washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Jennifer Agiesta reports on a CNN/ORC poll conducted by telephone April 22-25: “Taking an early look at next year’s congressional elections, a generic ballot yields a Democratic advantage, with 50% saying they’d vote for the Democratic candidate in their district and 41% the Republican candidate if the election were held today. A lead that large, this far out, is not necessarily predictive, however — although it approaches the edge Democrats held early on in the 2006 election cycle when they won control of the House, it is also similar to their advantage early on in the 2010 cycle, which ended with a Republican takeover of the chamber.”

In their Washington Post article, “Public pans Republicans’ latest approach to replacing Affordable Care Act,” Amy Goldstein and Scott Clement report that, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, “Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House. These would allow states to choose whether to keep the ACA’s insurance protection for people with preexisting medical problems and its guarantee of specific health benefits…Public sentiment is particularly lopsided in favor of an aspect of the current health-care law that blocks insurers from charging more or denying coverage to customers with medical conditions. About 8 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 independents and even a slight majority of Republicans say that should continue to be a national mandate, rather than an option for states to retain or drop…The Post-ABC poll shows that, beyond the criticism of GOP proposals for devolving health policy to the states, many Americans appear leery in general about a major overhaul to the health-care law often called Obamacare, with 61 percent preferring to “keep and try to improve” it, compared with 37 percent who say they want to “repeal and replace” it. About three-quarters of Republicans prefer repealing and replacing the ACA, but more than 6 in 10 independents and nearly 9 in 10 Democrats favor working within its framework.” Ironically, Republicans are actually lucky that this bill appears doomed, because if they enacted it, public reaction would position Democrats for a landslide midterm victory.

To give you an idea of the challenging course Democrat Jon Ossoff has to navigate in his campaign to defeat Republican Karen Handel in the GA-6 run-off election, Elise Viebeck and David Weigel note in their article “GOP candidate now embracing Trump in Georgia’s 6th District runoff” at PowerPost that “The last pre-primary poll conducted by Opinion Savvy suggested that Handel would trail Ossoff by two points in a runoff. At the same time, Trump’s approval rating in the district was 53.7 percent, evidence that Handel’s decision to align herself with him might be a good move.” Despite all of the pre-jungle primary buzz about Ossoff’s formidable fund-raising, the Republicans may have the spending edge in the race. As Viebeck and Weigel note, “The National Republican Congressional Committee is already spending $3.65 million ahead of the runoff, bringing its total spending close to $6 million…The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee aligned with House GOP leaders, announced $3.5 million in new spending — bringing its total to $6.5 million” and ‘Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, has kept up its own ground campaign, and Ending Spending, a PAC that has supported Handel in multiple elections, has charged back in to Georgia.”

NYT columnist Frank Bruni provides an apt description of one of Trump’s most shameful “accomplishments”: “…Who among the presidents of the last half-century has been so publicly cavalier about conflicts of interest, so blithe about getting away with whatever grifts he could, so lavishly meanspirited and so proudly rude? Who among those presidents made so little concession to decorum?…Who stooped so low, on the campaign trail or in office, as to ridicule a disabled journalist and make light of a prisoner of war’s ordeal? Who talked incessantly about how heroic his election was, summoning more energy for self-congratulation than he ever exhibited for the praise of others?…Who taunted his adversaries with such abandon? Who made such a spectacle of his grievances that he invented a phenomenon: sore winning?”

In his interview with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Michael Tomasky observes at The Daily Beast, “Trump got 36 percent of his members’ votes against Hillary Clinton. That’s only three points more than Mitt Romney, but three points isn’t nothing in a close election. And as Trumka emphasized to me, it wasn’t only or even chiefly that Trump did better than Romney. Clinton, he wanted me to know, did worse than Obama—10 points worse, snaring just 55 percent of his rank-and-file’s vote. The rest went third party or sat it out.  Tomasky quotes Trumka: “The Democratic Party quite frankly had no coherent economic message,” he said. “Workers have been facing stagnant wages, dropping benefits, and economic security being taken away from them over a 40-year period. Trump said a lot of stuff—hasn’t followed through on it, but said it, and they were willing to take a chance.”…“Look, you can’t beat something with nothing,” he says. “If you don’t have an economic message that resonates with working people you’re not gonna win. That’s why people like Sherrod Brown and a number of other people running in the same difficult environment that presidential candidates run in succeed. They have a consistent economic message that people know they can believe.”

At The Plum Line, however, Paul Waldman shares a critique of the Democratic party’s message, or lack therof, by Democratic pollsters Allan and Sheri Rivlin, who are also warning that Republicans have an edge in midterms. “Democrats do poorly in midterms,” Rivlin argues. “Republicans are rarely on the losing side of this.” It’s partly because Republican voters — older, whiter, more affluent — are more likely to turn out in any election while many Democrats don’t bother showing up in midterms. But Rivlin is especially concerned with Democrats’ lack of a core economic message, since the economy is usually voters’ most important issue. “We think we have an economic message,” he says, “but we don’t…What Democrats lack is a message on economics that can pass what he calls “the Listerine test.” Listerine had what Rivlin describes as a nearly perfect message: “Listerine kills the germs that cause bad breath.” Eight words that describe the problem, the solution and how it works…The Republican message on the economy passes this test. It’s simple, easy to understand, and explains both every economic problem you could think of and what their solution is: Government is the problem, so if we cut taxes and cut regulations, the economy will blossom.” The Rivlins don’t have a Democratic message that passes ‘the Listerine test,’ but they advocate creating a focus group to develop one.

David Weigel boils the Democratic message problem even more at The Fix: “To progressives, it doesn’t feel like Republicans share this despondence. They compete in the suburbs; they compete in the cities where they can (Omaha, Indianapolis, San Diego). They let the party’s brand shift from race to race, and are nimble about it. But running through each race, they let it generally be known that a Republican is going to be easier on your wallet than a Democrat. There’s an existential argument here that Democrats have not really engaged in for years.”

But it’s not only about message content, argues Paul Kane at PowerPost. “Presence is important,” [Sen. Tim]Kaine (Va.) said in a brief interview. “You’ve got to go to these places.” That adage about presence is one of the increasingly accepted lessons Democrats are heeding from the debacle of last year’s White House and congressional elections…Last year, however, the party’s smart set — including Kaine’s running mate, Hillary Clinton — became so fixated on cranking up the Democratic base that it did not do enough tending to potential supporters in exurban and rural counties. That led to a cratering of support in those regions and opened a path for President Trump’s victory — and helped Republicans keep control of the Senate…Despite the myth of low turnout last year among minorities and liberal activists, Clinton performed better than Obama did in 2012 in Philadelphia, the four large suburban counties around that city and Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh. She lost the state’s rural parts. The same thing happened in Florida, which also had better turnout than in 2012. Clinton got the necessary votes in urban centers but then got swamped by Trump in inland counties…For now, though, Democrats from the left to the center agree that the first step is Kaine’s “presence” theory — to at least show up in these small towns where some of them went missing in 2016…“You won’t be able to have an organization of any kind in those counties until you actually put some effort into it and some resources,” [Ruy] Teixeira said, calling the “fundamental problem” for Democrats their almost -complete neglect of rural towns. “I think that’s got to change.”

To conclude on an optimistic note, from John Judis’s “Why The Left Will (Eventually) Triumph: An Interview With Ruy Teixeira” at Talking Points Memo, quoting Teixeira: “I favor what economists are calling  a model of equitable growth. It would mean substantial government investment in creating new opportunities for the middle and aspirational classes. It could include a dramatic expansion of the educational system and a Manhattan-style investment in bringing down the price of clean energy and building the infrastructure to match. Granted, these kind of proposals would not get through Congress now, but it is the kind of agenda that I am optimistic that the Democrats will endorse and that the country will eventually embrace…Democrats are the ones who are going to put us there and I think they are going to be rewarded for it…[White working-class] Voters were fed up with stagnation and with the Democrats and they turned to someone who thought could blow up the system. The way the Democrats and the left could mitigate that problem is to show these voters that they take their problems seriously and have their interests in mind, and could improve their lives. I don’t think there is any way of doing that without a new model of economic growth.”

Political Strategy Notes

“In the outpouring of commentary on President Trump’s first 100 days in office, his greatest single achievement is almost never mentioned, which is itself a sign of what a major triumph it is: We are not talking much about whether Russia colluded with Trump’s campaign to help elect him…Our distraction was not inevitable. Recall that just a little over a month ago, FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the bureau was investigating possible cooperation between Trump’s team and Russia’s hacking and disinformation campaign to undercut Hillary Clinton. As the New York Times wrote, Comey’s testimony “created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump…Given the substantive emptiness of Trump’s presidency so far, his greatest achievement is that he is still standing there, making pronouncements as if he means them and moving noisily but without any clear plan from one thing to the next. Every day he can postpone his reckoning with Russia is a victory.” Yet the president slipped by.” — from “Trump’s greatest single achievement almost never gets mentioned” by E. J. Dionne, Jr.

Slate’s Michelle Goldberg has a slight vaiation on Dionne’s take: “The president’s main 100-day accomplishment—besides sticking a reactionary on the Supreme Court—has been to make previously inconceivable levels of corruption and staggering breaches of national security appear normal…One could list 100 things that Trump has done—one for each debased day of his wretched presidency—that would be enough to impeach a Democrat. (Not all of Trump’s violations involve Russia, of course, though a bizarre number of them do.)…Trump’s presidency, like his campaign, is a lowlife carnival; there are so many macabre sideshows and freakish violations of normal political behavior that we’re left stunned and dazed. Much of the mainstream media, and almost all elected Republicans, act as if the horror of this presidency were less than the sum of its parts. The outrages cancel each other out rather than accumulating. This massive inflation in what constitutes a scandal has the potential to be permanently corrupting…Already, because of Trump, America is a more cynical, corrupt, lawless place than it was 100 days ago. There is only one way back from this, and that is to make sure that someday, when Democrats retake at least one chamber of Congress, they investigate every shady thing that Trump, his cronies, and his relatives have done either in achieving or using public power, even if it takes decades. ”

In their Washington Post op-ed, “Trump’s FCC chairman wants to hand the Internet over to big corporations,” Sens. Al Franken and Ron Wyden and former Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler writwe: “For as long as the Internet has existed, it has been grounded on the principle of net neutrality — that what you read, see or watch online shouldn’t be favored, blocked or slowed down based on where that content is coming from. Net neutrality means that cable companies can’t reserve the fastest Internet speeds for the biggest companies and leave everyone else in the slow lane. That’s what ensures a website for a local pizza place in rural Oregon or Minnesota loads as quickly as the website for Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Or why a social network built in a garage is available to the same people as Instagram or Twitter…That’s why it’s so alarming to see that the Federal Communications Commission, a federal agency that’s expected to help protect the Internet, is planning to roll back net neutrality rules…So with powerful forces pushing to get rid of net neutrality — Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other multibillion-dollar companies — it’s going to take Americans speaking up to protect the Internet that we depend on. In 2014, nearly 4 million Americans contacted the FCC, with an overwhelming majority sending a very simple message: protect net neutrality. And as a result of those efforts, we got policies put in place to do just that. But now those very policies are on the chopping block. Unless people fight back, these deep-pocketed corporations will upend how we get our news, watch our favorite shows, use social media or run our businesses…Small businesses shouldn’t have to outbid massive conglomerates just to get their product in front of consumers’ eyes.”

From Ed Kilgore’s “Here’s Another Good Omen for Democrats in 2018” at New York: “To the gradually but steadily increasing body of evidence that Democrats are likely to have a solid performance in the 2018 midterm elections comes another factor: the so-called “generic congressional ballot,” which means polling of which party voters are likely to prefer in upcoming U.S. House elections….FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten notes that in generic congressional balloting Democrats are in the best position at this early stage of the midterm election cycle of any opposition party dating all the way back to 1942. They currently lead the GOP by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin in the polling averages…Midterms are almost always about the president. Voting for Congress in midterm years is essentially just a mechanism for passing judgment on the White House. In 2018, unlike 2014, the House and presidency will be controlled by the same party.”

Trump’s walkback vs. “My first 100 days” promise, as nailed by CNN:

David Siders notes an innovative strategy against Trump’s border wall idea in his post, “Democrats turn the screws on border wall builders: The idea is to punish businesses that work on Donald Trump’s project” at Politico: “Democrats in cities and statehouses across the country are pressing forward with a calculated, long-range effort designed to undermine Trump’s plan by turning the screws on the businesses that work on the project….In California, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a measure to bar the state from awarding contracts to any company involved in the wall’s construction, while a bill to prevent the state’s massive pension funds from investing in those companies stands pending. Lawmakers introduced similar measures in New York and Rhode Island. The city of San Francisco is considering a blacklist, and Berkeley adopted one last month.”

Talking Points Memo’s Alice Ollstein presents a couple of insightful quotes about Trump’s trickle-down tax cut proposals: “I want a tax reform proposal that works for working families, not just for the people who can hire a lot of accountants and lawyers,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sits on the Senate’s Taxation and Budget committees, told TPM. “Today, if you’re a cop or a nurse, your taxes are compulsory. They come out of your paycheck once or twice a month. No Cayman Islands thing for you. But if you’re someone who can afford lots of lawyers and accountants, you can pretty much decide what you’re going to pay, when you’re going to pay, and maybe if you’re going to pay any at all.” As for the outcome of Trump’s tax plan, Ollstein notes, “Blumenthal predicted, as have former lawmakers, staffers, and tax experts, that Republicans will find it difficult—potentially impossible—to pass any tax reform this year as they have promised. “I have a feeling this proposal will meet the same fate as their Trumpcare plan: imploding in divisions among themselves.”

The Atlantic has a good video on the hottest congressional race of the moment, Jon Ossoff’s quest to win the GA-6 Runoff:

At Maddowblog, Steve Benen highlights what will likely be the howler of the week by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In his post, “Laughable White House claim: Trump has ‘rebuilt’ US global standing,” Benen quotes Spicer: “The world is responding to the leadership that the president is bringing under this – bringing to Washington. In all, during his first 100 days, the president has made 68 calls with 38 different world leaders, and hosted a total of 16 bilateral meetings. The president has rebuilt America’s standing in the world.” I mean, he’s only pissed off Mexico, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Sweden, Australia, China and the U.K. in his first 100 days.

Political Strategy Notes

Ed O’Keefe reports “Here’s how congressional Democrats plan to mark Trump’s first 100 days” at PowerPost, and notes “While negotiating this week with the White House on a plan to avoid a government shutdown and strongly opposed to any new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are planning to lead a series of events designed to call out Trump’s work and words on the economy, trade, health-care reform and his vows to “drain the swamp” in Washington. The offensive begins Monday with a conference call hosted by Schumer, Pelosi and Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and will continue with other events hosted by lawmakers throughout the week…Democrats are planning for events on Capitol Hill headlined by rank-and-file lawmakers who will release scorecards designed to criticize the new administration’s work on the economy, trade, health care and ethics. Schumer and Pelosi will cap the week on Friday with another event designed to draw attention to the looming shutdown. Their offices will be circulating talking points and social media guidance to House and Senate offices each day — the kind of material likely to end up in floor speeches and members’ Twitter feeds.”

Politico’s Heather Caygle writes about the rising spirit of optimism among Democratic leaders and activists: “House Democrats are heading toward the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency with the kind of feel-good unity they haven’t experienced since the election. Coming off a rowdy recess where Republicans continued to be skewered by constituents on everything from health care to Russia to Trump’s tax returns, Democrats say walking through the political wilderness isn’t so bad — at least for now…It’s a stunning reversal from the despair dominating the caucus just a few months ago when Trump entered the White House and Republicans seemed poised to wreak havoc on Democratic priorities…Now, some members are even talking openly about the possibility of taking back the House in 2018. They would need to pick up two dozen seats, an uphill battle to say the least. But the chatter speaks to the optimism the caucus is feeling.”

Dominique Mosbergen’s HuffPo article, “Happy Earth Day! Here Are All The Terrible Things Donald Trump Has Done So Far,” provides a pretty comprehensive list of “some of the major ways President Trump has changed climate and environmental policy in his first 100 days.” Mosbergen quotes Rhea Suh, the president of the National Resources Defense Council, who called Trumps first three months “100 Days of Harm.”  Suh continues, Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president’s term normally tells us only so much about what’s to come. In the case of President Trump’s all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we’ve already seen more than enough…Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air, and lands. He’s moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he’s betrayed the covenant we’ve forged with our children to leave them a livable world.” Mosbergen adds, “More than 60 percent of Americans said they disapproved of how Trump is handling the environment in an April Quinnipiac University poll. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they “are embarrassed to have Trump as president.”…Activists have said it’s not too late to stop Trump’s anti-climate and anti-environment agenda. While his executive orders have garnered a lot of hype, a majority of them have not yet had a substantive impact on actual policy.”

In her article, “The first brick hasn’t been set, and Trump’s border wall is already going south on him,” at The Fix, Amber Phillips explains why his Wall obsession is a disaster for Republicans. “Democrats have their own divisions to deal with. But opposing Trump’s wall is a near-perfect rallying cry nearly everyone in their party can get behind. It’s just too good of an opportunity to whack Trump and Republicans in Congress. If Congress funds Trump’s wall, Democrats can argue Trump has broken yet another campaign promise by building a wall without getting Mexico to pay for it.” Trump now says he eventually will force Mexico’s to pay for it, but his many vacillations on policies have tainted his credibilty. “They can also argue Republicans are raising the deficit and that they’re teetering on a shutdown when they control Washington because of this wall,” notes Phillips. “Fifty-four percent of Americans oppose building a wall along the entire Mexican border, according to CNN exit pollingfrom the 2016 election…A recent KVUE Austin poll found that in Texas (Trump country), 61 percent oppose his wall.”

Audrey Carlson and Jugal K. Patel present a quartet of Trump’s most important flip-flops in their post, “Trump’s Policy Reversals, in His Own Words,” at The New York Times. Many others could be cited, but these four flip-flops illustrate the utter unreliability of his policy pronouncements well enough. In just one example, on Sept. 5, 2013, he tweeted “Do NOT attack Syria, fix U.S.A.” On April 6, 2017, he goes on television and says “Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. … I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”

Historian Bruce W. Dearstyne shares “Six Strategies To Revitalize the Democratic Party” at historynewsnetwork.org. Dearstyne focuses on the lessons of the 1950s, leading up to JFK’s victory in 1960, and noptes, “Democrats are still reeling from Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss last November. Democratic leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer are leading the opposition to President Trump’s proposals to overturn reforms such as the Affordable Healthcare Act. But history suggests that opposition to the president and vows of action to reconnect with alienated voters will not suffice. The Democrats will need new ideas, better alignment with the spirit of the times, and fresh new candidates to make a comeback and recapture the presidency.” Dearstyne flags JFK’s candidacy as offering a model for Democrats going forward: “Unlike the other Democratic contenders for the presidency that year, Kennedy had youth, charisma and he was vigorous and dashing. He drew on his party’s momentum – the ideas of the Finletter Group, Stevenson’s elevation of a sense of national purpose, the track record of Johnson and others in showing the party cared about popular issues, and a sense of freshness and progressivism. But his campaign themes – we need to do more, we need to get the country moving – took the party to a new level and gave it new energy. The themes resonated with the changing public mood, which was becoming more attentive to the need for dedication and sacrifice and for new ways of using American power in the world…Democrats can return to national power again. To accomplish that, they need to learn from their own history, particularly the long comeback in the 1950’s.”

“A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll finds 57 percent of the public saying that the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of Americans, versus 39 percent who said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” reports Carrie Dann at nbcnews.com. “That’s the highest share yearning for a more active government since the poll began asking voters about the role of government in 1995. And it’s a significant shift even since 2015, when 50 percent said that the government should do more while 46 percent complained that it was too active.” Dann notes a particularly bstrong shift among self-identified Independents: “In 2010, independents favored a less active government by 22 percentage points. This year? They favor a more active government by the same share.”

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent shares some thoughts on the future of the Democratic Party, including: “Clinton rolled out a detailed political reform agenda, but it’s not clear whether she conveyed a gut sense that she really wanted to shake things up. As one Democrat sighed to me in August: I wish Clinton would show more discomfort with our political system and with how business is done in Washington…This possibility — that Clinton did not show a gut level of discomfort with our current arrangements — is worth mulling. Trump’s numbers were even worse than Clinton’s on honesty, and his promises to bust up the system were crude and laughably absurd — he actually argued that he was well qualified to reform our corrupt system because he had milked it himself from the inside to great effect. But it’s worth asking whether he somehow conveyed a visceral disdain for the way business is done in Washington that Clinton simply did not… The polling evidence is mixed on whether Clinton’s economic message even failed — exit polls showed she won among voters most concerned about the economy in many swing states. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and her extremely close losses in multiple states might not have happened if turnout had shaped up differently even on the margins.”

Although a lot of conservative commentators tried to spin Jon Ossoff’s 48.1 percent plurality in the GA-6 ‘jungle primary’ as a loss for Democrats, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway argues that,”Yes, Georgia Democrats believe they can take the Sixth District. And Republicans should, too.” Galloway quotes Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz: “It would be different if [Ossoff] had 40 percent. Forty-eight? That’s putting him very close. The margin between him and Karen Handel is quite large. It’s 28 points.” Galloway emailed Charles Bullock, Abramowitz’ counterpart at the University of Georgia and noted that “one of Bullock’s many specialties is the study of runoffs in Georgia elections. He’s written one book on the topic, and his research continues…“The research in the book found that the larger the margin of the primary leader, the more likely the leader would win the second round,” Bullock wrote in reply. “Research I am currently doing, which includes Georgia elections through 2016, continues to find primary margin the most powerful predictor. “In 54 congressional runoffs since 1966, the primary leader won 79.6 percent.”

Political Strategy Notes

Some talking points about the latest GOP Obamacare repeal proposal, from Margaret Sanger-Katz at The Upshot:” “In the days before Obamacare, applying for health insurance meant filling out dozens of pages of forms and submitting medical records. It was almost impossible to compare prices. Your premium might be set higher for a large number of reasons, including if your child was overweight. This could be the future in some states under the latest Republican proposal to overhaul the health law…The proposal, offered by leaders of libertarian and centrist groups within the House Republican caucus, would allow states to waive key insurance rules imposed by the Affordable Care Act if they believe the changes could lower premiums or advance other state goals. The proposal retains the health law’s promise that people with pre-existing health conditions can still buy insurance. But the protection would be largely technical.”

I like the way Eugene Robinson puts it in his WaPo column: “House Republicans are apparently ready for yet another attempt to snatch health insurance away from constituents who need it. Someone should remind Speaker Paul Ryan of a saying often attributed to his legendary predecessor Sam Rayburn: “There’s no education in the second kick of the mule.”…Having failed miserably to win passage of an abomination of a bill — the American Health Care Act — Ryan (R-Wis.) and his minions are back with something even worse. A draft framework being circulated this week would pretend to keep the parts of Obamacare that people like, but allow states to take these benefits away. We see what you’re doing, folks…This is getting silly. What part of “forget it” do Republicans not understand?…I’m sure the crowds at GOP town halls will be understanding. Just be sure to check attendees at the door for tar and feathers.”

Regarding recent public attitudes toward single-payer health care, Catherine Rampell, writes at The Post: “A recent survey from the Economist/YouGov found that a majority of Americans support “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.” Similarly, a poll from Morning Consult/Politico showed that a plurality of voters support “a single payer health care system, where all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan.”Divining the longer-term trend in attitudes toward this idea is difficult, as the way survey questions on the topic are asked has changed over time. Views of a health-care system in which all Americans get their insurance from the government single payer vary a lot depending on how you frame the question. Calling it “Medicare for all,” for example, generally elicits much stronger approval, while emphasizing the word “government” tends to depress support…But at the very least, some survey questions that have remained consistent in recent years show support has been rising back up over the past few years for the broader idea that the federal government bears responsibility for making sure all Americans have health-care coverage.”

I enjoy political snarkage as much as most. But former Bush speechwriter and now Wapo columnist Michael Gerson has a couple of sentences in his op-ed worth pondering: “On the whole, people can better tolerate being shouted at than being sneered at. And the sneer of the knowledge class was clearly a motivating factor for many Trump voters. They felt condescension from the commanding heights of the culture and set out to storm its highest point. The pose of late-night television — duplicated by many on the left — is a continuing provocation…A sneering, dismissive, dehumanizing, conspiratorial, hard-left-leaning response to Trump is his fondest hope.” Ridicule can occasionally influence political attitudes (remember Tina Fey as Sarah Palin) in a favorable direction for progressives, but nowadays it’s often overdone and counter-productive from a progressive point of view (see direct insults to Trump voters on your Facebook pages).

At In These Times, Chris Maissano and Jesse Mannisto, both members of The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), dialogue on a question of interest to many progressives: “Should Democratic Socialists Be Democrats?” At one point in their discusion Mannisto comments, “Let’s frame the question carefully: Should we work within the Democratic Party? I’d say yes. Is it enough to work within the Democratic Party? Definitely not. I’m energized by the possibilities of this political moment, but I still see electoral work as one component of broader movement building. It seems our main difference is our degree of optimism…Electoral work isn’t necessarily the best way to spread our message, but it’s a way that’s proven powerful of late…I’ve felt frustrated to the point of contemplating canceling my Democratic Party registration for the second time (I signed back up to vote for Bernie), but then I reminded myself how much easier my giving up would make it for all those corporate super-delegates. They’d love it if we sat at home and let them run their primaries with no alternative vision to stir things up… we all joined DSA because we believe it’s possible for avowedly socialist ideas to resonate with the American people. For that reason, I hope we don’t exit the Democratic Party; I hope we infiltrate it…”

Geoffrey Skelley and Kyle Kondik have an update at The Crystal Ball concerning “Initial 2018 Gubernatorial Ratings: Competitive races abound as GOP plays defense in many open seats,” and the outlook is not bad. “Before we move on to the 2018 races, we want to set some expectations for 2017: Democrats need to sweep both New Jersey and Virginia in order to consider the year a success. Both states are more Democratic than the national average — the Old Dominion by a little, and the Garden State by a lot — and these are two states the party should be able to carry with a Republican in the White House who, at least for now, is not popular. Obviously, holding Virginia seems like a heavier lift for Democrats at the moment than flipping New Jersey. This year represents a golden opportunity for Democrats to make a dent, albeit a small one, in the GOP’s mighty roster of state governorships before turning the page to the packed 2018 gubernatorial calendar…Republicans will be defending nine governorships in states Clinton won — Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Vermont — while Democrats will be defending just one governorship in a Trump-won state (Pennsylvania)…Democrats are hoping that they can win a substantial number of governorships over the next two years, given how many open seats the GOP is defending and the general tendency for the party that does not hold the White House to make gains down the ticket in a midterm year. The president’s party has netted governorships only once (1986) in 18 postwar midterms. As of now, we favor the Democrats in two Republican-held seats — New Jersey and New Mexico. Overall, the Democrats should start 2019 with more governorships than they hold now, but the high number of Toss-ups and otherwise potentially very competitive races combined with the unsettled national environment next year creates a high degree of uncertainty.”

In bad news for A.G. Sessions, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto report thatA recent CBS News poll shows support for legalizing marijuana is higher than ever. Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll. Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use…Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Sixty-five percent think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. And only 23 percent think legalizing marijuana leads to an increase violent crime.”…Back in 1979, this poll found just 27 percent saying it should be legal…Those over 65 are the most opposed to legalization, but most under age 65 support it. And women are now as much in favor of legal marijuana as men are; in previous years they were less so.” What happened to the Hippies?

Heads up, Dems. Dave Johnson warns at ourfuture.org that “People Don’t Know Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Is a Scam.” As Johnson explains, “Polls show that the public likes President Trump’s plan to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. That’s because they think he actually plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He doesn’t. Not hardly…Trump knows the public wants infrastructure, so he promises it. Just like all the other things he promised and went back on after the election. Jut like all the contractors he stiffed, and the students at Trump University. It’s just another Trump con.” Johnson cites gallup and CNN/ORC polls indicating the public likes the idea of spending $1 trillion on infrastructure improvement. In reality, however, Trump has already cut spemnding for infrastructure, and his so-called plan is just a privatization scheme to benefit his wealthy supporters.

At ThinkProgress.com Ian Millhiser has put together a dossier on Republican candidate for GA-6 congressional district, former GA Secretary of State Karen Handel, entitled, “The GOP candidate in that Georgia special election is a pioneering vote suppressor.” As Millhiser writes, “Handel was one of her state’s leading champions of voter ID during her time as Georgia’s top elections official…Seven years ago, Handel was Georgia’s Secretary of State — its chief elections officer. In that role, she was a top advocate for a then-innovative method of voter suppression. She spearheaded an illegal purge of Georgia’s voting rolls. And she even tried to prevent Democratic candidates from appearing on the state’s ballots.”

Ossoff Wins 48.1 Percent in GA Jungle Primary, Heads Into Runoff Election

Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 6th congressional district Jon Ossoff received 48.1 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s special election, and fell just 3, 700 votes short of winning his race without a runoff. In the June 20th runoff election, Ossoff will face former Republican Secretary of State of Georgia Karen Handel, who came in 2nd and topped the GOP field with just 19.8 percent of the vote.

No matter what happens in the runoff, Ossoff has proven to be an effective candidate, who ran an impressive campaign. But the challenge ahead is to build that into a June 20th victory.

There is a lot of national interest in this race, not only because it is being spun as a referendum on Trump. In addition, it provides a test of Democratic ability to win a suburban southern House district, which is  demographically-similar to those near a dozen or more other southern cities. If Democrats are competitive in such an emblematic suburban district, the net gain of two dozen seats needed to win a House majority in 2018 doesn’t look like such a long stretch.

As Jonathan Martin and Richard Fausset report at The New York Times:

The contest here effectively represented the first performance review at the ballot box for Mr. Trump and the Republican Congress among the sort of upscale voters who were left without a political home last fall. Mr. Price’s former district is the most highly educated Republican-controlled district in the country. And while the president won here in Atlanta’s booming northern suburbs, he did so by just a single point four years after Mitt Romney romped to a 23-point victory….

Mr. Ossoff’s strong showing will ensure that national Democrats continue to compete here and will increase pressure on the party to contest a special House election next month in Montana that it has so far ignored. Combined with Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in a special House election in Kansas last week, the Georgia result will be an immediate boon to Democratic groups, lifting their fund-raising and bolstering candidate recruitment efforts, while sobering Republicans who are assessing whether to run in Mr. Trump’s first midterm election. Already, Republican candidates and outside groups have had to spend over $7 million against Democrats in a series of deeply conservative districts.

Although the 6th district has been reliably Republican in recent years, demographic trends favor Democrats to some extent. As Tom Baxter recently noted, “There are some interesting aspects to the 6th. Only 13 percent of its voters are black, but Latino and Asian voters comprise 21 percent of the electorate, second only to the neighboring 7th District to the east, where the combined Latino-Asian total is over 29 percent.”

Democrats should be on high alert for voter suppression shenanigans, leading up to the June 20th runoff election. Georgia’s current Secretary of State, Brian P. Kemp has been criticized for conducting “criminal investigations of voter registration drives, especially if they’re run by minority organizations.” As a former Georgia Secretary of State, Handel was also criticized for her efforts to reduce voter eligibility, as noted in her Wikipedia bio:

Soon after taking office as Georgia Secretary of State Handel, began a project to purge voter rolls.[15] By 2008, more than 50,000 registered Georgia voters had been “flagged” by state officials because of computer mismatches in personal identity information, forcing them to prove their eligibility.[15] Some eligible voters were told that they were “non-citizens” although in fact they were citizens.[15] The project raised fears about voter suppression, and was the subject of a federal lawsuit by the ACLU of Georgia and MALDEF, which accused Handel’s office of engaging in a “systematic purging procedure” expressly barred by federal law within 90 days of an elections.[15][16] In 2009, the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division ordered a halt to the state’s “voter verification” effort (denying it approval under the Voting Rights Act of 1965), determining that “thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged” and that the “flawed” program “frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote.”[16] The marked the first time since the 1990s that the Justice Department had denied approval to a change in Georgia election practice.[16] Handel defended her program, asserting that it was appropriate and necessary.[16]

Handel may be more vulnerable for her virulent opposition to Planned Parenthood, which remains popular with educated women, a large segment of 6th district voters. As Baxter notes, “The 6th is 64 percent white, according to the Almanac of American Politics, and its generally well-educated and affluent voters come from all over the place.”

Republicans are going to bring in bundles of corporate cash and their top spin-doctors to try and stop Ossoff. GA-6 is in for an intense ad war.

Ossoff’s campaign has to navigate a tricky course to win the runoff, deftly exploiting Handel’s extremism on a range of social issues, but emphatically not at the expense of under-selling needed economic reforms, such as infrastructure investment and creative ideas for bringing jobs to the 6th district. He will also have to parry personalized attacks against his age, money and residence, while avoiding gaffes.

Ossoff has to project an image of a dynamic, pro-active and energetic champion of economic uplift for his district. Equally-important, his campaign, message and ad-makers are going to have to bring their A-game in both early voting and June 20th turnout mobilization. It’s a formidable challenge, but Ossoff’s 48.1 showing indicates that he is in a good position to meet it.

Political Strategy Notes

Alex Seitz-Wald has a sneak preview of possible Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 at nbcnews.com, including: Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Tammy Duckworth, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Murphy, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown and Kamala Harris; Govs. Andrew Cuomo, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Dan Malloy, and Terry McAuliffe; former Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Vice President Joe Biden; along with business leaders Sheryl Sandberg, Howard Schultz and Mark Cuban and film actors George Clooney and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. A few House Democrats, including Tim Ryan (OH-13), Elijah Cummings (MD-7) and Adam Schiff (CA-28) have recently demonstrated impressive political gravitas, party commitment and media skills that merit inclusion on such a list. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, current chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, may also be interested.

Protestors Call Out Trump for Hiding Taxes, Breaking His Promise:

Speaking of taxes, check out “New poll shows what Americans really think about taxes: the rich should pay more” by Matthew Yglesias who notes at Vox: “Americans’ top concern about the tax code is that they want corporations and wealthy individuals to pay more taxes. Even among rank-and-file Republicans, soaking the rich is at least moderately popular…That’s according to a new report out from the Pew Center that takes a deep dive into public opinion on taxes. It reveals that there is extraordinarily little public support for the main thrust of GOP tax reform efforts that aim to “simplify” the tax code and deliver lower rates for businesses and high-income households…upward of 60 percent of the public says they are very worried that some corporations and wealthy individuals aren’t paying their fair share.”

Jarvis DeBerry, a columnist for nola.com, reports that Alabama’s Republican ‘Luv Guv’ Robert Bentley’s diddling with a staffer may have screwed up his voter suppression initiative. As Deberry writes, “According to the impeachment report, Mason – nicknamed Flim Flam by the rest of the governor’s staff – was leading the governor around by the nose.  According to the impeachment report, “the Bentley-Mason relationship evolved to the point that nothing could be done in the Office without Mason’s sign-off.”  That press secretary stated that “Governor Bentley’s typical reaction to any advice given without Mason present was, ‘What does Rebekah think about it?'”…Well, apparently Rebekah thought it would be just swell for Alabama to shut down driver’s license bureaus in majority black counties after a photo ID became a necessity for voting.  Secretary of Alabama Law Enforcement Spencer Collier, who the report says “ultimately assented to the closure plan” was concerned enough about it that he told the state’s Attorney General’s office that he thought it may represent a violation of the Voting Right Acts…From AL.com: “The closures sparked a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which determined that the stoppages disproportionately affected black residents. The DOT determined that ALEA’s plans were a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.” Thus, the plan was thwarted.”

The latest GOP plan to weaken America’s health security is not going to inspire much support from consumers. In his New York Times article, “G.O.P. Bill Would Make Medical Malpractice Suits Harder to Win,” Robert Pear reports, “Low-income people and older Americans would find it more difficult to win lawsuits for injuries caused by medical malpractice or defective drugs or medical devices under a bill drafted by House Republicans as part of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act…The bill would impose new limits on lawsuits involving care covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. The limits would apply to some product liability claims, as well as to medical malpractice lawsuits involving doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.”

The Washington Post editorial, “Does Trump want to be the president who broke health care?,” puts it this way: “More desperate than clever, Mr. Trump’s talk of annihilating Obamacare, for which he would be justly blamed, is unlikely to coerce Democrats into supporting anything like the House Republican repeal-and-replace plan he backed, which failed to attract enough GOP support to pass the House. The indecency of Mr. Trump taking millions of Americans’ health care hostage is compounded by his suggestion that repeal-and-replace is about freeing budgetary space for Republicans to tinker with the tax code rather than about fixing health care. Even posing his threat, meanwhile, is astonishingly reckless.”

Can Trump Take Health Care Hostage?,” asks Paul Krugman in his syndicated column. “Mr. Trump promised health care that would be “far less expensive and far better”…all he and his allies had to offer were surging premiums, higher out-of-pocket expenses and mass loss of coverage…And on Wednesday, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he openly threatened to sabotage health care for millions if the opposition party doesn’t give him what he wants…“Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” he declared, referring to cost-sharing subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket expenses for low-income families, and are crucial even to higher-income families, because they help keep insurance companies in the system…Mr. Trump is trying to bully Democrats by threatening to hurt millions of innocent bystanders — ordinary American families who have gained coverage thanks to health reform…Maybe Mr. Trump believes that he could somehow shift the blame for the devastation he has threatened to wreak onto Democrats. “See, there’s the death spiral I predicted!” But that probably wouldn’t work even if he hadn’t effectively proclaimed his own guilt in advance. Voters tend to blame whoever holds the White House for bad things, and in this case they’d be right: If there is a death spiral, it will have Mr. Trump’s name on it, and deservedly so…But here’s the thing: Even if Mr. Trump wimps out, as he is doing on so many other issues, he may already have done much of the threatened damage. Insurers are deciding right now whether to participate in the 2018 Obamacare exchanges. Mr. Trump’s tough talk is creating a lot of uncertainty, which in itself may undermine coverage for many Americans.”

The Times also has a devastating editorial calling out “Mr. Trump’s 10-Second Convictions” as he “caters to the oligarchs who surround him, builds his personal fortune and stirs the darker passions of his base. Why else would he break his promise to release his taxes or relinquish control of his business? Mr. Trump now surrounds himself with the bankers he once lambasted; he’s lagged behind on promises of infrastructure jobs, manufacturing revival and health care, while opening up bidding on the wall. He’s decried Syria’s gas attack on “beautiful babies” but continues to bar Syria’s children from America…To attribute the president’s pirouettes to personal growth would also require ignoring what’s actually staring us in the face — that there is no foundation to this presidency. With his all-important ratings tanking, the reality-TV maestro is rewriting the script, enthusiastically swapping out any position in pursuit of a “deal.” He is revealing himself to be a tactical, transactional president, with no guiding convictions or principles beyond “winning.” Not winning for everyone, as he so famously promised. Winning for Mr. Trump…Democrats or House Freedom Caucus members, NATO members or Middle East dictators, potential allies or adversaries — all must be deeply unsettled by the one clear pattern emerging here, a pattern that is consistent with Mr. Trump’s treatment of others in private life, from his stiffing of his creditors to his swindling of students at Trump University: betrayal.,,And where does that leave the working-class voters who pinned their hopes on this man? They can live with what Mr. Trump calls successes, and hope that his interests align enough with theirs to achieve some peripheral benefit. Or they can press their legislators, and demand from Mr. Trump himself, that he stop spinning and start delivering.”

Tuesday’s jungle primary in GA-6 is drawing wide interest, primarilly because Democrat Jon Ossoff is doing exceptionally-well in the polls, and has demonstrated impressive prowess in fund-raising that is driving Republicans to distraction. The Washington Post opinion staff is running a little contest, “Guess the result of the Georgia special election (and win a prize).” So far, The Post has the following guestimates from four pundits: David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, Jon Ossoff’s first round vote share: 48 percent, Runoff: Karen Handel 51 percent, Ossoff 49 percent. Hanna Hope, chief of staff at the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, Ossoff’s first round vote share: 44 percent, Runoff: Bob Gray 58 percent, Ossoff 42 percent; Matthew Towery, managing partner of Opinion Savvy, Ossoff’s first round vote share: 47 percent, Runoff: Ossoff 52 percent, Handel 48 percent; Tom Davis, former representative (R-Va.), now director of federal government affairs for Deloitte, Ossoff’s first round vote share: 43 percent, Runoff: Handel 54 percent, Ossoff 46 percent.” Beat the pundits and “Submit your own guesstimates for this question below. (If the form is not displaying, click here.) The reader with the best guesstimate will receive a free “Democracy Dies in Darkness” T-shirt.

Political Strategy Notes

Democratic Senate candidates are doing well as their 2018 campaigns begin to crank up. As Ed Kilgore notes at New York Magazine, “The Democrats running in all those 2016 red states are by and large doing better than one might expect when it comes to job-approval ratings from their constituents. And the numbers do not invariably correlate to the presidential strength of the two parties in each state, either…Then we come to Democratic senators in states that Trump carried much more narrowly — indeed, narrowly enough that the usual midterm pushback against the party controlling the White House might erase any presumed GOP advantage entirely. All are in favorable territory…”

Alex Roarty of McClatchydc.com explores why “Liberals fume at Democratic establishment for refusing to take more risk,” and notes a debate about the role of the Democrtic Congressional Campaign Committee in the recent special congressional election in Kansas, in which a Democratic candidate lost in a bright red district by less than 7 percent: “The DCCC will continue its longstanding and failed model of helping only most favored candidates until grassroots disgust makes that stance untenable,” said Jeff Hauser, a longtime progressive strategist. “Taking `chances,’ especially in a cycle which might well prove to be a wave, should be the DCCC’s default approach.”…Democratic allies of the DCCC have argued that running TV ads in the Kansas district would do more harm than good because Republicans could have used them to argue that Thompson was a tool of the national party – a potent criticism in a conservative area. They also say that calls for the party to help with mail or field staff would have taken months of preparation for a race nobody knew would be competitive until last week. (The DCCC did not conduct a poll of the race until days before the election.)..Democrats in Washington – at the Democratic National Committee and the DCCC, which is House Democrats’ campaign arm – flatly reject the charge that they did anything wrong in Kansas, arguing that involvement from the national party would have been counterproductive and an unwise use of scarce resources. For many reasons, moving the needle in a district this conservative is difficult for a group like the DCCC.”

Trump’s gloating tweet, “Great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes, easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!” was met with the following tweet from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight: “Estes underperformed Trump’s margin by 20.3 points. If every district behaved like that, Dems would gain 122 (!) House seats next November…They’d also win Senate races next year in Texas, Utah and Mississippi (plus Arizona and Nevada).”

As political observers fix on the GA-6 House race, Kyle Kondix has this to say about it at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “We’re calling GA-6 a Toss-up, a designation we applied to the race roughly two weeks ago after the National Republican Congressional Committee sounded the alarm bell and started aggressively spending money in the district. That’s in addition to the millions the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that is close to Speaker Ryan, has also spent in the district. Since then, Ossoff’s huge fundraising has come to light, as have early voting statistics that seem to indicate heavy Democratic interest in the race (although Republicans, who have more candidate choices and thus perhaps waited longer to vote, are catching up)…So there’s a lot of uncertainty about the outcome: Polling, typically spotty in House races, generally shows Ossoff in the low 40s. If that’s all he gets in the first round of voting, and the combined Republican vote is over 50%, one would assume that Ossoff’s general election opponent would start with the upper hand: After all, the first round results are better than any poll — they are actual voting results that can be a preview of the runoff on June 20, if there is one. However, if Ossoff’s vote and the scattered votes for the four other Democratic candidates add up to a total approaching 50% (say, 45% or more), it may indicate that the runoff should be quite competitive. Obviously, a first-round win by Ossoff would be noteworthy because he would have exceeded Clinton’s 46.8% 2016 share significantly — and blown recent previous Democratic House performance in the district out of the water. Another factor: As of now, Ossoff and Democrats have not been attacking the Republicans because it’s anyone’s guess how the first round will play out, while outside GOP groups have been hammering Ossoff, hoping to drive down his numbers (and while Ossoff has been running lots of positive ads on his own behalf). Ossoff and national Democrats may be preparing to drop the hammer on whichever Republican emerges from the first round, again assuming Ossoff does not win outright on Tuesday. In other words, the dynamic changes on Tuesday in advance of a possible runoff: The GOP survivor goes from running against his or her fellow partisans to running against Ossoff, while Ossoff can shift into attack mode because he would have a clear opponent.”

According to a new CBS News poll (conducted 4/7-9), “More than half of Americans are worried about President Donald Trump’s ability to handle the situation with North Korea’s nuclear program, according to a new CBS News poll…Fifty-six percent of respondents described themselves as “uneasy” about Mr. Trump’s capabilities, while 39 percent said they were “confident” in his ability…On the plus side for Mr. Trump, a growing number of Americans say that he is not “too friendly” toward the Russian government. Forty-eight percent now say his approach to Russia is “about right,” and only 35 percent say he is too friendly. In February, that number was 43 percent.”

Yet, Claude Brodesser-Akner  of the NJ Advance Media for NJ.com reports, “A new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found that 69 percent of New Jerseyans believe Trump is not releasing his tax returns “because they would show his close financial ties to political business figures in Russia.” Forty-four percent believe this to be “possibly true,” while 25 percent say the statement is “definitely true…The FDU poll found whatever New Jerseyans believe about Trump and Russia, it’s sharply informed by their party affiliation…Four-in-ten (39 percent) of Garden State Democrats believe it’s “definitely true” that Trump is hiding a close connection to political and business figures in Russia.Just four percent of Republicans believe the same.”

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof taps into the insights of top experts of nonviolence and comes up with advice for the anti-Trump resistance. His key points: “First, advocates are often university-educated elites who can come across as patronizing. So skip the lofty rhetoric and emphasize issues of pocketbooks and corruption. Centrist voters may not care whether Trump is riding roughshod over institutions, but they’ll care if he rips them off or costs them jobs….Second, movements must always choose between purity and breadth — and usually they overdo the purity. It’s often possible to achieve more with a broader coalition, cooperating with people one partially disagrees with. I think it was a mistake, for example, for the Women’s March to disdain “pro-life” feminists…Third, nothing deflates an authoritarian more than ridicule. When Serbian youths challenged the dictator Slobodan Milosevic, they put his picture on a barrel and rolled it down the street, allowing passers-by to whack it with a bat…In recruiting for the Trump resistance, Stephen Colbert may be more successful than a handful of angry Democratic senators. Trump can survive denunciations, but I’m less sure that in the long run he can withstand mockery.”

“Bill Bishop, co-author of the book “The Big Sort” and a founder of The Daily Yonder, makes the case that the political split in America is not an urban-rural divide. Instead, he argues, it is between the largest cities and the rest of America. In an email, Bishop noted that…outside of cities of a million or more — and really outside of the 56 central city counties of these large metros — Democrats lose….This applies not only to presidential races, but to the House as well. In a piece for The Daily Yonder, Bishop wrote that “Democrats don’t have a ‘rural problem.’ They have an ‘everywhere-but-big-cities problem’.” He provided data on the pattern of partisan victory in 2014 House races on a scale from super urban to very rural. Democrats won a majority of districts only in the most urban counties, while Republicans won two out of every three in very rural districts.” – from Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times op-ed column, “Reaching Out to the Voters the Left Left Behind.”

At some point, the ‘worst flip-flopper ever‘ designation has got to cost votes.

Political Strategy Notes

Rebecca Savransky writes at The Hill: “A HuffPost/YouGov survey finds 51 percent of Americans support the president’s decision to order the airstrikes in retaliation for a chemical attack last week that killed civilians in northern Syrian. Thirty-two percent of Americans are opposed to the strikes and 17 percent are uncertain…Among Trump voters, 83 percent support the president’s decision, while just 11 percent oppose it….About 40 percent of Americans think the strikes were an appropriate response, compared to 25 percent who think they were too aggressive and 10 percent who think they were not aggressive enough….Still, only about one-third of Americans though think the airstrikes will be even somewhat likely to deter the future use of chemical weapons…Slightly more than one-third of respondents think the president should not take additional military action, compared to 20 percent who believe Trump should. Another 45 percent were unsure of what the president should do regarding future military action.”

“Fifty-seven percent of Americans approve of the airstrike against Syrian military targets – calling immoral the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons that led to the strike – but most are leery of any military involvement beyond airstrikes, a CBS News poll shows,” report Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto at cbsnews.com. Further, “President Trump’s overall approval rating edged up, though most respondents voice unease about his approach to Syria going forward, and say Congress must authorize further actions there…Seven-in-ten Americans think Mr. Trump needs to get authorization from Congress before any further action against Syria; more than half of Republicans agree…Since the strike. Mr. Trump’s overall job approval rating has seen an increase to 43 percent.  Slightly fewer now disapprove than did before. Forty-nine percent now disapprove of his performance. The increase in approval is driven mainly by independents, who are now at 42 percent approval up from 34 percent, while Republicans have held steady…Fewer Americans now see the president’s approach to Russia as “too friendly” than did in February. The drop is largely among independents.”

At The Guadian U.S. Edition, Owen Jones blisters some media for gushing about Trump’s order to bomb Syria: “So now we know what it takes for an unhinged, bigoted demagogue to win liberal applause: just bypass a constitution to fire some missiles. It had seemed as though there was consensus among those in the anti-Trump camp…Let’s examine what is being said about Trump now. A press he denounced as liars and “enemies of the people” are eating out of his hands, tiny or otherwise. “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States,” cooed CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria in response to the bombing. Trump “reacted viscerally to the images of the death of innocent children in Syria,” declared Mark Sandler in the New York Times. The original headline on that article, since amended? “On Syria Attack, Trump’s Heart Came First.”…So the man who once bragged to a baying audience that he would tell five-year-old Syrian refugees to their faces that the US would not offer them safety, is now driven by his heart. Touching indeed. The “moral dimensions of leadership” had penetrated Trump’s Oval Office, declared the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. MSNBC’s Brian Williams described the missile launches as “beautiful” three timesin the space of 30 seconds…History will ask: how did this man become president? And how did he maintain power when he did? Look no further than the brittle, weak, pathetic liberal “opposition”. The US deserves better, and so does the world.”

Weep not for the death of the judicial filibuster. Tom Donnelly and Jeffrey Rosen explain at The Atlantic why “Political Polarization Killed the Filibuster: The practice once promoted debate and compromise, but now, the 60-vote requirement is tantamount to a legislative death sentence.” The bottom line for Democrats is that Mitch McConnell easilly nuked the judicial filibuster, as he would have done for any Trump nominee, so it’s utility as a part of our ‘system of checks and balances’ is a sham. Good riddance.

At The Monkey Cage, John Sides offers a couple of notable insights about the ramifications of McConnell’s Garland blockade and deployment of the nuclear option, including “The confirmation of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has left shattered political conventions in its wake: the refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland, the first partisan filibuster of a high court nominee, and the demise of the Senate filibuster for judges altogether. All this smashed political pottery shows not only how polarized our politics have become, but how dramatically the stakes of filling a vacant Supreme Court seat have increased…the average tenure of a justice is much longer now. From 1941 to 1970, justices served an average of about 12 years. But from 1971 to 2000, they served an average of 26 years…In the first era, a two-term president typically would appoint four or five justices, or more than half the court. But since 1970, a two-term president would typically appoint two or three justices…the power of the Supreme Court has increased significantly. Over the 20th century, the court became more aggressive in declaring federal and state legislation unconstitutional. In the 1940s and 1950s, the court was invalidating about one act of Congress each year. In the 1990s, that number had become about four a year. Since 2010, it has been about three per year. And a bare count of numbers can’t capture the significance of key decisions: A decision that strikes down state laws that deny same-sex marriage has far greater resonance than a decision that strikes down one particular economic regulation…in our era of polarized and fragmented political parties, the court’s word is more often the last word. Congress is frequently too divided and paralyzed to reject the court’s interpretations of federal law…The Supreme Court confirmation wars will become less heated only if the stakes in individual appointments diminish. One way to bring that about would be a constitutional amendment limiting Supreme Court terms to 18 years, staggered so that vacancies would occur at regular two-year intervals. Academic authorities on the Court and others have been floating versions of such proposals for years, but they have gotten little political traction. Absent change of this sort, the confirmation wars are likely to grow hotter.” A promising idea, but it shouldn’t deflect history’s judgement on McConnell’s abuse of power, nor the GOP’s toxic embrace of politics as all-out warfare.

Politifact’s Allison Graves shares a couple of statistics about deployment of the filibuster that put Republican obstructionism in revealing perspective: “Less than one nominee per year was subject to a cloture filing in the 40 years before Obama took office. From 2009-13, the number of nominees subject to a cloture filing jumped to over seven per year…By our calculation, there were actually 68 individual nominees blocked prior to Obama taking office and 79 (so far) during Obama’s term, for a total of 147…By our count, cloture was filed on 36 judicial nominations during the first five years of Obama’s presidency, the same total as the previous 40 years combined.”

Greg Grandin argues at The Nation that “Obsession With the Russia Connection Is a High-Risk Anti-Trump Strategy: It lets Democrats off the hook for their own failures—and betting the resistance on finding a smoking gun is a fool’s game.” As Grandin writes, “I’m in favor of anything that undermines, or brings about the downfall of, Donald Trump. He’s a monster. And to the degree that focusing on his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia to game the 2016 election helps with this, then fine. The Senate should investigate and independent journalists should look for more damning information. But it’s high risk to bet the resistance on finding a smoking gun, proving that Donald Trump—not an associate, not some weird hanger-on, not even an in-law—knowingly worked with Putin to hack the DNC, or offered some back-channel dollars for a détente deal. Anything short of tying it to Trump means Trump survives. Tim Weiner, a former New York Times national security journalist and Pulitzer Prize–winning author, says the investigation of the Russian story could last years…As many others have pointed out, an obsessive focus on Putin absolves the Democratic Party from having to reckon with their own failings, as if it was Moscow that tricked Hillary Clinton to not campaign in Wisconsin, or to spend the whole month of August (after Bernie Sanders’s gracious call on his supporters to back her campaign) courting neocons.” Grandin is surely right that Dems must focus more on repairing their own failings, but letting Trump and Putin off the hook would likely green-light further Russian meddling to the dedytriment of Democrats.

In his syndicated column, Nicholas Kristof warns Democratic rank and file about the folly of stereotyping all working-class Trump voters as moral cretins and imbeciles: “Hatred for Trump voters also leaves the Democratic Party more removed from working-class pain. Democrats didn’t do enough do address this suffering, so Trump won working-class voters — because he at least faked empathy for struggling workers. He sold these voters a clunker, and now he’s already beginning to betray them. His assault on Obamacare would devastate many working-class families by reducing availability of treatment for substance abuse…So by all means stand up to Trump, point out that he’s a charlatan and resist his initiatives. But remember that social progress means winning over voters in flyover country, and that it’s difficult to recruit voters whom you’re simultaneously castigating as despicable, bigoted imbeciles.” Further, adds Kristof, “The blunt truth is that if we care about a progressive agenda, we simply can’t write off 46 percent of the electorate. If there is to be movement on mass incarceration, on electoral reform, on women’s health, on child care, on inequality, on access to good education, on climate change, then progressives need to win more congressional and legislative seats around the country. To win over Trump voters isn’t normalizing extremism, but a strategy to combat it.” And once again, Democrats don’t need to win all of the white working-class, just a slightly larger share of it. The view here is that this would not require a change in Democratic policies, and a more inclusive tone in political speech could help.

Robert Borosage’s article in the L.A. progressive, “Don’t Let Trump’s Bedlam Distract from Betrayals,” provides a well-stated analysis of the political challenge currenty facing Democrats: “Trump’s betrayals come less because he is ignorant than because he is cynical. He promises are written in the wind of his rhetoric. He is and always was a con man. His faux, right-wing populism can’t be answered with politics as usual. It must be answered with people’s movements and political leaders exposing the con and putting forth clear, bold reforms to make this economy work for working people…Our Revolution, People’s Action, Moveon, Democrats for America, Credo and others are right to build an independent capacity, fueled by small donations, to recruit, train and run progressives who can challenge our corrupted politics and its compromised politicians. A peace and justice movement will be needed to challenge the endless wars and global policing embraced by the national security elite of both parties…Resistance can’t be about restoration. It must be about fundamental reform. There are a lot of sophisticated, experienced Clinton and Obama people wedded to defending the old order. And too many Democratic politicians and political operatives are comfortable with the big money politics that corrupts our politics.”

How Dems Can Win Back Working-Class Communities

One of the questions of intense concern for Democrats in the nearly six months since the presidential election is how to win a larger share of white working-class voters, particularly rural areas. in In his  article, “Can the Democratic Party Be White Working Class, Too? While Hillary Clinton was losing Montana by more than 23 points, Steve Bullock was elected governor running as a progressive Democrat. What can the rest of us learn from Montana?” in The American Prospect, Justin Guest explores the phenomenal success of Montana Democrats in meeting this challenge, focusing on current Governor Steve Bullock. As Guest writes:

In the race for the White House, the Democratic presidential candidate has won steadily fewer U.S. counties with average incomes under the national median and with populations that are more than 85 percent white in every general election since 1996. Concentrated in the Midwest, Appalachia, and the upper Rocky Mountains, there are 660 such counties today. Hillary Clinton won two of them.

…So what does Steve Bullock know that Hillary Clinton’s army of consultants and advisers missed? Indeed, how can local politics inform a more national strategy for general elections and down-ballot races? In a predominantly white working-class state, Democrats have won four straight gubernatorial races, maintained one U.S. Senate seat since 1913, and recently won a series of other statewide races until losing the incumbent secretary of state and attorney general last autumn. Do Montana Democrats have a template that can be applied elsewhere?

Those are two great questions, which have significant implications for the future of the Democratic Party, especially in a region they would very much like to mine for support — the mountain west. Regarding Bullock, Guest observes,

While Hillary Clinton lost Montana by more than 20 points in 2016, Bullock was narrowly re-elected, winning by a margin of 50 percent to 46 percent…“I’ve never spent time with Donald Trump, and I don’t govern the same way,” he finally said. Quizzically, the second-term Democrat added, “20 percent of my voters supported him on the same ballot though…

I think Montanans knew that I was fighting for them. I spoke about public education, public lands, public money, and those are things that affect us all. We hunt, we fish, and I asked whether we are promoting all Montanans’ interests or only narrow special interests, and how we are going to build folks up individually.”Perhaps realizing that this doesn’t exactly coincide with most people’s impression of the president, he added, “If there is overlap, it’s making people know that I will fight for them, and that I work for them. I’m not sure that the values are that different in Manhattan, Montana; Manhattan, Kansas; or Manhattan, New York. People want to feel safe, have good schools, and want their kids to do better than they did.”

What Democrats have in Montana is a Governor, who is no bomb-thrower like Trump, with a personaliy that impresses his constituents with humility and sincerity, rather than braggadocio and bombast. Bullock is also a guy who does his homework, shows up prepared and is driven by a passion to serve, rather than gratify his ego. “Bullock is connecting with his brand of progressive populism,” writes Guest, ” —a focus on providing solid public education to level the playing field, protecting access to public lands, and maintaining public services without increasing taxes or instituting a sales tax.”

Guest provides several revealing quotes from his interviews with Montana workers who voted for Trump and Bullock. They provide insights like, “I don’t care about the wall, but I do care about infrastructure and focusing on this country. The reason why Donald Trump got elected is because the general working guy is infuriated by what’s happened in Washington.” Guest also flags the frequency of his interviewees expressing appreciation for candidates like Bullock who “show up” and connect on a human level with their constituents. “In an era when so much of politics is mediated by cable news, scripted social media missives, and airbrushed web profiles,” writes Guest, “showing up reveals candidates’ humanity. It is where bonds are born.”

As for the way Democrats navigate Montana’s homogeniety (the largest minority is native Americans, who are 6 percent of the population), Guest observes,

That same homogeneity benefits Democrats in Montana. For example, whereas Georgia Democrats must bond with Atlanta’s cosmopolitans and African Americans before rural white voters down the I-75 corridor, Montana Democrats’ focus is undivided.

“Yeah, I suppose it’s a benefit, the homogeneity,” Bullock told me, upon reflection. “But if the premise is that Democrats have lost white working-class men, then that could be a [national] problem, yeah. In 2020, you could weave together a coalition based on identity politics. If that’s the bedrock foundation, you might win the presidency, but you’ll lose the country. I don’t want to be part of a party that ideologically only reflects the East and West Coasts. And while our experiences are different, I think a Native American, Latino, or me, as parents, have the same aspirations for our kids. Your hopes are the same.”

Currently, searching for rural Democrats in the national party caucus is, as they say in Montana, diggin’ where there ain’t no taters. There is little space for Pat Williams who was broadly against gun control, Brian Schweitzer who supported the construction of oil pipelines, John Tester who pushed for the once-endangered gray wolf to be fair game. In turn, the party of diversity appears quite exclusive and inhospitable for key electoral constituencies, like the working-class voters of Montana.

The Montana experience suggests that Democrats must either compromise or risk being ideologically “pure” but confined to their strongholds in coastal cities.

Guest has a lot to say about how the Democratic Party lost credibility in working-class communities by embracing globalization and identity politics, while cozying up to Wall. Street and financial hustlers, beginning in the late 1980s. He quotes Leo Gerard, president of the Steelworkers Union: “Step by step, Democrats tried to broaden their base at the expense of working-class families…You didn’t lose the [2016] election because you had a shortage of rich white voters; you lost because working-class people, unionists, had nowhere to go.” Guest continues,

I think of these white working-class people as the “Exasperated,” as I wrote in Politico in February: “They feel betrayed by the countless politicians who have stood in front of shuttered mills and smelters and promised to bring manufacturing and mining economies back to life. It’s why they have swung from party to party, from year to year—often reacting to the failures of previous candidates to deliver.” They choose to sit elections out. “They are not ‘Independent’ so much as they are just constantly disappointed. The Exasperated voted against Clinton in 2016 because, as a longtime member of the Washington establishment, she portended more broken promises. They voted for Trump because he was the first politician in a generation to make a deliberate, authentic pitch for their support.”

Guest quotes pollster Celinda Lake and Democratic strategist Joe Lamson, who observe,

“America is not a pretty place when things are contracting,” said Lake, who hails from Montana and now runs a prominent polling firm in Washington, D.C. “Racism and sexism emerge when people think that America is losing its place—when things start to feel zero-sum. And identity politics accentuates that. We articulated ‘Stronger Together’ with a divisive candidate and ‘Together’ didn’t seem to include white, blue-collar types. They don’t think they’re part of that togetherness.”

“Hillary’s campaign could not fathom losing the Rust Belt,” and they weren’t speaking to their particular issues, said Lamson. “People just couldn’t relate to her because they thought that she would take away their guns and shut down the natural resource industry. It was hard to go anywhere after that. … I mean, why are we spending all of our time talking about bathrooms? It’s not that it’s not important; it’s just a matter of perspective.”

Lake recalled a line Brian Schweitzer liked to use: “Yeah, I’m for gay marriage rights, but I think you care a whole lot more about whether there’s grain on the High Line.”

Guest closes his article with a message that deserves consideration from every Democratic candidate seeking votes from working-class communities:

Integrating Montana’s template into Democratic success will entail integrating Montana’s constituents—white, working-class, often rural voters who, despite their cultural differences, face many of the same frustrations with debt, health care, and labor as other working-class people in the Democratic coalition.

No doubt, much of the national partisan landscape depends on how Donald Trump and congressional Republicans govern. But for Democrats, this is also a question of how inclusive their party really is.

If the Democratic candidates want to be considered truly inclusive, they are going to have to reach out, ‘show up’ and proclaim their support for white working-class constituents, along with women, people of color, youth, seniors and all other identity groups. When that becomes an active principle of every Democratic campaign in every state-wide, congressional and state legislative district, Republican domination of American politics will disintegrate into a bad memory.

Political Strategy Notes

Ed Kilgore, Eric Benson, Morgan Kinney, Jordan Larson, Amelia Schonbek, Isaac Shuband Matt Stieb collabrate on a major analysis at New York Magazine, “Will This Midterm Be Different From All Other Midterms? Will the race portend a sea change for 2018? The most up-for-grabs seats in an election year that could be epic.” The authors provide an in-depth preview of 30 key races for seats in the House of Representatives. In his introduction to the preview Ed Kilgore notes, “Thanks to a highly adverse Senate landscape in 2018 — Democrats must defend 25 seats, ten in states carried by Trump — the House offers the best opportunity to disrupt the GOP’s congressional stranglehold. Democrats will need 24 seats to win a majority there — 23 if Jon Ossoff wins his special election in Georgia later this month…“Tsunami” elections like those Democrats are hoping for in 2018 often build slowly. But across the country anti-Trump activists believe they can see big waves gathering. We may hear their distant thunder very soon.”

Adam Jentleson, senior strategic adviser at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, offers a rationale for Democratic filibuster against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court in his New York Times op-ed, “Mitch McConnell’s Nuclear Trigger Finger.” Jentleson writes “Going nuclear, or changing Senate rules to make a Supreme Court confirmation possible with a simple majority, would be a hugely disproportionate response to reasonable Democratic opposition and will expose Mr. McConnell’s much-ballyhooed “institutionalism” as the fraud it has always been…Even though the word “institutionalist” is frequently uttered in the same breath as Senator McConnell’s name, nothing could be further from the truth. No institutionalist would abide so many filibusters or deny a qualified nominee like Judge Garland a hearing…If Senator McConnell blows up Senate rules to jam through President Trump’s nominee, he will be exposed as the radical that he truly is.” In other words, McConnell has to pay a price for his heavy-handed denial of even a fair hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, even if it makes an easier path to confirmation for the next Republican Supreme Court nominee. The argument has some merit, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others may have a more compelling case that, because Trump is under investigation for facilitating Putin’s interference in America’s 2016 election, Democrats should oppose all of his nominees, at least as long as the investigation is underway.

It’s fallen to a courageous U.S. Senator from a red state, Claire McCaskill, however, to make the overriding moral case against the Gorsuch nomination: “I cannot support Judge Gorsuch because a study of his opinions reveal a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations. He is evasive, but his body of work isn’t. Whether it is a freezing truck driver or an autistic child, he has shown a stunning lack of humanity…Then there is Citizens United, the single most corrupting force in the history of politics in this nation. I cannot and will not support a nominee that allows dark and dirty anonymous money to continue to flood unchecked into our elections…I reject this nomination because Judge Gorsuch would continue an activist position that states that corporations have the same rights as people. The men who wrote our Constitution would reject that nonsense, since they were highly suspect of corporations as the tools of royalty. Corporations don’t cry or laugh or marry or worry about sending their kids to college. Judge Gorsuch’s allegiance to corporations disqualifies him from the highest court in the land…The President who promised working people he would lift them up has nominated a judge who can’t even see them.”

At The Nation, Joshua Holland provides additional arguments for the Demoratic filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination, including “…The White House and Congressional Republicans are currently on the ropes, reeling from the defeat of Paul Ryan’s awful health-care plan, and Politico reports that they’re “desperate for a win on Gorsuch.” Democrats shouldn’t give it to them without a fight. As the minority party, it’s probably not possible to keep that seat open until a legitimately elected president takes office, but sending them back to the drawing board for another nominee—and demanding someone more moderate than Gorsuch—would eat up more of the legislative calendar and further weaken an already unpopular president…Mitch McConnell was OK with an eight-justice Supreme Court for the past 14 months, and Republicans vowed to keep it that way by blocking Hillary Clinton’s nominee if she had won. They created the precedent, and Democrats would be foolish to “buck their base” and not follow the GOP’s lead.”

For a summation of the concerns about filbustering the Gorsuch nomination, read Alexander Bolton’s  Senators fear fallout of nuclear option” at The Hill. But the most regrettable thing is that McConnell’s refusal to give Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing has escalated rancor about Supreme Court nominations beyond measure and further crippled already diminished hopes for bipartisanship.

“After five days of early voting in the special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district,” writes Daniel Marans at HuffPo, “Democratic voter turnout has significantly outpaced that of Republicans…That is a good sign for Democrats hoping that the surge in liberal enthusiasm after the election of President Donald Trump will be enough to elect 30-year-old candidate Jon Ossoff. The seat opened up when Trump named former Rep. Tom Price to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services…Of the more than 8,100 people who have voted so far in the suburban Atlanta district, 44 percent were Democrats and 23 percent were Republicans, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a political science professor and election specialist at the University of Florida…McDonald’s end-of-week estimates are consistent with the findings of New York Times election expert Nate Cohn for the first day of early voting. Using a slightly different methodology, Cohn found that Democrats constituted 60 percent of voters of those who voted on Monday, compared with 28 percent of Republicans…It is important to note of course that early voting is not a rock-solid indicator of final election outcomes. Early general-election voting patterns in North Carolina and Florida, for example, appeared to favor Hillary Clinton, but she ended up losing both states in November.”

More evangelicals vote Republican than otherwise. But Scott Malone’s Reuters article, “Religious left’ emerging as U.S. political force in Trump era” flags a trend which presents a more complex — and hopeful — picture. As Malone explains, “Although not as powerful as the religious right…the “religious left” is now slowly coming together as a force in U.S. politics…This disparate group, traditionally seen as lacking clout, has been propelled into political activism by Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics. A key test will be how well it will be able to translate its mobilization into votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections…”It’s one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn’t done a good job of organizing,” said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York. “It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square,” Hornbeck said…Although support for the religious left is difficult to measure, leaders point to several examples, such as a surge of congregations offering to provide sanctuary to immigrants seeking asylum, churches urging Republicans to reconsider repealing the Obamacare health law and calls to preserve federal spending on foreign aid.The number of churches volunteering to offer sanctuary to asylum seekers doubled to 800 in 45 of the 50 U.S. states after the election, said the Elkhart, Indiana-based Church World Service, a coalition of Christian denominations which helps refugees settle in the United States – and the number of new churches offering help has grown so quickly that the group has lost count…Leaders of Faith in Public Life, a progressive policy group, were astounded when 300 clergy members turned out at a January rally at the U.S. Senate attempting to block confirmation of Trump’s attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, because of his history of controversial statements on race. “I’ve never seen hundreds of clergy turning up like that to oppose a Cabinet nominee,” said Reverend Jennifer Butler, the group’s chief executive.The group on Wednesday convened a Capitol Hill rally of hundreds of pastors from as far away as Ohio, North Carolina and Texas to urge Congress to ensure that no people lose their health insurance as a result of a vote to repeal Obamacare.Financial support is also picking up. Donations to the Christian activist group Sojourners have picked up by 30 percent since Trump’s election, the group said…The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, which encourages alliances between Jewish and Muslim women, has tripled its number of U.S. chapters to nearly 170 since November, said founder Sheryl Olitzky.”

Timothy Egan’s New York Times op-ed ‘Trump’s Chumps” provides a compelling litany of Trump’s betrayals of his working class supporters. But he also offers some advice to progressives who are ready to write off this constituency: “In a New York magazine piece titled “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly,” Frank Rich wrote that white voters without a college degree, who went for Trump by 39 points, are never going to come around — no matter how much this president turns his back on them. An earlier piece, from the right, made some of the same points. “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good,” Kevin Williamson wrote in National Review. “So does OxyContin.”…The condescension, like the opioids, may feel good as well, but it won’t do anything to help the forces of reason and progress. The way to bring around the forgotten men and women is to remind them, every day, that Trump has forgotten them. And to give them something — say, Medicare for all, being pushed by the energized Bernie Sanders base — to back words with action.”

In her HuffPo post, “The Anti-Trump Movement In North Carolina Has The Potential To Flip The South: Activists say the state’s long history of protesting has prepared it for this political climate,” Juila Craven sees reason for Democrats to be encouraged by recent developments in at least one southern state: “Many people assume North Carolina is a Republican state, but the state Senate was under Democratic control from 1992 to 2011. Democrats also controlled the state House from 1992 to 1994, and again from 1999 to 2010. Only three Republican governors have led the state in the last 50 years, and North Carolina went blue for former President Barack Obama in 2008. But that was the first time since 1976 that the state had voted for a Democratic presidential nominee, and it went for Republicans Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Last year’s election was very close, however: Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just 3.6 percent. Activists say they hope flipping North Carolina can cause a ripple effect across the 14 states that constitute the South. Republicans below the Mason-Dixon Line currently control 24 Senate seats, 110 House seats and 180 Electoral College votes (167 of which went to Trump in November)…“If you fundamentally shift any of those states ― and they begin to vote in more progressive ways ― then you fundamentally change the American democracy and the landscape,” Rev. William Barber, the president of North Carolina’s NAACP, told reporters last year. An estimated 80,000 people participated in the 11th annual Forward Together Moral March on Feb. 11, which Barber led. This year’s march focused on the duty of participants to stand against the Trump administration and its policies ― such as repealing the Affordable Care Act ― as well as race-based gerrymandering and HB 2. An estimated 80,000 people participated in the 11th annual Forward Together Moral March on Feb. 11, which Barber led. This year’s march focused on the duty of participants to stand against the Trump administration and its policies ― such as repealing the Affordable Care Act ― as well as race-based gerrymandering and HB 2…“We march not as a spontaneous action but as a movement that stands upon deep foundations of organizing that have gone on for years, setting the groundwork for times such as this,” Barber said to the crowd at the march. “Four years later we realize we have been preparing all along for such a time as this.”