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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: A Case for Concerned Optimism on Midterms

The following post by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis  is cross-posted from his facebook page:

Time to panic….or not?

Keen-eyed observers of recent polling data will have noticed that Trump’s approval rating has edged up lately achieving the exalted level of 42 percent in 538’s rolling approval average. In addition, the generic Congressional ballot has also narrowed so that Democrats now have only a comparatively weak 5 point lead over the GOP in 538’s rolling average.

These figures are both the best Trump and the GOP have achieved for almost exactly a year. So…how worried should Democrats be?

Well, here’s the thing. Even as this trend has manifested itself, the Democrats’ prospects in specific 2018 races have remained very good–if anything, they have improved (see the link to Inside Elections’ latest rating changes). And of course, the results of elections that have already been held in 2017-18 have been nothing short of spectacular for the Democrats. Nate Cohn runs it down:

“On average, Democrats have run 14 points ahead of a district’s partisanship (as measured by the last two presidential elections, compared with the national popular vote) in special elections for Republican-held districts so far this cycle. They’ve run more than 20 points ahead on three occasions — Kansas’ Fourth, Pennsylvania’s 18th and Arizona’s Eighth — and that doesn’t include Doug Jones’s victory in the Alabama Senate race.

These Democratic over-performances are a startling departure from the Obama years, when congressional election results polarized along national political lines.

Over the more than 1,000 special and general House elections in Democratic-held districts in the Obama era, there were only four elections when the Republicans ran 20 points ahead of the district’s lean in presidential elections. This cycle’s Democrats have pulled it off three times out of seven.

In a broader historical context, though, the Democratic over-performance is not quite as startling. It is still impressive, but the Democrats ran 20 points ahead of a Republican-held district’s presidential partisanship in 31 races combined in 2006 and 2008.

Over all, the Democrats’ performance in 2018 special congressional elections looks a lot like their showing in open districts in 2006, and well above the average from wave elections in 1994, 2006, 2008 and 2010. On average, Democrats ran 14 points ahead of a district’s partisanship in open races in 2006 — exactly the same as the Democratic over-performance so far this cycle. The Democrats had a similar 10-point over-performance in 2008.”

So, there you have it. Some cause for concern, some cause for optimism. Where you land may depend partly on your personality type and partly on your preferred interpretation of the GOP’s recent polling uptick. Finally getting payoff from an improving economy? Endless press coverage of Trump scandals actually benefits Trump? Democratic malpractice? Just a blip? Not enough of a swing to counteract Democratic enthusiasm?

Personally, I vote for concerned optimism. YMMV.

Greenberg and Gardner: Democrats must speak to party’s base to win in midterms

The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg, a founder of Democrracy Corps, and Page S. Gardner, president of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, is cross-posted from The Hill:

With approval ratings of 42 percent for President Trump and a dismal 18 percent for the Republican Congress, Democrats could be poised to win landslide victories in this year’s elections — from the U.S. House and Senate to governorships and state legislatures. But they’ll lose this opportunity if they don’t address the economic challenges confronting their strongest supporters, who are at risk of staying home on election day.

Struggling to stay even economically, and with a history of under-participating politically, the Democratic Party’s base consists largely of people of color, unmarried women and young people. Now numbering an estimated 133 million adults, these fast-growing groups constitute what we call the “Rising American Electorate,” or RAE. Since 2016, they’ve comprised a clear majority of the voting-age population.

The RAE still doesn’t register or vote in proportion to its increasing share of the population. Although they accounted for almost six in 10 people who were eligible to vote in 2016, these voters made up little more than half (52.6 percent) of the voting electorate — and, compared to past elections, that turnout was a high watermark.

Research from the Voter Participation Center shows that 40 million voters from 2016 won’t cast ballots in 2018, and two-thirds of these “drop-off “voters will be members of the RAE. In the effort to engage this emerging electoral majority, the stakes couldn’t be higher — for the Democratic Party and the democratic process. Having suffered discrimination by race, gender, ethnicity and marital status, the RAE has been overlooked, underrepresented and underserved by every level of government.

Over the last few elections, RAE members have made progress in closing the gap and are a larger share of the electorate – but there is still work to do. If their increasing representation is reversed in November, the political system will lose legitimacy and public policies will become disconnected from the fastest-growing segments of society, with disastrous consequences for our country.

While President Trump and his critics squabble, the danger of disconnection between the RAE and the political process is great — and growing. Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund and Democracy Corps just conducted groundbreaking research that concentrated on Democratic base voters and potential swing voters in 12 battleground states.

The findings should serve as a wakeup call: The Democrats’ momentum has stalled because the party isn’t focusing enough on the economic and health care challenges confronting its base supporters as well as swing voters, particularly white working-class women. (This failure is bipartisan: While some African-Americans, Latinos, unmarried women and young people are tuning out on the Democrats, they aren’t turning to the Republicans.)

In order to reconnect with the RAE, Democrats should not be distracted by the Trump administration’s boasts of a “booming economy.” Democratic base voters and white working-class women are struggling to survive in a world very different from Washington and Wall Street. Their wages aren’t keeping up with rising costs, especially the cost of health care. Some 70 percent of African-Americans and white unmarried women say they haven’t benefited from the GOP tax cut, as do about 60 percent of Hispanics and white working-class women. These voters are also concerned that tax cuts that reward the rich and add trillions of dollars to the deficit will be paid for by cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

In this research, these voters respond to an economic message that says our elected officials must do better than a short-term spending spree that endangers retirement security for older Americans, health care for families, and education. Saddened by school shootings, disgusted by the lack of progress on commonsense gun safety from politicians, and inspired by student protests, millennials also respond to appeals about gun safety, including universal background checks and ban on assault-style weapons, as well as the economic message.

These messages speak to RAE members and increase interest in the 2018 elections across the board, including among millennials. While only 37 percent of the RAE expressed great interest in voting when first asked, this jumps to 43 percent after hearing messages in touch with their daily struggles.

That’s good news for anyone who is concerned with revitalizing representative government. When a majority of Americans — unmarried women, people of color and young people — can cast their ballots, give voice to their concerns, and hold their elected officials accountable, then public policies will be more effective and we will set a powerful example to the world that American democracy is stronger than ever.

Russo: Is There Hope for a Blue Ripple (not Wave) in Ohio? Democrats need to do like Sherrod Brown and promote a progressive populism

The following article by John Russo, visiting researcher at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, co-author of Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstown, and co-editor with Sherry Linkon of the blog Working-Class Perspectives, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

On the day after the Ohio primary election, President Trump tweeted about Michael DeWine’s victory in the Republican gubernatorial contest: “Congratulations to Mike DeWine on his big win in the Great State of Ohio. He will be great Governor with a heavy focus on HealthCare and Jobs. His Socialist opponent in November should not do well, a big failure in last job!” With less hyperbole (and fewer capital letters) Politico noted a “lack of enthusiasm” among Ohio Democrats, who selected Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general and then the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as their gubernatorial candidate. Statewide, 147,000 fewer Democratic voted than Republicans, and DeWine received 73,000 more votes than Cordray. DeWine also received more votes than Cordray in 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Based on these numbers, Ohio Republicans seem to be doing just fine.

But primaries aren’t always good predictors of general elections, and Democrats have several reasons to be more optimistic than the turnout numbers suggest. As David Peppers, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), has pointed out, uncompetitive races might have kept voter turnout low for his party’s primary. Even more important, while the raw numbers make the gap between Republican and Democratic turnout seem huge, as a percentage of primary votes cast, Democrats gained ground this year. In 2016, Republicans got 62.5 percent of the state’s 3.2 million primary votes. This year, they won 827,039 votes out a total of 1,524777, or just 54.2 percent. That is a significant drop, especially considering that Ohio Republicans significantly outspent Democrats in the primaries.

Does the drop reflect a return to the Democratic Party by voters who crossed over to vote Republican in 2016? Or did those swing voters just not turn out for the primary? Until we have more data, it’s hard to tell. But regardless of the reason, the gap between the parties seems to be narrowing—a shift that could help Democrats this fall.


Abramowitz: Democratic Lead in Generic Ballot Holds Steady

Despite concerns about a slight uptick in Trump’s approval ratings in some recent polls, Alan I. Abramowitz, Senior Columnist, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, makes the case that “The Very Stable House Generic Ballot” bodes well for Democrats.

“On average,” writes Abramowitz, “Democrats led the generic ballot by 7.1 points over the past year. The monthly average ranged from 6.2 points in February 2018 to 10.1 points in December 2017. The December result was clearly an outlier, however, and may have led to a misinterpretation of more recent results as indicating a significant decline in the Democratic lead.”

When it comes to evaluating poll averages, Ambramowitz makes ful use of available data, explaining that “Over the past 12 months (May 2017 to April 2018), there were a total of 279 generic ballot polls included in FiveThirtyEight’s database. I used the raw, unadjusted poll results (in other words, I used the actual poll results as opposed to the adjusted numbers FiveThirtyEight uses in its average). The number of polls ranged from 18 to 32 per month.” The results are quite impressive and consistent over time, as Ambramowitz notes:

On average, Democrats led by 7.1 points over the past year, and Democrats have led in almost every individual poll. The monthly average ranged from 6.2 points in February 2018 to 10.1 points in December 2017. The December result was clearly an outlier, however, and may have led to a misinterpretation of more recent results as indicating a significant decline in the Democratic lead. Except for the December results, the monthly averages have fallen within a fairly narrow range of 6.2 to 7.8 points. December 2017 was also generally the weakest time for President Donald Trump’s approval rating, so the Republican brand as a whole just seemed weaker in December than before or since.

No wonder Republicans prefer to emphasize Trump’s slight improvement in his average approval ratings, or any other data points aside from the generic ballot data. Looking toward the midterm elections, Abramowitz adds,

What does this Democratic lead mean for the fall? While experts differ on how large of a lead Democrats need to feel good about their chances to flip the House, my House prediction model — described here in a previous Crystal Ball article — suggests lead of as small as four points might be sufficient, although the model’s standard error is wide enough that Democrats certainly would feel better about their odds if their lead in the generic ballot average was in the high single or even low double digits. Table 2 shows the model’s predictions for Democratic seat gains based on the House generic ballot average.

Table 2: Predicted change in Republican House seats by generic ballot polling

Teixeira: Class Mobility Considerations for Political Messaging and Policy Advocacy

The following post by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis (cross-posted from his facebook page):

What’s happening with the middle class?

Does the middle class want to get ahead faster or stop falling? It makes a difference which of these is correct, when thinking about what message to promulgate and what programs to emphasize.

Noah Smith rounds up data that suggest a focus on getting ahead faster might be warranted, despite the well-known problems with wage gains since the 1970’s.

“The average American has, in fact, seen modest gains since the early 1970s; the falling wages of production workers don’t tell the whole story. A more comprehensive measure is median real person income. This, it turns out, has risen substantially since 1974 — though at a slower pace than in the past decades. If the consumer price index is used as the inflation measure, real income has gone up by about a third. If personal consumption expenditure inflation — which covers more goods and takes greater account of changes in consumption habits — is used instead, the rise is more than 40 percent:

The median American’s income fell in the late 1970s, then began a steady multidecade rise, interrupted by recessions in the early 1990s and early 2000s. In the 2000s, incomes began to stagnate, then took a disastrous beating during the Great Recession. But the recovery beginning in 2013 was robust, and by 2016 income was at a record high.

Personal income looks at individual adults. But other measures, such as median family income, tell the same story of a slow and bumpy rise.

What explains the difference between wages and income? Two things. First, wages aren’t the only way Americans make money in the market. Income from assets, like retirement accounts and pensions, is increasingly important, as are nonwage compensation like employer contributions to retirement accounts. Second, the income numbers include government transfers, which have shifted more and more income from rich Americans to those who earn less in the market. These factors are all bigger than in the 1970s:

Increased redistribution has been helping the poor as well as the middle class. Recent calculations by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that child poverty in the U.S. has fallen to record lows once government assistance is taken into account.”

I would add to Smith’s account the following:

Consider the basic measure of a society’s affluence, GDP per capita. Per capita GDP in the US rose by 111 percent between 1947 and 1979. Between 1979 and 2007 (the last business cycle peak) growth was slower, but per capita GDP still rose by 67 percent over the time period . Obviously, the US became a much richer society over that time period, despite the slower growth.

Of course, this growth has been very unequally distributed, so the effect of this growth on living standards has been much more modest than that suggested by the substantial increase in GDP per capita. The starkest measure of this are the figures for growth of family income from the Census Current Population Survey (CPS). In the 1947-79 period, median family income went up 113 percent, closely matching the gain in GDP per capita over the time period. But in the 1979-2007 period, median family income grew from around $56,000 to $66,000 (2011 dollars), a gain of only 18 percent . Obviously, this lags far behind the growth of GDP per capita over the same time period. On the other hand, it is a gain of nearly a fifth—modest in comparative terms but not nothing and certainly not backsliding.

Moreover, the CPS data do not take into account the changing size of households, the value of non-cash benefits (food stamps, employer-provided health insurance, etc) and changes in the tax structure. Thus—and there are endless arguments about this among economists —the CPS data may underestimate the gain in living standards over time. Indeed, once all that is taken into account, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that real (inflation-adjusted) after- tax income for the median household grew 50 percent between 1979 and 2007. Again, even this figure lags behind the growth of GDP per capita and is short measure compared to the 314 percent increase for the top 1 percent—but it is far from nothing. Even if one splits the difference between the CPS and CBO figures—in effect, assuming some of the CBO income is not as important as the unadjusted cash income measured by CPS—that would still give median income growth of 34 percent between 1979 and 2007. This is disappointing by historical standards but is far from the miserable picture embraced by many on the left. As the Pew Research Center notes, 84 percent of today’s adults have family incomes above what their parents had at similar ages .

Also lost in the standard tale of middle class decline is the fact that life cycle improvements in living standards have not been repealed by the relatively poor post-1979 environment. That is, it is still the case that as people age, they and their families typically get substantially better off. For example, economist Stephen Rose studied the same individuals as captured by the longitudinal Panel Survey of Income Dynamics and found that 20-31 year olds in 1979 experienced a median growth rate of 56 percent in their income as they aged to 48-59 by 2007.

Speaking of the middle class, this can be another source of definitional dispute between researchers. It is quite possible, for example, for the middle class under some definitions to become smaller even as there is considerable upward mobility from the middle class. This is demonstrated by a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center . According to Pew’s definition of the middle class—those with size-adjusted household incomes between two-thirds to double the median—the middle class shrank from 61 percent of adults to 50 percent in the 1971-2015 period. However, most of that shrinkage was due an increase in the share of adults who were in the upper middle or highest classes (up 7 points) rather than an increase in the share of adults who were in the lower middle or lowest classes (up 4 points). So the middle class, under their definition did shrink, but primarily because of upward, not downward, mobility.

Another excessively gloomy claim about the last several decades is that middle class jobs are disappearing and being replaced by “McJobs”. However, this view equates the decline of low skill, relatively well-paid jobs like those in manufacturing—which has been going on since 1948–to an overall decline in middle class jobs, which is not merited. The middle class jobs of today are in the growth areas of offices and high skill services. These two areas of the economy now provide 64 percent of all jobs and have expanded more as a share of jobs since 1967 than manufacturing and related jobs have declined. Thus, middle class jobs are not disappearing but have rather have moved to different sectors that require higher levels of education and cognitive training.

When thinking about progress in living standards it is also important to keep in mind the ways life has improved for most Americans that are not reflected in income or jobs data . For example, American life expectancy has gone up 5 years since 1979. Homes are far bigger (median new home size has risen from 1600 to 2600 square feet since 1979) and more well-appointed; food and clothing are cheaper and take up a smaller proportion of family budgets; cars are safer and get better gas mileage; access to travel and leisure, including foreign travel, has gone up; and device-enabled connection to the internet has brought the typical American into contact with a universe of information and entertainment that was literally unthinkable 30 or 40 years ago.

That’s progress. Now what we need is more of it–and faster please.

Survey Shows Need for New Democratic Message Platform in Key Midterm Battlegrounds

The following memo by Page Gardner of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Research and Nancy Zdunkewicz of Democracy Corps, is cross-posted from Democracy Corps:

Democrats sit at the edge of a landslide repudiation of President Trump and Republicans – in the Congress and states where they govern in November. Though their momentum has stalled in the last few months, Democrats have important opportunities with minorities, millennials, and unmarried women, and, to some extent, white working class women, that will allow them to increase the number of competitive races and dominate in many battlegrounds in 2018. This is according to the first of three waves of a phone survey (conducted mostly on cell-phones) of registered voters and a coordinated on-going web-panel of more than 3,100 target voters in 12 states that include 12 Governor races, 10 Senate races, and 18 races in DCCC battleground districts. This suite of research provides clear guidance for progressives to get on the winning track.1

Democratic victories in 2017 and 2018 were the result of differential turnout and strong perfor- mance across base and swing groups. Compared to 2016, there is a greater belief that the results of elections matter. But in the past few months, Democrats have appeared less focused on the economic and health care battles that most engage anti-Trump voters; at the same time, Republican base voters, especially white working class men, could finally point to a signature conservative policy achievement in the new tax cut law, where before they were grasping for news to justify their vote. This new research shows an evolved message as well as attacks on Trump and Republicans that allow Democrats to reclaim their footing.

The advice is straightforward: take away the GOP’s presumed strengths – the state of the macroeconomy and the new Republican tax cut – and make the most of their weaknesses on key issues that go to the heart of the case against Republican Trump-ism.


Teixeira: Progressive Coalition Now Far Broader Than Industrial Working-Class

The following post by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis (cross-posted from his facebook page):

On Marx’s 200th Birthday: Farewell to the Proletariat

Paul Mason, my favorite radical left writer, has another great piece out in his series on Open Democracy. He asks:

“We can only move forward if we can answer the…question: who wants to change the world, and who has the agency to do it?”

He answers:

“After reporting on the 2011 revolts, and observing the similarities between the people in the streets and squares of Cairo, Athens and New York City, I became convinced that a new kind of person had emerged, which sociologists labelled the “networked individual”.

Networked technology, combined with high levels of education and personal freedom have created a new historical subject across most countries and cultures which will supplant the industrial working class in the progressive project, just as they replaced the cottage weavers and artisans of the 18th century.

Orthodox Marxists are appalled by this proposal, and for good reason. If the classic proletariat, owning no substantial property and destined to spontaneously solidaristic ways of life, is not in fact destined to overthrow class society, then a key tenet of Marxism is disproved.

This, as I argued in ‘Postcapitalism’, is the inevitable conclusion we have to draw from 200+ years of working class history. The working class always wanted to go beyond the piecemeal reforms offered by parliamentary socialists like Beatrice Webb, but never – outside extreme circumstances – wanted to impose the proletarian dictatorship proposed by Marx. Nor during the rare times that workers’ council-type bodies gained power were the working class able to secure these institutions against the influence of outside parties and bureaucracies.

The actual 200 year record of the proletariat is heroic: it wanted control and cultural space within capitalism and would fight to the death for this, even against parties claiming to be communist. But it persistently refused to play the role of capitalism’s gravedigger.”

I think this is exactly right. In this light the political configurations of today make sense. Conversely seeing the industrial working class as the leader of the progressive parade is at best confusing, at worst utterly depressing.

I would add to Mason’s analysis something he touches on only briefly: the inescapable demographic/structural facts of our situation.

Broadly speaking, the progressive coalition for perhaps 150 years—but most robustly for the hundred years between 1870 and 1970—was primarily based in the industrial working class (though of course additional support, especially for the non-socialist left, came from reformist elements of the white collar middle class and the agrarian sector). This coalition led by the industrial working class ebbed and flowed in this period but reached its peak of power and influence in the 30 years after World War II, resulting in the progressive welfare state that dominated the Western world. But this dominance did not last and one of the key reasons is very simple: the industrial working class had typically peaked in size by 1970 (in some countries somewhat earlier) and after 1970 experienced a precipitous decline. The general pattern has been a decline from 40-50 percent of the workforce to only around a quarter in a very short historical time span.

For example, in Germany the proportion of blue collar workers in the workforce has been cut in half since the late 1950’s to just over one-quarter of the workforce today, while the proportion of white collar workers has nearly tripled to 57 percent . Similarly, in Sweden the proportion of blue collar workers has been cut in half to one quarter of the workforce just since the mid-1970’s .

Closely related to this trend, employment in the industrial sector has dropped rapidly across countries, replaced by employment in the service sector. In Germany, the industrial sector has declined from 55 percent of employment in 1950 to just 26 percent today . Similarly, in the Netherlands industrial employment dropped from 40 to 20 percent of the workforce between 1950 and 2003 and in the UK from 47 to 24 percent over the same period .

In the United States, these changes have, if anything, been even stronger. The blue collar workforce is now down to just 21 percent of workers and industrial employment is down to just 16 percent .

To put these changes in perspective, consider that industrial employment in the United States, after rising for around 150 years, is now back roughly back to the level it was in 1820, when 70 percent of employment was agricultural . And now services are well over three-quarters of employment, so agriculture and services have essentially swapped places since 1820, while industry over this nearly 200 year time span has wound up back in the same place as a share of employment.

The profound significance of this remarkable change has yet to be fully absorbed by the left. Surely it is of earth-shaking significance that the class upon which progressive coalitions were built for so long has subsided back to its level of the early 1800’s.

And there are related changes that deepen the significance of this shift in the class structure. For example, union membership, a traditional driver of left voting, has been steadily dropping across countries, as well as shifting its composition toward public sector employees. In the United States, union membership peaked at 35 percent of the non-agricultural workforce in the mid-1950’s and is now down to about 11 percent and even lower (7 percent) in the private sector .

Similarly, in the Netherlands, union membership has dropped from 37 to 21 percent of the workforce between 1979 and 2007. In Germany over the same period, unionization dropped from 35 to 20 percent. In the UK, the decline was from 52 to 29 percent; in Spain, from 43 to 15 percent . Only the Nordic countries have been able to maintain their high union membership rates at close to their historic levels.

But even more significant is the glaring fact that, as the industrial working class has declined in numbers, it has become less supportive of traditional left parties. In Sweden, the social democrats’ share of the LO (blue collar workers union) vote has declined by 20 points from 1982 to 2010. In Denmark, social democrats’ share of the traditional working class vote declined by 17 points from the 1960’s to the 1990’s, in the UK by 18 points from the 1960’s to the 2000’s and in France (second round Presidential) by 19 points from 1974 to 2007. And in the United States, the white sector of the working class is now more likely to vote Republican than Democratic in most elections.

Outside of the US, there is also considerable variation in where the lost support from blue collar workers is going. Some of it is going to the traditional right but in countries with strong multi-party systems much of that lost support has been finding its way to parties of the populist right (e.g., the Freedom Party in Netherlands, the National Front in France, the Sweden Democrats in Sweden, the Danish People’s Party in Denmark, JOBBIK in Hungary) A much smaller portion has typically migrated to parties of the populist left (e.g., the Socialist Party in Netherlands, the Left Party in Germany, the Socialist People’s Party in Denmark). However, the recent emergence of new left populist parties like Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece indicates that the situation may be more fluid in Southern Europe.

In short, the old progressive coalition is dead; by dint of declining numbers and attenuating support, the industrial working class can no longer play a leading role in the broad left. The ongoing (indeed, never-ending) struggle to reform capitalism will have to be waged on a new basis.

The left in the US is probably the farthest along in absorbing the implications of this change and building a new progressive coalition. Partially this reflects the fact that modernizing structural change is somewhat farther along in the US, creating new left constituencies at a particularly rapid rate. But if also reflects the advantage the US left gains from the simple two party nature of the US political system—the Democratic Party is the natural, indeed only viable, vehicle for progressive constituencies, new and old. By contrast, in Europe, to a greater or less degree, the multiparty nature of political systems has brought to the fore a variety of left socialist, ecological (green) and social liberal parties to compete with social democrats, the traditional parties of the industrial working class. To make things even more complicated, these alternative left parties typically do disproportionately well among new constituencies, a development social democrats have had a hard time accepting. This has made it even harder in these countries to fully harness the political power of emerging constituencies.

These emerging constituencies reflect the broad structural shift away from manufacturing and toward a postindustrial, knowledge-based society embedded in a global economy. Accompanying this shift have been changes in family and values norms—lowered fertility, diversity in family forms, rise of postmaterial values, decline of traditional religion—sometimes referred to as the Second Demographic Transition . Together these changes have given rise to an explosion of left-leaning groups that is making up for the decline of the traditional working class and powering the emergence of new left coalitions across the advanced Western world. Conservatives, in contrast, are relying ever more heavily on declining social sectors—very much including the traditional working class–to buoy their electoral fortunes.

So there we are. On Marx’s 200th birthday, let us finally discard the proletariat as the historical subject in the progressive project and accept that we are playing in a different ballgame. The goal of social justice remains but the players have fundamentally changed.

Macomb and America’s new political moment: Learning from Obama-Trump working class voters in Macomb and Democratic base groups in greater Detroit

The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg of Greenberg Research and Nancy Zdunkewicz of Democracy Corps, is cross-posted from Democracy Corps:

On the one-year anniversary of the Trump presidency, Democracy Corps traveled to Michigan to speak with the white working class Obama-Trump voters of Macomb County, the African Amer- ican women of Detroit and the college educated women of suburban Southfield. Each, in their own way, had contributed to one of the most unlikely political outcomes in American history in 2016; and now, each is contributing to an unprecedented level of politicization, polarization and genuine fear for the future of the country. That is the consequence of the Trump election and the context as the country heads into the 2018 election.

This research comes a year after Democracy Corps and The Roosevelt Institute held our first post-2016 focus groups in Macomb County. Democracy Corps and the American Federation of Teachers returned to Macomb to catch up with these Trump voters and Detroit-area base voters.1

The stakes are so elevated in this political moment that both sides speak about a virtual “civil war” in the country, and critically, in their own families. Ordinary voters in focus groups now insist on talking about politics, national issues and the state of the country; they will not be dis- tracted by our moderators who attempt to open conversations with popular culture and entertain- ment. Once participants realize they are in a room with fellow Trump or Clinton voters, they rush to politics. It sucks all the oxygen out of the room.

The anti-Trump voters are consolidated and motivated to resist the Trump presidency. They are seeking out tools and information to win arguments and maximize their engagement and are in- creasingly intent to vote. The college graduate women seemed as much a base, anti-Trump group as the African Americans. The latter said that they won’t make the same mistake again, as the last election allowed so many racists to come out of the closet.

A healthy diet of Fox News is feeding the white working class men fending off the challenges of Trump’s opponents, including those within their own families. They have taken a lot of heat from the millennials and children in their own families, but feel vindicated that a businessman like Trump has produced a strong macro-economy and kept his promises on immigration. They continue to appreciate how he speaks his mind, unlike a typical politician.

But the national drama has tested the resolve of the younger white working class ‘Obama- Trump’ women, especially those under 45 years old. They more openly express their concerns and doubts. They are primarily worried about rising health care costs, the quality of public edu- cation, safety from gun violence, and whether the president will sell out working people by going after entitlements.

From the white working class to African Americans to the college educated suburbs, voter con- sciousness is being shaped by the political pressure cooker set to explode in November.

(1 Democracy Corps and the American Federation of Teachers conducted focus groups on March 7-8, 2018 with white working class Obama-Trump voters and Trump-Democrats in Macomb County, MI and African American women from Detroit, MI. Democracy Corps conducted a focus group with white college-graduate women in Southfield, MI on behalf of The American Prospect on March 9, 2018.)

The politicized, polarized civil war

Voters across ‘the resistance’ and ‘Trump world’ use the same language to describe their feelings about the way things are going in the country. They are “terrified,” “nervous,” “depressed,” and “distraught” because of the political climate, and that is compounded by their fear of gun violence.

Full Employment A Rising Priority for Democratic Economic Agenda

In recent weeks policies to create a “Job Guarantee” or “Full Employment” have quite suddenly assumed a central position in the discussion of the Democratic economic agenda.

These proposals raise a series of important questions that must be carefully analyzed and evaluated regarding their economic feasibility and potential electoral appeal.

The following set of articles provide an introduction to the economic and political aspects of job guarantees and full employment. We believe it is important for all Democrats to familiarize themselves with this subject and understand the issues it raises. The articles are arranged into the following categories: (1) major proposals, (2) articles supporting the approach, (3) progressive cautions about potential difficulties and (4) historical background.

Four Major Proposals for a Jobs Guarantee/Full Employment

1. Center for American Progress
Toward a Marshall Plan for America
By Neera TandenCarmel MartinMarc Jarsulic, Brendan Duke, Ben OlinskyMelissa BoteachJohn HalpinRuy Teixeira, and Rob Griffin

2. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The Federal Job Guarantee–A Policy to Achieve Permanent Full Employment
By Mark Paul, William Darity, Jr., and Darrick Hamilton

3. Levy Economics Institute of Bard College
Public Service Employment: A Path to Full Employment
By L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva and Stephanie A. Kelton

4. Economic Policy Institute
Recommendations for Creating Jobs and Economic Security in the U.S.>
By Josh Bivens

Articles Supporting the Approach

1. The Nation
Why Democrats Should Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee
By Sean McElweeColin McAuliffe and Jon Green

2. The New Republic
Back to Work: How Democrats can win over Americans left behind in the new economy.
By Bryce Covert

3. The American Prospect
Why the Cause of Full Employment Is Back from the Dead
By Harold Meyerson

4. Vox
What America would look like if it guaranteed everyone a job
By Dylan Matthews

5. The Washington Post
Q & A; on the Democrat’ big idea: A job creation program
By Jared Bernstein

6. The New York Times
Why the U.S. Needs a Federal Jobs Program, Not Payouts
By Robert E. Rubin

7. The Nation
Why Democrats Should Fight for the Right to a Good Job
By Katrina vanden Heuvel

8. The Democratic Strategist
Minority and White Workers Need the Same Help
Harry J. Holzer, former Chief Economist at the US Department of Labor.

Progressive cautions about potential problems

1. The Daily Beast
Dems’ Job Guarantee Isn’t Nearly as Easy as It Sounds
By Dean Baker

2. New York Magazine
Democrats Are Rushing Into a Job Guarantee. It Could Be a Huge Mistake.
By Jonathan Chait

Historical background

1. Boston Review
Why Coretta Scott King Fought for a Job Guarantee
By David Stein

2. Center for economic and policy research
The Full Employment Mandate of the Federal Reserve: Its Origins and Importance
By Dean Baker, Sarah Rawlins and David Stein

3.  The Full Employment Alternative (1980)
By Andrew Levison
Coward, McCann & Geoghegan

Dems Gaining Ground in State Legislative Battles

From Louis Jacobson’s update, “Democrats Poised to Eat Into GOP’s Lead in State Legislatures” at Governing:

According to our first handicapping of state legislatures this cycle, Republicans currently have more chambers at risk, 10, than the Democrats’ seven. Connecticut’s tied Senate is also at risk of a party switch…That adds up to 18 competitive chambers at this point — identical to the number of competitive chambers in 2014, which was the most recent election cycle to feature a strong partisan wave. It was the Democrats who were on the run back then, with 11 Democratic-held chambers rated competitive compared to just seven for the Republicans.

During past wave elections, we’ve tended to see additional chambers become vulnerable to a party switch as time goes on, almost always for the party facing the wave. So unless the political environment changes significantly, expect the number of competitive Republican chambers to rise as November approaches.

However, Jacobson also notes,

Currently, the GOP holds more than two-thirds of the nation’s legislative chambers — 66 in all, compared to 31 for the Democrats. For housekeeping’s sake, this tally counts New York’s Senate as Republican and Alaska’s House as Democratic; both states are led by bipartisan coalitions. Meanwhile, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, which is nonpartisan, isn’t included in our count.

A mere wave election won’t do it for Democrats. It will take a blue tsunami to flip, or even level those numbers.

Governing’s “assessment is based on interviews with dozens of state and national political sources.” As Jacobson observes,

All told, we rate five Republican-held chambers as tossups: the Colorado Senate, the Maine Senate, the New Hampshire Senate and House, and the New York Senate.

We rate an additional five GOP-held chambers as lean Republican — not yet as vulnerable as the tossup chambers, but worrisome for the GOP nonetheless. Those chambers are the Arizona Senate, the Florida Senate, the Iowa House, the Michigan House and the Wisconsin Senate.

We don’t rate any Democratic-held chambers as tossups for now, but we do consider seven of them to be in the lean Democratic category: the Alaska House, the Colorado House, the Connecticut House, the Delaware Senate, the Maine House, and the Washington Senate and House.


We see seven chambers currently rated likely Republican that are worth watching for possible movement toward the Democrats. They are: the Arizona House, the Iowa Senate, the Michigan Senate, the Minnesota House, the North Carolina Senate, and the Pennsylvania Senate and House.

All in all, Democrats have reason to feel optimistic about gains at this point. Still, it’s worth injecting a note of caution. Even a net switch of 14 chambers toward the Democrats — the absolute maximum shift we can envision at this stage of the campaign — would still leave Republicans with a national edge in chambers of 52-46. So don’t expect the Democrats to seize a majority of state legislative chambers in 2018 alone.

Jacobson gets down to state by state cases with some relevant details. But Democrats can take some encouragement from recent state legislative special elections. In his Politico post, “‘Let the blue wave continue’: Democrats notch 4th Florida bellwether win,” Marc Caputo writes,

On Tuesday, in Florida’s 114th House District in Miami, Javier Fernandez beat Republican Andrew Vargas by about 4.1 percentage points, despite being outspent by at least 2-1 in a swing seat where voters split their tickets between both parties in the 2016 elections.

…Fernandez’s win follows a shocking February victory by Democrat Margaret Good in Florida’s 72nd House District, which voted for President Donald Trump. Democrats also won Florida’s 40th Senate District in Miami-Dade and St. Petersburg’s mayoral race. Those last two elections had Democratic-leaning electorates with significant minority populations, unlike the 72nd in Sarasota and, to a lesser degree, the 114th District.

The win was also big for Florida Democrats because they finally started to build a bench by electing their second Cuban-American Democrat from Miami-Dade County to the Florida Legislature, where the 42-year-old Fernandez will join state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez.

“While the Florida House is likely to stay Republican for years,” Caputo writes, “Fernandez’s win bolstered hopes that Democrats could be closer to taking back the Florida Senate if they can flip five seats in the 40-member chamber.”

Florida’s state legislative races may well provide an instructive test of just how fed up Florida parents are with gun violence in their state, and who they want to hold accountable. At The Monitor, Patrick Jonsson notes that 91 percent of Florida’s Republican lawmakers have an “A” rating from the NRA.

Florida did enact a statewide measure that raised the minimum age for buying guns from 18 to 21, set a three-day waiting period, and banned bump stocks. However, opinion polls show strong nation-wide support for a ban on sale of assault-style weapons, and the Florida election will see if the modest reforms are enough in a state that has experienced two massacres in recent years.