabled individuals and the environment.”

Tina Nguyen’s “Will Bannon’s Far-Right Insurgency Destroy the GOP?” at Vanity Fair cautions Dems to not get overly-optimistic about the former Trump White House staffer’s wing-nut jihad to primary less-extreme Repubicans. “With the Party of Reagan suffering an identity crisis, Democratic strategists are reportedlyconsidering a reboot of the strategy that won Claire McCaskill re-election in 2012: actively helping to get unelectable fringe candidates nominated. In her memoir, McCaskill described how she discovered that Missouri Republicans were more energized in their support of Todd Akin, a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus, than they were for a more traditional candidate. Her solution: boost Akin in the primary by running ads calling him “too conservative.” It worked better than she expected, with Akin pulling off a double-digit upset—and then tanking, months later, when his infamous comment about “legitimate rape” sparked nationwide controversy…But assuming that Republicans will self-sabotage by lurching too far right could backfire spectacularly, just as it did for Hillary ClintonDespite party infighting, The Washington Post reports that the number of small donors giving to the G.O.P. is at its highest level in recent history. “You cannot force a fumble in these situations,” warned Democratic strategist Matt Canter. “The goal posts have moved on what’s considered sane and reasonable.”

Here’s a couple of revealing statistics, via Zack Stanton’s “The Bellwether County That Explains Eminem and Kid Rock” at Politico: “The Cook Political Report noted that just three counties—Macomb in Michigan, York in Pennsylvania, and Waukesha in Wisconsin—were responsible for Trump’s Electoral College win: “If those three counties had cast zero votes, Trump would have lost all three states and the election…Last year, Macomb County went for Trump overwhelmingly, delivering more votes for him than for any other presidential candidate in the history of the county. His margin of victory in Macomb was 48,348; statewide, he won Michigan by only 10,704 votes. In Macomb, Hillary Clinton received 31,699 fewer votes than Barack Obama had in 2012; if her drop-off had been only two-thirds that size, she would have won Michigan.”

Stanton observes in another graph: “Before he was a legend in his field, pollster Stanley Greenberg made his name examining the voters here in 1985, when local Democrats brought in the Yale professor to study what was happening and why they were losing. “Winning Macomb represents a kind of mastery of our history,” Greenberg later wrote in his 1995 book, Middle Class Dreams. “These middle-class suburbanites are conscious of being caught in the middle, doubly betrayed by those who would govern from the bottom up and by those who would govern from the top down. … What they really want is a new political contract—and the freedom to dream the American dream again.” It’s not hard to draw a line from these insights to the rise of the Clinton-era centrism Greenberg helped shape (he was the chief pollster on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign) and the basis of much of the past three decades of Democrats’ intraparty squabbles.”

Syndicated columnst E. J. Dionne, Jr. illuminates The We the People Democracy Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. David Price, D-N.C, and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., a package bill that Democrats should prioritize the moment they regain the White House and a working majority of copngress: “Price and Udall propose a system of matching funds for small contributions that would create a strong incentive for politicians to rely on large numbers of modest donations from rank-and-file citizens rather than on the massive stacks of money made available by billionaires…Price and Udall would expand disclosure rules to include paid internet and email communications as well as robocalls…“Corporations, labor unions, super PACs and other groups would be required to have their top official appear in and take responsibility for the ads, and the top five donors to a group would have to be listed in the ads.” Voters should know who is trying to influence them…The bill also takes on gerrymandering by requiring states to establish independent citizen redistricting commissions to draw congressional district boundaries. It fights voter suppression by establishing automatic and same-day voter registration nationwide. And it addresses some of Trump’s specific abuses. It requires all presidential nominees to release their income tax returns. Both the president and vice president would have to divest themselves from any financial interest posing a potential conflict. Presidential visitor logs would also be made public.”

From Robert Borosage’s post at The Nation, “The Republican Plan to Rob America,” an article title which Dems can use in soundbite-sized descriptions: “…the tax cuts—totaling $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years—will give away tax dollars that could be used to address our true investment deficit: the shortfall of public investments vital to our economy. Virtually absent in the public debate is the reality that the competitiveness of this economy is crippled by the starving of vital public investments…Democrats need to be louder champions of public investment. They are cautious because 61 percent of Americans, including 44 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners, think Democrats “too often” see government as the only way to solve problems. The Wall Street wing of the party, with its embrace of austerity and neo-liberalism, is happy to feed that suspicion. Many politicians are reluctant to champion a cause that is compelling but controversial, but they shouldn’t be.”

If anyone has any remaining doubts about the importance of Facebook as an election communications tool, they should read Alexis C. Madrigal’s “What Facebook Did to American Democracy” at The Atlantic. Among Madrigal’s many provocative statistics and insights: “In late 2014, The Daily Dot called attention to an obscure Facebook-produced case study on how strategists defeated a statewide measure in Florida by relentlessly focusing Facebook ads on Broward and Dade counties, Democratic strongholds. Working with a tiny budget that would have allowed them to send a single mailer to just 150,000 households, the digital-advertising firm Chong and Koster was able to obtain remarkable results. “Where the Facebook ads appeared, we did almost 20 percentage points better than where they didn’t,” testified a leader of the firm. “Within that area, the people who saw the ads were 17 percent more likely to vote our way than the people who didn’t. Within that group, the people who voted the way we wanted them to, when asked why, often cited the messages they learned from the Facebook ads.”…By late October, the role that Facebook might be playing in the Trump campaign—and more broadly—was emerging. Joshua Green and Issenberg reported a long feature on the data operation then in motion. The Trump campaign was working to suppress “idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans,” and they’d be doing it with targeted, “dark” Facebook ads. These ads are only visible to the buyer, the ad recipients, and Facebook. No one who hasn’t been targeted by then can see them…Steve Bannon was confident in the operation. “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” Bannon told them. “Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”


Moser: Heeding Centrist Myths Poses Real Threat to Dems

In his article, “Clintonian Democrats Are Peddling Myths to Cling to Power: Centrists are falsely equating Trump with Nixon, and Sanders with McGovern, because they’re scared of what a leftist party means for them” at The New Republic, Bob Moser, TNR’s editor-at-large, makes a strong case that the worst thing Democrats can do is respond to their party’s rising progressive tide with a fear-driven retreat into the timid moderation Dems embraced in the pre-Obama era. Moser’s article is in part a response to the centrist agenda of New Democracy, and partly a response to a much-buzzed about Washington Post article, entitled “Trump Is On track to Win Reelection” by Doug Sosnik, a fomer senior advisor to President Bill Clinton.

Moser dismisses New Democracy as “merely a reassertion of the wealth-first economics, go-slow social progressivism, and hawkish foreign policy peddled by white Democratic power-brokers and Clintonian neoliberals for three decades now.” He describes Sosnik’s article as “built on tortured logic and tendentious claims” and translates Sosnik’s conclusion as ”Let the old, white, Democratic establishment pick its favorite for 2020, and everybody else get in line. Or else.” Moser adds,

The “no more McGoverns” argument has been recycled and appropriated by anti-liberal Democratswith nips and tucks to suit the needs of the moment—in practically every presidential election since 1972. They wielded it like a tiki torch against Jesse Jackson’s populist insurgency in 1988, and invoked it to torpedo Howard Dean in 2004. And after its ironclad logic failed to derail Barack Obama in 2008, the “McGovern threat” was revived with a vengeance against Sanders in 2016.

The goal of these disinformation campaigns has always been the same: to frighten the left into falling in line with the moneyed masters of the party. And at a moment when the party is finally abandoning the New Democratic formula—suck up to big business and the military-industrial complex, pander to white supremacy, and win!—fear-mongering is the only thin reed of hope the “moderates” have to retain their supremacy in the party…By reviving the hoary old arguments about why McGovern lost to Nixon in one of the biggest landslides in American history, the old New Democrats aim to once again scarify a majority of Democrats into reluctantly backing a neoliberal championing wealth-first (sorry: “middle class”) economics and a bloodthirsty view of American power on the international stage.

Moser writes that “otherwise intelligent Democrats still have a strange Pavlovian response to the dire warnings they issue, like clockwork, every four years: Embracing liberalism will always and forever end in defeat (even if Barack Obama disproved that theory not once but twice).” Yet, many left-Democrats faulted Obama for being a centrist and too cozy with Wall St. after he was elected and re-elected. But Obama did run a bold campaign in 2008, challenging Americans to rise above our fears and live up to our best progressive ideals. In between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party, there is a broad spectum from which Democrats can run winning campaigns.

Moser does an excellent job of shredding the notion that Trump is like Nixon, who Moser shows was a hell of a lot smarter, more accomplished and capable than Trump, despite Nixon’s corruption and poor judgement on Vietnam. Nixon ran for reelection in 1972 “on an impressive record of progressive domestic policies, a landmark arms-reduction treaty with the Soviet Union, and the historic un-thawing of relations with China. Again, emphatically: not Trump.”

The centrist characterization of Sens. Sanders and Warren as neo-McGovernites is also way-overstated. McGovern was essentially an anti-war candidate, and both senators are today staking out a tough, economic populist approach far more broadly credible than than McGovern’s best efforts. If either Sanders or Warren gets nominated, you can bet that they will be campaigning hard in the blue collar precincts of the Rust Belt, as will any Democratic nominee. And, even if neither one gets nominated in 2020, their hard-headed, progressive economic advocacy seems to be catching on with other potential Democratic candidates.

Moser is also correct that the divisions within the Democratic party were far worse during Nixon’s reign. Snarky comments on facebook between Bernie Bros and Hillary Heads are pretty tame compared to the factional conflicts among Democrats in the late 1960s and 70s. However, Jason Le Miere notes at Newsweek that “According to the analysis of the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, fewer than 80 percent of those who voted for Sanders, an independent, in the Democratic primary did the same for Clinton when she faced off against Trump a few months later. What’s more, 12 percent of those who backed Sanders actually cast a vote for Trump.” However, about 12 percent of Republican primary voters cast ballots for Clinton in the general election.

But Moser may be too casual in asserting that “The old New Democrats know perfectly well that the chances of Trump winning reelection in 2020 are approximately as good as the Democratic nomination going to Kanye West, with Kim Kardashian as his running mate.” Trump’s Electoral College win in November shows that any fool thing can happen, especially if the economy is in good shape in the fall of 2020 and Dems fail to run an effective campaign, regardless of the nominee. Neither of those scenarios is all that unrealistic. Overconfidence is as dangerous to Democratic prospects as being driven by fear. In fact, that may be one of the salient lessons of Clinton’s Electoral College defeat.

There is every reason for Democrats to be optimistic and to reject a campaign limited by outdated fears, and Obama’s 2008 victory still provides a useful template for a fear-free, vision-driven campaign. Democrats can’t count on having a messenger as eloquent and charismatic as Obama in the next presidential election. But the Democratic nominee can benefit from the lessons of 2008 and 2012, as well as 2016.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned between now and 2020, and the debate between moderate and progressive Democrats will continue. What’s more urgent right now is for Democrats to get focused on mobilizing a landslide, nation-wide upset in 2018. Nothing would do more to help set the stage for the  working majority needed to empower the next Democratic president.


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats can rest assured that they have a healthy majority favoring the Affordable Care Act over the Graham-Cassidy alternative, according to a major opinion poll, Amber Phillips reports at The Fix. “A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that more than half of Americans (56 percent) prefer Obamacare to the latest GOP plan. Only 33 percent prefer the bill that Senate Republicans, panicked by a month back home with their base and no Obamacare repeal to show, abruptly put on the table this month…Worse for Republicans: Roughly twice as many people strongly prefer the current law to the Republicans’ plan, 42 to 22 percent…These aren’t necessarily gut reflexes, either. The Post-ABC poll described three aspects of the Cassidy-Graham proposal to voters before asking what they prefer: its elimination of the requirement for nearly all Americans to have health insurance, the phasing out of federal funds to help lower- and moderate-income people buy health insurance, and letting states replace federal rules on health coverage with their own rules.”

From Jonathan Easeley’a post, “Poll: Majority supports single-payer health care“at the Hill: “A slim majority of Americans support a single-payer health-care system that is funded and administrated by the government and eliminates private insurers, according to a new poll…The latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey found 52 percent favor a single-payer system against 48 who oppose it. A strong majority of Democrats — 69 percent — back the idea. Republicans oppose single-payer, 65-35, and independents are split, with 51 percent opposing and 49 supporting…The best-polling aspect of single-payer is the public’s belief that it will cover more people. Sixty-nine percent said it would provide more coverage, including 54 percent of Republicans…Fifty-two percent said a government-run system would save the health-care system money, while 48 said it would be more expensive.  Fifty-two percent said single-payer will improve the efficiency of the health-care system, and 53 percent said they believe they’d be able to keep their current doctor.”

“The so-called health-care industry, which amounts to roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy, is not an industry at all. It is a chaotic crossroads of many different industries and professions, often in fierce competition, each adapted to its own culture and pursuing its own business model,” David Von Drehle writes in “The real reason health care in America is a mess” at The Washington Post. “Insuring patients is a very different business from treating patients; both are distinct from the business of discovering new medicines and inventing new devices. The pharmacy business is different from the fitness business; suing for malpractice is unlike diagnostic testing…A patient needs the endurance of Shackleton, the determination of Tubman and the organizational skills of Eisenhower planning D-Day.” Von Drehle writes that Graham-Cassidy “strikes me as an awful lot of costly disruption in service of a largely symbolic repeal,” serving its supporters as a “fig leaf to wear at town-hall meetings” and urges”Rather than chase the chimera of repeal, Congress should dig deep into the results of the Affordable Care Act. Adjust, revise, reboot or double down as each target demands.”

In a new Gallup Poll, “Overall, just 22 percent of Americans describe Trump as prepared; 25 percent said he’s consistent; 28 percent said he’s inspiring; and only 32 percent feel he’s courageous,” John Haltiwanger writes at Newsweek. “But 84 percent said he’s competitive; 73 percent feel he’s intense; and 53 percent describe Trump as enthusiastic.”

Writing at CNN Politics, Jennifer Agiesta reports on a new CNN/SSRS poll and notes, “Although President Donald Trump insists otherwise, most Americans say it’s likely that Russian-backed content on social media did affect the outcome of the 2016 election, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS…Overall, 54% say it’s very or somewhat likely that such Russian-backed content on Facebook or other social media affected the 2016 presidential vote, 43% say that’s not too or not at all likely. More appear to see this social media effort as having affected the outcome of the election than said so about information released due to Russian hacking. According to a CNN poll back in January, just 40% said that information was significant enough to change the outcome of the election.”

Watch the ad below for Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor Cathy Glasson. As Taylor Gipple writes at HuffPo, “If the Democratic Party wants to win back working class voters, Glasson is laying the groundwork as an ideal progressive candidate to model.” Glasson has embraced single-payer health care reform, tuittion-free community college, action to stop pollution in Iowa, a $15 minimum wage and a restoration of union membership for Iowa workers. I like how Glasson is shown intensely listening to diverse constituents:

In his Washington Post article, “The mysterious group that’s picking Breitbart apart, one tweet at a time,” Paul Farhi spotlights an innovative economic withdrawall strategy being deployed to check right-wing media: “Sleeping Giants’ basic approach is to make Breitbart’s advertisers aware that they are, in fact, Breitbart advertisers. Many apparently don’t know this, given that Web ads are often bought through third-party brokers, such as Google and Facebook. The brokers then distribute them to a network of websites according to algorithms that seek a specific target audience (say, young men) or a set number of impressions…As a result of such “programmatic” buying, advertisers often are in the dark about where their ads end up. Advertisers can opt out of certain sites, of course, but only if they affirmatively place them on a blacklist of sites….So when an ad appears on Breitbart, Sleeping Giants or one of its 109,000 Twitter followers and 35,000 Facebook followers flag the advertiser, often accompanied by an image of the sponsors’ ad next to a Breitbart story.” Farhi points out that Breitbart isn’t going away as a result of Sleeping Ginats campaign, since it is largely funded by right-wing sugar-daddy Robert Mercer. But more such campaigns to encourage corporate accountability for their support of extremist media would be a welcome trend.

In an excerpt of their book, “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported,” E.J. Dionne Jr., Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein explain why “The election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy.” Among their observations: “The Trump jolt has done more than force the country to a necessary reckoning. It has also called forth a wave of activism, organizing and, perhaps most important, a new engagement by millions of Americans in politics at all levels. Large-scale demonstrations are part of the response, and so are grass-roots efforts by citizens to confront their legislators at town halls and any other venues where politicians can be found….The need to contain Trump has given life to new forms of organization. People of faith, across traditions, have stood up for the most vulnerable in confronting measures that have targeted immigrants and sought to roll back social protections. Lawyers have organized to combat the president’s travel bans, to protect the rights of undocumented individuals and to challenge Trump’s financial conflicts of interest. Public interest groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Project on Government Oversight have expanded their efforts on behalf of political reform, forging new alliances to fight the influence of big money in politics, protect voting rights, end gerrymandering, strengthen anti-corruption statutes and challenge the electoral college.”

Phillip Elliot’s “Divided Democratic Party Debates Its Future as 2020 Looms” at Time provides a fairly conventional “Dems in Disarray” update, along with a plug for two promising Ohio leaders, Congressman Tim Ryan and Senator Sherrod Brown. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, however, the divisions in question are normal enough for the big tent party, not all that far outside the usual ferment that characterizes the Democrats in years of victory, as well as defeat. But no major media outlet is going to publish a story entitled “Dems Fussing with Each Other, As Usual, But Polls and Record Number of Candidates Indicate They Are in Good Position for 2018 and 2020.” Still, Elliot does shed some light on key challenges Dems face, including:  “A poll from CNN/SSRS in August showed Democrats with an 11-percentage-point advantage over Republicans on a generic congressional ballot….The DNC has been hollowed out, first by Obama’s neglect and then by a Clinton campaign that raided its talent. Now it is trying to play catch-up, sending $10,000 a month to each state party to help add bodies and channel activists’ energy into permanent organizations. But the party is still $3.5 million in the red, and Republicans are outraising it by a margin of roughly 2 to 1…Today only 28% of House Democrats hail from states that don’t touch the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, down from 37% in 2007.”


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.”