washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

A New York Times op-ed by Stanley B. Greenberg and Anna Greenberg, “Was Barack Obama Bad for Democrats?” takes a nuanced look at the President’s political legacy: “President Obama will be remembered as a thoughtful and dignified president who led a scrupulously honest administration that achieved major changes…People argue over whether his impatience with politicians and Republican intransigence denied him bigger accomplishments, but that argument is beside the point: He rescued an economy in crisis and passed the recovery program, pulled America back from its military overreach, passed the Affordable Care Act and committed the nation to addressing climate change. To be truly transformative in the way he wanted, however, his success had to translate into electoral gains for those who shared his vision and wanted to reform government. On that count, Mr. Obama failed…His legacy regrettably includes the more than 1,000 Democrats who lost their elections during his two terms. Republicans now have total control in half of America’s states.”

Aropos of all of the discussion about whether or not Democrats should marshall resources to win back the white working-class, think on these stats from Guy Molyneux’s post, “Mapping the White Working Class: A deep dive into the beliefs and sentiments of the moderates among them“at The American Prospect: “Boosting white non-college moderates’ support for Clinton by just 5 percent or 6 percent would have delivered her the presidency. Democrats can lose the votes of every one of the 36 percent who are uneasy with America’s increasing diversity, and still make the progress required to win elections.”

Everybody is a quarterback on Monday morning, but it’s unlikely that all of Cenk Uygur’s points in the video below are wrong. Despite the cherry-picked unflattering photo on the cover, this video critique merits both serious consideration and a point-by-point rebuttal, where it’s needed:

From The Nation, here’s “Here’s an Organizing Strategy to Revive the Democratic Party That Doesn’t Depend on White Voters: Many Democrats assume it’s impossible to get more people of color to vote. That’s just not true” By Steve Phillips. “Clinton lost Michigan by 11,000 votes. Of those black folks in Michigan who did vote, 92 percent of them voted for Clinton, but 300,000 African Americans who were eligible to vote didn’t vote; 153,000 black voters in Michigan who came out for Obama in 2008 stayed home in 2016. Clinton lost Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes, and 400,000 African Americans who were eligible to vote didn’t cast ballots. In Arizona, the margin was 91,000 votes, and 600,000 Latinos who were eligible to vote were not mobilized to the polls…Lisa Garcia Bedolla, who literally wrote the book on Latino politics, has called for an affordable, effective, and sophisticated voter-engagement infrastructure she calls the Civic Web. The model is to use direct voter contact and long-term relationship building driven by neighborhood-based teams who work year-round in their communities with a universe of 100 people per team leader. The civic-web model would cost about $3 million to move 100,000 voters. By those metrics, margins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona could more than have been closed at a fraction of the cost of what was spent on television ads…In 2017, progressives can lay the foundation for the expansion of civic engagement of those voters who have shown the greatest propensity for supporting Democrats (74 percent of people of color supported Clinton; 80.5 percent for Obama). The way to do this is by targeting local races in strategic states whose demographics are trending in a progressive direction.”   These are good ideas, but the argument that Democrats can create a stable majority of the electorate without getting at least a healthier share of white working-class voters was largely discredited on November 8th.

Even though Hillary Clinton lost neartly all of the southern states, Georgia has emerged as the next likely major ‘purple’ state, where she lost by a smaller margin, 5 percent, than her defeat margins in both Ohio (8.6 percent) and Iowa (9.6 percent). Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  has the best update on Democratic prospects in the Peach State so far. Bluestein notes, “Minority voters make up about 40 percent of the state’s electorate, but they don’t pack the same punch at the polls. Case in point: Fewer than half of registered African-American men cast ballots this year. The voter registration group [House Minority Leader Stacey] Abrams started, the New Georgia Project, aims to persuade 800,000 unregistered minority Georgians to sign up to vote by 2024. She said the party will focus next year on boosting funding for schools in poverty-stricken areas and continue to push for the expansion of Medicaid – two issues popular with the party’s base.”

“A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday found Democratic and independent voters lukewarm on a handful of party leaders and most excited for “someone entirely new,” reports Eli Watkins at CNN: “Just over 22% of respondents said Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s failed candidate in the 2016 election, would excite them, while almost 15% said her running in 2020 would “make no difference” and about 62% said she should not run…Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both fared about twice as well as Clinton, but still failed to elicit excitement from a majority of respondents…After publicly toying with the idea of running in 2020, Biden said he had no intention to do so. If he were to run and win, the current vice president would be 78 years old at the time of taking office. Sanders would be 79, and Trump would be 74…Meanwhile, about a third of respondents said they would be excited by a 2020 bid from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren…”

“Governor’s races aren’t the sexiest in politics, but it’s hard to overstate how important the seven listed below are. They won’t just chart the future of their states; they also may determine whether Democrats can get back on their feet in Congress and in key state legislatures at any point in the next 15 years. Democrats estimate they could pick up as many as 10 or more seats in the House of Representatives if they can have a say in post-2020 redistricting, and they’ve launched a new redistricting effort aided by President Obama to try to make that happen…“I truly believe that if we don’t win these states races — particularly governors’ races — in 2018, we are going to have another decade of lost Democratic leaders,” said Elisabeth Pearson, the executive director of the Democratic Governors’ Association.” – From “The Democratic Party’s future could be on the line in 7 hugely important governor’s races” by Ambder Phillips and Aaron Blake at The Fix.

At Governing the States and Localities, Mike Maciag writes: “A study conducted by Portland State University tallied voter turnout in the most recent mayoral elections in the 30 largest cities. It found that residents 65 years and older were a median of seven times more likely to vote than those ages 18 to 34, who frequently registered turnout rates in the single digits. “There’s an enormous disconnect with younger citizens in understanding the impact that local governments have,” says Phil Keisling, director of the university’s Center for Public Service. “They’re ceding to their grandparents the political decisions.”

In her post “Why the white working class votes against itself,” WaPo’s Catherine Rampell outs the strong undercurrent of bigoted racial stereotypes that many Trump voters embraced: “...A recent YouGov/Huffington Post survey found that Trump voters are five times more likely to believe that “average Americans” have gotten less than they deserve in recent years than to believe that “blacks” have gotten less than they deserve. (African Americans don’t count as “average Americans,” apparently.)…We’ve known for a long time, through the work of Martin GilensSuzanne Mettler and other social scientists, that Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs.”


Political Strategy Notes – Electoral College Decision Edition

You probably have a better chance of winning the powerball jackpot than Trump not being inaugurated, but the effort to persuade 37 of the 305 members of the Electoral College who are expected to vote for  Trump to ditch him has intensified impressively. Thus far, only one elector has announced his intention of switching his vote. But, in his Washington Post article, “In last-shot bid, thousands urge electoral college to block Trump at Monday vote,” Robert Samuels provides some interesting observations on the topic, including “Amid the uncertainty caused by Russian influence, 10 electors — nine Democrats and one Republican — asked for an intelligence briefing to get more information about Moscow’s role.” However, adds Samuels, “No one knows for sure how many are considering alternate votes; estimates vary from one to 25.” One elector cited by Samuels is getting 50 letters a day and 3000 emails.

Right on time, Trump has just presented his 305 electors with yet another reason to switch their vote, well-encapsulated in the Washington Post headline “China said it would return a seized U.S. naval drone. Trump told them to ‘keep it.’ As the authors, Missy Ryan and Emily Rauhala report, Trump’s Saturday night tweet “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!” adds to growing doubts about his commitment to America’s national security. “The comment could prolong one of the most serious incidents between the U.S. and Chinese militaries in recent memory,” write  Rauhala and Trump, “potentially complicating ties ahead of Trump’s inauguration.” They cite a mocking editorial from Beijing’s The Global Times, “Before Trump’s generous announcement that he didn’t want the drone back, the Pentagon had already announced publicly that they have asked China to return the ‘illegally seized’ [unmanned underwater vehicle] through appropriate governmental channels,”

Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip meddling in the incident may have actually provoked the drone seizure, reports Paulina Firozi at The Hill: “Some have suggested that China’s initial seizure of the drone was a response to the president-elect’s phone call with Taiwan’s leader earlier this month…Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen have both downplayed the significance of the conversation, but China formally protested the call, which broke with decades of U.S. protocol.”

WaPo’s political reporter Dan Balz also has some serious questions about Trump’s competence and commitment to defend U.S. national security, which the electors ought to consider: “…If standing up to Russian attempts to interfere with American democracy isn’t a foundational principle of an “America first” policy, what is? Trump’s response has suggested a different focus and different philosophy, one that might be described as “Trump first,” rather than “America first.” His instincts appear to be aimed at shielding himself…On top of all this is the president-elect’s apparent lack of interest in receiving daily intelligence briefings, a standard procedure for presidents. That raises questions about how he plans to conduct foreign policy. Will he seek all available evidence as he weighs decisions? Whom will he listen to and trust? And will he ever have a trusting relationship with the vast intelligence-gathering resources at his command?”

It’s not gonna happen because the request has been denied, but a “Majority Want Monday’s Electoral College Vote Postponed In Wake Of Russia Scandal: New Poll,” notes HuffPo Washington, D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim. “A majority of American voters favor delaying the December 19th Electoral College vote until electors can be fully briefed on Russian interference in the election, according to a new poll conducted by YouGov.  The survey, sponsored by the progressive advocacy group Avaaz, found 52 percent of people supportive of stalling the vote, set to take place Monday…A surprisingly high number of people ― 46 percent ― were also willing to support so-called “faithless electors,” the name given members of the Electoral College who spurn the vote of their home state and vote for a different candidate instead…Some states mandate that electors vote the way their state instructs, but the the 10th Circuit Court ruled late on Friday that such laws are unconstitutional.”

The hope that the Electoral College will elect Hillary Clinton president is even less likely to be fulfilled  than Trump being denied the presidency. But Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, a former Democratic presidential candidate, nonetheless makes a compelling case for Trump electors switching to Clinton, as the winner of the popular vote by a margin approaching 3 million. “…There is an especially good reason for them [the presidential electors] not to nullify what the people have said — the fundamental principle of one person, one vote. We are all citizens equally. Our votes should count equally. And since nothing in our Constitution compels a decision otherwise, the electors should respect the equal vote by the people by ratifying it on Dec. 19…The framers left the electors free to choose. They should exercise that choice by leaving the election as the people decided it: in Clinton’s favor.”

In an MSNBC interview by Chuck Todd, Lessig raised eyebrows with his claim that 20-30 electors have indicated an interest in switching votes away from Trump. Lessig has created an organization, “Elector’s Trust, which “provides free and strictly confidential legal support to any Elector who wishes to vote their conscience…The Electors Trust will defend your right to exercise your “independent and nonpartisan judgment.”…We will defend you against any fines or legal claims that might threaten the freedom of your vote…If you are an Elector, we will also allow you to know how many others like you there are. How many, not who. Because we will never reveal any Elector’s views, to anyone, ever…If you’re a conscientious Elector, and you’d like advice or support, send an email to ElectorsTrust@durietangri.com. Your name, email address and any other personal information will be kept strictly confidential.”

At Vox, however, Andrew Prokop’s “The last-ditch push for the Electoral College to stop Trump, explained” throws a load of ice-water on the whole project: “…This particular batch of electors is highly unlikely to defect from Trump because of who they are — generally, they’re Republican Party stalwarts or activists chosen during state party deliberations, as the excellent Politico feature “The People Who Pick the President” makes clear. Almost always, the parties do a good enough job of vetting their respective electoral slates to ensure that they will indeed loyally back their party’s presidential nominee. And while some Trump skeptics are electors, the vast majority of them have said they’d affirm the results in their states.” And, even in the unlikley event that the election was thrown into the House — the most probable  scenario if 37 Trump electors defect — odds are the house would pick Trump anyway, since most House Republicans have already lined up to kiss his ring.

Getting real, the best argument for continuing to encourage Trump electors to switch is to further undermine his case for a “mandate.” Not that it would influence Trump’s decision-making, such as it is. But it can’t hurt to remind congress that there is considerable doubt about his policies and judgement, even among his electors, and congress has a responsibility to check his worst ideas and limit the damage he does to America’s future. Still, there shouldn’t be much doubt among those who take the trouble to actually read the “Hamilton Electors” credo in The Federalist Papers: #68 that the best purpose of the Electoral College is to deny someone so manifestly unfit the power to run our government, and we have never had a better reason to use it for exactly that reason. That it won’t be so applied when it is most needed clinches the argument that the Electoral College should be abolished in favor of dirtect, popular election of the President of the United States.


Political Strategy Notes

In his nationally-syndicated column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides the best argument thus far for the Electoral College rejecting Trump’s victory claim: “Memo to the electoral college that votes next Monday: Our tradition — for good reason — tells you that your job is to ratify the state-by-state outcome of the election. The question is whether Trump, Vladimir Putin and, perhaps, Clinton’s popular-vote advantage give you sufficient reason to blow up the system…One passage from Federalist 68 seems eerily relevant to the present circumstance. Hamilton wrote that the electors could be a barrier against “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” Hamilton asked: “How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”…The CIA’s finding that Russia actively intervened in our election to make Trump president is an excellent reason for the electors to consider whether they should exercise their independent power. At the very least, they should be briefed on what the CIA knows, and in particular on whether there is any evidence that Trump or his lieutenants were engaged with Russia during the campaign….Trump himself said in July of Clinton’s emails: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” By publicly inviting a foreign power to intervene in our election, Trump put himself ahead of the nation’s interest in holding an election that would be untainted by foreign meddling. It is one of many reasons conscientious electors might decide that Trump is unfit to be president and may even be a danger to the country”

Conservative columnist Katheen Parker agrees that the Electoral College should dump Trump for a litany of good reasons. But she urges “Republican electors to defect — not to cede the election to Hillary Clinton but to join with Democrats in selecting a compromise candidate, such as Mitt Romney or John Kasich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.”

Democrats at Crossroads: Win Back Working-Class Whites, or Let Them Go?” by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns at The New York Times could have given more consideration to the non-binary strategic option. True, there are Democrats who argue for writing off the white working-class, and those who say, no, Dems must focus on winning them back. But other Democratic strategists don’t see it as an either-or choice, arguing instead that winning just a modest segment of this large demographic group could secure a stable Democratic majority in the years ahead. In addition to more inclusive messaging to get at least a larger cross-section of working-class whites, a follow-up article probing the possibilities of targeting a sub-segment of the white working class (e.g. seniors, rural voters or unionized workers) might be interesting.

Dahlia Lithwick and David S. Cohen have a NYT op-ed, “Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans,” which makes a compelling case that the Democratic Party has accepted Trump’s Electoral College victory claim way too easily. The op-ed includes several provocative observations, among them: “There’s no shortage of legal theories that could challenge Mr. Trump’s anointment, but they come from outsiders rather than the Democratic Party. Impassioned citizens have been pleading with electors to vote against Mr. Trump; law professors have argued that winner-take-all laws for electoral votes are unconstitutional; a small group, the Hamilton Electors, is attempting to free electors to vote their consciences; and a new theory has arisen that there is legal precedent for courts to give the election to Mrs. Clinton based on Russian interference. All of these efforts, along with the grass-roots protests, boycotts and petitions, have been happening without the Democratic Party. The most we’ve seen is a response to the C.I.A. revelations, but only with Republicans onboard to give Democrats bipartisan cover…Contrast the Democrats’ do-nothingness to what we know the Republicans would have done. If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials. The best of the Republican establishment would have been filing lawsuits and infusing every public statement with a clear pronouncement that Donald Trump was the real winner. And they would have started on the morning of Nov. 9, using the rhetoric of patriotism and courage.”

In her Washington Post column, “How to mount a progressive resistance,” Katrina vanden Heuval provides an inspiring account of reform campaigns across the nation at the state and local level, which offer hope to those who are discouraged by Trump’s Electoral College majority. Vanden Heuval concludes that “Trump, of course, still can wreak havoc, stripping millions of health care, trashing America’s leadership role in addressing climate change, unleashing a new lawless era of crony capitalism and sowing division rather than decency. But even with Republicans in control of Congress, neither he nor his Cabinet of bankers, billionaires and generals will have a free hand. Resistance will come, not only in the streets but also from leaders in states and cities who are intent on making America better.”

More rays of hope — and an excellent action agenda for Democrats — from “The voting rights manifesto: a state-by-state plan to defend democracy,” a Vox post by Daniel Nichanian: “As Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos Elections has documented, automatic voting proposals can be directly submitted to voters in at least 20 states. This process has already started in Nevada, where activists affiliated with the organization iVote collected enough signatures to force the Nevada legislature to consider AVR in the upcoming legislative session. (Either the legislature adopts the reform or else the issue is placed on the November 2018 ballot for voters to decide.)…At this moment, Democrats only fully control the governments of six states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, and Rhode Island). But plenty remains to be done even there. Some of these states allow no early voting, allow no weekend voting, and fail to automatically register citizens — and hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions are disenfranchised within them…Democrats are also well positioned to take control of many state governments in 2017 and 2018 (Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, and Washington, to name the most notable). Where and when they do, it is crucial that they be ready to act decisively and unflinchingly — not just to roll back recently introduced restrictions but also to increase access to the franchise and remove longstanding obstacles to electoral participation.” Read the whole thing. There’s more here worth doing.

From Democratic strategist Guy Cecil’s responses on the topic of “How Democrats can win again” in an interview byChris Cillizza at The Fix: “We can be a party that stands up — fiercely and strongly — against racism and still support expanding economic opportunities for all Americans.  We can be a party that supports my marriage to my husband, and one who supports the groundbreaking work being done by building trade unions who invest in worker training. We can support the DREAMers worried about their future in America and the dreams of poor whites who have been screwed by big business, big agriculture, and in many ways, their own government…Our party has become too focused on the presidential race, to the detriment on local and state races…We have competitive governor’s races across the country and many winnable majorities in state legislatures…The Democratic National Committee is part of the solution, but they are insufficient to turning around state parties, most of which are in disrepair…The way to win is not to become a liberal version of Trump, mired in division and hatred. More darkness in our political process will only lead to despair. It is time for activism, passion, protests, righteous anger and moral clarity. It is also time for more light.”

Eric Lipton and Scott Shane focus on some of the damage done down-ballot in their NYT article, “Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking.” The report includes a chilling description of the reaction of one Republican blogger to a Russian leak by “Guccifer 2.0” of thousands of pages of documents stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: “I don’t think you realize what you gave me,” the blogger said, looking at the costly internal D.C.C.C. political research that he had just been provided. “This is probably worth millions of dollars.”

Incumbency rules even more now, report Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley at Crystal Ball: “This election cycle, 393 of 435 House representatives, 29 of 34 senators, and five of 12 governors sought reelection (several of the governors were prohibited from seeking another term). Of those, 380 of 393 House members (97%), 27 of 29 senators (93%), and four of five governors (80%) won another term. These members of Congress and governors not only won renomination, but also won in November….Those reelection rates are all a little bit better than the already impressive post-World War II averages…”


Political Strategy Notes

From Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s column on “The Tainted Election“: “Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?…And it wouldn’t have been seen as a marginal victory, either. Even as it was, Mrs. Clinton received almost three million more votes than her opponent, giving her a popular margin close to that of George W. Bush in 2004…And when, as you know will happen, the administration begins treating criticism as unpatriotic, the answer should be: You have to be kidding. Mr. Trump is, by all indications, the Siberian candidate, installed with the help of and remarkably deferential to a hostile foreign power. And his critics are the people who lack patriotism?…Everything we’ve seen so far says that Mr. Trump is going to utterly betray the interests of the white working-class voters who were his most enthusiastic supporters, stripping them of health care and retirement security, and this betrayal should be highlighted.”

The New York Times editorial “Russia’s Hand in America’s Election” puts it this way: “Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, made it clear her administration would redouble efforts to punish and isolate Moscow for war crimes in Syria’s civil war and its aggression toward Ukraine and other neighbors. “I’ve stood up to Russia,” Ms. Clinton said during a debate in the fall. “I’ve taken Putin on and I would do that as president…New disclosures by American officials now reveal that intelligence agencies concluded with “high confidence” that a desire to undermine American faith in the electoral system morphed into an effort to hurt Mrs. Clinton’s chances…Revelations about Russian involvement will loom over many of Mr. Trump’s decisions, including his likely choice to lead the State Department, Rex Tillerson. Mr. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has cultivated a close and profitable relationship with Mr. Putin and has criticized American sanctions against Russia.”

He don’t need no stinkin’ “Daily Brief.” NYT’s David E. Sanger quotes Trump: “You know, I’m, like, a smart person,” he said. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.” I can’t decide whether it’s my more paranoid or lucid moments that lead to the conclusion that the GOP is now scheming to give us 11 plus years of President Pence.

We’ve gotten used to Trump reversing his stated positions, often witin hours. But E.J. Dionne, Jr.’s syndicated column, “Trump can’t wait to sell out his base” flags the astonishing speed with which Trump has begun selling out the constituency that gave him the largest share of his Electoral College victory. “Donald Trump cast himself as the champion of a besieged American working class and a defender of its interests. His early decisions tell us something very different: This could be the most anti-worker, anti-union crowd to run our government since the Gilded Age…In Trump’s case, we’re learning that rhetoric out of labor songbooks meant less than nothing. He was covering up an agenda focused on undercutting legal protections for workers and weakening their already-beleaguered organizations.”

Interesting title choice for The New York Times article, “Democrats Hone a New Message: It’s the Economy, Everyone” by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin. The subtextual message is “yes, the economy is still the key issue for Democrats who want to win elections, but let’s lose the “stupid” part and try to appeal to everyone.” Forget for a minute that the ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ was addressed more to the 1992 Democratic presidential campaign workers. Tweak the slogan to refocus Democratic messaging on reminding all voters of the central importance of economic justice and reform. That’s what got lost in the 2016 presidential campaign. The rest of the article deals more with centrist and liberal Democratic leaders re-emphasizing the importance of the economy. That’s the strategy that must be firmly in place by the 2018 mid terms and beyond.

WaPo’s Chris Cillizza makes a painful, though salient point in his article “Trump has completely upended the political game. We need to adjust accordingly.” As Cillizza writes, “Trump, to his immense credit, understood that a) flouting the rules actually endeared him to a big swath of voters and b) there just might not be any real rules at all…Trump took every rule of the game and not just broke it but smashed it.” We may be entering a new era of guerilla politics, or at least political jiu jitsu. While the conditions that facilitated Trump’s Electoral College win can’t be replicated, Dems should at least take note of Cillizza’s point that “…everything that we — the collective political horde — thought was conclusive about how you win an election (outspend your opponent, build a better organization, lead in polling, run more TV ads) was disproved in one fell swoop on Nov. 8.”

At Daily Kos “Trump is laying the path for Democrats to reconsolidate the Blue Wall” by Egberto Willies provides a succinct summation of the present predicament facing Dems: “Democrats lost a big chunk of the blue wall because they took many of the reliably Democratic states for granted. They did not do so by having policies inferior to those of the Republicans: they did so by allowing Donald Trump to define the policies he purported to support, letting him highlight past Democratic policies anathema to the working class, and by giving him the win in the domains of social media and electronic media…He won the presidency because of a constitutional aberration intended to ensure a corrupt power structure the ability to override the will of the people. The Bill of Rights protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority. The Electoral College is the the constitutional device of the powerful minority to usurp the will of the majority…With his cabinet selections, Donald Trump is providing tremendous opportunities to show that he conned those who placed their faith in him. His thin skin, including his Twitter feuds with some who helped elect him, creates a metastasis of buyer’s remorse that we must capitalize on immediately.”

Looking toward the 2018 mid-term elections ad strategy, it may be instructive to look at the last mid-terms (2014) to see where Democrats and Republicans placed their TV ads. Jeremy Scott Diamond’s Bloomberg post,  “TV’s Most Republican and Democratic Shows” provides an eyebrow-raiser in that regard. Hover your mouse over each of the TV programs to compare the numbers, and you may be surprised that the most popular Democratic choice by far, was “Judge Judy” with 19,425 ads, followed by “The Peoples’ Court” with 6,092, a distant second. For Republicans, the “Local News” blew everything else away, with 24,252 spots, followed by “The Price is Right” with 9,874 ads. You would have to study viewer demographics of each show to be sure. But, overall, it looks like Dems were focused on turning out the base in their ad choices, while Republicans were more interested in reaching out a bit wider.

Viet Than Nguyen’s NYT op-ed “Trump Is a Great Storyteller. We Need to Be Better,” provides a worthy messaging challenge for Democrats. Nguyen explains: “…The contest for our American identity wasn’t strictly a political affair. It is also a matter of storytelling. Those who seek to lead our country must persuade the people through their ability to tell a story about who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. The struggle over the direction of our country is also a fight over whose words will win and whose images will ignite the collective imagination…Donald J. Trump won barely, and by the grace of the Electoral College. His voters responded to his call to “Make America Great Again,” referring to a past when jobs were more plentiful, incomes more stable and politicians more bold…That kind of nostalgia is powerful and visceral, but it’s hard to ignore the subtext.”


Political Strategy Notes

If anyone still harbored hopes that Trump would be a bipartisan maverick, his extremist cabinet picks thus far indicate that we can now let go of any remaining delusions in that regard, or that he gives a damn about unifying Americans. With the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A., it sure looks like Steve Bannon is now the puppet-master pulling Trump’s strings, and Jared Kushner’s role has been reduced to technical support. The nomination of big oil errand boy Pruitt has a nasty, in-your-face quality that points to the hissing ideologues in Trump’s den, including Bannon and Sessions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out the Romney at State buzz was just a distraction to provide temporary cover for the hard right cabinet set-up, not too dissimilar from the way they just played Al Gore. Alternatively, Romney might serve as a suitably obedient parrot to distract from the rest of Trump’s cabinet picks. If so, that could come soon, to quell rising protest against Pruitt.

And if this keeps up, the comings and goings at the White House could look like outtakes from “Seven Days in May.”

Classy, that “pro” wrestling should serve as an exemplary business in the Trump Administration.

The chart below comes from “Which was the most accurate national poll in the 2016 presidential election?” by John Sides at The Monkey Cage:
pollaccuracy

 

From Thomas E. Patterson’s report, “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters” at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, via Erik Wemple’s “Study: Clinton-Trump coverage was a feast of false equivalency” at The Washington Post: “Clinton’s controversies got more attention than Trump’s (19 percent versus 15 percent) and were more focused. Trump wallowed in a cascade of separate controversies. Clinton’s badgering had a laser-like focus. She was alleged to be scandal-prone. Clinton’s alleged scandals accounted for 16 percent of her coverage—four times the amount of press attention paid to Trump’s treatment of women and sixteen times the amount of news coverage given to Clinton’s most heavily covered policy position…There wasn’t much in Clinton’s general election news coverage that worked in her favor….Stories about her personal traits portrayed her as overly cautious and guarded and ran 3-to-1 negative. News reports on her policy positions trended negative by a ratio of 4-to-1. Everything from her position on health care to her position on trade was criticized, often in the form of an attack by Trump or another opponent. Her record of public service, which conceivably should have been a source of positive press, turned out differently. News reports on that topic were 62 percent negative to 38 percent positive, with Trump having a larger voice than she did in defining the meaning of her career. He was widely quoted as saying, “She’s been there 30 years and has nothing to show for it.”

Talk about irony, “According to exit polls, Trump received 81 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote, and Hillary Clinton only 16 percent. Trump did significantly better than the overtly religious Mitt Romney and the overtly evangelical George W. Bush. He likely over-performed among other theologically conservative voters, such as traditionalist Catholics, as well. Not bad for a thrice-married adulterer of no discernible faith…To what can we attribute Trump’s success? The most logical answer is that religious traditionalists felt that their religious liberty was under assault from liberals, and they therefore had to hold their noses and vote for Trump.” — As  reported by David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy.

At The Fix Aaron Blake rolls out the reasons why gimmicky ploys to place Merrick Garland on the U.S. Supreme Court just before the new Congress is sworn in are Not Gonna Happen. In addition, it’s hard to imagine a staid, respected jurist like Garland offering himself up as the guinea pig for such an unprecedented gambit, and it’s also out of character for President Obama. If there was a workable, though controversial, way to place Garland on the court, it would be morally justifiable, since the Republicans have shamelessly betrayed America’s ideals by refusing to even hold hearings on Obama’s nominee. Unfortunately, the schemes Blake describes have too many moving parts, and could backfire badly.

Bring it, please bring it.


How the Message Discipline Gap Sank Clinton

As Ed Kilgore has pointed out, an argument blaming any one factor exclusively for an election outcome is generally a dicey proposition. There may be rare exceptions but, election upsets, in particular, are usually a function of a combination of events, gaffes, demographic trends, voting laws, media bias, approval ratings, turn-out mobilization and even the weather, to name just some of the most commonly-cited factors.

You can blame the F.B.I. director’s partisan meddling, as did the Clinton campaign, for the 2016 outcome. But you can also blame younger voters, white working-class anger and racially-driven voter suppression. And it’s possible to marshall compelling statistics for all of these arguments. If any one of them can explain Trump’s electoral college victory, however, then it can’t be only one of them.

But if you held me hostage, twisted my arm and threatened to take away my beer for a year unless I came up with a single cause of Clinton’s Electoral College defeat, I would have to go with distracted messaging.

Compare for a moment the respective slogans of the Trump and Clinton campaigns, “Make America Great Again” and “Stronger Together.” Both are yawners, to some extent, in that neither has any rhetorical music to it. But Trump’s message at least articulates a clearly-stated goal, and one that resonates if you live in a declining Rust Belt community. “Stronger Together” — not much of a goal or direction there, just a nod to some vague vision of unity in pursuit of…something.

Nor did the Clinton campaign’s “I’m with her” buttons win any hearts and minds. Anyone who wore that button was going to vote for Clinton anyway, zero value added. Worse, some fence-sitters may have read it as “I’m with her…and you’re not,” a counter-productive message of exclusion.

Slogans aren’t everything. The candidate is the ultimate messenger and what she or he projects on the stump, in interviews, comments, photo-ops, tweets and ads are even more important than the slogans. Here again the Clinton campaign was bested. Much of the reason is shallow media coverage. With few exceptions, the press amplified everything Trump said, and pretty much smothered Clinton’s statements and policy positions with her opponent’s outrages du jour. Trump played the media like a fiddle.

Let’s never forget, however, that Clinton actually won the popular vote by 2.5 million, and she banked  more total votes than any other presidential candidate in history. Nitpicking about messaging in light of that reality seems a little unfair. It’s faulting her for not winning by 3 million votes, instead of a measley 2.5. But the presidenial election is really 10 or 12 different elections, thanks to the Electoral College, and that’s where the Clinton campaign was outfoxed. Somebody in the Trump campaign, perhaps Bannon, saw the path through the Rust Belt and the power of sleeper issues, like offshoring jobs.

Credit the Trump campaign also with relentless branding of Clinton as elitist, even though she has been a tireless supporter of disadvantaged people and progressive reforms all of her life. Trump’s bio-narrative, on the other hand, defines the lifestyle of the self-serving billionaire who never performed an act of public service.

Clinton had by far the more credible economic policies, in terms of helping blue collar and middle class voters. But she couldn’t get any coverage or traction for them. I don’t place much stock in the argument that Clinton couldn’t sell her progressive policies because she got big speaking fees from the likes of Goldman-Sachs. If most voters cared about that, why wouldn’t they care about Trump’s routine stiffing of his subcontractors in his business and his ridiculously gilded lifestyle, while he masqueraded as a champion of working people?

The Trump campaign’s media exploitation and message discipline were impressive. They milked the power of sheer repetition to the fullest and stayed on their message. Clinton had to respond to Trump’s outrageous statements and revelations about his abuse of women. As the first female candidate, she couldn’t just ignore it. There was so much of it that her economic messages were dwarfed and got scant coverage. Her campaign could have focused more on economic messaging in her ads, however.

The next Democratic presidential candidate must not get distracted from projecting a message and vision of broadly-shared economic opportunity. A rigorous, disciplined, all-inclusive message supporting economic progress for working families of all races is the path to victory for the next Democratic president, and down-ballot Dems ought to embrace it as well.


Political Strategy Notes

“The problem for the Democratic Party is not that its policies aren’t progressive or populist enough,” writes Fareed Zakaria in a Washington Post op-ed. “They are already progressive and are substantially more populist than the Republican Party’s on almost every dimension. And yet, over the past decade, Republicans have swept through statehouses, governors’ mansions, Congress and now the White House. Democrats need to understand not just the Trump victory but that broader wave…Hillary Clinton’s campaign, for instance, should have been centered around one simple theme: that she grew up in a town outside Chicago and lived in Arkansas for two decades. The subliminal message to working-class whites would have been “I know you. I am you.” It was the theme of her husband’s speech introducing her at the Democratic convention, and Bill Clinton’s success has a lot to do with the fact that, brilliant as he is, he can always remind those voters that he knows them. Once reassured, they are then open to his policy ideas.”

In his salon.com post, “Want to win the working-class vote? Try progressive economic policies, Democrats,” Sean McElwee notes “Clinton’s campaign erred by not running more ads criticizing Trump’s predatory behavior toward workers and touting the Obama administration’s auto-industry bailout. (Research suggests that in battleground states only 6 percent of Clinton’s campaign ads mentioned “jobs,” while 43 percent of Trump’s did.)…At this point, the key limitation to progressive economic policies isn’t message but mobilization. There are numerous opportunities to run progressive candidates in races and states that Democrats have ignored. As the data suggest, economic progressivism is popular. Now let’s get the people who benefit from it mobilized. Let’s get candidates who can run on those platforms and win…”

Podcaster Lincoln Mitchell’s “Six Things Democrats Can Do Now To Combat Trumpism” has some provocative talking points, including these three: Spend time in working class white communities; Don’t talk about public service and sacrifice (“Every time a Democratic politician uses this language-and Hillary Clinton did a lot-it is a reminder of the elitism of the Party, and the candidate.”); and Don’t be afraid to tweet.

At The New Yorker Jeffrey Toobin pinpoints “THE REAL VOTING SCANDAL OF 2016: Jill Stein can’t call for the recount of uncast votes, but there were clearly thousands of them as a result of voter-suppression measures.” Noting that recounts “almost never result in a change of more than five hundred votes,” Toobin writes,  “This was the first Presidential election since the Supreme Court’s notorious Shelby County v. Holder decision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act. Several Republican-controlled states took the Court’s decision as an invitation to rewrite their election laws, purportedly to address the (nonexistent) problem of voter fraud but in fact to limit the opportunities for Democrats and minorities (overlapping groups, of course) to cast their ballots…In 2014, according to a Wisconsin federal court, three hundred thousand registered voters in that state lacked the forms of identification that Republican legislators deemed necessary to cast their ballots…In Milwaukee County, which has a large African-American population, sixty thousand fewer votes were cast in 2016 than in 2012. To put it another way, Clinton received forty-three thousand fewer votes in that county than Barack Obama did—a number that is nearly double Trump’s margin of victory in all of Wisconsin. The North Carolina Republican Party actually sent out a press release boasting about how its efforts drove down African-American turnout in this election.”

Donald Trump hasn’t released his tax returns — but Democrats want to force his Cabinet picks to do so,” reports Ed O’Keefe at The Washington Post. “Currently, just three Senate committees — the Budget, Finance, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panels — have the authority to require Cabinet picks to release their tax returns. The others do not…Democrats see an opportunity to call attention to Trump’s refusal to release tax information despite public opinion polls showing that most Americans believe he should.” The move would also underscore the reality of heavy Wall St. influence in Trump’s cabinet picks.

In the latest installment of the Blame Game, Aaron Blake’s post, “Yes, you can blame millennials for Hillary Clinton’s loss” at The Fix should have had a subhead “Along with most other groups.” Blake is dead right that younger voters ditched Clinton in significantly disproportionate and damaging numbers. But they had plenty of company. As John Judis noted in a November 11th Post op-ed, however, “According to national exit polls, among Latino voters she fell six points from President Obama’s numbers in 2012; she dropped five points each among 18-to-29-year-olds, unmarried women and African Americans. Together, these groups made up the same percentage of the electorate in 2016 as they had in 2012. Some of the battleground-state figures are even more striking. In Ohio, Clinton was 13 points behind Obama among 18-to-29-year-olds. In New Mexico, she fell 11 points among Latinos.”

At CNN Politics Eugene Scott probes the damage done by Hillary Clinton’s “Deplorables” gaffe, and notes, “On a special assignment from the Clinton campaign, Diane Hessan studied how undecided voters were responding to the campaign…She wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe sharing reflections from her study, which showed the reaction to the “deplorables” was stronger than when FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress saying they were probing to see if additional emails on the laptop of one her top aides could have an impact on a closed investigation to Clinton’s use of a primary email server.” I believe it. There’s no data to back it up, but google “deplorables t-shirt,” then click on the “images” tab,  and you will get about 200 designs to chose from.

You’ve probably heard about the daunting political landscape Democrats will be facing in the 2018 mid term elections, when Dems will be defending 25 seats, compared to 8 for Republicans. But shouldn’t Dems expect some pick-ups in the House, where all incumbents are running and Republicans will have the presidency? Not exactly, writes Charlie Cook at The Cook Political Report: “In the House there seems to be very little volat­il­ity in 2018. Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port House Ed­it­or Dav­id Wasser­man es­tim­ates that there are about ten Re­pub­lic­ans sit­ting in dis­tricts car­ried by Hil­lary Clin­ton and just eight Demo­crats in dis­tricts won by Don­ald Trump. The party hold­ing the White House usu­ally loses House seats in midterm elec­tions, but that might not hap­pen this time. First, the House of­ten ex­per­i­ences a surge and de­cline phe­nomen­on in which a party picks up a bunch of seats with its White House vic­tory only to lose many of those seats in the next mid-term elec­tion. But this year Re­pub­lic­ans won the Pres­id­ency while los­ing House seats, so they aren’t go­ing in­to the midterm with a lot of new seats to de­fend. Second, Demo­crats de­pend on young­er and minor­ity voters, who are most likely to sit out midterm elec­tion years.”

“It was the party’s neoliberalism that did it in,” writes Jeff Faux at The American Prospect. “…Organized labor, for all its flaws, kept the white working class in the Democratic Party, and was a firewall against white racism. This was especially true for industrial unions…as industrial unions declined, the right wing punched through that firewall, firing up anger towards elites, whose definition of diversity and equality did not seem to include white “losers…The Democrats’ task ahead, therefore, is to return to their own roots as the party of the new working class, whose anxieties about the future are spilling over the walls that separate people of different colors, genders, sexual preferences—and even educations.”


Political Strategy Notes

Some salient observations from Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times op-ed, “Who Can Tell the Future of the Democratic Party?“: “A random examination of Obama’s speeches during the 2008 campaign reveals his sensitivity to the concerns of the white working class — from which his maternal grandparents, with whom he lived for many years, came. He rarely turned to an explicit “identity politics” strategy…Even when speaking before civil rights and women’s rights groups, Obama took pains to avoid particularistic appeals…Every campaign seeks to mobilize specific constituencies. Identity politics are, and have always been, a fact of life. The issue is what takes precedence: those constituency-specific appeals or a sustained emphasis on a more encompassing appeal to a broad economic class…The tried and true way for a politician to market a coalitional regime amid a cacophony of particularistic demands is to forcefully assert the primacy of the whole. This worked for the Obama insurgency in 2008 because his coalition members were willing to temporarily suspend their immediate demands in favor of a more encompassing victory.”

At The Daily 202 James Hohman rolls out a scenario to explain “How Democrats might be forced to get onboard with replacing Obamacare.” Hohman writes, “Here’s the rub: Republicans actually can repeal Obamacare somewhat easily using the procedure known as reconciliation. It’s the same maneuver that Democrats used to jam through the law in 2010 after Scott Brown unexpectedly won a special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy. Only 51 votes are required. But, under the rules of reconciliation, a replacement of the law cannot be moved through this same process. Sixty votes will be required in the Senate for that, and Republicans only have 52 seats…The emerging Republican stratagem is to create some “transition period,” as McCarthy calls it, setting a firm date on which the law would expire. That would then create a metaphorical cliff that the country would go over unless Congress acts. With the prospect of 20 million Americans losing health insurance coverage, the R’s bet that the D’s will cave and accept something they don’t like rather than nothing at all. As McCarthy put it, “Once it’s repealed, why wouldn’t they be willing to vote for a replacement? Right? You have no other options…It’s a dangerous cycle that could set up an epic game of chicken.”

New York Times reporter Carl Hulse reports that “Democrats See Medicare as Winning Wedge Issue” and note that Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health Education and Welfare Rep. Tom Price is  “not only a leading proponent of repealing the Obama-era health care law, but he has embraced Republican efforts to move future Medicare users into private insurance programs and raise the eligibility age.” Hulse writes, “Senate Democrats intend to press Mr. Price on this subject during his confirmation hearings. They see a wide opening for political gain, given the 57 million older Americans who rely on Medicare — including many white Midwesterners with financial worries who voted for Mr. Trump…“Good luck to selling that to the voters in Indiana and Ohio that were Democrats and voted for Trump this time,” Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said about a Medicare revamp.”

Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch has a must-read for Democrats who are concerned about stopping the GOP/corporate takeover of state legislatures and governorships. Bottari reports on the annual meeting of  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) now underway “to strategize on how to advance a far-right agenda under a Trump presidency.” Bottari reviews the ALEC agenda and spotlights one major item: “It is notable that another ALEC bill under consideration at this week’s meeting “Resolution in Support of Nonprofit Donor Privacy” recommends that the public be kept in the dark when it comes to finding out which millionaires or corporate interests are bankrolling ALEC, because the poor souls might be subject to public criticism or public pressure to drop their ALEC membership.”

In Stuart Rothenberg’s Chicago Tribune op-ed “How the Democratic Party should prepare for 2018 and beyond,” he advises “the makeup of the 2016 Senate class limits Democratic opportunities, but the House of Representatives suddenly became a very different battlefield with a Republican president…Since a midterm is almost always a referendum on the sitting president, the contours of 2018 will depend on President Trump’s success and failures, as well as on Democratic recruiting and fundraising. That makes it fundamentally different from the last five general elections…Like all parties after defeat, Democrats should assess their strengths and weaknesses, their vulnerabilities and their opportunities. But they better not simply prepare to fight the last war again.”

At Organizing Upgrade Bob Wing and Bill Fletcher, Jr. note the racial bias of the Electoral College and how it helps Republicans: “Why is it that, in the 21st century, the Electoral College keeps trumping the popular vote on behalf of Republicans?…The pro-Republican bias of the Electoral College derives from two main dynamics: it overweights the impact of mostly conservative voters in small population states and it negates entirely the mostly progressive votes of nearly half of African American voters, more than half of Native American voters and a major swath of Latino voters.”

Trump has credited Twitter as an invaluable tool for enabling his electoral college win. The New Republic’s senior editor Jeet Heer warns that inflammatory tweets are now more like a way of life for him: “A president-elect is supposed to try and unify the country after a divisive political conflict; relentlessly controversial tweeting stands that old idea on its head. Since his election, Trump has picked a fight with the cast of the musical Hamilton (accusing them in a now-deleted tweet of not just insulting Vice President-elect Mike Pence but, worse, of forgetting their lines). He’s falsely claimed that he won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He’s argued that anyone who burns the flag should suffer from a “loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Likely as not, Trump is consciously using “incendiary tweets” to distract attention from Clinton’s popular vote win, now at 2.5 million, and the media has taken the bait. As Heer notes, “For a politician who frames himself a populist, losing the popular vote is especially embarrassing. Sticking to campaign mode is in part a response to this failure—a way to refight the election that Trump and his team know they didn’t fully win…Trump’s tweets help get people talking about something other than Trump University, or his conflicts of interest. They manufacture distracting controversies. But they also, crucially, give him a powerful microphone to address the world without the interjection of critical voices. They are a form of press conference without a press, a social media rally with an audience in the millions.”

Hohman also reports on the Romney grovelfest, which may end in making Ted Cruz look like a principled man of his word in comparison. A sampling of Romney’s gush: “I had a wonderful evening with President-elect Trump. We had another discussion about affairs throughout the world and these discussions I’ve had with him have been enlightening, and interesting, and engaging. I’ve enjoyed them very, very much…” It is a sad commentary that, if Trump selects Romney for State, it would add dignity and gravitas to his stable of cabinet picks thus far.

In that regard, hopefully the Sarah Palin at the V.A. buzz is just a pat on the head for her support of Trump. But, yikes, it’s true. Former Veep Dan Quayle has been sighted in Trump Tower.


Dems Will Limit Damage to Obamacare

If reason and rules prevail, the amount of damage Trump and the Republicans do to Obamacare should be limited, according to incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Mr. Schumer vows to block all efforts to kill Obamacare, or gut Dodd-Frank financial regulation. “We’re not going to undo it, period. And I have the votes,” says Schumer, quoted in the New York Times editorial “Can Senate Democrats Save the Party?” The Bipartisan Policy Center concurrs, noting “the Senate is not likely to have the 60 votes needed to pass a wholesale repeal” of Obamacare.

Schumer’s confidence may seem a little cocky in light of the electoral college thrashing Democrats just suffered. But Dems did pick up a couple of senate seats. And Clinton’s historically-unprecedened popular vote win for a presidential candidate who lost the electoral college vote — 2 million plus and counting — should temper the public’s perception of any mandate the Republicans can credibly claim. The Times editorial adds, further:

Much of the burden will fall on Democrats in the closely divided Senate, where arcane rules give the opposition party leverage to shape or block legislation passed by the rigidly conservative, Republican-dominated House. The challenge facing the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, is to determine when to say no and when to compromise on matters of broad economic benefit.

Numerous opinion polls indicate strong support for key provisions of Obamacare, and a healthy share of those who criticise the ACA want a stronger, not a weaker role for government in providing health care. Asked, “Now, please tell me if you favor or oppose having a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance through an expanded, universal form of Medicare-for-all” last December, 58 percent of respondents in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll said they would favor such a reform.

Most Democrats have long been open to “mend it, don’t end it” reforms to make Obamacare better serve the public, with considerable public support. Asked “Which is closer to your view on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare? It is working relatively well, and it needs some fixes to be better. It is fatally flawed and should be repealed and replaced?” in Bloomberg Politics Poll conducted March 19-22,  50 percent of respondents agreed that “it needs some fixes,” while 46 percent said “it should be replaced.”

The Republicans have thus far refused to negotiate in good faith for anything short of an all-out repeal of the measure. The central question going forward is, will Trump eventually settle for reasonable changes to the ACA with bipartisan support?

After meeting with President Obama, Trump reportedly told the Wall Street Journal three days into his transition that he might keep popular Obamacare provisions, including “the prohibition against insurers denying coverage because of patients’ existing conditions, and a provision that allows parents to provide years of additional coverage for children on their insurance policies.” Trump said “I like those very much.”

President Obama has indicated even he might support “replacement” legislation that gives the Republicans some credit, if it preserves the popular provisions of the ACA, even if it’s called something else. If Trump gets to the point where he is willing to support bipartisan reform of Obamacare, he might get some deserved credit for real leadership, instead of parroting the GOP’s childish, triumphalist demand that Obamacare be obliterated and replaced with a vaguely-stated something more to their liking at a later date.

Even with bipartisan reform of the ACA, Trump and GOP leaders can still strut, crow and gush about how they ended Obamacare. But it will be sensibly-calibrated, bipartisan reform, if it’s anything at all. Republicans will likely win some of their favored “reforms,” such as health savings/reimbursement accounts and greater flexibility for the states in administering Medicaid allotments.

No doubt some Republican hard-liners are hoping enough Democratic senators will be so cowed by Trump’s electoral college win and the difficult 2018 senate race landscape Dems face, that they will simply cave and support repeal of Obamacare, with no guarantees of any of the popular provisions being included in some sketchy “replacement bill.” More likely, Democratic senators will insist on responsible reforms, and that they will get some of the credit for it.


Political Strategy Notes

At Politico Gabriel Debenedetti’s “Democrats wrestle with Rust Belt dilemma: Party leaders in fast-growing states warn against obsessing over Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin” cautions against overreacting to Trump’s electoral college win and notes a couple of bright spots for the future. “The Arizona and Georgia margins turned out to be closer than in Ohio and Iowa — two swing states Obama won twice,” notes Debenedetti. “…Reed, the Atlanta mayor, makes the point that Clinton lost North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes — where her team spent tens of millions of dollars — by just roughly one point less than she lost Georgia and its 16 votes…“It would be a mistake to not look at the gains that were made in Georgia,” said Rebecca DeHart, executive director of that state’s Democratic Party, nodding to the looming uncertainty about resources.”

Lynn Vavreck reported in the New York Times that “Only 9 percent of Mrs. Clinton’s appeals in her ads were about jobs or the economy. By contrast, 34 percent of Mr. Trump’s appeals focused on the economy, jobs, taxes and trade.”

In his Daily Beast post, “Dems Can’t Afford to Say Yes to Trump: The few last times Democrats were in the oppositional spotlight, they were excessively accommodating to Republican presidents. The party can’t risk that now,” Michael Tomasky makes a strong case against Dems taking an accommodationist tilt toward Trump. In one graph Tomasky shreds the myth that Dems outspent Republicans leading up to 2016, particularly at the state level: “…It’s the right that spends more. Rob Stein, the founder of the Democracy Alliance, the group of wealthy liberal donors that tries to coordinate investment in a progressive infrastructure, has studied this question for years. He told me: “The right has been building its infrastructure for more than 40 years. Whereas 10 years ago the right’s independent political apparatus was outspending progressives in electorally relevant state-based political mobilization by over two to one, in this cycle that margin appears to have been in excess of four to one.”

You’ve probably seen a fair number of posts disparaging “identity politics” in recent weeks. Most of these articles are talking about pro-liberal demographic groups. But Trump played the identity card with a much heavier hand than did Clinton, and more pundits than you can count attribute his electoral college victory and state upsets to his leveraging white working-class resentments. Laila Lalami’s “The Identity Politics of Whiteness” explores the phenomenon at The New York Times Magazine.

From “Vilsack’s tough message for fellow Democrats: Stop writing off rural America,” by Greg Jaffe at The Washington Post: “Democrats need to talk to rural voters,” Vilsack warned this summer. “They can’t write them off. They can’t ignore them. They actually have to spend a little time talking to them.” There is no question that Democrats do better in towns and counties where they put in the time, as Obama proved in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. For a strongly-stated opposing view, however, read this post.  A possible copromise might be for Dems to campaign more in rural areas in state and local races and during the presidential primary elections and caucuses, but for Democratic presidential candidates hold off on spending much time and resources in rural areas in the 2020 general election presidential race.

Although the 2018 election offers a scary landscape for Democrats campaigning for senate seats, at The Plum Line Greg Sargent points out that Democrats face more encouraging terrain in upcoming races for governorships. Sargent writes that “in 2017 and 2018, there will be a total of 38 gubernatorial contests…Of these races, those that will feature Republicans defending GOP-held seats…will vastly outnumber those that will feature Democrats defending Dem-held seats…The vast majority of these races take place in 2018 (only two, Virginia and New Jersey, take place next year), so we’re really talking about the 2018 map here. It has big transformative potential for Democrats, since many of the states in which Republicans are defending seats are ones Barack Obama (and to a lesser extent Hillary Clinton) won…There has been a great deal of chatter about how Democrats should retool their economic message to win back the working class and middle class whites that Trump overperformed among, but these races provide a chance to actually try to do this in the immediate future.”

Maybe 2016 really was the “facebook election,” though not in a good way, as Jenna Wortham observes, also in the New York Times Magazine: “Social media seemed to promise a way to better connect with people; instead it seems to have made it easier to tune out the people we don’t agree with. But if we can’t pay attention to one another, we might as well not live on the same planet at all.” Despite all of the educational promise of social media, it may be feeding polarization, instead of reducing it. Not only are left and right mostly preaching to their respective choirs on social media, the medium seems to encourage name-calling, insults and ostracism. What might help would be social media forums that  stimulate civil dialogue and consensus-building.

In The NYT Sunday Review Steven Greenhouse previews the tough times ahead for unions under Trump:  “Unions are expecting a series of stinging blows. Even as Mr. Trump talks of spending $1 trillion to improve infrastructure, many Republicans are eager to repeal an 85-year-old law requiring that contractors pay union-level wages on federal projects. Congressional Republicans are likely to take up nationwide “right-to-work” legislation, which would sap union treasuries by barring any requirement that workers pay union dues or fees. And even if Senate Democrats manage to block such a law, Republican gains in Kentucky and Missouri mean those states are likely to enact their own right-to-work laws…Mr. Trump will most likely scrap most of Mr. Obama’s executive orders on labor, including ones requiring federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, provide paid sick leave and pay a $10.10 minimum wage. He may also erase a regulation that lets four million additional workers qualify for overtime pay. (Last Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas suspended that regulation.) And the National Labor Relations Board under Mr. Trump will no doubt overturn numerous union-friendly moves by the Obama board, among them ones speeding up unionization elections and giving graduate research and teaching assistants at private universities the right to unionize.”

At HuffPo Robert Kuttner has an article that puts many of the Democratic-friendly post-mortems in perspective. Kuttner argues, “While posing as a populist, he [Trump] seems inclined to let the Republican establishment have its way, not just with welfare for the poor but with federal programs that Middle America actually values, such as social security and medicare…At some point, even the devout Trump backers may notice that the man is a fraud. And Democrats need to be there with a brand of constructive economic nationalism that actually serves working people…But in the meantime a great deal is at risk — not just the programs going back to Franklin Roosevelt and the civil rights victories going back to LBJ and Martin Luther King but constitutional democracy itself…Now, can the Democrats please suspend their usual ritual of the circular firing squad — and get on with the business of defending what’s decent in America?”