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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Dems ‘New Southern Strategy’ Emerging…Carefully

Ronald Brownstein’s “Democrats have a new Southern strategy” at CNN Politics provides a solid update of Democratic prospects in the region. In the euphoric wake of the election of Alabama’s Doug Jones, however, a couple of adjustmentss may help Dems get a workable strategy on track.

Brownstein writes that “the coalition that Jones mobilized closely resembled the voter alignments that have powered other recent Democratic victories in governors’ races in Virginia, North Carolina and Louisiana.” Further,

…Above all, Jones demonstrated that Democrats could simultaneously inspire passionate turnout from their base supporters, led by African-Americans, and make inroads with centrist white-collar white voters — each of which, for different reasons, is recoiling from Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency. That combination allowed Jones to overcome Moore’s lopsided margins among blue-collar, evangelical, older and rural whites — the four building blocks of the Trump coalition…Keeping momentum and agreement among those groups won’t be easy, but Democrats see it as a possible pathway to majorities in the 2018 midterm elections.

…Jones’ victory was centered on minorities, millennial voters and college-educated suburban whites, especially women. That’s exactly the formula Democrats now depend on in most states. But even with strong African-American support, Southern Democrats until recently come up short, largely because they haven’t attracted nearly as many college-educated whites as their party does elsewhere.

Now, with Democratic constituencies energized and suburban swing voters uneasy about Trump, Southern Democrats are suddenly finding it more possibe to assemble the coalition that the party relies on in other regions. And that could create new opportunities for Democrats across the South, most immediately in suburban House districts in 2018, but potentially also in statewide contests such as the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia and Senate battle in Tennessee.

Brownstein acknowledges that “Jones benefited from the unique vulnerabilities of his opponent, Republican Roy Moore, who was a deeply polarizing figure even before he was besieged by allegations that he had pursued relationships with teenage girls, some of them underage, while in his 30s.” In addition, Jones was a uniquely well-qualified candidate in terms of the interracial bridge-building the south (and America) so urgently needs. As the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, who secured convictions of Ku Klux Klansmen Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, the perpetrators of the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th St. Baptist Church in 1963, which took the lives of four young girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair, Jones had significant credibility with Alabama’s African American voters, particularly Black women.

Jones, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, did not just stumble into the case and do a competent job of securing a measure of justice for the victims of this horrific atrocity. He took real initiative and demonstrated extraordinary tenacity in winning the case. Alabama is somewhat unique in the south in that its African American activist community has carried forward the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement to a significant extent. Some veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama are still alive and their children are carrying forward the acitivist tradition to a new generation. They  found a worthy state-wide candidate in Jones, whose track record merited the energetic voter mobilization in the state’s Black communities that won the day for the Democratic candidate.

That’s not to say that investing more resources in African American communities in other southern states won’t pay off for Dems; it probably will. But Jones’s victory in Alabama underscores the importance of Dems running really good candidates in the south, who have demonstrated credibility in terms of interracial bridge-building.

Jones and his campaign manager Joe Trippi also played a very smart hand with respect to white voters. They navigated a nuanced strategy that mined the vein of educated white voters who were ready to vote Democratic, without alienating Republican voters who were disgusted with Moore and who were likely to skip voting on election day. As Ed Kilgore notes at New York Magazine, “Jones threaded a difficult needle by being moderate enough for white voters while having a deep and authentic connection with African-Americans.” Jones and Trippi skillfully avoided the myriad booby traps awaiting a Democratic candidate in 2017 Alabama. Credit Jones and Trippi also with a tireless work ethic — Jones showed up everywhere in Alabama and put in the time needed to cement the critical personal relationships that can make a real difference in a close race.

Democrats should also note that, while white non-college voters, went overwhelmingly for Republicans in the special elections of 2017, there is not a lot of wiggle room left here. In close elections, Dems can’t afford to lose more of these numerous voters, who are about 45 percent of the electorate, nation-wide, perhaps more in the south. There is also the possibility that adept Democratic candidates can actually improve performance with white, non-college voters, without alienating African American voters. Even a small improvement could produce stable, enduring Democratic majorities in key purple states, especially FL, NC and VA.

Another problem with any unified field ‘southern strategy’ theory is that there are major differences in the demographics of southern states, particularly with respect to African American voters — who are 37.3 percent in Mississippi, but just 11.9 percent in Texas. Democrats aren’t going to get much traction in many southern states without making at least some headway with white working-class voters.

So Democrats should tread carefully in talking about a creating a new southern strategy. But Dems can certainly do better in the south with good candidates and well-crafted strategy — and the Jones campaign does indeed provide some instructive lessons.

Political Strategy Notes

Among “10 Thoughts After the Alabama Senate Election” by Nathan L. Gonzales at Roll Call: “It was a good night for the polling average. Neither result should have been a surprise, considering Moore had a narrow 48 percent to 46 percent advantage in the final RealClearPolitics average. But that was much closer to the final outcome than late polling which showed Moore with a 9-point lead (Emerson College) and Jones with a 10-point lead (FOX News)…Even though turnout was higher than expected, about 35 percent of voting-age Alabamians chose to vote in the most highly-publicized election in the state in recent history.”

Alabama’s African American voters were instrumental in the election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate. But that does not mean that there was no voter suppression. As Brentin Mock writes at CityLab, “The Daily Beast reported seeing police set up near polling locations to check people for warrants in Montgomery, Alabama, one of the state’s urban centers where black voters helped send Jones to victory. There is a long history of this specific kind of police badge-sponsored voter intimidation in Alabama (and other states) to frighten black voters away from the polls…there were reports of long lines caused, in part, by voting machines that broke down throughout the day. Secretary of State Merrill also failed to deploy an adequate number of polling officials and resources…There were no shortage of voter ID problems in yesterday’s election, with poll workers questioning the validity of some voters’ IDs when not rejecting themoutright…Black voters helped Jones win despite voter suppression, not because they were spared from it.”

“Jones did win, by 2 percentage points. Which means we can quantify the Alabama swing as 24% toward Democrats,” notes Sam Wang at Princeton Election Consortium. “It should be noted that over 15% of this swing occurred before the Washington Post bombshell. A 15-point swing is consistent with other special elections this year. Yesterday’s election could only be made possible by Trump’s deep unpopularity…Exit polls showed that 91% of Republicans voted for Moore. The discrepancy between that and 82% suggests that turnout played a major role – see my Twitter feed for analytics from others quantifying this.”

Also check out David Litt’s Daily Beast post, “How Doug Jones Destroyed Roy Moore’s Whole Shtick with One Well-Chosen Verb.” Exit poll analysis is revealing. But candidate message also matters. Litt, a former speechwriter, argues that Doug Jones delivered a master-stroke one-liner that revealed Moore’s essential phoniness: “When you see me with a gun, folks, I’ll be climbing in and out of a deer stand or a turkey blind, not prancing around on a stage in a cowboy suit.” Litt continues, “…Parse that phrase closely, and you realize it’s a body blow – not just to Moore, but to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and the politics they champion. Litt notes further, “instead of fighting on the culture warrior’s turf, Jones turned to ridicule. “Prancing around on a stage in cowboy suit.” Litt adds, “Look at the word choice in that sentence. Not “walking” or “marching,” but “prancing.” Not at a rally, but “on a stage.” Not dressed like a cowboy, but “in a cowboy suit.” These were precise, cutting words. They didn’t just make fun of his opponent. They went straight at the central conceit of his public persona – his toughness. Words like “prancing” and “cowboy suit” suggest the opposite of masculinity. Where Roy Moore presented himself as an alpha male, Doug Jones exposed him as a kind of right-wing cabaret act…in the age of Trump and Bannon, plenty of them will feature ersatz tough-guys eager to turn politics into a pissing contest. By making his opponent look ridiculous, Doug Jones reminded us that Democrats don’t have to play that game to win elections. With carefully-chosen words, and a healthy appreciation for the power of mockery, they can corral the pigs without getting mud on their hands.”

James Hohman explains why “Democrats risk overplaying their hand by pushing for Trump’s resignation” at The Daily 202: “Many veteran operatives and elder statesmen in the Democratic firmament worry that engaging in this fight is not the way to win in 2018. They think Hillary Clinton blundered by trying to turn last year’s election into a referendum on Trump’s baggage and boorish behavior. They worry that Democrats won’t fully capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity if they’re perceived as overplaying their hand. They’re nervous that the conversation over whether Trump should step down has sucked up too much political oxygen, possibly at the expense of the tax debate — which a lot of these Democrats believe they can win since so many voters already see the GOP bill as a giveaway to the rich at the expense of the middle class…Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said it’s very hard to ask Trump to resign when all the accusations of sexual assault against him were out in the open before the 2016 election. “The American people knew this, and they voted for him anyway,” Rendell said in an interview. “If there were any new allegations, that might be something different. But they knew it, and they voted for him.”

Further, writes Hohman, “Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way and a senior official in Clinton’s White House, proposes an 80-20 rule for Democrats. “Our view is that every Democrat has to follow their conscience in how they discuss Trump and determine the proper call to action should be — resignation, investigation, impeachment, etc.,” he said. “But by Election Day 2018, with control of Congress now clearly in the balance, 80 percent of what voters hear from Democrats better be about what they will do to ensure that everyone, everywhere has the opportunity to earn a good life. That means they can talk Trump 20 percent of the time. But the focus should be on opportunity. Doug Jones and Ralph Northam didn’t win by calling for impeachment or resignation. Pretty soon, Democrats on the ballot in November will need to become laser-focused on their voters’ lives.”

At The Atlantic, however, Ronald Brownstein makes a compelling case that Trump is a disaster for 2018 Republican candidates, and it would be political malpractice for Dems not to take full advantage of it: “One of the clearest messages from 2017’s big contests is that other Republicans are now closely bound to their volatile and vitriolic president. Exit polls showed that among voters who disapproved of Trump, the Democrats won 82 percent in New Jersey, 87 percent in Virginia, and 93 percent in Alabama. Few congressional Republicans have tried to establish much independence from Trump, yet in most places he is even less popular than he was on Tuesday in Alabama, where exit polls showed voters splitting evenly over his job performance. After Alabama, Republicans up and down the ballot face urgent choices about whether they will continue to lash themselves to the mast of Trump’s storm-tossed presidency…“Anti-Trump fever is now so strong among Democrats, young voters, and independents that the GOP is likely to face a surge in turnout on the Democratic side that will make the 2018 midterms lurch toward the demographics of a presidential year,” says longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who advised Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he first won his Alabama Senate seat, in 1996. “That is a looming disaster that could well cost the GOP control of the House. We are in a Trump-driven worst-case situation now.””

Nate Cohn observes at The Upshot that “many red-state Democrats are favorites to win re-election, despite the steady national trend toward a tighter relationship between presidential and Senate vote choice. Polls show that red-state Democrats remain popular, and most hold a lead over many of their strongest potential challengers…With Mr. Jones’s victory in Alabama, Democrats need only two more seats to take control, and they could have other opportunities with possible vacancies in Republican-held Arkansas and Arizona…My sense is that Democrats would be favorites in Nevada and Arizona if 2018 turned out to be a so-called wave election like the 2006 or 2010 midterms. This year’s special elections and national political indicators suggest that development is likelier than not.”

Mark Murray reports at NBC News that “Democrats now enjoy their largest advantage in congressional preference in nine years, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, signaling a dangerous political environment for Republicans entering next year’s midterm elections….Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 39 percent who want Republicans in charge…This past October, Democrats had a 7-point advantage on congressional preference, 48 percent to 41 percent…In this most recent poll, Democrats hold a whopping 48-point lead in congressional preference among voters ages 18-34 (69 percent to 21 percent), a 20-point lead among female voters (54 percent to 34 percent) and a 12-point lead among independent voters (43 percent to 31 percent)…By contrast, Republicans have a 2-point edge among white voters (46 percent to 44 percent) and a 12-point advantage with whites without a college degree (50 percent to 38 percent)…Notably, Democrats lead among male voters by 2 points, 46 percent to 44 percent, and among seniors by 4 points, 46 percent to 42 percent…The NBC/WSJ poll also shows Democrats with the intensity advantage, with 59 percent of Democratic voters saying they have a high level of interest in next year’s elections (registering either a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale), versus 49 percent of Republican voters saying the same thing.”

Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats see road map for 2018 in huge turnout among black voters in Alabama” by David Weigel and Eugene Scott at PowerPost: “The Alabama race, like last month’s elections in Virginia, saw Democrats outperform expectations and polling thanks to a surge of nonwhite voters. A year that began with hand-wringing over President Trump’s victory ended with routs and upsets powered by the party’s most loyal supporters. Democrats in Alabama and elsewhere spent Wednesday thanking black voters — and studying what had been so successful in getting them to the polls….“Let me be clear: We won in Alabama and Virginia because black women led us to victory,” said Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez. “Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we can’t take that for granted. Period…Perez highlighted the DNC’s quiet strategy in Alabama, a $1 million investment in millennial and black voter turnout that was not advertised until the election was won. That was just one of the efforts that paid off for Democrats in Alabama, where new third-party groups including Woke Vote and BlackPAC engaged in weeks of voter persuasion and targeted messages…“They are underneath the radar, and that’s why they work so beautifully,” said Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns who has warned Democrats that younger black voters feel taken for granted. “They didn’t just come in at the end and treat black voters like get-out-the-vote targets. They treated them like persuadable voters. They actually engaged on the top issue for African American voters, which is criminal justice reform. And they didn’t dance around the issue of police brutality.”

“Election Day defied the narrative and challenged traditional thinking about racial turnout in off-year and special elections,” writes Vann R. Newkirk II at The Atlantic. “Precincts in the state’s Black Belt, the swathe of dark, fertile soil where the African American population is concentrated, long lines were reported throughout the day, and as the night waned and red counties dominated by rural white voters continued to report disappointing results for Moore, votes surged in from urban areas and the Black Belt. By all accounts, black turnout exceeded expectations, perhaps even passing previous off-year results. Energy was not a problem…As the Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman noted on Twitter, turnout was particularly high in the counties with the largest black populations. In Greene County, a small area that is 80 percent black and that Martin Luther King Jr. frequented in his Poor People’s Campaign, the turnout reached 78 percent of that of 2016, an incredible mark given that special elections and midterms usually fall far short of general-election marks. Perry County, also an important mostly black site of voting-rights battles of old, turned out at 75 percent of 2016 levels. Dallas County, whose seat is the city of Selma, hit the 74 percent mark.”

In her HuffPo article, “Democrats Quietly Pumped Resources Into Alabama To Boost Doug Jones,” Amanda Terkel credits the Jones campaign with effe3ctive management of media coverage of their strategy. “For months, Democrats have stayed quiet about what, if anything, they were doing in Alabama to help Doug Jones in the state’s special Senate election. They’d insist they were helping, but they wouldn’t say how…“The Democrats have been doing a lot, but focused on the fact that Doug Jones has put together a really good campaign,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is leading the Democratic Party’s campaign efforts in Senate races this cycle, told HuffPost last month…This reticence was strategic. They didn’t want Jones, who was running in a state that is heavily Republican, to be burdened by his association with the national Democratic Party. The focus was supposed to stay on him and his Alabama message. So there were no TV ads paid for by party committees and no high-profile transfers of funds to the campaign. ”

At CNN Politics, Eric Bradner explains how “How 2017’s elections gave Democrats a recipe for big midterm wins“: Bradener writes, “The party is turning out minority voters in huge numbers. It’s also winning big with millennials and — in a turnaround from 2016 — has closed its gap with college-educated white voters, particularly women, who are turning out in droves in the suburbs…That Democratic base is also much more energized than Trump’s coalition of older, blue-collar, white supporters in rural America. One especially stark figure that shows the enthusiasm gap: Jones got 93% of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 raw vote total in Alabama on Tuesday, while Moore got just 50% of Trump’s raw vote total. That gulf made up for Jones only getting 8% of Republican voters to cross over and support him…More evidence that points to a blue wave that’s about to crash into 2018: Monmouth University released a new poll Wednesday that showed 51% of registered voters preferring a Democratic candidate for House and just 36% favoring a Republican…That 15-point gap in what’s known as the generic congressional ballot is a full-blown disaster for the GOP.”

Niall Stanage of the Hill notes that “Even Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and a fervent Moore backer, paid tribute to the capacity of Democrats to get their voters to the polls. “One thing you’ve got to give a hats-off to: The [Democratic National Committee] came in here, slipped in here underneath the radar, and did an amazing job of organizing. What’s my favorite word? Ground game. Nice ground game,” Bannon told Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, Alex Marlow, on SiriusXM’s “Breitbart News Daily” on Wednesday.”

Charles Pierce has an eloquent summation of the significance of Jones’s victory in Alabama in hsitorical context at Esquire: “I choose to believe that Selma put Doug Jones over the top because I believe that the country owes that particular place a debt that it only has begun to repay, a debt on which it reneged for decades. His entire campaign was based on getting repayment of that debt back on schedule. Indeed, his entire public career has been dedicated to that. He’s smart enough to recognize what a small miracle his victory actually was for the disenfranchised people on whose behalf he fought and won, and decent enough not to turn his back on them.”

Looking toward the future, McKay Coppins writes in “The Republican Nightmare is Just Beginning: In 2018, party strategists fret, they’ll face a tough electoral landscape—and a bumper crop of fringe candidates” at the Atlantic: “Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon has already pledged to field challengers for every incumbent Republican senator up for reelection next year (with the exception of Ted Cruz). And even if Bannon fails to deliver on his threat, many in the GOP worry that experienced, fully-vetted candidates are going to struggle to beat back a wave of rough-edged Trump imitators who lean into the white identity politics that the president ran on in 2016.”

Republicans arer already scrambling to figure out how to minimize the effects of Jones’s election. As Ali Rogin reports at ABC News, “While his election has powerful political repercussions, Jones’ becoming the 47th Senate Democrat (two independents caucus with the Democrats) will likely have only a modest impact on Republicans’ ability to accomplish their legislative goals, although his joining the Senate will be a strong catalyst for Republicans to finish their major agenda items before he is sworn in…The biggest difference that Jones can make, in terms of Senate votes, is on bills and nominations requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes, like budget-related measures and judicial nominees…On taxes, Jones’ victory could vex Republicans’ count if he is sworn in before Congress sends its bill to Trump’s desk. Jones is expected to be sworn no sooner than Dec. 27, and GOP leaders insist they will have the bill done by Christmas…But if they fail to advance the bill before Jones is seated, Republicans can afford to lose only one of their 51 votes in the Senate and still pass the bill on a party-line vote, with Vice President Mike Pence acting as a tie breaker.”

Alan Abramowitz has some good news for Democrats in his Sabato’s Crystal Ball update on their 2018 prospects in the House of Reps: “…We can estimate the share of the national vote and, therefore, the number of House seats Democrats would be expected to win depending on the Democratic margin on the generic ballot in early September of 2018…According to the data in this table, Democrats will need a margin of at least four points on the generic ballot in order to win a majority of seats in the House in the 2018 midterm election. In recent weeks, Democrats have been averaging a lead of between eight and 10 points according to RealClearPolitics…That large a lead on the generic ballot would predict a popular vote margin of around five points and a gain of between 30 and 33 seats in the House — enough to give Democrats a modest but clear majority.”

Political Strategy Notes

On CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ Democrat Doug Jones got a break in his quest to win a U.S. Senate seat, when Republican Senator Richard C. Shelby “said repeatedly Sunday  that the state’s fellow Republicans can “do better” than Roy Moore, the conservative judge accused of sexual misconduct‘ who faces Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. Senate,” report Rosalind S. Helderman and David Weigel at Post Politics. “Shelby has previously said he was not supporting Moore, but his words on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday offered a fresh denunciation of his party’s nominee just days before Alabamians go to the polls in an election to replace former senator Jeff Sessions, who now serves as attorney general…“I didn’t vote for Roy Moore,” Shelby said. “I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.” This may up the ‘shame ante’ surrounding Moore for Alabama voters a notch. Apparently the GOP establishment is too thru with the Steve Bannon as king-maker thing.

Edward-Isaac Dovere’s Politico post, “Why Democrats win even if they lose in Alabama: The party will either pick up a seat in the Deep South — or have Roy Moore to campaign against in the midterms,” explains:  “If Roy Moore wins, they’ll spend the next year yoking every Republican they can to the accused child predator and a president who welcomed him into the GOP fold. They’ll be quick to remind everyone of all the other comments Moore has made against Muslims and gays and in favor of Vladimir Putin’s view of America as evil, as well as his rosy view of slave-era America…Supporting Moore “already effects the [Republican National Committee] now trying to go out and raise money. A lot of people are saying, ‘Why in the world would I contribute to an organization that’s pushing an alleged pedophile and child molester?’ It’s a big problem,” Republican Sen. Jeff] Flake said. “He’ll be the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats. If you’re running in 2018, Roy Moore’s going to be your new best friend. As a Republican, to think that you can win without the baggage of Roy Moore is pretty naïve,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).”

To get a better understanding of the obstacles Democratic candidate Doug Jones still faces, howecver, read “What’s Missing From Reports on Alabama’s Black Turnout” by Vann R. Newkirk II at The Atlantic. Newkirk writes, “As the cornerstone of the movement for the franchise, Alabama has also played the part of headquarters of resistance, a long legal and legislative guerrilla war against voting rights that culminated in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder case, one where officials in the Alabama county successfully sued for all of the former dominion of Jim Crow to be released from federal VRA oversight. That victory, and the structural barriers to voting erected in its aftermath, are a serious—and largely unacknowledged—impediment to Democrat Doug Jones’s chances in the special election for the state’s open Senate seat on Tuesday…Early voting, which has been a key factor for other states in increasing black turnout, is not permitted in Alabama. The state also doesn’t have no-fault absentee voting, preregistration for teens, or same-day registration.* In all, it’s harder to vote in Alabama than just about anywhere else, a dynamic that should tend towards cooling the turnout of people who’ve only been allowed to vote in the state for 50 years…Perhaps Jones will do enough canvassing in the black belt to eke out a victory this year, but the structural barriers to voting will likely remain, or worsen.”

In his New York Times column, “The Republican War on Children,” Paul Krugman writes about the GOP tax bill and the Republican’s failure to refund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provided health care for 8.9 million kids: “Let me ask you a question; take your time in answering it. Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?…You might think that this question is silly, hypothetical and has an obvious answer. But it’s not at all hypothetical, and the answer apparently isn’t obvious. For it’s a literal description of the choice Republicans in Congress seem to be making as you read this.

The Republican tax bill, when finally enacted, may set a record of sorts. As Taegan Goddard reports at Political Wire, “A new USA Today/Suffolk University Poll finds just 32% support the GOP tax plan while 48% oppose it…Key finding: “That’s the lowest level of public support for any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades, including the Affordable Care Act in 2009.”…“Americans are skeptical of the fundamental arguments Republicans have made in selling the bill: A 53% majority of those surveyed predict their own families won’t pay lower taxes as a result of the measure, and an equal 53% say it won’t help the economy in a major way.”

From Ruy Teixeira’s post, “Can We Please Stop Saying Trump’s Base Is Immovable?” at The Optimistic Leftist:”Sure, Trump’s approval rating is still pretty high among Republicans and people who voted for him in 2016, but for chrissake what do people expect? This is a  polarized country; he’s not going to suddenly have a 30 percent approval rating among partisans of his own party…But he is losing ground. He is losing support among the very kind of voters you would describe as his base and that’s very important. He (and the GOP) need every vote they can get and when solid supporters start drifting off that’s very bad for them…Data from a recent Pew release show this drift very clearly. Since February, he’s lost 8 points in approval among Republican identifiers/leaners (from 84 to 76 percent), 17 points among white evangelical Protestants (from 78 to 61 percent) and 10 points among white noncollege voters (from 56 to 46 percent)…He’s a weak president and getting weaker, including among his own supporters.”

Minnesota’s Lt. Governor Tina Smith is aparently the front-runner to fiull Sen. Franken’s seat, reports Ella Nilsen at Vox. But there is a problem, as Nilsen explains: “Minnesota law says that if the lieutenant governor leaves office, the position will automatically be assumed by the president of the state Senate…Right now, the Minnesota state Senate president is Republican Michelle Fischbach, and the possibility she could become Dayton’s second-in-command is sure to be a huge consideration for the governor as he makes his choice. Fischbach’s possible ascendance, combined with Dayton’s own health problems (the governor revealed he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year), are two reasons Minnesota Democrats have to be nervous about the possibility of Smith going to Washington.” Further, adds Nilsen, “She [Smith] is seen as a placeholder – someone who has no interest in running for Franken’s seat in 2018, clearing the field for an open race in November.” Nilsen writes that other contenders for Franken’s seat may include MN Reps. Tim Walz and Keith Ellison.

“Ultimately, we’ll need to see which candidates both Democrats and Republicans run in Minnesota to fully grasp each side’s chances,” Harry Enten writes at fivethirtyeifght.com. “Candidate quality still matters in Senate elections (see Alabama 2017). If Democrats can select a candidate who is able to separate her- or himself from Franken’s brand, she or he will probably have a better shot than a generic Democrat. On the other hand, if the Republicans choose a strong candidate, she or he may be able to capitalize on residual anger against Franken, whose approval rating plummeted following the allegations made against him…For now, the most we can say is that the 2018 Minnesota Senate race leans Democratic, but Republicans have a real shot.”

Politico’s David Sider writes that “Democrats scour map for sleeper races: To expand House playing field, party officials bet on long-shot districts,” and notes, “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly added 11 more Republican-held districts — long-shot seats that aren’t typically in play — to its existing list of 80 targeted races. Candidates in those newly added seats got a sudden dose of fundraising and organizational assistance, in addition to help with budgeting and media operations…The incumbent Republicans in those seats, some of them unaccustomed to vigorous challenges, are already feeling the squeeze.”

Political Strategy Notes

Could Al Franken’s resignation from the senate help to defeat Roy Moore? Don’t get trapped in a false equivalency snare here, because the magnitude and context of the allegations against Sen. Franken and Judge Moore are not the same. In fact, the difference in severity of the accusations may boost the vote  against Moore in the December 12th election. We can hope, at least, that some Alabama voters who have been on the fence about voting against Moore may now decide that Franken’s resignation signals an opportunity to set a higher standard of decency and dignity in the behavior of members of  ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body.’ Whatever happens in December 12th election, it will provide a symbolic metric for Alabama values in the minds of many. Kira Lerner reports at ThinkProgress that “The GOP for Doug Jones movement is real: Alabama Republicans are doing something they never thought possible: Voting for a Democrat.” Lerner notes that there is a “Republicans for Doug Jones” Facebook page with 2000 members. Those who want to support a higher standard of decency in the U.S. Senate can contribute to the Doug Jones campaign right here.

“Jones will also need solid turnout among African-American voters to have any chance of winning,” writes Geoffrey Skelley at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “If black voters make up about 25% of the electorate and Jones wins at least 90% of them, that would mean that Jones would probably have to win at least one-third of the white vote to have a chance of winning, assuming a small portion of the white vote goes for a write-in choice and accounting for a small percentage of other nonwhite voters who are Democratic-leaning. The most recent available exit poll in Alabama is from 2012, which found that Barack Obama won just 15% of the white vote. In 2008, the exit poll found Obama just won 10%, and in 2004, it found John Kerry won about 20%. Even when accounting for the potential error in such findings, it’s clear that it’s been a while since a Democrat won anywhere near one-third of the white vote in Alabama.”

Dahlia Lithwick has a thought-provoking column on the wisdom of Democrats “going high, when they go low” at slate.com. Read her whole article for context, but give some thought to this section: “My own larger concern is that becoming the party of high morality will allow Democrats to live with themselves but that the party is also self-neutering in the face of unprecedented threats, in part to do the right thing and in part to take ammunition away from the right—a maneuver that never seems to work out these days. When Al Franken, who has been a champion for women’s rights in his tenure in the Senate, leaves, what rushes in to fill the space may well be a true feminist. But it may also be another Roy Moore. And there is something deeply naïve, in a game of asymmetrical warfare, and in a moment of unparalleled public misogyny, in assuming that the feminist gets the seat before it happens…This isn’t a call to become tolerant of awful behavior. It is a call for understanding that Democrats honored the blue slip, and Republicans didn’t. Democrats had hearings over the Affordable Care Act; Republicans had none over the tax bill. Democrats decry predators in the media; Republicans give them their own networks. And what do Democrats have to show for it? There is something almost eerily self-regarding in the notion that the only thing that matters is what Democrats do, without considering what the systemic consequences are for everyone.”

Don’t worry too much about Franken’s seat going to a Republican any time soon. “Democrats Will Likely Hold Franken’s Seat, But Minnesota’s Not As Blue As It Seems,” reports Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com. Enten adds, “Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement (possibly Lt. Gov. Tina Smith) who will hold the seat through the 2018 midterm elections. In 2018, a special election will take place to determine who will hold the seat until the regularly scheduled election in 2020. Whether Dayton’s pick runs in 2018 or not,1 the eventual Democratic candidate will likely be favored to win that race — though it’s not a sure thing….The good news for Minnesota Democrats is that the political environment is, at this point, heavily in their favor. They hold an 8 percentage point lead on the generic congressional ballot.2 If that holds through 2018 — not a bad bet…”

In any case, it looks like the issue of sexual harrassment by members of congress is not likely to fade away anytime soon. As Jake Novak reports at cncb.com, “Remember, this harassment storm is far from over. There are a total of 264 harassment settlements made by the House’s Office of Compliance just since 1997. Many more Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem likely to be forced out as the pressure mounts to reveal the details of those agreements and the names behind them. There’s a potential thinning out of the incumbent ranks that could spell doom for Pelosi even if people like Rice weren’t challenging her.

It appears that Trump has handed his Democratic adversaries a shiny new cudgel in his decision to return public lands, including beautiful natural treasures, to the states. As Christopher Barron, an ardent Trump supporter, writes at The Hill, “President Trump announced that he will dramatically reduce the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Trump made the announcement in Utah, where both of these national monuments are located…During the Republican primaries, Trump…said, “we have to be great stewards of this land. This land is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.”…Unlike the rest of the GOP field, who parroted the establishment talking points, Trump made it clear he would oppose efforts to return public lands to the states, saying, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do with it…Now, despite these promises, Trump is choosing the Republican establishment over working-class Americans.”

Joining the fray, The Washington Post Editorial Board writes, “This single move constituted the largest ever reduction in protected federal lands. Then on Tuesday it emerged that Ryan Zinke, Mr. Trump’s fox-in-henhouse interior secretary, will recommend paring back or loosening restrictions on 10 more national monuments around the country…The federal government owns some lands that are simply too precious to permanently sully in pursuit of temporary economic gains. Bears Ears, with its spectacular canyons, buttes and unspoiled archaeological sites, is one such place. Grand Staircase, a natural wonderland of ancient topology and fossilized prehistory, is another. When administering such unique places, the government must err on the side of conservation.”

I think Tory Newmyer’s The Finance 202 post, “Democratic split on Wall Street threatens party’s economic message” may overstate divisions within the Democratic Party in calling out a “profound problem confronting the party as it struggles to refashion its message ahead of the 2018 midterms.” But Newmyer is more on target in saying that “Most Democrats think they have a potent case to make that Trump’s GOP pulled a bait-and-switch on voters by promising populism and delivering a cascade of breaks to financiers (read my colleagues John Wagner and Juliet Eilperin on how Trump is governing like a traditional conservative).”

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have a disturbing read at Vox, “The GOP is trying to pass a super-unpopular agenda — and that’s a bad sign for democracy: Political science (and common sense) says they ought to pay a price at the polls. They might not.” There’s a lot to worry about in this post, including, “They’ve gotten very good at distracting voters. Research on public opinion suggests that voters have relatively short memories and that voter attention is critical to vote choice. What voters are focusing on when they head to the polls may matter more than their more considered thoughts about the issues…Given Republican leaders’ control of Congress, as well as Republican voters’ fierce attachment to right-leaning media, Republicans now have much greater capacity than Democrats to shape the short-term political agenda. (The attention-grabbing capacity of the tweeter-in-chief surely doesn’t hurt.) This isn’t always a good thing for Republicans, but in the run-up to a fiercely contested election, the ability to direct attention away from unpopular policies and towards whatever stokes tribal loyalty could make the difference.”

Political Strategy Notes

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

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

Schumer also had this to say about the tax bill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Strategy Notes

Yesterday we posted an article about Michael Tomasky’s support for Brookings scholar Benjamin Wittes’ 18-point proposal urging a broad, bipartisan coalition against Trumpism. Now Jeet Heer, a senior editor of The New Republic has an article explaining why “A Grand Anti-Trump Coalition Is a Terrible Idea for Democrats,” which argues, “Wittes and Tomasky are half right. Opposing Trump’s authoritarianism and corruption shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” Heer adds, however, “But an anti-Trump Popular Front could only work in an ad hoc fashion on specific issues, like those outlined by Tomasky and Wittes. It can’t supersede partisan politics even on a temporary basis because success for the two major parties depends on energizing their respective bases, and nationwide elections are never more than two years away. To run on a depoliticized program of centrist anti-Trumpism would demoralize and demobilize Democratic voters, a lethal move for the left since Trump has been successful at mobilizing hardcore Republicans…We also don’t need to speculate on whether an anti-Trump Popular Front would work. It was attempted in last year’s election…The result of this outreach: Clinton outperformed expectations in traditionally Republican leaning suburbs, but underperformed among Democratic voters, a sufficient number of whom ended up voting for Trump, staying home, or voting for a third-party candidate, thus costing Clinton the election…The best way to take down the president is to strengthen the Democratic Party from within, not dilute it with fickle fellow travelers.”

Lawrence Lessig, Founder of Equal Citizens, sees some common ground among voters in a 2016 University of Maryland poll. Writing at The Hill, Lessig explains: “Ninety-two percent of Americans (95 percent of Republicans/89 percent of Democrats) believe “the government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.”…Further, 85 percent (87 percent-R/84 percent-D) believe Congress “does not serve the common good” and 89 percent (89 percent-R/90 percent-D) believe “corporations and their lobbyists have too much influence.” Finally, 91 percent believe “big campaign donors have too much influence.” (90 percent-R/91 percent-D). No statistician could look at those numbers and see any difference between Republicans and Democrats here. We do not have a government that represents us. On this, we are all essentially agreed…This unity might suggest hope. There is common ground to build upon. But the dynamics of American politics makes that building incredibly difficult.” Lessig names some candidates, including Beto O’Roark in Texas (challenging Ted Cruz for Senate) and Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Bliss, who are ready to help lead the way to reforms that will check the power of monied lobbyists

Celeste Katz has a Newsweek profile of Randy Bryce, who is running to upset Speaker Paul Ryan in his Wisconsin congressional district. Entitled “Is Ironstache the New Bernie Sanders? Meet the Ironworker who wants to Bring White People Back to the Democratic Party,” Katz notes “While Bryce is a longshot candidate—the district is heavily Republican and preferred Trump by about 10 points last fall—Democratic Party leaders and operatives are now seeking to replicate his brand of bootstrap pragmatism and Heartland patriotism…On the trail, Bryce can talk not only about working with his hands, but about serving in the military. Fighting cancer. Caring for sick parents. Filing for bankruptcy. Being a single dad. (As one Entertainment Weekly wag put it, Bryce was “genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs.” In the same vein, a strategist joked to Newsweek that Ward, the former Marine running in Virginia, “was basically created in a lab for other white men” who could potentially vote Democratic.)

Ed Kilgore has the skinny on the latest GOP scam in his New York Magazine article “Republicans Trying to Engineer a Government Shutdown They Can Blame on Democrats.” Kilgore discusses “reports that Republicans are mulling a maneuver designed to tempt Democrats into threatening (or even causing) a government shutdown over immigration policy.” It’s a Ryan-McConnell short-term spending bill designed to “avoid an intense spending fight before the end of the year that might interfere with the final maneuvering over a tax bill, and/or push Republicans into concessions they will later regret. But it would be advanced in hopes of getting Democrats to fight over whether they should deny votes to pass the stopgap measure out of fidelity to the Dreamers…More than likely all this gambit will accomplish is to buy Republicans a couple of extra weeks to figure out what they actually want and are actually willing to accept in spending negotiations…”

Rachel Bade, John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris elaborate in their post, “GOP looks to jam Democrats in shutdown fight” at Politico: “Many Democrats have vowed to withhold their votes from any spending agreement that does not include a fix for the young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as minors. Democratic leadership sources have suggested that Pelosi and Schumer could back a one- or two-week CR. But they’re loath to move the deadline past Jan. 1….Still, Democrats may come under pressure to avoid a government shutdown over DACA, which does not fully expire until March. One House Appropriations Committee Democratic source said there could be some wiggle room in the party’s stance on DACA that could help avert a shutdown. The source speculated that while many Democrats are dead-set against a full-year spending package without an immigration deal, there may be fewer who would object to a CR into January.”

In his Washington Post column, “Our political foundation is rotting away,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. spotlights the danger of the public growing numb to Trump’s endless assault on human decency and integrity in politics. As Dionne writes, “Great nations and proud democracies fall when their systems become so corrupted that the decay is not even noticed — or the rot is written off as a normal part of politics …President Trump has created exactly such a crisis. He has not done it alone. The corrosion of norms and values began long before he propelled the nation past the edge, and his own party is broadly complicit in enabling his attacks on truth, decency and democratic values…We are so inured to the chaos and the lying that characterize Trump’s presidency that we see each outrage as little more than another passing episode on an ongoing cable news drama.”

There is lots of media buzz comparing sexual harrassment allegations against President Trump and Sen. Franken, along with arguments about whether one or both should resign. The most immediate question, however, is whether a majority of Alabama voters are going to get suckered on December 12th by the ‘everybody does it’ meme and send one of the creepiest senate candidates in U.S. history to Washington. One recent poll shows Republican Roy Moore up by 5 points. But it now looks like a write-in candidate, retired U.S. Marine Col. Lee Busby, could damage Moore’s chances by peeling away enough conservative votes. At Vox, Jen Kirby notes that “The Alabama secretary of state’s office issued instructions Wednesday on how to fill in a write-in ballot “due to a large number of requests…Write-ins candidacies also have an advantage in the age of social media, where, as Foley noted, word can spread fast and cheaply. This is Busby’s strategy, as he told the Washington Post.”

The New Republic staff writer Alex Shepard sees the politics of media distraction at the center of the debate on the tax bill: “With tax reform, Republicans are following a similar strategy, using non-stop crises as cover to push an odious bill through the House and Senate while the media plays Whack-a-Mole with the news of the day. They have also been abetted by a media that has failed to learn the main lesson of the Obamacare repeal effort, which is that the GOP is no longer a normal political party that is beholden to the welfare of voters. It has become so bankrupt that it is willing to use any means to pass unpopular, highly damaging legislation that will have little positive impact on anyone but a very thin slice of people at the top. But the coverage does not reflect that bedrock dynamic; instead we often see stories that focus on the GOP’s desperate need to pass “major” legislation before the end of the year, even if that legislation amounts to daylight robbery.”

Kyle Kondik argues in “House 2018: Less Than a Year Out, Race for Control Is a Coin Flip” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Overall, our ratings list 224 seats safe, likely, or leaning to the Republicans, 191 seats safe, likely, or leaning to the Democrats, and 20 Toss-ups. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Democrats can win about two-thirds of the Toss-ups (13 of 20), and otherwise let’s assume all the other seats go to the party they currently at least lean to. That would net the Democrats 10 seats, close to halfway to the 24 seats they need to get the majority. So Democrats need to push more seats into the more competitive categories, but as our ratings changes indicate, the playing field is growing.”

Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sargent: How GOP Tax Bill Gives Dems Leverage

In his Plum Line post, “How Democrats hope to make Trump pay for his awful tax plan,” Greg Sargent observes:

One looming challenge Democrats face is to close what you might call the “pluto-populist gap” — the vast disconnect between how working-class whites perceive President Trump’s instincts and intentions on the one hand, and his full-on embrace of the congressional GOP’s plutocratic agenda on the other.

Democrats are set to go up on the air with a seven-figure TV ad buy targeting House Republicans in multiple districts with a lot of working-class whites — as well as in districts with more college-educated whites, I’ve learned. The animating idea is that the GOP tax proposals — which will be featured in the ads — are likely to prove toxic among both those constituencies, and particularly among those working-class whites who switched from Barack Obama to Trump.

As for the content of the ads, Sargent notes,

The goal of the ads will be to hit two messages. The first is that the GOP changes to the tax code themselves would be enormously regressive, showering most of their benefits on the wealthy while giving crumbs to working- and middle-class Americans or even raising their taxes. The second is that these tax cuts would necessitate big cuts to the safety net later — the ad references $25 billion in Medicare cuts that could be triggered by the GOP plan’s deficit busting — further compounding the GOP agenda’s regressiveness down the line.

Sargent quotes Geoff Garin, pollster for Priorities USA,  who  explains “polling shows that this combination alienates working-class whites, particularly Obama-Trump voters.” Garin adds that these voters “find big breaks to corporations and the wealthy especially heinous when the flip side of that means cutting Medicare and Medicaid.”

Garin cites polls by Hart Research and Global Strategy Group, which indicate that “when the GOP tax plan is described to non-college-educated white men — Trump’s base — they oppose it by 58-34. Non-college-educated white women oppose it by 61-24.” He calls the tax bill “the ultimate betrayal of the Trump promise to working-class voters — that he would be on their side” and “a huge vulnerability for Republicans in those kinds of districts with working-class whites.”

It can be argued that Trump’s approval ratings indicate his base has been whittled down to the hard core, non-persuadable part of the white working-class, along with equally non-persuadable upper middle class and wealthy ideologues. And the 2017 special elections indicate that Trump’s tanking polls numbers are accompanied by considerable collateral damage to his fellow Republican office-holders.

In light of the extremely regressive GOP tax plan, however, it would be political malpractice for Democrats to abandon appeals to white working-class voters in the midterm campaigns. This is  especially true for Obama to Trump voters, who have an immediate pocket-book interest in the tax bill.

What will remain debatable up until the final day of the midterm campaign is how to allocate Democratic resources — investments in time, money and energy between winning support from white working-class voters vs. turning out base voters and the ‘rising American electorate.’ These are unavoidably-tough decisions, which will vary in difficulty from campaign to campaign.

Whether Republicans are able to pass their tax plan or not, it seals their party’s identity as wholly dedicated to enriching the already-wealthy at the expense of working people of all races. That’s a great gift to Democrats.

Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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