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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Creamer: Are There Really ‘Two Sides’ When It Comes To Political Violence In The U.S.?

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Three days after the violence in Charlottesville, Donald Trump doubled down on his shocking accusation that when it came to political violence in the United States, there were “two sides.” In fact, he argued that the media simply ignored the “Alt-Left” and left-wing political violence in general.

The notion that there is any moral or empirical equivalency between the political violence of the right and the left in the United States is simply wrong. It is wrong empirically. And just as importantly, it is wrong because when it comes to the use of violence, there is a massive difference in values between the left and the right.

First, consider the facts.

The violence in Charlottesville was precipitated by a crowd led by self-proclaimed Neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan – two organizations whose histories are steeped in the most extreme forms of political violence.

Trump’s assertion that it included many “good people” ignores the fact that the crowd was chanting the Nazi slogan “blood and soil” and “the Jews will not replace us.” It would not take but a second for any “good people” who joined the crowd to realize they were in the wrong place and leave.

Teixeira: How Vulnerable is Trump?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think and other works, is cross-posted from his blog, “The Optimistic Leftist”:

Some have argued that the emotional bond between Trump and his supporters is so strong that it’s nearly impossible to break.

I don’t believe this is true for a couple of reasons. First, Trump is attached to the GOP and the GOP is remarkably out of touch with the voters who supported Trump. This is a non-trivial problem, as Ron Brownstein explains in The Atlantic.

The Senate Republican health-care bill has been repeatedly crushed in a slow-motion collision between the party’s historic ideology and the interests of its modern electoral coalition. Yet congressional Republicans appear determined to plow right through the wreckage.

Even as the Senate’s latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed on Tuesday, the House Republican leadership released a 10-year federal-budget blueprint that points them toward a similar confrontation, between their dominant small-government dogma and the economic needs of their increasingly blue-collar and older white base.

The Urban Institute found that 80 percent of those who would lose coverage under the Senate repeal-and-replace bill were non-college educated, 70 percent worked full-time and 60 percent were white. Rural areas would be particularly hard hit by the Medicaid cuts and so on. Candidate Trump of course said he would do none of this stuff but that went out the window once he started dealing with Congressional Republicans and their libertarian proclivities.

This matters. Brownstein notes that Trump’s approval ratings among white noncollege women is now 19 points lower than his vote support among this group back in November. Will all of these voters abandon him? No, but if a serious chunk does it will hurt both him and the GOP.

But isn’t it true that Trump’s overall support has been rock-steady? On net, aren’t his voters sticking with him? This is a myth. It is certainly true that he retains most of this support. But that’s different from all. Brendan Nyhan points out in a New York Times Upshot column that the seeming stability in Trump’s approval rating among GOP partisans may be an illusion. This is because Republican identifiers who disapprove of Trump may cease identifying as Republicans, thereby propping up his numbers among that group. But he’s still losing support.

A new Ipsos poll finds that one in eight Trump supporters from last November now say they aren’t sure they’d do it again after the last six months. We don’t know of course whether these voters would actually follow through on their sentiments. But it is not a good sign, either for Trump or the GOP.

People are reluctant, understandably so, to believe in Trump’s vulnerability. People will not soon forget the night of November 8, 2016 when nothing turned out like it was supposed to. But if his supporters have a fear of falling downward economically, what happens if they conclude he can’t stop the fall, much less lift them up? He will be punished like all politicians. It is just a matter of when and how much.

Creamer: Congress Should Curb Trump’s Nuclear First Strike Capability

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Donald Trump actually threatened North Korea with a nuclear attack if their egomaniacal leader continued to “threaten” the United States.

The idea that the United States of America would seriously consider launching a nuclear war over a verbal taunt is simply unthinkable.

But remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last year is reported to have asked why, if we have nuclear weapons, we shouldn’t use them.

Last January, Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu introduced legislation that would forbid the president to launch a nuclear first strike without a Congressional declaration of war.

It’s time for Congress to enact that legislation.

No one questions that to give deterrence credibility, the president should have authority to retaliate immediately if our country is attacked by nuclear weapons. But a first strike is a different matter altogether.

The Constitution gives the Congress the ability to declare war. A nuclear attack is the most extreme attack on another country imaginable. If the Congress does not have the authority to declare war in those circumstances, the Constitution is meaningless.

Teixeira, Judis Dialogue on Prospects for Progressive Change

The following interview of Ruy Teixeira by John Judis, co-authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority and other books, is cross-posted from Talking Points Memo:

Ruy Teixeira (pronounced Tush-aira) and I have been friends since the early 1970s when we were members of a socialist group, the New American Movement, that was supposed to perpetuate the saner parts of the new left. (It merged later with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to form the Democratic Socialists of America.) I didn’t see him for 15 years or so until we both turned up in Washington, D.C. In 2001, we co-authored “The Emerging Democratic Majority.”  Radio and television producers would sometimes call me to do interviews because, one TV person explained, they wanted someone who could speak English clearly. In fact, Ruy, the son of a Portuguese diplomat, was born and raised in Silver Spring. Ruy has worked with various think tanks in Washington and most recently has been a fellow at the Center for American Progress. His new book is titled “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century will be Better Than You Think.” It’s a potentially tough subject, but Ruy writes clearly and persuasively, and it’s surprisingly easy to read. As readers will note from this interview, I don’t quite share Ruy’s optimism, but I certainly hope that he is right.

Judis:  In your book, you explain at several points that you are no longer a socialist and instead support a reformed capitalism. When we met many years ago, we were in a socialist organization. When did this transformation occur?

 Teixeira:  What happened is that I began to think a lot about how economies actually work. When I was a socialist, I didn’t think very carefully and long about what actually a socialist economy would look like. I had this general idea that the capitalist system was inefficient and prone to crisis and that one should somehow tamp down the profit motive and limit the freedom of action of capitalists. But the more I thought about how economies worked, it was hard to gainsay that the market was absolutely essential for the efficient delivery of goods and services. And  the more I read, the more I realized my viewpoint was closer to social democrats than to socialists. Capitalism needs to be regulated, it needs to be pointed in the right direction, you need to have a big safety net, but you can’t replace it.

GQR Swing District Poll: Strong Opposition To Firing Mueller, Pardons

The following article by Jeremy Rosner and Anna Greenberg is cross-posted from a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Memo:

A new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll of the top 99 battleground congressional districts for 2018 shows voters in these swing districts strongly oppose any move by President Donald Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and even stronger majorities oppose the idea of the President pardoning either himself or his top aides and family members.

These findings are especially notable since the survey is based only on voters in battleground House districts – with 79 of the 99 districts now represented by Republican House members. That means the sample, and the results, lean more Republican than a full nationwide survey.

By a two-to-one margin, 60-29%, respondents say they would disapprove if President Trump and his team fire Special Counsel Mueller in the coming weeks; this includes 44% who strongly disapprove. Even in the 79 districts that are now Republican-held, the margin is essentially the same, 59-30%. Disapproval is even stronger among Independents, 66-23%.

A 64-33% majority already favors creating an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate issues linked to Russia and the 2016 election, and to report to the public. If the President were to fire Mueller, support for such a commission rises even higher, to a 72-22% majority. Again, the figure is essentially the same, 73-22%, among respondents in the 79 Republican-held districts. If Trump were to fire Mueller, a 67-26% majority across the full sample would also support having Congress establish a Special Prosecutor that President Trump could not fire.

An overwhelming 86-10% majority says Trump should not be allowed to pardon himself from criminal prosecution – a possibility the President and his team reportedly examined. Even among self-identified Republicans, an overwhelming 74-19% majority objects to the idea of the President pardoning himself. Respondents also oppose the President pardoning his aides and family members by a strong 69-27% margin.

Even with the Russia investigation in its early days and the election more than a year off, there is already a notable enthusiasm edge among Democrats in these battleground districts. Across all these districts, 61% of self-identified Democratic voters say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting for Congress in 2018 (10, on a 0-10 scale), compared to only 48% of self-identified Republicans.

These results are based on a survey of 1,000 telephone interviews with likely 2018 voters in the country’s 99 most competitive congressional battleground districts (79 currently Republican held; 20 Democratic held), conducted July 27 to August 1, 2017. Half of the interviews were conducted by landline, and half by cell phone. The results are subject to a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The survey was designed and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and funded by a coalition including: American Bridge; End Citizens United; MoveOn; and Stand Up America.

Teixeira: Why Rural Areas Really Are Different

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of  The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think and other works of political analysis, is cross posted from his blog, “The Optimistic Leftist”:

I don’t think you can understand the resolute Trump support in much of rural America without taking into account the absolutely appalling economic and social trends in these areas. Janet Adamy at the Wall Street Journal has been doing some great work exploring these trends, both generally and in particular rural places (here and here). In the first of these articles, Adamy notes:

Starting in the 1980s, the nation’s basket cases were its urban areas—where a toxic stew of crime, drugs and suburban flight conspired to make large cities the slowest-growing and most troubled places.
Today, however, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows that by many key measures of socioeconomic well-being, those charts have flipped. In terms of poverty, college attainment, teenage births, divorce, death rates from heart disease and cancer, reliance on federal disability insurance and male labor-force participation, rural counties now rank the worst among the four major U.S. population groupings (the others are big cities, suburbs and medium or small metro areas).
In fact, the total rural population—accounting for births, deaths and migration—has declined for five straight years.

Is it any wonder these folks aren’t in a good mood and are inclined to lash out? They are particularly sour on the situation with jobs and job opportunities where they live. A recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll allows for direct comparisons of the views of rural, suburban and urban residents.

  • 21 percent of rural residents say jobs/unemployment is the biggest problem facing their community, compared to 7 percent of suburban residents and 6 percent of urban residents.
  • 34 percent in rural areas describe the job situation in their community as “poor” compared to 18 percent in suburbs and 14 percent in cities.
  • 31 percent of rural residents say the availability of jobs in their area is worse than it was 10 years ago, compared to 22 percent of suburban residents and 17 percent of urban residents.
  • 59 percent in rural areas would encourage young people to leave their community for more opportunity elsewhere, compared to 47 percent in suburbs and 41 percent in cities.
  • 53 percent of rural residents say their area has lost manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years; 38 percent say farming jobs have been lost; and 31 percent say natural resources jobs like coal or lumber have been lost.
  • 56 percent of those who report these job losses say their community has not yet recovered from these job losses.
Interestingly, by far the most effective policy fix for the job situation in rural areas, according to rural residents, would be for the federal government to invest in infrastructure projects like fixing roads, bridges and schools. This easily beats out better trade deals, cracking down on illegal immigrants and decreasing regulations on business.

Dem House Candidate’s Ad Rocks KY Politics

The following ad for Democratic House of Reps. (KY-6) candidate Lt. Colonel Amy McGrath, created by Mark Putnam, who also helped develop ads for President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, is generating considerable buzz in Kentucky politcs — and the nation:

Great ad that it is, Mcgrath faces a tough challenge in a heavily-red district. Those who want to help Mcgrath can contribute at her ActBlue page.

New Johns Hopkins Study Probes Social Class and Shifting Political Identity

Jill Rosen previews a Journal of Sociological Science report, which presents the results of a study of 30,000 eligible voters, exploring “how social class affected political identity in the run up to the 2016 presidential election.” According to Rosen’s article, “Shift away from party loyalty among working-class voters set stage for Trump’s victory” in Johns Hopkins University Magazine:

On the cusp of last year’s presidential election, many working-class voters who were once staunch Democrats had gone independent, opening the door for a non-traditional Republican candidate…”A substantial proportion of eligible voters within the working class turned away from solid identification with either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party during the Obama presidency,” wrote lead author Stephen L. Morgan, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Education. “Even before the 2016 election cycle commenced, conditions were uncharacteristically propitious for a Republican candidate who could appeal to prospective voters in the working class, especially those who had not voted in recent presidential elections but could be mobilized to vote.”

Morgan and graduate student Jiwon Lee studied data from the 1994 through 2016 editions of the General Social Survey, to model how party identification has evolved over the past 24 years…They focused on more than 30,000 eligible voters. The survey asks respondents which political party they identify with, as well as questions about their occupation and education, which allowed the researchers to determine how working-class voters aligned themselves politically over time.

“We found substantial change in party identification across the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama, particularly during Obama’s tenure,” Morgan said. “Many eligible working-class voters were becoming less attached to the Democratic Party, but their loyalties weren’t shifting to the Republican Party.”

Many of these voters—lower-paid, lower-skilled workers often in blue-collar jobs—had begun to consider themselves independent, Morgan found.

Graphic charting affiliations of working class voters as independent (black line), Democrats (blue line), and Republicans (red line)

Image caption:A graphic of working-class party identification from 1994-2016 shows that most identify as independents.

The report likely won’t suprise political observers who have been studying white working-class party identification. But the large size of the study adds some weight to its conclusions. As for the reasons behind the trend, Rosen writes,

The survey didn’t explore why voters who changed party affiliation did so, but Morgan suspects a number of causes: a slow economic recovery after the recession, a failure by those in office to prosecute the individuals responsible for the collapse of financial institutions, and the continuing erosion of real wages for semi-skilled and unskilled workers…Rejection of the civil rights agenda, however defined, appears fashionable again..Morgan estimates that between 6 and 10 percent of working-class voters shifted allegiances, not enough for the Democratic Party to entirely lose its overall working-class advantage.

Whatever advantage Democrats still have with the working-class surely rests on the political preferences of African-American working-class voters, who remain the Dems’ most reliable supporters. Increasing Black voter turnout is still a critical chalenge for Democrats, regardless of white working-class voting trends.

Rosen notes “A silver lining for Democrats, Morgan said, is that some of these lost working-class voters didn’t support a traditional Republican, but someone who appealed to their economic interests.” Democratic candidates who figure out how to project themselves as serving working-class economic interests will find themselves in a good position to win in 2018.

Don’t Forget to Thank Democrats, But War Against ACA Will Go On

It’s well and good that Sens. McCain, Collins and Murkowski are receiving widespread tributes for their pivotal opposition to ‘skinny repeal’ of the Affordable Care Act. But let’s also thank the Senate Democrats, whose unanimous rejection of the measure lead the way. David Leonhardt does a good job of it in his New York Times column, “The Americans Who Saved Health Insurance“:

I know it’s unfashionable to praise a political party, and I have plenty of complaints about the Democrats. But the fact is, many Americans would soon lack health insurance were it not for the unity of elected Democrats.

Not a single one wavered in recent months. On the left, Bernie Sanders, who’s technically an independent, worked to poke procedural holes in the bills. Every red-state Democrat stood firm, too. Why? They thought their Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, was listening to them and their concerns. They had also held their own town halls, and they knew the bills were deeply unpopular.

The unity was a fitting echo of 2010, when Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid kept their party together to pass the most important social policy in decades. Today, it remains the law of the land.

Democrats can be rightly proud of their leadership in protecting the Affordable Care Act. But let’s also affirm the pivotal leadership of citizens and human rights organizations who supported Democrats in winning this battle. In his HuffPo post, “Thanks to the millions who fought to save our health care,” Mike Lux points out that citizen activism was the key to defeating ‘skinny repeal’:

It should not be forgotten that it was all those actions by regular people fighting their hearts out for this cause that won this fight. The people demonstrating, the town hall meetings, the letters, the petitions, the phone calls, the social media postings. Everything all of you did made the difference. You not only terrified the Republicans, but you bolstered and fired up the Democrats to fight back— and fight back they did, to their enormous credit…We have so many battles yet to fight. You activists have shown you can pull off miracles and we are going to need some more of them in the years to come. But last night gives me faith we can do it— again and again and again.

Leonhardt also acknowledges the critical role of “thousands of citizens who took time to attend meetings, visit congressional offices and call those offices, often repeatedly. This sustained action worked better than any poll to show Congress how unpopular the bills were. It was a reminder of how democracy can work.”

It’s important, however, to see the defeat of ‘skinny repeal,’ not as a war that has been won, but a battle victory, or really just one of many skirmishes in the decades of struggle for health security for all Americans.  As Leonhardt cautions, “No one should think the fight is over. Murphy, the Connecticut senator, says he wakes up every day fearful of a new repeal effort. Even without one, Obamacare needs to be improved, and defended from Trump’s sabotage. There’s much more work to do.”

For now, however, let’s give the Democrats in congress due credit for their unified defense of health security for all Americans. Too often, the public takes Democratic support for needed reforms for granted. But the impressive unity Democrats demonstrated in this battle should not be shrugged off. It took courage and vision to hold the line against relentless opposition that controlled the rules and agenda. Countless lives have been saved and million more will get needed health care because of Democratic unity in this most central of struggles for a decent society.

Despite’s Trump’s Pandering in Youngstown, Obamacare Repeal Threatens Working Class Communities

The following article by labor experts John Russo* and Sherry Linkon* is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump visited the Youngstown area three times. On Tuesday, President Trump returned. Officially sponsored by his 2020 campaign, the rally at Youngstown’s Covelli Center provided him an opportunity to be buoyed by the cheers of 7,000 fans.

While many of those attending Tuesday’s rally came from outside of the city and the region, Trump has significant support here, rooted in the politics of resentment. Distrust of government—and especially of politicians—developed in the aftermath of plant closings and downsizings that began in the late 1970s, as tens of thousands of workers in Youngstown and the surrounding Mahoning Valley lost jobs in steel mills, auto plants, and related industries. Many blamed environmental regulations, trade agreements, and corporate pursuit of cheap foreign labor, and they vowed to make those who negotiated NAFTA pay a price. Political resentment grew as candidate after candidate used crumbling steel mills as backdrops for speeches promising to rebuild the local economy—and then failed to take real action to create change. Resentment deepened over the last decade, as many working- and middle-class people lost their homes and jobs in the foreclosure crisis, even as wages declined and work became more precarious.

That’s why Trump’s focus on illegal immigration, trade, government regulations, and betrayal by elites resonated with local residents in this historically Democratic region. In the Republican primary, thousands of previously unregistered voters turned out to support him, and a number of long-time Democrats crossed party lines. During his Tuesday visit, Trump claimed to have won Mahoning County in the general election. In reality, he lost it narrowly to Clinton, though he did win in Trumbull County next door. But he wasn’t wrong that he had shaken up local political patterns. In both counties, Republicans had their strongest showing since 1972.