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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Drew: Why Dems May Not Need a Message

In her New Republic article, “Do Democrats Really Need a Message?, Elizabeth Drew explains “How a fixation on messaging could harm Democrats as they head into the 2018 midterms.”

“The lamentations on the part of numerous political observers that the Democrats lack “a message” are becoming more frequent with the advent of the midterm elections,” Drew writes. “But they don’t comport with reality, even though many Democrats also express the same worry.”

Drew argues that “message discipline isn’t particularly characteristic of the Democrats, as opposed to the Republicans, who are more homogeneous and hierarchical.” She cites the “ideological and regional differences within the Democratic Party, ranging from the very liberal left to centrists” and the recent example of the “split among the Senate Democrats over immigration strategy.” Further, adds Drew,

It’s a lot easier to convey party cohesion in a presidential election year, when there exist an actual head of the party and a platform. (An exception to this general point is Newt Gingrich’s poll-tested “Contract with America,” which served as a party doctrine for the House Republicans in 1994.) But even when the Democrats have a presidential candidate there are limits to their cohesion. Ours isn’t a parliamentary system where voting is largely done along party lines, as is the voting of the members once they’re elected. Our elections are more based on the individual candidates than on their party identity. Indeed a candidate’s biography could well be his or her platform—the message. It could be some kind of an outstanding record: heroic military service or athletic achievement or a famous prosecutorial career, and this can matter a lot more than party identity.

Drew argues that “one positive effect of the lack of a “message” is that it allows a candidate to define his or her own race and to come off as authentic rather than as a party tool,” which is a gift to Republicans, who “specialize in portraying  Democratic candidates as instruments of a party leader who can be stereotyped.”

Drew quotes Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), “one of the more authentic figures on Capitol Hill,” who says,

Messaging has become a crutch; it’s like a narcotic. You can bring in your pollster, you can strategize until you’re blue in the face; and you’re inauthentic. You’re placating the public rather than leading. I think the people know the difference…Once you get addicted to the drug, you put your polling ahead of your performance.

“He believes,” Drew writes, “that too often Democrats have walked away from a fight for fear of upsetting some important figure, or don’t want to take on a battle unless they’re sure that they’ll win it. Whitehouse believes that the message comes from taking action, from fighting the good fight, rather than sitting through hours of meetings, studying charts and graphs about the public’s views.”

Drew’s observations about authenticity of individual candidates being more important than some sort of group message makes sense for Democrats, who can leverage their greater message flexibility to win more elections, if they do so boldly and authentically, without straining to conform to a nonexistant group mind. Let the Republicans parrot their meme du jour, which has its advantages in steering media coverage of politics. But if Democratic candidates come off as less regimented than their adversaries and more ‘real,’ that could be an advantage in many races, particularly with voters who distrust rigid ideologues.

The Democratic party does have to “stand for something.” But that’s not the same thing as everyone being in synch on a particular message. Dems should coalesce around the idea that they are the party of working people of all races and give each of their candidates the latitude they need to affirm that image. When that is accomplished, Republican message discipline won’t make much difference.

Political Strategy Notes

A impressive Democratic candidate for Governor comes forward in Florida:

“Analyses by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence show that, with few exceptions, states with the strictest gun-control measures, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, have the lowest rates of gun deaths, while those with the most lax laws like Alabama, Alaska and Louisiana, have the highest…Avery W. Gardiner, a president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said that generally, blue states are, not surprisingly, more likely to regulate guns and require background checks and licensing. Conservative red states either lack gun-safety laws or fail to enforce the ones they have.” Ironically, however, the manufacturer of AR-15 rifles is headquartered in Connecticut.  — From “In Wake of Florida Massacre, Gun Control Advocates Look to Connecticut” by New York Times reporters Lisa W. Foderaro and Kristin Hussey.

“Slowly but surely, the considerable structural advantages — like incumbency, geography and gerrymandering — that give the Republicans a chance to survive a so-called wave election are fading, giving Democrats a clearer path to a House majority in November,” notes Nate Cohn at The Upshot. “The Republican advantage has probably dropped by about two percentage points since 2014, when Republicans won the party’s largest House majority since 1929…Since then, four court rulings have softened or even torn up Republican gerrymanders in four big states: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and most recently Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court struck down the congressional map last month…The decisions in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia have already cost the Republicans a net of three House seats while generally eroding their position elsewhere in those states, giving Democrats better opportunities in 2018…Upshot estimates indicate that Democrats would need to win the popular vote by 7.4 points — albeit with a healthy margin of error of plus or minus more than four points — to take the House. Today, most estimates put the generic congressional ballot very near that number. So far from the election, the fight for control remains a tossup.”

In his New York Times column, “Attacking the ‘Woke’ Black Vote,” Charles M. Blow writes of the special counsel’s indictment of 13 Russians and three companies for interfering in the 2016 elections, that,  “Referencing actual voter suppression, it says that “in or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate…Just before the election, a senior Trump campaign official told Bloomberg Businessweek, “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” in which Hillary Clinton’s “1996 suggestion that some African-American males are ‘super predators’ is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls — particularly in Florida.” This suppression may well have worked better against black people than other targets.”

In his article, “The kids are all Democrats,” David Faris provides a history lesson about the youth vote in presidential elections since the late 1960s: “…Despite the unpopular war in Vietnam and the swirling cultural revolution, Richard Nixon won under-30 voters in 1972. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter split young voters evenly in 1980, while Reagan and George H.W. Bush crushed it with the young in ’84 and ’88. Bill Clinton carried the youth vote in 1992 and 1996, but then George W. Bush tied Al Gore in 2000 with 18- to 24-year-olds and only barely lost the 25-29 bracket…Something remarkable began happening in 2004, though. That’s the year John Kerry carried the under-30 vote by 9 points. And the next three presidential elections saw Democrats demolishing their opponents with young people by 34, 23, and 19 points…But the data gets worse for Republicans the deeper you dig into it. In 2016 exit polling, for instance, 18- to 24-year-olds went more heavily for Hillary Clinton than their older millennial counterparts, suggesting that, if anything, the Republican position is falling apart with the tail end of the millennial generation.”

Eleanor Clift warns at The Daily Beast, “The Constitution requires that every person—not citizen—living in the United States must be counted every 10 years. Now, a Justice Department request to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census has put the once-in-a-decade count of the American people into the crosshairs of partisan politics…Questions normally undergo years of testing, but common sense says that adding one about citizenship status would have a chilling effect on participation that would lead to an undercount of immigrants and minorities, hurting blue states and urban areas—setting the stage for Republicans to re-draw still more favorable congressional districts…A poorly run census that significantly undercounted immigrants and minorities would be the ultimate in gerrymandering.”

Greg Sargent shares a salient insight at The Plum Line: “If you read through the coverage of the battle over the “dreamers,” you’ll come away with the impression that we are locked in a conventional Washington standoff, in which two opposing sides are each demanding concessions in exchange for making concessions of their own. If a compromise is to be reached, each side hopes to tug it as far in their direction as possible; if not, well, they just couldn’t find a way to meet in the middle, and in true Washington fashion, both sides will then play the “blame game.”…But treating this situation as a normal negotiation fundamentally obscures its profound asymmetry. One side is putting forth genuine good-faith compromise offers that would require concessions by both sides. The other just isn’t doing this at all — instead, they are demanding that they must be given everything they want, while spinning their demands as reasonable in a manner that is absolutely saturated with bad faith from top to bottom…The idea that the tradeoff Republicans want represents the middle-ground, mainstream position in this debate is absurd on its face: a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that only 17 percent of Americans favor cuts to legal immigration, while 81 percent favor legalizing the dreamers. “

“A number of surveys show that bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are popular among the general public,” argues Christopher Ingraham at Wonkblog. “A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that 68 percent of adults favor banning assault weapons, and 65 percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines…More strikingly, substantial numbers of gun owners supported the measures as well: 48 percent of gun owners in that poll said they would support a ban on assault style weapons, and 44 percent said they favored a ban on high-capacity magazines. A Quinnipiac poll conducted later in the year showed similar numbers.”

Political Strategy Notes

In his CNN Politics post, “Why Congress is hesitant to pass gun control, by the numbers,” Harry Enten writes: “Last year, Gallup asked Americans whether they would vote only for a candidate who shared their views on gun policy or whether it was one of many important factors they would consider before voting. Among gun owners, 30% said they could vote only for someone who shared their viewpoint. Among those who didn’t own guns, it was 20%. Not only that, but since 2000 the percentage of gun owners who said gun issues were key to their vote climbed by 17 points. It rose by just 10 points among those who didn’t own guns…Pew has made similar findings to Gallup. Gun owners are 9 points (21% to 12%) more likely to have contacted public officials about gun policy than those who don’t own guns. Americans who favor loosening gun laws have been 7 points (22% to 15%) more likely to contact public officials than those who favor stricter gun laws….Even if some Republicans were tempted to support stricter gun control, these numbers suggest that they might be pressured into voting against it because gun rights advocates are more likely to make their voices heard.”

Josh Voorhees wites at slate.com that “…There is major difference between an issue not being an automatic drag on your electoral prospects and actually being a boon to them. Saying gun control isn’t the losing issue it’s made out to be is not the same as saying it’s a winner. There are plenty of logical reasons for Democrats to fret. The majority of Americans may be in favor of small, specific actions like universal background checks or renewing the ban on assault weapons, but as Ramesh Ponnuru argued persuasively in the National Review in November after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, one reason the passion for those very actions is so muted is that many supporters don’t actually believe such laws would make all that much of a difference. Things only get more complicated when the debate moves into the abstract and away from the specifics (as it often does when the NRA is involved); opinions on gun control versus gun rights tend to swing toward control in the aftermath of a high-profile shooting before swinging back as time passes. That means a gun-centric pitch from Democrats would likely find a receptive audience today but an uncertain one in November…Democrats would have a particularly strong argument for tying Trump to the lack of action on guns, considering the NRA was one of Trump’s earliest backersto the tune of $30 million—and remains one of his strongest supporters. That gamble could come with a rather big reward if gun control activists were able to capture a few notable Republican scalps in November: the chance for them and Democrats to do a little mythmaking of their own. Convincing Americans that gun control isn’t toxic at the ballot box wouldn’t be enough to pass meaningful gun laws, of course, but it might finally be a start.”

From Vox, hypocrisy much?

At Politico, Elena Schneider reports that “Republican Rick Saccone holds a slim lead over Democrat Conor Lamb in the special election for a Western Pennsylvania congressional seat, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday…Saccone leads Lamb, 49 percent to 46 percent, the poll shows — only a marginal edge for Republicans in a district that supported President Donald Trump by 20 points in 2016. Another 4 percent are undecided, and 1 percent support a third-party candidate…The enthusiasm gap in the district strongly favors Democrats. Nearly half of Democratic voters, 48 percent, say they are following the March 13 special election closely. By contrast, only 26 percent of Republican voters are following the race closely.” The electiopn is March 13th.

Noting that the Monmouth poll has “a very good reputation,” Ed Kilgore elaborates: “this is a race where the Republican should be far ahead. PA-18 is both strongly Republican and strongly pro-Trump. The GOP congressman (Tim Murphy) whose sex-scandal-driven resignation forced this special election faced no Democratic opponent in 2016 or 2014; even in the Democratic landslide years of 2006 and 2008 he won with 58 percent and 64 percent of the vote, respectively. There is not, moreover, any reason to expect an anti-Trump backlash to demoralize Republican voters: Trump carried the 18th by 20 points (as compared to his one-point margin in Georgia’s Sixth District, the historically Republican district that was the site of last year’s hottest House special election)…If Lamb does pull the upset, or even gets close, it will provide fresh evidence that 2018 could be a big year for House Democrats — and that Trump Country territory like southwest Pennsylvania isn’t safe.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides an eloquent description of one of Trump’s biggest liabilities, which Democrasts should think about addressing more creatively. In his column, “A Groundswell for Sanity,” Dionne writes, “The hardest of the hardcore Trump loyalists are still likely to cast ballots this year. But he also drew support from loyal Republicans and white working-class swing voters. Many of them were not enthralled by him but couldn’t abide Hillary Clinton — or were just plain angry. It’s hard to imagine they’re overjoyed with the past 13 months…Some members of this dispirited group overlap with a third key constituency that is underanalyzed because its ranks are not exceptionally partisan or ideological. They are citizens who ask for a basic minimum from those in charge of their government: some dignity and decorum, a focus on problem-solving, and orderliness rather than chaos. Trump and the conservatives sustaining him are completely out of line with this behavioral conservatism built on self-restraint and temperamental evenness…They include small-business owners who prefer low taxes but care about schools, roads, libraries and parks. They may be critical of government, but they also expect it to do useful things. They don’t much like bragging and find an obsession with enemies unhealthy…The obvious political calculation is that this fall’s elections will be decided by which side mobilizes its most ardent supporters. But here is a bet that there is also a quiet revolution of conscience in the country among those who are sick to death of the chaos they see every day on the news, a White House whose energy is devoted to stabbing internal foes in the back and a president who can’t stop thinking about himself. In the face of this, demanding simple decency is a radical and subversive act.”

“In the 2016 presidential election, black voters, on average, waited 16 minutes to vote, while Latino voters waited 13 minutes, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey of voters. In the same election, white voters waited 10 minutes. In 2012, black and Latino voters stood in line for more than 20 minutes to cast their ballot, nearly twice as long as white voters…Stephen Pettigrew, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, has found if there are two neighborhoods in the same city, and one is majority-white and the other has more blacks and Hispanics, voters in the white neighborhood have a shorter wait…Voting rights advocates call the disparity a “time tax.” They argue that it violates the fundamental right to vote — and that it is often intentional…In poorer counties and cities, long lines may stem from a lack of resources. But even in wealthier counties, minority communities tend to get fewer polling places, voting machines and poll workers than white neighborhoods in the same county, according to a 2014 study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law.” — from “Voting Lines Are Shorter — But Mostly For Whites” by Matt Vasilogambros at HuffPo.

Laura Clawson gets down to the nitty-gritty in her Daily Kos post, “How much of tax bill’s benefits do the richest 1 percent get? The answer might surprise you,” and concludes with a succinct soundbite for Democratic candidates everywhere: “The answer, of course, is more than 80 percent, something only 17 percent of voters currently realize. Democrats need to inform the public and drive that number up by November. It’s hard to wrap your head around, of course: 1 percent of the people getting more than 80 percent of the benefit? Even 20 percent of the benefit seems like an awful lot. But it’s true, and Republicans are going all out to keep voters from realizing what the Republican tax plan was all about. The more people know, the better the Democratic chances in November. ..So say it whenever you get the chance: More than 80 percent of the tax plan’s benefits go to the richest 1 percent of Americans.”

Ronald Brownstein addresses an unusual political question in his article, “Could Amazon Flip a State? Democrats could gain politically if the company chooses a city in a battleground state for its second North American headquarters.” at The Atlantic: “Amazon has signaled it intends to finalize its choice this year. Once it’s established, the number of workers connected to the new corporate hub is expected to grow significantly, with Amazon actively recruiting employees from around the country. Amazon projects that it will directly inject into the winning community up to 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in investment. Based on the spin-off effects it has experienced in Seattle, the site of its first headquarters, Amazon forecasts that other companies will create roughly as many additional jobs. Add in the workers’ families, and Amazon’s choice city could attract well over 100,000 new residents…But the company’s selection could plausibly nudge the current swing states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina toward the Democrats—or accelerate Georgia’s transition into a genuinely competitive battleground. It might take years, but if Amazon founder Jeff Bezos picks one of those places, he could deliver a major political disruption right to the two parties’ doorsteps.”

Political Strategy Notes

Jill Leovy has an important article, “The Computer Scientist Who Prefers Paper: Barbara Simons believes there is only one safe voting technology” at The Atlantic. Leovy writes, “According to the Department of Homeland Security, those [Russia’s] efforts included attempts to meddle with the electoral process in 21 states…In September, after years of effort by Simons and the nonprofit she helps run, Verified Voting, Virginia abandoned the practice…Simons believes that the failure to heed her warnings has left states in grave danger, with too many potential weak points to shore up before hackers do succeed in altering an outcome. It is not a theoretical vulnerability, Simons told me. “Our democracy is in peril. We are wide open to attack…Many of the leading opponents of paperless voting machines were, and still are, computer scientists, because we understand the vulnerability of voting equipment in a way most election officials don’t…By Verified Voting’s count, 13 states, including populous ones such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, still have paperless voting. Given the thin majorities in Congress, that leaves more than enough machines to allow hackers tremendous power to influence American politics. And all 50 states use computerized scanners for vote counting—few of them with sufficient postelection auditing to detect manipulation. Mandatory audits, in the form of hand counts of randomized samplings of ballots, are essential to protect against invisible vote theft, Simons believes. In an unaudited system, malicious code could easily go unnoticed…“There’s no malware that can attack paper,” Simons said. “We can solve this. We know how to do it.”

Regarding voting in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf just “ordered counties planning on replacing their electronic voting systems with machines that would maintain a paper trail, hopefully guarding against interference in a future election,” reports Lulu Chang at Digital trends…“This directive will ensure that the next generation of the commonwealth’s voting systems conforms to enhanced standards of resiliency, auditability and security,” Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres said in a statement…Pennsylvania is not requiring all counties to throw away their equipment yet, however. Rather, the directive only applies to counties that are already in the process of switching systems — those counties will be required to buy new machines with the paper backup addition.

Michael Scherer’s “Election contrast in the Trump era: Republican pugilists vs. Democratic pacifiers” at Post Politics paints with a broad brush in defining the tonal differences between candidates of the two parties this year. He cites some examples to make the point that Republicans are generally deploying more warlike rhetoric in their messaging, while Democrats project themselves as the “pacifiers.” Some of this is overstated — Senator Tami Duckworth (D-IL), for example, though not up for re-election this year, recently called Trump “a five-deferment draft-dodger” and “cadet bone-spurs.” But overall, Scherer is right that Republicans are still trying to project themselves as more ‘pugilistic.’ Many Democratic candidates are betting that most persuadable voters are feeling the effects of Trump-fatigue and what Jesse Jackson once called the ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ of Americans politics. But Dems who strive to be perceived as “reconcilers,” instead of “pacifiers,” are likely on the right tonal track.

Jonathan Allen sees a toughening of Democratic messaging tone in his NBC News post, “Democrats debate: Get personal with Trump or take the high road.” Allen cites Duckworth’s comments, and then notes reent remarks by Terry McAuliffe and Nancy Pelosi: “Within the last few weeks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of trying to “make America white again” with his immigration plan, and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he’d flatten Trump if the president got in his physical space.” Allen quotes one of the more perceptive new Democrats, who cautions, “I don’t think we’ll win a street fight with Trump in slinging accusations back and forth,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. “That didn’t work out so well for Marco Rubio. Instead of being consumed with attacking Trump, we need to be consumed with solving the real problems of the citizens and nation we represent.”

Ed Kilgore probes the thorny question, “Is Democratic Cooperation With Trump Depressing Supporters?” at New York Magazine.” Kilgore explains, “Projecting oneself as the proud member of the uncompromising anti-Trump resistance just isn’t an option for members of Congress from areas that were and remain pro-Trump enclaves. Yes, senators like Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill need an energized anti-Trump “base” to turn out for them. But it’s not going to be enough. And exhibiting a frustrated willingness to work across party lines — which is really what Senate Democrats have mostly been doing, along with trying to form a coalition with those Senate Republicans who are fighting Trump on immigration — is going to be more effective than heading to the barricades…Those Democrats who are in public office have to pick and choose moments of loud opposition, and sometimes even have to sound conciliatory. Yes, if anyone voting in November doubts Democrats are the anti-Trump party,  that’s a problem. But snarling and snapping every minute until then is probably not necessary to maintain confidence in the Donkey’s bite.”

At The Guardian, check out “Social Class in the 21st Century by Mike Savage review – the emotional effect of class” by Lynsey Hanley, who asks in the subtitle, “Are you ‘established middle class’, ‘technical middle class’ or one of the ‘precariat’? Today’s complex society demands new categories in the class-crazy U.K. Hanley adds “If there’s a single fact that illustrates the way social class works in Britain today, it’s in the opening pages of this startling book. Of the 161,000 people who initially filled in the Great British Class Survey, which ran on the BBC website in 2011, 4.1% listed their occupation as chief executive, which is 20 times their representation in the labour force. By contrast, precisely no one stated they were a cleaner. While it’s pleasant to have your status at the top of the social pile affirmed, it’s rather less so to be reminded you’re at the bottom…The coffin of class, to paraphrase Richard Hoggart, remains stubbornly empty.” It would be good to have an equally large sample share their views hereabouts. Further, writes Hanley, “Long-range social mobility, from bottom to top, is a feat summed up by the title of one chapter: “Climbing Mountains”…More common, argues Savage, is the short-range movement within the middle classes, enabled by the social and cultural capital accumulated through going to university…The rough/respectable divide retains a powerful hold on working-class relationships and self-awareness, and is exploited by politicians in election after election, while the new elite gets on with consolidating its hoard of economic, cultural and social capital.”

In his New York Times op-ed, “Democrats Can Win on Immigration,” Matt A. Barreto makes a convincing case and argues, “In their quest to retake the House or the Senate (or both), Democrats should not shy away from incorporating and welcoming immigrants into their own rhetoric. When Republicans embark on meanspirited immigrant bashing, Democrats should take notes from Harry Reid’s 2010 re-election victory in Nevada and Ralph Northam’s 2017 gubernatorial win in Virginia. Both Mr. Reid and Mr. Northam rebuffed racially charged anti-immigrant campaigns, standing up for Dreamers, and in the process winning over Latino voters alongside a coalition of progressive and moderate college-educated whites…Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans are clearly gearing up for a similar anti-immigrant effort in 2018. But now the mask has been pulled off. Voters get it. Democrats have an opportunity to speak out strongly against bigotry. And in doing so, they have a path to victory in 2018 and beyond.”

Some provocative snarkage from the New York Times editorial “We’ve Got the Memo. Now What About Trump’s Tax Returns?,” notes: “Since the Republicans are now on board with greater transparency, they will no doubt push President Trump to release his tax returns, as every other major-party presidential nominee has done for the past four decades, won’t they?…How about the White House visitor logs, which the Trump administration started hiding from the public last year? Or, say, the names of all foreign governments and officials who have stayed — at their own or at American taxpayers’ expense — at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida or at his golf courses and his other businesses since he became president? Or the names of every foreign business with which the Trump Organization has a financial relationship, especially in countries where America has sensitive foreign policy interests, like China, India, Russia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia?…And, of course, Americans should have complete confidence now that congressional Republicans will demand complete transparency from all members of the president’s campaign, transition team and administration in describing their dealings with representatives of a foreign power that tried to swing our election — as well as from the special counsel who is investigating those efforts…The party that demanded the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails as a central plank of the 2016 presidential campaign must support all of this and more, right?”

Amid the latest round of Pelosi-bashing, Democratic organizer Dana Houle offers this assessment in her Washington Post op-ed “Nancy Pelosi is incredibly underrated.” Houle writes that “Pelosi is one of the most underrated American politicians of the past half-century. Her media and activist critics judge her competence and leadership almost entirely based on her performance in front of a microphone…Her strength is in what she does away from the microphones…Pelosi is a master vote counter — and more than most 20th-century congressional leaders, she has to be. Majorities are narrower, and to pass partisan legislation, or keep a unified opposition, leaders cannot afford to have many members voting against their caucus. When Democrats have been in the minority, she has kept her representatives in check, even as Ryan and his predecessors have had to pull bills from the House floor because they got the whip count wrong… Those who continue to underestimate her will continue to be mistaken. Don’t be surprised if she has another big act in her, as the Speaker who goes toe to toe with President Trump.”

Political Strategy Notes

Read David Daley’s salon.com article, “How the Republicans rigged Congress — new documents reveal an untold story,” for one of the best accounts of the GOP’s “years-long scheme to gerrymander America and undermine democracy.” It’s a lurid tale of Republican lust for political leverage, empowered by Democratic distraction, apathy and incompetence. In one graph, Daley deftly encapsulates the challenge Democrats face: “If there is to be a blue wave in 2018, it will need to overcome a red seawall that was exactingly designed beginning a decade ago and has proven impermeable in state after state ever since. Even in Virginia last November, Democrats won nearly a quarter of a million more votes than Republicans — and it still wasn’t enough to overcome district lines rigged to guarantee the GOP a built-in advantage. In Alabama, where Doug Jones recently became the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in decades, disgraced GOP candidate Roy Moore still carried six of the state’s seven gerrymandered congressional districts.”

From “Russians penetrated U.S. voter systems, top U.S. official says” by Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin and Kevin Moynihan

So what will be the net political impact of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s 8 hour filibuster yesterday in support of the Dreamers? The knee-jerk response is it will hurt Democrats because it gives GOP propagandists fodder for portraying Democrats as obstructionist – the old ‘acuse your enemy of your worst sin’ routine. On the flip side, Pelosi’s filibuster, perhaps the longest in the House since 1909, demonstrates Democratic commitment to protect immigrants the GOP’s draconian policies toward them. This could help the Democrats gain credibility with Latino voters in key districts. Pelosi-bashing may not provide much value added for Republicans in terms of midterm votes, since most Pelosi-haters are already hard-core Repubicans.

But that won’t stop Republicans from launching a tsunami of Pelosi-bashing, as David Weigel writes in “Attack ads in Pennsylvania find a theme: Pelosi, Pelosi and more Pelosi” at PowerPost: “The Republican effort to turn House races into referendums on Nancy Pelosi will continue today, when the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, begins the fourth TV ad buy in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. As in a previous spot from CLF, a spot from the Ending Spending super PAC, and one from the National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic nominee Conor Lamb is linked with Pelosi and her warnings about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.”

At The New York Times, Alexander Burns has an update on The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which was formed last year under the leadership of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. As Burns explains, Holder and his associates in the project have “settled on a strategy to contest a combination of governorships, legislative seats and more obscure state offices to chip away at Republicans’ sweeping control of the redistricting process…the group was chiefly determined to deny Republicans so-called trifectas in state governments — places where a single party controls the governorship and an entire legislature, as Republicans do in Ohio and Florida, among other critical battlegrounds…States at the top of the just-finalized target list include traditional purple states like Michigan and Wisconsin, where Republicans can currently design maps without Democratic input, and others — including Colorado, Minnesota and Nevada — where Democrats have significant influence in government but must defend it in the 2018 elections.”

In his Washington Post op-ed, “Democrats should wise up to Trump’s cons,” Demoratic consultant Carter Eskew has some salient advice for Democrats: “…Try remembering that Trump is a con man, always running several cons at once. In less than a week, Trump has launched three on Democrats alone: the Nunes memo; the lawyers-telling-him-not-to-testify story; and last night’s accusation that Democrats who didn’t clap for him during the State of the Union address are traitors. All are designed to make Democrats crazy, overreact and lose the upper hand. Democrats need to remember this is what con artists do. In the words of young-adult fiction writer Leigh Bardugo, “The easiest way to steal a man’s wallet is to tell him you’re going to steal his watch.”

There’s some good news for Dems tucked in the Daily 202 post “Improving poll numbers give Republicans hope that the midterms might not be so bad.” As James Hohman notes, “Meredith Kelly, the communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said her team focuses less on the ups and downs of national surveys than fielding top-flight candidates who can defeat GOP incumbents…Equally important, if not more important, [than the generic ballot] is that our district-specific data is really bad for Republicans,” she said. “We already have several district-specific polls that show the named Republican losing to the named challenger right off the bat. There’s another category where the named incumbent is winning right now in a head-to-head, but only earns in the mid to low 40s — a weak starting off point. There are other Democrats starting well behind the Republican, but even in those races, we have a lot of time and data that shows a lot of room for growth for the Democrats, who start out much lesser known.”

NYT columnist David Leonhardt makes the case for Republicans who want to restore a little dignity and sanity to their party to vote against their party’s candidates: “I recognize that voting against Republicans is as easy for a progressive to suggest as it is hard for a conservative to execute. But here’s my case to conservatives who do believe in facts and democratic norms (and would rather that Miami stay above water): You are politically homeless right now. Your party has become a destructive force. Its victories — which you may understandably celebrate, like a lower corporate tax rate — don’t make up for the damage the party is doing. And the other party obviously remains too left-wing for you…Your best hope is a sane conservative party. And the only route to a sane conservative party is a string of losses for the current Republican Party.” Today’s GOP, writes Leonhardty, is “doing significantly more damage than good, and there is little prospect that will change until Republican radicalism brings a political price.”

Some new polling data from Ronald Brownstein’s article, “White Women in the Rustbelt Are Turning on Trump” at The Atlantic indicates regarding “white women without a college degree” in the Rustbelt:  “Trump has slipped into a much more precarious position with these women,” notes Brownstein. “No group was more central to Trump’s victory, especially in the Rustbelt states that effectively decided the election. (Trump won at least 56 percent of those women in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, according to exit polls.) However, “Gallup put his 2017 approval with them at 45 percent in Pennsylvania, 42 percent in Michigan, and 39 percent or less in Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Compared to his 2016 vote, his 2017 approval among blue-collar white women in the Rustbelt represented some of his largest declines anywhere—18 percentage points in Ohio and 19 in Wisconsin and Minnesota. That erosion, which intensified during Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, creates the opening for Democrats to contest blue-collar and non-urban House seats this fall through the Midwest and Northeast.”

Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article, “‘They Can’t Wait to Vote’: Energized Democrats Target Dominant G.O.P. in Statehouses,” Alexander Burns and Alan Blinder write: “As national Republicans dig in to defend their majorities in Congress in the midterm elections, party leaders across the country have grown anxious about losses on a different front: state legislatures…Over the last year, Democrats have snatched away Republican seats in more than a dozen special legislative elections from Seattle and Tulsa, Okla., to Atlanta and Miami, in many cases electing female and minority candidates with strong turnout on the left.” Burns and Blinder quote Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee: “What we have seen in the special elections is a significant spike in the interest, engagement, spending and energy by the liberal Democrats and progressive movement,” Mr. Walter said, adding: “The spending is real. The organizational prowess is real. And the energy is real.” However, “In many of the biggest purple states, however, Democrats must overcome huge Republican majorities and forbidding legislative maps…Though Republicans have thin majorities in a few states, like Colorado and Minnesota, the party is entrenched by gerrymandering across most of the Midwest and has long controlled Sun Belt prizes like Florida and Arizona.”

Bret Stephens nails it succinctly in his NYT article, “Devin Nunes’s Nothingburger“: “The larger inanity here is the notion that the F.B.I. tried to throw the election to Clinton, when it was the Democrats who complained bitterly at the time that the opposite was true…Trump won the election. How that represents evidence of a sinister deep-state conspiracy is a question for morons to ponder. As for Devin Nunes, he has, to adapt an old line, produced evidence of a conspiracy so small. In modern parlance we’d call it a nothingburger, but the bun is missing, too.”

As Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus sees it:

E. J. Dionne, Jr. characterizes the Nunez nothingburger thusly: “A blatant McCarthyite hit piece that breaks little new ground, it cherry-picks from troves of information to feed a dangerous narrative: Even if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III gets the goods on Trump — on Russian collusion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, or all three — the facts won’t matter because the inquiry was driven by partisanship…And its underlying premise is laughable. To imply that the FBI’s leadership is a nest of left-wing Hillary Clinton sympathizers is as absurd as declaring that a majority of Philadelphians were rooting for the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.” As Dionne puts it, the Nunes memo “simply showed how petrified Trump and his backers are of a comprehensive probe.”

At The American Prospect, Paul Waldman envisions a chaotic outcome after the Muellar probe is completed: “And what will happen when Robert Mueller’s investigation nears its end? Mueller has already indicted Trump’s campaign chairman and turned two Trump advisers (George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn), who agreed to plead guilty to minor charges and tell what they know. How will Republicans in Congress and the conservative media react to the charges Mueller raises, when Trump’s entire presidency is threatened?…We know already: They’ll go positively bonkers. Yes, they’ll argue that the whole thing can be ignored, which is part of what the Nunes memo was about: discrediting anything to do with the Russia investigation so Trump’s followers will already have their fingers in their ears when Mueller finishes his work. But the more serious the charges are and the more systematic the case Mueller makes against Trump, the more they’ll lose their minds. This was just a preview.”

“I think the Mueller investigation will blow through this flimsy excuse for an argument like a train through a willow tree,” writes Charles Pierce in his Esquire post, “‘Nothingburger’ Doesn’t Do This Memo Justice.” Pierce continues, “But the damage it will do to congressional oversight of the intelligence community—a dubious proposition on its best day, which was not Friday, god knows—will be long-lasting and far-reaching…Meanwhile, everybody involved in Friday’s burlesque, from Devin Nunes to Carter Page to the president* himself, knows full well that the Russian ratfckers are gearing up for the 2018 midterms.”

Alex Seitz-Wald discusses the downside of having too many candidates in “Democrats are having a banner recruiting year — and it could cost them” at NBC News: “Across the country, Republicans are salivating and Democrats are sweating their too-much-of-a-good-thing problem as the party’s chief asset in this year’s congressional elections, a bumper crop of strong recruits, is proving to be a liability too…Nationwide, an unprecedented 156 Democratic challengers had raised at least $5,000 by the third quarter of last year, according to a tally by the Campaign Finance Institute. That number was just 47 at this point in the last election. And before the GOP wave in 2006, the party had just 97 recruits, while Democrats had only 63 challengers before their 2006 blowout.That’s great for Democrats in many ways, and competitive primaries have been shown to increase engagement and turnout in November. But crowded primaries can also waste money, sow internal divisions, push candidates to the ideological extremes, and tarnish whoever emerges from the melee.” Jungle primaries can be a problem when there is a bumper crop of candidates. But the upside is that stronger candidates are likely to rise.

Columnist Paul Krugman explains why Trump has such a poor track record when it comes to appointments and personnel: “A remarkable number of Trump appointees have been forced out over falsified credentials, unethical practices or racist remarks. And you can be sure there are many other appointees who did the same things, but haven’t yet been caught…Why is this administration hiring such people? It surely reflects both supply and demand: Competent people don’t want to work for Mr. Trump, and he and his inner circle don’t want them anyway…The Trump administration is a graveyard for reputations: Everyone who goes in comes out soiled and diminished. Only fools, or those with no reputation to lose, even want the positions on offer.”

“Democrats are just about as likely as Republicans to say they plan to vote in this year’s congressional elections, a break from the two previous midterm elections, in which Republicans were significantly more inclined to vote, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in January,” reports Scott Clement at The Fix…”Just over half of Democratic-leaning registered voters, 51 percent, say it is “more important to vote” this year than in previous elections, compared with 34 percent of Republican-leaning voters who say the same.” However, “Two Democratic-leaning groups that have turned out at lower rates in past years also express tepid interest in voting this year. Fewer than half of registered voters ages 18-39, 46 percent, say they are certain to vote, compared with 68 percent of voters ages 40-64 and 77 percent of seniors. And nonwhite voters are nine points less likely than white to say they plan to vote (56 percent to 65 percent).”

Political Strategy Notes

It looks like 2018 will be the year that the debate about revitalizing America’s infrastructure intensifies. For openers, read economist Jared Bernstein’s “Yes, this nation needs a real infrastructure plan. No, that’s not what President Trump offered tonight” at PostEverything. Bernstein, now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of ‘The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity,” writes “How can you tell when an infrastructure plan is not real? Here’s a three-part test: 1) does it provide a meaningful boost in our stock of public goods, 2) does its funding design shift the historical federal responsibility for public investment to states and private investors, and 3) when it includes “pay-fors,” are they budget cuts taken from programs that support low-income families?…We got almost no details in tonight’s State of the Union address, but based on what we do know, President Trump’s infrastructure plan handily fails this test…Ever since Trump took office, he has ignored the working-class voters who helped put him there and outsourced policy decisions to a Republican Party whose goal is to shrink government and return the proceeds to their wealthy donors. Though Trump’s sales job tonight tried to obfuscate this reality, his infrastructure plan perfectly fits this mode.”

See also “Trump’s $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Is Light on Federal Funds, and Details” by NYT reporters Jim Tankersly and Julie Hirschfield Davis, who note “The increased infrastructure spending would be offset by unspecified budget cuts. Officials would not detail where those cuts would come from, or how the proposal would effectively leverage at least $6.50 in additional infrastructure spending for every dollar spent by the federal government, a ratio many infrastructure experts consider far-fetched. The officials said Mr. Trump would leave it up to Congress — where there is little consensus about how to pay for such a plan — to figure out the details, giving lawmakers wide latitude in creating what would need to be a bipartisan bill against the backdrop of the midterm elections.”…“That’s not a plan. That’s a hope,” said Richard Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., which has lobbied for a large infrastructure bill. “It’s sort of pathetic.” Further, “The idea that a $200 billion federal investment would drive $1.5 trillion in total spending is “the great hocus-pocus,” said Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. “There’s absolutely no evidence for that.”

In his FiveThirtyEight post “Five Blue States Could Determine Who Controls The House In 2018,” Harry Enten writes, “…whether Democrats manage to win the House in 2018 could come down to how many seats they pick up in the five most populous states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016: California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Virginia…while California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Virginia account for only a small percentage of Republican-held seats overall, they are home to a disproportionate share of vulnerable Republicans. According to the Cook Political Report, these five states are home to 38 percent of all the Republican-held seats that are truly in play in 2018... If you add them all up, a total of 25 Republican seats in these five populous Clinton states could flip to the Democrats. That’s one more seat than Democrats need to gain a majority. In other words, they could take back the House without flipping a single seat in a state that Trump came close to winning in 2016.

In his post  at The Upshot, “A ‘Blue’ Florida? There Are No Quick Demographic Fixes for Democrats,” Nate Cohn writes, “As many as 300,000 people have fled to Florida from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. And a ballot initiative this November could return the vote to the state’s estimated 1.5 million discharged felons. At first glance, either tally of these two Democratic-leaning groups would seem to dwarf Donald J. Trump’s 113,000-vote margin of victory in the state in 2016…But the reality for Democrats is that neither development is likely to fundamentally alter Florida’s political character heading into the 2020 election…The main reason? The electoral effect dwindles after accounting for the relatively low turnout rates among these groups. More generally, even big demographic shifts that seem to favor Democrats could easily be swamped by other demographic shifts that do the opposite.”

“The network of organizations founded by the conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch is going “all in” to defend GOP majorities in Washington and around the country in 2018, planning an early investment in paid media to work against what they concede is a daunting political environment for their allies in government,” reports Mike Memoli at NBC News. “Top officials from Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch network’s chief political arm, made a half-hour presentation Monday to more than 500 donors at their semiannual “seminar,” outlining their $400 million strategy to protect like-minded incumbents while targeting vulnerable Democrats in key Senate races…Key to the strategy is going on the offensive now, particularly in Senate races with television ads to try and define the narrative early against Democratic targets…AFP has affiliates in 36 of 50 states — a list that doesn’t include deeply blue states where officials say their efforts have failed to move the needle in the past. In Florida alone they have 13 field offices, 33 paid staff members and more than 200,000 volunteer activists.”

At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait flags “4 New Trump Corruption Stories From the Last Day Alone.” The stories include: Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control after revelations of her stock purchases after she took office; reports that “Health and Human Services Secretary Ben Carson’s son, Ben Carson Jr., participated in his father’s work in ways that may have benefited his son’s businesses”; “A report yesterday found that Trump’s infrastructure council is filled with business owners who stand to benefit from the policies Trump is advancing.”; and “reports that Trump Realty is expanding its operations in southern Florida. The ongoing business by Trump’s business empire is a massive corruption risk, as Trump and his family can benefit from the publicity conferred by his public office, and stand to benefit by anybody who wants to curry favor throwing business their way.” CHait ads, “These stories are merely the news of the last 24 hours, a day in the life of self-dealing in the Trump administration…But from a political standpoint, his greatest liability may be more ordinary. Trump is a rich man whose policies have benefited himself and other rich people. He promised to raise his own taxes and shake up the status quo, but he has done the opposite. Does he have any greater vulnerability than that?”

Democrats will be glad to note the announced retirement of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), one of the nastier critics of Hillary Clinton. Elise Viebeck and David Weigel report at PowerPost that, so far, “More than 40 House Republicans have decided to step down this cycle. Some received jobs in the Trump administration; others are leaving to seek higher office or because they were accused of sexual misconduct or harassment. Still others faced tough reelection campaigns or blamed the divisive political climate.” His district, however, is solidly Republican, and unlikjely to be seen as a potential pick-up for Democrats. Also Gowdy’s statement, expressing his yearning for a return to practicing law, may indicate that he is in line for an Appeals Court apointment, as one of Trump’s favored apple-polishers. “It was unclear what role Gowdy might seek in the justice system,” noter Viebeck and Weigel. “One of the judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit took “senior status” Tuesday, creating a vacancy on the bench.”

Some revealing statistics from “The Working Class and the Federal Government’s Social Safety Net,” a study by the American Enterprise Institute, Oportunity America and Brookings Working Group on the Working Class, as reported by AEI’s Angela Rachidi:  “Approximately one-third of working-class people in America (defined by income between the 20th and 50th percentile with no college degree) receive government safety-net benefits…Since 1998, an increasing share of working-class people have received government safety-net benefits. In 1998, one in five received assistance; in 2014 it was almost one in three…This increase was driven almost entirely by Medicaid, food assistance, and disability assistance…Unsurprisingly, the share of working-class people who receive benefits falls below that of lower-income people and above that of higher-income people, but the increase since 1998 is unique to the working class.”

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, has an update on “The Districts That Will Determine the Next House Majority.” Kondik writes that “as of this moment, the race for House control is about a coin flip. Democrats should gain seats, but on the face of the seats currently available to flip, we’re unsure if they can net the 24 seats they need to win control.” Kondik takes a look at dozens of specific races and concludes, “It seems highly likely that there will be at least one more, and perhaps several more, key retirements from swing seats that move ratings in the Democrats’ favor. Again, we just had two more over the last week: Republicans Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) and Meehan (PA-7). The more retirements there are, the fewer incumbent-held seats listed above are required to flip the House, and the better the Democrats’ chances become.”

Teixeira: The math is clear – Democrats need to win more working-class white votes

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

Following the noteworthy Democratic successes in the 2017 elections, we’re once again hearing that Democrats can achieve their electoral goals without any greater success among the white working class. Indeed, some on the left seem to feel that Democratic gestures toward the white working class would not only be ineffective but are politically suspect.

“There’s always been something problematic about the Democratic Party’s fixation on white working-class voters,” writes Sally Kohn at the Daily Beast. “After Alabama, it’s clear that obsession isn’t just fraught with bias. It’s also dumb.”

Steve Phillips of Democracy in Color remarked in a New York Times op-ed: “The country is under conservative assault because Democrats mistakenly sought support from conservative white working-class voters susceptible to racially charged appeals. Replicating that strategy would be another catastrophic blunder.”

“The ceiling with the white working class is what it is,” Phillips adds with a shrug in The Nation.

However popular, the view that Democrats can get along without working-class white voters is simply wrong. It reflects wishful thinking and a rigid set of political priors — namely, that Democrats’ political problems always stem from insufficient motivation of base voters — more than a cold, hard look at what the electoral and demographic data say. Consider the following:

There were far more white non-college voters in the 2016 election than shown by the exit polls

The exit polls claimed there were more white college voters (37 percent) than white non-college voters (34 percent). But in a report for the Center for American Progresssynthesizing available public survey data, census data, and actual election returns, Robert Griffin, John Halpin, and I found that 2016 voters were 44 percent white non-college and just 30 percent white college-educated. (The balance were black, Latino, Asian, or “other.”)


Political Strategy Notes

Associated Press reporter James Anderson explains why “Strong health sign-ups under Obamacare encourage Democrats” at abcnews.com: “Both parties are paying attention, especially after a better-than-expected enrollment season under the health care law. Democrats especially have used health care to go on the attack, and the issue is coming up in congressional races in California, Colorado, Michigan, Washington and elsewhere. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Friday found health care as the top issue voters want congressional candidates to address…Enrollment was especially robust in many of the states that operate their own insurance marketplaces, where enrollment periods were longer than on the federal exchange and promotional budgets were beefed up. Strong sign-ups came despite Republican attacks against the law and President Donald Trump’s administration taking several steps to undermine it, including cutting the federal sign-up period in half and slashing advertising…California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, New York, Vermont and other states with their own exchanges saw enrollment approach or surpass 2017 levels. Minnesota’s health insurance exchange set a record for private plans with an enrollment period that was more than two weeks shorter than in 2017.”

At The American Prospect Longform, Jacob S. Hacker makes the case for “Medicare Part E,” and observes, “Medicare Part E would cover the broad range of benefits covered by Medicare Parts A (hospital coverage), B (coverage of physicians’ and other bills), and D (drug coverage)…The central feature of Medicare Part E is guaranteed insurance. All Americans would be presumed to be covered. They would not need to go through complicated eligibility processes or hunt down coverage that qualified for public support or even re-enroll on an annual basis. Once someone was in Part E, they would remain in Part E unless and until they were enrolled in a qualified alternative—whether an employment-based health plan with good benefits or a high-quality state Medicaid program…Thus, the centerpiece of Medicare Part E is the same as that of single-payer: a guarantee that Medicare is there for everyone. Unlike single-payer, however, Medicare Part E seeks to improve employers’ role rather than replace it. It does so by establishing new standards for employment-based plans and requiring that all employers contribute to Medicare if they do not provide insurance directly to their employees.”

In his post, “As State of the Union nears, is America great again for the working class? Donald Trump has painted himself a champion of workers, and will probably do so again next week. But the record tells a different story,” Dominic Rushe takes a look at the Trump/Republican’s deregulation strategy, which includes: “The Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act, which would block requirements that federal government contractors at national parks pay workers $10.10 an hour, overtime and sick pay…The Future Logging Careers Act, which will expand the use of child labour in the forestry industry so that 16- and 17 year-olds can work in logging under adult supervision…The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a rollback of a 2015 rule that banned children under 18 from working with toxic pesticides...Last March, Trump revoked Barack Obama’s 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplacesexecutive order, which barred companies from federal contracts if they had a history of violating safety, workplace harassment or wage theft laws.”

“…We can split Trump’s base if we take on fights that will improve the lives of people who are struggling economically…Over the last ten years, Maine has been pulled to the right, in general. But even while that’s true, we also see a lot of hope, especially when we’ve done these referendums.  We’ve won same-day voter registration and a public financing- clean elections systems. We passed the minimum wage, and we passed a tax on the rich for education. We just won Medicaid expansion. We’ve found that when you talk to people about what they care about and about what’s right and wrong, they can really get that…Take the people in the second Congressional District here in Maine. They have a lot to be angry and upset about. The old mill jobs are gone, and they are struggling economically…It’s not surprising to me that they voted for Trump, but that they would also vote to raise the minimum wage and for Medicaid expansion. And fighting for these kinds of policies tips the hands of the Republicans…forces the Republicans to come out and directly say that they oppose these programs that will help these people who are struggling, even when those people have directly voted in support of those policies. We think that they might expose themselves so badly this year that we have hopes that it could actually mean that we would have a wave election in 2018.”  — From editor Harmony Goldberg’s interview of Maine People’s Alliance’s Director Jesse Graham in “Splitting Trump’s Base through a Fight Over Medicaid in Maine” at Organizing Upgrade: Engaging left Organizers in Strategic Dialogue.

WaPo conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin argues, “…Republicans have made their least defensible, their cruelest stance — deport the dreamers — the centerpiece of their immigration approach and one of the key issues in the 2018 midterms. They want to run on a position that 80 percent to 90 percent of voters reject, an issue that will help Democrats drive turnout in places such as Texas, California and Florida. Democrats should be delighted to engage. They can rightly argue that the scare-mongering racist ads about murderers coming over the border have nothing to do with the dreamers; the ads do, however, have everything to do with the nasty strain of xenophobia Trump articulated in his “shithole” remarks. If Democrats cannot use an issue (legalize dreamers) with 80 percent to 90 percent approval to their advantage in a slew of House races, they might want to close up shop…”

Democratic and progressive leaders had some harsh words for the latest Republican DACA/immigration “reform” proposal, as quoted by Daniella Diaz, Jim Acosta, Elizabeth Landers and Tal Kopan at CNN Politics: “Dreamers should not be held hostage to President Trump’s crusade to tear families apart and waste billions of American tax dollars on an ineffective wall,” Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who has fought for protection for participants in the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said in a statement…Democratic immigration advocate Eddie Vale, who’s been closely involved in the recent immigration talks, called the White House proposal “a legislative burning cross.” What the White House is filling you in on now is in no way an attempt to get to a real deal,” Vale told CNN, adding that rather it is a way to “get every item on (White House senior adviser) Stephen Miller’s white supremacist wish list.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, said “This is the moment that the hardliners — John Kelly, Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton, Bob Goodlatte, John Cornyn and their outside collaborators — have been waiting and planning for,” he said in a statement. “The hardliners are high-fiving; the Statue of Liberty weeps.”

Democrats interested in leveraging the boom in “resistance” groups should check out Kate Aronoff’s “How To Resist, in 6 Books: Your guide to the guides to the resistance” at In These Times. An excerpt: “Jonathan Matthew Smucker, author of Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, also wrestles with the Left’s more insular and self-limiting habits. A not-insignificant number of leftists, he argues, have come to fetishize their position as righteous outsiders and have lost faith in the ability to win power at the highest levels. “Do we believe that power will be inspired by our brave acts of eschewing power?” he prods. Instead, he urges the Left to mainstream the movement and embrace power.”

A bit of good news for the labor movement from John Schmitt at the Economic Policy Institute: “Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on changes in union membershipfrom 2016 to 2017. It was good news for workers, as the total number of union members grew by 262,000 in 2017. Three-fourths of these gains (198,000) were among workers aged 34 and under, who account for less than 40 percent of total employment.”

A year after Trump’s inauguration, the mere appearance of Hillary Clinton at the Grammys in a skit (see video here) poking gentle fun at Trump by reading an excerpt of “The Fire and the Fury” is enough to get the Tweeter-in-Chief and his munchkins all bent out of shape. This presents a potentially useful tactic for Democrats.  It’s SOP when Trump distracts the press and the public from major issues with inane tweets and comments designed to provoke off-topic storms of outrage. Clinton drives Republicans into splenetic rage just by showing up. She can throw Trump and his minions off their game with surprise media appearances. In this way, ‘Clinton derangement syndrome’ can be a useful tool for Dems.

Political Strategy Notes

The don’t miss article of the day is “Enough Trump Bashing, Democrats,” a New York Times op-ed intwerview of Democratic strategust Joe Trippi, who guided the Doug Jones campaign to victory in Alabama and former Massachusetss Governor Deval Patrick by columnist Fank Bruni. There are many instructive quotes in the article, including this one by Patrick: “Republicans behave as if favoring a few will eventually help everybody. Democrats believe serving everybody serves the common good. The more we caste our approach in those terms — unifying, humble, enabling, responsive, about a better common future — the more we win, and deserve to win…If the Democrats fight for a big-hearted, pragmatic, forward leaning, fearless country, we will win.”

In his Talking Points Memo post, “Stop whining, Move Forward,” Josh Marshall brings an adult perspective to all of the fuss about who “won” the first act of the shutdown drama: “Listen to people talking this morning and you would think that Democrats surrendered their leverage and a major point of policy and suffered a damaging political blow. Neither is true. Trump’s high-fiving Stephen Miller and talking shit on Twitter doesn’t really matter as anything more than a head game. It’s conventional bully tactics. It doesn’t move votes. It only has an impact to the extent you bring to the table an internal drama about Democratic ‘toughness’ and forget that being in the minority is hard…The reality is that very few people whose opinions of things are not set in stone are even paying attention to the optics of this. The policy question – settling the Dreamers issue – is very important. But that remains to be decided as much as it was before. Get up, dust yourself off and realize that this is a skirmish in a larger political battle which will come to a head again in three short weeks…What to think about all this? Think that Democrats are fighting for key policy priorities with virtually no power. That’s not easy. It won’t be accomplished in a day. That’s an honorable position not a shameful one.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that Democrats “should be highlighting what the shutdown made clear. In mobilizing raw nativism, Trump and the Republican leadership underscored the extent to which they are hogtied by their party’s right-wing extremists. As a result, the GOP is incapable of temperate governance and compromise. The barrier to sensible legislation in Washington is not a left that lacks any institutional authority, but the hard-line right in the White House and in the House of Representatives…Republicans are crowing about “winning” the shutdown. But their victory will be short-lived if Democrats (and Republicans willing to work with them) shift the ground of the discussion from tactics to larger purposes. This is a long fight and, like it or not, the endpoint is Nov. 6. Only voters can change the balance of power.”

At Truthdig, Paul Street flags an essay by Nancy Fraser from “US Politics in an Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality,” a collection of left perspectives. As Street frames Fraser’s insights: “Hillary Clinton’s ignominious defeat marked “The End of Progressive Neoliberalism”—the defeat of “an alliance of mainstream currents of new social movements (feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism, and LGBTQ rights), on the one side, and high-end ‘symbolic’ and service-based business sectors (Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood), on the other.” This “real, if perverse political alignment,” Fraser explains, “developed in the United States over the last three decades and was ratified with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992” (and then reauthorized with Obama’s two terms, she might have added). Under its terms, “progressive forces are effectively joined with” financial capitalism, lending “charisma” and “gloss” to “policies that have devastated manufacturing and what were once middle-class lives.” While trumpeting outwardly progressive ideals like diversity and empowerment, the Clinton-Obama formation “bears a heavy responsibility for the weakening of unions, the decline of real wages, the increasing precarity of work, and the rise of the two-earner family in the place of the defunct family wage.”

Street also flags an essay frpom the book by sociologist and activist Charlie Post, Labor Notes founder Kim Moody and author Mike Davis, who ” demolish the ubiquitous media storyline that attributed Trump’s election to an uprising of enraged white “heartland” proletarians. None of these writers denies that a vast swath of “the white working-class” (WWC)—loosely and problematically defined as “whites without college degrees”—voted for Trump (as most WWC voters did for Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney) or that this reflected the Democrats’ neoliberal flight from working-class issues. Still, as Post, Moody and Davis show, it is lazy and factually incorrect to identify the WWC as Trump’s “base” and to see his election as the reflection of some great wave of white proletarian wrath…When we realize that “the many millions of people who did not vote … far outnumbered those who voted for either party in 2016,” it becomes clear that the biggest electoral story about the U.S. working-class in 2016 is that it sat out the contest between the two dismal capitalist candidates and parties, not that it made some (imaginary) wild shift to the white-nationalist right. Trump didn’t flip white working-class voters. The Democrats continued the long neoliberal loss of those voters.”

Ed Kilgore writes at New York Magazine that on Tuesday “the Florida Rights Restoration Initiative succeeded in securing the 766,000 certified signatures necessary to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot automatically restoring voting rights for people who have served their sentences (with the exception of murderers and sex offenders).” Kilgore cites evidence that “some 1.5 million Floridians—about 10 percent of the adult citizen population—are voteless, some because they are still serving sentences, but most because of felony convictions in their past. Among African-American men in the state, the number is north of 20 percent.” However, “some 1.5 million Floridians—about 10 percent of the adult citizen population—are voteless, some because they are still serving sentences, but most because of felony convictions in their past. Among African-American men in the state, the number is north of 20 percent.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel cites a warning for Democrats: “A Democratic pollster warned Wednesday that the party is not motivating lower-propensity voters at the levels it needs, putting gains at risk with poor messaging…“Democrats are setting themselves up to squander the opportunity Donald Trump is serving them on a silver platter because they aren’t motivating the Rising American Electorate to vote this fall,” said Page Gardner, the president of the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, which funded the poll…The poll, conducted by Democracy Corps and Greenberg Research, finds the generic Democratic ballot advantage at a new high — 49 percent support for Democrats to 38 percent for Republicans. That marks a gain from November, when the WVWVAF, warned that the advantage had tumbled to just five points…“Our prediction is that 40 million Americans who voted in 2016 won’t cast a ballot in the 2018 midterms — and to make matters worse, two-thirds of those drop-off voters will be members of the Rising American Electorate,” said spokesman Kevin McAlister at the time.”

Geoffrey Skelley of Sabato’s Crystal Ball sees Democrats in good position to benefit from a blue wave in November: “…Democrats certainly have reasons to be hopeful about a wave. In the Trump era, if we look at the races where no incumbents (Democratic or Republican) ran — 84 of the elections — the average Republican candidate ran five points behind Trump in the two-party vote. Considering the sizable number of Republican retirements in the U.S. House and the early signs of something similar in state legislative elections, GOP-held open seats will be a pivotal part of the 2018 arithmetic. Special elections made up most of the non-incumbent races (71 of the 84) as almost all special elections featured no incumbent (some elections in New Jersey and Washington state did include appointed incumbents). In those 71 specials, the average Republican ran 6.1 points behind Trump’s 2016 two-party percentage. In fact, according to left-leaning Daily Kos Elections’ new Special Elections Index, 2017 was the strongest Democratic year in special elections going back to the late 1980s. Additionally, it is possible that the environment will improve for Democrats: The average Democrat in 2017 specials with no incumbent ran 5.6 points ahead of Clinton’s two-party vote while the average 2018 Democrat has run 11.6 points ahead of her. However, there have only been five specials thus far in 2018, so the jury is still out on whether 2018 will be markedly better for Democrats than 2017.”

From Margaret Carlson’s post, “This Time, It’s Really the Year of the Woman:We’re seeing an unprecedented surge of female candidates. And they aren’t fans of Mr. Access Hollywood. The women of 2018 are about to undo the damage of 2016” at The Daily Beast:”Emily’s List says that since President’s Trump’s election, more than 26,000 women have reached out about launching a campaign. There are at least 79 women exploring runs for governor. The number of women in the Senate lining up to challenge Trump would more than fill the cramped room called the women’s gym. There is an increase of nearly 350 percent in those running for Congress.”