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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Cohn: Turnout Not Pivotal in Trump’s Electoral College Win

In Nate Cohn’s post “A 2016 Review: Turnout Wasn’t the Driver of Clinton’s Defeat” at The Upshot, he mines data indicating that, in the 2016 presidential election, “the turnout was only modestly better for Mr. Trump than expected,” and “To the extent Democratic turnout was weak, it was mainly among black voters. Even there, the scale of Democratic weakness has been exaggerated.” Further,

Instead, it’s clear that large numbers of white, working-class voters shifted from the Democrats to Mr. Trump. Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.

This analysis compares official voter files — data not available until months after the election — with The Upshot’s pre-election turnout projections in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The turnout patterns evident in these states are representative of broader trends throughout the battleground states and nationwide.

The turnout was slightly and consistently more favorable for Mr. Trump across all three states. But the turnout edge was small; in one of the closest elections in American history, it might not have represented his margin of victory.

Cohn explains that “the black turnout was roughly in line with our pre-election expectations.” However, “On average, white and Hispanic turnout was 4 percent higher than we expected, while black turnout was 1 percent lower than expected.” African American turnout,  Cohn notes, “was significantly lower than it was four or eight years ago, when Mr. Obama galvanized record black turnout,” but not far our of line with what pre-election studies anticipated.

Cohn cites a broad increase in white voter turnout “among young voters, Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated voters, urban, rural, and the likeliest supporters of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.” But “The greatest increases were among young and unaffiliated white voters.” Cohn adds that “The turnout among young and white Democratic voters was quite strong,” and he sees a slight edge for Trump in voter enthusiasm among his supporters. “Over all, the turnout among white voters with a greater than 80 percent chance of supporting Mr. Trump was 7 percent higher than expected, while the turnout was 4 percent higher among white voters with greater than an 80 percent chance of supporting Mrs. Clinton.”

“If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory,” concludes Cohn, “then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side…The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion.”

None of this is to argue that Democrats wouldn’t benefit from a more effective effort to turn out their base. It’s just a description of what really happened in the November elections. But it does corroborate the argument that Trump secured his electoral college victory in the predominantly white working-class precincts of the battleground states.

A few things to remember in mulling over Cohn’s conclusions: Clinton won the popular vote by a nearly 3 million vote margin, and the popular vote winner has been elected President in all but a very few elections. Monday morning quaterback generalizations about her campaign strategy should be considered in that light; Secondly, be a little skeptical of pundits spinning Cohn’s findings into an argument that Democrats must reconfigure their strategy to win a “majority of the white working-class.” In reality, Democrats need only a larger piece of this constituency, and a ten percent improvement in a few states would likely have been adequate in 2016; and, thirdly, Trump was poster-boy for an unusual presidential candidate, and it’s hard to see how future Republican candidates will be able to get away with similar shenanigans — especially considering the litany of disasters that have defined his first 100 days.


Mending Obamacare: Where Do Dems Go from Here?

Now that the Affordable Care Act has been granted a stay of execution, Democrats have a unique opportunity to once again get in front of health care reforms that can win the support of working-class voters of all races. The extremely weak public support for the GOP ‘repeal and replace’ bill (just 17 percent in the recent Pew Research poll) indicates that there is simply no chance whatsoever that the Republicans might provide credible leadership on the issue. Democrats alone have the capacity to build a majority consensus in support of specific reforms needed to strengthen Obamacare, and they should seize the political moment to do so.

Republicans will now try to destroy Obamacare by a thousand cuts, and they do have some worrisome weapons at their disposal, including appropriations and executive orders. They may have some success, but ultimately these battles will be sorted out in the courtroom and the courts of public opinion, where alert Democrats will have the edge. But the challenge here is not so much to react effectively, as to get pro-active and claim ownership of mending Obamacare, while their GOP adversaries continue muck about in their swamp of unproductive ideological excess.

In his Washington Post opinion article, “Democrats should offer solutions, not silence, on health care,” James Downie writes:

Rather than stay on the sidelines, Democrats in Congress should introduce and promote a new health-care plan. The outlines of such a plan are straightforward: expand Medicare and Medicaid, create a public option for everyone else that can use those programs’ pricing power, push regulatory reforms to lower drug prices, and give Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices. Many progressives would prefer a Medicare-for-all system, but this plan would satisfy most of the party, and it has the political advantage of being closely tied to the extremely popular Medicare program.

Those are generally good ideas. but the wisest course may be to not pitch “a new health care plan,” which would be unnecessarily complex, and might cause many time-challenged voters to tune out. Polls now indicate that the public sees Obamacare as a good start, but they believe it needs improvements. Instead of a big, new package, the improvements could be pitched as a series of specific, easily-digestible amendments, one at a time, where possible. That approach has a better chance of securing gradual voter “buy-in,” than does glazing over the eyes of citizens who are still trying to understand the provisions of the ACA. Voters at this political moment don’t want a big honking radical re-do, with lots of bells and whistles; They want credible easy-to-understand reforms, served up in intelligible portions.

Such an approach has the additional virtue of rendering impotent one of the GOP’s most powerful weapons — distraction. By staying on a simple bill, such as an amendment lowering the age for Medicare, or broadening eligibility for Medicaid, or price controls for commonly-used drugs, Democrats can improve the odds that voters will pay attention to the merits of their proposals. Other needed fixes for Obamacare include further reducing the burdens of deductibles and premium costs. As soon as one reform is enacted, Democrats should immediately introduce another.

Republicans have an edge in debates about big package reforms, because they are practiced in distraction. Democrats should not play by their rules. Breaking down needed reforms and presenting them clearly shows respect for health care consumers, and makes it easier for them to identify which elected officials serve their interests, instead of insurance company profits. None of this is intended as a way to head off single-payer or Medicare for all. Rather it is a way to get there, step by achievable step.


Political Strategy Notes

Sen. Bernie Sanders, quoted in Lisa Rathke’s AP article, “Sanders says he’ll introduce ‘Medicare for all’ bill,” offers this perceptive observation about the Republican health care melt-down: “It wasn’t just we defeated them,” Sanders, an independent, said. “It was how we defeated them,” with rallies around the country, town meetings and people standing up and fighting back.” Many political commentators slighted the nation-wide protests leading up to and continuing after the inauguration, arguing that they meant little, unless they mobilized voters. But the protests did matter, because they educated millions of Americans about the huge rip-off embedded in the Republican ‘repeal and replace’ bill. But, yes it would be even better if the protest campaigns also registered voters.

In his PowerPost article, “Left out of AHCA fight, Democrats let their grass roots lead — and win,” Dave Weigel concurrs, and notes, “Democrats watched as a roiling, well-organized “resistance” bombarded Republicans with calls and filled their town hall meetings with skeptics. The Indivisible coalition, founded after the 2016 election by former congressional aides who knew how to lobby their old bosses, was the newest and flashiest. But it was joined by MoveOn, which reported 40,000 calls to congressional offices from its members; by Planned Parenthood, directly under the AHCA’s gun; by the Democratic National Committee, fresh off a divisive leadership race; and by the AARP, which branded the bill as an “age tax” before Democrats had come up with a counterattack…And what was incredible about this process was the phone calls,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)…We had 1,959 phone calls in opposition to the American Health Care Act. We had 30 for it.””

But Democrats should not be content merely to defend Obamacare. Rather they should energetically reframe the Debate into expanding access to Medicare and Medicaid. As Daniel Marans writes at HuffPo, “Single-payer health insurance still lacks support from many, if not most, Democrats, let alone from the Republican lawmakers who control both chambers. But the proactive strategy speaks to increasing confidence among progressives that if they stick to their ideals and build a grassroots movement around them, they will ultimately move the political spectrum in their direction…In the meantime, a potential benefit of this ambitious approach is what’s known as shifting the “Overton Window,” a political science term for the narrow range of acceptable political views at a given moment in time…By adopting a position that is considered extreme by contemporary standards, politicians and activists can make more attainable policy goals start to seem reasonable by comparison. That phenomenon already seems to be working in progressives’ favor…Lowering the Medicare eligibility age from its current level of 65 is a “very interesting” idea, because of the positive financial effect it would have on the Obamacare insurance exchanges, said Austin Frakt, a health economist for the Department of Veterans Affairs…By allowing the oldest exchange participants to enroll in Medicare, lowering the Medicare age would relieve the health insurance marketplaces of some of their costliest customers, said Frakt, who also has academic posts at Boston University and Harvard…“It would reduce the premiums in those markets,” he predicted. (Frakt noted, however, that absent measures to offset the cost of the additional beneficiaries, the change would increase Medicare’s financial burden.)..Social Security Works’ Lawson praised the idea as an incremental step toward Medicare for all…“Start by lowering the age to 62 and get it down to zero,” he said.”

In another Dave Weigel article, “With AHCA defeat, some Democrats see chance to push for universal coverage,” he shares a quote from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that should become a talking point for all Democratic candidates: “The very best market-based solution is to have a public option,” Whitehouse said. Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, he said that a government-managed insurer would reveal what games private insurers had been playing. “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to put a straight stick next to it. If you do that, the private sector can’t manipulate the market by withdrawing.”

Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University looks beyond the public option in “What Comes Next for Obamacare? The Case for Medicare for All” at The Upshot. As Frank writes, “American health care outlays per capita in 2015 were more than twice the average of those in the 35 advanced countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Yet despite that spending difference, the system in the United States delivers significantly less favorable outcomes on measures like longevity and the incidence of chronic illness…But advertising expenses and administrative costs are not the most important reason the United States spends so much more. The main difference is that prices for medical services are so much lower in other countries. In France, for example, a magnetic resonance imaging exam costs $363, on average, compared with $1,121 in the United States; an appendectomy is $4,463 in France, versus $13,851 in America. These differences stem largely from the fact that single payers — which is to say, governments — are typically able to negotiate more favorable terms with service providers…In short, Medicare for all could deliver quality care at much lower cost than private insurers do now. People would of course be free to supplement their public coverage with private insurance, as they now doin most other countries with single-payer systems, and as many older Americans do with Medicare.”

Rep. Keith Ellison has a statistic that Democratic candidates and campaigns need to ponder. As Jeff McMenemy writes at seacoastonline.com, “Ellison, deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told a crowd of several hundred people that packed a fundraiser at the Portsmouth Gas Light Co. restaurant, that 63 percent of Americans “do not have $500 bucks in the bank. Think about that…A little crisis comes up and it can throw your family budget all out of whack. It means you get to the end of the week and you ran out of money,” Ellison said Saturday afternoon. “People are living paycheck to paycheck. Those Americans need a party that will fight for them.””

At The New York Times Jonathan Martin observes that Democratic leaders are not about to be hustled by another tax break for the wealthy scam masquerading as an infrastructure initiative. “An infrastructure plan may be a safer harbor for Mr. Trump — a measure many in Washington are mystified that he did not try to pursue at the outset of his administration,” writes Martin. “But Mr. Schumer suggested that the president would find Democratic votes only if he defied his party and embraced a huge spending bill, rather than just offering tax incentives for companies to build roads, bridges and railways…“If he’s only for tax breaks, it will just be a repeat of the health care debate,” Mr. Schumer said.”

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin has a warning for Democrats who may be softening up toward the Gorsuch nomination: “To the extent that Gorsuch said anything of substance at his hearing, he put himself across as a mainstream figure. He said that he had participated in some twenty-seven hundred cases on the appeals court, and had voted with the majority in ninety-nine per cent of them. This proves only that most cases are routine. (Even the Supreme Court issues unanimous rulings more than half the time.) The hard cases are the ones that matter, and it’s reasonable to project how Gorsuch would vote in them. He would oppose abortion rights. (Trump promised to appoint a “pro-life” Justice.) His predilection for employers over employees is such that it yielded a circuit-court opinion of almost Gothic cruelty. When subzero temperatures caused a truck driver’s trailer brakes to freeze, he pulled over to the side of the road. After waiting three hours for help to arrive, he began to lose feeling in his extremities, so he unhitched the cab from the trailer and drove to safety. His employer fired him for abandoning company property. The majority in the case called the dismissal unjustified, but Gorsuch said that the driver was in the wrong…As a Justice, Gorsuch would embrace the deregulation of campaign finance symbolized by the Citizens United decision. (He argued in an opinion that judges should evaluate limits on political contributions using the same tough standards that they apply to racial discrimination.) His most famous Tenth Circuit decision had him taking a side in the culture wars. In Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, he ruled that a multibillion-dollar corporation could withhold federally guaranteed rights to birth control from thousands of female employees because of the religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners. (His position was upheld, 5–4, by the Supreme Court.) In an embarrassing coincidence, on the second day of Gorsuch’s testimony, the Court unanimously rejected one of his holdings in the Tenth Circuit, ruling that it denied adequate educational opportunities to students with disabilities. Every sign suggests that Gorsuch would be at least as conservative a judicial activist as Samuel Alito…It’s also clear what Neil Gorsuch is not: Merrick Garland. Gorsuch’s nomination is inextricable from its shameful political context. When Scalia died, more than eleven months remained in Barack Obama’s Presidency, but Senate Republicans refused to give his nominee even a hearing. This departure from norms was all the more outrageous because the tactic was used to block a moderate; the Republicans denied Obama his constitutional right in order to trade a Justice who might have been less liberal than Stephen Breyer for one who might be as radical as Clarence Thomas. Such a turnabout seems especially disturbing given that the F.B.I. and other agencies are now investigating the very legitimacy of the Trump Presidency. Indeed, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, has called for a delay in the Gorsuch vote until there is some clarity about the Trump camp’s ties to Russia. Last week, he also promised to lead a filibuster against Gorsuch’s confirmation, but Republicans, in response, vowed to change the Senate rules to allow them to confirm the nominee by a simple majority.”

“Sitting judges are expected to stay out of electoral politics. But this is not about attending a caucus or writing a campaign check. This is about respect—or disrespect—for the process by which judges are nominated, how those nominations are reviewed and the standards by which they are confirmed or rejected…Gorsuch’s refusal to acknowledge that corruption diminished him. And it further disqualified a man who—if he truly respected the constitution and the court—would have refused Trump’s offer of a tainted nomination…“Judge Gorsuch himself should understand the precedent his nomination risks setting and not hide behind statements about the need to avoid politics,” explains former US Senator Russ Feingold, a three-term veteran of the Senate Judiciary Committee who weighed the nominations of six Supreme Court Justices during his 18 years in the Senate. Of Gorsuch, Feingold says, “He should have refused the nomination. He reportedly called Judge Garland after he was nominated. If he had truly understood what is at stake, he would have called Judge Garland to say he had turned down the nomination in solidarity—not with Judge Garland personally, but with the Supreme Court and the US Constitution that he says he holds in such high regard…By refusing to acknowledge and condemn the chicanery, and the lies, that made him a nominee made himself a part of the lies and corruption…By putting his own political ambition ahead of a duty to the republic, Gorsuch extended the damage done by Republican partisans in 2016. And created a new danger. “If Republicans get away with the judicial coup they launched last year when they refused to grant Judge Merrick Garland a hearing, such a cynical political ploy could become commonplace,” says Feingold. “The GOP will apply it to lower courts. They will refuse to grant a hearing in the year before a midterm, or during the two years of a presidential race. The Supreme Court will become a permanent pawn of the GOP.” — from “Neil Gorsuch’s Own Testimony Clearly Disqualifies Him: The nominee failed to outline even minimal concerns about the GOP’s judicial coup” by John Nichols in The Nation.


Only 17 Percent of Public Supports Republican ACA Repeal Bill As House Votes Today

Republicans are bracing for a major defeat of their ‘repeal and replace’ health care bill today, and their loss is more likely to be greeted with public cheers than expressions of regret.  In their New York Times article, “Trump Tells G.O.P. It’s Now or Never, Demanding House Vote on Health Bill,” Julie Hirschfield Davis, Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan note,

Quinnipiac University national poll found that voters disapproved of the Republican plan by lopsided margins, with 56 percent opposed, 17 percent supportive and 26 percent undecided. The measure did not even draw support among a majority of Republicans; 41 percent approved, while 24 percent were opposed.

That is an absolutely pathetic number, considering all of the time Republicans have had to fashion a ‘repeal and replace’ bill. It is a number that calls into question, not only the political skills of Trump, Ryan and other GOP leaders, but also their common sense, for having manuevered themselves into such an embarrassing spotlight. Really, guys, that’s the best you can do with with GOP control of the White House, U.S. Senate and House?

Trump’s threat to move away from supporting Obamacare repeal is not likely to be all that much of a concern since his approval rating is at 37 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. As Elliot Hannon writes at Slate.com,

If it feels, to you, like Donald Trump is doing a terrible job as president—you’re not alone. Recent polls have shown the president’s support cratering to historic lows, and a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday confirmed Trump’s unpopularity. Trump’s job approval rating stands at 37 percent with a whopping 56 percent of Americans disapproving of the job Trump’s doing. By comparison, nearly two-thirds of Americans approved of Barack Obama at a similar stage, and George W. Bush had an approval rating nearing 60 percent, while roughly 1-in-4 Americans disapproved of the former presidents two months into their first terms.

Then there is the issue of Trump’s credibilty, his pattern of saying anything, often to reverse himself in days, if not hours. For that same reason, Democrats should not expect that he will necessarily abandon the ‘repeal and replace’ effort just because he said so.

It is possible that Speaker Ryan will secure a narrow majority at the last minute, but it is increasingly unlikely. Even if he does pass it in the House, however, the bill faces even stronger opposition in the U.S. Senate. As Heather Caygle and Elana Schor note at Politico, “House Democrats think GOP leaders in the Senate will have a much harder time changing the bill to appease tepid Republican senators.” The authors quote House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, who observes, “I am as positive as I can be … that Speaker Ryan does not believe this bill will pass the Senate.”

At The Fix Amber Phillips writes in her post, “There are still enough House Republicans opposed to the health-care bill to kill it,” that “Assuming no Democrats support the measure, Republicans can lose two votes in the Senate and 22 votes in the House. As of Thursday night, here’s how many Republicans have said that they’ll vote against it: 34 House members; 6 senators. Other GOP lawmakers still have serious concerns about the legislation or said they are leaning against it. We count 15 House members, 16 senators.”

All in all, it looks like today could be a disaster for Republicans, as they marinate in an unholy stew of threats, insults, whining, excuses, finger-pointing, lies and betrayals, and that’s before the vote count that reveals their party as politically bankrupt. Of course the irony is that Obamacare was their best hope for delaying the public option all along. The GOP’s showcasing the intellectual, moral and political bankruptcy of their health care policy may end up hastening the day when the public option becomes a reality.


Political Strategy Notes

It doesn’t sound like Trump is making much progress in cobbling together enough House Republicans to pass Obamacare repeal. As Sam Frizell and Zeke J. Miller write at Time Magazine, “President Trump invited 15 moderate lawmakers to the White House on Tuesday to persuade them to vote for the Republican bill to replace Obamacare…Some members wanted to remove the provision in the Republican bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. Others had concerns about the cuts in Medicaid spending. Another asked what would happen to the hospitals in his district. Trump nodded and listened, but made no firm promises. He reminded them of the importance of getting the bill passed…By the time the meeting ended, no one had changed their vote.”

But Amber Phillips reports at The Washington Post that “Thursday’s vote on the GOP Obamacare replacement bill is going to be veeeery close,” and provides a summary of the views of the House and Senate members who are opposed or leaning against the bill.

Here’s a Marketwatch article by Emma Court, which illustrates the inhumanity of America’s privatized  health care system and why the pharmaceutical industry needs a choke collar leash; “Bernie Sanders thinks this $89,000-a-year drug should be $1,000 a year.” The drug in question, Emflaza, is a corticosteroid that improve the muscle strength of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. As Sen. Sanders and and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to PTC Therapeutics, “We urge you to keep the price of this relatively common steroid at its current importation cost,” or about $1,000 to $1,200 a year, the letter said. “Doing so will allow patients to use deflazacort in combination therapies without going into bankruptcy.”

A little nugget from the Washington Post’s coverage of the Gorsuch hearings, as reported by Ed O’Keefe, Elise Viebeck and Robert Barnes: “The politics of the nomination again were at center stage. When Gorsuch said he did not think of judges as Democrats or Republicans, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) responded if that were true, the committee would be considering the man President Barack Obama nominated, Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans denied Garland a hearing and a vote on his nomination.” Gorsuch’s concern for an independent judiciary, such as it was, did not permit him to criticize the denial of hearings for his widely-respected colleague, and he is clearly all too willing to quietly support the Republican obstruction as their ‘replacement’ nominee, a sort of judicial scab.

It’s pretty bad for Republicans when their most widely-respected member, a former presidential nominee no less, states that he doesn’t believe his party has the cred to handle a serious investigation of Russian manipulation of a U.S. presidential election. Or, as Max Greenwood reports at The Hill, quoting Sen. John McCain, “the reason why I’m calling for this select committee or a special committee, is I think that this back-and-forth and what the American people have found out so far that no longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone,” McCain told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren. “And I don’t say that lightly.”

GOP denial that their party is more anti-worker than pro-working-class just got harder, because the “Senate voted on Wednesday to roll back an Obama-era safety regulation,” reports Jordain Carney at The Hill. “Senators voted 50-48 to nix the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule extending the amount of time a company can be penalized for failing to report workplace injuries and illnesses to five years…Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act to take a hammer to rules instituted under the Obama White House. The law allows them to overturn recently published regulations with a simple majority…With the House passing legislation overturning the regulation earlier this month, it will now head to President Trump’s desk, where it is expected to be signed.” Carney quotes Sen. Elizabeth Warren who said, “”The pattern that is emerging is pretty clear. Republicans have no plans to improve the lives of American workers. Quite the opposite. Republicans are increasing the odds that workers will be injured or even killed.”

According to a new Quinnipiac University national poll, “President Trump is losing support among key elements of his base,” including Men, who now disapprove 43 – 52 percent, compared to a 49 – 45 percent approval March 7; Republicans who approve 81 – 14 percent, compared to 91 – 5 percent two weeks ago; and White voters, who disapprove 44 – 50 percent, compared to a narrow 49 – 45 percent approval March 7…”Disapproval is 60 – 31 percent among women, 90 – 6 percent among Democrats, 60 – 31 percent among independent voters and 75 – 16 percent among non-white voters.” Further, “”Most alarming for President Donald Trump, the demographic underpinnings of his support, Republicans, white voters, especially men and those without a college degree, are starting to have doubts.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball Geoffrey Skelley compares data from exit polls and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), and notes that 66 percent of whites with no college degree voted for Trump, according to exit poll data, while CCES data indicated that 61 percent of non-college whites voted for Trump. Exit poll data indicated that 61 percent of white noncollege women voted for Trump (compared to 71 percent for non college men), while CCES data pegged that figure at 60 percent (compared to 63 percent for non college men). The gender gap between college-educated women and men was significantly larger in both polls.

I used to like the idea of a fine for citizens who don’t vote, such as has just been proposed for the state of New York by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan.  It would likely play out, however, as a regressive tax on lower income people who are less likely to vote. It might be better for states to study and emulate the example of Minnesota, where “nearly 3 in 4 voters in Minnesota turned out to vote in November’s elections, a rate higher than in any other state. Last year marked the eighth time in the past nine elections that Minnesota notched the highest turnout in the nation.” Other states that supassed a 70 percent turnout in November included ME, NH, CO and WI.


Political Strategy Notes

Ari Berman cuts to the chase in his article in The Nation, “In E-mails, Neil Gorsuch Praised a Leading Republican Activist Behind Voter Suppression Efforts. Gorsuch’s ties to Hans von Spakovksy suggest a hostility to voting rights.” As Berman writes: “Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote. But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration. When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!””…At very least, the e-mails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights. Given that we know almost nothing about Gorsuch’s views on the subject, this is something the Senate needs to press him on during confirmation hearings next week…Given that von Spakovsky hailed Gorsuch as “the perfect pick for Trump,” it’s safe to assume he believes that the Supreme Court nominee shares his views. The Senate needs to aggressively question Gorsuch to see if that’s the case.” Democrats must understand that voter suppression is the single issue that matters more for their party’s survival than any other, and not get suckered by the meme that Gorsuch is a moderate conservative.

In his New York Times Magazine article, “The New Party of No, How a president and a protest movement transformed the Democrats,” Charles Homans shares a statistic which helps explain why Repubicans have an easier time with party discipline in congress than do Democrats: “In a 2014 Pew survey, 82 percent of people who identified as “consistently liberal” said they liked politicians who were willing to make compromises; just 32 percent of “consistently conservative” respondents agreed.”

“Buckle up:Trump faces his most consequential week yet,” write Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann at NBC News. They pinpoint four key questions that will be addressed this week, which will likely have a decisive impact on Trump’s prospects for finishing his term. The questions include: 1. Does FBI Director Comey publicly repudiate Trump’s wiretapping charge?…2. How far does Comey go on Russia; Does the health-care effort survive — or die? and Is Gorsuch’s confirmation still on track?

At The Daily 202:, James Hohman reports that “Reagan Democrats give Trump a long leash – but deeply distrust GOP,” and makes the case that “The Reagan Democrats who delivered the Rust Belt to Donald Trump last fall will blame congressional Republicans, not him, if Obamacare repeal fails…The president is flying to Detroit later this morning to talk about the future of the auto industry during a roundtable with union workers and CEOs. He is expected to relax fuel economy standards. Trump was the first Republican to carry Michigan since 1988 because of his outsized strength among non-college educated independents and traditional Democrats…Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg coined the term “Reagan Democrats” in the mid-1980s to describe just these sorts of blue-collar whites in Macomb County, Michigan, mostly autoworkers, who had shifted from staunchly backing John F. Kennedy to going gaga for Ronald Reagan. He helped his client Bill Clinton assiduously court this constituency and bring them back into the Democratic fold…Barack Obama easily carried Macomb twice. Then Trump won it with 54 percent…To understand what happened, Greenberg went back last month to conduct four focus groups with 35 non-college educated whites who voted for both Trump and Obama…There was no buyer’s remorse. Despite the drama of the opening weeks, not one of the participants regretted voting for the president. They described Trump as sincere, complained about unfair media coverage and criticized protesters for not giving him a chance to do good things. They love that he remains politically incorrect. They remain confident that he is a strong leader who will shake up Washington, secure the border and bring back manufacturing jobs. Their faith is strong. Their doubts are sparse…At the same time, no one in the focus groups trusted congressional Republicans to do the right thing, particularly on the economy and health care. The Trump/Obama voters were asked to react to pictures of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Among the responses: “shifty,” “they only look out for themselves,” and “like the CEOs.” They want these guys to support Trump and his agenda, not the other way around. Asked for impressions of Republicans generally, several volunteered that the party cares primarily about the rich…“Nothing has happened that has broken their trust in him and their belief that they cast the right kind of vote,” Greenberg explained in an interview yesterday afternoon. “That doesn’t mean it won’t break at some point, but it gives him a lot of space for now. They also know regular Republicans were not with him. They’re very conscious of this.”…Greenberg was also struck by how much health care dominated the conversation in his focus groups, which was not by design. Nearly everyone told a story about how the Affordable Care Act is not affordable enough for them. They almost all have struggled to afford their insurance plans, co-pays and medications. Some expressed frustration about having to subsidize coverage for the poor and minorities. One man lamented that he cannot retire because he needs to pay for health care. A woman complained about her son having to pay a penalty because of the individual mandate.” It appears that educating persuadable Reagan Democrats about how closely Trump’s policies line up with the Republican Party line could be an effective strategy for Dems.

A new Fox News poll out this week shows Sanders has a +28 net favorability rating among the US population, dwarfing all other elected politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. And he’s even more popular among the vaunted “independents”, where he is at a mind boggling +41…Sanders’ effect on Trump voters can be seen in a gripping town hall this week that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes hosted with him in West Virginia – often referred to as “Trump country” – where the crowd ended up giving him a rousing ovation after he talked about healthcare being a right of all people and that we are the only industrialized nation in the world who doesn’t provide healthcare as a right to all its people.

“What we call populism is really in large degree white identity politics, which can’t be addressed by promising universal benefits. Among other things, these “populist” voters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won’t hear about it or believe it if told. For sure many if not most of those who gained health coverage thanks to Obamacare have no idea that’s what happened. That said, taking the benefits away would probably get their attention, and maybe even open their eyes to the extent to which they are suffering to provide tax cuts to the rich.” — from Paul Krugman’s Consience of a Liberal; blog on Populism and the Politics of Health.

At The New York Times, Carl Hulse explains why the “Gorsuch Confirmation Presents Democrats With 2 Difficult Paths.”: “When it comes to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, Senate Democrats appear to have two options: Get out of the way or get run over…Senate Republicans’ enthusiastic backing of President Trump’s nominee ensures majority support even before the confirmation hearing begins Monday. But the Republicans also hope that enough Democrats are won over by Judge Gorsuch — or recognize the inevitability of his confirmation — that they join in efforts to head off an explosive showdown over a filibuster…Some Democrats believe that Republicans are posturing in an effort to intimidate the opposition and don’t yet have the votes to end the filibuster. They also worry their party could face a severe political reprisal from its energized liberal backers if they do not do whatever they can to oppose Judge Gorsuch no matter the consequences. Other Democrats privately take a different view. They say the party shouldn’t test the limits on the Gorsuch nomination since his approval won’t change the ideological makeup of the court from when Justice Scalia served. They believe Democrats should hold their fire in the expectation of another vacancy. Then, if Mr. Trump goes with a staunch conservative, dig in against that person and argue that Republicans are instituting a partisan rules change to drastically reshape the court.”

Alex Seitz-Wald reports at nbcnews.com that Blue Dog Democrats in congress can expect primary challenges from several new groups of progressives:” “One called #WeWillReplaceYou has warned specific members of congress it may challenge them. But it promises to use discretion in targeting only those Democrats it feels have strayed from the party…Another new group staffed by ex-Sanders aides, Justice Democrats, has less clear plans. While their audacious talk isn’t backed up at the moment, they have an innovative model that could be used to run a large slate of candidates on the cheap against possibly dozens of incumbents…This week, Justice Democrats merged operations with another anti-incumbent group founded by former Sanders aides, Brand New Congress, which started last year.”

McClatchy’s Alex Roarty reports that “Establishment Democrats aim to adopt the anti-Trump movement“: “A ragtag group of political amateurs has driven the protest movement against President Donald Trump, and now the heavyweights of the Democratic Party are trying to bring these novices into the institutional fold. Next month, the liberal movement’s leading think tank is convening about 50 of the top activists for a daylong convention in Los Angeles. Those protest leaders who plan to attend say it will be their first chance to meet many fellow organizers who have become full-blown activists since Trump’s election. The session, organized and co-hosted by the Center for American Progress’ political arm, is ostensibly meant to share best practices with these volunteer-driven groups, on subjects ranging from fundraising to organizing. But it also reflects the effort underway within the Democratic Party, where operatives who have battled Republicans for years are now trying to cooperate with newcomers who have been more successful capturing the energy of anti-Trump Americans than the professional class was during the 2016 campaign…It’s a process both sides say needs to go well if Democrats want to turn the so-called anti-Trump “resistance” movement into a force that can win elections. “In the very beginning, there was just a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, a lot of frustration, and groups like mind swelled in numbers,” said Andy Kim, founder of Rise Stronger, a group that seeks to connect grass-roots organizers with policy experts. “This next phase is the strategic phase.”


Political Strategy Notes

Pete Galuszka’s WaPo op-ed “Virginia’s sudden turn to progressivism,” includes this encouraging note: “…Long-dormant Democrats are planning to challenge 45 Republican state legislators, including 17 whose districts voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. In 2015, Democrats didn’t bother showing up to run in 44 of 67 races.”

In addition to that good news, Ed Kilgore reports in his New York Magazine post, “VA Governor’s Race Is Good Test for Post-Trump Election Strategy” that “In terms of the kind of smaller, off-year electorate we can expect in November, it is significant that Clinton nearly matched Trump among white college graduates, those most likely to show up in non-presidential elections, while Trump won the more marginally participating white non-college graduates by a massive 71/24 margin. If this kind of education gap occurs in the Virginia governor’s race, particularly if white working-class voters stay home in significant numbers, a GOP win will be very difficult to produce.”

“On the Senate side, Democrats told CNN they see opportunities to message directly to older voters in states with 2018 elections such as Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Maine…Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada are of particular interest to Democrats. Both their states have a sizable number of senior voters, and were fertile ground for Clinton — she won Nevada and lost Arizona by just 4%. Voters 65 and older backed Trump over Clinton nationally by 7% in 2016, according to exit polls. In Arizona, that number was a more stark — 13%. But in Nevada, Clinton won seniors by 5%…Florida and Maine, meanwhile, are two of the oldest states by population…Democrats are hopeful that concerted messaging will mean their candidates — both Senate and House — could turn out seniors, a reliable voting bloc even in off-year elections. On average, voters over 65 make up close to 20% of voters in midterms, more than their share in presidential elections.”– from Dan Merica’s “How Democrats will use the GOP health care bill against Republicans in 2018” at CNN Politics.

Kyle Kondik’s “Initial 2018 House Ratings” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball notes: “Democrats argue that with the right candidates they can put several Trump-friendly heartland districts into play, such as those held by Reps. Andy Barr (R, KY-6), Mike Bishop (R, MI-8), Bob Gibbs (R, OH-7), and Alex Mooney (R, WV-2). That seems like a significant stretch, but perhaps one or more of these districts makes it onto our competitive list depending on the emergence of strong candidates and the national environment. For what it’s worth, Democrats say that they are seeing considerable interest from candidates in a wide range of districts who are inspired to run by the Trump presidency. Whether those candidates actually run, and whether they can perform in red districts, is an open question, although Democrats did have success in some GOP-leaning districts in their 2006 midterm victory…Overall, though, voters’ perceptions of Trump and congressional Republicans will loom large next year — or at least history suggests those factors will be important. If perceptions are neutral or broadly positive, the GOP should have little trouble keeping the House. If they are negative, the House will be in play, and some of those Likely Republican districts — the districts that truly will make or break the GOP House majority — might start to slip away.”

Reid Wilson reports at The Hill: “More voters cast ballots in November’s elections than when President Obama won reelection in 2012…About 139 million Americans, or 60.2 percent of the voting-eligible population, cast a ballot in November’s elections, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project. That compares with 58.6 percent of eligible voters who turned out in 2012…Nearly 3 in 4 voters in Minnesota turned out to vote in November’s elections, a rate higher than in any other state. Last year marked the eighth time in the past nine elections that Minnesota notched the highest turnout in the nation. Clinton won the state’s 10 electoral votes by a slim 45,000-vote margin…More than 70 percent of voters turned out in Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado and Wisconsin, all states where both presidential campaigns invested heavily. Turnout hit 69 percent in hotly contested Iowa, and more than two-thirds of voters cast ballots in Massachusetts, Oregon, Maryland and Virginia…Researchers from the group Nonprofit Vote, which promotes voter participation and policies that will increase turnout, said states where more people showed up shared one of two similarities: They were either battleground states, or they allowed voters to register and cast ballots on the same day…Voter participation in the 15 states with same-day registration laws on the books was 7 percentage points higher than in states where voters have to register weeks before Election Day. In battleground states, turnout hit 65 percent, 5 points higher than in nonbattleground states.”

At The American Prospect Miles Rapoport notes that the aforementioned study also reveals that “Three additional states—California, Vermont, and Hawaii—will offer same day registration in 2018, bringing the total to 18. There are some variations in the law among the states. Most offer registration opportunities up to and including Election Day, while two states (North Carolina and Maryland) offer them only during the early voting period…Connecticut and Illinois, the two most recent SDR adopters (neither of them battleground states) had the highest increases in turnout between 2012 and 2016, at 4.1 percent and 4 percent, respectively…The three states that offered all mail elections were all in the top 12 states. Colorado (fourth), Oregon (eighth) and Washington (12th). Colorado is particularly significant because it combines the ballots mailed to every voter with the additional option of Election Day centers that allowed people to vote in person, and to register and vote using SDR.”

In his Boston Review article “How People Vote,” U.C. Berkeley philosophy professor Niko Kolodny writes “Just as we are struggling to understand Brexit, Trump, and a string of electoral surprises in Europe, along comes a book that seems to make sense of it all, with a new theory of why people vote the way they do. “The primary sources of partisan loyalties and voting behavior,” Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels argue in Democracy for Realists, “are social identities, group attachments, and myopic retrospections.” Their thesis challenges the received “folk theory,” as they call it, which assumes that policy preferences and ideology account for voter behavior…Voters “myopically” ignore long-term performance. They reelect incumbents if things are going well right before the election and cast them out if not.”

It looks like senate Democrats are going to anchor their case against confirming Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court in his anti-worker rulings, reports Bridget Bowman in her Roll Call article, “Senate Democrats Preview Their Case Against Gorsuch: Supreme Court nominee cast as foe of workers.” As Bowman writes, quoting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “But his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate, special interest agenda.” The strategy could be viewed as part of an effort to reclaim the Democratic Party’s identity as the champion of the rights and interests of the working-class.

There is lots of grumbling about Rachel Maddow’s reporting of the Trump tax return story. And yes, the foreplay was a little long compared to the payoff, his 2005 tax return. But credit Maddow with providing a solid analysis, enhanced by top tax analyst, David Cay Johnston. Much of the big media whining about the report had more to do with jealousy about Maddow’s soaring ratings. As Erik Wemple puts it in his Washington Post column, “It bears noting that “The Rachel Maddow Show” is starting to best Fox News in a key television rating metric. That is a big deal in the media world. Could we be witnessing the coalescence of the Trump opposition into a bona fide cable-news audience — one that a channel like MSNBC can cultivate? And could the freakout from Hannity, Kurtz & Co. signal that Fox News is very, very worried about this prospect?”


Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article “Data Firm Says ‘Secret Sauce’ Aided Trump; Many Scoff,” Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim report on the effectiveness of the GOP’s favorite microtargeting firm, Cambridge Analytics and the political uses of psychographic profiles in general. Among their observations: “Cambridge Analytica’s rise has rattled some of President Trump’s critics and privacy advocates, who warn of a blizzard of high-tech, Facebook-optimized propaganda aimed at the American public, controlled by the people behind the alt-right hub Breitbart News…But a dozen Republican consultants and former Trump campaign aides, along with current and former Cambridge employees, say the company’s ability to exploit personality profiles — “our secret sauce,” Mr. Nix once called it — is exaggerated…Trump aides, though, said Cambridge had played a relatively modest role, providing personnel who worked alongside other analytics vendors on some early digital advertising and using conventional microtargeting techniques. Later in the campaign, Cambridge also helped set up Mr. Trump’s polling operation and build turnout models used to guide the candidate’s spending and travel schedule. None of those efforts involved psychographics.”

As part of her ongoing series, “Interviews for Resistance,” Sarah Jaffe of The Nation Institute interviews Stephen Lerner, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor on the topic “Organizing to Hit Trump’s Corporate Cabinet and Allies Where it Hurts” at Moyers & Company. One excerpt: “What we have been looking at is, how do you identify the corporate collaborators with Trump, and then look at ways to start putting pressure on them so that they pay a price…Trump’s job czar [Stephen Schwarzman, who chairs President Donald Trump‘s Strategic and Policy Forum] is actually involved in cutting wages, benefits and outsourcing work. This is one of the pieces that I think is the most critical, which is showing that the people that Trump has put in charge, like [Secretary of Commerce] Wilbur Ross, are job destroyers…We want to completely change the story by putting the spotlight on them by saying, “These are the people that got rich destroying good jobs. It is not evil foreigners or immigrants. It is these guys.” That lets you raise a whole set of issues in terms of showing who they are and then, all the different ways that they gamed the system to enrich themselves at the expense of workers.”

A new study by the Wesleyan Media Project concludes that “Clinton’s unexpected losses came in states in which she failed to air ads until the last week” and “Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests.” Further, notes an abstract of the study, “The 2016 presidential campaign broke the mold when it comes to patterns of political advertising. Using data from the Wesleyan Media Project, we show the race featured far less advertising than the previous cycle, a huge imbalance in the number of ads across candidates and one candidate who almost ignored discussions of policy. This departure from past patterns, however, was not replicated at the congressional level…Team Clinton’s message that Trump was unfit for the office of presidency may not have been enough.”

At The National Memo, however, Steven Rosenfeld explains “How James Comey’s ‘October Surprise’ Doomed Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy,” and notes, “Do you remember how you felt last October after you heard that FBI Director James Comey was reopening the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s possible illegal handling of classified communiqués while Secretary of State — just 11 days before the presidential election? That news, which left me with a sinking feeling that all but erased the confidence I had in Clinton’s prospects after the three presidential debates, was the moment that Donald Trump won the election, according to an analysis released this week by a data firm that tracks the psychological elements below patterns of consumer behavior, moods, and sentiment…According to Brad Fay, an executive with Engagement Labs, “Comey’s “October surprise” was the tipping point that turned voter sentiment away from Clinton—because people inclined to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt lost their enthusiasm, just as Comey’s announcement buoyed Trump voters…Immediately afterward, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump,” he said. “At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth ‘standings.’ The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.”

It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that the latest job figures make Trump “look good,” since he has only been president for a few weeks, but Christopher Ingraham’s “19 times Trump called jobs numbers ‘fake’ before they made him look good” in the Washingtron Post does reveal, once again, Trump’s detachment from anything he said in the past. Despite Trump’s confidence that he will not be held accountable for any of his reversals, Democrats should call him out on it every time, so his remaining supporters will reap the collateral damage in the 2018 midterms.

Marketwatch is running an excerpt of Ruy Teixeira’s new book, “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think.” Teixeira presents several reasons why progressives shouldn’t over-worry about right-wing populism emerging in the U.S. and Europe, including “the right populist movement is riding on demographic borrowed time. Typically, the greatest strength of these parties comes from the votes of less- educated aging whites. But to a greater or lesser degree, the population weight of these voters is declining across countries. In the United States, the white non-college-educated share of voters declined by 19 percentage points just between the 1988 and 2012 presidential elections. Projections indicate that this group’s share of voters should continue to decline by 2–3 points every presidential election for decades…The flip side is that the left’s burgeoning postindustrial coalition is composed of groups for whom right populist cultural attitudes are anathema. As these groups continue to grow, their values too will be in the ascendancy, crowding out the space for right populism. This is not to say that right populism will not continue to be a problem for some time but rather that over the medium to long term the movement has intrinsically limited growth potential.”

This headline says it all. But if that doesn’t quite do it for you, the subhead “In 2013, 20.4% of Kentuckians were uninsured. In 2016, 7.8% were” ought to be enough to convince any sentient being that the Veep needs to just put a sock in it.

John Judis interviews noted union organizer Marshall Ganz at TPM Cafe and elicits an insightful distinction from Ganz: “Many Democrats confuse messaging with educating, marketing with organizing. They think it is all about branding when it is really about relational work. You engage people with each other, creating collective capacity. That’s how you sustain and grow and get leadership. That’s how you make things happen. Organizers have known this for years. But then Green and Gerber at Yale showed that face to face contact with a voter, especially if relationally embedded, increases voter turnout. Broockman and others at Stanford showed interpersonal conversation— what they call “deep canvassing”—can change deep gender attitudes.”

At Vox Matthew Yglesias explains why “The Republican health plan is a huge betrayal of Trump’s campaign promises” and observes, “Trump’s embrace of more centrist positions on health care and retirement security was a crucial aspect of his campaign, and there was enough campaign-season tension between Trump and the GOP leadership that a voter could be forgiven for assuming Trump meant what he was saying…He did not. Trump ran and won promising to cover everyone, avoid Medicaid cuts, and boost funding for opioid abuse treatment. He is now lobbying Congress to pass a bill that does none of those things. Instead, millions will lose insurance and Medicaid spending will be sacrificed on the altar of tax cuts for the rich… “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump told the conservative Daily Signal way back in May 2015. “Every other Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn’t, they don’t know what to do because they don’t know where the money is. I do.”..In an early January interview with the Washington Post, he said that Trumpcare would feature “insurance for everybody,” in contrast to an ACA that, while bringing the uninsurance rate to a historic low, has still left 25 million people without coverage. The plans, he said, would have “much lower deductibles.” And ability to pay, he said, wouldn’t be an issue. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”…it’s hard to know for sure exactly how many people with go with how much less. But Standard & Poor’s thinks 6 million to 10 million people will lose insurance, while Brookings analysts think the number may be 15 million or higher.


Political Strategy Notes

At In These Times, Daniel Moraff makes a tight case that socialists and others on the left should not run as third party candidates, and their best prospects for winning elections remain inside the Democratic Party. Among Moraff’s many well-argued points: “Thanks to the Sanders campaign, the case for left challenges within the Democratic Party has never been stronger…He received over 43% of the total primary vote…We all just participated in the most interesting (and certainly the biggest) socialist electoral project ever to take place in the United States…Thousands of local left-to-progressive formations are springing up or growing, from DSA to Indivisible to the Working Families Party. Many of them will, in 2018, have the ability to draft and run candidates for office…Outside of extraordinary cases, a good left third-party candidate gets 15-20% of the vote in a partisan race without a Democrat whereas they attain 3-5% in a race with one. A Democratic primary challenger can sleepwalk to 20%. Local activists need to understand this, and take a hard look at what can and cannot be done outside the primary.”

We’re already hearing concerns from policy-holders about myriad problems with the Republican “replacement” health care bill. Now “Doctors, hospitals and insurers oppose Republican health plan,” write Juliet Eilperin and Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post: “We cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations,” James L. Madara, chief executive of the American Medical Association and a doctor, wrote in a letter to committee leaders overseeing work on the bill…Richard Pollack, CEO of the American Hospital Association, voiced similar fears, saying efforts to “restructure the Medicaid program” by shifting it from an entitlement program to one based on a per capita allocation “will have the effect of making significant reductions in a program that provides services for our most vulnerable populations and already pays providers significantly less than the cost of providing care.”…America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s largest trade association, sent a letter Wednesday saying that while it appreciated several of the proposed changes, the changes to Medicaid “could result in unnecessary disruptions in the coverage and care beneficiaries depend on.”

It’s ‘Trumpcare’ now, since “The White House announced that Trump is preparing to launch a “full-court press” on behalf of the bill, including stakeholder meetings, local media interviews and travel by officials in his administration,” reports Elise Viebeck at PowerPost. So much for Trump’s promise that he was going to provide leadership for a fresh approach that provides coverage for everyone, instead of just rubber-stamping whatever congressional Republicans came up with. What shall Democrats call it, “Trumpcare” or “Obamacare Lite”? Both terms make a point, but neither one seems adequate for  capturing the hardship this legislation would create for millions of Americans, if enacted.

Heidi Pryzybyla reports at USA Today that “Democratic lawmakers in at least 30 U.S. states are either unveiling or highlighting legislation this week aimed at President Trump’s working-class voters, in a nationwide coordinated rebuttal to the agenda the president will outline in his first joint address to Congress on Feb. 28…It’s an attempt to form the legislative spine of a state-level resistance to Trump’s policies, Nick Rathod, executive director of State Innovation Exchange Action [SiX Action], which is overseeing the initiative…The timing creates a juxtaposition between Democratic economic security prescriptions for workers, such as raising the minimum wage and paid family leave, and Trump tax reform and federal budget policies that, Democrats say, are at odds with his populist campaign oath to prioritize “forgotten” Americans from the factory floors of the Rust Belt to the sawmills of the Mountain West.”…Rathod said in an interview previewing the legislative “Week of Action” that will spotlight more than 130 bills in states from Oklahoma to Alaska….SiX Action, a nonprofit trying to help Democrats regain power at the state level, marshaled 40 different left-leaning organizations to help coordinate the effort. It includes bill introduction ceremonies to draw media attention even in states where the legislative packages face an uphill battle because Republicans control both chambers.”

The Atlantic’s Michelle Cottle has a reality check for those who keep saying Democrats should not be so negative and should emphasize their vision, constructive policies and ideas. Particularly in the midterm elections, writes Cottle, that is emphatically not the way to win. “Obama-era Republicans offered a master class in the political efficacy of being “anti…Democrats busted their humps trying to make Republicans pay for their gridlocking. But, for all voters’ grousing about congressional dysfunction, they rarely bother punishing lawmakers for not playing nicely. Indeed, the quickest way for a GOP legislator to get booted under Obama was to be labeled a compromising squish…“One thing we can take from the past several elections is that political obstructionism does not have the political price many people thought it did,” observed a Democratic Senate aide…In early 2005, a freshly reelected George W. Bush was hot to overhaul Social Security. Republicans held the White House and both chambers of Congress. They had the vision. They had the numbers. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. Even thinking about messing with entitlements is politically fraught, and Pelosi decided to make Bush bleed for it. For months, she kept her troops focused on beating the bejesus out of Bush’s proposal, driving public support for it down, down, down. By spring, Bush’s plan was deader than disco—and stayed dead despite his efforts to revive it, which ran right through the 2006 midterms. That November, Democrats retook both chambers of Congress in a wave election that startled pretty much everyone…In midterm politics, as in pain relief, rule No. 1 is to destroy the other guy’s credibility. You can sort the rest out later.”

Bill Scher’s Politico post, “The Resistance Will Be … Underwritten By Corporations: A grassroots fundraising strategy isn’t enough. Democrats need the big money” will surely piss off advocates of a small donor-driven financial strategy for winning elections. But Scher does present some sobering numbers: “Consider the cost of the last midterm election in 2014. The dollar figures were staggering. Both parties (including money from party-allied independent groups) combined spent $3.77 billion in 435 U.S. House and 36 Senate campaigns. Another $2.2 billion was raised at the state level, including candidates in 36 gubernatorial and more than 6,000 state legislative races, with additional $284 million coming from outside groups. Total midterm election cost: approximately $6.25 billion, with at least $2.7 billion spent by Democrats… Among gubernatorial candidates, Republicans trounced Democrats $493.7 to $357.7 million. And Republican state legislative candidates topped their Democratic rivals $487.1 to $438.2 million. (The GOP’s state legislative edge was partly due to its larger roster of candidates: 4,845 to 4,665. But that speaks to a Democratic weakness in candidate recruitment, which is exacerbated by its comparatively weaker fundraising.)..The lower down you go on the ballot, the more major donors matter, because there is less free media available to level the playing field and attract small donors. In 2014, 82 percent of the U.S. Senate winners were the candidates that spent the most, compared to a near-perfect 94 percentof U.S. House winners…To maximize resistance to Donald Trump, Democrats need to win as many 2018 midterm election races as possible. And they can’t do it on $27 checks alone.”

A new CNN/ORC poll conducted March 1-4 found that 79 percent of U.S. adults support increased spending on infrastructure and 61 percent disapprove of taxpayers funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Further, “a majority of Americans, 58 percent, also oppose increasing military spending by cutting funding for the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency or other nondefense agencies.”– From “Majority supports increased infrastructure spending, opposes border wall funding” by Rebecca Savransky at The Hill.

Also at The Atlantic, Clare Foran conducts an interview with Ruy Teixeira. Here’s an excerpt from Teixeira’s comments: “In The Emerging Democratic Majority, I think we correctly diagnosed how the overall country is changing, and how some states were likely to change, but I think we didn’t pay enough attention to some of the structural obstacles that Democrats must now confront, including the concentration of Democratic-leaning voters in urban areas, and how that might interact with gerrymandering. Those dynamics have turned out to be quite important. The lesson I take from that is that the left needs to be more competitive in a lot of places and can’t just rely on changing demographics. Democrats need to get into a position where they can de-gerrymander congressional districts, and to get to that point the party will need to be more competitive in parts of the country that aren’t necessarily liberal-leaning. They cannot just cede that to the Republican Party.”

Thomas B. Edsall dissects “Donald Trump’s Political Stew” in his New York Times column and shares doubts of some political commentators and scholars about the the ability of Democrats to hold on to majorities of major electoral components. Edsall notes, “Trump won college-educated whites by four points and non-college whites by a record-setting 39 points, a larger margin than Ronald Reagan, the previous record-holder at 29 points. Put another way, insofar as Trump voters define the contemporary Republican electorate, non-college whites are the majority, 55.1 percent, with college-educated whites becoming the minority at 44.9 percent.” In another section, Edsall quotes University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato: “The key constituency, Sabato said, is the “slice of non-college-educated white blue-collar workers from cities and older suburbs” who are the “Obama-Trump voters.” In 2016, 209 of the 676 counties that cast majorities for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 backed Trump, many in the Midwest. Sabato noted that it was these voters who “put Trump over the top in Michigan and possibly Wisconsin and Pennsylvania…If Trump produces, they’ll reward him with a second term. If he doesn’t — and he needs to create lots of high-paying jobs in the face of automation and a global economy moving in other directions — then they’ll be ripe for a return to their former home, the Democratic Party — if Democrats give them an appealing nominee.”


Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics Tom Lobianco and Davis Siegal explore why “Democrats say long-term success starts with 2018 governors’ races,” and notes “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi huddled privately with the leaders of the Democratic Governors Association last weekend and looked over maps of top targets. The group has 14 states in its sights and believes it would be impossible to lose more states to Republicans, especially if President Donald Trump continues to struggle…The organization has picked out nine states that Hillary Clinton won and another five that went to President Barack Obama. Some of the targets are clear — true blue bastions like Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, where Republicans upset Democratic favorites in 2014. But others are likely to be a slog reminiscent of the drubbing Clinton took in the Rust Belt, like fights in Wisconsin and Ohio…The bright spot for Democrats is that they are only defending 11 out of 38 seats over the next two years. But Democratic strategists who have been in the trenches of the states are leery that national Democrats, and Obama’s own redistricting group, are ready to support them after years of ignoring them.” 2017 tests set for this year include New jersey and Virginia.

Regarding Trump’s latest distraction: “He signaled his lack of evidence first by reportedly pushing his White House staff to ransack sensitive intelligence information to find support for his claim. Then on Sunday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wanted Congress to look into the matter and that the administration would offer no further comment. Trump has a problem either way. If he was not wiretapped, he invented a spectacularly false charge. And if a court ordered some sort of surveillance of him, on what grounds did it do so?” — from “Trump has gone completely through the looking glass” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. in his syndicated Washington Post column.

“About two-thirds of Americans say a special prosecutor should investigate contacts between Russians and Trump campaign associates” in a new CNN/ORC poll, reports Jennfer Agiesta at CNN Politics. However, “At the same time, Trump’s approval rating for handling the economy has increased to 55%, up from 49% a few weeks into his tenure…The economy, which 26% of Americans call the most important issue facing the country, remains his strongest issue..the only issue tested where Trump earns clearly positive reviews.”

WaPo’s Philip Bump highlights the idiocy of Trump’s false equivalence of Sessions’s secretive meeting with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak with a photograph of Sen Schumer and the Ambassador “noshing on doughnuts and gas station coffee” in full public view.

James Hohmann and Breanne Deppisch describe the Sessions mess succinctly at The Daily 202: “The country’s chief law enforcement officer made a false statement to Congress, while under oath, about his contacts with one of this nation’s biggest adversaries. (Legal experts, including Republicans, note that others have been prosecuted for less.) When he got busted, the attorney general initially claimed through a spokeswoman that he couldn’t recall specifics of what had been said during his undisclosed sit-down with the Russian ambassador, except that it wasn’t political in nature. Then, with his job on the line, he miraculously remembered supposedly exculpatory details…Last Thursday, Sessions said at his press conference that he would write the Judiciary Committee “today or tomorrow” to clarify his misleading testimony. It’s now been four days, and he has yet to formally clean things up. A spokesman said he’ll submit amended testimony later today. We’ll see. Either way, a delay this long only happens when one is trying to get one’s ducks in a row.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders continues with his impressive one-man, 50-state strategy. In his PowerPost article, “Bernie Sanders backs unionization campaign in Mississippi as Democrats draft populist agenda,” David Weigel quotres from a Sanders speech at a Nissan plant Canton, Mississippi: “…the facts are very clear, that workers in America who are members of unions earn substantially more, 27 percent more, than workers not in unions,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in an interview before the speech. “They get pensions and better working conditions. I find it very remarkable that Nissan is allowing unions to form at its plants all over the world. Well, if they can be organized everywhere else, they can be organized in Mississippi…Some of the poorest states in this country, where large numbers of people have no health insurance and have experienced stagnating wages, have not had the support from progressives that they need,” Sanders said. “It’s time we change that. It means standing up for working men and women…These workers are incredibly courageous,” Sanders said. “One thing we already know is that workers who have stood up for their rights are being harassed, are being discriminated against and are being lectured about the so-called perils of trade unionism. There’s a massive anti-union effort going on, and these guys are standing out their own. They deserve our support.”

There’s a lot for progressives to argue with in conservative Democrat Joel Kotkin’s Los Angeles Daily News article “How the Democrats can rebuild.” But Kotkin is on target in writing that “Sanders’ key plank — a single-payer, Canadian-like health care system — also could appeal to many small businesses, consultants and the expanding precariat of contract workers dependent on the now imperiled Obamacare. Critically, both health care and economic mobility priorities cross the color line, which is crucial to spreading social democracy here.” The rest of Kotkin’s critique reflects the way many  less extreme Trump voters see the Democratic Party.

Sen. Rand Paul calls Republican’s bill providing repeal/replace of the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare Lite,” reports Tami Luhby, also at at CNN Politcs.

Congratulations to Rachel Maddow. “Rachel Maddow Has a Top 10 Show on All of TV,” reports Chris Ariens of TV Newser. “In an interview with The Wrap, Maddow says the secret to her coverage–which almost exclusively covers politics–is pretty simple: “I stopped covering [Trump’s] Twitter feed and we started covering only what they do rather than what they say.” She has to be one of the most fearless reporters ever.