washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

In their The Harvard Business Review article, “What Trump’s Campaign Speeches Show About His Lasting Appeal to the White Working Class,” Michelle Lamont, Bo Yun Park and Elena Ayala Hurtado write of their study of Trump’s electoral speeches, “Our detailed, computer-assisted content analysis of 73 of Trump’s speeches, accessed through the American Presidency Project, sheds light on his overall communication strategy. We looked at the words he used most commonly and how he used those words positively or negatively. We then examined how Trump spoke (both positively and negatively) about various groups throughout the campaign…We focused on his references to groups such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, “legal” and “illegal” immigrants, Muslims, refugees, the poor, women, and the LGBTQ community.” The authors cite “three pillars of his rhetorical strategy,” including: Moral absolution for his base of supporters, white workers without college degrees; Clear “foes” that can be redefined on the fly; and An emphasis on specific, shared class values. Further, “The resonance of these speeches was also made possible by the declining influence of unions, which have lost their cultural impact in conveying to workers where their material class interest lies, as well as in anchoring their sense of belonging and pride in being “labor.” Trump provides these same workers alternative frames to make sense of their downward economic mobility and a blueprint for how to fight back against their sense of growing social marginality…The lasting loyalty of this group to Trump may be due in no small part to the continued resonance of Trump’s rhetoric with their current predicament, as their economic position remains weak and their social status even weaker.”

Democrats broke some new ground in terms of message discipline and coordination in the digital arena in the Virginia campaign, reports Eric Bradner at CNN Politics: “Democrats see Ralph Northam’s big win in the Virginia governor’s race as a breakthrough moment for the left’s digital efforts…A year after Republicans leapfrogged the Democrats’ digital capacities on the way to President Donald Trump’s election, progressive groups combined spent nearly $3 million on an innovative effort to modernize the party’s digital advertising…The effort, organized by Planned Parenthood and coordinated by veteran Democratic digital strategist Tara McGowan, reached 2.4 million Virginia voters without Northam’s campaign having to spend any money at all on digital advertising…The groups’ coordination included sharing creative resources — that is, the ads themselves, and the content that went into them — as well as voter targeting and audience information and data that detailed how effective each ad had been…The win in Virginia showed that “building a robust digital infrastructure to break through echo chambers and reach voters online is more vital than ever, and Priorities will be working to replicate our success in races around the country in 2018,” said Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil.”

Is it too much to hope that last week’s elections indicate Dems may have some prospects in the south? Gabriel Debenedetti explores the possibilities at Politico, and notes, “Democrats plainly smell opportunity. They are monitoring a crop of muddy GOP situations — like a South Carolina corruption scandal that’s seen six Republican lawmakers indicted — and national trends — like Trump-inspired primary fights in South Carolina’s gubernatorial race, Tennessee’s Senate race and, potentially, Mississippi’s Senate race…The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s target list now includes eight GOP-held seats in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina, on top of 14 others in Virginia, Florida and Texas. Stronger-than-usual recruits have party operatives uncharacteristically hopeful about open gubernatorial races in Georgia and Tennessee, and others are working on recruiting former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Bob Corker.”

Ed Kilgore addresses the same topic at New York Magazine, and notes, “What makes Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida potentially winnable for Democrats is a combination of upscale suburban areas with college-educated voters and a relatively large minority vote. There is little in the Virginia numbers to reinforce any hopes of a Democratic resurgence among small-town or rural white voters. But Virginia’s 33 percent of the vote cast by nonwhite voters (in both 2016 and 2017) is exceeded by Georgia’s 40 percent (in 2016) and Florida’s 38 percent (also in 2016). North Carolina’s 30 percent is not far behind, either. And Texas, with 43 percent of voters being nonwhite, is potentially the sleeping giant for Democratic voters…and the most exciting thing about the Virginia results for Democrats in the South and everywhere else is that the Donkey Party may be overcoming its “midterm falloff” problem, wherein young and minority voters simply did not participate at rates commensurate with presidential contests.”

After reviewing a daunting litany of obstacles Democratic senatorial nominee Doug Jones faces in Alabama, despite the sexual assault allegations against Roy Moore, Perry Bacon, Jr. and Harry Enten observe at fivethirtyeight.com, “there are signs that some Republican voters may simply stay home in December. A Decision Desk HQ poll taken on Thursday (the day that the latest Moore news broke) showed a tied race in part because more than 10 percent of self-identified Republicans said they weren’t voting for either candidate, compared with fewer than 3 percent of self-identified Democrats who didn’t back Jones or Moore.”

“After a year of self-flagellation and angst, Democrats finally got some good news last week,” Lee Drutman, senior fellow at New America, writes in his New York Times article, How Democrats Can Extend the Winning Streak Into 2018. “But they shouldn’t get carried away: They also got some bad news…First the bad news: Rural America still really dislikes Democrats. But that wasn’t a surprise. The good news came in increasingly affluent and diverse Virginia: In the age of Trump, well-educated suburbanites like Democrats considerably more than they used to. And voters are, overall, quite energized (turnout was at a 20-year high for the Virginia governor’s race) — especially younger voters, who supported the Democrat, Ralph Northam, overwhelmingly as compared with the Democratic nominee in 2013 and turned out at much higher rates…the better bet for Democrats would be to present a sharper economic message, which offers at least some possibility of gain among Obama-Trump voters and Obama-Other voters, with little risk of alienating Romney-Clinton voters.

More and more House Republicans are deciding they want no part of the 2018 elections: And that will help Democrats,” argues Andrew Prokop at Vox. Prokop explains, “Last week, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) all announced they would retire from Congress rather than run for reelection. This makes 12 House Republicans and two senators who are calling it quits, not counting several more who are stepping down to run for another political office…So far, that number of GOP retirements isn’t outside the historical norm. But reports have suggested that this is just the start, and that several more Republican House members — perhaps many more — will also soon announce they’ll head for the exits. And revealingly, only two House Democrats and zero Democratic senators have so far made the same choice. That’s a dramatic discrepancy.”

“…The principal engine of the Democratic sweep was a suburban tsunami in white-collar communities in Northern Virginia, Northern New Jersey, and even the suburbs of Seattle, where Democrats convincingly captured a state Senate seat that flipped control of that chamber to themt…A suburban recoil from Trump in places like New Jersey; the Philadelphia suburbs in Pennsylvania; and Orange County, California, can propel Democrats to the brink of a U.S. House majority: Eighteen of the 23 House Republicans holding seats that Clinton carried in 2016 represent districts with more white college graduates than the national average. And Republicans hold another 30 House seats with higher-than-average numbers of white college graduates where Clinton improved over Obama’s showing in 2012. Tuesday’s blowout is also likely to encourage more retirements among House Republicans in white-collar districts, increasing Democratic opportunity. Still, relying only on white-collar places would leave Democrats very little margin for error.” — from Ronald Brownstein’s “Democrats’ Narrow Path to Winning the House: The party’s suburban sweep in Virginia and New Jersey offers one template for 2018. But Democrats will have little room for error if they don’t expand their coalition.” at The Atlantic.

Following up on the suggestion of one of his readers, New York Times economist/Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman suggests the Republican Tax bill “be renamed the Leona Helmsley Act, after the New York hotelier convicted of tax evasion, who famously declared that “only the little people pay taxes.”…That, after all, is the main thrust of the bill. It hugely favors the wealthy over the middle class, which is pretty much always true of Republican proposals. But it’s not just about favoring high incomes: It also systematically favors people who live off their assets, especially inherited wealth, over the little people — that is, poor shlubs who actually have to work for a living.”

Political Strategy Notes

“Make no mistake: The results Tuesday are fully consistent with a so-called wave election, like the ones that brought Democrats to power in the House in 2006 and back out in 2010,” writes Nate Cohn at The Upshot. “All of the conditions for a 2018 wave are in place. The president’s approval rating is stuck in the mid-to-high 30s. The Democrats hold nearly a double-digit lead on the generic congressional ballot. The president’s party nearly always struggles in midterm elections.”

In his Plum Line post, “After massive rejection of Trumpism, Democrats expand offensive to take back House,” Greg Sargent reports that “House Democratic strategists, convinced that Tuesday’s results represent a massive voter uprising against Trumpism that will continue through next year, are adding nearly a dozen GOP districts to their list of 2018 takeover targets, in an effort to expand the map to keep pace with the rapid deterioration of the GOP’s political fortunes.” Sargent lists the congrersssional distrixts, which includes Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat (WI-1)and adds “By putting these districts on its target list, the DCCC isn’t necessarily saying it will heavily invest in these races yet. The committee will actively recruit in them and lend staff, research, analytical and communications support to candidates in them and consider them for future expenditures.”

Matthew Yglesias explains at Vox why “Democrats ought to invest in Doug Jones’s campaign against Roy Moore” for the U.S. Senate seat: “…The party needs to show that it stands for something and will fight for it even on unfavorable terrain. Moore’s blatant support for unconstitutional religious discrimination, overt hostility to the rule of law, and backing for a grossly regressive tax scheme violates core principles, and Democrats ought to be seen as fighting back against this vision everywhere…If a real race is joined, then Republicans nationally will of course do their part to support Moore, and in doing so, they will help further discredit themselves. Letting Moore run without meaningful opposition lets Republicans help themselves to his Senate seat without getting his stink on themselves — which would be a mistake.”

At New York Magazine Ed Kilgore writes of the child predator allegations against Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore and the GOP calls for him to quit the campaign that “this could well be a five-alarm political fire for the GOP in one of its strongholds. And it opens up the first realistic path for Democrats to secure control of the Senate by the end of 2018…Moore was already more vulnerable than Republicans usually are in Alabama statewide races. The current RealClearPolitics polling average gives him only a six-point lead over Democrat Doug Jones. If the new allegations aren’t dispelled very quickly, Moore could be in enough trouble to convince Democrats to make a major investment in Jones, and then anything could happen.”

Clare Malone and Harry Enten note at fivethirtyeight.com that “Moore’s name will appear on the ballot — it’s too late to switch it out for the Dec. 12 election — but there’s certainly still a chance for Republicans to launch a write-in campaign. Who’s at the top of the list? Strange. Murkowski, who famously won a write-in victory of her own, has already said that she’s in touch with Strange about this very thing. Should Moore stay in the race — as he has said he will — and Strange jumps in, the Republican vote could split. That would be good news for Jones.” Meanwhile, the Jones campaign would do well to connect with whoever mobilized the Democratic GOTV in northern Virginia.

Helaine Olen makes a salient point in her Plum Line post, “So there’s infighting among Democrats? That’s not necessarily a bad thing.” As she puts it, “For more than a year, there has been a load of hand-wringing about how the political divisions among Democrats and the all-too-public fighting over them is going to cost them at the polling booth…This is all so much insider baseball. Many of the people arguing about this stuff on a daily basis are Washington insiders and others steeped in the minutia of party politics. (It’s quite possible some are Russian bots.) None of this describes the vast majority of voters…What’s more, the number of people whose voting behavior might be influenced by this infighting is likely infinitesimal. The typical voter gives less priority to the party’s long-term agenda, and more to protecting what he or she has in the present, and making at least some progress for the future…So it probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to discover that Democrats were angrier at Trump than at one another, and prioritized accordingly. Who would have thought it?” So much for the media’s tired “Dems in Disarray” cliche.

Democrats, Republicans, take note: A new era has begun” by E, J, Dionne, Jr. provides a call to arms for progressives: “Tuesday’s Democratic sweep obliterated a series of outdated story lines in American politics and opened a new era. Forget those repetitious tales about some piece of President Trump’s base still sticking with him. It’s now clear, from Virginia and New Jersey to Washington state, Georgia, New York, Connecticut and Maine, that the energy Trump has unleashed among those who loathe him has the potential to realign the country….A brief memo to Democrats: You’d be fools to descend into sectarian infighting between your moderate and progressive wings. The results on Tuesday showed that voters across a broad spectrum backed candidates of various ideological hues to demand a new political direction. Your first job is to rally what we now know is an American majority that sees Trump’s presidency as a disaster for our nation.”

In their post-mortem, “Democratic Domination in the Old Dominion,” VA politics wonks Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, write, “…The big shock to us, and to anyone who is honest about their pre-election expectations, was the Democrats winning what could be a 50-50 tie in the Virginia House of Delegates. Democrats went into the election at a 66-34 deficit in the House, and while they were expected to win seats, the low double digits seemed like the absolute max. Instead they are on track to net 15 or more seats, with a chance of getting to a 50-50 split or even taking a slim majority (the canvass is ongoing and recounts loom in a few seats)…Virginia Democrats were able to make huge gains in the state House of Delegates by effectively winning only Clinton-won seats (they only won a single Trump-won seat, and it was a marginal one at that). Democrats cannot get to a House of Representatives majority exclusively through Clinton-won seats. They need to net 24 seats next year to win the House, and there are only 23 Republicans in Clinton-won seats. It’s also impractical to think Democrats could flip all 23 of these seats: Many of them are held by skilled incumbents. So Democrats will need to win some Trump-won territory to capture the House.”

But the award for best sentence about the Democratic landslide in Virginia goes to Harold Meyerson, executive editor of The American Prospect, who writes, “After the Third Battle of Bull Run, Manassas will now be represented in Richmond by one transgender delegate and one socialist delegate.”  Meyerson explains, further: “Not only did Northam pile up huge margins in Northern Virginia’s suburbs, but that’s also where the Democrats made most of their House of Delegates pick-ups. The most prominent of these was the victory of Danica Roem, who will become Virginia’s first transgender legislator, having defeated longtime GOP delegate and self-professed homophobe Robert Marshall. But no less unlikely was the victory of Democrat Lee Carter, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, in the district adjoining Roem’s.” Such are the consequences of Trumpisma in 2017.

Some Telling Numbers from the VA Exit Polls

Notable statistical nuggets from “Exit poll results: How different groups of Virginians voted” at The Washington Post:

Gender – Men favored Republican Ed Gillespie by a two-point margin, smaller than Trump’s nine-point edge in 2016. But Democrat Ralph Northam won women voters by 22 points, larger than Clinton’s 17-point advantage last year.

Race – Northam got 8 of 10 nonwhite voters, while Gillespie received support from less than 2 in 10 among this group. “African Americans have made up just under one-fifth of Virginia’s electorate, and a surge in black voting has been decisive in recent statewide elections.”

Age – Northam won 47 percent of those age 65+, 2 percent better than Clinton and 69 percent of 18-29 year-old voters, 15 percent more than Clinton.

Education – Six in 10 college graduates supported Northam according to exit polls, up from the 55 percent who supported Clinton in 2016.

White Working-Class – Northam improved slightly with his 26 percent share of white non-college voters, compared to 24 percent for Clinton last year. But he won 32 percent of white non-college women, compard to Clinton’s 29 percent. Northam won 22 percent of white non-college men, compared to Clinton’s 19 percent.”

Party Identification – Northam won 47 percent of self-described “Independents,” compared to Clinton’s 43 percent.

Ideology – 64 percent of self-described “Moderates” voted for Northam, compared to Clinton’s 58 percent. But he won only 9 percent of “Conservatives,” compared to Clinton’s 12 percent.

Marital Status – Northam won 77 percent of single women, compared to Clinton’s 61 percent.

In addition to the exit pollingReal Clear Politics reports that Quinippiac’s November poll came closest to the actual vote in Virginia, with a 9 point edge for Northam, who won by 8.6 percent. Rasmussen did the worst of major pollsters in November, with a 45 percent tie.

Political Strategy Notes

“The campaign for Virginia governor has divided voters along demographic lines highly reminiscent of last November’s presidential election, according to a New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll on Sunday, and the Democrat, Ralph Northam, holds a modest three-point lead over the Republican, Ed Gillespie, 43 percent to 40 percent,” reports Nate Cohn at The Upshot. “White voters without a college degree backed Mr. Gillespie by a 40-point margin in the poll, 63 percent to 23 percent, while nonwhite voters backed Mr. Northam by a similar margin, 65 to 17. Mr. Northam holds roughly a 10-point lead among college-educated white voters, enough to give him the edge statewide…The Democratic strength among well-educated voters — and the robust Democratic turnout in the primary for this race — gives the party more strength among high-turnout voters than has been the case in recent elections.”

Ball Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, two of the top experts on Virginia politics, address “Signs and Portents” regarding Tuesday’s elections and offer this assessment of recent polling in VA: “Polls in the commonwealth have been all over the place. While most show a Northam lead, the spread is huge, ranging from a Hampton University poll showing Gillespie up eight points to a Quinnipiac University poll showing Northam up 17. If anything, one cannot accuse the pollsters of “herding” together at the end: There are going to be at least some pollsters who finish far from the eventual margin. Steve Shepard of Politico has noticed that many pollsters surveying Virginia have used polls based on calling people on voter lists, as opposed to random digit dialing calling a larger universe of people. The voter list polls, which mimic the techniques used by campaigns, find a narrower range of horse race predictions, from Gillespie by one to Northam by seven. That’s roughly the range of the internal campaign polls we’ve heard about throughout the race…The RealClearPolitics average puts Northam’s lead at about 3.5 points — not big enough to consider him more than a modest favorite, and only then because the small polling lead may be reinforced by the generic advantages any Democrat might have in this race…”

For those who will be looking for clues about Democratic prospects in next year’s midterm elections, Paul Kane has a tip in his article “Virginia’s election serves as a road map for 2018 congressional races” at PowerPost: “If [GOP gubernatorial nominee] Gillespie posts, for instance, a better-than-expected margin in the district of Rep. Barbara Comstock (R), that will reinforce such a position and lead to many more ads attacking “sanctuary cities” next summer and fall…If [Democratic nominess] Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam wins the district by a substantial margin, Democrats will feel much better. Comstock’s is one of 23 Republican-held districts that favored Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election. There are an additional 13 GOP-held seats in districts that previously voted for Obama but did not favor Clinton, and 14 more where either Obama or Clinton received at least 48 percent of the vote.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains the stakes in tommorrow’s election for Governor of Virginia: “A Northam victory would send a signal to the country that President Trump is a severe drag on the GOP, especially if it were combined with Democratic pickups in the legislature. This would bolster the forces trying to contain Trump’s abuses and give heart to those doing the organizing work against him at the grass roots…It would tell Republicans in Congress that coddling and imitating Trump carry a high cost while strengthening Democratic efforts to recruit strong candidates for the 2018 midterms…A win by Gillespie would convey exactly the opposite message. It would ratify the Republican candidate’s vile and dishonest campaign tying Northam to felons and criminal gangs. This, in turn, would lead to more ugly racial and anti-immigrant appeals by GOP candidates next year. The party would decide that playing around with a few of Trump’s more hateful themes was the way to go…Gillespie decided he could win only by injecting Trump’s poison into his campaign. The antidote to noxious politics of this sort is to defeat it.”

Ed Kilgore underscores the pivotal importance of turnout in Virginia tomorrow: “Turnout could well be the deciding factor. While turnout among African-American voters in Virginia does not fall off as much in non-presidential races as it has done in many other states, the white percentage of the smaller off-year electorate is typically higher: 72 percent in 2013, and 78 percent in 2009, as opposed to 67 percent in 2016.”

The choice Alabama voters face in the upcoming (Dec. 12th) special election for U.S. Senator couldn’t be more clear, as Sean Sullivan explains in his update, “Doug Jones’s tricky two-step in deep-red Alabama: Exciting Democrats and winning over Republicans, too” at PowerPost: “In an unexpectedly competitive Senate race that both national parties are watching closely, [Democratic nominee Doug] Jones is trying to pull off a challenging and at times conflicting two-step. In a state where Democrats make up less than a third of the electorate, Jones must turn out as many of them as he can — and win over enough Republican voters, too…The result has been a strategy that includes criticizing Moore, casting himself as a pragmatist and making a direct appeal to the Democratic base by embracing some liberal positions — and touting his role prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four girls…The Dec. 12 special election for the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will mark the first Senate election of Trump’s term. At a moment of intensifying partisan rancor, it will test the public’s appetite in the heart of Trump country: Do the voters of Alabama want a bridge-builder in Congress, or a rabble-rouser in the president’s mold?”

Meanwhile, right-wing fake news media is posting headlines linking the Texas massacre shooter to Antifa, on the eve of Tuesday’s elections. But SNOPES says that’s bullshite.

Democrats should get some encouragement from Dante Chinni’s Wall St. Journal article, “Poll Shows Trump Sliding Among White Working-Class Voters,” which notes, “The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found signs that President Donald Trump’s support is eroding in important segments of his base: white Americans without a four-year college education and self-described white working-class voters…Mr. Trump won the non-degree group by more than 30 percentage points in the 2016 election, making it a core source of support. In the new poll, his job approval dropped 7 points in that group, falling to 51% in October from 58% in September. Among self-described white working-class respondents…”

Robert Draper’s New York Times Magazine article, “A Post-Obama Democratic Party in Search of Itself,” includes this assessment of Democratic prospects in 2018: “…Nine months into Trump’s presidency, the chances of the Democrats’ retaking the House are much better. Multiple polls in recent months have shown generic Democratic candidates beating generic Republicans by as many as 15 points — a spread that, in past elections, correlatedwith winning more than enough seats for the Democrats to gain a House majority next year. And if they do, the consequences will be enormous. A Democrat-controlled House in 2019 would very likely derail the Republican legislative agenda. It could also conceivably set the stage for impeachment proceedings against the president — a move that many Democrats have openly proposed for months now.”

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times op-ed “America is Not a ‘Center-Right Nation,'” New York Magazine Daily Intelligencer columnist Eric Levitz writes “…The Republican Party’s dominance has little to do with the American electorate’s “center-right” ideology. We know this for two simple reasons: First, the vast majority of that electorate has no ideology, whatsoever. And second, when polled on discrete policy questions, Americans consistently express majoritarian support for a left-of-center economic agenda…The political scientist Philip Converse first brought the first reality to national attention in 1964. In his classic essay “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics,” Mr. Converse demonstrated that only 17 percent of American voters could both correctly assign the terms “liberal” and “conservative” to the nation’s two major political parties and offer a sensible description of what those terms meant. The rest of the electorate did not understand politics as a fight over abstract theories of good government but rather a conflict between interest groups. Ordinary voters did not select the party that most faithfully represented their political philosophy — they picked the one that appeared to best represent their people, a group they might define with reference to class, region, religion, race or partisanship itself…while it’s true that fewer Americans self-identify as liberal than as moderate or conservative, this tells us almost nothing about voters’ policy views. “Moderates” do not actually display a preference for “centrist” positions, but merely for ideologically inconsistent ones.”

Levitz goes on to document strongly liberal public preferences for a range of policies and notes, “When we look past ideological self-identification to polling on discrete public policy questions, America appears to be far more center-left than center-right. In a recent analysis of Democracy Fund Voter Study Group survey data, the political scientist Lee Drutman found that 73.5 percent of the 2016 electorate espoused broadly left-of-center views on economic policy…Most voters cast their ballots on the basis of identity, not policy. And America’s rapidly changing demographics — and the right’s steadfast efforts to inflame and exploit anxieties about those changes — have made racial identity increasingly salient to white voters, particularly rural ones…Democrats have all kinds of ways of addressing this problem. One would be to cultivate the class identity of white voters by embracing populist rhetoric that paints “the billionaire class” as an out-group they can define themselves against. Another would be to invest more resources into registering nonwhite voters.”

Regarding the Mueller probe, “Statements from top Democratic officials in Washington suggested the party line is, at the highest levels, focused on putting the process ahead of the politics — to reinforce the guardrails rather than try to map out the road ahead….Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned against any kind of move by the administration to interfere with Mueller’s work. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, also urged bipartisan action in the event Trump moved to pardon himself or “any of his associates…the track record for political parties seen to be pushing for the removal of an elected leader for partisan reasons, both in this country and abroad, is not a good one. Republicans paid for their overreach in impeaching President Bill Clinton in late 1998. — From Gregory Krieg’s CNN Politics post, “Democrats’ Mueller strategy: Stay out of the way.”

That seems to be the case for Dems at the state level as well. At The Daily 202, James Hohman explores why “Ohio Democrats say talking about Mueller’s probe is not the way to win in 2018,” and notes that “While Washington elites are fixated on Robert Mueller, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party is doing everything he can to prevent his activists and candidates from becoming distracted by the special counsel and his next moves….“Let me just put it this way: We don’t spend a lot of time around here talking about Vladimir Putin and James Comey,” David Pepper said in an interview here Sunday. “I’m as frustrated as anyone by what Comey did and that Putin interfered, and Congress should get to the bottom of that, but if that’s what we talk about … we will lose again…My attitude is let’s fix the things we can fix, and the way we really win is by getting a core message that appeals across all 88 counties,” Pepper said.” What is that message? In short: It’s still the economy, stupid. Democrats feel like they can both galvanize their own base and win over people who voted for Barack Obama but defected to Donald Trump by prosecuting the case that the president has not delivered on his populist promises.”

What does the public think about the GOP tax proposals so far? Ed Kilgore has some polling data in his column at New York Magazine: “At this early point, the whole bill has some image problems, with the corporate tax cuts being a particularly hard sell. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey shows that only 25 percent of respondents think “Trump’s tax plan” is a “good idea,” with 35 percent adjudging it as a “bad idea,” and the rest undecided. A Morning Consult poll offers better overall numbers for the tax bill (48 percent supporting, 37 percent opposing), but shows only 39 percent favoring a corporate tax rate cut (with 41 percent opposing). And a CBS News poll indicates that a firm majority of voters favor a tax increase for “large corporations.”…It’s worth noting that just about all the big corporate priorities in this legislation are treated with suspicion, if not hostility, by the general public, even in the relatively upbeat Morning Consult assessment. Only 29 percent support a move to a territorial system for taxation of overseas profits, and a lukewarm 38 percent favor the ability to immediately write off business investment costs.

Gregory S. Schneider explains why “For the Democrat in the Va. governor’s race, victory may hinge on black voters,” and observes “African Americans make up about 20 percent of Virginia’s electorate, and a surge in black voting has been decisive in recent statewide elections. Democratic candidates were the beneficiaries, tilting what had been a reliably red state into full swing status…But that wave shows signs of ebbing, and some argue that the Democratic ticket led by gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam hasn’t done enough to energize black voters and ensure a big turnout against Republican Ed Gillespie…African Americans turned out to vote in the 2013 governor’s race at roughly the same rate as Virginians overall and made the difference for Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a narrow win. This year, African Americans are somewhat less likely than whites to say they are certain to vote or are following the race closely, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Tuesday. A new Post-Schar School poll finds Northam leading Gillespie 89 percent to 8 percent among black likely voters, almost identical to McAuliffe’s margin of 90 percent to 8 percent four years ago.” Among the criticism of Democratic leadership’s campaign in support of nominee Ralph Northam, Schneider writes that, while Dems have been investing in Black voter turnout in Virginia and President Obama  and other African American leaders have campaigned for Northam, “Democrats have been curiously low-key in pointing out that Fairfax, the nominee for lieutenant governor, would be the first African American elected statewide since Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.”

David Weigel’s PowerPost article “Democrats will lose unless they turn ‘rigged’ message back on Trump” cites a key concern foer Dems, looking toward the midterm elections: “Warning of a “weakening Democratic brand,” pollsters working for a progressive nonprofit are encouraging the minority party to run on a clear, populist platform in 2018 — or risk an election where voters don’t see them as alternatives to the Trump administration…“Trump is hated, but he is not collapsing and is stable on many parts of his identity and job performance,” pollsters Stan Greenberg and Nancy Zdunkewicz wrote in a polling memo prepared for Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a nonprofit organization. “Democrats must make the main choice in this election about how the Republicans in Congress have gone back on their promises on health care and protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”..The poll results, which were provided to The Washington Post on Wednesday night, revisit a pool of voters from the “rising American electorate” — young, diverse and less prone to voting — that was first studied in June. Since the summer, despite President Trump’s struggles, those voters told the pollsters that they’d become a bit less inclined to vote for Democrats in 2018. A 31-point Democratic margin shrank to a 21-point margin.”

Martin Longman’s Washington Monthly post, “Evidence in Jon Ossoff Election Is Destroyed” notes that “Georgia’s election system was sitting insecure on the internet for months and was easily accessible by hackers. The problem was discovered ahead of time and the state was taken to court in an effort to prevent them from using the unprotected system for the special election between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff.  But the election was held anyway and now we’ll never know if the results were legitimate.” Now that it has been revealed that computer servers were wiped clean, including back-up servers, at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system, there appears to be little hope that any theft of votes can be detected. Longman argues that “a well-designed hack would not be detectable even if all this information had been preserved and turned over for forensic analysis. The fact that all the evidence was deliberately destroyed right before it was going to be requested by a federal court is more of an acknowledgment of guilt than a necessary step in this kind of conspiracy.”

At Ars Technica, David Kravetz notes a new federal initiative to curb vote hacking: “This summer, DefCon’s “Voting Machine Hacking Village” turned up a host of US election vulnerabilities (PDF). Now, imagine a more mainstream national hacking event backed by the Department of Homeland Security that has the same goal: to discover weaknesses in voting machines used by states for local and national elections…That might just become a reality if federal legislation (PDF) unveiled Tuesday becomes law. The proposal comes with a safe harbor provision to exempt participants from federal hacking laws. Several federal exemptions for ethical hacking that paved the way for the DefCon hacking village expire next year…The bipartisan “Securing America’s Voting Equipment Act” also would provide election funding to the states and would designate voting systems as critical infrastructure—a designation that would open up communication channels between the federal government and the states to share classified threat information…”Until we set up a stronger set of protections for our election systems and take the necessary steps to prevent future foreign influence campaigns, our nation’s democratic institutions will remain vulnerable,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told reporters.”

Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics, Teddy Davis and Abigail Crutchfield of “Biblio,” CNN’s book review program, conduct an illuminating interview with Joan Williams, author of “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.” Williams share several revealing insights, including this tip: “Biblio: The media tends to treat every other Trump tweet as a major controversy. What part of his presidency do you think the white working class is actually focused on? What are they going to judge him on? Williams: A lot of them voted with their middle finger. Trump had very high unlikability, but he has a lot of appeal, because he drives the elites nuts. Just constantly attacking Trump threatens to marry his base to him even more because if he’s driving the elites that nuts, we love him. This obsession with Trump’s tweets allows him to control the conversation, and that is not working for us. We need to be having a sustained discussion about whether he’s giving Americans the jobs he’s promised.”

Williams also has a knack for pinpointing the kind of language Dems should be using in discussing controversial social issues, as she shares in this exchange: “Biblio: Your book ends with advice for Democrats about how to talk about hot-button issues. On abortion, you recommend describing the Democratic position as “pro-child, pro-choice, pro-family” versus a more “egocentric” message about “my body, my choice.” For Democrats, is this just a communications problem? Or does there need to be a policy shift? Williams: I think both are right. One of the reasons Republicans have been so incredibly successful at connecting with white working-class people is racism, that’s true. But another reason is they have made every issue into a “jobs issue.” Environmentalism they made into a jobs issue. Immigration, they made it into a jobs issue. You name it, they made it into a jobs issue.”

WaPo’s John Wagner and Scott Clement report that a The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll conducted in September indicates thatr “Democrats have a clear advantage in public trust, with 56 percent of Americans saying they think the party generally represents their political views, compared with 43 percent of Americans saying the Republican Party does the same. A 55 percent majority says the Republican Party mainly opposes their views, and 60 percent say the same of Trump. The poll “finds that 7 in 10 Americans view the Trump administration as dysfunctional,” but “even more Americans, 8 in 10, say Congress is dysfunctional…About three-quarters of Democrats blame Trump “a lot” for causing dysfunction, as do more than half of political independents. But about 1 in 7 Republicans say Trump deserves “a lot” of blame.” Further, “Underscoring the partisan antipathy toward Trump, two-thirds of Democrats in the poll say they do not believe his election was legitimate — a view held by 9 percent of Republicans. Overall, 42 percent of Americans say Trump’s election was not legitimate. By comparison, 14 percent say former president Barack Obama’s 2008 election was not legitimate.

Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides some succinct talking points for Democrats regarding the Republicans’ latest tax hustle, and he also spotlights a promising alternative measure Democrats should support that would clearly resonate with middle class voters: “…Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have introduced a bill that would dramatically expand the child tax credit to $3,600 a year per child for those age 0 to 5, and $3,000 a year for those 6 to 18. To direct the most assistance to the poor and the less affluent parts of the middle class, the credit begins gradually to phase out for incomes of single parents at $75,000 a year and married couples at $110,000…The plan, Matthews writes, would cut child poverty in the country almost in half, from 16.1 to 8.9 percent. The cost: roughly $1 trillion over a decade, as against the $1.5 trillion Republicans claim would be the net price of their tax cuts after they are done shuffling the tax code around.”

A half-hour teach-in on partisan gerrymandering from the Princeton Election Consortium:

According to The Associated Press, “A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed…The server’s data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case that was later obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe…The lawsuit, filed July 3 by a diverse group of election reform advocates, aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily criticized election technology…Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, mostly Georgia voters, want to scrap the state’s 15-year-old vote-management system — particularly its 27,000 AccuVote touchscreen voting machines, hackable devices that don’t use paper ballots or keep hardcopy proof of voter intent. The plaintiffs were counting on an independent security review of the Kennesaw server, which held elections staging data for counties, to demonstrate the system’s unreliability…Wiping the server “forestalls any forensic investigation at all,” said Richard DeMillo, a Georgia Tech computer scientist following the case. “People who have nothing to hide don’t behave this way.” The poll raises questions about the outcome of the GA-6 run-off election on June 20,in  which Jon Ossoff lost to Clare Handel by a margin of 51.8 to 48.3 percent.

In his New York Times op-ed, “The Silence of the Democrats.” Michael Tomasky, editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and columnist for The Daily Beast, writes “The Democrats are undergoing a historic transformation, from being the party that embraced neoliberalism in the early 1990s to one that is rejecting that centrist posture and moving left. There’s plenty about this to cheer — the neoliberal Democratic Party didn’t do nearly enough to try to arrest growing income inequality, among other shortcomings…There will be necessary internecine fights, and they boil down to loyalty tests on particular positions demanded by the vanguard…Forget about who’s right and wrong in these debates. Time will sort that out. My point is that they tend to consume a party experiencing a shift. The Democratic Party, because it is an amalgam of interest groups in a way the Republican Party is not, has always had a tendency to elevate the candidate who can check the most boxes…When the party’s leaders tussle over this or that policy, they also need to take a step back, to see the direction the country — the West itself — is heading, and take a stand on it.”

David Weigel reports at PowerPost that “The Democratic National Committee on Friday rejected a resolution that would have urged independents such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to “register or affiliate with the Democratic Party” next year, one of several small victories for the party’s left wing.” It was a horrible idea. Not only would it piss off a large constituency; it would also brand the Democrats as an intolerant, repressive, shrinking tent party. As James Zogby, the outgoing chairman of the DNC’s resolutions committee, put it, such a requirement  “puts salt in a wound that we need to be closing right now…”

Here’s the Wikipedia list of the “most listened to radio programs in the U.S. according to weekly cumulative listenership” —  which indicates that Democrats are getting creamed on talk radio daily and nation-wide by GOP-friendly talk shows, especially during drive time:

Program Format Network Broadcast Time Weekly listeners (in millions)

Morning Edition Newsmagazine NPR AM Drive 14.6
All Things Considered Newsmagazine NPR PM Drive 14.4
The Rush Limbaugh Show Conservative talk Premiere Midday 14
The Sean Hannity Show Conservative talk Premiere PM Drive 13.5
The Dave Ramsey Show Financial talk Self-syndicated Midday 13+
The Savage Nation Conservative talk Westwood One East Coast PM Drive 11
The Glenn Beck Program Conservative talk Premiere East Coast AM Drive 10.5
The Mark Levin Show Conservative talk Westwood One West Coast PM Drive 10
Coast to Coast AM Alternative reality talk Premiere Overnights 9
Marketplace Financial news APM PM Drive 8.7
Delilah Adult contemporary music Premiere Evenings <8
The Thom Hartmann Program Progressive talk Westwood One Midday 6.25
The Alex Jones Show Alt-right/conspiracy Self-syndicated Midday 5.9
Fresh Air Newsmagazine/talk NPR Midday 4.5
A Prairie Home Companion Variety show APM Weekends 3.5
Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Panel game show NPR Weekends 3.2
Country Music Greats Radio Show Classic country music Syndication Networks, Inc. Twice weekly 3.2
The Hugh Hewitt Show Conservative talk Salem East Coast AM Drive 2.25+
The Lia Show Country music Westwood One Evenings 2+
The Kim Komando Show Digital lifestyle issues WestStar (self-syndicated) Weekends 2.5+

Do Democratic media mavens have a strategy for addressing this imbalance, or do they just sigh and shrug it off?

Political Strategy Notes

Here’s hoping the usually-on-target Nate Cohn proves wrong in his Upshot post claiming that “Democrats Lack Strong Challengers for Some Vulnerable G.O.P. House Seats,” despite the record number of Democratic candidates already in motion. As Cohn notes, “Over all, there are 11 districts (out of the 50 districts that ought to be most competitive, by our estimates) where the Democrats don’t have a candidate who raised $100,000.’ Cohn’s argument comes down to the fact that too many current Democratic candidates are running in “well-educated areas” (read upper-middle-class), and too few in working-class, potentially swing districts. Further, “The enthusiasm among well-educated Democrats and the relative lack of success recruiting established politicians in working-class areas has occasionally led to an odd mismatch: affluent, liberal types running in working-class districts…The Democrats’ path to a House majority is much more challenging than it was in 2006, or than it was for the Republicans in 2010. They can’t afford to leave many districts like New York’s 24th or California’s 21st off the board.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore warns against Dems getting overconfident about Republican troubles translating into a Democratic victory in next year’s midterm elections: “…Look closely at what is happening in the competitive off-year gubernatorial election in Virginia, a state with a large African-American population and a growing Latino presence as well. Despite a pro-Democratic trend in presidential elections (Virginia has now gone Democratic in three consecutive presidential years, after going Republican ten straight times dating back to 1964), the party has suffered underwhelming election finishes in the last two non-presidential years…The potential Democratic vote in midterms probably isn’t going to show up at the polls just because the Donkey Party points at Donald Trump and says Boo!

The Atlantic’s ace Ronald Brownstein explores some of the reasons “Why the Virginia Governor’s Race Could Echo Across the Country.” Among Brownstein’s insights: “The Virginia gubernatorial contest has unexpectedly become a test case of the explosive politics of race in the Donald Trump era. The outcome could tug the Republican Party much further toward Trump-style racial provocation and polarization next year. Or it could warn the GOP that such positioning carries too high a political price among white swing voters and minorities…If minorities in Virginia fail to vote in higher numbers than usual, even after Gillespie’s racial provocations, more Republicans will undoubtedly feel emboldened to follow him down that road. Already, in New Jersey, GOP gubernatorial nominee Kim Guadagno, who’s been trailing Democrat Phil Murphy badly, is closing her campaign by unleashing her own attacks on sanctuary cities and warning of “illegal aliens” committing violent crimes. “The stakes are very high,” Torres said. “If they win in Virginia, it’s going to be very scary all around the nation.”

James Hohman of the Daily 202 says the GOP’s growing internal divisions ain’t all about Trump, despite Sens. Corker’s and Flake’s recent comments. “In fact, there are profound ideological differences within the Republican coalition that have become much more pronounced in the Trump era. Flake’s decision to not seek another term was as much about his refusal to abandon his core principles as his concern over Trump’s fitness for office.” Hohman cites a pew Reseach poll that identifies seven different issues that divide Republicans: taxes; health care, immigration; role of government; America’s role in the world; climate change; and same-sex marriage.”

“If the Republican Party under Donald Trump has no room for independent-minded conservatives, and if, in the coming years, senators like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are replaced by fringe conservatives handpicked because of their blind loyalty to this president,” writes Democratic Sen. Chris Coons in a New York Times op-ed, “it will be too late for responsible conservatives to salvage the party they’ve built over generations…As for Democrats, there should be no sense of satisfaction in what is happening to the Republican Party. The balance of two functioning political parties has been essential to our country’s success. In fact, we should take this moment to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask: How much do our own party’s internal battles resemble the fight happening within the Republican Party? As Democrats call for independence and pragmatism from Republicans, we should be asking ourselves how tolerant we are of dissent within our own party and how much we are really willing to reach across the aisle.”

In his FiveThirtyEight post, “How Does Jeff Flake’s Retirement Change The Arizona Senate Race?,” Harry Enten argues that Democrats still have a good chance to win the U.S. senate seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, who just quit with a searing attack on his party’s leader. “…it won’t be easy for Republicans to hold the Arizona Senate seat. More Arizonans dislike Trump than like him, and midterm elections are almost always tough on the president’s party. Sinema, meanwhile, is probably the strongest candidate Democrats could have hoped for.”

Thomas B. Edsall brings some statistical clarity to the present political moment in his NYT column, “The Party of Lincoln is Now the Party of Trump,” noting, “Trump’s grip on his party remains firm. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asked Republican voters: “Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?” The answer: Trump 58, the Republican Party 38…Trump’s overall favorability ratings may be terrible (39 percent positive to 56 negative), according to a RealClearPolitics average of the eight most recent surveys, but the generic Democratic advantage is a relatively modest 9.2 percentage points. In an October 15-16 Economist/YouGov survey, Democratic voters said they planned to vote for Democratic House candidates 88-3 and Republicans said they would vote for Republican House candidates 86-3. Independents favored Republican candidates 27-22. These are not the kind of numbers Democrats need to win control of the House or Senate.”

A voter turnout tip from reporter Bill Bradley, writing at Next City: “…It’s about canvassing and knocking down the right doors. Campaigns, cities and organizations like Make the Road have to work to target everyone — particularly those without a voice. And apparently it’s about about geting the right people to knock on those right doors:It’s less about mass canvassing and more about neighborhood-by-neighborhood efforts,” writes Bradley. “We specialize in engaging people in immigrant and Latino communities,” [Daniel] Altschuler [managing director of Make the Road Action, an organization that works with working-class Latino communities] says. “And I think where we’ve been most effective is that the folks that are knocking on people’s doors are members from those communities who speak the language of those communities and are able to engage in culturally competent ways.”…Altschuler says the approach has proven effective in getting out the vote. And it’s something he has found, through his work at Make the Road, can be replicated in communities across the country.”

CNN Politics analyst Gregory Krieg focuses on the action in “9 Democratic primaries to watch in 2018.” Kreig spotlights some interesting challengers who could help revitalize the Democratic Party. The races he notes include: Feinstein’s senate seat; the Illinois, Oklahoma, New York, Maryland and Iowa governorships; Illinois 3rd congressional district; the Rhode Island Lieutenant Governorship; and Florida’s 7th congressional district.

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

Whatever else you read today, check out Ari Berman’s Mother Jones article, “Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump.” As Berman writes, “A post-election study by Priorities USA, a Democratic super-PAC that supported Clinton, found that in 2016, turnout decreased by 1.7 percent in the three states that adopted stricter voter ID laws but increased by 1.3 percent in states where ID laws did not change. Wisconsin’s turnout dropped 3.3 percent. If Wisconsin had seen the same turnout increase as states whose laws stayed the same, “we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016,” the study said. These “lost voters”—those who voted in 2012 and 2014 but not 2016—”skewed more African American and more Democrat” than the overall voting population…After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County were surveyed about why they didn’t cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote. According to the study’s author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee—and as many as 45,000 statewide—were deterred from voting by the ID law. “We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” he says…Its impact was particularly acute in Milwaukee, where nearly two-thirds of the state’s African Americans live, 37 percent of them below the poverty line. Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the nation, divided between low-income black areas and middle-class white ones.”

As for solutions to the problem, Berman quotes former Missouri Secretary of State and Founder of let America Vote Jason Kander, who points out that so far “it has been a politically consequence-free exercise for vote suppressors. That has to change.” Further, writes Berman, “Let America Vote plans to open field offices in Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Tennessee in 2018 and to focus on electing pro-voting-rights candidates for state legislature, secretary of state, and governor. The group has signed up more than 65,000 volunteers and placed more than 100 interns and staffers in Virginia, which has a strict voter ID law, for the 2017 gubernatorial and legislative elections, with a goal of contacting half a million voters. “We’re saying, ‘If you’re going to make it harder to vote, we’re going to make it a lot harder for you to get reelected,’” Kander says.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched its first national TV ad:

Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin notes “The GOP nose dive now shows up in individual races. The Cook Political Report tells us: “Based on recent developments in races and conversations with candidates and operatives on both sides of the aisle, many races have the potential to become more competitive. This week, we’re changing our ratings in 12 districts.” Spoiler alert: All are shifting away from Republicans. Cook now rates one GOP seat (retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Florida’s 27th Congressional District) as leaning to the Democrats, 12 GOP seats as toss-ups and 23 GOP seats as only “lean Republican.” Put differently, of the 45 competitive seats, 36 are held by the GOP. If it loses 24, Democrats win the House majority.”

“The reality is that if the GOP caucus in the House and Senate can remain intact, they can pass Trump’s tax cut for their wealthy donors without a single Democratic vote,” writes Dean Obeidallah at The Daily Beast. “But even with Senate GOP using the budget reconciliation process so they only need 50 votes to pass this, they are worried. That’s why Trump, along with Ivanka and Jared Kushner, are wining and diningDemocratic senators in Red States up for re-election like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp. But in reality, how many voters in West Virginia and North Dakota will be passionate about a massive tax cut for the 1 percent that offers only empty promises for the rest of us?!..The Democrats shouldn’t play ball with Trump on this—even if Trump offers incentives like fixing the ACA. Trump is a serial liar who can’t be trusted. But Democratic leaders need to do more than say no—they need to use every means available to define the Trump tax plan for what it really is: A massive tax cut for the GOP’s wealthy backers that offers the rest of us the promises of a proven liar…Yes, it will be challenging to stop this but so was defeating the GOP’s ACA repeal and yet we won there. And if we can win this battle, we are well on the way to winning the war.”

Thomas B. Edsall’s latest New York Times op-ed includes a range of insights from politial commentators about the reasons behind dyfunctional democracy, including this one by University of Michigan political scientist Ron Inglehart: “What makes the United States so distinctive? One reason may be that in recent years U.S. democracy has become appallingly dysfunctional. It suffers from 1) virtual paralysis at the top, as exemplified by the willingness of Congress to shut down the federal government, regardless of the damage to the country’s credit, after failing to get its way via normal procedures in a budget standoff with the White House; 2) massive increases in income inequality — greater than those found in any other established democracy, with most of the population’s real income declining during the past few decades despite substantial economic growth; and 3) the disproportionate and growing political influence of billionaires, as money plays a greater role in U.S. politics than in almost any other democracy…The economic stagnation and rising inequality of recent decades have led to increasing support for authoritarian, xenophobic political candidates, from Marine le Pen in France to Donald Trump in the United States.”

For an update on the debate among Democrats about whether or not to impeach Trump, read Graham Vyse’s New Republic article “The Impeachment Litmus Test Is Dividing Democrats,” in which he notes, ““An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history,” said Gerald Ford, then the House minority leader, in 1970. The Republican Party almost certainly won’t remove Trump from power before the midterm elections next fall, but Democrats are on firm ground calling for the GOP to do so. Scholars are building a case against Trump based on obstruction of justice, conflicts of interest, and corruption, but as Slate’s Jacob Weisberg wrote back in May, the constitutional phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” may well cover “a much wider range of presidential abuses.” Veteran Washington journalist Elizabeth Drew, author of a book on Watergate, made a similar point last week. “A president can be held accountable for actions that aren’t necessarily crimes. A crime might be an impeachable offense—but not all impeachable offenses are crimes,” she wrote at The Daily Beast. “Impeachment isn’t a process by which an established set of principles is enforced. There’s no tablet to be taken down from on high and followed; there’s no code of offenses for which a president can be charged. There are precedents, but they’re not binding, which is a good thing.”

At Talking Points Memo, Caitlin MacNeal reports that “A bipartisan group of governors on Wednesday night sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass legislation to stabilize Obamacare’s individual health market….“We urge Congress to quickly pass legislation to stabilize our private health insurance markets and make quality health insurance more available and affordable,” the governors wrote in the letter.The governors support the agreement reached by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to restore the subsidies to insurers cut off by the Trump administration this month. They called for the government to fund the cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments through 2019. The governors warned that nixing the CSR payments will raise premiums and cause insurers to leave the marketplace, citing a Congressional Budget Office report predicting a premium spike.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper provided an instructive lesson for his fellow journalists on how to respond when attacked by right-wing media types. As Mary Hui reports at The Washington Post, “CNN’s Jake Tapper and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly traded blows on Twitter late Wednesday afternoon, after O’Reilly taunted Tapper’s ratings for being “as low as you can go.”…Minutes after O’Reilly’s tweet, Tapper fired back at O’Reilly….“ ‘Low’ would be sexually harassing staffers and then getting fired for it — humiliated in front of the world,” he wrote…Now THAT would be low.”

‘Dems Need Wall St.’ Argument Oversimplified

When I first saw the headline of Douglas Schoen’s New York Times op-ed, “Why Democrats Need Wall Street,” I thought, well maybe this will stake out some needed middle ground in the debate about the proper role of Wall St. in Democratic politics. Instead, it’s closer to a call  for Wall St. domination of the Democratic Party.

In Schoen’s view, “Hillary Clinton’s lurch to the left probably cost her key Midwestern states that Barack Obama had won twice and led to the election of Donald Trump.” That will provoke derision from progressive Democrats, who believe that Clinton lost the Electoral College, not with a lurch to the left, but by failing to advocate populist economic reforms that could motivate a good turnout among the base and win over swing voters.

Schoen’s argument that Democrats failed to even connect with, much less motivate, small business entrepreneurs to support the Democratic Party makes better sense. Small business folks rarely applaud  Democratic ideas. Looking to the future, Democrats may gain some traction with small business by pushing for a public option that would relieve employers of the ever-worsening burden of providing job-linked health insurance.

Schoen makes a blunt argument for Democratic dependency on Wall St.:

Democrats should keep ties with Wall Street for several reasons. The first is an ugly fact of politics: money. Maintaining ties to Wall Street makes economic sense for Democrats and keeps their coffers full…In the 2016 election, the Center for Responsive Politics reports, employees and companies in the securities and investment industry donated more than $63 million to the Democratic Party.

He argues further, that “Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris as well as Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor — should not be dismissed simply because of their current or past ties to Wall Street.” As of this writing all are considered good possibilities to serve on the Democratic 2020 ticket.

“If voters really hated ties to Wall Street and financial elites,” writes Schoen, “Republicans would not enjoy such a commanding electoral position — or have elected a New York plutocrat president.” But that doesn’t discount the possibility that voters dislike “Wall St. ties and financial elites,” but are willing to subordinate such concerns, if they like something else about a candidate.

But Schoen takes a dubious leap  in stating:

Despite what the Democratic left says, America is a center-right, pro-capitalist nation. A January Gallup poll found that moderates and conservatives make up almost 70 percent of the country, while only 25 percent of voters identify as liberal. Even in May 2016, when Senator Sanders made redistribution a central part of his platform, Gallup found that only about 35 percent of Americans had a positive image of socialism, compared with 60 percent with a positive view of capitalism.

Cherry-picked polls about public views on “capitalism” and “socialism” are problematic, since the public has a broad array of definitions for each term. And rigid adherence to ‘isms’ of any sort is not a high priority with today’s voters, anyway. The assertion that “America is a “center-right” nation, based on polls showing 70 percent self-identify as “moderates and conservatives,” ignore the reality that “moderate” includes a wide range of views, including center-left opinions.

Schoen’s unbridled celebration of deregulation seems more characteristic of conservative Republicans than even centrist Democratic leaders: “The Democrats cannot be the party that supports only new, stifling regulations. Reducing regulation allows banks to employ capital and finance investment in our country’s future, making electric cars, renewable energy and internet connectivity across the globe a reality.” Most genuine moderates would agree that at least some regulations serve the public interest — and public safety.

Ditto for his opposition to the concept of a livable minimum wage. “Advocacy of a $15 minimum wage and further banking regulation does not constitute a positive, proactive agenda,” Schoen writes, calling it “an ineffective, negative and coercive economic message.”

Schoen comes to his globalist, neo-liberal perspective from the vantage point of a frozen-in-1990s-amber Clintonista. Clinton did enjoy a booming economy and a semblance of party unity that served Dems well —  for a while. Economists will long debate how much his better economic statistics came from good policy vs. good fortune.

There were also a lot of problems percolating during the globalist glory days of the Clinton Administration. As Charles Pierce notes in a 2010 Esquire post, dryly referrring to Clinton as “the Pericles of the Ozarks”:

…It was the Clinton years that produced a Democratic party content with half-measures and wishful thinking, attaching itself to trade policies that substituted the messianic buzzwords of globalism for, you know, actual jobs, abolishing the Glass-Steagall Act to great acclaim and even greater financial fraud, and generally refashioning itself as a home for people who really, really Liked Ike…This was fine when the economy was humming along, and we were not bogged down in two wars, and the financial system hadn’t nearly dissolved into a puddle. Now, it’s been so long since the Democratic party ran on a genuinely progressive platform that the president and his people can’t seem to put together a coherent campaign based on what they relentlessly assure us has been the most triumphant progressive presidency since LBJ. They don’t know how to run like that anymore, especially not the retreads from the Class of ’92…

Are Dems really stuck with a binary choice between full-blown 90s Clintonism and all-out democratic socialism?  Isn’t it at least conceivable that both government and the private sector can play a better role in creating a more livable society for everyone?

Most voters simply don’t fit neatly into rigid ‘ism’ boxes. Instead, they fill a wide spectrum between the two poles that can vary significantly from issue to issue. Candidates who avoid being ideologically pidgeonholed can win majority support of both Democrats and persuadable voters — provided they articulate an inclusive, hopeful and credible vision.