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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


New Survey Provides 2018 Midterms Turnout Estimates, Reveals Challenge Facing Democrats

In a new Lake Research Partners/The Voter participation Center report, “Comparing the Voting Electorate in 2012-2016 and Predicting 2018 Drop-off,” Celinda Lake and Joshua E. Ulibarri offer data-driven projections of voter turnout in the 2018 elections. The study should be required reading for all 2018 Democratic candidates and campaigns. As Lake and Ulibarri report:

  • Using a predictive methodology for population growth and likely turnout patterns, it is projected that the RAE [Rising American Electorate – “unmarried women, Millennials (ages 18-34)*, African Americans, Latinos, and all other people of color (as defined by the Census) – now accounts for more than half of the voting eligible population in this country (59.2%)”] will comprise 61.6% of those who will vote in November 2018. This means that one in three voters who turned out in 2016 will NOT turn out in 2018 (35.1% of those who voted in 2016, or 25.4 million RAE voters, will stay home).
  • The predicted drop-off among non-RAE voters is only 22.1% or 14.4 million voters. In fact, of the nearly 40 million Americans predicted to drop-off from 2016, two-thirds will come from the RAE (remember, the RAE represents 59.2% of the vote eligible population).
  • Turnout is predicted to drop the most among Millennial voters and unmarried women. In fact, this is true in patterns seen between 2008 and 2014. Drop-off among Millennials is predicted to be 54.1% (or 17.2 million voters) and 33.4% among unmarried women (or 11.1 million voters).
  • Regionally, the biggest drop-off of RAE voters is predicted to take place in the Mid-Atlantic states (NY, PA, and NJ – Census defined region). Here, 39.6% of RAE voters are expected to drop-off in 2018.
  • Among target states, Virginia, North Carolina, and Nevada are expected to see the biggest drop-off rates among RAE voters. 48.7% (or roughly 1,106,000 voters) of RAE voters are predicted to drop off in Virginia in 2018, while 44.2% (or roughly 309,000 voters) and 43.4% (or roughly 1,135,000 million voters) of RAE voters will drop off in Nevada and North Carolina, respectively.

The study includes national, regional and state data, and the authors note that “Drop-Off – refers to the loss of voters from 2016 to 2018. The average of turnout in 2006, 2010, and 2014 was applied to 2018 population estimates to calculate 2018 turnout. Percentage drop-off is the difference between 2016 and 2018 turnout as a percentage of 2016 turnout. Number drop-off is that percentage of the 2016 electorate.”

The study underscores the profound disadvantage Democratic candidates face in midterm elections, since the RAE is composed of largely pro-Democratic constituencies. The 2018 vote total could be even worse, if the Republicans are able to expand their voter suppression impact. If, on the other hand, Democrats are able to run really good candidates and mobilize more effective voter registration, education and turnout campaigns, the 2018 results could be significantly better in key states.

ABC/WaPo Poll: Dems in Good Position for 2018

Yes, it’s still early, but a new ABC/Washington Post Poll shows Democrats with an impressive lead among potential midterm voters. As Sofi Sinozich writes at abcnews.com:

There is a Democratic preference: Among all adults, 53 percent say they’d prefer to see the Democrats take control of Congress “to act as a check on Trump,” vs. 35 percent who’d like to see the GOP retain control “to support Trump’s agenda.” That said, among registered voters, it’s a 52-38 percent split, and among likely voters, 50-41 percent — the Democratic margin drawing in from 18 to 14 to 9 points as voting likelihood increases.

Drilling deeper, Sinozich adds:

In the question on control of Congress, registered partisans nearly unanimously back their respective parties, leaving the result driven by independents: Half prefer Democratic control of Congress, 36 percent, Republican.

Among white registered voters, men without college degrees, some of Trump’s strongest backers in the 2016 election, prefer Republican control, 60 vs. 34 percent. By contrast, among white women with college degrees it’s the opposite — 59 vs. 35 percent for Democratic control.

Democratic control wins only a slight edge among returning voters, 49 vs. 41 percent, while potential new voters prefer it by 2-1, 64 vs. 30 percent. That reflects the fact that new potential voters are younger and more likely to be nonwhite, two groups that consistently lean Democratic. And it underscores the Democratic Party’s need to boost turnout in these groups.

Sinozich’s report emphasizes that “Despite Trump’s historically low approval rating, opposition to him is not producing appreciably more 2018 voting intention than is support for him” and she notes that “51 percent of registered voters say Trump won’t be a factor in their vote for Congress. The rest split closely between saying they’d vote to support Trump (20 percent) or to oppose him (24 percent), a non-significant gap.” Other poll analysts have noted a long-standing relationship between the midterm performance of political parties and the President’s approval ratings.

In any case, the Democratic Party is not going to hang all of its 2018 midterm elections hopes on Trump’s sinking popularity, despite the media’s narrow construct of Democratic strategy as a choice between focusing on Trump or local issues. Very few Democratic candidates are counting on Trump’s approval ratings to get elected. While Trump is undoubtedly doing some damage to the Republican “brand” among swing voters, the more interesting question at this juncture is how much damage McConnell and Ryan are doing to the GOP’s image with their ‘repeal and replace” follies. All of this may matter less in November, 2018 than the voting public’s perception of economic realities.

Martinez: Virginia Can Light Path to Victory for Dems

Leopoldo MartínezBoard Chair for Latino Victory Project, limns a victory strategy in his HuffPo article “Organizing a Democratic Comeback” at HuffPo — beginning with the Virginia Governorship:

Trump did not win the national popular vote. Further, his margins of victory were dismal in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — less than 0.5%. We know that this was merely due to thousands of registered democrats in those states not showing up to the polls or them being diverted to protest for Johnson or Stein. It is also clear that voter turnout in red states, like Arizona or Texas, was worse for Trump than for the past two Republican presidential candidates. And yes, we now know that according to America’s intelligence community, the Russian government did meddle in the 2016 Presidential election. For these reasons, and Trump’s poor presidential performance thus far, we must maintain our fight for “resistance,” and continue to “re-litigate,” with much help from the media, the 2016 election.

 …Does it make sense to brand “impeachment” and “resistance” the center of the political strategy to regain power? I see the merits of “resistance tactics” to prevent the extreme, such as the possibility of passing Trumpcare 3.0. I do agree that Congress should make Trump accountable for his affair with the wealthiest in America. However, for an impeachment to occur, Democrats need to be in the majority in Congress. Resistance alone, or the prospects of impeachment, are banking on the actions by others, namely Republicans.
Democrats need to convert the popular vote majority we uphold, into seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Furthermore, Democrats need to gain control of the state assemblies where the two biggest threats to democracy are emerging due to voter suppression and gerrymandering. Alternatively, we need to elect a governor who will veto every piece of legislation that could reverse our civil rights, like Governor Terry McAuliffe has done approximately 111 times in Virginia.
It is well over time to move from resistance to action, from being in the defensive to rolling out an offensive. We must communicate how the lives of working Americans, the middle class, and those most vulnerable matter. And, we must move beyond traditional partisan politics and coalitions, and activate independents whose aspirations would be better served with the ideas, laws and policies of Democrats. Also, we need to go local the message, issues and policies. We need to listen and develop progressive common sense responses that can be carried by local and state governments, we also need to find common ground with those who have good ideas to solve those problems.

This strategy will move our country forward and better the chances of electing Ralph Northam for Governor of the state of Virginia. Building a majority in the state legislature would not only stop the bigotry reigning in the DC-VA corridor, it will signal a path to reclaim a Senate majority in 2018.

We cannot win, of course, by negatively campaigning against Trump or making Russia and a potential impeachment the central theme in our narrative…The message in this Virginia governor’s race should be about hope and what the people need, preserving the economic and social progress we have made under President Obama, and fixing what needs fixing with specific proposals to mobilize the majority of the people.

“Let’s make Virginia the case to replicate nation-wide in 2018 and 2020,” Martinez concludes. “Building a majority, empowering and mobilizing a broad coalition, and public engagement with a positive policy message is the winning strategy. This will not only benefit the Democratic Party, but it will bring progress for our nation to move forward.”

Russo: Dems Must Listen Closely to Win Support from Working Class Voters

The following article by John Russo, former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University and currently a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, is cross-posted from newgeorgraphy.com:

Ohio has long been seen as a battleground state, up for grabs in most Presidential elections. The state supported winning candidates of both parties for decades. But as the state shifted back and forth, the Mahoning Valley (Mahoning and Trumbull Counties) in Northeastern Ohio remained a Democratic stronghold. If Democratic candidates could garner more than 62% of the vote in this region – as they often did — they would win the state. In years when Republicans won, the Mahoning Valley still voted for the Democrats, but with less enthusiasm.

Not this time. In the 2016 primaries, a number of Mahoning Valley Democrats changed their party affiliation to vote for Donald J. Trump. Last year’s big shift came from people who had sat out the past few elections but showed up to vote this year. In November, Hillary Clinton won Mahoning County but received less than 50% of the vote. She actually lost in neighboring Trumbull County. She lost Ohio by more than 8 points, the biggest loss of any candidate in the state since Michael Dukakis gave up the state to George H.W. Bush in 1988.

That’s why political operatives and journalists are now paying even more attention to the Youngstown area. Even the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), which has long counted on the Mahoning Valley, is taking notice of a region they didn’t think they needed to worry about.

In what has become a familiar practice following a series of defeats in recent state-wide elections, the ODP sponsored a “Listening Tour.” On June 12, 2017, the tour came to Youngstown with National Democratic Party Chairperson Tom Perez, who reiterated that Youngstown was a political “bellwether.”

The event was held at a local pizzeria, Wedgewood Pizza, and billed as “Pizza with Perez.” Approximately 75 attendees, mostly loyal Democratic Party supporters, including a number of local and state politicians, paid $25 to attend the midday event. I paid my $25 to find out whether Party leaders were seriously listening to the concerns of voters and to see how they would react.

What I saw was a typical campaign event, with the audience doing the listening while Democratic operatives touted their positions. After brief introductions by state and local Party chairs David Peppers and David Betras, Perez explained his commitment to Democratic politics by recalling his father’s experience of moving to Buffalo from the Dominican Republic. Perez talked about how the community and especially the labor movement helped his family make a home there. He promised that Democrats could be counted on to speak to hopes and fears of the working class and to fight for working people.

Read More Here:

Some Elements of a Winning ‘Rural Strategy’ for Dems

Cartney McCracken, a partner at Control Point Group, a D.C.-based Democratic consulting firm, has a post, “A Rural Strategy for Democrats,” up at Campaigns & Elections, which merits a thoughtful read. McCracken’s lede:

After a string of losses in the 2017 special House elections, it’s clear Democratic candidates are continuing to struggle reaching rural voters. That’s partly because our playbook for appealing to voters outside of urban areas remains unchanged: take a poll, repackage the DNC’s national messaging and target voters with mail and advertising. The problem is many rural voters become alienated when campaigns attempt to micro-target using messaging distilled from a national or statewide poll.

Rural America has plenty of voters who are more politically-astute than what is too often suggested by Democratic boilerplate propaganda. Reaching persuadable rural voters requires a little more thought — and respect. As McCracken observes:

Rural voters who have seen factories shuddered over the past 15 years want to talk about jobs, not economic development. Economic development is a Beltway term that they hear on the nightly news and campaign ads. These voters want to know what the candidate can do to address farm issues, cell phone signal, and broadband internet access. Rural voters want to know what a candidate can do to fix broken roads and keep the cost of gas and milk down.

…To appeal to rural voters, Democrats need to be where rural voters are — the grocery store, the gas station in a one-stop-light town, advertising on terrestrial radio and in local newspapers. Micro-targeted digital ads sound great to consultants, but they’re not nearly as effective as shoe-leather campaigning in rural areas.

…These voters do go to the grocery store, they have post office boxes where they pick up their mail, and they need to refill their gas tanks. These voters are reliable visitors to the county fairs and ramp dinners. Democratic candidates need to be at these places listening to voters’ concerns. These optics persuade rural voters better than a mail piece with the candidate wearing a barn jacket.

“If Democrats want to have any chance of taking back state legislatures, the House, or the Senate in 2018,” concludes McCracken, “we must re-engage the rural vote in person and in messaging. Meet these rural voters where they go, speak with them rather than at them, and incorporate these conversations into messaging that matters.”

Polling data and media outreach are essential tools for connecting with persuadable rural voters. But there is no substitute for showing up in person with a solid understanding of their concerns  —  to really show that a candidate cares. Let the Republicans dodge the town halls in small-town America. That’s not a luxury Dermocrats can afford, if they want to get some traction outside the cities and suburbs of the nation.

It’s Time for Dems to Tend Their Pivotal Base Constituency

Democratic strategists and candidates should take the time to read — and think about — Lauren Victoria Burke’s “As Democrats Keep Chasing Trump Voter Waterfalls, Will They Ever Listen to Their Actual Base: Black People?” at theroot.com. Burke sheds some much-needed light on a Democratic blind spot:

…Does it really take a genius to figure out that if a group votes for you 90 percent of the time you should do what it takes to make sure that group is at the polling place on election day?

…The hard fact is that the Democratic party has no history of taking the strategic advice of African-American elected officials, leaders or consultants and applying substantial financial backing to black voter outreach. Will new DNC Deputy Chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) be listened to? Who knows.

If past is prologue, everyone knows what happens next: Senior black officials asking the party for field help will be ignored and, instead, Democrats will stage a few visits to black churches two Sundays before Election Day, followed by that crash panic of activity days before Election Day.

 It was white women who gave 53 percent support to Donald Trump. It was Hispanic voters who gave Trump 29 percent of their support. African Americans voted for Hillary at 93 percent. You’d think lots of energy to get that group out would be common sense after black women were number one in turnout percentage of any voting group…Black turnout dove to 2004 levels in 2016 after Democrats decided that the record numbers seen in 2008 and 2012 would magically persist without President Obama on the ticket.
Then Burke gets down to a very recent case:
There were over 130,000 African Americans in South Carolina’s 5th congressional district. Did the Democratic Party attempt to make a vigorous effort to turn them out? No. African American voters vote for the Democratic Party over 90 percent. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) asked for $200,000 to get out that vote. The answer was no.
It’s entirely possible Democrats could have picked up that seat with a small fraction of what was spent on the Ossoff campaign. It’s not like they weren’t informed about it. Compounding the mistake, Democrats ignored the good advice of one of their most loyal and experienced African American congressmen. As Burke notes,
On June 22, The Root asked Clyburn if he could remember a time when the Democratic Party has listened to blacks on strategy.

“I haven’t really thought about that,” said Clyburn, with a smile in a ornate lobby off of the House floor. “But they didn’t this time,” he added.

Clyburn will turn 77 next month and has been in Congress since 1993. If Democrats in charge of strategic decisions aren’t listing to him when it comes to black voter outreach, who are they listening to? Speaking with several other senior black Democrats reveals the same scenario.

Further, asks Burke, “Where’s the DNC’s anti-suppression campaign? Where’s the get out the vote effort target to black voters? Where’s the census strategy?”

Damn good questions.

Democratic leaders should certainly make an effort to get more votes from the white working-class. But even if they succeeed in gettting a larger share of that constituency, it won’t mean much if they underperform with African American voters. It’s time to take a sobering look at how they allocate GOTV resources to insure that the only constituency that votes Democratic 9-1 receives the attention it merits. This they should do, not only because it makes practical sense, but also because it is the right thing to do.

“Democrats are proving cycle after cycle that you can have all the money in the world,” concludes Burke, “but if you’re a loser on messaging and vote targeting it’s a waste.”

Choosing between pouring resources into white working-class GOTV and African American voter turnout is essentially a false choice. Neglecting either constituency is a ticket to defeat. Democrats have got to do both — if they really want to win.

Two Weeks Later, Reasons for Ossoff Defeat Come Into Focus

Two weeks after the GA-6 special election run-off, seasoned political columnist Albert R. Hunt of Bloomberg View offers some perceptive observations about Jon Ossoff’s defeat in that marquee contest:

Some disappointed Democrats have argued that they failed because their candidate wasn’t tough enough on Trump, and didn’t take strongly progressive positions that would energize their most loyal voters.

That theory doesn’t hold up to an analysis of voter-turnout data by John Anzalone, the pollster for the Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff.

Anzalone’s breakdown shows that Democrats turned out to vote in impressive numbers. There were 125,000 votes for Ossoff, more than Democratic congressional candidates had gotten in the district before and more than Barack Obama received in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012.

“We did excite the Democratic base,” Anzalone said. “Trump was the accelerant that brought out Democrats who would not normally vote in a midterm or special election.”

The problem for the Democrats was that there was a larger-than-expected Republican turnout too, enabling the GOP candidate, Karen Handel, to win by 10,000 votes. Some Democrats had hoped that Trump’s unpopularity would dampen turnout for the Republican House candidate; it didn’t happen.

Hunt also sees a foreign policy impact benefitting Handel, as “supporters of Handel hammered Ossoff in the closing weeks of the campaign for inflating his national-security resume and for working with the Qatari-based media network Al Jazeicalera,” and notes that “Trump’s favorable poll ratings in the district rose only once, when he ordered the bombing of Syria in April.” But that’s an argument that would be more applicable to a U.S. Senate race than a House contest. It would be hard to cite a GA House race that clearly turned on foreign policy concerns in the last decade.

Hunt notes the Handel campaign’s extensive Pelosi-bashing as a possible factor. Ads can amplify an albatross strategy to a modest extent. But most Pelosi-haters would likely have voted against Ossoff anyway, regardless of any such attack ads. Value added by such ideological linkage would likely be minimal.

Ossoff’s defeat notwithstanding, Hunt points out that, “in every special House race and statewide contest this year, they [Democratic candidates] have significantly outperformed their showing in recent elections even in defeat.” Picking up two dozen House seats  doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, especially given the President’s tanking approval ratings and the lengthening do-nothing track record of GOP House members.

Other possible reasons for Handel’s win might include suppression of African American and Latino voters, Ossoff’s inadequate  outreach to working-class voters and Handel’s better-than-expected and lavishly-funded ground game. But Hunt is surely right that Democratic candidates have done a lot better thsn before in GA-6 and other 2017 special elections in Repubican-held districts. Looking toward the 2018 midterm elections, Dems have every reason for cautious optimism — and energetic voter mobilization in competitive House districts.

How Dems Can and Can’t Win a House Majority in 2018

At The Daily 202 James Hohmann explains why “Even sweeping the suburbs would not be enough for Democrats to win the House majority“:

To win the House majority in the midterms, Democrats will need to make big gains with suburban voters, defend incumbents in rural districts where President Trump remains popular, topple a handful of Republicans in the Sun Belt and probably win a handful of seats that still aren’t on anyone’s radar.

That’s a formidable challenge for Democrats, almost as difficult as Trump’s upsets in rust belt states last year. What makes it even possible is Trump’s increasingly unhinged behavior that, sooner or later, will cause at least some of his supporters to conclude that, maybe it’s time to check his power, and Republicans don’t seem to be up for the job.

Hohmann goes on to note that Republicans now hold 23 House seats in districts Clinton won. “But some of the incumbents are very popular, with brands that are distinct from Trump’s, and they are unlikely to lose no matter how bad the headwinds become.” In addition, writes Hohmann, “Democrats must defend 12 seats in districts that Trump carried in 2016.”

Hohmann cites a Third Way study of 65 potential ‘swing districts’ that fell into four basic categories, including “Thriving Suburban Communities, Left Behind Areas, Diverse/Fast-Growing Regions, and Non-Conformist Districts.” The study underscored the demographic complexity of the districts and concludes that there are simply not enough suburban districts where Democrats have credible chance to win, “even if they could get every single 2016 Clinton voter who backed a Republican House candidate to turn out again in 2018 and cross over.

The study concludes, further, that Democrats simply have to convert some Trump voters, which is a challenging goal, considering other studies which indicate that most Trump voters still support him, despite mounting evidence that he is being manipulated by Putin, almost daily revelations of his lies and blundering comments that alientate U.S. allies abroad.

“There is palpable concern among moderate Democrats that the party will squander precious pick-up opportunities in the midterms,” notes Hoihmann, “and even allow Trump to get reelected in 2020, by nominating unelectable liberals.” The key to Democratic victories next year, according to Third Way is “ideological diversity to take back legislative seats that were lost during the Obama era at the federal and state level” — the exact opposite of the robust populism many progressive Democrats are advocating.

The argument about whether a populist or centrist messaging strategy is better for Democrats in the 2018 midterms is not going to be decided by Democratic Party leaders. Instead, it will be decided mostly by two basic factors, the beliefs, determination and skills of the individual Democratic candidates who run and what the voters do on election day. Campaign consultants and strategists can help candidates get elected. But the candidates themselves have to provide the passion and commitment that can inspire voters.

It will be interesting to see if the winning Democratic candidates of 2018 are more in the progressive or centrist tradition, or perhaps somewhere in between, or even sprinkled across the ideological spectrum. The morning after the election is when the debate about whether a left or centrist message is better for Democratic candidates in 2018 can be credibly evaluated.

Lux: Three Keys to a Winning Strategy for Democrats

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

The Democratic talking points after losing two more House special elections, including one in Georgia that many people thought they would win, were partly right. All four of these congressional races were in deeply red districts, and we did considerably better than past Democratic candidates in those districts had done. If we over-perform based on past numbers in the competitive districts on the map in 2018, we’ll have a good year.

But with Trump’s numbers in the toilet, lots of Republicans with mixed feelings about the Donald, and Democratic outrage unleashing a flood of money, volunteers, and voter turnout, we had four special elections with legit opportunities to win… and we blew them all. We need to do a serious re-evaluation of our strategy as a party, and we need to do it right damn now.

I say this with a hyper-awareness that we are entering the week where the Republicans will try to not only repeal the Affordable Care Act, but will in the same bill be repealing Medicaid itself, one of the landmark achievements of the 20th century progressive movement. You heard that right, and this isn’t getting nearly enough attention: we’re not just talking deep cuts in Medicaid funding, we’re talking about ending the guarantee of health and nursing home care for the people dependent on Medicaid.

The money instead will be shifted into block grants, where the states — which for the most part aren’t exactly bastions of compassion — can do whatever they want with the far smaller amount of money they will be given. And understand this: Medicaid is not just for a small number of the poorest people in America. Twenty percent of Americans get their health coverage from Medicaid. Two thirds of the people in nursing homes have those bills paid for by Medicaid. And if you have disabilities and need medical care, odds are that those bills are paid by Medicaid as well. This is a BFD of maximum proportions.

You know what else I am hyper-aware of? That Donald Trump is turning America into a banana republic. He is a dangerous corrupt man giving largesse to his cronies and wreaking havoc wherever he goes. If Democrats don’t start winning elections in this election, in big numbers, our democracy will be in peril, as will the achievements of the last century in terms of civil rights, workers’ rights, the environment, health care, education. So much that is decent and good about our country will be blown to dust.

So when I say Democrats need a new strategy, that we need to start winning elections right away, I’m not just talking about how it’d be a little nicer to have more Democrats win. We are at the edge of the abyss, folks, and we desperately need to try something new when it comes to elections.

Here’s what we need to do:

1. Compete everywhere, districts that are more blue collar and rural included. Too many Democratic Party leaders have decided that we can’t compete very well among the “white working class.” That is one reason why the Kansas and South Carolina races were virtually ignored by the national party, and why national Democratic groups got out-spent almost ten to one in the Montana race, while a higher income suburban district in Georgia that was just as Republican as the other three got the lion’s share of money and attention from national Dems. In this political environment — where Trump and the Republicans are deeply unpopular, and where Democrats have far more enthusiasm about voting, volunteering, and giving money online — we should be competing everywhere and paying attention to the kinds of races we normally don’t.

Just because a lot of working class voters supported Trump last year doesn’t mean they will never vote for Democrats, a lot of those same voters voted for Dems in 2012. And news flash: white working class voters aren’t the only working class voters around. When you talk about issues that matter to blue collar voters — health care, Social Security, raising taxes on the wealthy, getting tough on Wall Street abuse of power, creating jobs and increasing wages, paid family and medical leave, child care — you are also reaching African-American working class folks, Latino working class folks, unmarried women, and young people who are working class folks.

2. Stop thinking of populism as some crazy lefty Bernie thing that can’t win in tough districts, that the message needed is safe and cautious “centrism” (whatever that means). Jon Ossoff ran a campaign very similar in targeting, message, and overall strategy to Hillary’s campaign — target upper-income suburban Republicans with an overwhelming amount of TV ads and mail with a safely centrist message mostly devoid of issue specifics and a ton of attacks on the opponent. But neither Hillary nor Ossoff won very many of those voters in spite of the millions spent on trying to do so.

Now, I will be the first to say that a candidate and their message need to fit the district, and GA-6 is a mostly suburban and upper-income district. I get how Ossoff was trying not to scare people that he was a crazy lefty, but there are plenty of older voters in GA-6. The Republican health care plan is unpopular everywhere, including GA-6, and he could have attacked it using quotes from popular groups like AARP and hospital CEOs. Social Security and Medicare are popular everywhere, and he could have talked more about the critical threats they face.

Running safe, mushy campaigns doesn’t win over very many Republicans; doesn’t usually work in getting swing voters on board; and doesn’t help turn out Democratic voters either.

At the same time, national Democrats didn’t think the more populist candidates in the more blue collar districts would appeal in the other three districts and made only very small investments in those districts while Ossoff was raising money hand over fist — more than $40 million was spent between the two candidates, making it the most expensive House race ever. Yet, we came closer in the South Carolina district totally ignored by Democrats, and we came very nearly as close in Kansas and Montana. If we had invested a fraction of the money spent in Georgia — 10% would have been $4 million — in those other three races, we might have picked up a couple of those seats. Populism sounds different from different candidates; different issues resonate in different districts, but in general, populism plays well in blue-collar districts.

Too many party strategists seem to believe that bland mushy messages win elections, but Republicans keep electing boldly conservative tea partiers and people like Trump. Democrats need to take populism back.

3. Less TV, more Facebook. Hillary vastly outspent Trump on TV in 2016. Multiple Democratic Senate candidates in swing races out-spent their opponents on TV and lost. Ossoff vastly out-spent Handel on TV and lost. Notice a pattern here? Republicans from Trump on down consistently spent more than we did on Facebook.

The reasons Democrats should be paying far more attention to Facebook and far less to TV are many. Fewer and fewer people are watching traditional TV, and when they are, they are figuring out plenty of ways to avoid watching commercials. And more and more people are spending more and more time on Facebook. TV commercials are the least trusted source of political information while content from your Facebook friends is among the most trusted sources of information. Most importantly, you can target individual voters on Facebook and learn from their reactions to ads and organic content. Democrats have many weaknesses in their electoral strategy, but if the only thing they did was shift 50% of their TV spending to Facebook (both in terms of turning out the vote and persuasion), they would start winning far more elections.

In order for our democracy and our decency as a country to survive, Democrats need to start winning elections again. But we won’t get there without a new strategy that actually reaches out to working class voters of all races and ages, and fights for issues that matter to their every day lives. Our strategy must shift from TV into the age of Facebook, and it needs to happen now.

How Dems Might Motivate Liberal Non-voters

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt shares a vision of a brighter future for Democrats. It is predicated, however, on meeting a difficult challenge — increasing voter participation among liberals who haven’t been voting.

If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Hillary Clinton would be president. Even with Donald Trump’s working-class appeal, Clinton could have swept Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Democrats would control the Senate. Clinton or Barack Obama could then have filled the recent Supreme Court vacancy, and that justice would hold the tiebreaking vote on campaign finance, labor unions and other issues.

If liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, the country would be doing more to address the two defining issues of our time — climate change and stagnant middle-class living standards. Instead, Trump is making both worse.

Ditto for health care, immigration and education, among other defining issues. Regarding tommorrow’s GA-6 election, Leonhardt writes, “Jon Ossoff, has a real chance to win partly because he isn’t suffering from the gap in voter passion and commitment that usually bedevils Democrats, especially in off-year races.”

As for the nation-wide implications, “It would be a big deal if Democrats could more often close their passion-and-commitment gap. Even modestly higher turnout could help them at every level of politics and hasten the policy changes that liberals dream about.”

Leonhardt rightly urges Dems: “..Don’t make the mistake of blaming everything on nefarious Republicans. Yes, Republicans have gerrymandered districts and shamefully suppressed votes (and Democrats should keep pushing for laws that make voting easier). But the turnout gap is bigger than any Republican scheme.”

He also suggests that Democrats do a better job of leveraging digital technology, and adds “I’d encourage progressives in Silicon Valley to think of voting as a giant realm ripe for disruption. Academic research by Alan Gerber, Donald Green and others has shown that peer pressure can lift turnout. Smartphones are the most efficient peer-pressure device ever invented, but no one has figured out how social media or texting can get a lot more people to the polls — yet.”

The DNC and state Democratic parties should develop a template app, with localized voter registratiion deadline alerts, poll location info and maps, a celebrity GOTV pitch and a progressive slate up and running for every federal, state and local election in the U.S.

In terms of the quality of messaging needed to increase liberal turnout, Leonhardt urges “a passionate message of fairness,”  — “providing jobs, lifting wages, protecting rights and fighting Trump’s plutocracy” However, “it should not resemble a complete progressive wish list, which could turn off swing voters without even raising turnout.” He believes that many liberals who don’t vote “are not doctrinaire…They are looking to be inspired.”

Sometimes the best way to project a message of fairness is to offer diverse candidates. Democrats urgently need more women, African American, Asian American and Latino candidates to run in every district and jurisdiction.

As Leonhardt concludes, “The country’s real silent majority prefers Democrats, if only that majority could be stirred to vote.”

Good points, all. But let’s not forget that many citizens don’t vote because of problems associated with voter registration requirements and voting convenience. Democrats must make Saturday voting, early voting, on-line and mail voting  and universal automatic registration top priorities. And Dems are going to need better monitoring of voter suppression practices like “caging” and other methods used to obstruct voters of color and younger voters.

Leonhardt is surely right that Democrats can and must do a better job of engaging liberal non-voters. It’s a tough, but do-able challenge and it’s one Dems can’t shirk — if they want to be competitive in the upcoming election cycles.