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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.


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.”


Political Strategy Notes

Tony Pugh of mcclatchydc .com makes a case that “Voting at black colleges has tumbled. Can Dems fix the apathy in time for 2018?” and observes “Voter turnout among the estimated 300,000 students at HBCUs fell nearly 11 percent from 2012 to 2016, according to a national survey by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University. The decline, while consistent with a fall off among black voters of all ages in 2016, was a sharp departure…Certainly, the lower turnout reflected the absence of President Barack Obama from the Democratic ticket in 2016, a lack of enthusiasm for the new standard-bearer, Hillary Clinton, and a weakening of the longtime allegiance between the party and African-American youth. But the worst may be yet to come…If historic trends hold, Democrats could see black voter turnout drop 30 percent in 2018, resulting in 5.2 million fewer African-American voters, according to a report by the non-partisan Voter Participation Center and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake…In July, the DNC poured $1.5 million into the Virginia race. None of the money was used for television ads; all of it went toward mobilizing voters. Democrats more than doubled their grassroots organizing staff in Virginia from roughly 40 to about 90, locating most on or near college campuses and minority communities, the DNC said.”

Regarding the passage of the Republican tax bill, Sheryl Gay Stohlberg and Carl Hulse write at The New York Times that Democrats “believe that Republicans have made a political blunder because the reconfiguration of the tax structure — particularly new limits on the ability to deduct state and local taxes — will produce a tax increase for some voters who will be very unhappy when they realize it…“Today may be the first day of a new Republican Party — one that raises taxes on the middle class,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “The one thing Republicans always promised the middle class is ‘we are not going to raise your taxes.’” Only one Republican Senator, Bob Corker of TN, voted against the GOP tax bill.

Schumer also had this to say about the tax bill:

Karen Tumulty explores the nuances of “Another delicate challenge for Republicans: Reconciling House and Senate tax bills” at The Washington Post. Tumulty writes, “Lawmakers are expecting an intense period of work starting Monday as lobbyists descend on the conference committee that will negotiate differences between the two pieces of legislation. Of particular concern will be changes made hours before the Senate passed its final legislation early Saturday morning, when the Senate changed its bill to preserve a provision of the current tax code that sets an alternative minimum tax floor for very wealthy individuals. That provision would be eliminated in the House bill, and scrapping the alternative minimum tax has long been a priority for GOP tax writers.”

As for the political fallout of Michael Flynn’s plea deal, Harry Litman, former United States attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, writes in his op-ed “Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea: 10 Key Takeaways” at The New York Times: “It seems Mr. Trump himself directed Mr. Flynn to make contact with the Russians. If Mr. Flynn testifies to this — ABC’s Brian Ross is reporting that he will — it presents another impeachable offense along with the possible obstruction of justice. Even more, it brings the whole matter well outside the purview of the criminal courts into the province of a political scandal, indicating abuses of power arguably well beyond those in the Watergate and Iran-contra affairs…The basis for the possible obstruction charge against the president has been his efforts to get the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to shut down the Flynn investigation during a Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office, coupled with his multiple lies on the subject. Obstruction is plainly an impeachable offense: It’s the offense for which Richard Nixon was threatened with impeachment.”

At The Nation, Steve Phillips, founder of Democracy in Color and senior fellow at The Center for American Progress, argues that “Democrats Don’t Need Trump Supporters to Win Elections: The 2017 elections made clear that the Obama coalition is the majority.” Phillips believes the Virginia elections, in which Democrats won with only 26 percent of  white, non-college voters indicates that Democrats no longer need white working-class voters to win major elections. Phillips explains that “What happened in 2016 was not a mass defection of Democratic voters to Trump. What happened was a dramatic decline in black voter turnout (because of voter suppression, grossly insufficient investment, and overall lack of inspiration from the all-white Democratic ticket), combined with a splintering of the Obama coalition that saw statistically significant numbers of Democratic voters defect to the third- and fourth-party candidacies of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.” But a significant number of white working-class Obama voters switched to Trump in key states in 2016, and unfortunately, we are still stuck with the Electoral College, unless there is a Democratic landslide in 2018, and they get rid of it or increase the victory threshold. Phillips is right, however, in saying that Democrats need not tweak their message in a more moderate direction to win over white working-class voters. With just a little more support from this constituency, which was about 45 percent of the national electorate in 2016, Dems can insure a stable majority for years to come.

Susan Milligan’s “Return of the Rising American Electorate: In order to win, Democrats need to focus on new voters – and Rust Belt voters they lost in 2016” at U.S. News & Wortld Report tweaks the victory formula for Democrats in this direction as RAE (“Rising American Electorate”), plus some (not all, not even a majority of) white working-class votes. “Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., his party’s second-in-command in the House, reckons that there are 91 House seats in play next year, giving the party more than a fighting chance to pick up the 24 seats they’d need to take the majority. Part of that equation is motivating the Rising American Electorate and wooing back at least some of the disaffected white, working class voters (some of whom are now just as disaffected with Trump, Hoyer says)…”We believe our diversity is our strength. We’re the party of inclusion,” Hoyer says. But he stresses that the party needs to deliver a broader message about wages, jobs and the economy. “Are we concerned about our subsets? We are. Does the economy affect people differently? We know that to be the case,” Hoyer says. “But we know that all of them are interested in economic well-being. That’s the common thread that goes through us all.”…Hoyer says the plan is to appeal to all groups with a “make it in America” pitch.”

According to a new poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University,”With less than two weeks to go, support for Democrat Doug Jones stands at 50 percent vs. Moore’s 47 percent support among likely voters — a margin of a scant three points that sets up a nail-biter for the oddly timed Dec. 12 special election,” report Michael Scherer and Scott Clement. “Fifty-three percent of voters say Jones, a former federal prosecutor, has higher standards of personal moral conduct than Moore. In contrast, about a third of likely voters say Moore, who has cast his campaign as a “spiritual battle” with heavy religious overtones, has higher moral standards…Among the 1 in 4 voters who say the candidates’ moral conduct will be the most important factor in their vote, Jones leads, 67 percent to 30 percent…And Jones, whose strategy relies in part on peeling way Republican support from Moore, has the backing of 1 in 6 GOP-leaning likely voters. About 1 in 14 Democratic-leaning voters are backing Moore.”

At Campaigns & Elections, Deepak Puri discusses “How to Use Facebook to Nudge Low Propensity Voters to the Polls.” Puri, a co-founder of Democracy Labs, “a San Francisco-based non-profit that connects technical and media experts with progressive campaigns,writesHere are some of the lessons learned by DemLabs and Local Majority, a Democratic PAC…We discovered that it helps to use multiple targeting methods. We started with a list of LP voters from Catalist. This included people in four Virginia districts who had voted in 2016, but not in the prior gubernatorial cycle in 2013 election…This list was supplemented with more names using Facebook’s “lookalike audiences” feature. We wanted to focus our limited funds on the neighborhoods that really mattered. To do this, we targeted our social media campaign to certain zip codes in the district that we found through the Statistical Atlas…Videos perform extremely well on social media campaigns…The combination of compelling video with the precise targeting of social media is a powerful combination. We measured how many people saw the video and how many watched it all the way to the end. It cost less than $0.05 per viewer to have over 87,000 people watch the video message.”


Tomasky: It’s Time for a ‘Popular Front’ Against Trumpism

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky expresses support for Brookings scholar Benjamin Wittes’ 18-point proposal, tweeted last weekend, urging a broad, bipartisan coalition to end Trump’s reign of chaos. As Tomasky writes, “all decent people of left and right must set aside their differences and unite to defeat Trump and Trumpism.”  Tomasky explains further,

Under the hashtags #CoalitionofAllDemocraticForces and #IBelieve, Wittes argued that he wants to see “a temporary truce on all [questions of disagreement], an agreement to maintain the status quo on major areas of policy dispute while Americans of good faith collectively band together to face a national emergency. #IBelieve that facing that national emergency requires unity.” He wants Americans “across the political spectrum [to] unite around a political program based on the protection of American democracy and American institutions.”

Wittes, writes Tomasky, is “correct about two basic things”:

…One, that this is a national emergency. If I have to spell out why for you, you’re reading the wrong column and should stick to the gossip pages. Trump is a clear and present danger the likes of which we’ve never seen. Two, that the top priority far and away of decent people of all ideologies has to be to confront Trumpism and to stop it.

Tomasky cites the “popular front” against fascism during World War II, which brouigh together such politically-disparate leaders as FDR and Stalin, as well as rank and file liberals, conservatives, socialists and communists, all of whom recognized the urgency of defeating Hitler.

United in that singular objective, they prevailed. The ‘Popular Front’ coalition members didn’t sacrifice any of their core principles, and after stopping Hitler and Mussolini, they resumed their conflicts with each other.

Tomasky adds that Wittes’  “principles, by the way, are bipartisan and unobjectionable,” and they include “Commitments to the First Amendment; to transparent government; to getting to the bottom of Russia; to science and evidence; to no Muslim-bashing, “full stop”; to fighting presidential abuse of power; and more along those lines.” Tomasky urges leaders and “maybe tens of thousands of regular citizens to co-sign on Facebook.”

Yes, there would be problems in mobilizing and sustaining such a diverse coalition. Tomasky calls the roll of some leading conservatives who are already on board with ending Trumpism:

..I look over the past 11 months, and I don’t see that I’ve changed a whit. Instead I see Kristol and George Will popping up on MSNBC, I see Max Boot emerge as one of the most powerful critics of Trumpism around, and I peruse Jennifer Rubin’s columns that with each passing week are reading more and more like Molly Ivins’. Irving Kristol, Bill’s father, famously said that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality. Today, a liberal is a conservative who’s been trumped by it.

He could have added the Bush family, journailists Michael Gerson, Joe Scarborough and a growing list of other Republican politicians and conservatives, who are fed up and calling for change.

Tomasky’s pitch makes a lot of sense. Such strategic alliances are the only remaining course, since Democrats and moderate Republicans have failed, working separately, to compel Trump and his enablers to restore some basic dignity and decency to our politics. Numerous opinion polls and Trump’s dismal approval ratings indicate that a majority consensus for ending Trumpism has arrived. Now it’s up to patriotic liberals, moderates and conservatives to coalesce into a powerful force that can get that job done.


Political Strategy Notes

Now that the dust has settled in the Virginia legislative races, the Republicans will hold very slim majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates in January, 21-19 and 51-49 respectively, while Democrats will still have the governorship. However, “the battle for the majority continues outside the election cycle,” reports Fenit Nirappil at The Washington Post. “Northam can offer incumbent GOP lawmakers jobs in his administration, creating pickup opportunities for Democrats. Then-Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) used that tactic in 1998 to erode Democratic majorities in the legislature.” Rarer still, but not unprecedented, would be successful inducements for red to blue to party-switching. More likely, Dems may be able to win support from a few Republican legislators for such increasingly popular reforms as paid family leave, Medicaid expansion, gun safety, more affordable education and renewable energy.

At The Boston Globe, Astead W. Herndon’s “Democrats seize on tax plan’s inequities” pinpoints a pivotal economic rip-off in the U.S. Senate’s tax proposals that Dems will be targeting in thw weeks ahead: “Though analysts say both the House and Senate versions would immediately cut taxes across the board for all income groups, only the tax cut to 20 percent from 35 percent for corporations is permanent in the Senate’s version of the bill.This, for taxpayers, would mean that after the temporary personal cuts expired in 2025, taxes for those in lower income brackets would actually increase, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and the Tax Policy Center…“Compared to current law, 9 percent of taxpayers would pay more in 2019, 12 percent in 2025, and 50 percent in 2027,’’ according to a separate study, by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a Washington analysis group.”

2018 could be the ‘Year of the Woman’ on steroids, with growing backlash to the culture of sexual harassment,” writes James Hohman at PowerPost. Hohman notes, “Democratic victories in this month’s off-year elections were driven by women. Exit polls showed a big swing in the party’s direction among married women and white women with college degrees…A bumper crop of women won down-ballot races. A nurse decided to run against a county commissioner in New Jersey because of an offensive Facebook post about the women’s march. She beat him…The filing deadline to run for Congress next year has not yet come in most states, and there are many highly qualified female candidates in crowded primary fields who are vying to take on male incumbents…Now there are dozens of high-profile cases of alleged sexual misconduct, from the U.S. House to state houses and from the military to the media. It stands to reason that this could lead to bigger backlash at the polls in 2018 and 2020 than we saw during what’s known as the Year of the Woman.”

While allegations of sexual assault and harassment have targeted both Republican and Democratic candidates and office-holders so far, most of the corrective measures are coming from Democratic leaders. But the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On Congress Act, also known as the ME TOO Congress Act co-sponsored by Democrats Senator Kirstin Gillibrand and Rep. Jackie Speier may draw bipartisan support. The proposal, which includes training provisions to prevent sexual harassment on Capitol Hill and change the process of dealing with complaints, has attracted roughly equal numbers of cosponsors from both parties to date.

Conservative scribe Byron York has a column on “Six scenarios for GOP disaster in Roy Moore Senate race” at The East Oregonian (via the Washington Examiner). The last of his disaster scenarios unfolds thusly: “(6) Doug Jones wins. This is a very real possibility, regardless of what the GOP does. What would it mean for the Senate’s Republican leadership? Just ask how hard it has been for the GOP to pass legislation with a 52-seat majority. It would become far harder with a 51-seat majority. Plus, losing the Alabama seat would make it easier — not easy, but easier — for Democrats to win control of the Senate in 2018. That would have profound effects. For example, President Trump could probably forget about putting another justice on the Supreme Court, should a vacancy arise. Trump and Republicans could forget about passing legislation, even with the lowered requirements of the reconciliation process. And Democratic committee chairmen would be running all the investigations of the Trump administration they like.”

Jonathan Chait offers this perceptive take on Trump’s manipulation of law enforcement concerns to gin up racial animosity: “Renegotiating trade agreements, building a wall, passing an infrastructure bill, or designing a replacement for Obamacare requires technocratic aptitude Trump (and, for that matter, his party) lacks. But sending crude signals of ethnic affiliation is a simple task, the only requirement for which is a lack of scruples…Examining Trump’s racial agenda is to have a glimpse into an arena where he is enjoying clear success. It is an arena in which the president can achieve his goals without competence. Indeed, incompetence is the surest way to achieve them. By tearing down effective law enforcement, and courting a backlash, Trump creates mutual anger from which he plausibly stands to benefit. As I argued, “A cycle of police abuse, enraged protest, and bloody crackdowns seems not only probable but — from Trump’s point of view — desirable.”

Plugging his new book, “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit,” at The Miami Book Fair, MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews blistered elitist Democrats in a painfully quotable way: “Ever since we started this Archie Bunker thing in the early ’70s, making fun of white working people, we kissed them goodbye. You make fun of people. You look down on them. They get the message…You call them ‘deplorables,’ they hear it,” Matthews explained. “You say they cling to their guns and their religion. ‘Oh yeah? I cling to my religion? OK. I’m a little person, and you’re a big person. Thank you. I’ll be voting for the other guy this time.” My hunch is that the portion of liberal Democrats who actually use condescending terms like “deplorables” is frequently exaggerated. But it only takes a few loudmouths to create a stereotype, and Matthew’s point still resonates.

Is the notion of an authentic working-class hero with progressive values coming from the shadows to win high political office a realistic possibility, or more of a romanticized fantasy? Dems could surely benefit by recruiting more candidates from the ranks of local union leadership. We do have such a candidate in union ironworker Randy Bryce, who is doing pretty good in his race against Speaker Paul Ryan, but it’s going to take a really strong Democratic tide in 2018 to carry him to victory. Working-class bard Rob Quist ran an energetic campaign for congress in Montana earlier this year, but was overwhelmed by his Republican opponent’s money. At The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner discusses the possibility of J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, becoming a candidate in Ohio. But Vance would more likely run as a moderate Republican (his wife is a clerk in the office of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts). There is some buzz urging social media star Trae Crowder to run for something, and if creative profanity becomes OK in televised political dialogue, he will be a shoo-in. But the best bet remains candidates from working-class backgrounds who have advanced through traditional politics, a credential already held by many Democratic state legislators and House members.

Jason Zengerle’s “The Voices in Blue America’s Head: For years, liberals have tried, and failed, to create their own version of conservative talk radio. Has Crooked Media finally figured it out?” at The New York Times Magazine reports on a promising initiative by a group of progressive agitators, including two former Obama speechwriters. For too long, Democrats and liberals have failed to adequately challenge right-wing domination of talk radio, which spoon-feeds propaganda to American workers during their workday commute and while running weekend errands. But this project is a podcast, which isn’t yet heard in most cars, owing in part to to a lack of enough cell phone towers in many areas, on the one hand, and the hassle of using your cell phone as a radio while driving, on the other. So far only some BMWs and Minis have user-friendly, built-in dashboard hardware that can receive podcasts in autos. When internet radio pre-sets start showing up on pick-up truck dashboards, it could be a game changer for political talk radio.


Political Strategy Notes

Eugene Scott explains why “Millennial voters could play a crucial role in Alabama Senate race” at The Fix: “In a recent Fox News poll, Jones leads Moore by eight points, in part on the strength of his advantages among voters 45 and younger. But activists on the ground say the Democratic candidate could do much more to target his outreach toward millennials…There’s been a swell of activity among young voters in Alabama since the election of President Trump. From the Women’s March in Birmingham to Human Rights Campaign volunteers working phone banks, the deep red state has seen liberals advocate for liberal policies. But activist Julia Juarez said if Jones reaps those benefits, it might be more because millennials dislike Moore than are enthusiastic about Jones. “The momentum of the #Resist marches and protests have morphed into an measurably more active bloc of voters in Birmingham, as noticed and enhanced by [Mayor] Randall Woodfin’s victory,” she told the Fix.” Scott quotes Woodfin, who adds “Millennials have a major role to play in this race…If millennials turn out to vote at higher than average numbers like they did in the mayoral race last month (5,000 voters between the ages of 18-35 turned out to vote in a municipal election for the first time), then they can be a deciding factor in this race…Millennials have the power to change the political dynamics here. If they turn out in high numbers, they will guarantee that Doug Jones will be the next senator from Alabama,” Woodfin added.

From Amy Walter’s “A Wave Is A Comin’” at The Cook Political Report: “My colleague David Wasserman has been digging into the question of just how big of a wave Democrats need to get in order to surf into the majority.  The short answer: they need to see a generic ballot advantage of +8 or more, which roughly translates to getting at least 54 percent or more of the national House vote in 2018…Democrats have a narrow path to 24 seats – even with a big wave or tailwind.  But, do not ignore what’s right in front of us. A wave is building. If I were a Republican running for Congress, I’d be taking that more seriously than ever.”

Democrats may be able to learn a little something from their U.K. brethren by reading Matt Walsh’s post “Understanding Labour’s ingenious campaign strategy on Facebook” at democraticaudit.com. One of Walsh’s observations: “…Going back to July 2016, the New Statesman’s Helen Lewis wrote of Jeremy Corbyn: “There is one place where he is unambiguously winning: Facebook”. She was right, and 2017 was unambiguously a Facebook election…The sheer number of people following Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour party’s Facebook posts meant that the party was able to achieve very high levels of organic reach. That’s important because, in the 2015 election, the winning Facebook strategy was targeting undecided voters in marginal constituencies. In 2017, it was a numbers game. The first indicator that the tectonic plates were shifting was the number of followers party leaders and party accounts were reaching…dramatic growth in Facebook likes for Jeremy Corbyn, up by more than 35%, and the Labour Party, up 71%, during the short campaign. This is despite a strong starting position at the beginning of the campaign. While there was growth for all the parties and leaders, it is notable that the performance of Labour and Corbyn considerably outstripped their rivals: the Conservatives, for example, rose 11%, and Theresa May gained less than 22%.” In addition, “The Labour party simply produced more content than its competitors, it posted more frequently and the content was more engaging. According to the content analytics company, News Whip, in the month leading up to the vote, the Labour page pulled in 2.56 million engagements on 450 posts, while the Conservative page saw 1.07 million interactions on 116 posts.”

Here’s a nifty chart from Walsh’s article, revealing types of the Labour Party’s Facebook posts:

FB-media-types-Labour-GE2017

 

“The combatants in the intraparty arguments might usefully start by acknowledging the merits of some of the insights their opponents offer,” writes E. J. Dionne, Jr. in his syndicated column “Stop the sniping, Washington Democrats. Learn from the grass roots.” Dionne continues, “The combatants in the intraparty arguments might usefully start by acknowledging the merits of some of the insights their opponents offer. Jared Leopold, the communications director of the Democratic Governors Association, said that Northam’s approach resonated with Virginia voters who “were looking for a calm and strong leader in the midst of chaos in Washington.” Moderates have a point when they say that voters nationally are similarly seeking steady and reliable leadership. But progressives, in turn, are right to argue for clear, compelling and comprehensible policies to deal with the economic inequalities that are hurting many in the ranks of Clinton and Trump voters alike. Bold, not bland, is the way to go.”

At The Upshot, Nate Cohn says “it’s not obvious that the building Democratic wave will be enough to flip control of the House,” and notes, “If you emphasized the special congressional election results, and believed that Democrats would only do about two points worse in races with incumbents (the difference in Virginia and New Jersey), the Democrats might be poised to pick up more than 40 seats. My view is that there haven’t been nearly enough of these contests to be confident that Democrats are on track for such significant gains, or to be sure that the incumbency bonus for Republicans is so small. But it is at least an argument for a larger Democratic gain than 27 seats if next year’s elections resemble this year’s contests.

In the wake of the big Democratic win in VA, Facing South’s Chris Kromm explores “Lessons from 2017: Can Democrats retake Southern legislatures?” Among Kromm’s observations: “In Virginia, where voters cast ballots for all 100 members of the House of Delegates, Democrats controlled only 34 seats heading into the 2017 elections. After Election Day, they had picked up 15 seats. Republicans currently cling to a 51-49 majority, although three of the races are still too close to call and will be decided by lawsuits and recounts. In Virginia House District 94, which includes Newport News, the GOP candidate is currently ahead by a mere 10 votes.”…If Democrats can run more candidates and build on changing demographics and anti-Trump sentiment to make gains in 2018, reformers hope this can at least generate enough competition that there will be momentum for reform as the post-2020 redistricting process nears.”

The next time some Republican starts blithering about family values, your response can quote from Nicholas Kristof’s NYT column, “Blue States Practice the Family Values Red States Preach,” which notes “Nine of the 10 states with the highest teen birthrates voted Republican in 2016. And nine of the 10 states with the lowest teen birthrates voted Democratic.“ Red regions of the country have higher teen pregnancy rates, more shotgun marriages and lower average ages at marriage and first birth,” Naomi Cahn and June Carbone wrote in their important 2010 book, “Red Families v. Blue Families.”…Divorce rates show a similar pattern: They tend to be higher in red states than in blue states, with Arkansas highest of all. “Individual religious conservatism is positively related to individual divorce risk,” according to a 50-state study reported in the American Journal of Sociology.”

Here we have a formidable contender for headline understatement of the month, “The Senate Republican tax bill does not look good for the working class at all” at quartz.com. Author Tim Fernholz notes one particularly brutal provision: “Removing the individual mandate means that fewer healthy people will sign up for insurance, so the Congressional Budget Office expects the cost of individual health insurance to rise by 10%. And people who don’t have insurance could still wind up paying out-of-pocket if they become ill, which can be ruinous.”


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.”