washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

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.”


Does the ‘Antifa’ Movement Help or Hurt the Democratic Cause?

The resistance to the Trump Administration’s assault on civil and human rights includes the emergence of a controversial group known as ‘Antifa,’ whose participants have made it clear that they have no objection to using physical violence to challenge hate groups. Most recently, Antifa was highly-visible at the Charlottesville protests, in which a young woman was killed by an auto driven by a right-wing terrorist.

“Antifa is short for anti-fascists,” writes Jessica Suerth at cnn.com. “The term is used to define a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform. The group doesn’t have an official leader or headquarters, although groups in certain states hold regular meetings.” There is a longer tradition of ani-fascist resistance groups in Europe and elsewhere.

As Peter Beinart notes at The Atlantic,

The movement traces its roots to the militant leftists who in the 1920s and 1930s brawled with fascists on the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. It revived in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, when anti-racist punks in Britain and Germany mobilized to defeat Neo-Nazi skinheads who were infiltrating the music scene. Via punk, groups calling themselves anti-racist action—and later, anti-fascist action or antifa—sprung up in the United States. They have seen explosive growth in the Trump era for an obvious reason: There’s more open white supremacism to mobilize against.

As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifa activists generally combat white supremacism not by trying to change government policy but through direct action. They try to publicly identify white supremacists and get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartments. And they disrupt white-supremacist rallies, including by force.

Antifa in the U.S. is really more of a loose aggregation of resistance groups, most of whom share a general belief that progressives should not shrink from returning the violence committed by Klan, neo-nazis or other Alt-right groups. Judging by news videos, the Antifa does appear to be growing in size, which is understandable, given the uptick in hate group activity. Brenna Cammeron reports at bbc.com that the closest thing Antifa has to a web page, the “It’s Going Down” website received around 300 hits daily in 2015, now garners between 10-20,000 hits a day.”

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino said of the Antifa in Suerth’s article, “What they’re trying to do now is not only become prominent through violence at these high-profile rallies, but also to reach out through small meetings and through social networking to cultivate disenfranchised progressives who heretofore were peaceful.”
Beinart argues that “some of their tactics are genuinely troubling.” Specifically,
They’re troubling tactically because conservatives use antifa’s violence to justify—or at least distract from—the violence of white supremacists, as Trump did in his press conference. They’re troubling strategically because they allow white supremacists to depict themselves as victims being denied the right to freely assemble. And they’re troubling morally because antifa activists really do infringe upon that right. By using violence, they reject the moral legacy of the civil-rights movement’s fight against white supremacy.
However, adds Beinart, “saying it’s a problem is vastly different than implying, as Trump did, that it’s a problem equal to white supremacism. Using the phrase “alt-left” suggests a moral equivalence that simply doesn’t exist…Antifa’s vision is not as noxious. Antifa activists do not celebrate regimes that committed genocide and enforced slavery.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Beinart writes, “right-wing extremists committed 74 percent of the 372 politically motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016. Left-wing extremists committed less than 2 percent.” Few rational swing voters are likely to be convinced that violence from the political left is as pervasive as that from the right.

Suerth reports that “White nationalists and other members of the so-called alt-right have denounced members of Antifa, sometimes calling them the “alt-left,” which Trump repeatedly referred to in his widely-criticized remarks yesterday at Trump Tower.

Antifa supporters might argue that a little physical confrontation of the Brooks Brothers Rioters back in 2000 might have prevented a lot of human misery. They also believe that, when a neo-fascist knows that they can easily be on the receiving end of violence, they will temper their behavior.

But opening the door to violent resistence is a more dangerous strategy in that there are millions more guns circulating today than back in the mid-late 1960s, when progressives debated the choice between violent and nonviolent methods for social change. Despite the mass shooting in Alexandria, what is remarkable is how few incidents have occurred in which the perpetrator of violence can be accurately identified as a left-progressive of any sort. How long can this last in a society increasingly poisoned by social anger and the unrestricted proliferation of assault weapons?

Going forward, it seems a sure bet that Trump and the Republicans, particularly their alt-right flank, will make broad-brush characterizations of the American left as violent. Trump’s Tuesday rant is a signal that this strategy, which appears to have  Bannon’s fingerprints, is already being implemented. They will hold up the example of the mass shooting in Alexandria, VA that wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise  as corroborating evidence that the left is as violent as the right, and they will have the bully pulpit and GOP echo chamber to parrot this false equivalence meme. Many will believe them and many others will take the bait just because it fits their comfort zone with their families and friends.

I imagine that many of the Antifa protesters are admirers of Martin Luther King, Jr. But those who would follow Dr. King should remember his insistence that “means and ends must cohere.” Had Dr. King at any juncture legitimated violent resistance to injustice, his credibility would have been squandered, and we would be living in a very different nation. It’s an impressive tribute to his leadership and the dedication of his S.C.L.C. staff and coworkers in the Civil Rights Movement that this principle was never compromised, even when they were being brutalized and murdered by racists.

Adhering to an exclusively nonviolent strategy is not about basking in the glories of ideological purity. It is every bit a strategic consideration. As King often pointed out, nonviolence confers a unique credibility and dignity on its practitioners. When an individual is assaulted and refuses to return the violence as a matter of principled self-discipline, witnesses of the incident, which today could be many millions of television and internet viewers, will be moved toward a profound emotional sympathy with the victim and antipathy towards the perpetrator.

Thus far Antifa has not been very violent, at least in comparison to the alt-right. But they should take care not to project an overly violent spirit, which is easilly captured on video and in photos and can be amplified and exaggerated in different media formats. It wouldn’t hurt to give more thought to the optics of yelling threats and brandishing sticks. They can be made to look more violent than they are in reality.

Regardless of the direction the Antifa chooses, now would be a good time for progressive groups who espouse exclusively nonviolent means to proclaim and amplify their uncompromising commitment to their principles. Enduring credibility is more likely to come from consistent nonviolence than physical retaliation.


Political Strategy Notes

Regarding Trump’s statements on the racist violence in Charlottesville, one of the better comments comes from Joanathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, quoted in Glenn Thrush’s New York Times article “Trump Condemns Racists, But Creates New Uproar.” Greenblatt cut to the core issue: “The president should make sure that no one on his staff has ties to white supremacists,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a telephone briefing on Monday afternoon. He added, “Nor should they be on the payroll of the American people.”…He said that the Justice Department and the Office of Government Ethics should “do an investigation and make that determination” to see if anyone in the White House has had links to hate groups.” As Thrush notes, “Mr. Trump has had a career-long pattern of delaying and muting his criticism of white nationalism. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he refused to immediately denounce David Duke, a former Klansman who supported his candidacy.”

In the wake of hate group violence in Charlottesville, veteran union organizer Gabriel Kristal suggests “A Working-Class Strategy for Defeating White Supremacy” at In These Times, and notes, “Contrary to the narrative put forth in the mainstream—and even some left—media, some of the most significant work confronting homophobia, sexism and racism has been done by working-class people of all ethnicities through collective struggle in the labor movement…We need to reach working people with authentic left-wing populism, which will win against the phony rightwing variety every time…To advance anti-racism on the macro scale, we need to collectively engage in popular struggle, rooted in a left platform that is relevant and intuitive for poor and working people. There should be an immediate creation of a hopeful, broad-based mission that is winnable, which will serve to expand the resistance movement and create an organized majority to kill pernicious nationalism, masquerading as populism…Let’s build relationships, go organize and actually get regular people excited about politics again. That’s how we do the real work to change people’s hearts and minds on race, gender, sexual identity and ethnicity.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is getting lots of favorable buzz for her Netroots Nation speech, which charted a clear course for progressives and Democrats. David Weigel reports that  Warren said, “We’re not going back to the days when a Democrat who wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street…We’re not going back to the days when universal health care was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected. It’s not enough just to defend the Affordable Care Act, we’re going to improve it, starting with bringing down the costs of prescription drugs — and leading the fight for Medicare for all…We’re going to fight to make it easier for workers to come together to form a union so they can take power into their own hands. And we’re going to turn the minimum wage into a living wage. Fight for $15!…I say we can care about a dad who’s worried that his kid will have to move away from their factory town to find good work – and we can care about a mom who’s worried that her kid will get shot during a traffic stop.”

Former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell urges a more moderate approach and suggests “5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states.” Writing at The Hill, Rendell, considered a centrist Democrat, urges Democrats to: 1. “Recruit good candidates for governor and state elections; 2. Be the big tent party we as Democrats always say we are; 3. Remember what Clinton said: “It’s the economy, stupid”; 4. Take strong positions but explain how to get them into law, and; 5. Continue to push for changes in how redistricting is done.

“Since leaving office, Obama’s approval rating remains high at 63 percent, according to a Gallup survey conducted in June…“President Obama has amongst the highest Q-rating in the world — exceeding LaBron [James], [Lionel] Messi and George Clooney — and is most certainly the most popular active political figure in the U.S.,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. “[He] is incredibly popular with base Democratic voters who are critical cohorts in the midterms from a turnout perspective.”…Democratic strategist David Wade added that “it’s a great moment for President Obama to emerge.”…”Unlike many of his recent predecessors, he left office without scandal and with high approval ratings,” Wade said. “And with the incumbent president in the White House bogged down by investigation and deep unpopularity, the contrast is helpful…“Pundits are always going to overthink and overanalyze the pros and cons of having a former president on the campaign trail, but the truth is, there’s little downside. He has unique convening powers to draw a crowd, energize Democrats, make a closing argument, and then it is up to candidates to close the deal.” — from “Obama to re-emerge in ‘delicate dance’ with Dems” by Amy Parned at the Hill.

At PowerPost David Weigel notes a worrisome trend that Democrats better address sooner than later: “In a Politico column that ran shortly before the conference, former Sanders digital fundraising manager Michael Whitney suggested that the DNC faced a donor crisis. Despite bear-hugging the “resistance” movement, the DNC had raised just half as much money as the Republican National Committee in 2017 — $38 million to $75 million — and lagged almost as badly among donors giving less than $200 apiece….“Republicans have quietly taken a decisive edge over Democrats when it comes to small-dollar fundraising,” wrote Whitney.”

Among the most embarrassing statisics about our country, which purports to be the world’s greatest democracy, are the appallingly-low percentages  of women office who hold office in our national legislature, currently 21 percent of the U.S. Senate and 12.9 percent of the House of Reps. To help correct this dismal reality, check out the Center for American Women in Politics web page, “Teach a Girl to Lead,” scroll down and click on your state in the U.S. map to see what sort of political leadership training is available for girls. There is also a link to a list of 244 organizations providing leadership training for girls nationwide.

For women who are considering running for office, the National Women’s Political Caucus has a 55-page booklet, “Diary of a Frugal Candidate (or Running for the First Time),” which could be helpful. According to the NWPC’s description, “We have updated the original “Low Budget Campaigns” to make it a more realistic campaign product for first-time candidates and those in campaigns which have never raised more than $15,000. The major difference is the inclusion of more and better targeting, data-base building, social media and inspiring women to step up and run for these very important, but seldom glorified positions. School board positions, utility boards, community college boards, Tribal councils, union boards and more. This 55 page booklet will provide the basics on how a woman can take the leap and run for her first elected office.” The NWPC is also offering “‘The Complete Training Manual for Women Candidates’…an updated version of our best-selling foundational basic campaign training manual originally completed with funds from the Revson Foundation…This new updated version explodes with it in addition to more information on data-base building, hiring professionals, image (especially the growing importance of a woman’s voice), including diversity among your targeting efforts, social media: what to do and what not to do, website do’s and don’ts, new ways of handling attacks, responding to sexist or racist comments, and much more. 300 pages with addendums.”

Roll Call’s 2018 Election Guide provides a clickable, color-coded map widget that provides basic information on every Senate, House and Governors race. It has clickable tabs for: “Tossup; Tilt; Lean; Likely; Open Seat; Party Turnover; Non-Solid Races; Dem Projected; and GOP Projected.”


Political Strategy Notes

Netroots Nation’s annual program begins today in Atlanta, and WaPo’s David Weigel has a good preview and backgrounder in his post, “Liberals gather in Atlanta to plan Trump resistance strategy.” As Weigel writes, “Former vice president Gore will speak about the threats to the planet from a president who dismisses climate change as a hoax hatched in Beijing. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will ring alarm bells about domestic policy. And 14 discrete sessions will discuss the best ways to fight the White House and Republican Congress. Jon Ossoff, the Democratic star who narrowly lost Georgia’s special House election in June, will also be there…This year, the focus for nearly 3,000 attendees was back on politics: How do they channel the energy of resistance into helping progressives win elections?” Schedule overview here.

Brian Barrett’s Wired post, “You Can’t Just Riff About Nukes” does make one wonder if CEO Trump has been watching too much Game of Thrones. Trump’s warning to North Korea does sound more like it comes from a ‘Thrones’ potentate, than a thoughtful leader of a great democracy. As Barrett writes, “Trump garnered international headlines Tuesday when he declared that any further threats from North Korea would prompt “fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” His bluster followed a Washington Post report that the Hermit Kingdom had developed a nuclear weapon small enough to deploy on a missile. Lest anyone doubt the president’s intentions, he followed up Wednesday morning with a tweet calling the US nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more power than ever before” and unjustifiably crediting himself with its renovation and modernization.”

Adam Nagourney’s New York Times article, “Democratic Fight in California Is a Warning for the National Party,” explores the ramifications of a leadership struggle for the helm of the state’s Democratic Party. “What we are seeing in California is similar to what we are seeing on the national level,” said Betty T. Yee, the Democratic state controller. “If we don’t do our work to really heal our divide, we are going to miss our chance to motivate Democrats.”…The fight pits Eric C. Bauman, a longtime party leader, against Kimberly Ellis, a Bay Area activist. Mr. Bauman won the election by just over 60 votes out of 3,000 cast at the party convention in May, but Ms. Ellis has refused to concede, claiming voting improprieties, like permitting ineligible people to vote for Bauman…Nagourney notes that “the stakes appear higher in this case. For one thing, California Democrats face a critical political challenge in 2018 as they seek to capture as many as seven Republican congressional seats, most of them in Southern California, a central part of the national party’s effort to win back Congress. California is heading into a potentially turbulent governor’s race next year as Mr. Brown — a widely respected, stabilizing force in Democratic politics — steps down after two terms. The party could also be enmeshed in a Senate race if Dianne Feinstein, who is 84, does not seek re-election next year…”

Also at The Times, Shane Goldmacher reports on the tricky Democratic divisions in New York state politics. Goldmacher quotes State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, who explains, “The winds shifted on Nov. 8. The No. 1 concern I hear from my constituents on the street isn’t Donald Trump. It’s what the Senate’s going to do, and how the Democrats can win it back.”Goldmacher explains, “Democrats hold 32 of the 63 seats in the Senate, yet Republicans control the chamber. The mechanics and math of bringing Senate Democrats together are complex: [State Senate Minority Leader] Ms. Stewart-Cousins leads a group of 23 Democrats, while Mr. Klein leads the breakaway group of eight. The 32nd elected Democrat, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, caucuses with the Republicans but has left the door open to rejoining the Democrats.”

Meanwhile in West Virginia, The Mountain Party is gathering momentum — to the growing concern of the state Democratic Party. But the Mountain Party may provide an instructive template for how Democrats can benefit from strategic voting by non-Democratic progressives, when the candidate is appropriate. As Parker Richards reports in The American Prospect, “The re-energizing of the progressive movement nationally has also helped the Mountain Party. Rhule noted that many of the party’s members and supporters worked for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, with many switching their registration to campaign for the Vermont senator, though most returned to the Mountain Party thereafter. (Sanders won every county in West Virginia during the primary, taking just 26,000 fewer votes than Donald Trump’s total in the Republican primary.) That newfound energy could help the party going forward, particularly if West Virginia Democrats do not adopt many of Sanders’s policies in the future—and there has been little evidence they will.”

Not to harp on Democratic Party divisions today, but we do have to keep it real. In that spirit, Clare Foran’s article, “The Democratic Party’s Abortion Dilemma” in The Atlantic provides an overview of the problems Dems face in navigating reproductive rights leading up to the midterm elections. As Foran observes in a nut graph: “The party’s willingness to support pro-life candidates isn’t novel, and prominent Democrats, along with the Democratic National Committee, have echoed the idea that there should be no litmus test. But that message is at odds with the direction pro-choice activists believed the party had been headed: They want to build on the gains their movement made in the platform by electing a firmly pro-choice majority to the House. Some activists fear, however, that the party is now treating abortion as a negotiable issue, rather than a core priority, as it attempts to broaden its appeal and win back seats in the midterm elections next year.”

There is some good news for Democrats in at least one state, as Ed Kilgore shares in his post, “Democrat Wins Iowa State Legislative Special Election in District Trump Swept” at New York Magazine. Kilgore notes, “A deceased Democratic House member, Curt Hansen, was replaced by another Democrat, Phil Miller, a veterinarian and local school board president. But Miller’s healthy 54/44 win over Republican Travis Harris was significant…this district (in southeast Iowa) is pretty evenly divided between registered Democrats and Republicans, making it an interesting test case. It’s one of those rural/small town Midwestern areas that swung heavily to Donald Trump last year (he carried the district by a 58/37 margin; Obama won it by a narrow 50/48 margin in 2012). So there’s no sign of any fundamental partisan realignment underway, at least down ballot.'” Further, adds Kilgore, “the GOP candidate tried to use transgender bathroom access as a cudgel against his opponent.” While, “It is unclear how the transgender issue ultimately affected the race, aside from the fact that it obviously did not work for Harris.”

“Even as the White House this week firmly insists President Donald Trump is determined to seek a second term, a new analysis of polling data shows that he’s caught in a three-way political squeeze in the states that tipped the 2016 presidential race, and will likely decide the 2020 contest…On one front, Trump faces undiminished resistance from minority voters, who opposed him in preponderant numbers last year. On the second, he is confronting a consistent — and, in many states, precipitous — decline in support from white-collar white voters, who expressed much more skepticism about him last fall than GOP presidential candidates usually face. From the third direction, Trump’s support among working-class whites, while still robust, is receding from its historically elevated peak back toward a level more typical for Republican presidential candidates — especially in the pivotal Rust Belt states that sealed his victory…These are among the key conclusions from a new analysis of the state-by-state Trump approval ratings released recently by the Gallup Organization. Those results, based on interviews with 81,155 adults in Gallup nightly tracking polls from January 20 through June 30, found that Trump’s overall approval rating had fallen below 50 percent in 33 of the 50 states.” — From Ronald Brownstein’s CNN Politics post, “In decisive Rust Belt, Trump’s approval is starting to look like Romney’s.”

At Vox, Jeff Stein explains how “The Obamacare repeal battle showed the power and limits of grassroots organizing.” Stein distills “Five lessons the Obamacare repeal fight taught resistance organizers,” including “1) Resistance bandwidth is limited and must be concentrated…”Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) similarly announced that he’d answer every reporter’s question about Russia by first talking about health care. “When reporters ask me a question about Russia, I now say, ‘I’m happy to talk about it, but you’re going to have to listen to me talk about the health care challenge ahead first,’” Wyden said…“The need for relentless pressure despite mind-blowing distractions is now clear,” said Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn.org. “But at the beginning of this, it wasn’t obvious at all. As the public and as activists, we weren’t used to these political explosions popping constantly from the White House. We really had to train ourselves to ignore them and keep our eye on the ball.”…In other words, activists learned that the Trump show may be flashy and impossible to ignore — but, faced with pending legislation, it’s vital to focus at the legislative mechanics.” Stein’s post should be required reading for all Democratic campaigns.


A Field Guide to Some New Pro-Democratic Organizations

In addition to longer-standing progressive oganizations which support Democrats, including The Third Way, Emily’s List, Emerge America, Democratic Socialists of America, The Center for American Progress, New Leaders Council, Working Families Party, Democracy for America, MoveOn, ActBlue and others, there are a host of newer organizations, some of which have emerged as part of the “Resistance” to the Trump Administration’s policies. These groups have helped increase the number of Democratic candidates for federal, state and local office to record levels. They include:

Indivisible began with an online handbook written by Congressional staffers with suggestions for resisting the move to the right in  the Trump administration. The goal of Indivisible, according to founder Peter Dreier, is to “save American democracy” and “resume the project of creating a humane America that is more like social democracy than corporate plutocracy.” As David Faris writes at The Week, “Activists across the spectrum should be taking their cues from the leadership of Indivisible, the group of former Hill staffers who wrote the Indivisible Guide and who have helped organize a national movement to push back against the GOP agenda. These are people who know who their true adversaries are (Hint: It’s not people sitting one standard ideological deviation to their left or to their right) and have devoted themselves and their supporters to winning important legislative fights against the GOP. Do you know whether their leadership supported Hillary or Bernie? Do you care? Because without their town halls and protests and phone calls, TrumpCare would likely be heading to the president’s desk for a signature.”

Our Revolution “is built upon the success of Bernie Sanders’ historic presidential campaign, and will continue to thrive with the support of an unprecedented level of grassroots organizers,” according to the organization’s web pages. The organization’s mission is to educate voters about issues, get people involved in the political process, and work to organize and elect progressive candidates. “Through supporting a new generation of progressive leaders, empowering millions to fight for progressive change and elevating the political consciousness, Our Revolution will transform American politics to make our political and economic systems once again responsive to the needs of working families…Our Revolution has three intertwined goals: to revitalize American democracy, empower progressive leaders and elevate the political consciousness.” Some key leaders of the group include: Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner; Former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores; Native American Leader Deborah Parker; Civil Rights Leader Ben JealousPolitical Leader, National Radio Commentator & Writer Jim Hightower; Arab American Human Rights Leader Jim Zogby; Former Chief of Staff for Senator Bernie Sanders Huck Gutman and others.

Brand New Congress is a PAC, also formed by former staffers and supporters of the Sanders presidential campaign, to elect hundreds of new, diverse progressive members of Congress. The group is expressly not partisan, but it’s policy agenda is left-progressive, including “Medicare for all,” significant investments in renewable energy and infrastructure upgrades, keeping abortion safe and legal, tuition-free education and a minimum wage increase. Most of the candidates it will be backing for 2018 will be Democrats.

New Democracy. In “Democrats launch new group aimed at Republican strongholds,” A.P.’S Bill Barrow writes that “New Democracy” will focus on “the goal of winning again in Republican-dominated middle America.” Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute and a former leader of the Democratic Leadership Council, is directing “New Democracy,’ and the group will also include CO Governor John Hickenlooper and former Secretary of Agriculture and former IA Governor Tom Vilsack, both of whom are frequently mentioned as possible 2020 presidential candidates, along with former KY Governor Steve Beshear, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other Democratic officials. “We have to expand this party, and make it a bigger tent,” says Marshall, quoted in the article. Democrats “cannot be a successful national policy by winning races only on our two coasts.” Barrow also quotes Beshear, who adds that Democrats “cannot be a successful national policy by winning races only on our two coasts.” The party “has to get back to the basics and appeal to folks all over our country.”…Marshall, said “New Democracy isn’t trying to run a shadow party or foment “sectarian battles” between moderates and liberals,” reports Barrow. Yet, “It’s not unintentional that the new effort echoes the Democratic Leadership Council, the group that then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton used to popularize his “third way” political philosophy. Calling himself a “New Democrat,” Clinton tilted the Democratic Party away from its more liberal coastal anchors and helped his party reclaim the White House in 1992 after several landslide defeats.”

Swing Left. “Swing Left was started by Ethan Todras-Whitehill, a writer and teacher, Joshua Krafchin, a marketer and entrepreneur, and Miriam Stone, a brand strategist. “Swing Left’s goal is to flip the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections and put a check on the Trump and GOP agenda. We will achieve this by organizing and supporting volunteers to have an impact Swing Districts across the country…Swing Left is an online community that connects you with your nearest Swing District. This is a district where the winner, an elected official who is now serving a two-year term in the House of Representatives, won the November 2016 election by a thin margin, or is otherwise vulnerable in 2018…Enter your email address to join a Swing District Team, and you’ll be put on a carefully-curated mailing list moderated by a local District Leader…Voters in “safe” districts tend to feel powerless about their impact on local elections that have national repercussions. At the same time, House midterm elections, including in Swing Districts, tend to receive less attention than other races. We formed Swing Left to provide a simple way for voters living both inside and outside of Swing Districts to come together and channel their time, resources, and ideas to help progressives prevail in these critical races.

Justice Democrats. “Justice Democrats is a federal political action committee…Justice Democrats together with partner Brand New Congress, are focused solely on the congressional races for 2018…Justice Democrats was created by Cenk Uygur, CEO of The Young Turks, Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk and Zack Exley and Saikat Chakrabarti. Zack and Saikat are former Bernie Sanders campaign staffers. “Electing hundreds of candidates to rebuild a broken Democratic Party is not a small task…Where we share common ground, we’ll work together on recruiting, vetting, and supporting strong progressive candidates for Congress.” Justice Democrats platform includes reforms to: establish single-payer health care; end political corruption; re-regulate Wall St.; invest in infrastructure and green energy;  “common sense gun regulation” and cut military spending. Notable elected officials joining Justice Democrats inlcude Rep. Ro Khanna (Ca-17), and at least 10 candidates for congress. Justice Democrats have reportedly raised over $1 million for 2018 thus far.

Flippable. “Our mission is to turn America blue by building a movement to flip states. To build this movement, we need to radically simplify political action. We focus on state legislature elections—races that play a huge role in national elections but are often overlooked. Information about these races is hard to find, and busy people don’t have the time to sift through it. That’s where we come in. We’ll tell you which races are more important, who’s running, and how you can support them. The group, which includes co-founder Catherine Vaughn and other veterans of the Hillary Clionton 2016 campaign, has reportedly raised over $350,000 for progressive candidates. Flippable intends “to build a grassroots movement focused on state government. Just as importantly, we needed to be rigorous and focused. Because Republicans consistently outspend Democrats, we need to use high-quality analytics to target the most “flippable” races,” according to the organization’s web page. “State legislative elections are the future of the Democratic Party,” Flippable co-founder and CEO Catherine Vaughan told VICE News. “They determine the future of policy and the future candidates for higher office.”

Run for Something is focused on “helping progressives under 35 run for office.” Alex Altman reported in Time that the group “already has 30 candidates on ballots in races ranging from seats on state legislatures to city councils, and hopes that number will grow to at least 50 by November.” According to the Run for Something web pages, “Our candidate program is structured to get as many committed people as possible in the door and provide them access to resources, money, and experts who can help them. We are not de-facto limiting our focus or our efforts by race viability, “flippability”, or whether or not we think the candidate is the “perfect person.”…Like incubators or venture capital firms in the tech world, we don’t expect all (or even a majority) of our “investments” to win the first time out. By getting on the ballot, holding opponents accountable, and getting Democrats engaged through voter contact, our candidates will be effective in building out the party at the local level.”

314 Action “is a nonprofit 501(c)4 that was founded by members of the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] community, grassroots supporters and political activists who believe in science.” Thoiugh not expressly pro-Democratic Party, ” We are committed to electing more STEM candidates to office, advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to issues like climate change, and fighting the Trump administration’s attacks on science.” The 314 Action name refers to the number Pi, which pops up nearly everywhere in science, technology, engineering and math.

The recent proliferation of pro-Democratic organizations, which have serious missions, is a healthy development. There are some potential pitfalls, including internecine bickering, which has been a problem between moderate and liberal pro-Democratic organizations in the past. As Faris notes, “Some of the intra-Dem warfare it is also a matter of manners. The “purity left” is not a nice way to refer to your natural electoral allies. The terms “Bernie bros” and “Hillbots” should be retired. People who have been on the front lines of every streetfight with the GOP since 2000 probably don’t appreciate being dismissed as “neoliberals.” Nor do left-Dems enjoy being characterized as extremist flakes.

Another concern would be an inadequate emphasis on voter registration. Although these groups are doing excellent work in recruiting and empowering new candidates, as evidenced by the tremendous increase in Democratic candidates already running compared to this point in odd-numbered past years, the Democratic electorate needs to expand as well. Better candidates will certainly help, but the 2016 turnout of pro-Democratic constituencies needs improvement, particulary for African American voters. In addition, there are signs that a growing number of seniors are becoming disenchanted with Trump’s flip-flop on Medicare and Medicaid, embarrassments and other failures, so the time may be ripe for more outreach to this high-turnout constituency.


Political Strategy Notes

William A. Galston notes at Brookings, “..A report released today by the Pew Research Center shows that for the first time ever, Millennial and Gen X voters outnumbered Boomers and older voters, 69.6 million to 67.9 million. This gap will only widen in future elections…In the long run, this is worrisome news for Republicans. As of last November, fully 55 percent of Millennials identified either as Democrats or as Independents who lean Democratic. Given their liberal attitudes on social issues and experience-based openness to immigrants from other cultures, the first six months of the Trump administration are unlikely to have shifted their preference toward the GOP. Within the next decade, as their numbers and participation rates swell, Millennials will be the single largest cohort in the electorate. And if history is any guide, their early voting patterns will likely persist into their mature years.”

In his Washington Post column, “There’s no such thing as a Trump Democrat,” Dana Milbank writes, “It has become an article of faith that an unusually large number of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012 switched sides and voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. It follows that Democrats, to win in the future, need to get these lost partisans to come home…But new data, and an analysis by AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer that he shared with me, puts all this into question. The number of Obama-to-Trump voters turns out to be smaller than thought. And those Obama voters who did switch to Trump were largely Republican voters to start with. The aberration wasn’t their votes for Trump but their votes for Obama. It follows for Democrats that most of these Obama-Trump voters aren’t going to be persuaded to vote Democratic in future; the party would do better to go after disaffected Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016 or who voted for third parties…Democrats don’t have to contort themselves to appeal to the mythical Trump Democrats by toughening their position on immigration, or weakening their support for universal health care, or embracing small government and low taxes. What Democrats have to do is be Democrats.”

Paul Krugman’s column “What’s Next for Progressives?” should crank up buzz among Democrats who are getting focused on the nuts and bolts of health care policy reforms. Krugman considers the British, Australian and Dutch health care systems, and suggests: “the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums…And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change…I’d enhance the A.C.A., not replace it, although I would strongly support reintroducing some form of public option — a way for people to buy into public insurance — that could eventually lead to single-payer.” Krugman also argues “So if it were up to me, I’d talk about improving the A.C.A., not ripping it up and starting over, while opening up a new progressive front on child care.”

At The Fix, David Weigel muses over the failure of Democrats to respond effectively to questions about Nancy Pelosi: “…Democrats running in swing districts — including districts Hillary Clinton won last year — can rarely bring themselves to say whether they want Pelosi to be speaker again…I keep wondering why Democrats can’t find the escape hatch. Republicans have had similar problems with messaging very recently, and to a great extent, they’ve figured them out…In a word: They pivot. They start with the shared notion that the media’s questions are meant to hurt them, and they find ways to spin the question around…It baffles me that no 2018 Democrat can do something similar. Pelosi is unpopular; they can acknowledge right away that they disagree with her. But they never pivot to say that their opponents back Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), whose favorable numbers have tumbled to Pelosian levels, or Donald Trump, who’s tumbled even further. Seriously, I’ve never heard a Democrat do this — they’ve just internalized that Pelosi is unpopular, so they curl up as if hiding from a hungry bear.”

Weigel also provides some amusing insights, sitting in for James Hohman at the Daily 202: Noting that the Democratic Socialists of America voted to reject an exodus from the Democratic Party, Weigel writes, “The resolution failed — easily so. While the judgment of 697 delegates to a socialist convention might not seen like a major Democratic Party development, it was telling of something that frequently gets lost. Democrats, for whom self-flagellation starts at birth and continues after death, have been moving as steadily left as Republicans moved right in 2009, when they last lost power…The Better Deal, predictably denounced as thin, actually reflected how regulatory godmother Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and $15-or-fight godfather Sanders now steer the party.” As for the possible downside of Democrats moving left, Weigel concludes, “Would any of this backfire on Democrats?…Democrats lost in 2010, 2014 and 2016 to a Republican Party that had been through waves of purity battles; one that had, in 2016, appeared to be breaking apart. The ongoing Democratic argument, over the long run, is moving it left without doing notable political damage.”

“As a communications professional, I understand that the meaning of a message resides more in what’s received than what’s transmitted. Yes, Democrats need better messaging of our values…Democrats aren’t skilled at fitting our ideas onto the front of a cap…But we have metric tons of Republican misinformation, extreme gerrymandering and Trumpitude to battle, so messaging isn’t easy. I’ll keep shouting our platform with my increasingly hoarse voice and keep hoping the party’s bigwigs are working on strategies to connect with enough voters to win Congress in 2018 and the Electoral College (not just the popular vote) in 2020…As much as I resist Trump and his enablers with my full patriotic spirit, that’s not the only reason I’m a Democrat who works for Democratic causes and candidates. Our party has a better vision for the country than the regression, corporatism, corruption, incivility and oligarchy that Trump and the Republican Party offer.” — from John Sheirer’s latest column at The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

WaPo syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson urges Dems to think a little bigger than ‘A Beter Deal’: “I’m still waiting to hear the “bold solutions” that Democrats promise. I can think of one possibility: Why not propose some version of truly universal single-payer health care?…Yes, that would be risky. But it might generate real excitement among the Democratic base — and also grab the attention of some of the GOP’s working-class supporters. Incrementalism is not the answer. Democrats need to go big or go home.”

Focusing on the issue of afformative action, The Upshot’s Nate Cohn chews on the reasons why “polls can mislead,” including the difficulties in measuring enthusiasm, focusing on “the public” instead of swing constituencies, the effects of messaging and the reality that “elections aren’t simply about policy.” Cohn concluders, “Issue polling has its place. A government in a democracy should be aware of the views of the public. But if you’re strictly interested in electoral consequences, you’re probably a lot better off focusing on the president’s approval rating than the popularity of the president’s policy agenda.”

Since the Trump Administration has so many associations and flirtations with racist and’alt-right’ groups and leaders, Dems should be on high alert for ‘dog-whistles’ that try to gin up animosity toward pro-Democratic constituencies.Media Matters’ Cristina López explains how the White House uses dog whistles to appeal to the “alt-right,” and observes:  “it’s very hard to know what was going through the mind, and that’s why dog whistles are so insidious, because they can be used innocuously and they kind of give an out to whoever is using them to be able to say that’s not what I meant. The thing is that they are not meant for the general population — you’re throwing red meat for the well-attuned ear that has the context — the larger context where you want it to land. So dog whistles in that sense allow you to appeal to a certain part of the population that it wouldn’t be OK to appeal in a general speech, like the White House press briefing. But these groups are attune and they are listening. And, Stephen Miller is right now being celebrated in the corners of the alt-right, white nationalistic internet as a hero — as a hero for keeping the purity of the population of America by kind of trying to curtail immigration.”


Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Forecast Model Suggests Democratic Gains Likely in 2018 Gubernatorial Contests” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, political analyst Alan I. Abramowitz deploys a “A forecasting model that has produced accurate predictions of the results of midterm U.S. House elections” to assess prospects for Democratic candidates for governor in 36 states. Among his observations: “The president’s party typically loses gubernatorial seats in midterm elections — this has been true in 14 of 18 midterm elections since World War II. The average loss for the president’s party has been just over three seats. However, these elections have produced a wide range of outcomes for the president’s party, from a gain of eight seats in 1986 to a loss of 11 seats in 1970. Noting that “Republicans will be defending 26 of the 36 seats that are up for election in 2018,” Abaramowitz crunches the data in his forecasting model along with “FiveThirtyEight weighted average of recent polling results,” and envisions “a net Democratic gain of around nine governorships with a two-thirds probability that the gain would be between six and 12 seats.”

At The Fix, “Want to know if Democrats can take back the House? Keep an eye on this Orange County race” By Amber Phillips spotlights a Republican-held district (CA-39), “a typical, affluent suburban Republican district that went for Clinton over President Trump by nearly nine points.” that has drawn a number of impressive Democratic challengers, and notes “If House Democrats are going to ride an anti-Trump wave to power, California could be where it starts. Across the nation, there are 23 House Republicans sitting in districts that Hillary Clinton won. Seven are in California…House Democrats’ campaign arm has set up a team in Irvine, its first headquarters in the state since 2000, to try to knock out at least nine California Republicans in their efforts to take back the House…“There are Republicans who represent the Orange County that existed 20 years ago,” said Drew Godinich, the Western press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Godinich spoke to The Fix fresh off the plane from Washington to move to California. “The area has diversified, gotten younger and has gotten more socially progressive, and these Republicans don’t represent Orange County.”

Writing at CNN Politics, Ronald Brownstein exposes Trump’s strategy to distract the press and public with cultural controversies from his already broken promises to defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Citing Trump’s “gamble” that “that cultural affinity can trump economic self-interest for the older and blue-collar white voters central to the coalition that elected him,” Brownstein observes, “The key economic signal that Trump offered last week was his unreserved embrace of the stalled Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite abundant evidence those older and working-class white voters would be among the biggest losers in all of the Republican replacement plans. That decision underscored Trump’s conversion to the long-standing drive by the Congressional GOP — especially House Republicans allied with Speaker Paul Ryan — to systematically retrench the social safety net, despite Trump’s conspicuous campaign promises to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid…One day before the vote, the administration issued a flurry of decisions rolling back transgender and gay rights. Speaking just hours after the vote, Trump braided a blistering attack on undocumented immigrant gang members (who he repeatedly labeled “animals”) with a plea for unshackling law enforcement from what he called “pathetic” big city mayors…Those twin initiatives marked an escalation of cultural conservatism aimed directly at many of those same older and blue-collar whites’ fears that they are being eclipsed by the hurtling demographic and social changes remaking American society.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel reports on the new Democratic initiative to reclaim fair trade as a major component of the party’s agenda: “Trade is at the core of our economic agenda,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement, ahead of a planned 11:30 a.m. launch of the trade policies. “We’re going to propose a better deal for American workers — one that puts their well-being at the center of our trade laws, not just the bottom line of huge corporations. Our trade laws have shortchanged American workers for far too long, and we Democrats are aiming to change that.” The initiative includes an “independent trade prosecutor,” an “American Jobs Council,” pean;ties for ourtsourcing and preferential federal funding for American companies and jobs.

“Extreme candidates for the House of Representatives do worse than moderates because they mobilize the opposing party to turn out to vote, according to new research from Andrew Hall and Daniel Thompson of Stanford University.mPolitical scientists and campaign experts have been divided for decades about whether candidates are successful when they win over swing voters — those who aren’t loyal to any party — or when they encourage members of their own party to show up at the polls. The research suggests that when it comes to ideologically extreme candidates, the deciding factor might be the other party’s turnout…The researchers considered elections for the House from 2006 to 2014 in which an extreme candidate and a moderate faced off in the primary. But, because districts where extreme candidates win handily are probably very different from districts where moderates win with ease, they examined only close races (in which the winner had less than a 10 percent margin of victory). They found that when the more extreme candidate won the primary, the party did far worse in the general election: Its share of votes fell by between 7 and 15 percentage points…In addition, a greater proportion of the people who turned out to vote were members of the opposite party.” — from Sahil Chony’s “Extreme candidates lose because they boost the other party’s turnout, research finds” at The Fix.

Mark Schmitt offers this cogent insight at Vox: “How did Medicaid prove to be so important in the debate over repeal? The story is more complex than just public opinion, since the key constituency was governors, not Medicaid recipients themselves. For governors, Medicaid is the single largest stream of federal funding into their budgets, which most are required to balance. While the legislation promised flexibility with federal Medicaid funds, flexibility is no substitute for predictable, adequate funding…Still, plenty of Republican governors passed up these funds between 2011 and 2017, and there was no reason to expect that governors would suddenly care. But the constituency is now large enough to matter, the opioid crisis has made the need for Medicaid funding particularly acute, and just a few key governors were enough to swing the handful of senators necessary to kill the bill.”

TNR’s Clio Chang has a tough question for Dems: “Where Are the Single-Payer Wonks? The political momentum on the left for Medicare-for-All is gaining steam. But the policy is lagging behind.” Chang writes “Among Democrats, support for single-payer has increased by 19 percentage points over the past three years. And for the first time in history, a majority of Democrats in the House have signed on as co-sponsors to Representative John Conyers’s Medicare-for-All bill…But it’s hard to deny that single-payer is an area where progressive politics has outstripped policy. Conyers’s bill is largely seen as a symbolic piece of legislation, and not only because Democrats would first have to win back Congress and the White House to even begin passing it. As Joshua Holland wrote on Wednesday in The Nation, the momentum for single-payer is “tempered by the fact that the activist left, which has a ton of energy at the moment, has for the most part failed to grapple with the difficulties of transitioning to a single-payer system…As Harold Pollack, a health policy researcher at the University of Chicago, told Holland, “There has not yet been a detailed, single-payer bill that’s laid out the transitional issues about how to get from here to there…”

Ann Jones probes a related question at The Nation, “Is State-Level Single Payer Within Reach? Scandinavian-style health care is part of at least one candidate’s platform for 2018.” Jones argues that “applying Medicare for All at the state level should be easier. And of all the states, only eight have a population greater than that of Scandinavia’s biggest country, Sweden (9 million), while 30 states have fewer residents, most far fewer, than either Denmark (5.5 million) or Norway (5.3 million). In short, the most popular argument against single-payer health care for the nation—the contention that we’re way too big for such a system—simply vanishes if you start at the state level.” Despite formidabe obstacles, “a single program launched by a single state is better than none. And it just might work. If it does, states can look to the Scandinavian toolbox for other projects. What’s more, a good idea in one state may prove contagious…”

“Democrats should make fighting monopolies the central organizing principle of their economic agenda,” Martin Longman writes in is post, “How to Win Rural Voters Without Losing Liberal Values” at The Washington Monthly. “This approach holds the promise of bringing together groups that seem inherently at odds: nativists and cosmopolitans, fundamentalists and secularists, urbanites and rural dwellers…The strongest reason to think this could work is, quite simply, that it has worked before. A century ago, agrarian populists and big-city progressives united around a common opposition to monopoly, forming a movement that dominated American politics for decades and helped deliver a broadly shared prosperity. Because the economic landscape today is strikingly similar to what it was a hundred years ago, there’s every reason to believe that the conditions are right for a similar alliance to arise again.”


Political Strategy Notes

After giving Sen. John McCain due credit for his vote that helped kill “skinny repeal,” his comments accompanying the vote that Obamacare received no Republican votes in the Senate gloss over the reality that Democrats, unlike their Republican colleagues last week, made an honest effort to give their adversaries a chance to help shape the legislation. It’s not like Obama didn’t bend over backwards to try and create  bipartisan support for the bill. Further, the Affordable Care Act passed the Senate with 60 votes, an overwhelming majority, even if they were all Democrats. In stark contrast, the Republicans are gunning to repeal and/or replace the law by just 51 percent.

Hats off to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for doing a good job of keeping Democrats unified against all versions of Trumpcare/Obamacare repeal. As Jennifer Steinhauer explains in her article, “How Schumer Held Democrats Together Through a Health Care Maelstrom” in The New York Times, “Democrats give Mr. Schumer — song-belting, frequently badgering, endlessly frenzied — credit for his tireless attention to senators from every faction, and for quiet outreach to Republicans who he thinks could be partners down the line…He has worked carefully — far more than Mr. Reid, many Democrats agreed — to be almost relentlessly inclusive, talking with them at all hours of the day, over every manner of Chinese noodle, on even tiny subjects, to make them feel included in strategy…”

And while we’re thanking everyone for blocking ‘skinny repeal,’ let’s not forget Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, who made sure she got to the senate and voted against the GOP bill — despite having just completed surgery for kidney cancer. “I am fighting kidney cancer,” said Hirono, “and I’m just so grateful that I had health insurance so that I could concentrate on the care that I needed rather than how the heck I was going to afford the care that would probably save my life…Where is your compassion? Where is the care that you showed me when I was diagnosed with my illness?” Hirono asked before the Senate narrowly voted down the measure. “I find it hard to believe that we can sit here and vote on a bill that is going to hurt millions and millions of people in our country. We are better than that.” — from Rebecca Shapiro’s HuffPo article, “Sen. Mazie Hirono Holds Back Tears During Impassioned Health Care Plea.”

For an indication of how popular single-payer health care reform has become with Democratsin congress, read David Weigel’s “In GOP’s repeal failure, Democrats find a potential game plan,” in which he notes, “On Thursday, as the repeal effort headed for the cliff, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) needled Democratic senators — 10 of whom face reelection next year in states Trump won — by introducing the text of a single-payer bill sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). For the first time, most House Democrats have co-sponsored Conyers’s bill; 43 members of the Senate minority, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), voted “present,” while five voted “no” on the Daines amendment.”


Poltiical Strategy Notes

Jonathan Easley reports at The Hill that “Dems Have the Edge in the Health Care Debate.” Further, writes Easley, “A majority of voters trust Democrats more than Republicans on the issue of healthcare and most say that ObamaCare is working fine, according to data from the latest Harvard-Harris poll…The survey, provided exclusively to The Hill, found that 52 percent of voters trust Democrats to provide the best way forward on healthcare. Twenty-seven percent said they trust President Trump and only 21 percent said they trust Republicans in Congress, bringing the total GOP figure to 48 percent…In addition, 53 percent said they believe ObamaCare is working, rather than failing.”

Some Republican senators are apparently trying to have it both ways on health care reform– to appear concerned about the health security of their constituents, while at the same time throwing a little red meat to wingnuts in their states, as Jonathan Cohn reports at HuffPo. “GOP senators who have warned they can’t support legislation that produces big coverage losses ― including Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Rob Portman of Ohio ― all voted yes” on the ‘motion to proceed’ discussing Republican health bills. “So did Arizona’s John McCain…But hours after the procedural vote, the Senate took up the Better Care Reconciliation Act ― the proposal from GOP leadership that would leave 22 million more people uninsured, by CBO’s reckoning. McCain voted aye. So did Capito, Cassidy, Heller and Portman ― with the latter citing, as his reason, an amendment he’d helped obtain providing $100 billion in extra funding to help people pay their out-of-pocket medical costs…The bill needed 60 votes, because of parliamentary rules, and got just 43. Because everybody knew in advance it would fail, the vote was effectively a free one ― and potentially a chance for the likes of Capito and Portman to get some credit for supporting repeal, even if they end up opposing whatever comes up for a final vote when this week’s deliberations end.” It would be up to Democrats to expose this charade.

Of John McCain’s vote for the “motion ot proceed,” Ezra Klein writes at Vox: “McCain had the decisive vote — to say nothing of the moral and emotional authority of his dramatic post-surgery return to the Senate. He could have forced McConnell to run health care through the committee process. Everything McCain lamented of the Senate he had the power, in that moment, to improve…But McCain instead voted to continue the rushed, partisan process he said probably wouldn’t work, and probably shouldn’t work. He had the power to create the change he hoped to see in the institution he loves. Instead, he embodied and deepened its dysfunction.” McCain coupled his vote with comments in support of a more bipartisan approach to health care reform, and once again he failed to back up his rhetoric with action. As Klein concludes, “Our political system is built on the assumption that words have some meaning, that the statements policymakers make have some rough correlation to the actions they will take. But here, in the era of bullshit politics, they don’t. If this becomes the new normal in policymaking, it will be disastrous.”

‘Medicare for All” is a simple enough rallying cry for Democrats and progressives, in that many voters likely associate it with a single-payer system. But actually, that’s not the case, as Ed Kilgore explains in his post, “Why ‘Medicare for All’ Is a Misleading Term for Single-Payer Health Care” at New York: “Medicare is by design an “acute care” program. It does not cover long-term hospital stays or nursing-home care, and excludes some routine care (e.g., dental and vision care). Presumably a single-payer program designed to replace all or most private insurance would be more comprehensive than Medicare. Perhaps more importantly, from a political point of view, Medicare is neither free nor easy for beneficiaries,” since parts A, B, C and D have substantial out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries. “The more you look at it,” writes Kilgore, “the more “Medicare for all” is, well, misleading. And it is politically perilous to mislead people about sweeping new health-care programs…Maybe it’s time for single-payer advocates to place less emphasis on alleged simplicity, and more on health care as a right that Americans should enjoy universally and equally. It might avoid some hard feelings down the road.”

Slate’s Leon Nefakh weighs the pros and cons for progressives of Trump’s firing A.G. Jeff Sessions, not that liberal views on the topic matter in Trump’s making his decision one way or the other. As Nefakh writes,”There’s no question that the attorney general has been a very detrimental force to civil rights progress and has undermined civil rights for so many communities even in the short time he’s been attorney general,” said Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Civil Rights Division and the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “[But] I think it is really alarming that a president is attacking the Justice Department’s independence and its institutional mandate to ensure that no one is above the law…I think the concern for civil rights advocates is the way in which this fundamentally undermines the rule of law.” From a raw politics perspective, it’s likely that Sessions will leave by resignation or firing. But if he stays, he could do more damage to the Republicans as a constant reminder of Trump’s instability and bad judgement. Further, Sessions’s archaic war on marijuana could energize enough voters in some districts to vote Democratic. Either way, the spectacle dragging on can only hurt the GOP brand.

Regarding all of the fuss about the Democrats’ inability to come up with a slogan that resonates (e.g.  here, here and here}, it may be that crafting a party-wide slogan is a waste of time, especially for the midterm elections, when a one-size-fits-all approach is more likely to create problems for a big tent party than a unified message. Democrats rightly want the public to perceive their party as the one that advocates for working people. Voters want to feel that about candidates, but they are not going to be persuaded one way or the other by a windy slogan. The real message is up to the candidates, and it is best-expressed in their deeds, policies and attitudes. Calling attention to a big, unweildy slogan isn’t going to persuade many voters. The soundbites the candidates craft to describe their issues and their adversaries are probably more consequential than any party-wide slogan.

The plan behind the slogan, however, has merit. In his Washington Post Perspective article, “Democrats say they want to go after monopoly power. Here’s why that’s a great idea,” economist Jared Bernstein writes, “The part of the Democrats’ Better Deal plan that I find most interesting is the piece that would push back on monopolistic corporate power. It’s neither radical nor “left.” I can’t say if it’s particularly good politics (although their internal polling suggests it is). But assuming this proposal eventually grows into something real, it’s likely to prove to be increasingly important economic policy with significant benefits for working families….But whatever the cause, the fact that Democrats recognize and are showing interest in going after the problem is a good thing. And that’s not just my view. David Dayen, a hard-hitting, left-leaning journalist who’s often critical of ideas from the center-left, wrote that by going after “corporate power, and in particular monopoly concentration,” Democrats finally “hit the target.” Bernstein concludes, “If Democrats truly get back to trustbusting, they will be making a powerful, progressive statement about what and for whom they really stand.”

At The Nation John Nichols has a reminder that one Democratic President who railed against corporate power did rather well: “The greatest progressive populist campaign of the past century, Franklin Roosevelt’s 1936 reelection run on a anti-oligarchy platform that held out the promise of American social democracy, secured the greatest landslide win for Democrats…Roosevelt pulled absolutely no punches, declaring in one of the last speeches of the campaign that he was running not against hapless Republican Alf Landon but against the “employers and politicians and publishers” who defend “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering…Today’s Democrats must echo FDR’s old renunciations of “economic royalists” and align them with an 21st-century moral agenda…”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik writes about “the importance, to Democrats, of fielding as many credible challengers as they can…That’s because even if there is a positive environment for Democrats next fall, they are not going to knock off every clearly vulnerable GOP incumbent. Many Republicans who sit in districts that Hillary Clinton won last fall are proven vote-getters who ran well ahead of President Trump last fall, like Reps. Mike Coffman (R, CO-6), Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10), Dave Reichert (R, WA-8), and others. Democrats probably will have to beat some of these incumbents in 2018 to win the House — or hope that some decide not to run for another term, like Clinton-district Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL-27) — but defeating all of them is unrealistic. Hence, the necessity of expanding the map…At this point in the cycle, Democrats have more than 200 filed House challengers who have raised at least a small amount of money ($5,000 or more). That’s more than the combined total of Democratic challengers at this point of the cycle in the last four cycles, and way more than either party has had in midsummer of the off year over the last decade and a half.” Sabato reports that, according to  Crystal Ball’s ratings, “187 Republican seats and 173 Democratic seats are Safe. That’s 360 of 435 seats (83%)” currently, with 218 House seats needed for a majority.


Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article, “These Americans Hated the Health Law. Until the Idea of Repeal Sank In,” kate Zernicke and Abby Goodnough write “…After years of Tea Party demands for smaller government, Republicans are now pushing up against a growing consensus that the government should guarantee health insurance. A Pew survey in January found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have health coverage. That was up from 51 percent last year, and the highest in nearly a decade….The belief held even among many Republicans: 52 percent of those making below $30,000 a year said the federal government has a responsibility to ensure health coverage, a huge jump from 31 percent last year. And 34 percent of Republicans who make between $30,000 and about $75,000 endorsed that view, up from 14 percent last year.”

When it comes to the GOP’s failure to enact any significant legisation, conservative NYT columnist David Brooks says it about as well as it’s been said: “Over the past few decades Republicans cast off the freedom-as-capacity tendency. They became, exclusively, the party of freedom as detachment. They became the Get Government Off My Back Party, the Leave Us Alone Coalition, the Drain the Swamp Party, the Don’t Tread on Me Party…Philosophically you can embrace or detest this shift, but one thing is indisputable: The Republican Party has not been able to pass a single important piece of domestic legislation under this philosophic rubric. Despite all the screaming and campaigns, all the government shutdown fiascos, the G.O.P. hasn’t been able to eliminate a single important program or reform a single important entitlement or agency…Today, the G.O.P. is flirting with its most humiliating failure, the failure to pass a health reform bill, even though the party controls all the levers of power. Worse, Republicans have managed to destroy any semblance of a normal legislative process along the way…A party operating under this philosophy is not going to spawn creative thinkers who come up with positive new ideas for how to help people. It’s not going to nurture policy entrepreneurs. It’s not going to respect ideas, period. This is not a party that’s going to produce a lot of modern-day versions of Jack Kemp.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. mines a similar theme in his nationally-syndicated  column, “Why Obamacare won: Republicans spent seven years complaining without seriously thinking about health care.” As Dionne writes, “The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously…One Democratic senator told me early on that Republicans would be hurt by their lack of accumulated expertise on health care, since they largely avoided sweating the details in the original Obamacare debate after deciding early to oppose it. This showed. They had seven years after the law was passed and could not come up with a more palatable blueprint.”

And Paul Krugman underscores the importance of good intentions in making health care reform serve the public interest: “You can see this dependence on good intentions by looking at how health reform has played out at the state level. States that embraced the [Obamavare] law fully, like California and Kentucky, made great progress in reducing the number of the uninsured; states that dragged their feet, like Tennessee, benefited far less. Or consider the problem of counties served by only one insurer; as a recent study noted, this problem is almost entirely limited to states with Republican governors…But now the federal government itself is run by people who couldn’t repeal Obamacare but would clearly still like to see it fail — if only to justify the repeated, dishonest claims, especially by the tweeter-in-chief himself, that it was already failing. Or to put it a bit differently, when Trump threatens to “let Obamacare fail,” what he’s really threatening is to make it fail…So this isn’t about policy or even politics in the normal sense. It’s basically about spite: Trump and his allies may have suffered a humiliating political defeat, but at least they can make millions of other people suffer.”

Salon.com’s Amanda Marcotte makes the case that “Democrats are still chasing rural white voters, and it’s a strategy doomed to fail,” and notes that “the roller-coaster politics around health care really drive home how much Republican base voters view politics through a culture-war lens. Progressive policy is, however appealing in the abstract, is a secondary concern to the desire of angry white conservatives to exert or reassert their cultural dominance. Which goes a long way towards explaining the loathing of Obamacare: It was the “Obama” part, not the “care” part, that riled up the GOP base. Now that Barack Obama is gone, anger over the health care bill is rapidly receding…The problem for Republicans with Obamacare wasn’t that it offended some sense of fiscal conservatism. It’s that it was President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, and many white conservatives hated Obama because — simply by being black and intelligent and urbane and a Democrat — reminded them of the declining cultural dominance of conservative Christian whites like themselves. Electing Trump has allowed this group of voters to believe they are culturally ascendant again — and repealing Obamacare, which was always mostly about sticking it to the liberals, has lot much of its salience as an issue…The issue isn’t with Democratic policy, but with Democrats, who are perceived as snooty, educated, racially diverse city-dwellers, and therefore hated.”

Ryan Struyk and Grace Hauck present “Five poll numbers that should make Democrats uneasy” at CNN Politics. The one to worry about, in my view, is “A majority thinks Democrats don’t stand for anything other than being against Trump. Only 37% of Americans say the Democratic Party “stands for something,” while 52% say it just stands against Trump, according to the same ABC News/Washington Post poll. It comes at a time when Democrats are left without a clear figurehead and many, both inside and outside of the party, have criticized its leaders for lack of a clear message.” Thus far Democratic efforts to coin a message that resonates have been less than impressive. That’s got to change if Dems expect to do well in 2018 the midterm elections.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 143 counties across the U.S. that supported Obama in 2012, then Trump in 2016 indicates that 51 percent in those counties disapprove of Trump’s job performancer, while 44 percent in the counties approve of his job performance, reports Michael P. Buffer at The Citizen’s Voice. “In the poll’s 143 “flip” counties, 52 percent currently view Obama positively and 33 percent view him negatively. For Trump, it was 37 percent positive and 47 percent negative,” writes Buffer.”

“The truth can’t be repeated often enough: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which held its first meeting last week, is a sham and a scam. It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square…In short, the commission is a fraud on the American people, and a far greater threat to electoral integrity than whatever wrongdoing it may claim to dig up. From the NYT Editorial Board’s “The Bogus Voter-Fraud Commission.”

At Roll Call, Bridget Bowman reports, “The Pew Research Center found that nearly six in 10 women say they are paying more attention to political developments since President Donald Trump was elected. That’s compared to to 46 percent of men who said they are more attentive. More Democrats than Republicans surveyed also said they are paying more attention, the survey found…EMILY’s List, which supports women candidates who are pro-abortion rights, has heard from scores of women interested in running. A spokesperson told Roll Call in early Junethat the group had heard from 14,000 women interested in running for office from local to federal levels — more than 15 times the total number of interested candidates who contacted the group in the entire 2016 campaign cycle.”