washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Among the “Five lessons from the GOP’s failed effort to repeal Obamacare” by Paige Winfield Cunningham at The Daily 202: “1. You can’t easily cut a government program that 69 million benefit from…3. You can’t replace concrete health benefits with a big question mark…4. You can’t win with bad grades from the Congressional Budget Office.” Do not hold your breath, waiting for Repubicans to learn these lessons.

“Single women, minorities and millennials could have a dramatic impact on the 2018 midterm elections—if they register to vote and show up…Called the Rising American Electorate (RAE) in the study, the group in 2016 for the first time made up a majority of the voting-eligible U.S. population…There were nearly 133 million eligible voters in the RAE, comprising 59.2 percent of the U.S. voting-eligible population, researchers said. What’s more, the total number of RAE voters rose by more than 8 million between 2012 and 2016, while the number of voters outside that demographic concurrently dropped by about 3.5 million. But while turnout among the RAE has increased in recent elections, its members “still do not register to vote or turn out in proportion to their share of the population,” researchers said…As of now, “42.7% of vote-eligible Latinos, 39.3% of vote-eligible Millennials, 30.6% of vote-eligible African-Americans and 32.5% of unmarried women are unregistered,” researcher Celinda Lake said in a statement. “We must get these voters on the rolls in 2018…researchers project a major drop-off in turnout in 2018 compared with 2016: While overall turnout in nonpresidential cycles tends to be lower, the study predicts one in three RAE voters who showed up in 2016 will not cast a ballot in 2018. Of 40 million U.S. voters expected to “drop off” in 2018, 25.4 million are expected to be RAE voters, versus 14.4 million from non-RAE demographics…Millennials were the most likely to cite a lack of interest (41.1%) and were also the most likely to miss registration deadlines (16.2%). Latinos were the most likely to cite eligibility issues (12.2%).” — from Celest Katz’s Newsweek article, “Sign Up to Vote: these Americans Could Affect 2018 Elections If they Turn Out, Study Says.”

At The Atlantic, Russell Berman discusses “A Reckoning for the GOP’s Go-It-Alone Legislative Strategy: A party-line approach failed congressional Republicans on health care. Why are they using the same one for tax reform?” Now that the Graham-Cassidy tax bill, masquerading as Obamacare repeal, has tanked, Republicans turn to the task of passing a new tax law, possibly without any Democratic support. Republicans howled that the Senate apssed Obamacare without any Republican votes. But the difference is, Democrats got 60 Senators to vote for it, which is not the same as going it alone with just 50 votes — the GOP’s current tax “reform” strategy. Berman notes, further, “Democrats have…told Republicans that while they were not going to help them repeal their signature legislative achievement of the last decade, they were willing to work on tax reform if the GOP was serious about targeting the benefits to the middle class instead of the wealthy, and if their plan would not add to the deficit. Republicans, however, don’t want to be boxed in on either demand. And the plan President Trump and congressional leaders will unveil on Wednesday is expected both to spike the deficit and cut taxes for top earners.”

At The Nation, Steve Phillips argues “To Win in Midterm Elections, Turnout Is Key: Every dime and day spent trying to show Trump voters the error of their ways is a lost opportunity” and notes “…The outcome of non-presidential year elections depends in large part on voter turnout. And this reality combined with a new report from the Voter Participation Center and Lake Research amounts to a bright, flashing warning sign for Democrats heading into the 2018 election cycle. Absent significant course corrections by progressives, the turnout of people of color and progressive whites is likely to fall dangerously low next year, scuttling the golden opportunity to recapture control of the body that can impeach a president…Analyzing Census and election data, the VPC/Lake report concludes that, based on those past trends, the turnout of people of color, white millennials, and white unmarried women—cornerstones of the Obama coalition—will fall by 35 percent from 2016 levels, accounting for 25.4 million fewer voters from those critical constituencies. For African Americans, the rate is projected to drop 30 percent. For Latinos, the report estimates a decline of 36.5 percent, and for Millennials the drop off is pegged at a dismaying 54 percent…We see studies and articles and special initiatives targeting white working class voters, but nothing—literally nothing—focused on understanding, engaging and mobilizing people of color and progressive whites (including the progressive wing of the white working class). Where is the national conference, the high-level task force, and, most importantly, the multi-million dollar budget focused on addressing the most important key to winning back the House—preventing drop off among core Democratic voters?”

Here’s an encouraging statistic for Dems: “Since Trump’s election, Democrats have flipped eight GOP-held seats at the state level,” notes Rebecca Savransky at The Hill, “and Republicans have yet to flip a seat in 27 special elections.”

In her Politico post, “Majority of voters say Trump isn’t fit to be president,” Emily Goldberg writes that a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday had “51 percent of respondents saying they are embarrassed to have Trump serve as president….The poll reports that 59 percent say Trump is not honest, 60 percent say he does not have good leadership skills and 61 percent say he does not share their values….Fifty percent of white voters say Trump is fit to serve, while 94 percent of black voters say he is not fit for the role; Hispanic voters are split 60 percent to 40 percent. Overall, 62 percent of voters disapprove of the way the president has handled race relations. Sixty percent of voters say Trump is doing more to divide the country than unite it….Men are divided 49 percent to 49 percent, while 63 percent of women say Trump is not fit…Forty-nine percent of voters in the poll are in favor of Democrats winning control of the Senate in 2018.”

Also at The Hill, Cristina Marcos reports, “Democratic lawmakers began calling for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign on Wednesday following a series of reports about his use of private jets at taxpayers’ expense. Five House Democrats joined together to demand Price’s resignation, hours after President Trump said he’s “not happy” with his health secretary’s pattern of costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to ride on private planes.“At a minimum, the American people expect cabinet secretaries to lead with integrity, accept accountability, and use public resources responsibly. In light of your breach of the public trust, we write to urge you to do the right thing and immediately tender your resignation,” Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Brenda Lawrence (Mich.), Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) wrote in a letter to Price.”

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has a long article addressing the question, “Can We Pay for Single Payer?” at Democracy Journal. Baker analyses the complex economic considerations involved and concludes, “The current political environment is presenting a great opening for progressive health-care reform. This opening could be wasted if progressives are not willing to work for a wide range of reforms that would extend coverage and reduce costs and, instead, insist on a single-minded focus on single payer. The new proposal that Sanders put forward with 16 Senate co-sponsors offers the sort of flexibility needed to structure a workable incremental approach. This is a huge step in the right direction.”

Esquire’s Charles Pierce has a message for a certain goup of Alabama’s Republican voters: “Any report about Roy Moore that doesn’t specifically refer to him as a right-wing extremist is not worth your time. No more “firebrand.” No more impotent yap about his “controversial views.” Roy Moore is an extremist or the word no longer has meaning…Moore’s opponent is a guy named Douglas Jones. In 2001, Jones convicted two men for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, one of the iconic white supremacist terrorist acts of that period. One of those bastards already died in prison and the other keeps getting denied parole. If you’d rather be represented in the Senate by a lawless theocratic lunatic, rather than a guy that finally got justice for four murdered little girls, well, you deserve anything that goddamn happens to you.” E. J. Dionne, Jr. adds in his syndicated column, “Jones has the potential to be a strong candidate, but some Democratic strategists have counseled against committing substantial resources to a state where successes for their party have been scarce. Advocates of a major undertaking on behalf of Jones see this as precisely why taking on Moore would be worth the gamble. Jones could do in Alabama this year what Republican Scott Brown did in a 2010 special election in Massachusetts: demonstrate the dominant party’s vulnerability going into the midterm elections by capturing a Senate seat far inside opposition territory. A Jones win would also cut the Republicans’ already tough-to-manage Senate majority to a bare 51 seats.”

Policies Dems Must Emphasize to Win in Rural America

At In These Times, Anthony Flaccavento discusses “A Rural Progressive Platform” developed by a group of progressive citizens and activists in SW Virginia’s 9th congressional district. As Flaccavento points out, the policies could have broad application thoughout rural communities in the U.S.

The Republican edge with rural voters was significant in 2016.  As Daniele Kurtzleben notes at NPR,

Exit polls show that the rural-urban divide grew from 2008 to 2012, and again this election. What’s particularly interesting is that the rural vote seems to have moved more than the urban or suburban votes…Between 2008 and 2016, Republicans’ share of the urban vote barely changed, and Democrats’ share fell by four points. In the suburbs, Republicans likewise didn’t change much, and Democrats lost five points. The shifts were larger in rural areas, where Republicans gained by nine points, and Democrats lost 11 points.

After giving Democrats the usual horse-whipping for getting too cozy with corporate elites and interests, Flaccavento describes the platform as more of a “discussion starter” than a prescriptive laundry list. The platform groups the policies in three “pillars of rural life”– land, livelihood and community.

With respect to land, Flaccavento argues that “progressive policies must make partners of those who live from the land, rather than just regulating and restricting what happens in the countryside.” He sites several “policy examples,” including:

  • Increased investment in sustainable farming, fishing, forestry research and practices, rather than subsidies for corporate farming, fishing, and forest products
  • Support for the RECLAIM Act and reinvestment in coal communities
  • Investment and tax credits for community wind energy, solar gardens and other renewable energy that also provides revenue to local communities, in combination with a modernized electric grid that supports distributed energy
  • Environmental regulations that are ‘scale appropriate’, i.e. less burdensome on small to mid-sized farms, businesses and manufacturers

Regarding livelihood, the emphasis should be on “policies that help people help themselves, and build on our strengths and assets.” Among the reforms that meet this challenge:

  • An end to policies that undermine organized labor
  • Increase in Earned Income Tax Credit, and other savings vehicles for lower income and working folks;
  • Policies and programs that build the wealth of workers, including cooperatives
  • ‘Asset-based’ economic development that addresses real community needs, rather than subsidies for big boxes and outside corporations
  • Free community college
  • College education without onerous debt, in part through reduced university administrative costs, and income-based loan repayment
  • Dramatically increased internet access, including publicly owned options.

To build progressive community in rural America, the focus should be on “economic, tax and trade policy that supports healthy, self-reliant local communities,” including these measures:

  • Tax incentives for regional manufacturers and other businesses that commit to long- term local employment, rather than supporting corporations who offshore jobs.
  • Regulatory relief for community banks, and support for credit unions and community development financial institutions
  • Expansion of rural health clinics, addiction treatment and prevention, and incentives for doctors and health practitioners to work in rural and underserved communities

Many elements of this platform will be familiar to Democrats working in rural communities across the nation. The thing about platforms is that they are routinely ignored or glossed over by the media, and platform discussions too often leave a wake of glazed eyes for everyone except hard-core policy wonks. For purposes of messaging, platforms are most useful as a reference for developing more condensed formats, like talking points, soundbites, buzz-phrases, custom-tailored for each district.

Many Republicans get elected these days, not because their policies are so great – Democrats already have policies that appeal to a broader cross-section of voters – it’s more because the GOP’s marketing pros know how to sell stuff. Eliminating this gap should be doable if Dems invest more time, money and expertise in the effort.

As with blue collar Trump voters, Dems don’t need to “win rural America” as a short-term goal. They just need to improve their percentage of this demographic by a modest mount  to be competitive for the presidency, as well as in congressional, state and local elections. Winning a majority of voters in rural communities is a longer term goal. It’s a distinction still overlooked in much of the press coverage about the Democratic party’s prospects and problems.

Political Strategy Notes

Democrats can rest assured that they have a healthy majority favoring the Affordable Care Act over the Graham-Cassidy alternative, according to a major opinion poll, Amber Phillips reports at The Fix. “A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that more than half of Americans (56 percent) prefer Obamacare to the latest GOP plan. Only 33 percent prefer the bill that Senate Republicans, panicked by a month back home with their base and no Obamacare repeal to show, abruptly put on the table this month…Worse for Republicans: Roughly twice as many people strongly prefer the current law to the Republicans’ plan, 42 to 22 percent…These aren’t necessarily gut reflexes, either. The Post-ABC poll described three aspects of the Cassidy-Graham proposal to voters before asking what they prefer: its elimination of the requirement for nearly all Americans to have health insurance, the phasing out of federal funds to help lower- and moderate-income people buy health insurance, and letting states replace federal rules on health coverage with their own rules.”

From Jonathan Easeley’a post, “Poll: Majority supports single-payer health care“at the Hill: “A slim majority of Americans support a single-payer health-care system that is funded and administrated by the government and eliminates private insurers, according to a new poll…The latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey found 52 percent favor a single-payer system against 48 who oppose it. A strong majority of Democrats — 69 percent — back the idea. Republicans oppose single-payer, 65-35, and independents are split, with 51 percent opposing and 49 supporting…The best-polling aspect of single-payer is the public’s belief that it will cover more people. Sixty-nine percent said it would provide more coverage, including 54 percent of Republicans…Fifty-two percent said a government-run system would save the health-care system money, while 48 said it would be more expensive.  Fifty-two percent said single-payer will improve the efficiency of the health-care system, and 53 percent said they believe they’d be able to keep their current doctor.”

“The so-called health-care industry, which amounts to roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy, is not an industry at all. It is a chaotic crossroads of many different industries and professions, often in fierce competition, each adapted to its own culture and pursuing its own business model,” David Von Drehle writes in “The real reason health care in America is a mess” at The Washington Post. “Insuring patients is a very different business from treating patients; both are distinct from the business of discovering new medicines and inventing new devices. The pharmacy business is different from the fitness business; suing for malpractice is unlike diagnostic testing…A patient needs the endurance of Shackleton, the determination of Tubman and the organizational skills of Eisenhower planning D-Day.” Von Drehle writes that Graham-Cassidy “strikes me as an awful lot of costly disruption in service of a largely symbolic repeal,” serving its supporters as a “fig leaf to wear at town-hall meetings” and urges”Rather than chase the chimera of repeal, Congress should dig deep into the results of the Affordable Care Act. Adjust, revise, reboot or double down as each target demands.”

In a new Gallup Poll, “Overall, just 22 percent of Americans describe Trump as prepared; 25 percent said he’s consistent; 28 percent said he’s inspiring; and only 32 percent feel he’s courageous,” John Haltiwanger writes at Newsweek. “But 84 percent said he’s competitive; 73 percent feel he’s intense; and 53 percent describe Trump as enthusiastic.”

Writing at CNN Politics, Jennifer Agiesta reports on a new CNN/SSRS poll and notes, “Although President Donald Trump insists otherwise, most Americans say it’s likely that Russian-backed content on social media did affect the outcome of the 2016 election, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS…Overall, 54% say it’s very or somewhat likely that such Russian-backed content on Facebook or other social media affected the 2016 presidential vote, 43% say that’s not too or not at all likely. More appear to see this social media effort as having affected the outcome of the election than said so about information released due to Russian hacking. According to a CNN poll back in January, just 40% said that information was significant enough to change the outcome of the election.”

Watch the ad below for Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor Cathy Glasson. As Taylor Gipple writes at HuffPo, “If the Democratic Party wants to win back working class voters, Glasson is laying the groundwork as an ideal progressive candidate to model.” Glasson has embraced single-payer health care reform, tuittion-free community college, action to stop pollution in Iowa, a $15 minimum wage and a restoration of union membership for Iowa workers. I like how Glasson is shown intensely listening to diverse constituents:

In his Washington Post article, “The mysterious group that’s picking Breitbart apart, one tweet at a time,” Paul Farhi spotlights an innovative economic withdrawall strategy being deployed to check right-wing media: “Sleeping Giants’ basic approach is to make Breitbart’s advertisers aware that they are, in fact, Breitbart advertisers. Many apparently don’t know this, given that Web ads are often bought through third-party brokers, such as Google and Facebook. The brokers then distribute them to a network of websites according to algorithms that seek a specific target audience (say, young men) or a set number of impressions…As a result of such “programmatic” buying, advertisers often are in the dark about where their ads end up. Advertisers can opt out of certain sites, of course, but only if they affirmatively place them on a blacklist of sites….So when an ad appears on Breitbart, Sleeping Giants or one of its 109,000 Twitter followers and 35,000 Facebook followers flag the advertiser, often accompanied by an image of the sponsors’ ad next to a Breitbart story.” Farhi points out that Breitbart isn’t going away as a result of Sleeping Ginats campaign, since it is largely funded by right-wing sugar-daddy Robert Mercer. But more such campaigns to encourage corporate accountability for their support of extremist media would be a welcome trend.

In an excerpt of their book, “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported,” E.J. Dionne Jr., Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein explain why “The election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy.” Among their observations: “The Trump jolt has done more than force the country to a necessary reckoning. It has also called forth a wave of activism, organizing and, perhaps most important, a new engagement by millions of Americans in politics at all levels. Large-scale demonstrations are part of the response, and so are grass-roots efforts by citizens to confront their legislators at town halls and any other venues where politicians can be found….The need to contain Trump has given life to new forms of organization. People of faith, across traditions, have stood up for the most vulnerable in confronting measures that have targeted immigrants and sought to roll back social protections. Lawyers have organized to combat the president’s travel bans, to protect the rights of undocumented individuals and to challenge Trump’s financial conflicts of interest. Public interest groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Project on Government Oversight have expanded their efforts on behalf of political reform, forging new alliances to fight the influence of big money in politics, protect voting rights, end gerrymandering, strengthen anti-corruption statutes and challenge the electoral college.”

Phillip Elliot’s “Divided Democratic Party Debates Its Future as 2020 Looms” at Time provides a fairly conventional “Dems in Disarray” update, along with a plug for two promising Ohio leaders, Congressman Tim Ryan and Senator Sherrod Brown. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, however, the divisions in question are normal enough for the big tent party, not all that far outside the usual ferment that characterizes the Democrats in years of victory, as well as defeat. But no major media outlet is going to publish a story entitled “Dems Fussing with Each Other, As Usual, But Polls and Record Number of Candidates Indicate They Are in Good Position for 2018 and 2020.” Still, Elliot does shed some light on key challenges Dems face, including:  “A poll from CNN/SSRS in August showed Democrats with an 11-percentage-point advantage over Republicans on a generic congressional ballot….The DNC has been hollowed out, first by Obama’s neglect and then by a Clinton campaign that raided its talent. Now it is trying to play catch-up, sending $10,000 a month to each state party to help add bodies and channel activists’ energy into permanent organizations. But the party is still $3.5 million in the red, and Republicans are outraising it by a margin of roughly 2 to 1…Today only 28% of House Democrats hail from states that don’t touch the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, down from 37% in 2007.”

Political Strategy Notes

At The Fix, Kim Soffen, Amber Phillips and Kevin Schaul have an update on Graham-Cassidy’s prospects, “Republicans are voting to repeal Obamacare, but they might not have enough votes.”  The authors provide a head count, nting that only 14 Republican Senators have announced they support the proposal, 34 are “unknown/unclear,” 3 “have concerns” and 1 Republican senator, Rand Paul has announced his opposition to the bill.

Insurance companies were pretty quiet about previous GOP Obamacare repeal bills. But not so about  the Graham-Cassidy bill. “The two major trade groups for insurers, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans, announced their opposition on Wednesday to the Graham-Cassidy bill. They joined other groups fighting the bill, such as the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, AARP and the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society,” reports Robert Pear in The New York Times…“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,’’ said Scott P. Serota, the president and chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. “The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.”

“Some Democratic leaders think single-payer goes further than voters might want, but a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows the proposal is fairly popular — at least in principle,” notes Steven Shepard at Politico. “Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say they support “a single-payer health care system, where all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan” — greater than the 35 percent who oppose such a plan. Seventeen percent of voters have no opinion. Two-thirds of Democratic voters support single-payer, while 18 percent oppose it…A single-payer system is even more popular than the “public option,” described to poll respondents as “a government-run health insurance agency that would compete with other private health insurance companies within the U.S.” Forty-four percent of voters back a public option, compared with 33 percent who oppose it. More voters, 22 percent, have no opinion.”

When a conservative columnist for the Washington Post concludes her latest opinion article about a suppressed bipartisan health care initiative with “McConnell will not change, and so only a change in the Senate and/or House majority will bring about a new approach to governance. Tuesday was a vivid example of why good governance and Republican majorities no longer mix.,” it merits a read. So check out Jennifer Rubin’s “The McConnell mentality keeps the Senate and Congress dysfunctional” at her ‘Right Turn’ perch. Her article will leave readers wondering how Sens. Lamar Alexander and John McCain could possibly be sincere about bipartisanship if they vote for Graham-Cassidy, after McConnell’s put-down.

Here’s another conservative Republican expressing utter disgust with his party’s push for the bill:

Mark Murray reports at nbcnews.com that “President Donald Trump’s approval rating has inched up, and more than 70 percent of Americans support his recent deal with Democratic leaders to provide hurricane relief and keep the government open for 90 days, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll...But the same poll finds that only a third of the public believes Trump has accomplished much as president, and fewer than 30 percent back his handling of health care, race relations and the violent episode in Charlottesville, Va…The ratings of Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have fallen to new lows…By party, 83 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance (up from 80 percent in August), compared with 41 percent of independents (up from 32 percent in August) and 10 percent of Democrats (compared to 8 percent in August)…Looking ahead to the 2018 midterms, Democrats enjoy a six-point advantage over Republicans on which party should control Congress, with 48 percent of voters preferring the Democrats and 42 percent the Republicans. That six-point edge is down from the Democrats’ 50 percent-to-42 percent advantage in June, although it’s within the margin of error.”

Stanley Greenberg, author of “America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation’s Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and Leading the 21st Century,” has an article at The American Prospect entitled “How She lost: The deeper malpractice of Clinton’s campaign was not equivocation on message, but, of all things, technical incompetence” that’s sure to get a lot of attention from the more astute political commentators. A teaser to encourage reading of the entire article: “From my vantage point as lead pollster for the Democratic nominees in 1992 and 2000, part of the closing clutch of pollsters in 2004, and invited noodge in 2016, I have little quarrel with the harshest of these criticisms. Malpractice and arrogance contributed mightily to the election of Donald Trump and its profound threat to our democracy. So did the handling of the email server, paid Wall Street speeches, and the “deplorables” comment. And her unwillingness to challenge the excesses of big money and corporate influence left her exposed to attacks first by Bernie Sanders and then by Donald Trump and unable to offer credible promise of change…Yet the accounts of Hillary Clinton are very incomplete, miss the reasons for her ambivalence, and miss most of the big structural forces at work that made it hard for her to commit to a different path. That is where we learn the most about the progressive debate ahead.”

“The extreme alt-right are benefiting immensely from the energy being produced by a more moderate — but still far-right — faction known as the “alt-light,” notes Jesse Singal in his op-ed “Undercover With the Alt-Right” at The New York Times. “The alt-light promotes a slightly softer set of messages. Its figures — such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich — generally frame their work as part of an effort to defend “the West” or “Western culture” against supposed left-liberal dominance, rather than making explicitly racist appeals. Many of them, in fact, have renounced explicit racism and anti-Semitism, though they will creep up to the line of explicitly racist speech, especially when Islam and immigration are concerned…The alt-light’s dedicated fan base runs into the millions. Mr. Watson has more than a million YouTube followers, for example, while Mr. Yiannopoulos has more than 2.3 million on Facebook. If even a tiny fraction of this base is drafted toward more extreme far-right politics, that would represent a significant influx into hate groups.”

Democrats looking for a succinct soundbite about Trump’s United Nations speech can’t do much better than syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s comment “And his threat “to totally destroy North Korea” is what you’d expect to hear in a bar conversation from a well-lubricated armchair general, not from the leader of the world’s most powerful military.” Dionne adds, “But the most alarming part of an address that was supposed to be a serious formulation of the president’s grand strategy in the world was the utter incoherence of Trump’s “America first” doctrine….The speech tried to rationalize “America first” as a great principle. But every effort Trump made to build an intellectual structure to support it only underscored that his favored phrase was either a trivial applause line or an argument that, if followed logically, was inimical to the United States’ interests and values.”

Political Strategy Notes

Salena Zito takes a retrospective look at “The day that destroyed the working class and sowed the seeds of Trump,” at The New York Post. The day in Zito’s article is September 19, 1977, which “would be known as Black Monday in the Steel Valley, which stretches from Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio eastward toward Pittsburgh. It is the date when Youngstown Sheet and Tube abruptly furloughed 5,000 workers all in one day. The bleeding never stopped.” Zito’s article should be read as a cautionary tale, more than a lament, because, amazingly enough, Democrats still have failed to brand their party as the champion of keeping jobs in America and renewing the economic vitality of the rust belt. In the four decades that have passed since then, Democratic leaders have proposed legislation to penalize “runaway plants” and job-export, but none of them got much traction. Yes, a few  Democrats obstructed these reforms, but always it was the Republicans who 0verwhelmingly opposed them. For Dems, it’s been more a failure of branding than one of inaction. Dems have paid a heavy price for their lack of a profile as job-protectors, as Republicans escaped blame by laying low, very low. Into the void came psuedo-maverick Trump. Hard to blame workers in these communities for thinking “what the hell, let’s try something different. At least he talks about us.”

However, in his article, “The Minuscule Importance of Manufacturing in Far-Right Politics,” Jonathan Rothwell, senior economist at Gallup, notes puzzling polling data which conveys a different impression: “In fact, Gallup survey data from August shows that American adults who approve of the way Mr. Trump is handling the presidency are actually less worried than other Americans about how trade competition will affect their job. Just 6 percent of employed adults who approve of Mr. Trump say they are worried about their job going overseas, compared with 11 percent who disapprove…Exposure to trade competition played no apparent role in persuading Obama voters to switch to Mr. Trump. People who voted for President Obama in 2012 accounted for about 12 percent of all Trump voters, but again, these voters were not disproportionately involved in the manufacturing sector, either nationally or in swing states. Around 8.7 percent of Trump voters who also voted for Mr. Obama in 2012 work in manufacturing, compared with 9.5 percent of Trump voters who voted for Mitt Romney.”

On an optimistic note, Ronald Brownstein observes at the Atlantic: “…Demographic trends offer some guarded reasons for hope that the United States is living through peak years of discord over its growing racial and ethnic diversity—even if the temperature isn’t likely to lower very quickly. That sliver of good news is embedded in an otherwise sobering new study from PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California.” The study found that “The country today is simultaneously diversifying, especially among young people, and aging. While kids of color are expected to become a majority of the under-18 population by around 2020 (and already constitute most public-school students), nearly four-fifths of today’s senior population is white…Looking forward, the Census Bureau projects that minorities will increase their share of the youth population somewhat more slowly and steadily age into a growing portion of the elderly. The result, as the study observes, is that the racial generation gap already likely peaked around 2013, and will decline, albeit slowly, in years ahead…”

But John B. Judis, author of The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics, writes at The New Republic about why he is now more skeptical about demographic change favoring the Democratic Party. But Judis does see a way for Democrats to win broader support in the near future. As Judis explains, “If Democrats try to win future elections by relying on narrow racial-ethnic targeting, they will not only enable the Republicans to play wedge politics, they will also miss the opportunity to make a broader economic argument…This thinking runs contrary to the “race-conscious” strategy touted by Democrats who believe that a majority-minority nation is a guarantee of victory. Sorry to say, but it’s not going to happen. The best way for Democrats to build a lasting majority is to fight for an agenda of shared prosperity that has the power to unite, rather than divide, their natural constituencies. There is no need, in short, for Democrats to choose between appealing to white workers and courting people of color. By making a strong and effective case for economic justice, they can do both at the same time.”

Casey Tolan of the Bay Area News Group outlines “Progressive Democrats’ counter-argument to Trump tax plan: a $1.4 trillion tax credit for the working class,” and explains: “As Congress starts to debate President Donald Trump’s plan to overhaul the tax code and cut corporate rates, a Silicon Valley Democrat is putting forward a radically different tax proposal. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, will introduce a bill Wednesday that would give low-income and working-class taxpayers a big tax credit — and have a massive price tag.  …The plan would drastically expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps people at the bottom end of the salary range. Low-income taxpayers without dependent children would see their credit rise from a maximum of $510 to $3,000, and families would see their maximum credit rise from $6,318 to $12,131, depending on their income and number of children. Economists say the increased credit would help compensate for the fact that working-class salaries have stagnated in recent decades even as the U.S. economy has continued to grow. While the proposal isn’t likely to gain traction in the Republican-dominated Congress, Khanna hopes it will become a Democratic rallying cry…“I think it’s going to be our party’s answer to Donald Trump on taxes,” Khanna said. “While he’s proposing tax cuts for the investor class, we’re proposing support for the working and middle class.”Khanna is introducing the bill alongside progressive Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is widely seen as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.”

Amid worries about what Trump and the Republicans will eventually do about DACA and the Dreamers, William A. Galston writes at Brookings that a recent “A Politico/Morning Consult survey “found that 58 percent of Americans want the Dreamers to be allowed to stay in the United States and become citizens if they meet certain requirements. An additional 18 percent think the Dreamers should be allowed to become legal residents but not citizens. Only 15 percent think they should be removed or deported….The breakdown of the 76 percent who want the Dreamers to remain either as citizens or permanent legal residents is revealing. It includes 84 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Independents, 69 percent of Republicans—and two-thirds of self-identified Trump voters. 60 percent of the voters who “strongly approve” of Mr. Trump’s performance as president want the Dreamers to be allowed to stay, compared to 33 percent who want them to be deported…So this episode could turn into a win both for the president, who kept faith with his supporters by cancelling DACA, and for Congress—but only if Congress passes, and the president signs, a bill allowing the Dreamers to remain in the country legally and permanently…If Congress takes its bearings from the sentiments of the American people as a whole, it will send the president a bill that enshrines protections for the Dreamers into law, an action to which even Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to object.”

Ed Kilgore warms at New York Magazine that “The GOP Is Throwing a Hail Mary on Obamacare Repeal” and warns “With velocity one would not expect of a zombie, the last-chance GOP bill aimed at partially repealing and replacing Obamacare, the Graham-Cassidy proposal, is suddenly being taken seriously by friends and foes alike. The main agent of propulsion was a Senate GOP luncheon yesterday after which Mitch McConnell expressed support for the measure and his deputy John Cornyn offered to get a whip count in place. Lindsey Graham says the bill if voted on right now would get “47, 48 votes,” which is of course dangerously close to the 50 needed to rescue the debacle of GOP health-care efforts…The key reason for guarded GOP optimism is the close friendship between Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who administered the coup de grâce for the July health-care push…if Graham-Cassidy is going to be passed, it will happen very quickly (the current plan is for a vote during the week of September 25, or in other words, at the very last minute)…There remains a very small but real possibility that the biggest regrets will be felt by congressional Democrats who cleared the Senate decks for Graham-Cassidy by cutting a fiscal deal with the White House.”

Progressives concerned that single-payer health care reform attempts to0 much too soon can take some comfort from Margaret Sanger-Katz’s post at NYT’s The Upshot, “Buried Inside Bernie Sanders’s Bill: A Fallback Plan,” which notes, “The provisions are tucked into Title X of the bill and describe the four-year transition between current policy and the Sanders bill’s goal of a Medicare-for-all system. During that interim, some younger Americans would be able to buy access to the traditional Medicare program, which is now mainly for those 65 and up. The provisions would also establish an option for Americans to buy access to a Medicare-like government plan that would be sold on the Obamacare exchanges…The Medicare buy-in section comes from Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who has introduced the provision as a stand-alone bill…The public option section was written by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a longtime proponent of the idea. As part of the Sanders bill, she said, a public option would help the government prepare to administer a full-fledged Medicare-for-all program.”

At Politico Edward-Isaac Dovere writes, “Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Gerstein Bocian Agne Strategies conducted online polling of 1,000 Democrats and 1,000 swing voters across 52 swing districts for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Their advice to candidates afterward: Drop the talk of free college. Instead, the firms urged Democrats to emphasize making college more affordable and reducing debt, as well as job skills training, according to an internal DCCC memo…“When Democrats go and talk to working-class voters, we think talking to them about how we can help their children go to college, they have a better life, is great,” said Ali Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic House candidates. “They are not interested. … It’s a problem when you have a growing bloc in the electorate think that college is not good, and they actually disdain folks that go to college.”

Political Strategy Notes

Paul Krugman has a sobering reminder in his NYT column, “Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate,” and observes, “…Thanks to Trump’s electoral victory, know-nothing, anti-science conservatives are now running the U.S. government. When you read news analyses claiming that Trump’s deal with Democrats to keep the government running for a few months has somehow made him a moderate independent, remember that’s it not just Pruitt: Almost every senior figurein the Trump administration dealing with the environment or energy is both an establishment Republican and a denier of climate change and of scientific evidence in general…It’s true that scientists have returned the favor, losing trust in conservatives: more than 80 percent of them now lean Democratic. But how can you expect scientists to support a party whose presidential candidates won’t even concede that the theory of evolution is right?”

A Tutorial on partisan gerrymandering” from Sam Wang at The Princeton Election Consortium:

E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “Trump has spent his whole presidency making Democrats stronger,” and previews the short-term strategy ahead for Dems, noting that Trump “is still somewhat distinctive in his nativism, but this hardly bodes well for cooperation with progressives and moderates. And oddly enough, the departure of nationalist-in-chief Stephen K. Bannon removed one voice in his circle advocating positions on infrastructure, trade and taxes that had at least something in common with Democratic views…Democrats will certainly try to press the temporary advantage they seem to have on behalf of immigrants endangered by Trump’s moves against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They’ll also push for Obamacare funding, an end to the debt ceiling and a variety of budget concessions.”

Meanwhile, Jake Tapper argues at CNN Politics that “Bannon and allies preparing primary challenges against GOP senators.” As Tapper writes, “Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and his allies are preparing primary challenges against Republican senators, a source close to Bannon confirmed to CNN. The target list includes Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the source said…He has begun working with conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer and has installed an ally in an outside group that is expected to target GOP lawmakers and push Trump’s agenda…”

Kyle Kondik reports at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “The retirement of Rep. Dave Reichert (R, WA-8) on Wednesday from a swing district immediately transforms that district from a longshot Democratic pickup opportunity to one of their best chances to flip a GOP-held seat in the whole country. Accordingly, we’re moving it from Likely Republican all the way to Toss-up…If one would have asked Democrats at the start of the year to pick two, but only two, House Republicans to retire in advance of 2018, they might have easily picked Reichert and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL-27), who holds a seat Clinton won by 20 points and where we have installed the Democrats as early favorites after Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement. Had they been running for reelection, Reichert and Ros-Lehtinen may have been close to unbeatable even in a Democratic wave environment; now Democrats have, probably at worst, even odds to win both seats.” However, cautions Kondik, “One potential problem for Democrats is that Washington, like California, is a top-two primary state, meaning that all candidates run together in the primary and the top two finishers advance to the general election. It’s possible that if there are several Democrats running and just two credible Republicans, the GOP could squeeze two candidates into the general election and shut out the Democrats.”

[Bannon] “seemed to criticize the president’s recent decision to rescind protections for “dreamers” — those 690,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as young children — while giving Congress six months to devise a legislative solution,” writes Ashley Parker in “Bannon declares war with Republican leadership in Congress” at Post Politics. “The move, he said, could cost Republicans the House in the 2018 election….“If this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March, it will be a civil war inside the Republican Party that will be every bit as vitriolic as 2013,” Bannon said. “And to me, doing that in the springboard of primary season for 2018 is extremely ­unwise.”

“…The psychological relationship between the parties has a certain symmetry. Both fear each other will cheat to win and use their power to stack the voting deck. “If Republicans win in close elections, Democrats say it’s only because they cheated by making it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote; if Democrats win in close elections, Republicans say it’s only because they voted illegally.” But while it is nottrue that Democrats have allowed illegal voting in nontrivial levels, it isextremely true that Republicans have deliberately made voting inconvenient for Democratic-leaning constituencies. The psychology is parallel, but the underlying facts are not.” — from “The Only Problem in American Politics Is the Republican Party” by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

In his TPM Editor’s Blog, “More Thoughts on the Intra-Democratic Divide,” Josh Marshall offers an analogy that illuminates the role of racism in American politics: “A small but significant number of whites in the industrial midwest who had voted for Barack Obama once or even twice were susceptible to being ‘activated’ by the politics of white backlash. I think political racism or white supremacy is best seen like a virus which can remain dormant only to be activated under certain conditions…To the extent that a significant number of these are sometimes Democratic voters, we can say they are racists, people who can be activated to support white backlash politics under the right conditions or are at a minimum people who are ready to vote for a racist candidate even if that’s something they want to ignore rather than embrace. But however you define them, Democrats need to win some percentage of them back to win elections. And without winning elections, there’s no progress on voting rights, universal health care, wealth inequality, civil rights or anything else.”

Is it a mistake to pass legislation that is wholly opposed by one political party? Matthew J. Belvedere notes in his CNBC post, “Democrat Sen. Mark Warner: We perhaps screwed up passing Obamacare with only support from our party” that “Republicans are making a mistake by not taking a bipartisan approach and trying to craft tax reform by themselves, Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner told CNBC on Monday.”If there’s one thing we’ve seen, when either political party tries to do big things only with one side of the aisle, you generally screw up,” said Warner, a member of the Senate Finance and Budget committees.” But the suggestion that Democrats screwed up in passing the Affordable Care Act without any Republican votes ignores the fact that Obama and the Democrats bent way over backwards to try and win some Republican votes. What are they syupposed to do — not pass health care reform because one party refuses to negotiate in good faith? Also the measure passed with the support of 60 percent of the U.S. Senate, which is an overwhelming majority, even if they were all Democrats.

Political Strategy Notes

Matt Zapotosky reports at The Washington Post that “A group of attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop the administration from winding down the DACA program, which granted a reprieve from deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The lawsuit “alleges that rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a “culmination” of President Trump’s “oft-stated commitments — whether personally held, stated to appease some portion of his constituency, or some combination thereof — to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots…The lawsuit says that one expert estimated that rescinding the DACA program would cost New York state $38.6 billion over the next 10 years…The suit says revoking DACA would violate components of the Fifth Amendment, along with the Administrative Procedure Act, which “prohibits federal agency action that is arbitrary, unconstitutional, and contrary to statute.”

Thomas B. Edsall observes in his New Yok Times column that “The debate going into the next election cycle raises the question of whether the Democratic Party will be most successful with continued — or enlarged — support from a segment of the white working class: 34 percent of non-college white women and 23 percent of non-college white men voted for Clinton in 2016. Can these numbers be maintained or improved or should Democrats look elsewhere — for more votes from minorities and deeper support from women, along with continued improvement among upscale whites — to piece together victory in 2018 or 2020?” Edsall notes the rising influence of left-leaning groups like Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, and cites a study by the Pew Research Center showing that the percentage of Democrats describing themselves as “liberal” grew from 27 to 48 percent from 2000 to 2017, while self-identified Democratic moderates fell from 45 to 36 percent. Conservative Democrats dropped from 23 to 16 percent.”

The shelf life of Trump’s comments on various issues has been pretty short, to put it generously, since he often reverses himself within 24 hours. But two of his comments this week are drawing grumbles from the GOP for being excessively postive for Democrats: First, his calling Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp a “good woman” at a North Dakota event is noteworthy because Heitkamp is a top GOP target in 2018, and also because her Republican opponent was at the event. Second, “Republicans left the Oval Office Wednesday stunned. Trump had quickly sided with Democrats on a short-term debt ceiling increase, even overruling his own Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to concur with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he later called them on Air Force One,” report Rachel Bade, Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey at Politico. It’s easy to read too much into these developments, but, considered along with the firing of Bannon, Sacaramucci and the sudden departure of Gorka, we can hope that Chief of Staff Kelly is talking sense to his boss and some of it is beginning to register.

Ryan Lizza explains how “How Democrats Rolled Trump on the Debt Ceiling” at The New Yorker: “…When conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items…in the Oval Office, Ryan, McConnell, Schumer, and Pelosi sat down with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, to negotiate. The Republican leaders—at first—stuck to their demand for an eighteen-month debt-ceiling increase. But the Democrats held fast as the Republicans dropped their request to twelve months and then to six months. Mnuchin argued that the financial markets needed a long-term deal. Trump cut him off and abruptly sided with Schumer and Pelosi on their three-month request…After the deal was announced, Republicans inside and outside of government were shocked. Ryan was left looking ridiculous.”

From the Executive Summary of a 2016 “landmark report is based on a sample of more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states” by the Public Religion Research Institute: “White Christians, once the dominant religious group in the U.S., now account for fewer than half of all adults living in the country. Today, fewer than half of all states are majority white Christian. As recently as 2007, 39 states had majority white Christian populations… Jewish Americans constitute 2% of the public while Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus each constitute only 1% of the public. All other non-Christian religions constitute an additional 1%…Atheists and agnostics account for only about one-quarter (27%) of all religiously unaffiliated Americans. Nearly six in ten (58%) religiously unaffiliated Americans identify as secular, someone who is not religious; 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans nonetheless report that they identify as a “religious person…There are 20 states in which no religious group comprises a greater share of residents than the religiously unaffiliated.”

Philip Bump mulls over the role of Facebook in the 2016 election and concludes that “in an election that gave Donald Trump the White House thanks to 78,000 votes in three states, it’s possible that the targeting of voters on Facebook played a bigger role than expected.” Further, notes Bump, “The 2016 campaign marked Facebook’s arrival as a political force, though not necessarily in the way the company expected. The Trump campaign invested heavily in Facebook, using the tool to target voters with very specific messages and, it hoped, to spur people to the polls.” Bump also cites another Post Politics article by Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, which observes that a “Russian troll farm” bought Facebook ads “pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.”

At The Guardian, read “Trump’s voter suppression efforts must be defeated. Here’s one thing we can do” by former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who calls automatic voter registration (AVR) “one of the single greatest ways to improve the legitimacy of our elections, and in turn our democracy. It results in a default “opt-out” system, whereby people have to take action to opt out of being registered, rather than having to go out of their way to register to vote. Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, captured it perfectly when he said: “Citizens should not have to opt in to their fundamental right to vote…in states that have enacted AVR, it has significantly increased voter registration, and initial indicators point to increased voter participation in elections…A national AVR bill was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in June, and if enacted would result in the automatic registration of eligible voters who interact with federal agencies, with the option for individuals to opt out…AVR is now standard practice in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and legislation has been introduced in as many as 30 other states.”

Writing at FiveThirtyEight, Dave Wasserman explains why “2018 Could Be The Year Of The Angry White College Graduate: And that’s bad news for Republicans.” The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal national survey found that whites with a college degree disapproved of Trump’s job performance 61 percent to 37 percent, with 51 percent strongly disapproving — a remarkable level of intensity for a group that he carried just 10 months ago. By comparison, non-college whites approved of Trump 56 percent to 38 percent, with only 27 percent disapproving strongly…If numbers like these hold through November 2018, college-educated voters could swing hard toward Democrats at a time they represent a disproportionate share of the electorate. Somewhat counterintuitively, the impact of these angry graduates won’t be felt only in highly educated districts. That’s because the story isn’t just about them. It’s just as much about their non-college counterparts dropping out of the electorate.”

Dylan Matthews discusses “What America would look like if it guaranteed everyone a job” at Vox and writes, “In the wake of the 2016 election, liberal commentators have latched onto the job guarantee — an idea pushed by some left-wing economists for years — as a way to forge a cross-racial working-class coalition. They need a plan that appeals to both to the white Wisconsin and Michigan voters who switched from Obama to Trump and to black and Latino workers left behind by deindustrialization. The ideal plan would both improve conditions for lower-income Americans while supporting Americans’ strong intuition that people should work to earn their crust.” Further “A federal job guarantee is both universal—it benefits all Americans—and specifically ameliorative to entrenched racial inequality,” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie notes, and “If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump’s empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one,” writes Bryce Covert in the New Republic. “It’s time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party’s platform.”

Political Strategy Notes – Labor Day Edition

From “The Working Class Can’t Afford the American Dream” at howmuch.net:


“This map tells us several things about the working class in America. Of the ten most populous cities in the country, the only place where you can enjoy a decent standard of living without taking on debt is San Antonio. Out of the top 50 largest cities, only 12 are considered affordable. Low-wage workers are better off in smaller cities…The geography of affordable cities is also remarkable. Newark, NJ, Chesapeake, VA and Jacksonville, FL are the only coastal locations where a worker can support his or her family. There are exactly zero affordable cities on the West Coast. Matter of fact, inexpensive locales tend to be far away from the coasts and can be found in the interior of the country. This is especially true in the southwest in states like Arizona and Texas.” ‘Best’ cities include: 1. Fort Worth, TX ($10,447); 2. Newark, NJ (($10,154); 3. Glendale, AZ ($10,120); 4. Gilbert, AZ ($9,760); and 5. Mesa, AZ ($7,780). You can probably guess the ‘worst’: 1. New York, NY (-$91,184); 2. San Francisco, CA (-$83,272); 3. Boston, MA (-$61,900); 4. Washington, DC (-$50,535) and 5. Philadelphia, PA (-$37,850). The chart should be helpful for targeting locations for minimum wage and union organizing campaigns, affordable housing, food co-ops and other projects.

Former Clinton and Obama staffer Ronald Klain’s “Here’s the most significant thing Democrats could do to help working families now” at The Washington Post, and notes: “There’s energy in the Democratic Party around big ideas, such as single-payer health care or a universal basic income. But the most significant thing Democrats could do to help working families right now isn’t designing a grand new program — it’s getting in the trenches to fight for a simple old idea. Specifically, trying to stop the Trump administration from denying millions of workers the overtime pay they have earned…Rather than siding with his voters, President Trump caved to major employers. Last month, his Labor Department announced that it was considering “stakeholder” — read: business — concerns that the new rule’s salary level was “too high.” Attention MAGA red-hat wearers: The president believes if you are making $600 a week, you may be making too much to deserve overtime. The Lord of the Apprentice Boardroom, the King of Mar-a-Lago, the Master of Trump Tower thinks you — making $15 an hour — may be paid too much to get overtime. He believes your boss should be able to make you come to work at dawn, stay far into the night, and not pay you one dime more for the extra hours worked…Democrats should try to attach amendments to legislation, updating the law…and putting the Obama rule into effect. They should talk about overtime whenever they can, and challenge Republicans on it in every corner carryout, gas station, work site and suburban mega-store.”

An optimistic take from syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.: “Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg explained last week in an online commentary for The Post that the president is using his executive power to undercut regulations on workers’ pay, financial security and job safety, and also their right to form unions. Here again, Trump’s actions belie his words…Trump seems to think that if he goes after immigrants, picks fights about his border wall, regularly recites the words “law and order” and assails “political correctness,” workers won’t notice any of this. He’ll keep attacking academic and media elites to distract from his service to financial elites. And there is so much focus on the scandals genuinely worthy of public attention that the substance of Trump’s economic policies will be confined to the back pages of newspapers or the nether reaches of the Internet…Will it work? I’d insist that it’s always safe to wager that, over time, American workers judge politicians by looking at their paychecks, their working conditions and the economic prospects of their families. Trump will discover the limits of his flimflam…It was Reuther who said: “There’s a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box.” I still think he was right.”

Some updated stats on union membership from “Their purpose evolved, but labor unions still protect worker rights” by John O’Connell at the [Hazleton, PA] Standard-Speaker: “About 8 percent of the nation’s 136 million workers, or 14.6 million people, are [private sector] union members. The “top 5 states for union members in workforce”: New York …. 24 percent; Hawaii …. 20 percent; Alaska ….. 19 percent; Connecticut …. 18 percent; Washington …. 17 percent; and Pennsylvania … 12 percent of workforce.” The “Bottom 5 states for union members in workforce”: Texas …. 4 percent; Georgia …. 4 percent; Arkansas …. 4 percent; North Carolina …. 3 percent and: South Carolina …. 2 percent.

There is some statistical good news in the most recent Gallup poll, conducted Aug 2-6, 2017: “In the U.S., 61% of adults say they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage since the 65% approval recorded in 2003. The current labor union approval is up five percentage points from last year and is 13 points above the all-time low found in 2009…Eighty-one percent of Democrats approve of unions this year — significantly higher than the 42% of Republicans who approve. This disparity is not as stark as it was in 2011 when Republican approval was 26% and Democratic approval was 78%. Democratic approval of unions has been fairly steady over time, while the approval levels of independents and Republicans have fluctuated…As more U.S. adults approve of unions, their interest in wanting unions to have more influence is also on the rise. Thirty-nine percent of Americans would like unions to have more influence — the highest figure recorded in the 18 years Gallup has asked this question. Consequently, those who want labor unions to have less influence is at a record low of 28%. Thirty percent want unions to have the same influence as today.”

“On Labor Day — designated a federal holiday in 1894 to honor America’s labor movement — at least eight Democratic candidates will hold rallies in five Midwest cities to tell workers just how far the country has veered from its pro-labor roots,” reports Kira Lerner at Think Progress. “Each candidate will center their campaigns on their support for a $15 minimum wage, progressive health care, and pro-union policies.” At least two labor leaders are running for state-wide office. “Cathy Glasson, a registered nurse and union leader in Iowa who will officially announce after Labor Day her campaign for governor in 2018, said that before this year, she had never considered running for elected office…In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of Wisconsin who announced his run for governor in July, will rally with workers at a hospital.”

Dollars & Sense Magazine is featuring a revealing interview with Labor journalist Chris Brooks and veteran union organizer Gene Bruskin about “Labor’s Southern Strategy.” At one point, Bruskin comments on the successful campaign to organize 5,000 workers at Smithfuled foods in Tarheel, NC: “The first time the UFCW tried to organize the plant in 1994, they thought they could just go through the normal NLRB procedures. The company just unloaded on them. During the second election in 1997, the company brought in the Sheriff’s office, they stood outside the plant with armed rifles when people walked into work. During the vote, the lights went out in the plant when people were casting ballots. They beat up organizers. It was a massive, unrestrained employer campaign. It wasn’t public though, because the union was keeping it quiet outside of the plant and the company was exerting total control inside of it…It took years before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the courts weighed in. It also took years before the union decided to engage in a big public campaign outside the plant to counter the company’s inside campaign. We put a lot of time, energy and resources into telling the story of the workers, not just in the plant. but also in an aggressive media campaign, also in the churches all around the state and in public places all along the East and Midwest, using key allies like Jobs with Justice. These stories put the company on the defensive. By making the oppression that workers faced in the plant synonymous with the Smithfield brand, we created a wall of public pressure to guard workers against the company’s attacks. I think we successfully exposed Smithfield’s actions in a way that hurt their brand, in a way that the UAW hasn’t seemed to be able to do to Nissan or Volkswagen.”

In his HuffPo article, “A Labor Day Cheer For Economic Nationalism: Trump had no intention of delivering for American workers, except at the level of rhetoric. His actual policies are viciously anti-labor,” Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, writes, “Trump had no intention of delivering for American workers, except at the level of rhetoric. His actual policies are viciously anti-labor. His infrastructure program is a complete phony, using privatization of vital public facilities with no net increase in public investment. The Goldman-Sachs wing of the administration has taken control of trade policy, and with Bannon gone that control will be complete…Now that right wing economic nationalism is defunct, there is an opening for progressive economic nationalism. It would include serious spending on public infrastructure and a green transition both to modernize made-in-USA technology and to create good domestic jobs. If taxpayer dollars or public debt is funding these investments, it’s perfectly fair play to demand that they produce made-in-USA employment. It’s also fair play to ask countries that don’t respect decent labor or environmental standards to pay a social tariff so that we don’t import the wretched standards along with the products (and under Trump, America could barely pass such a test). It’s time to clean up our own act.”

In The New York Times, William E. Forbath, professor of law and history at the University of Texas and Brishen Rogers, a Temple University law professor,  urge “A New Type of Labor Law for a New Type of Worker” and they argue that Democratic lawmakers should be “putting labor-law reform at the top of their agenda.” Further, “A few simple but bold legal reforms would make a world of difference. First, Congress could pass laws to promote multi-employer bargaining, or even bargaining among all companies in an industry. If all hotel brands, all fast-food brands, all grocers or all local delivery companies bargained together, none would be placed at a competitive disadvantage as a result of unionization, which is often the main reason employers resist it so fiercely. Second, Congress could ensure that organized workers can bargain with the companies that actually profit from their work by expanding the legal definition of employment to cover more categories of workers…Organized and united under new labor laws that they had a hand in achieving, retail, hospitality, health care and other service workers could become a solid, multiracial working-class base for a progressive Democratic Party.”

Political Strategy Notes

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “A Hurricane of Conservative Hypocrisy“: “…it is entirely appropriate to call out the hypocrisy of Texas conservatives who voted against assistance for the victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey but are now asking for federal help on behalf of their folks. They broke this basic rule of solidarity in the name of an ideology that, when the chips are down, they don’t really believe in. Of course we should help all the areas devastated by Harvey. I’d just appreciate hearing our Texas conservative friends, beginning with Sen. Ted Cruz, admit they were wrong.”

The ‘Medicare for All’ cause in the Democratic Party just got a big boost from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who announced her co-sponsorship of the single-payer health care bill of Sen. Bernie Sanders. As Brooke Seipel notes at The Hill:  “I intend to co-sponsor the ‘Medicare for All’ bill because it’s just the right thing to do,” Harris announced Wednesday at a town hall in Oakland…It’s not just about what is morally and ethically right, it also makes sense just from a fiscal standpoint,” she said.” Harris’s support of single-payer health care reform will likely enhance her cred as a national leader with younger voters and help position her for a white house run.

Anthea Butler says it straight in her NYT op-ed “The Cheap prosperity Gospel of Trump and Osteen,” and observes, “while the storm churns through Texas and Louisiana, causing floods, death and misery, it is time to consider the damage the prosperity gospel has done to America. Mr. Trump and Mr. Osteen unwittingly revealed its ugly underbelly: the smugness, the self-aggrandizing posturing. It has co-opted many in the Republican Party, readily visible in their relentless desire to strip Americans of health care, disaster relief and infrastructure funding…Now Ted Cruz and Texas Republicans seek federal disaster aid, although they voted against the same in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The Republicans in states affected by the disaster will find out soon enough what it feels like to come to Washington and relief organizations with their hat in their hands.”

At HuffPo Allan Abramson proposes “A New Democratic Agenda,” and suggests: “After all these years, we need to learn from the defeats. We must learn to focus on a few key issues, and hammer them repeatedly. We need charismatic speakers and meaningful slogans. And, we need a 50 state strategy…Here are some suggestions for an agenda for 2018. Keep it simple, and keep it focused on the priorities of our base. People need to see the benefits of voting Democratic. Otherwise, another decade in the wilderness. Abamson then presents a 4-point agena for Dems, with jobs, Medicare, voting rights and  a fair tax system for everyone.

Sen. Bernie Sanders makes a couple of important points in his interview with Alexandra Jaffe at Vice news. “Asked by one disaffected supporter why he hasn’t simply started a new party, Sanders defended the Democrats, insisting his only option was to work within the party. “Don’t lump Democrats and Republicans together,” he said…If you want to be critical of Democrats, I’m with you. There’s a lot that we can criticize. But to say that the average Democrat is equivalent to the average Republican member — these are the guys doing voter suppression. They don’t believe in climate change. They condone racism and homophobia.” So the place that I am in right now is to try to transform the Democratic Party, to open it up to people like you…Things don’t happen overnight. And especially when you’re taking on the entire political establishment, you have to begin someplace,” he said. “Our job now is to mobilize people to talk about the advantages the costs effectiveness, the human right that healthcare is.”

At Newsweek, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich notes a disturbing change in Ameircan attitudes: “…Trust in all the major institutions of our society has plummeted…In 1964 more than 60 percent of Americans thought government was “run for the benefit of all the people” while just 29 percent said government was “pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.”…Nowadays the numbers are almost reversed, with 76 percent believing government is run “by a few big interest” and just 19 percent saying government is run “for the benefit of all.”…In the early 1960s most Americans said they had a “great deal of confidence” in the nation’s major companies, banks, and financial institutions…Now just one in ten has a great deal of confidence in them.”

Alexandra Whittaker of Instyle Magazine has an article that spotlights training resources for women political candidates, “Want to Run for Office? These Boot Camps Will Teach You How.” Whittaker notes in her introduction: “In the face of political tension and an increasingly polarized country, individuals have two choices: turn inward and avoid talking about sensitive issues or get in the ring. A cultural movement has emerged encouraging people to pursue the latter, not just as volunteers, organizers, and thought leaders but as elected officials too. And at the forefront that movement? Women. Organizations that train candidates to run campaigns for local offices and federal positions alike are reporting more inquiries from interested female candidates than ever before.”

Eric Bradner has an instructive  CNN Politics article about Elizabeth Warren’s successful outreach to African American voters. Bradner notes “Warren has increasingly added a focus on racism and cultural issues to her signature economic populism over several major speeches — while also developing new relationships with black leaders across the country…”People talk about her in presidential terms often when I travel the country, and I think in the African-American community, it’s because they appreciated that she, in a very full-throated way, will speak to the issue of racism,” said Michael Curry, who chairs the national NAACP’s advocacy and policy committee and was until recently the NAACP Boston chapter president…”The fight against racism and inequality and ugliness in all its forms is a righteous fight,” Warren said. “I came to Detroit to say I will be part of that fight.”…”I saw in her speech an intentionality to speak to our communities — to say, ‘I’m here for you, and I plan to be a champion on the issues you care about,'” said Curry, the NAACP board member from Boston…”She does not marginalize the community,” [Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna] Pressley said. “She sees an African-American in their totality, and I appreciate that. She is inclusive. So I don’t only get a call to come sit at a table about an issue that is disproportionately impacting communities of color. I’m invited into any room where she believes that my office … or my lens could add value.”

Jonathan Chait writes at New York Magazine about the tendency of Republicans to conflate Trump’s Electoral College win with a popular vote victory: “The Electoral College has turned two of the last five Republican national-vote defeats into victories. The Republican Party has developed a very convoluted way of suppressing this strange reality. The larger part of their response consists of constant implicit or explicit equations of the election result with the will of the voting public. So frequently do Republican partisans depict their candidate as the conscious choice of the majority that they themselves forget the actual circumstances of his election…On the rare occasions when the merits of the Electoral College do arise, Republicans will explain that the electoral vote system is the perfect expression of the Founders’ divine will, and changing to a national-vote system would create all manner of evils. Then, when they have satisfied their qualms about the creaky presidential voting apparatus, they revert to talking about the election as if it really was a national popular vote.”

Political Strategy notes

At The St. Louis Post-Dipatch, columnist Tony Messenger writes, “Already, scientists are pointing to climate change as a culprit to explain the expected record 50 inches of rain that might fall in Texas as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and the rising tide of water that is swamping and isolating America’s fourth-most-populous city…Perhaps Harvey, hitting hard in the conservative Gulf Coast of Texas, in the nation’s center of the oil business — which has funded climate change denial to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade — will turn the tide…Responding to massive flooding and the threat of climate change in the 1990s, leaders in the Netherlands, where much of the country is under sea level, have been waging a battle that would look foreign in St. Louis or Houston. They don’t build more levees, they give the water room to roam…Congress has an impending September deadline to renew the nation’s National Flood Insurance Program, which is currently about $25 billion in debt. Failing to plan for floods in the age of climate change, you see, is really expensive. It’s also deadly. That’s the story of the day in Houston…Today, we mourn the dead. Tomorrow, let’s honor their memories by pulling our nation’s collective heads out of the murky and dangerous waters of climate-change denial.”

Politico’s Elena Schneider and Austin Wright report that Democrats are targeting several Republican House members who are embroiled in ethics controversie. “Among the incumbents on their early target list are California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, whose ties to Russian officials have come under scrutiny and was once warned by the FBI that Russian spies were trying to recruit him; New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who faces an ethics complaintfrom an outside watchdog group over a letter that some perceived as targeting an activist; New York Rep. Chris Collins, whose stock-market investments are under investigation; Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty to assault for attacking a reporter; and California Rep. Devin Nunes, whose handling of classified information is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, writes at The Hill: “Some have charged that allowing anti-abortion Democrats to run in pro-life districts is a way of ignoring the wishes of the poor, women, and African-Americans. The evidence, however, shows that support for a small-tent strategy is found predominantly among affluent white liberals. One poll finds that just 7 percent of African-American Democrats support a small-tent approach, compared to 35 percent of white Democrats. Poor and working-class Democrats, likewise, are more likely to oppose an abortion litmus test than are Democrats in the highest income brackets. And fewer Democratic women favor exclusively restricting Democratic Party support to proponents of legal abortion than Democratic men do, rejecting this approach by a two-to-one margin…Most polls over the last decade show that between a quarter and a third of the Democratic Party identifies as pro-life.” Day’s bio notes that she “also advocates for policies to reduce abortion in America by providing more support to pregnant and parenting women and their families.”

But, in her article, “Hey, Democratic Candidates: Pro-Choice Women Are Your Base: Running an anti-choice candidate might pick up a few Republican votes—at the expense of turning off the party’s loyal voters,” Katha Pollit, columnist for The Nation, writes, “Only women are expected to let history roll backwards over them. Only women’s rights to contraception and abortion are perpetually debatable, postponable, side-trackable, while those who insist on upholding the party platform—and the Constitution—are dismissed as rigid ideologues with a “litmus test.” Party leaders can’t come right out and say so—in fact, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez has issued a statement declaring that abortion rights are non-negotiable…What tends to get forgotten by those who push for the Democratic Party to run anti-abortion candidates is that the party base is pro-choice. That is who votes in primaries, and that is who knocks on doors and makes phone calls and gets out the vote on Election Day. An anti-abortion Dem might steal some votes from the Republican candidate, but at the cost of losing the most ardent Democrats—who happen to be women.”

There is a profound difference between the “pro-life” advocacy of Democrats, who consistently support funding for policies that help take care of children and the conservative ideologues who don’t show much concern about children’s health once they are born. As Sister Joan Chittister, Order of Saint Benedict, has said, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

Emily Badger addresses a trend I’ve wondered about in her post, “Political Migration: A New Business of Moving Out to Fit In.” At The Upshot Badger cites Bill Bishop’s book, “The Big Sort,” which posits that Americans have been self-selecting since the 1970s into like-minded communities that are less likely to hold competitive elections…In a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of people who are “consistently conservative” and 35 percent who are “consistently liberal” said it was important to them to live in a place where most people share their political views. It is less clear, though, how many people actually act on that sentiment. Most movers are primarily concerned with job prospects and affordable housing.” However, adds badger, “One study that relied on the voter files of millions of people in seven states, by Wendy Cho, James Gimpel and Iris Hui, found that registered Republican movers show a preference for ZIP codes that are more heavily Republican than the ones they left. Democrats do the same, although to a lesser degree.”

“You could even argue pretty convincingly that impeaching and removing Trump would be very adverse to the short- and long-term interests of the Democratic Party. Why make some conventional Republican like Pence or Paul Ryan (the next in line) who has not bragged about sexual assaults or embraced racists or cozied up to Vladimir Putin or gone crazy on social media a sitting president? What horrendous public-sector policies or congressional initiatives would impeaching Trump torpedo? Why squander the opportunity to reap electoral benefits from a good backlash against Trump?” — from Ed Kilgore’s New York Magazine post, “No, Impeaching Trump Would Not Reverse the 2016 Elections.”

Democratic candidates and campaigns have an article to read at Foreign Affairs, “What America Owes Its Veterans: A Better System of Care and Support” by Phillip Carter at Foreign Affairs. Among Carter’s observations: “But despite some recent improvements, the VA and other federal agencies struggle to keep other promises to active service members and veterans after they come home. Aging bureaucracies struggle to meet the needs of a diverse and dispersed population. Educational and economic support programs fail to keep pace with the changing needs of veterans and their families. To fix these problems, the United States must rewrite the contract it strikes with its service members, building a support system that not only ameliorates their battle wounds and financial losses but also helps them thrive after their service in a twenty-first-century economy…..Without scaling back programs such as disability compensation and health care, which primarily ameliorate the harms of service, the government should expand benefits such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and small-business financing, which can create enormous economic opportunities for those who serve. It should also find ways to leverage the enormous social capital that veterans develop during their service for economic and societal gain.”