washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Dems Need Wall St.’ Argument Oversimplified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Schoen takes a dubious leap  in stating:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can the Republicans Win VA Governorship with Immigration Fear-Mongering?

MARION, Virginia, October 17 – There are a lot of ways to fall in love with Virginia. You could kayak along the Chesapeake shores, which America’s earliest European immigrants, including Captain John Smith, explored awestuck from their base at Jamestown. You can tour Virginia’s matchless historic sites, including not only presidential homes, colonial settlements and battelfields, but also Yorktown and Appomattox where the American Revolution and Civil War ended. Or just take a ride on Skyline Drive along the glorious Blue Ridge mountains.

But for political junkies, I would reccomend cruising along I-81, which traverses Virginia’s northwest to southwest, roughly parallel to the border the state shares with West Virginia. It’s a beautiful drive along several stretches, but the real political interest is the people in the small towns, like Marion, a few miles from the NC and TN state lines.

The southwestern region of VA has gotten recent attention as a key conservative stronghold in a state that has been trending in a blue direction in the last three presidential elections. While the area around Dulles airport is sometimes called the “high-tech coridor” of the east, there is also a high patents/population ratio in southwest Virginia, clustered around Virginia Tech. But the homes and businesses along I-81 are peopled with mostly white blue collar and middle class families, along with a smaller percentage of African Americans and Latinos.

The latter are frequently employed in construction, road-building and restaurants, like “Mi Puerto” in Marion, where I saw great affection between the highly professional and friendly Mexican-American staff and the local predominantly-white families. It was striking because I had been reading that very day about “rising tensions” between Latinos and white Virginians, largely as a result of fear-mongering about a Central American gang, emanating from the campaign of Republican candidate for Governor Ed Gillespie. One of his campaign ads is among the most repulsive example of immigrant-bashing I have seen. As Yvette Cabrera describes the ad at ThinkProgress:

In the ad, which began airing in mid-September, a narrator warns Virginia residents of the menacing threat of the [Latino] MS-13 gang while Coll’s photograph, stamped with the words “Kill, Rape, Control,” flashes across the screen. Gillespie’s commercial tries to pin the increase in MS-13 violence on his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, and criticizes the democrat for his vote against a Virginia bill that would have banned sanctuary cities, which do not actually exist in Virginia.

But the gang members in Coll’s photograph are not actually MS-13 gang members, nor were they photographed in Virginia. The photograph features Barrio 18 gang members that Coll photographed inside a prison in El Salvador. In fact, Barrio 18, a faction of the Sureños gang, is a rival of the MS-13 gang.

MS-13 has a very small presence in northern Virginia, and they are mostly from El Salvador. But Gillespie and the Republicans amplify a few incidents to spread fear and distrust of Latinos in general to steer votes away from Northam.

Gillespie is not a garden-variety Republican gubernatorial candidate. He is also a shrewd political strategist who has been credited with spearheading the GOP’s impressive victories in state politics in recent years, including the Republican pick-up of about 1,000 seats in state legislatures across the U.S. during the Obama Administration. He has been particularly adept at leveraging “cultural issues” to distract voters from the GOP’s dubious economic policies.

What Gillespie lacks in charisma and inspirational ability, he makes up with his strategic chops. That’s a good reason why Democrats should not get overconfident about Democratic candidate Ralph Northam’s lead in the polls (6.8 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average), and mobilize turnout with the same energetic commitment needed as if the polls showed a dead heat. Gillespie, who lost his 2014 race to Sen. Mark Warner by less than half of one percent, knows how to feast on  Democratic indiference in non-presidential elections.

Both Gillespie and Northam are nervous about Trump’s involvement in the campaign. Bush, Obama, Pence and Biden have already campaigned for their party’s nominee. But Gillespie is certainly emulating Trump’s immigrant-bashing and politics of cultural distraction as core elements of his strategy.

In the end, however, the outcome of this marquee off-year race on November 7th may depend on the turnout of northern Virginia liberals and moderates, who especially dislike Gillespie’s opposition to the reproduction rights of women, or conversely, conservatives in the Richmond burbs and exurbs. In either case, It’s all about GOTV now.

Democrats have reason to hope that Gillespie’s Latino-bashing will fail, as a result of the decency of the majority of Virginia’s middle-class whites who won’t deny the clear reality that the overwhelming majority of Hispanics are hard-working, law-abiding and sincerely religious people who enrich the culture and prosperity of their state.

A Gillespie victory would be an upset. If Northam wins, it will be an indication that Democrats are getting focused on the imperative of mobilizing turnout in off-year elections. If he wins big, it will fuel hopes for a ‘blue wave’ election next year and perhaps 2020 – and that would give Democrats some needed optimism.

Political Strategy Notes

Alvin Chang reports at Vox that “Only 1 in 3 voters approve of Trump’s executive order undermining Obamacare,” according to a survey by the Public Policy Polling conducted 10/12-13. Further, 48 percent of registered voters  and 10 percent of Trump voters disapprove of the order. In addition, 52 percent of RVs and 20 percent opf Trump voters want “congress to stand up to Trump on the issue of health care.”

At U.S.News & World Report, Sabrina Corlette Explains why Trump’s executive order is “A Blow to Working-Class Coverage,” and notes “The executive order sets the stage for new health plans that do not have to comply with Obamacare’s insurance rules, including requirements that plans cover a basic set of minimum benefits like maternity care, prescription drugs and mental health treatment, and refrain from setting premiums based on a person’s age, gender or health status…If you’re older or need to use health care services because of a current or past condition, you’ll likely be charged a lot more for your coverage. Many low-income people could be protected from these rate hikes, because the Trump administration can’t repeal the law’s income-related premium subsidies. However, if you’re not eligible for those subsidies – and an estimated 7.5 million people buy insurance on their own without federal financial help – you could face increasingly high premiums…Those hardest hit will be working- and middle-class Americans, who earn just a bit too much to qualify for premium subsidies and have the misfortune of being in less-than-perfect health.”

That’s what I’m talking about. In January, the “2nd Women’s March On Chicago To Draw Attention To Mid-Term Elections,” reports Joe Vince at The Chicago Patch. “Called “March to the Polls,” the 2018 event will be Jan. 20, and like the inaugural demonstration, it will be one of other “sister marches” held around the country. Organizers say the focus of this year’s march will be to draw attention to the upcoming mid-term and gubernatorial elections across the United States, including Illinois…In 2017, activists, new and seasoned, joined advocates in the fight for women’s rights and social justice,” Jaquie Algee, march organizer, said on the event’s website. “In 2018 we celebrate that movement, and march our demands to the polls.”..This year’s march will help launch voter education programs designed to heighten awareness around women’s rights and social justice. Some of the specific issues include affordable health care, living wages, immigration, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom and protections for workers, disabled individuals and the environment.”

Tina Nguyen’s “Will Bannon’s Far-Right Insurgency Destroy the GOP?” at Vanity Fair cautions Dems to not get overly-optimistic about the former Trump White House staffer’s wing-nut jihad to primary less-extreme Repubicans. “With the Party of Reagan suffering an identity crisis, Democratic strategists are reportedlyconsidering a reboot of the strategy that won Claire McCaskill re-election in 2012: actively helping to get unelectable fringe candidates nominated. In her memoir, McCaskill described how she discovered that Missouri Republicans were more energized in their support of Todd Akin, a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus, than they were for a more traditional candidate. Her solution: boost Akin in the primary by running ads calling him “too conservative.” It worked better than she expected, with Akin pulling off a double-digit upset—and then tanking, months later, when his infamous comment about “legitimate rape” sparked nationwide controversy…But assuming that Republicans will self-sabotage by lurching too far right could backfire spectacularly, just as it did for Hillary ClintonDespite party infighting, The Washington Post reports that the number of small donors giving to the G.O.P. is at its highest level in recent history. “You cannot force a fumble in these situations,” warned Democratic strategist Matt Canter. “The goal posts have moved on what’s considered sane and reasonable.”

Here’s a couple of revealing statistics, via Zack Stanton’s “The Bellwether County That Explains Eminem and Kid Rock” at Politico: “The Cook Political Report noted that just three counties—Macomb in Michigan, York in Pennsylvania, and Waukesha in Wisconsin—were responsible for Trump’s Electoral College win: “If those three counties had cast zero votes, Trump would have lost all three states and the election…Last year, Macomb County went for Trump overwhelmingly, delivering more votes for him than for any other presidential candidate in the history of the county. His margin of victory in Macomb was 48,348; statewide, he won Michigan by only 10,704 votes. In Macomb, Hillary Clinton received 31,699 fewer votes than Barack Obama had in 2012; if her drop-off had been only two-thirds that size, she would have won Michigan.”

Stanton observes in another graph: “Before he was a legend in his field, pollster Stanley Greenberg made his name examining the voters here in 1985, when local Democrats brought in the Yale professor to study what was happening and why they were losing. “Winning Macomb represents a kind of mastery of our history,” Greenberg later wrote in his 1995 book, Middle Class Dreams. “These middle-class suburbanites are conscious of being caught in the middle, doubly betrayed by those who would govern from the bottom up and by those who would govern from the top down. … What they really want is a new political contract—and the freedom to dream the American dream again.” It’s not hard to draw a line from these insights to the rise of the Clinton-era centrism Greenberg helped shape (he was the chief pollster on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign) and the basis of much of the past three decades of Democrats’ intraparty squabbles.”

Syndicated columnst E. J. Dionne, Jr. illuminates The We the People Democracy Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. David Price, D-N.C, and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., a package bill that Democrats should prioritize the moment they regain the White House and a working majority of copngress: “Price and Udall propose a system of matching funds for small contributions that would create a strong incentive for politicians to rely on large numbers of modest donations from rank-and-file citizens rather than on the massive stacks of money made available by billionaires…Price and Udall would expand disclosure rules to include paid internet and email communications as well as robocalls…“Corporations, labor unions, super PACs and other groups would be required to have their top official appear in and take responsibility for the ads, and the top five donors to a group would have to be listed in the ads.” Voters should know who is trying to influence them…The bill also takes on gerrymandering by requiring states to establish independent citizen redistricting commissions to draw congressional district boundaries. It fights voter suppression by establishing automatic and same-day voter registration nationwide. And it addresses some of Trump’s specific abuses. It requires all presidential nominees to release their income tax returns. Both the president and vice president would have to divest themselves from any financial interest posing a potential conflict. Presidential visitor logs would also be made public.”

From Robert Borosage’s post at The Nation, “The Republican Plan to Rob America,” an article title which Dems can use in soundbite-sized descriptions: “…the tax cuts—totaling $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years—will give away tax dollars that could be used to address our true investment deficit: the shortfall of public investments vital to our economy. Virtually absent in the public debate is the reality that the competitiveness of this economy is crippled by the starving of vital public investments…Democrats need to be louder champions of public investment. They are cautious because 61 percent of Americans, including 44 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners, think Democrats “too often” see government as the only way to solve problems. The Wall Street wing of the party, with its embrace of austerity and neo-liberalism, is happy to feed that suspicion. Many politicians are reluctant to champion a cause that is compelling but controversial, but they shouldn’t be.”

If anyone has any remaining doubts about the importance of Facebook as an election communications tool, they should read Alexis C. Madrigal’s “What Facebook Did to American Democracy” at The Atlantic. Among Madrigal’s many provocative statistics and insights: “In late 2014, The Daily Dot called attention to an obscure Facebook-produced case study on how strategists defeated a statewide measure in Florida by relentlessly focusing Facebook ads on Broward and Dade counties, Democratic strongholds. Working with a tiny budget that would have allowed them to send a single mailer to just 150,000 households, the digital-advertising firm Chong and Koster was able to obtain remarkable results. “Where the Facebook ads appeared, we did almost 20 percentage points better than where they didn’t,” testified a leader of the firm. “Within that area, the people who saw the ads were 17 percent more likely to vote our way than the people who didn’t. Within that group, the people who voted the way we wanted them to, when asked why, often cited the messages they learned from the Facebook ads.”…By late October, the role that Facebook might be playing in the Trump campaign—and more broadly—was emerging. Joshua Green and Issenberg reported a long feature on the data operation then in motion. The Trump campaign was working to suppress “idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans,” and they’d be doing it with targeted, “dark” Facebook ads. These ads are only visible to the buyer, the ad recipients, and Facebook. No one who hasn’t been targeted by then can see them…Steve Bannon was confident in the operation. “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” Bannon told them. “Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”

Political Strategy Notes

Try not to puke when you look at the smug portrait of contempt for Democracy in the photo that accompanies this New York Times article by Robert Pear, Maggie Haberman and Reed Abelson. As the authors explain, President Trump has scrapped “subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people, the White House said late Thursday. His plans were disclosed hours after the president ordered potentially sweeping changes in the nation’s insurance system, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers…The twin hits to the Affordable Care Act could unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, sending insurance premiums soaring and insurance companies fleeing from the health law’s online marketplaces. After Republicans failed to repeal the health law in Congress, Mr. Trump appears determined to dismantle it on his own.” As Schumer and pelosi put it, ““It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” they said. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

In her op-ed, “Why Democrats need a 50-State Strategy,” Washington Post columnist and editor of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuval spotlights two critical Democratic campaigns for the U.S. Senate that are polling surprisingly well in red states — Doug Jones’s bid to win a U.S. Senate seat representing Alabama and Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s Texas campaign to take the senate seat now held by Ted Cruz. As vanden Heuval writes, “These are still uphill races. But both candidates are proving why, for Democrats to go from resistance to power, a bold 50-state strategy is critical. Even if the Jones and O’Rourke campaigns do not end in victory, there is clear value in mobilizing progressive voters and building the state and local infrastructure to compete in future races, particularly at the all-important state and local levels. On that front, the recent string of progressive victories in local elections nationwide, some in places where Democrats had not won in years, shows that there is a real desire for progressive solutions in every part of the country, including areas that many Democrats have unfortunately written off. ”

“White working-class people in our study felt disconnected from her because she representedthe political elite, “insiders,” and Washington DC. Her language and campaign appeared to forget about white working-class voters in preferencefor appealing to college graduates, minorities, and the urban middle class. The sense was that her life experiences and varied roles in politics—first lady, US senator, US secretary of state—confirmed her as part of the establishment and disconnected from real people rather than being qualified to run for president…During the 2016 election campaign, Clinton stated that some of Trump’s supporters were “deplorables” because of their xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic views (Jacobs, 2016). The sense that white working-class voters were racist jarred many in our study; they eagerly pointed out the ethnic diversity of family and friends, and how they supported work colleagues who were being subjected to racial and sexual harassment. Many had voted for the first black president in 2008. “Deplorable” became a form of cultural resistance against a sneering and out-of- touch elite…” — from the study, “The Other America”: White working-class views on belonging, change, identity, and immigration. Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, UK. by H. Beider, S. Harwood, and & K. Chahal, (2017).

According to Matthew Pennington and Emily Swanson of the Associated Press, “North Korea’s nuclear weapons development is spooking most Americans, and two-thirds of them say President Donald Trump’s war of words with the isolated nation’s leader is making the situation worse. Less than 1 in 10 thinks Trump’s comments are making it better…Those are the findings of a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, as tensions between the adversaries escalate and North Korea comes closer to its goal of having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the continental U.S.”

In  his post, “Did Voter Suppresion Give Trump the Election?,” Richard Prince writes at the Root: “A study from the battleground state of Wisconsin “estimates 16,800 or more people in Dane and Milwaukee counties were deterred from casting ballots in November because of Wisconsin’s voter ID law,” Patrick Marley and Jason Stein reported Sept. 26 for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel….“The study by University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Ken Mayerconcluded 16,800 to 23,250 voters in the two counties — the Democratic strongholds of Wisconsin — did not vote because of the voter ID law,” they wrote.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall quotes Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who says “The greatest threat to the next Democratic nominee for President isn’t white working class voters, but in fact our inability to cobble back and hold together the core of Obama’s back to back majority coalitions. The “protest vote” by millennials — HRC’s significant underperformance with younger voters, particularly younger voters of color — is actually where she was most notably off of Obama’s performance in the overall battleground aggregate…when you have between 6 to 9 percent of younger voters of color breaking 3rd Party in their ‘protest vote’ that kills the Democrat’s chance to reach Obama’s margins most notably in places like Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.” As for winning the votes of the white working class, Edsall quotes political scientist Bruce Cain to good effect: “The cultural problem is Democrats looking down their noses at blue collar work and flyover country. First, cut that shit out. Second, let’s get back to celebrating the work of those who fix pipes, install wind farms, etc. Many of us in Democrat bubble lands are just too full of ourselves. Also, let’s look at how to upgrade vocational schools and training to make it more prestigious, not places where people are relegated to because they cannot compete in a college prep curriculum.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in “The Democrats Pipeline Problem” at The Atlantic about the party’s disconnect between its older, white leadership and the increasing reliance on turning out people of color to secure electoral victories. As Brownstein notes, “…Hillary Clinton, the party’s 69-year-old presidential nominee, struggled to excite Millennial and minority voters despite the clear and present danger Donald Trump presented to almost all of the values they profess. “There is a great urgency for Democrats now to turn the generational wheel,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder and president of NDN, a Democratic advocacy and analysis group. “It’s a pragmatic, practical thing that the younger candidates are just going to do a better job of speaking to this emerging coalition that we have,” which “has not been turning out with the frequency and intensity that we need.” Yet younger and diverse leaders remain as rare as MAGA hats at the very top of the Democratic ladder…Democrats need to maximize both turnout and their margins among non-white and younger voters (who are themselves far more diverse than older generations of voters). Despite the provocation Trump provided, Democrats decisively failed on that front in 2016: Turnout among white and Hispanic Millennials disappointed, and it plummeted among younger African Americans compared with 2012.”

At The Plum Line, Paul Waldman also addresses the question shared by many Democrats, “Is it time for the Democratic Party’s old guard to step aside?” and observes “The answer is “Yes, but…” There are good reasons why all those leaders might step aside, or at least begin preparing to do so…Democrats should be looking for new leadership, but not because they need to do it if they’re going to win in 2018 and 2020. Both of those elections will turn mostly on how Americans feel about Donald Trump. They should do it because they’ll have to eventually no matter what, and it’s never too early to start preparing. But if it’s going to happen, younger Democrats are going to have to take a risk, step up, and convince people that they’re capable of carrying the party forward.”

So where do things stand in the Virginia Governors campaign, the marquee statewide political race of 2017? Geoffrey Skelley writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “A concern for the Northam campaign has to be the recent history of polling in Virginia and nationally that has missed some conservative voters. For example, the final RealClearPolitics average in 2013 showed McAuliffe leading Ken Cuccinelli (R) 45.6%-38.9%, with Libertarian Robert Sarvis getting 9.6%. Although McAuliffe led by 6.7 points, he only won by 2.5 on Election Day, 47.7%-45.2%. Some of that was Sarvis’ slide to 6.5%, as it’s likely that some Republican voters considering Sarvis came home to the GOP in the end (some of Sarvis’ purported voters probably failed to show on Election Day, too). In 2017, there’s also a Libertarian candidate, Cliff Hyra, though he looks set to win a far smaller share of the vote than Sarvis did. Nevertheless, Cuccinelli’s actual percentage was 6.3 points higher than his polling average while McAuliffe’s was only 2.1 points higher. We’ve seen this phenomenon in recent races, most notably some swing states in the 2016 presidential race, but also in contests like the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election. What Northam has to hope for is that with a different party holding the White House, the polls are either on the mark or they underestimate Democrats, not Republicans…While it’s true that Virginia polls were relatively on the mark in 2016, if Northam isn’t consistently hitting 50% in some polls heading into Election Day 2017, he will have good reason to fear a surprise.”

Moser: Heeding Centrist Myths Poses Real Threat to Dems

In his article, “Clintonian Democrats Are Peddling Myths to Cling to Power: Centrists are falsely equating Trump with Nixon, and Sanders with McGovern, because they’re scared of what a leftist party means for them” at The New Republic, Bob Moser, TNR’s editor-at-large, makes a strong case that the worst thing Democrats can do is respond to their party’s rising progressive tide with a fear-driven retreat into the timid moderation Dems embraced in the pre-Obama era. Moser’s article is in part a response to the centrist agenda of New Democracy, and partly a response to a much-buzzed about Washington Post article, entitled “Trump Is On track to Win Reelection” by Doug Sosnik, a fomer senior advisor to President Bill Clinton.

Moser dismisses New Democracy as “merely a reassertion of the wealth-first economics, go-slow social progressivism, and hawkish foreign policy peddled by white Democratic power-brokers and Clintonian neoliberals for three decades now.” He describes Sosnik’s article as “built on tortured logic and tendentious claims” and translates Sosnik’s conclusion as ”Let the old, white, Democratic establishment pick its favorite for 2020, and everybody else get in line. Or else.” Moser adds,

The “no more McGoverns” argument has been recycled and appropriated by anti-liberal Democratswith nips and tucks to suit the needs of the moment—in practically every presidential election since 1972. They wielded it like a tiki torch against Jesse Jackson’s populist insurgency in 1988, and invoked it to torpedo Howard Dean in 2004. And after its ironclad logic failed to derail Barack Obama in 2008, the “McGovern threat” was revived with a vengeance against Sanders in 2016.

The goal of these disinformation campaigns has always been the same: to frighten the left into falling in line with the moneyed masters of the party. And at a moment when the party is finally abandoning the New Democratic formula—suck up to big business and the military-industrial complex, pander to white supremacy, and win!—fear-mongering is the only thin reed of hope the “moderates” have to retain their supremacy in the party…By reviving the hoary old arguments about why McGovern lost to Nixon in one of the biggest landslides in American history, the old New Democrats aim to once again scarify a majority of Democrats into reluctantly backing a neoliberal championing wealth-first (sorry: “middle class”) economics and a bloodthirsty view of American power on the international stage.

Moser writes that “otherwise intelligent Democrats still have a strange Pavlovian response to the dire warnings they issue, like clockwork, every four years: Embracing liberalism will always and forever end in defeat (even if Barack Obama disproved that theory not once but twice).” Yet, many left-Democrats faulted Obama for being a centrist and too cozy with Wall St. after he was elected and re-elected. But Obama did run a bold campaign in 2008, challenging Americans to rise above our fears and live up to our best progressive ideals. In between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party, there is a broad spectum from which Democrats can run winning campaigns.

Moser does an excellent job of shredding the notion that Trump is like Nixon, who Moser shows was a hell of a lot smarter, more accomplished and capable than Trump, despite Nixon’s corruption and poor judgement on Vietnam. Nixon ran for reelection in 1972 “on an impressive record of progressive domestic policies, a landmark arms-reduction treaty with the Soviet Union, and the historic un-thawing of relations with China. Again, emphatically: not Trump.”

The centrist characterization of Sens. Sanders and Warren as neo-McGovernites is also way-overstated. McGovern was essentially an anti-war candidate, and both senators are today staking out a tough, economic populist approach far more broadly credible than than McGovern’s best efforts. If either Sanders or Warren gets nominated, you can bet that they will be campaigning hard in the blue collar precincts of the Rust Belt, as will any Democratic nominee. And, even if neither one gets nominated in 2020, their hard-headed, progressive economic advocacy seems to be catching on with other potential Democratic candidates.

Moser is also correct that the divisions within the Democratic party were far worse during Nixon’s reign. Snarky comments on facebook between Bernie Bros and Hillary Heads are pretty tame compared to the factional conflicts among Democrats in the late 1960s and 70s. However, Jason Le Miere notes at Newsweek that “According to the analysis of the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, fewer than 80 percent of those who voted for Sanders, an independent, in the Democratic primary did the same for Clinton when she faced off against Trump a few months later. What’s more, 12 percent of those who backed Sanders actually cast a vote for Trump.” However, about 12 percent of Republican primary voters cast ballots for Clinton in the general election.

But Moser may be too casual in asserting that “The old New Democrats know perfectly well that the chances of Trump winning reelection in 2020 are approximately as good as the Democratic nomination going to Kanye West, with Kim Kardashian as his running mate.” Trump’s Electoral College win in November shows that any fool thing can happen, especially if the economy is in good shape in the fall of 2020 and Dems fail to run an effective campaign, regardless of the nominee. Neither of those scenarios is all that unrealistic. Overconfidence is as dangerous to Democratic prospects as being driven by fear. In fact, that may be one of the salient lessons of Clinton’s Electoral College defeat.

There is every reason for Democrats to be optimistic and to reject a campaign limited by outdated fears, and Obama’s 2008 victory still provides a useful template for a fear-free, vision-driven campaign. Democrats can’t count on having a messenger as eloquent and charismatic as Obama in the next presidential election. But the Democratic nominee can benefit from the lessons of 2008 and 2012, as well as 2016.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned between now and 2020, and the debate between moderate and progressive Democrats will continue. What’s more urgent right now is for Democrats to get focused on mobilizing a landslide, nation-wide upset in 2018. Nothing would do more to help set the stage for the  working majority needed to empower the next Democratic president.

Do Dems Need Younger, More Moderate Leaders?

In his article at The Daily Beast, “The Democrats Need a New Generation of Stars,” Michael Tomasky comments on the lack of younger national leaders in the Democratic party:

Look, Nancy Pelosi has been a great legislative leader. Not good. Great. She really knows what she’s doing; has that LBJ gene. The cat-herding she did to get the Affordable Care Act passed was truly impressive…But she’s 77. And the Democrats’ number two, Steny Hoyer, is 78. And their number three, Jim Clyburn, is 77. That just doesn’t project a future orientation. Paul Ryan is 47. Kevin McCarthy, his deputy, is 52.

Age isn’t everything, and I’m not saying that she or the other two can’t do their jobs. But it’s a legitimate thing. There comes a moment when it’s just time to give some other people a chance. Tip O’Neill hung it up when he was 74. And now you’ve got Dianne Feinstein announcing at 84 that she’s going to seek re-election, and two men, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who are looking to run for president in 2020 who will be 79 and 77, respectively, on Election Day 2020. And they’re applying for eight-year jobs, not two years, like a House member.

So what I think Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn should do is hold a joint press conference and say: We, the three of us, are going to serve one more term in leadership, and that’s it. We’re going to leave before getting past 80, no matter what. If the voters give us the House majority in 2018, great, we’ll all serve one more term as a kind of victory lap, and we’ll investigate this administration and subpoena the britches off them and all the rest.

Tomasky concedes that his recommendation isn’t going to happen. “I know, I know. They’ll never do it.” However, he adds “It would give Democrats a jolt of energy, something to buzz about, and give all their candidates a fresh future to imagine and describe to voters.”

Writing in the Georgia Political Review, Alex Soderstrom notes notes a “drastic age disadvantage” for younger Democratic leaders. “This inequity is most apparent in the House of Representatives, where the average age of Democratic leadership is 71, while Republican leadership averages a more youthful 49. Further,

In the Senate, the difference amongst the leaders of the two parties is less dramatic, as both Republican and Democratic leaders are, on average, in their 60s. But some of the most visible Republican voices in the chamber, such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have yet to break 50. Contrast this with key Senate Democrats, such as 67-year-old Elizabeth Warren and 75-year-old Bernie Sanders, and the future becomes murkier for Senate Democrats.

Election and polling data show that senior voters, as a whole, more frequently favor conservative candidates. Conversely, Sen. Bernie Sanders tremendous success with younger voters indicates that candidate age is not a primary consideration for them either…yet.

Some may say that calling for younger leadership is a form of ageism. But isn’t the same true for denying younger leaders a chance to enter the leadership ranks? At the very least, Democrats should explore new ways to give their younger elected officials more visibility. There are plenty of impressive younger Democrats serving in the House (here’s a few), and as mayors of major cities, and they could use more exposure.

Tomasky also argues for Democrats attracting more moderate candidates:

Democrats can’t get to 218 (a House majority) with liberals alone. Republicans can get to 218 with conservatives alone. Right now there are 240 Republicans in the House, only about a dozen of whom you’d call moderate, and even that’s stretching it. There are 194 Democrats, most but not all of whom you’d call liberal. And that’s about the outer limit on liberalism in House districts. So to be a majority, Democrats need moderates, and quite a lot of them.

That means they need to appeal to voters in the kinds of districts they won back in 2006 and 2008 but have lost overwhelmingly in the Obama/Tea Party era. Look at these two maps. This one is a map of congressional control after the 2008 election, when Democrats held 257 seats. And this one is a map of the same thing after the 2016 elections, when Democrats were reduced to 192…Look how much bluer the first map is. Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona. North Carolina, Georgia, Florida. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin. Real estate yielded everywhere.

Tomasky adds, “There were, as I recall, 53 Democrats in the Blue Dog coalition in 2009. There are 18 now…The only way for the Democratic Party to grow is with more Blue Dogs.” Other Democrats believe that investing more in base turnout can enable Democratic victories, without courting more Blue Dogs. Perhaps a compromise — more Blue Dogs, coupled with a larger commitment to turning out of African-American voters in purple districts.

To be a genuine ‘big tent’ party that looks like one, Dems should cultivate diverse leadership from all constituencies, including every age group and across the liberal-moderate spectrum. Diverse Democratic leaders who are focused and well-prepared will look sober and ready to govern, compared to the adversary’s dwindling party of angry ideologues and culture warriors.

Political Strategy Notes

Gregory S. Schneider’s Washington Post article, “‘Malevolent neglect’: Are Virginia Democrats letting rural areas slip away?” provides a worrisome critique of Democratic strategy in the Old Dominion, focusing on the November 7th gubernatorial election. Despite Democratic candidate for Governor Ralph Northam’s lead in recent polling, Schneider writes, “Some in rural districts across Virginia complain that the state Democratic machinery continues to be more interested in populous urban areas that are reliably blue on Election Day than rebuilding relationships in the countryside. One county chairman briefly resigned two weeks ago, accusing the state party of “malevolent neglect…“We didn’t lose rural voters overnight, and we know we’re not going to win them back overnight, but I think it’s very important that we show up and compete everywhere,” [state Democratic party Chairwoman Susan] Swecker said.” Schneider notes that “Republicans have a comfortable 66-to-34 majority in the House of Delegates,” but in Virginia, as in many otyher states, “Democrats pumped up by anti-Trump fervor have fielded a historic number of candidates to try to slice into that GOP advantage.” Hower, “when it comes to active campaigning, Northam is more often found in Northern Virginia, Richmond or Hampton Roads…“The plain fact is that for Democrats the votes are in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Tidewater, Virginia Beach — and it’s probably enough to win an election if a Democrat racks up very large margins in the urban corridor,”…said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.”

At The Daily Beast, David Daley explains “How the GOP Made Your Vote Useless,” and notes that Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, Ed Gilespie “masterminded the devastating 2010 GOP strategy to retake Washington by winning crucial state and local elections that brought the power to redistrict the U.S. House…His plan, aptly dubbed REDMAP, worked so well that Republicans captured almost 700 state legislature seats in an epic rebuke of Barack Obama and Democrats nationwide. The true spoils of that victory came the following year. New GOP majorities in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania reinvented the gerrymander as a blunt-force partisan weapon…Democrats have realized that the future of their party will be determined down-ballot. Gillespie, the godfather of the GOP gerrymander and the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, is their most crucial target…A Gillespie win, combined with well-cemented Republican majorities in the state assembly and senate, would lock in GOP control when new legislative districts for statewide and congressional races are drawn in 2021…A victory by Democratic lieutenant governor Ralph Northam, meanwhile, would give Democrats a seat at the table when the new lines are drawn—something the party lacked in those blue and purple states nationwide in 2011, thanks to REDMAP.” For Dems, Daley writes, “Any comeback must begin in Virginia, then pivot to governor’s races in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida. This will not be easy. Republicans have a deeper bench (another gerrymandered advantage) and may begin as the favorites everywhere.”

“Entrenched Democratic groups are facing growing questions about the return on the hundreds of millions of dollars they have spent over the years,” writes Kenneth P. Vogel in “The ‘Resistance,’ Raising Big Money, Upends Liberal Politics” in The New York Times. “Groups affiliated with Mrs. Clinton “spent so much money based on a bad strategy in this last cycle that they should step aside and let others lead in this moment,” said Quentin James, a founder of a political committee called the Collective PAC that supports African-American candidates…Mr. James’s committee is among more than three dozen outfits that have started or reconfigured themselves since the election to try to harness the surge in anti-Trump activism. In addition to political committees, grass-roots mobilization nonprofits and legal watchdog groups, there are for-profit companies providing technological help to the new groups — essentially forming a new liberal ecosystem outside the confines of the Democratic Party.” Vogel also notes, “The tug of war — more than the lingering squabbles between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — foreshadows a once-in-a-generation reorganization of the American left that could dictate the tactics and ideology of the Democratic Party for years to come.”

The Fix’s Amber Phillips interviews Carolyn Fiddler, former Democratic statehouse operative and current political editor for Daily Kos, who comments on Democrats flipping eight statehouse seats across the U.S. since President Trump got elected — all in districts Trump won last fall. Fiddler explains, “Those eight Democratic pickups are a significant percentage of the 27 total state and congressional special elections held in Republican seats this cycle — almost 30 percent, actually. If Democrats were to flip 30 percent of Republican-held congressional seats in 2018, the House GOP caucus would lose 72 of its members. Republicans haven’t picked up a single seat in a contested Democrat-vs.-Republican special election this year…Yet even in the seats Democrats aren’t picking up, there’s good news for team blue. Analysis of these special elections reveals that Democrats are consistently outperforming the presidential elections results from both 2016 and 2012. Democrats have beaten Hillary Clinton’s numbers in 30 of the 39 contested special elections this cycle, and they improved on Obama’s 2012 numbers in 27 of them. Compared to Clinton’s numbers, Democrats are performing an average of 12 percent better, and they’re even performing 9 percent better than Obama did in these same seats…Democratic voters are energized and Republican voters seem to be unenthused. Also, recruitment for these seats — like in Virginia’s races this fall and even at the congressional level for 2018 — is going incredibly well for Democrats, producing strong candidates who are well-positioned to take advantage of voter enthusiasm.”

In “Shifting attitudes among Democrats have big implications for 2020” Dan Balz observes, also at The Washington Post, “The pressure to embrace single-payer plans grows out of shifts in attitudes among Democrats. The Pew Research Center found in June that 52 percent of self-identified Democrats now support a government-run health-care system. That is up nine points since the beginning of the year and 19 points since 2014. Among liberal Democrats, 64 percent support such a plan (up 13 points just this year) and among younger Democrats, 66 percent say they support it…Health care isn’t the only area in which Democratic attitudes are shifting significantly. Others include such issues as the role of government and the social safety net; the role of race and racial discrimination in society; and immigration and the value of diversity.” Citing a recent Pew Center poll, Balz addds”Three in 4 Democrats say that “poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently,” up a dozen points in the past few years…Eight in 10 Democrats say the country needs to continue to make changes to give blacks equal rights with whites, up 18 points since 2014. And more than 6 in 10 say “racial discrimination is the main reason many black people can’t get ahead these days,” up from 4 in 10 three years ago.”

In his Daily Kos post, “Progressive activists must reach out to everyone—including Trump voters who seem to be a lost cause,” Egberto Willies writes, “Many respected Democrats and progressives put all Trump voters in one basket. They suggest that we give up on the white working class, saying they are permanent Republicans who are nativists, racists, anti-immigrant, and much worse. And that is true for many—but not all…Others say that it is time to recognize that the Democratic Party is the party of people of color, and there is no need to keep trying to win over the white working-class voter. That is just as dangerous a statement as the instantiation of the Republican Party as a white party…The Democratic Party must be the inclusive party, one where absolutely everyone feels welcome. It is true that for too long the Democratic Party suffered from the same racial animosities people of color have long faced, but with a facade of progressivism. Democrats would do well to clean up their own house before being too self-righteous…Let’s not allow Trump or anyone else to play us against each other. When we allow that, both sides are left holding the bag while they, those running the plutocracy, eat the caviar.”

Sue Sturgis, who writes facing South’s ‘Institute Index,’ has some data reflecting “The NRA’s death grip on Southern politics,” including: “The unprecedented amount of outside spending the NRA invested in the 2016 election: $52 millionOf that total, percent that went to support just six Republican Senate candidates and Donald Trump: 96Amount the NRA spent on re-electing North Carolina’s incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr: $6.2 millionRank of that investment among the largest the NRA has ever made in a down-ballot race: 1Percentage points by which Burr won: about 6…Amount the NRA invested in supporting U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the group’s second-biggest congressional recipient: $3.2 million…”

NYT columnist Charles M. Blow describes one facet of Trump’s politics of distraction thusly: “…Trump is abusing his power by trying to squash dissent through defamation of individual journalists, individual shows and individual networks or newspapers….This battle that Trump insists on maintaining also serves a wider goal for him: distraction. As long as we focus on the latest outrage he publishes on Twitter attacking one person or another, the less time we have to focus on the fact that his presidency thus far is a colossal legislative failure, his cabinet is an unending game of cloak and daggers meets musical chairs, his Justice Department is systematically and unrelentingly expressing its hostilities to equal rights, and Trump’s reckless, emotionally triggered language and actions are making us less safe by denigrating diplomacy and advocating military aggression.” A friend describes Trump’s media strategy this way in a recent email: “(1) take some initiative that appears to promise to deliver on his campaign promises (e.g. abrogate the Iran deal, destroy Obamacare) (2) back off from fully following through with the initiative which would have drastic negative consequences (3) obscure the failure with a flurry of red-meat tweets blaming others for the  apparent setback (4) make a vague overture to Democrats, generating a news cycle or two of simpering MSM approval (5) obscure this overture with a flamboyant attack on some group (Blacks, Latinos etc.) that easily inflames his base. Rinse, cycle, repeat.” The question arises, can he continue to get away with this routine indefinitely? Rachel Maddow, alone among television media, has stated that her show will focus on what Trump does, rather than what he says. That may be the best way for serious reporters to avoid getting suckered by white house media maipulation.

A “polling nugget” from FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten: “CNN viewers are similar to MSNBC’s — MSNBC has ridden Trump bashing to all-time record ratings. According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, however, CNN (which cultivates a down-the-middle image) and MSNBC (generally considered more liberal) have similar audiences in terms of ideological makeup. They have a similar percentage of viewers who identify as liberal Democrats — 26 percent at CNN and 30 percent at MSNBC — and conservative Republicans — 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively. The Fox News audience, meanwhile, may as well represent a different planet: Just 10 percent of Fox viewers call themselves liberal Democrats, while 43 percent call themselves conservative Republicans.”

Political Strategy Notes

“In general we have to be careful not to whipsaw our policy agenda back and forth based on the details of the last mass shooting. That’s why I think it’s important to constantly be talking about the one policy change that would save the most lives: background checks,” said [U.S. Senator Chris] Murphy.” However, notes Alexander Bolton at The Hill, “Some gun control activists say now is the time to strike on banning semi-automatic rifles with military stylings, such as pistol grips and barrel shrouds, as well as high-capacity magazines that allow sustained bullet sprays…“I would bring the assault weapons ban up. I don’t think background checks is the way to go in Congress,” said Ladd Everitt, director of 1Pulse4America, a gun-violence prevention group created after last year’s Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead…“I would get a vote in Congress on the assault weapons right now. This guy inflicted 600 casualties. This is nuts…”

But Alex Seitz-Wald reports at NBC news that “Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said her legislation would bar the sale, manufacture and possession of so-called bump stocks and other devices — all currently legal — that drastically increase a firearm’s rate of fire…Some Republicans have publicly expressed openness to banning bump stocks. Feinstein said she and Democratic leaders decided to pursue a narrow bill on bump stocks because it has a better chance of success in the GOP-controlled Congress than the more sweeping gun measures they would prefer.”

The top 10 recipients of N.R.A. contributions and “spending to benefit the candidate” in both the House and Senate are Republicans, report David Leonhardt, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Stuart A. Thompson at The New York Times. “Among the top 100 House recipients, 95 are Republican.”

From an interview with NC activist Rev. William Barber by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez at Democracy Now: “We had 26 presidential election debates on both sides of the political aisle. Not one hour on voter suppression. Not one. Not one hour on, excuse me, restoring the voting rights…if you put up a map, every state that has had deep voter suppression also has denied Medicaid expansion, also has denied living wages, also has some of the worst rules in relationship to Latino and immigrant brothers and sisters, also has some of the worst attacks on the LGBT community. So if you know a state is suppressing the vote, you can almost say that state is also against living wages…We talk about Trump winning in Wisconsin by 20,000 or 30,000 votes. There were 250,000 votes suppressed in Wisconsin. In North Carolina, we had over 150 fewer sites doing early voting…So it is amazing to me that we’re having a conversation about Russian hacking, but we’re not having a conversation about racialized voter suppression, which is systemic racism, which is a tool of white nationalism, which is a direct threat to our democracy.”

Here’s how felon voter suppression works in Alabama, according to Connor Sheets, writing in The Guardian: “In 1964, the 24th amendment abolished the poll tax, but to this day in Alabama, money keeps thousands of people away from the ballot box. According to the Sentencing Project, a Washington DC-based criminal justice reform non-profit, there are 286,266 disenfranchised felons in Alabama, or 7.62% of the state’s voting-age population…More than half of those disenfranchised felons are black, despite the fact that African Americans made up only 26.8% of the state’s population as of July 2016, according to a US census estimate…A new state law has cleared the way for people convicted of certain felonies to eventually regain the right to vote. But before that can happen, anyone who has lost the franchise in Alabama for any reason must first fulfill any financial obligations to the state and to their victims, according to the Alabama secretary of state, John Merrill…Researchers with the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard and Yale universities crunched reams of Alabama court records and data from the past two decades for a study published in June in the Journal of Legal Studies.  The research paper states that “a majority of all ex-felons in Alabama – white, black, or otherwise – cannot vote because of a debt they owe to the state.”

At The Upshot, Nate Cohn explains, “So far, four Republicans have announced they will not seek re-election in highly competitive districts (with a Cook Partisan Voter Index of Republican+5 or more Democratic; the Cook P.V.I. measures district partisanship based on its vote in recent presidential elections)…But without a string of retirements, the Democratic path to control of the House is challenging. Incumbents are just that hard to beat…Democrats often look at the districts carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election as top-tier targets. But it won’t be so easy. Based on recent elections, Democrats would do well to defeat even half of the incumbents running for re-election in those districts…Over the last decade or so, incumbents have run about seven percentage points ahead of non-incumbents from the same party in similar districts. That’s more than enough to let incumbents in competitive districts survive…Without a surge of Republican retirements, a Democratic House takeover would probably require the party to do even better at defeating Republican incumbents than it did in 2006 or the Republicans did in 2010. If Democrats merely matched those results, they would probably fall a bit short of the 24 seats they need.”

Gregory S. Schneider and Scott Clement of The Washington Post have an update on what is likely to be the most consequential state-wide race of 2017: “A relatively unified party base gives Democrat Ralph Northam a clear lead over Republican Ed Gillespie heading into the final month of the Virginia governor’s race, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll…Northam leads Gillespie by 53 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, with 4 percent supporting Libertarian Cliff Hyra…Northam is the sitting lieutenant governor and a pediatric neurologist. Gillespie is a longtime GOP operative who led the Republican National Committee and nearly unseated U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) in 2014… The advantage is similar to a Post-Schar School poll this spring but larger than in other public polls of likely voters released over the past month, most of which found Northam up by single digits…But the race is still fluid, with a sizable number of likely voters — one in four — saying they could change their mind before Nov. 7…Confederate monuments and illegal immigration have played prominently during the campaign, but voters say they care more about health care, the economy and education…”

Antonio Flores explains “How the U.S. Hispanic population is changing” at the Pew Research Center web pages, and notes: “The Latino population in the United States has reached nearly 58 million in 2016 and has been the principal driver of U.S. demographic growth, accounting for half of national population growth since 2000…In 2016, Hispanics accounted for 18% of the nation’s population and were the second-largest racial or ethnic group behind whites. (All racial groups are single race non-Hispanic.)..Hispanics of Mexican origin account for 63.3% (36 million) of the nation’s Hispanic population in 2015…California continues to have the largest Latino population among states, but Texas is seeing a faster growth rate. In 2015, 15.2 million Hispanics lived in California, a 39% increase from 10.9 million in 2000. Yet Texas has had even faster growth, with its Hispanic population increasing 60% over the same period, from 6.7 million in 2000 to 10.7 million in 2015. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Hispanic population has more than doubled since 2000, the fastest growth among the 10 states with the largest Hispanic populations.”

Political Strategy Notes

“The Brookings Institution noted that by the end of June, 209 Democrats not currently in Congress had registered with the Federal Election Commission to run,” notes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.  “That was nearly triple how many Republican challengers had registered at this point in 2009, when the G.O.P. was galvanized by antipathy toward President Obama and new candidates were coming out in what was then considered droves. Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House the following year… 23 Republican incumbents represent congressional districts that Clinton won last November…“You have to shoot for the stars,” the Democratic operative Hilary Rosen told me. “You might just reach the moon.”…But even as Rosen said that, she hedged any prophecy of a rout, in a manner that spoke to the difficulty of properly calibrating optimism in 2018. She worried about Democrats’ policy agenda. She worried about the party’s tone. “I still think we lack a sunny, aspirational outlook,” she said. “We’re going down in the mud with Donald Trump.”…She added that the party wasn’t focused on change in the right, compelling fashion. “The change that Donald Trump was selling was blowing up the system,” she observed. “What’s our change? Is our change to patch up the system? Not very sexy.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. boils it down nicely in his column, “The only thing the Republican Party knows how to do” at The Washington Post: “The party of Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell has abandoned the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, who championed the Homestead Act and land-grant colleges; Teddy Roosevelt, who protected vast tracts of nature on behalf of future generations; and Dwight Eisenhower, who pushed for student loans and the Interstate Highway System…The only thing today’s Republican Party knows how to do is cut taxes for the very rich.”

If you were looking for a couple of soundbite-sized stats to frame the Republican’s tax “reform” bill, WaPo’s Kelsey Snell has it at PowerPost: “…Democrats and some outside groups say the outline favors top earners over the middle class. A study released Friday by the nonprofit Tax Policy Center found that the top 1 percent of earners would see nearly 80 percent of the benefits under the GOP tax plan, while those earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would see a slight tax increase.”

At The Fix, Amber Philips provides three reasons Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s entry into the contest for Republican Jeff Flake’s U.S. senate seat in Arizona is a “big deal,” including: “1. Flake is one of two vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection next year; 2. Sinema is the Democrats’ top choice to take on Flake; and 3. Democrats needed a good candidate in Arizona to help them hold the line against Republicans and Trump.” Sinema’s compelling announcement:

PowerPost’s David Weigel  notes another great ad produced by Cheri Bustos (D-IL): “At one point, the candidates saw a direct-mail advertisement Bustos had sent after passing a bill that required the federal government to buy U.S. flags that had been entirely made in the United States. “Made in America, thanks to Cheri Bustos,” read the front of the ad….“It’s the best piece of mail I’ve ever sent,” Bustos said.”

A couple of salient points from  Justin Gest, author of “The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality,” from Chauncey Devega’s interview at salon .com: “The people who I encountered in Youngstown and its surrounding areas were people who voted for Trump not because they thought he was brilliant or he was a once-in-a-generation politician. It was because they had a sense of desperation. They voted Democrat before. They voted Republican before. They had just sat out before as well. They tried everything and they couldn’t get their way. They couldn’t get someone to pick up their issues, to actually empathize with their plight. Because, remember, in Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin they have been feeling a Great Recession way before 2007, going back to the ’70s. Yet no one has come to rescue them. They said, “Hey, what do I have to lose?…I don’t think white working-class people thought the Democrats gave a damn about them in 2016. You know what the truth is? They were right. I don’t think white working-class voters are necessarily “low information.” The truth is, they could easily discern that Republicans didn’t care about them. They were right, which is why they voted for someone who is effectively neither a Democrat or a Republican. That is why I bristle a little bit at the narrative that white working-class people vote against their interests. They are just not voting in their material interests. They’re voting in their cultural interests.”

Michael D. Shear and Yamiche Alcindor report at The New York Times on the Democrats’ strategic dilemma regarding immigration policies: “Fearful of concessions to Mr. Trump that could increase immigration enforcement aimed at their families and friends, the activists are targeting Democratic congressional leaders with loud political protests. And Democratic politicians may be vulnerable. They have already shifted to the left on a number of issues, such as health care, as they try to take advantage of liberal fervor stoked by the Trump era….But moving too far to the left on border security could hold serious risks for a party that lost the presidency with defeats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa — all states where immigration remains a hot-button issue.” Nonetheless, “We are determined to get Republicans votes to pass the clean Dream Act,” says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In his Plum Line column, “Why Democrats aren’t tearing themselves apart — yet,” Paul Waldman shines some sobering light on the “Dems in Disarray” meme that has become a staple of lazy political journalism: “…The market for ideological warfare within the Democratic Party just isn’t as robust as it is within the Republican Party…That doesn’t mean that liberal Democrats are going to eschew strongly liberal candidates and flock to centrists. But it may mean that at certain times, they’ll decide to put aside ideological fights for another day. They may look at a race like Arizona and say, “okay, so Sinema is never going to be my favorite senator. But if she’s the strongest Democratic candidate in this particular election in this particular state, I’m not going to try to turn the primary into an ideological bloodbath.” With 2018 presenting the possibility of a genuine wave election that gives Democrats the House and maybe even the Senate, the stakes of every race become incredibly high…It’s good to remind yourself now and then that Twitter is not America. There will certainly be raging fights in some quarters about this or that 2018 candidate, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you pull out and look at the broader picture, the Democrats seem polite, cooperative and reasonable in their internal debates — particularly when you contrast them with the Republicans.”

From Joy Reid’s MSNBC interview with Faiz Shakir, national political director of the ACLU, about his organization’s new state-specific project to end voter suppression: