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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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How DNC, DLCC Are Mobilizing for State Wins

The following article, by Jess O’Connell, CEO of the Democratic National Committee and Jessica Post, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is cross-posted from Time Magazine:

Over the last few months, we’ve seen Democrats united against the attacks on our values. We stopped Republicans’ attempts to take away health care from millions; we’ve pushed back against this administration’s hatred and bigotry; and we’ve kept President Trump from advancing much of his disastrous agenda. But what you may not have noticed is that Democrats have also been notching victories at the ballot box.
There’s no sugarcoating where we found ourselves after November. We didn’t just lose the presidential election; we had been losing elections up and down the ballot for nearly a decade. That’s why we’re changing things. And we’re doing it the right way – from the ground up.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), state legislative leaders and state parties are leading the fight to take back control of state legislatures across the country. With the help of the DLCC, state parties and our progressive partners, state Democrats have won more than 50 percent of state legislative special elections since Trump’s inauguration and have flipped six competitive seats from red to blue – all in districts that went for Trump in 2016.

MORE:


Graham-Cassidy ‘Trojan Horse’ Insults Intelligence of Working Americans

The GOP’s Obamacare-repeal obsessives are back. This time they are trying to hustle working families with a classic, though transparent ‘Trojan horse’ scam. From Andrew Prokop’s Vox post, “The bait and switch at the heart of the new Obamacare repeal bill: Graham-Cassidy is being sold as giving states flexibility. But it hugely cuts health care spending.”

Cassidy and Graham like to emphasize that their bill would roll back Obamacare’s spending and regulations and would instead simply send states money in a block grant. States, they say, would be free to figure out how to use that block grant money however they see fit — they’d be able to experiment with their own approaches. Even moderate Republicans are likely tempted by an argument like that.

Here’s the catch: The bill doesn’t just move around Obamacare’s spending. It severely cuts federal spending on health care overall — both for Obamacare and for traditional Medicaid. And since covering people costs money, the result will inevitably be that millions of people will lose coverage…The Graham-Cassidy bill is essentially a Trojan horse for these dramatic cuts on health spending that Republican leaders have been pushing all along.

Prokop continues, noting the three features of the bill that give the game away: 1) The bill dramatically cuts and restructures traditional Medicaid; 2) In turning Obamacare’s spending into a block grant, Cassidy and Graham aren’t just redistributing it — they’re reducing it; and 3) The new block grant ends entirely after 2026, and there is nothing to replace it afterward.

Summarizing the bill, Prokop explains, “So the argument about giving states “flexibility” leaves out a whole lot. Less money would be available to states overall in those newly flexible block grants, and on top of that, traditional Medicaid would be cut — which clearly points toward millions losing coverage overall. And that’s even before the whole system is set to fall off a cliff in 2027.”

There are some formidable obstacles facing Republicans, including the opposition of some skeptical state governors in their party. Then there is the narrowing time window for getting the Graham-Cassidy trojan horse passed. The Republicans only need a senator of two to pass the bill, and once again the outcome may come down to Sen. John McCain, who sounds a little wobbly. The hope is that he won’t cave to party pressures and the pleadings of his closest friend in the Senate, primary sponsor Lindsey Graham.

What is certain is that the coalition that did such a good job of mobilizing against the previous GOP Obamacare repeal bills must turn the heat on again — or risk a health security disaster for millions of Americans.


Needed: Ideas to Increase Midterm Voter Turnout

Philly Trib Washington correspondent Charles D. Ellison cuts to the quest the Democratic Party’s best thinkers should be focused on in his article “Voter turnout still headache for Democrats.” Ellison writes,

Voters who typically support Democratic candidates, in fact, are nearly 60 percent of the “drop-off” voting population, according to the Pew Center, as opposed to less than 40 percent who are Republican supporting voters… On average, Republican voters are 20 percent more likely to participate in a midterm election than Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters.

Such numbers do not bode well for Democrats heading into crucial competitive elections, including high-profile test run cycles this November in places such as Virginia, New Jersey and Philadelphia and major potential comeback Congressional midterms in 2018.

High voter turnout for Democrats will be key, particularly, in 2018 as the party not only seeks to retake lost ground in both the U.S. House and Senate, but also must regain power in numerous state legislatures and Governors mansions. For Democrats, the next two years are key in terms of rebalancing scales in their favor and effectively diminishing the power of the Trump administration and its base.

Making matters more difficult, Ellison notes that Dems have a tough image problem: “Badly enough for Democrats, a summer Washington Post/ABC poll found most Americans believed Democrats “just stand against Trump” as opposed to “stand[ing] for something,” 52 percent to 37 percent. Only 35 percent of registered voters believed the party stands for something.” This despite the fact that Democrats have provided the leadership that secured virtualy all of the reforms that have benefitted Americans over the last half-century.

With repect to the declining voter participation of the nation’s strongest pro-Democratic constituency, African-American voters, Ellison notes,

…Observers are concerned that Democratic Party rank and file are discounting the crucial need to re-energize a weary Black electorate that doesn’t turnout as much as older white voters do during House and Senate midterm cycles. That electorate will also be key in helping Democrats win back gubernatorial seats and state legislatures. Yet, there’s no evidence of a concerted plan to mobilize Black voters in 2017 — despite their needed presence in the Virginia governor’s and General Assembly races — and in 2018.

There are also worries that the Black electorate is fatigued from a constant barrage of controversies and policy attacks, from reversals on affirmative action, the Affordable Care Act, military surplus to police departments and the new Justice Department’s refusal to pursue voting rights cases and police reform…Strategists worry that environment is rapidly eroding any remaining Black electoral faith in the political process, which could lead to massive drop-off voting.

The Pew Center research, in fact, shows Black voters account for nearly 20 percent of all drop off voters in looking at 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections. There are a myriad of reasons for that: from the systemic impact of voter suppression to the emotional “tap out” or lack of enthusiasm which was prevalent among Black millennial voters (a segment that constitutes 35 percent of the Black electorate population).

But it’s not just African-American voters whose participation declines in midterm elections; it’s pretty much all pro-Democratic Demographic groups. What can be done about it? In recent years a number of writers have addressed the challenge of increasing turnout in both midterm and presidential elections in articles in various media, including:

How can we increase voter participation?” by Liz Sablich at Brookings.

5 Ways To Fix America’s Dismal Voter Turnout Problem” by Kira Letner at ThinkProgress.

How to increase voter participation in low-turnout communities: Research brief” by Melissa R. Michaelson at Journalists Resource.

How to Increase US Voter Turnout” by Nancy Meyer at Daily Kos.

The Best Ways to Increase Voter Registration, and Voting” by John A. Tures at HuffPo.

Increasing Voter Turnout for 2018 and Beyond” by Tina Rosenberg at the New York Times.

This Might Be the Best Idea for Turning Out More Voters in U.S. Elections” by Thomas MacMillan at New York Magazine.

4 ways to boost the dismal turnout in local elections” by Keith Wagstaff at The Week.

How Can We Increase Voter Turnout” at FairVote.

Increasing Voter Turnout: What, If Anything, Can Be Done?” by Kelly Born at Stanford Social Innovation Review.

7 Ideas From Other Countries That Could Improve U.S. Elections” by Kate Samuelson at Time.

Simple Ways to Increase Voter Turnout” by Lee Drutman at Pacific Standard.

Ways to Increase the Youth Vote” by Goethe Behr at uspresidentialelectionnews.com.

Want to increase voter turnout? Here’s how” by Thad Kousser at The L.A. Times.

There is a lot of repetition in the above articles, and many of these ideas depend on Democrats having  working majorities in both the House and Senate, as well as state legislatures, to secure the noted reforms — which is quite a stretch at this point.

All of these and other ideas will require that Democrats provide better and more diverse candidates. There is some evidence that Democrats are doing better in this regard in this election cycle, as indicated by the swelling number of Democrats already running for office in 2018.

The challenge is made more difficult by Trump’s ability to manipulate the media and distract coverage from popular policy reforms, which remain the strongest advantage of Democrats. New ideas to facilitate meeting this challenge are more than welcome.


Political Strategy Notes

Despite the limitation of two choices at a time, “The Best Health Care System in the World: Which One Would You Pick?” by Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt at NYT’s The Upshot provides some insightful analysis by top public health/economic experts.

Paul Krugman offers a succinct, sobering critique of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill: “In reality, Graham-Cassidy is the opposite of moderate. It contains, in exaggerated and almost caricature form, all the elements that made previous Republican proposals so cruel and destructive. It would eliminate the individual mandate, undermine if not effectively eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and slash funding for subsidies and Medicaid. There are a few additional twists, but they’re all bad — notably, a funding formula that would penalize states that are actually successful in reducing the number of uninsured…Many progressives have already begun taking Obamacare’s achievements for granted, and are moving on from protest against right-wing schemes to dreams of single-payer. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of environment in which swing senators, no longer in the spotlight, might be bribed or bullied into voting for a truly terrible bill.

Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. adds this important observation to the criticism of Graham-Cassidy: “The latest repeal bill is an offering from Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) that would tear apart the existing system and replace it with block grants to the states. Block grants — flows of money for broad purposes with few strings attached — are a patented way to evade hard policy choices. All the tough decisions are kicked down to state capitals, usually with too little money to achieve the ends the block grant is supposed to realize…Oh, yes, and the [the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] report also noted, with italicized emphasis, that as currently written, the block grant “would disappear altogether after 2026.” What happens then? The bottom line, said Jacob Leibenluft, a senior adviser at the center, is that Graham-Cassidy “punts all the problems to governors while giving them insufficient tools and resources to address them.”]report also noted, with italicized emphasis, that as currently written, the block grant “would disappear altogether after 2026.” What happens then? The bottom line, said Jacob Leibenluft, a senior adviser at the center, is that Graham-Cassidy “punts all the problems to governors while giving them insufficient tools and resources to address them.”

At FiveThirtyEight Harry Enten reports that “Trump’s Popularity Has Dipped Most In Red States,” and notes ” In states where Trump won by at least 10 points, his net approval rating is down 18 percentage points, on average, compared to his margin last November. In states that were decided by 10 points or less in November, it’s down only 13 points. And it’s down 8 points in states Clinton carried by at least 10 points…If red state voters who dislike Trump but voted for him in 2016 abandon the Republican Party in 2018, it could lead to some unexpected electoral results. It’s another reason that Democrats, if they want to maximize their chances of winning back the House, should compete in a wide variety of districts.”

William Greider makes a strong argument at The Nation that Democrats need primary challengers to reinvigorate the party’s prospects, particularly with respect to Dems who have gotten too cozy with corporate lobbyists. As Greider suggests, “Rebellion may be required within the Democratic Party. It has to turn away from the bankers and the multinationals and restore the multi-hued party of workers and imaginative reformers. Refreshing the field of battle with new faces and original ideas risks losing the next election or two, but intramural contests can energize skeptical voters and redefine fundamental principles…The rebels within the ranks may be a minority, but as the GOP discovered in previous decades, a purposeful minority can agitate and educate and change party direction in fundamental ways. Party elders might have more campaign money, but Democratic challengers can employ a device that worked wonderfully for right-wing, anti-tax Republicans: Ask primary candidates to take the “pledge,” then target those establishment incumbents who refuse to do so. For Democrats, the pledge would be a promise to fight any measure that cuts taxes for corporate dodgers as well as any measure that refuses to support expansion of Social Security or Medicare. Politicians who try to cheat on their pledge should be targeted and taken down. After incumbents see a few supposedly safe colleagues get wiped, they will get the message.”

From the Economic Policy Institute’s post “How today’s unions help working people“:

“While we lost at the top of the ticket, the untold story of the election was the dramatic increase in Latino participation rates that allowed for a record number of Latinos to be elected to office,” said Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project, an outreach group backed by Democratic activists, and the national deputy director of voter outreach and mobilization for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “There are bright spots…And 2018 represents another opportunity: Latinos make up more than 20 percent of the eligible voters in 10 out of 62 House races deemed competitive by Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales, according to a Roll Call analysis.” — from Stephanie Akin’s “Record Gains by Latinos Contradict Narrative” at Roll Call.

Despite Trump’s media image as an outlier in the GOP projected by David Brooks, Chris Cillizza and others, Robert Borosage has a reminder at OurFuture.org (cross-posted from The Nation) that Trump’s views, though often more crudely-stated, are nothing new for the Republicans. As Borosage notes, “Trump’s actions and words are particularly noxious, but no one should be misled: Trump’s race-bait politics are an expression of the modern Republican Party, not a deviation from it. The battle for its soul has long since been decided…Trump’s election tally wasn’t an outlier, either. He gained about the same share of the white vote as Romney (58-37 for Trump and 59-39 for Romney) and he was rejected by black and Latino voters by similar margins as well.”


Political Strategy Notes

Credit minority leaders Schumer and Pelosi with playing a deft hand in their immigration policy negotiations with Trump. Not that anything he says has much shelf life. But getting Trump to clarify his postions on DACA, the wall and other immigration issues is a good strategy that splinters his hard right base.

“Trump is on a bipartisan tear of late,” write Rachel Bade and Josh Dawsey at Politico. “Elated by what he viewed as glowing press after his debt ceiling deal with Democratic leaders “Chuck and Nancy” last week, Trump wants to replicate that thrill of victory, which he believes Republicans have failed to deliver since his inauguration….In recent weeks, Trump has complained in private that it’s difficult to have any sort of relationship — or even make small talk — with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He’s told staff that he finds Speaker Paul Ryan, whom he’s dubbed a “boy scout,” dry as well, but the two have some rapport…By contrast, Trump can relate to Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who talk more in non-Washington terms that he understands, according to people familiar with their meetings. Trump wants to keep meeting with them.”

Anne Branigan reports at theroot.com that a new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that “A strong majority of Republicans agreed to some extent that white people are under attack in this country (63 percent), which isn’t altogether surprising given the racially charged—and just outright racist—rhetoric the GOP has employed through the years. But while the rate of Democrats who agreed that whites are under attack was comparatively low, at 21 percent, that still indicates that a fifth of “progressive” respondents subscribe to one of the so-called alt-right’s core beliefs…Most of the survey’s respondents felt that “all races should be treated equally” (89 percent) and that people of different races should be allowed to live wherever they choose (70 percent).”

So, “How Much Can the Youth Vote Actually Help Democrats?” Elliot Morris addresses the qustion at The Upshot and observes, “Young Americans have been moving left and leaving the G.O.P. in recent years, but a successful Democratic coalition built on the backs of liberal youth is far from a sure thing, especially in the short term…The party’s problem is straightforward: getting them to actually go to the polls…Those aged 18 to 29 vote at far lower rates than older groups, decreasing their electoral power. But there are at least some signs that their participation levels will improve. And if an increasingly left-leaning voting bloc does become more politically active, there are huge potential gains for the Democratic Party…The obvious positive news for Democrats is reflected in the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (C.C.E.S.), a survey of 64,000 adults. Fifty-four percent of American adults younger than 30 identified as Democrat or leaning-Democrat in 2016 — that’s six percentage points higher than among the rest of the public. Young people also call themselves “very liberal” or “liberal” more often than Americans older than 30, by five and seven percentage points.”

According to a new Pew Research analysis of polling data, “The study also finds wide demographic and socio-economic differences between consistent voters, drop-off voters and nonvoters. For instance, 80% of those who voted in all three elections were non-Hispanic whites, compared with 62% of drop-off voters and 63% of nonvoters. A 65% majority of consistent voters were 50 and older; just 45% of drop-off voters and 32% of nonvoters were 50 and older…Eight-in-ten voters who participated in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections and the 2014 midterm were white, compared with 62% of presidential election voters who did not vote in the midterm.”

At The New York Times Linda Qiu has an update on ‘medicare for all’ polling, and notes “A Quinnipiac poll in August reported that 51 percent of respondents said that replacing the current health care system with a Medicare-for-all model was a good idea. “Medicare for all” generally polls more favorably than “single payer.” In a June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 57 percent of respondents supported Medicare for all, while 53 percent favored a single-payer approach…Other polls about single-payer health care found lower levels of support: 44 percent from Morning Consult/Politico, 44 percent from Rasmussen and 33 percent from the Pew Research Center.”..Pollsters at AP/NORC did not ask about a specific model in an August survey, but 60 percent of respondents said it was the federal government’s responsibility to provide health care for everyone.”

David Leonhardts’s New York Times column on “Bernie’s Secret Allies” notes a delicious irony: “The weaker private markets become, the more political momentum government-provided insurance will have. Some Democrats will push for a gradual expansion of Medicaid and Medicare. Others, like Sanders and his growing list of allies, will push for an entirely new system. I don’t expect them to succeed anytime soon, but the debate over health care has moved much further to the left in recent years than I expected to see. And the Republican Party is largely responsible.”

From Paul Waldman’s Plum Line article, “The dumbest criticism of single payer health care“: “There is simply no critique you can make of single payer health care that is more wrong than “It’ll be too expensive.” That is 180 degrees backwards. Single payer is many things, but above all it is cheap. And what we have now is the most expensive system in the world, by a mile…Let’s look at what we’re paying now. In 2016, we spent $3.4 trillion on health care. That spending is projected to rise an average of 5.6 percent per year over the next decade. If you do the math, that means that between 2018 and 2027 we’ll spend $49 trillion on health care in America. That’s the current system…Republicans have seized on the $32 trillion number to scare people into thinking that Democrats want to raise their taxes some insane amount (“When you look at the majority of House Democrats, they support a single-payer, $32 trillion bill backed by Bernie Sanders,” says Sean Spicer). But if we’re going to spend $49 trillion under the current system, and single payer would cost $32 trillion, doesn’t that mean we’d be saving $17 trillion? Congrats on all the money you’d be getting back!”

In his Daily Kos post, “New data finds U.S. Latinas are ‘becoming an economic and social powerhouse,’ Gabe Ortiz writes, “Despite anti-immigrant and anti-Latino slander from the Hater-in-Chief, Latinas are persisting, resisting, and “outpacing the rest of the nation” in economic and social influence, according to new Nielsen data. U.S. Latinas now represent 17 percent of nation’s total woman population, experiencing a nearly 40 percent growth from 2005-2015…77% of US Hispanic female population growth over that ten-year span came not from immigration, but from Hispanic girls born in the U.S…”Latinas are coming into their own, and this newfound confidence will have an undeniable impact on our consumer-driven society,” said Stacie de Armas of Nielsen. “Hispanic women are increasingly the catalysts in an intercultural marketplace. Not only are they the cornerstone of the Latino family, keeping language and traditions alive, but they are also forging a wider path in the mainstream and using technology to serve as brand and culture influencers.”


Update on Health Care Politics, Single-Payer Momentum

At The Daily 202, Paige Winfield Cunningham has an informative update on national — and internationsal — health care politics. As Cunningham writes,

…Republicans have focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with bills that would cover far fewer people and are deeply unpopular. Democrats are fixating on single-payer plans (see Sanders, Bernie) that Republicans will surely block.

After much fanfare, Sanders (I-Vt.) rolled out yesterday afternoon his “Medicare for All” proposal, which has gained support from 16 Democrats (many of them would-be 2020 presidential contenders — see Warren, Elizabeth). It’s certainly true that support for a single-payer system has been edging up in recent years among the public and among members of Congress.

Jeff Stein adds at Vox:

The majority of those backing Sanders’s Medicare-for-all bill tend to hail from blue states or are rumored 2020 presidential candidates. Still, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews has written, the endorsements are illustrative of a stunning shift among Democrats to embrace single-payer legislation — which was once circumscribed to the party’s far-left fringe.

In late August, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the first Senate Democrat to back Sanders’s bill. She was quickly followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who is up for reelection in 2018, became the first senator from a state won by Donald Trump in the general election to back the bill on Tuesday. (Though Wisconsin is a traditionally blue state that frequently elects Democrats.)

But several Senate Democrats have also said that they will not co-sponsor the legislation, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has not formally stated a position on the bill.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), widely seen as one of the most progressive senators in a red state, said that he would not be co-sponsoring the bill — though he is pushing a health care bill of his own aimed at expanding Medicare by lowering the enrollment age down to 55. Brown is expected to face a difficult reelection race in 2018.

“Right now, I’m focused on building bipartisan support for my bill to allow people to buy into the Medicare program at age 55, which will cut costs and expand choices for Ohioans,” Brown told Vox in an email.

Similarly, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate in 2016, appeared to confirm in an interview that he wouldn’t be co-sponsoring the bill, citing his preference to give consumers options in choosing their health insurance. (Sanders’s single-payer bill would likely eliminate private insurance companies and replace them with a single, government-run insurer.) Kaine supports a government-run public option, and said he wants enrollees to be able to pick between the government plan and a private plan.

Meanwhile, some Senate Democrats haven’t made up their minds yet. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said he needed to scrutinize the text of the (still unreleased) Sanders bill, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said much of the same.

MSNBC commentator Steve Kornacki tweets a revealing comparison: 1993: 4 of 56 Dem senators (7%) sponsor single-payer bill. 2017: 17 of 48 Dem-caucusing senators (35%) sponsor single-payer bill. Single-payer reform is gaining traction among Democratic elected officials.

Cunningham outlines the Trump-supported ‘Graham-Cassidy alternative.’ which “would actually rip even more deeply into the ACA than previous GOP-backed measures and is widely viewed as a last-ditch and far-fetched effort to fulfill their repeal-and-replace promise.” Additionally,

The measure would turn the billions of dollars spent on the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, tax credits and subsidies into grants managed by each state, allowing states to define their own rules for health plans that may be sold to residents and outline the help consumers should receive to afford that insurance, my colleagues Amy Goldstein and Dave Weigel report.

Cunningham sketches some of the systemic health care compromises in Europe and Japan:

Great Britain is often cited as the classic example of a single-payer system, where the government not only pays virtually all the bills (albeit funded by a hefty tax) but also runs the hospitals. But other wealthy countries have designed systems that interact heavily with the private market or require patients to kick in their own funds to keep costs lower.

Take France, for example. While on vacation in Paris last week, I had a chance to chat briefly with a senior French Senate staffer about his experience with his country’s health-care system — and was surprised to learn that it’s not quite the government-pays-all system many Americans imagine.

Philippe Bourasse, the Senate’s deputy head of international relations, told me that he carries a supplemental insurance plan to help pay the portion of his medical visits the government won’t cover, and then pays the rest of that share out of pocket. Indeed, around 95 percent of the French buy private coverage — or get government vouchers if their income is low enough — to cover cost-sharing and some uncovered benefits, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

In Japan, all enrollees must pay a 30 percent coinsurance for all medications and services they receive. In the Netherlands, the government contracts with competing private plans — much like how the U.S. Medicare Advantage program works. Successful health-care systems in other countries including Germany, Australia and New Zealand all work in somewhat different ways but still manage to achieve better health outcomes and less per-capita spending than in the United States.

Of course, more government health benefits also require steeper taxes to pay for them. French workers are required to pay 21 percent of their income into the national health system; even so, there’s a near-constant debate over how to put the program in the black. Tax hikes aren’t something Americans swallow willingly. And anyway, the conversation on Capitol Hill has centered on how to cut the government’s health-care spending, not increase it — at least among Republicans who control the power lines.

It might also be good to survey how South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and other nations mix the public and private sectors in their health care systems — and assess how well their systems work.

The political momentum behind single-payer health care reform suggests it will be a central component of many Democratic campaigns in both 2018 and 2020, while Republicans now appear more morally and intellectually-bankrupt on health care reform than ever. Democats may settle on a “public option” compromise or some other public/private sectors mix. But right now, the positive energy is with the single-payer movement — and that helps Democrats and hurts the idea-poor Republicans.


Creamer: Trump’s Bumper-Car Administration Careens Toward Disaster

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

Fundamentally, Donald Trump runs the country like a guy drives a bumper car at a carnival.

When you drive a bumper car you just smack into whatever is right in front of you, deal with whatever is immediately in view, and have no idea or concern where you’re going. That’s the way Donald Trump governs.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer absolutely got the best of him in their White House negotiation over the short-term debt ceiling/continuing resolution.

That was partially because Pelosi and Schumer are simply better negotiators and tacticians than “the great dealmaker” Trump.

Partially it was because Schumer and Pelosi can hold their caucuses together better than Trump’s GOP allies Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. So Trump has apparently decided, not without good reason, that he can’t trust Ryan and McConnell to deliver when the chips are down.

Trump, Ryan and McConnell wanted to take Democratic leverage away by passing a Continuing Resolution for spending and a debt ceiling increase that expires in 18 months – right after the next election. Democrats wanted an extension of only three months, so that they could use the leverage of the debt ceiling and spending bill that expires right before Christmas to press for concessions on Democratic priorities – like including a DREAM Act and ACA market fix as part of an overall “must pass” package.

When Treasury Secretary Mnuchin suggested in the meeting that the “markets” could not stand the uncertainty of having such a short debt ceiling and federal spending extension, Pelosi is reported to have replied that, while Secretary Mnuchin may know a lot about the “markets,” the coin of the realm at the Capitol was votes – and that unless he had 218 votes for his plan, it would be a three-month extension, period.

At that moment, with the deadline closing in, Trump badly wanted to get a spending and debt ceiling extension passed. So he decided – apparently on the spur of the moment and without any consultation with his erstwhile allies ― to abandon his ally’s position and fold his cards. He made an impulsive decision to get through the next few weeks – even if it massively strengthens the hand of the Democrats over the next three months and will undercut Trump’s ability to get Congress to pass his own program.

As a progressive Democrat I am thrilled at his collapse. But it represented just the most recent example of Trump’s “bumper car” mentality – react impulsively with the short term in mind regardless of the long-term consequences of his decisions. Deliberate he is not.

In this situation Trump’s impulsive, shoot-from-the-hip approach may have undermined his own interests. But there are many other circumstances where his erratic, impulsive, defensive, petty, short-term approach to decision-making could endanger humanity.

In its discussion of the leadership skills needed by four-star flag officers, the National Defense University says:

Top-level leaders are responsible for the strategic direction of their organization within the context of the strategic environment-now increasingly global. The term “strategic” implies broad scale and scope. It requires forward vision extending over long time spans – in some cases 50 years or more. So strategic leadership is a process wherein those responsible for large-scale organizations set long-term directions and obtain, through consensus building, the energetic support of key constituencies necessary for the commitment of resources.

That means you have to have the capacity to understand and consider the long- term consequences of your short-term decisions.

If this quality is necessary for four-star flag officers – generals and admirals – in the military, you’d think they would also be necessary for the commander-in-chief. But there is no evidence whatsoever that Trump has any long-term vision.

In fact, one of the people close to him is reported to have confided that he lives life 15 minutes at a time.

Trump’s petty, impulsive threats in the nuclear confrontation with North Korea are a key example.

Were it not for the vision, sound judgment and long term thinking of President John F. Kennedy in 1962, millions of people would have likely died in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. We now know that Soviet commanders in Cuba had been ordered to respond to an attack on the Island with a nuclear strike on the United States without further instructions from Moscow.

Kennedy’s self-confidence and vision gave him the strength to stand up to the advice of his top military advisers who wanted him to launch just such an attack. What would Trump have done? What will he do if he faces a similar decision in the future?

Trump has no long-term vision. His pettiness and defensiveness betray an underlying lack of confidence that is frightening. And as a result – more than anything else – he fears being perceived as “weak.”

Trump is the classic bully – the kid in school whose own self-doubts and fears are manifest in his need to bully and dominate others, and a constant need for attention and affirmation.

And those traits are complicated further by Trump’s complete unfamiliarity with history. He has no appreciation for the consequences of past decisions or the wars that resulted. Trump has no “sense” of history – no appreciation for the phases of our own social evolution – and as a result, no vision for the future.

The presidential historian Michael Beschloss has said that, “Not all readers are leaders, but all real leaders are readers.”

There is no evidence that Trump has the attention span to read a lengthy daily intelligence briefing – much less the biographies and histories that have been devoured by former presidents like Kennedy and Obama.

These traits are weaknesses that can be exploited by adversaries – just as they were by Pelosi and Schumer. But they’re not state secrets – they’re out there for everybody to see. So they can also be exploited by foreign adversaries like Kim Jong Un.

And of course, one of the other key traits of successful leaders is trust. It is the trust others in the group have that the leader will do what is in their best interests – even at the sacrifice of his own. People need to believe that their leader will keep them safe and secure even if it means sacrificing himself in the process. A captain is always the lastperson to leave a sinking ship.

Great leaders project that sense of trust to their own team, to their followers, and to their allies.

Self-sacrifice, profiles-in-courage, trust – these are not words often spoken in the same sentence as the name “Donald Trump.”

Buckle up. Unless he is impeached or resigns, we have over three years left of his presidency. At least it won’t be boring and predictable – except in one respect. You can be certain that Donald Trump will always make decisions that he believes at the moment will benefit one person: Donald Trump.


Measuring the Political Influence of Fox News vs. MSNBC

In his column “Study: Democrats vulnerable to Fox News’s magical powers,” WaPo media commentator Erik Wemple looks at the political influence of the conservative network. Among Wemple’s observations:

“Were a viewer initially at the ideology of the median Democratic voter in 2008 to watch an additional 3 minutes of Fox News per week, her likelihood of voting Republican would increase by 1.03 percentage points,” reads the study by Gregory J. Martin and Ali Yurukoglu of Emory and Stanford universities, respectively. Another finding: Fox News holds more sway over Democrats than MSNBC holds over Republicans.

Numbers go with that assertion. According to the study, published in the American Economic Review, Fox News racked up “persuasion rates” of 58 percent in 2000, 27 percent in 2004 and 28 percent in 2008. What’s a persuasion rate, anyway? It’s a thingy in which the numerator measures Fox News viewers “who are initially Democrats but by the end of an election cycle change to supporting the Republican party. The denominator is the number of [Fox News] viewers who are initially Democrats.” Corresponding figures for MSNBC — Republicans converting to Democrats, that is — are 16 percent, 0 percent and 8 percent. Asked about Fox News’s Democratic audience, Martin told this blog via email, “Given Fox’s content, yes, it is likely that these Democrats are relatively less ideologically committed and more persuadable compared to Democrats who don’t watch Fox.”

At Vox, Dylan Matthews reports that “A stunning new study shows that Fox News is more powerful than we ever imagined: It could even be flipping elections.” Mathews adds,

Fox News is, by far, America’s dominant TV news channel; in the second quarter of 2017, Fox posted 2.35 million total viewers in primetime versus 1.64 million for MSNBC and 1.06 million for CNN. Given that Fox was founded by a longtime Republican Party operative and has almost exclusively hired conservative commentators, talk radio hosts, and the like to host its shows, it would stand to reason that its dominance on basic cable could influence how Americans vote, perhaps even tipping elections.

A new study in the American Economic Review (the discipline’s flagship journal), with an intriguing and persuasive methodology, finds exactly that. Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimate that watching Fox News directly causes a substantial rightward shift in viewers’ attitudes, which translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates.

They estimate that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008.

For context, that would’ve made John Kerry the 2004 popular vote winner, and turned Barack Obama’s 2008 victory into a landslide where he got 60 percent of the two-party vote.

Matthews continues,

The effects of CNN and MSNBC on centrist voters are mostly negligible; MSNBC, in 2000 and 2004, modestly increased odds of voting Republican, before it turned left in time for 2008. But Fox News increases Republican voting odds for centrists, for Democratic viewers, and even, in 2004 and 2008, for Republicans already strongly inclined to vote that way. Watching three minutes more of Fox News per week in 2008 would have made the typical Democratic or centrist voter 1 percentage point likelier to vote Republican that year.

“Fox is substantially better at influencing Democrats than MSNBC is at influencing Republicans,” the authors find. While most Fox viewers are Republican, a sizable minority aren’t, and they’re particularly suggestible to the channel’s influence. In 2000, they estimate that 58 percent of Fox viewers who were initially Democrats changed to supporting the Republican candidate by the end of the election cycle; in 2004, the persuasion rate was 27 percent, and 28 percent in 2008. MSNBC, by contrast, only persuaded 8 percent of initial Republicans to vote Democratic in the 2008 cycle.

These are big effects, with major societal implications. The authors find that the Fox News effect translates into a 0.46 percentage point boost to the GOP vote share in the 2000 presidential race, a 3.59-point boost in 2004, and a 6.34-point boost in 2008; the boost increases as the channel’s viewership grew. This effect alone is large enough, they argue, to explain all the polarization in the US public’s political views from 2000 to 2008.

…”Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure,” economists Stefano DellaVigna (Berkeley) and Ethan Kaplan (Maryland) found in a seminal 2007 paper.

Fox still has a lot of clout, but TV Newser’s A. J. Katz reports:

…For the 4th straight month, MSNBC finished 1st in A18-49 for weekday prime (M-F 8-11pm) in the month of August 2017, according to Nielsen. MSNBC averaged 364,000 viewers A18-49 (vs. FOX News’ 348,000 and CNN’s 358,000); 514,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 448,000); and 2.31 million viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.28 million viewers). In total viewers, MSNBC finished at #2 among all cable networks in weekday prime (ahead of HGTV and TBS, just behind FOX News), posting the network’s best viewer delivery ever and topping CNN in total viewers for the 9th month in a row. In A25-54, MSNBC also beat CNN for 6th month in a row. Additionally, MSNBC outpaced FOX News’ and CNN’s growth year over year in the key demographics: +62% in A18-49 (vs. FOX News’ +13% and CNN’s +39%), +61% in A25-54 (vs. FOX News’ +22% and CNN’s +44%), and +63% in total viewers (vs. FOX News’ +4% and CNN’s +32%).

MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” was the #1 show across all of cable news, beating FOX News and CNN in the key demographics of A25-54 and A18-49 and total viewers. This is the 6th consecutive month in A25-54 and the 4th straight month in total viewers that “Maddow” topped all of cable news. “Maddow” delivered its best total viewer delivery ever for a month, averaging 2.8 million total viewers and 630,000 viewers A25-54.

Writing in the conservative webzine, The Blaze, Chris Enloe explains why “Rachel Maddow is dominating cable news — and it’s not even close.” and notes, “When it came to the coveted 25-54 demographic, Maddow blew her competition out of the water. The liberal darling also led her competition in the younger 18-49 demographic.”

In addition to Maddow’s growing popularity, MSNBC has benefitted from improving viewership figures for both late evening liberal political talker Lawrence O’Donnell and center-right ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough. Further, notes Enloe,

It’s not immediately clear what is leading to MSNBC’s ratings surge. But one has to believe that the shake-up plaguing Trump’s White House and near-constant unfavorable coverage of his administration is playing a part.

It’s likely that Fox News’ own turmoil has played a role in mediocre ratings. This year, the network has seen the departure of its two biggest stars — Megyn Kelly, who left for NBC News, and Bill O’Reilly, who was fired — while accusations of workplace sexual misconduct continue to plague the network.

Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, it’s clear that Fox News is still a powerful source of political opinion-shaping, but MSNBC’s influence is rising very fast. CNN is going to have to do some more creative news programming to get in the political influence game.

Television remains the the powerhouse in terms of political ad placement, as Steve Lozano reports in his post, “TV Continuses to Thrive in an Increasingly Digital World” at Campaigns & Elections.  It’s unclear, however, if TV News is still the dominant media for shaping political opinion and voter choices, given the rapidly rising influence of social media (even if much of it is ‘preaching to the choir’). What is absolutely certain is that Democratic candidates better have a savvy strategy in place for both.


Lux: How Dems, Progressives Should Define Freedom

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Conservatives spend a lot of time talking about freedom. They seem deathly afraid that government is going to take all their freedoms away.

Progressives don’t talk about freedom nearly enough, even though it is the cornerstone of what we want in society. For too long, we have let conservatives go on and on about it without saying very much on the subject ourselves. That needs to change.

At the heart of the matter is how we define freedom. Conservatives are obsessed that government might actually keep them from mistreating their workers, worsening climate change, or cheating their clients and gaming their taxes. Some of them even glory in their freedom to harass the women in their workplace and say racist things to people of color. In other words, what they seem to treasure most is the freedom to be an a-hole.

Progressives define freedom differently. We want the liberty to pursue our happiness in our own way, live a good life, and contribute to society without being controlled and dominated by the powers that be. We want to live  without the ravages of poverty even when we are working full-time, or at two or three jobs. We want the security of knowing our family’s finances won’t be destroyed if we or one of our kids gets sick. We want the freedom to band together with other workers and bargain for better wages and working conditions without getting fired. We want to know the food we eat is safe, the water we drink is clean, the air we breathe won’t make us or our families sick, and that the planet won’t get so cooked that our grandchildren won’t be able to have a good life. We want the freedom of knowing that whatever our race, sex, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, immigration status, or religious beliefs, we can get equal rights and not have people discriminate against or be nasty to us.

That’s the debate: the freedom to pursue happiness and build a good life versus the freedom to be an a-hole. You choose which side you want to be on.

In the first episode of season two of “Mike Lux: The Politics Guy,” I talk about this debate some more. Enjoy…