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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “The Gorsuch filibuster is about far more than payback” in his nationally-syndicated column and lays it out bold and clear: “This is thus about far more than retaliation, however understandable, for the Senate Republicans’ refusal to give even a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat Gorsuch would fill. Behind the current judicial struggle lies a series of highly politicized Supreme Court rulings…Let’s can all of these original-sin arguments about who started what and when in our struggles over the judiciary. From Bush v. Gore to Citizens United to Shelby County, it is the right wing that chose to thrust the court into the middle of electoral politics in an entirely unprecedented and hugely damaging way…There is nothing moderate about Gorsuch except his demeanor…Graciousness and tactical caution have only emboldened the right. It’s past time to have it out. From now on, conservatives must encounter tough resistance as they try to turn the highest court in the land into a cog in their political machine.”

At Mother Jones, Pema Levy explains “This Is What Democrats Have to Gain From Filibustering Gorsuch: For Democrats not to do this would have been a potentially catastrophic mistake.” As Levy reasons, “Beyond the issue of the base, some progressives see more potential upsides in triggering the nuclear option. “This is an exercise of a raw political power grab, and the hope is that the American people see that for what it is in coming elections,” said Neil Sroka, communications director for Democracy for America, a progressive group that is supportive of Democrats’ current strategy of filibustering Gorsuch. This is a position echoed by Schumer himself. When asked at a press conference Tuesday what would happen if Republicans ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, he responded, “They will lose if they do it.” That’s because the voters willsee that McConnell “will do anything to get his way,” and Republicans will not be seen as acting in a reasonable or bipartisan fashion. In the long term, Sroka believes progressives will be better off without the filibuster hindering their own nominees when, perhaps after the 2020 elections, Democrats are in a position to pick the next nominee.”

Maria Liasson is more skeptical about the effects of the Gorsuch filibuster in her NPR post “5 Insights On The ‘Nuclear’ Battle Over The Gorsuch Supreme Court Nomination.” She argues that “If Gorsuch is going to be confirmed one way or another, why tick off your base when you will gain nothing for it? That’s the situation Democrats find themselves in this week…The impending death of the judicial filibuster feels like another big step down the slippery slope to tribal politics…Trust in all American institutions is at an all-time low, including the Supreme Court and Congress. The end of the judicial filibuster will make that trust deficit even bigger.” But the end of the judicial filibuster could also encourage voters to pay more attyention to the Supreme Court, the ways it affects their lives and the votes they cast for President and Senator.

Katie Mettler’s “Angie’s List rejects O’Reilly boycott: Trusts members to make ‘make their own’ decisions” at The Washington Post probably spells trouble for Fox News, as well as the company. As Mettler writes, “More than 30 advertisers have fled the airwaves of The O’Reilly Factor, the most popular cable television show on the most popular cable network, after a New York Times report on previously unknown sexual harassment allegations against the host spurred yet another woman to step forward…Angie’s List, the Indianapolis-based online community that functions like a high-end Yelp, has said it will not self-censor, but instead let its customers think for themselves…Angie’s List was met with swift online contempt, incurring the wrath of #GrabYourWallet advocates who threatened to cancel subscriptions to the site and claimed the company’s position was effectively an endorsement of O’Reilly’s alleged actions. “Sexual harassment is not a ‘viewpoint,’” wrote one woman on Twitter, tagging the company. “You’re not spending your ad money wisely and we’re paying attention!” Several other companies, like Trivago and Expedia, have declined to comment on their ad buys related to The O’Reilly Factor, but none have solicited the same fierce backlash as Angie’s List.” The company was also reluctant to quit sponsoring Rush Limbaugh, when his program was boycotted. Although sponsors are boycotting The O’Reilly Factor boycott for the hosts alleged sexual harrassment, rather than his political views, the boycott does call ntion-wide attention to O’Reilly’s sponsors and their politics, which many of them don’t want.

Progressives may want to further explore leveraging economic withdrawall from companies and organizations which support right-wing causes. One example might be companies that serve on the “Corporate Board” of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provides “template” bills that enhance voter suppression and advance other right-wing bills in state legislatures. Still another possibility would be organizations and companies, whose leaders give most heavilly to Republican candidates.

In their Washington Post article, “Bannon removed from security council as McMaster asserts control,” Robert Costa, Abby Phillip and Karen DeYoung include this quote from a House Democrat, who some observers see as a rising star in Democratic politics as a result of his deft probing of Russian meddling in the 2016 election: “Bannon says he was put on NSC to ‘de-operationalize’ it. Think the word he was looking for was ‘dysfunctionalize,’ ” tweeted Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Mission accomplished.”

At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait predicts, only partly tongue in cheek, “Before This Is Over, Republicans Are Going to Wish Hillary Clinton Won” and writes, “Trump is not a shrewd politician. A string of horrifying leaks has depicted a man far too mentally limited to do his job competently. The president is too ignorant of policy — he simply agrees with whomever he spoke with last — to even conduct basic policy negotiations with friendly members of Congress who want him to succeed. Nor does Trump know enough to even identify competent people to whom he can delegate his work. He’s a rank amateur who listens and delegates to other amateurs. (In a normal administration, the hilariously broad portfolio charged to his political novice son-in-law would be seen not as a joke but as a crisis.)…One Republican staffer, dismayed by Trump’s flailing, told Ezra Klein, “If we get Gorsuch and avoid a nuclear war, a lot of us will count this as a win.”

William Wan’s “Democrats are still ignoring the people who could have helped them defeat Trump, Ohio party leaders say” features some informative and provocative comments from several eloquent sources, including David Betras, chair of Ohio’s Mahoning County Democratic Party: “It doesn’t matter how much we scream and holler about jobs and the economy at the local level. Our national leaders still don’t get it,” said David Betras, the county’s party chair. “While Trump is talking about trade and jobs, they’re still obsessing about which bathrooms people should be allowed to go into…The workers we’re talking about don’t want to run computers, they want to run back hoes, dig ditches, sling concrete block,” he wrote. “They’re not embarrassed about the fact that they get their hands dirty. . . . They love it and they want to be respected and honored for it…What Trump slapped onto his plate last election was a big juicy steak. Real or not — that’s what it looked like to the hungry working voter,” Betras said. “What the elitists in our Democratic Party did with their side issues was say, ‘Look at all this broccoli we have for you. Sure, there’s some meat pieces mixed in, too, but look at the broccoli.” If Democrats ever want to win back Ohio, they better listen to Betras.

The last word for this edition of our notes goes to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who said in his speech to the National Press Club, “If you pull a bait-and-switch on working people, if you say that you’re with us and then attack us, you’re going to fail,” Trumka said. When the president says, ‘I’m for you,’ and then he does the old switcheroozy and he pulls a healthy or safety regulation that hurts us, we’ll let him know…We will not be an ATM for any political party…We’ll stand up to the corporate Republicans who attack working people and the neoliberal Democrats who take us for granted…It gets frustrating to us when people say, ‘Why do you support so many Democrats?’ Give me more Republicans that support our issues and we’ll support them. But we can’t find them. We look everywhere, trust me. We look under rocks, but we can’t find them.”


Are Dems Preparing to Correct Midterm Turnout Gap?

At The Upshot, Nate Cohn explains why “Democrats Are Bad at Midterm Turnout. That Seems Ready to Change“: Cohn writes that “the history of midterm turnout, the recent special elections, the protests, the donations and the early vote all seem consistent with the same story: The Democrats might be fixing their midterm turnout problem.”

In the past, notes Cohn, “Democrats have depended on young and nonwhite voters, two groups that produce low turnout in midterm contests. Nationwide, Republicans were more than 20 percent likelier to vote than Democrats (defined by party vote history and registration) in 2010 and 2014, according to an Upshot analysis of voter file data from the company L2.” More recently, however,

Democrats have fared well in recent special elections, and they have turned out in strong numbers in the four contests where complete turnout numbers are now available: a relatively uncompetitive special election in Iowa’s 45th State Senate district in December, two January contests in Virginia, and Delaware’s 10th State Senate district race in February.

In Delaware, the turnout for Democrats and the unaffiliated matched 2014 levels, while Republican turnout was five percentage points lower. In the end, the partisan composition of the electorate was about the same as in 2016, and Democrats won the race. (For a special election in a state senate race, simply matching previous turnout levels is an impressive feat.)

In Iowa, Democratic turnout was far higher than Republican turnout, improving the Democratic share of the electorate by 14 points since the last midterm election.

The turnout data is harder to interpret in Virginia, where voters do not register with a party. But Republican primary voters outnumbered Democratic primary voters by a somewhat smaller number in both contests than they did in the 2014 elections.

The trend toward higher Democratic turnout appears to be continuing in the April 18 special election for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, where early voting has recently gotten underway. So far, the party’s turnout is running about twice as high as it did at this point in 2014, while Republican turnout is about half what it was.

In her NBC News post, “Thousands of Would-Be Democratic Candidates Flood States in Trump Backlash,” Alex Seitz-Wald notes,

Democrats typically have trouble recruiting candidates for Statehouse races, but now they’re having trouble keeping up with all the people who want to run.

Candidates are already coming out of the woodwork across the country, thanks to a backlash against President Donald Trump and a newfound recognition on the left of the importance of state legislatures to counter GOP control in Washington, D.C.

…The surge of potential candidates has been so unusual that, for the first time, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee felt the need to coordinate its recruiting efforts with all the groups that work to find candidates. Democratic officials have had to add extra candidate training sessions to keep up with demand and increase enrollment in existing ones.

One major training group, Emerge America, reports an 87% surge in candidate applications over last year.

…When Amanda Litman, a former Hillary Clinton campaign aide, launched Run for Something on Inauguration Day, she was planning to spend a lot of her time hunting for potential candidates…”We thought we would have to struggle to find 100 people who would want to run,” she said in an interview. More than 1,000 people signed up in the first week.

Good signs, all. “A few elections aren’t enough to prove that turnout is really shifting.,” as Cohn notes, but “millions who marched and protested a day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, or the abundant fund-raising for Mr. Ossoff” are also encouraging for Dems. Add to that the fact that “The Democratic turnout disadvantage is smaller — or basically nonexistent — when Republicans hold the White House.”

Further, “Republican turnout has been just 6 percent higher than Democratic turnout in midterm elections when Republicans have held the White House, like in 1982, 1986, 1990, 2002 and 2006.”

Both historical trends and recent developments provide Democrats with reasons to hope for a better turnout of pro-Democratic constituencies. If the national, state and local Democratic parties improve their turnout operations in competitive races, and take advantage of divisions among Republicans, the outcome could be even better.


Teixeira: Dems Must Mobilize Base, But Also Strive to Win More Working-Class Voters

Alex Carp has a revealing interview with Ruy Teixeira, author of influential political books, including “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think” and (co-author with John Judis) of “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” at New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer. In one section of the interview Teixeira talks about the problems of the Clinton campaign messaging  strategy, and the implications for the future.

…Look at Hillary Clinton’s platform, for example, and the things she was supposedly running on. She actually had a lot of pretty good ideas for things that would benefit white non-college-graduates, even ideas that were specific to those areas of the country where they’re concentrated. But she didn’t talk about them; she didn’t even go to these places, by and large.

In fact, she didn’t really talk about policy. There’s a now well-known study of campaign advertising that showed Hillary Clinton was at a historically low level. She spent money like crazy — she way outspent Donald Trump, but the advertising was all about how Trump was not a progressive, he wasn’t a good guy, he didn’t like black people and Latinos and immigrants, and he’s intolerant, his issues with women, and so on. But very little of it was about what she actually would do for people, what her policies were.

As far as messaging goes, Clinton talked quite a lot about economic issues and reforms in her speeches. But, as Teixeira points out, her ads were much more focused on criticizing Trump. Perhaps one of the lessons of the 2016 presidential campaign is that campaign speeches are generally not well-covered. Indeed, when you see campaign speech coverage on television news, it’s usually a very short soundbite, and not always the best one. Clinton’s speech coverage was further undermined by Trump’s almost daily bomb-throwing tweets. Thus, speeches are good for rallying the host audience, but not so much for influencing swing voters nation-wide. Ads may be more powerful for meeting this last challenge, and candidates must use them to pitch their policies and vision, not just to beat up on the adversary.

Teixeira is more hopeful about the future:

I think that’ll be corrected. Is there a single policy or two policies that they’ll talk about? I don’t know. But I think there’s going to be a lot of ripe targets from the first two years of the Trump administration, in terms of them doing and saying things that are directly an attack upon those people. And these voters voted for Trump because they thought he was going to solve their problems. This is something that the left should hang on to with tenacity. Don’t typecast these voters as voting for Trump just because he had reactionary views on immigration or race or what have you. These voters want their lives to be better, and they thought that Trump could make it better. When this doesn’t happen, when things don’t get a lot better, and in fact when things might even get worse in some ways, that’s an opening.

Asked “Do you think the recent wave of outreach to white working-class voters by Democratic strategists and thinks tanks is smart?,” Teixeira responds:

I do, I do. There is some debate about this, obviously. There are people who have made the case that essentially these voters are hopeless and that the real problem is not investing enough in mobilizing base Democratic voters, but I think that’s crazy, basically. Clearly, you can and should do both!

Any party worth its salt mobilizes its base, and it would be silly not to. But I think it’s political malpractice not to go out there and try to narrow your deficits among these very large groups of people in very important parts of the country. And if it requires somewhat more resources than you’ve been investing to do it, of course you should do it. I mean, I don’t even think it should be much of a debate.

Earlier in the interview Teixeira acknowledges that “even though the Democrats represented more people, they were inefficiently distributed for political purposes,” as a result of systemic problems, including gerrymandering, the small state advantage Republicans enjoy in the Senate and the distortion of voting power in the Electoral College — all of which have undercut the political advantage of demographic trends favoring Democrats.

Democrats now appear to be much more attentive to addressing these structural problems, and hopefully, a little wiser about what issues and vision to emphasize in campaigns. Add to that the growing rifts in the GOP, and Democratic prospects for 2018 and 2020 look much improved than was the case just after the election.


Gorsuch’s Media Persona Hides Partisan Tilt

The P.R. campaign to sell Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the public is well-underway, with a strong emphasis on portraying him as a moderate/centrist who wouldn’t be so bad for Democrats. It’s a strategy rooted in deception because Gorsuch holds right-wing views on worker rights and has an unsavory history of partisan activity, despite his lofty affirmations about the importance of the independent judiciary.

Gorsuch, who artfully dodged questions about Citizens United and Bush v. Gore, is a fairly slick manipulator of media, which helps to project an image of moderation. As Adam Liptak notes in The New York Times:

The nation’s first extended look at Judge Gorsuch in an unscripted setting revealed a smooth performer who shared some qualities with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who handled his 2005 confirmations hearings with such deep reserves of poise and wit that he was said to have retired the trophy.

Judge Gorsuch’s testimony was folksier, a little more combative and a little more canned. But he shared the chief justice’s ability to describe complex legal doctrines without taking a position on how they applied to actual controversies.

“I care deeply about the independence of the judiciary,” Gorsuch said on Tuesday. “When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity or motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening and demoralizing.”

Apparently Gorsuch didn’t “care deeply” enough about his fellow jurist Merrick Garland, a moderate, who is held in high esteem for his personal integrity, being denied a hearing by Republicans, nor even a meeting with any Republicans. This Mike Luckovitch cartoon captures the limits of Gorsuch’s principles regarding “the independence of the judiciary.”

Any Democrat who votes for Gorsuch is, in a sense, giving the Republicans a free ride on the total obstruction of a moderate nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

Another indication that Gorsuch harbors hyperpartisan convictions underneath his practiced media persona has been noted by Ari Berman at The Nation. As J.P. Green recently noted,

Ari Berman cuts to the chase in his article in The Nation, “In E-mails, Neil Gorsuch Praised a Leading Republican Activist Behind Voter Suppression Efforts. Gorsuch’s ties to Hans von Spakovksy suggest a hostility to voting rights.” As Berman writes: “Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote. But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration. When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!””…At very least, the e-mails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights. Given that we know almost nothing about Gorsuch’s views on the subject, this is something the Senate needs to press him on during confirmation hearings next week.

Gorsuch has already cited Justice Antonin Scalia as a role model, who said the Voting Rights Act had led to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Gorsuch, if confirmed, could be the deciding vote on whether to weaken the remaining sections of the VRA and whether to uphold discriminatory voter-ID laws and redistricting plans from states like North Carolina and Texas. In many ways, the fate of voting rights in the United States hangs on this nomination.

There is also Gorsuch’s very problematic record regarding worker rights and protection. In her Roll Call article, “Senate Democrats Preview Their Case Against Gorsuch: Supreme Court nominee cast as foe of workers.” Bridget Bowman writes, “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “But his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate, special interest agenda.”

Democrats have often opposed recent Republican nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis of  the nominee’s views on “social issues,” especially reproductive rights. And there is more than enough to be concerned about concerning Gorsuch’s rulings and views on a range of such issues. But it is especially  encouraging that Democrats are now focusing on Gorsuch’s positions on worker rights, which would concern an even larger constituency — all working people.

Whether Gorsuch gets nominated or not, Democrats can use this opportunity to strengthen their image by taking a high profile, front and center, as the real champions of worker rights. If they can stop the Gorsuch appointment or further delay the agenda of Trump and the Republicans, so much the better. The Republicans certainly deserve no better than all-out obstruction, since that has been their policy for over 8 years.


Creamer: Why Protests vs. Trump Could Be a Turning Point In U.S. History

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

It is entirely possible that Donald Trump’s election may indeed mark a significant inflection point in American political history – but not because it spawns a rebirth of white supremacy or the authoritarian right; quite the contrary.

I have been involved in progressive political organizing for 50 years – beginning in the late 1960s. There was an enormous amount of progressive energy, enthusiasm and passion generated during the Civil Rights movement and the mobilizations aimed at stopping the Viet Nam War. But the level of progressive mobilization generated by Donald Trump’s victory surpasses the 1960s and ‘70s or any other time in the last half-century.

Millions of ordinary Americans – many of whom have never been engaged in political activity of any kind – have joined the “resistance.” They have begun to attend town hall meetings, or participated in the amazing Women’s March following the Trump Inauguration, or they were part of the explosive response to Trump’s immigration policies and his refugee ban.
In fact, as far as I know, the Women’s March was the largest one-day series of nation-wide protests in American history.

The emergence of new grassroots-led organizations like Indivisible, the Town Hall Project, and the Women’s March have already transformed the political landscape. And the memberships of grassroots progressive organizations like MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, Organizing for Action (OFA), People For the American Way, and many others have all exploded.

When you attend town meetings or progressive political events – or just talk to your neighbors – the universal question is: “What can I do – how can I become involved to stop Trump and his policies?”
And already, we’ve seen evidence that the new level of political mobilization washes over very directly into electoral politics. In the Delaware special legislative election where the GOP and Democrats were fighting over a swing seat to determine control of the legislature, the Democrat won going away because turnout far surpassed expectation.

Political observers are watching the Georgia special election to replace former Congressman – now Trump Health and Human Services Secretary – Tom Price. Donald Trump won the election in the district by only 1 percent ― a seat that Price won handily last fall. It is entirely possible that a massive special election turnout generated by the new level of progressive mobilization may carry Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff to victory. That would send shivers down the Republican Party’s collective spine and could presage a Democratic takeover of the House next year.

Some people think that the current level of energy and engagement may fade with time – and they may be right.

But as anyone who has done political organizing knows, it’s much easier to get people fired up about things someone is trying to take away from them than about things to which they aspire. Once people have something, they don’t want to give it up.

At the same time, if you give newly energized people a taste of success, they are much more prone to deepen their engagement.
Ironically then, on the one hand the more successful Trump and his forces are at taking away our health care insurance, public television, school lunches or the rights of the immigrant community, the more angry and fired up people will be. On the other hand, the more progressives are successful at stopping Trump from achieving his declared goals of taking these and other things away, the more that success itself will inspire people to fight on.

This is not at all to say that the new level of progressive mobilization will inevitably continue. If progressives were to allow Trump to truly consolidate power, limit the rights of free speech and assembly, further suppress the right to vote, eviscerate the judiciary, pack the Supreme Court with Trump rubber stamps like his nominee Neil Gorsuch – or blunder into a truly devastating war ― that could change the picture.
But unless Trump is truly able to make himself into an American Putin, the Trump victory and the new level of political mobilization it has inspired present progressives with an historic political opportunity to catapult the country into a truly progressive direction that allows us to break through the gridlock ― and political and economic constraints of the last 30 years.

Increased progressive voter turnout massively changes the equation at every level of government. In addition, many voters who supported Obama, and then supported Trump in 2016 have already begun – gradually – to realize they were conned. Many of those most negatively impacted by repeal of the Affordable Care Act, for example, would be the older, rural, white working class voters upon which Trump most heavily depended for his surprise win last November.

And just last week, an iconic article appeared in The Huffington Post quoting a Trump voter saying that she didn’t know he would cut her Meals on Wheels program. “I was under the influence that he was going to help us,” she said.

If in 2018 Democrats take back the House and begin to retake the Governors’ mansions and legislatures upon which redistricting depends in 2020; if in 2020 itself we oust Trump and replace him with an inspiring populist progressive bent on building an economy that works for everyone – not just CEO’s and the wealthiest; and if the new level of progressive engagement allows us to simultaneously take back the Senate and make further inroads at the state and local level: if all of those things happen, America could make more social and economic progress over the next decade than we have made in the last half-century – all compliments of the progressive mobilization precipitated by the election of Donald Trump.

But to realize that possibility, progressives must do everything we can to nurture and encourage that mobilization. Here are some of the rules of engagement:

Do everything we can to provide people with useful, strategically valuable things to do. People will not be “burned out.” They want more to do, not less. We must provide them with the times, dates and places of town hall meetings and demonstrations; engage them in voter registration operations, creating press events, and – next year – the critical task of turning out the vote.

Continue to avoid the kind of sectarian, circular firing squads and hand wringing that often accompany major defeats like the Trump victory. The most inspiring thing about the tone of the new progressive movement is its clear understanding that Benjamin Franklin was right: we must all hang together or we will all hang separately.

Relentlessly take on Trump and the Republicans. Most Americans support progressive values – on economic issues, social issues, and international issues. We need to self-confidently stand up for those progressive values and never give in to those who say we should “compromise” or cut our losses.

In spite of their November election victory, the right wing in America is on the defensive. They’re in the same place as the dog that caught the bus. For eight years they have been free to criticize Democrats at every turn because they did not have responsibility for actually governing. Now they own it all. And they have to show they can govern. But instead they are in disarray.

When you have them on the run, that’s the time to chase them, not the time to settle down and act like we have to negotiate with Trump because he is the “new normal.”Those newly mobilized progressive activists expect us to go to war to defend our values. Progressives will win if we listen to our mothers, who tell us to stand up straight.

Celebrate our victories, but never try to claim that a defeat – or some minor modification in a horrible right wing policy ― is a victory. Victory is stopping them from achieving their agenda. Victory would be stopping them from eliminating the ACA – or making them take months to achieve their goal. Victory is stopping the Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination cold. Victory in the short run is driving Trump and the GOP approval rating through the floor. Victory is living to fight another day and preparing for real game-changing wins in 2018 and 2020.

Don’t be afraid to make it completely clear at all times that any victory that we achieve while the GOP controls the House, Senate, and White House is only a holding action until we can take back the reins of government in 2018 and 2020. One thing many “non-political” Americans learned in no uncertain terms last fall is that elections have consequences. Another is that we can’t count on the conventional wisdom to be right, we can’t count on other people to do it for us – everyone has to take personal responsibility for creating the society we want. No one can ever again sit out an election. We must all get involved in electoral politics.

Once we take back the reins of government, our first priority must be raising the wages of ordinary working people. That means we must end the era of growing income inequality and reduce the share of national income that goes to the top 1%. America’s gross domestic product per capita increased 48% over the last 30 years, but the wages of ordinary people flat-lined. That’s because those increases all went to the top 1%. Our failure to adequately address that fact created the fertile ground in which Trumpism flourished. We must never fail to address this fundamental question again.

Finally, while people are much easier to mobilize to prevent someone from taking something away rather than achieving something to which they aspire – they also most be inspired. They must have hope for the future. Hopelessness and fear are the enemies of empowerment and mobilization. Inspiration and hope are the catalysts that light the fire. Inspiration requires that someone believe that they are part of something larger than themselves – but that they themselves can play a personal, instrumental role in achieving the larger goal. We must remember that in fighting against the forces of darkness, we must always offer the sure belief that a bright, exciting future is possible – that it is sometimes darkest right before the dawn.

Dr. King was right, the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But it is our hands that will make it so.


Vanden Heuval: To Win Back Working-Class, Dems Must Offer Proactive Agenda

Katrina vanden Heuval explains how “How Democrats can win back the working class” in her Washington Post column.

…A tireless commitment to fighting Trump’s disastrous policies and support for the activists marching in the streets are important. But there is also a natural danger of falling into the default mode of opposing Trump, and merely defending existing policies, without offering the serious solutions that people so desperately need. Rebuilding the party requires Democrats to speak boldly about what they are for and not just what they are against. Otherwise, they risk replicating the failed campaign strategy of 2016, when the Clinton campaign hammered away at Trump without appealing to working Americans with a clear and bold alternative vision of its own. To that end, it has been encouraging to see progressive leaders recently taking their message straight to working-class voters across the country, including in red and purple states where Trump maintains solid support.

In addition to Sen. Bernie Sanders, writes vanden Heuval, Democrats have another exemplar who is focused on meeting this challenge, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has unveiled “a progressive populist economic blueprint that he’s been developing since late 2015. At the heart of Brown’s plan is the fundamental principle that “it’s not businesses who drive the economy — it’s workers.” Vanden Heuval credits Brown with offering “a passel of bold measures designed to empower workers, from a $15 minimum wage and paid family and medical leave to protections against wage theft and expanded collective bargaining rights.”

In addition, vanden Heuval cites impressive progress towards a proactive working-class message and agenda at the state level:

Meanwhile, progressives have been aggressively pushing a pro-worker agenda at the state level as well. State Innovation Exchange (SiX) Action, which advocates for progressive policies in state legislatures, responded to Trump’s congressional address by spearheading a “week of action” that brought together progressive lawmakers and grass-roots organizations in more than 30 states to advocate for some 130 pieces of pro-worker legislation. As part of the effort, state legislators introduced, advanced or highlighted paid sick leave in Michigan and Maryland, equal pay in Oklahoma and Colorado, and minimum wage hikes in New Mexico and North Carolina, among other bills.

None of this is to back away from strong criticism of Trump and the Republicans, whose increasingly “barbaric policies” must be called out and challenged. However, concludes vanden Heuval, “regaining the trust of working-class voters who supported Trump will take more than opposition. As Sanders recently argued, it will take a forward-looking message and a real commitment to addressing the challenges that working people face. “You cannot just be defensive,” Sanders said. “You need a proactive agenda that brings people together to fight for a new America.”

Leaders like Sanders and Brown are lighting the way forward for Democrats who want to win the support of workers of all races. Progressive candidates and campaigns who want to shed the Republican branding of the Democratic party as elitist ought to pay close attention to the messaging and policy agenda of these  two energetic champions of the working-class.


CBO Takedown of ‘Replacement’ Bill Describes a Nightmare for America

The Congressional Budget Office’s report on the Republican Obamacare replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, is the closest thing we have to an objective analysis of the legislation. With that in mind,  the credibility of this version of the replacement bill is ireparably damaged.

Vox.com has some of the best coverage of of the CBO analysis, nicely distilled in this excerpt of Ezra Klein’s blistering critique:

The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the GOP’s American Health Care Act is one of the most singularly devastating documents I’ve seen in American politics. For a thorough explanation of the findings, read Sarah Kliff’s explainer. But here is the one-sentence summary: Under the GOP’s bill, the more help you need, the less you get.

The AHCA would increase the uninsured population by about 24 million people — which is more people than live in New York state. But the raw numbers obscure the cruelty of the choices. The policy is particularly bad for the old, the sick, and the poor. It is particularly good for the rich, the young, and the healthy.

Here, in short, is what the AHCA does. The bill guts Medicaid, halves the value of Obamacare’s insurance subsidies, and allows insurers to charge older Americans 500 percent more than they charge young Americans.

Then it takes the subsidies that are left and reworks them to be worth less to the poor and the old, takes the insurers that are left and lets them change their plans to cover fewer medical expenses for the sick, and rewrites the tax code to offer hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich. As Dylan Matthews writes, it is an act of class warfare by the rich against the poor…This is not fine. It is not decent, it is not compassionate, and it is not what Republicans promised. It is a betrayal of Donald Trump’s vow to protect Medicaid from cuts and to pass a health care bill that covers everyone with insurance that has lower deductibles and better coverage.

Predictably enough, Speaker Paul Ryan tried to put lipstick on the pig in his statement reacting to the CBO analysis. Ryan’s strategy, however, was less predictable in that he claimed the CBO report affirmed the AHCA’s merits, instead of bashing away at the CBO like other Republicans. “This report confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care,” said Ryan. “It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford.”

Having affirmed the credibility of the CBO on the AHCA makes it difficult for Ryan to blast it later on. In is New York Magazine aticle, “Paul Ryan Tries to Bluff and Fib His Way Through CBO Fiasco,” Ed Kilgore comments on Ryan’s response:

This is, to put it mildly, a disingenuous take. According to CBO, the AHCA will actually boost premiums in the short term, and will boost them even more for poorer and older Americans. It does not, in fact, improve “access to quality, affordable care” — the insufficiency of its tax credits are a big reason for the coverage losses CBO anticipates. Ryan’s argument that this is just part of a “three-pronged approach” is specious for the reason I mentioned above: The idea that any iteration of this deeply broken Republican health-care plan will conceivably command 60 votes in the Senate is pure fantasy.

The Republican vision of national security never seems to include the health of millions of Americans, who would be seriously endangered by this Obamacare replacement bill. It would certainly kill and sicken many more Americans than terrorists likely will murder in the years ahead. Apparently, Speaker Ryan and the bill’s supporters think that is an acceptable sacrifice to make on the altar of the GOP’s most sacred cause, ever-increasing tax cuts for the wealthy.


How the Republican Plan, ‘Obamacare Lite,’ Cheats the Middle Class, Helps the Wealthy

The early reviews of ‘Obamacare lite,’ the just-released House of Represenatives Republican majority plan to replace the Affordable Care Act are rolling in, and those who were expecting the GOP proposal (aka ‘The American Health Care Act’)  would screw working people to benefit high-end health care consumers will not be surprised at the changes.

The AHCA is a predictable mess of irrational concessions to Obamacare-bashers, designed more to mollify knee-jerk extremists than thoughtful conservatives. Those who entertained the fantasy that the Republican alternative would have a clear explanation of how the plan would be funded will be disappointed, as will those who believed the Republicans would find a way to make sure no one lost the health security the ACA provided or be forced to pay more for health care.

As  Mike DeBonis, Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell report in the Washington Post,”Starting in 2020, however, the GOP plan would restrict the government’s generous Medicaid payment — 90 percent of the cost of covering people in the expansion group — only to people who were in the program as of then…“Trumpcare doesn’t replace the Affordable Care Act, it forces millions of Americans to pay more for less care,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).”

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jay Bookman elaborates,

In fact, if enacted into law, the GOP plan would strip millions and millions of our fellow Americans of their health insurance, and all the progress that we’ve made in reducing the percentage of uninsured to record low levels will be quickly reversed.

Some would be forced to drop their policies because the subsidies that have allowed them to purchase individual coverage will be slashed and slashed dramatically in many instances. Others would lose coverage as the expansion of Medicaid is rolled back by the GOP bill, and as federal funding for traditional Medicaid is cut as well.  We have no good estimate on how many millions will be affected — House Speaker Paul Ryan is trying to force the plan through the committee process before the Congressional Budget Office can produce such numbers — but there is no plausible way to make cuts of the proposed magnitude without significant reductions in coverage.

On the other hand, if you’re wealthy, the House plan gives you a lot to smile about. The taxes on Americans making more than $200,000 a year that have helped to pay for Obamacare and that make it deficit-neutral at worst would be rolled back under the House plan, producing an average tax benefit of $165,000 a year for those in the top 0.1 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center.

In their New York Times article, “Millions Risk Losing Health Insurance in Republican Plan, Analysts Say,” Abby Goodnough and Reed Abelson explain:

Starting in 2020, the plan would do away with the current system of providing premium subsidies based on people’s income and the cost of insurance where they live. Instead, it would provide tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 per year based on their age.

But the credits would not cover nearly as much of the cost of premiums as the current subsidies do, at least for the type of comprehensive coverage that the Affordable Care Act requires, analysts said. For many people, that could mean the difference between keeping coverage under the new system and having to give it up.

“The central issue is the tax credits are not going to be sufficient,” said Dr. J. Mario Molina, the chief executive of Molina Healthcare, an insurer that offers coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in California, Florida and several other states.

Other people likely to be hurt under the new plan are those in areas where the cost of coverage is high. Subsidies are now pegged to the cost of a plan within a specific market, but the tax credits in the Republican plan are the same whether you live in Alaska or Minnesota. Coverage tends to be most expensive in parts of the country where there are few hospitals or few insurers. “When it comes to health insurance, high-cost areas tend to be rural areas,” said Cynthia Cox, a researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which recently did an analysis of how the tax credits compared with the subsidies now available.

In their New York Times op-ed, “How Republicans Plan to Ration Health Care,”

The Republicans say they want to give states more flexibility. But that flexibility most likely means they could use the money for non-health-care programs, or to close state budget gaps. When given budgetary flexibility with large sums of money, this is a common state tactic.

…State flexibility is a ruse. Per-person allotments are an elaborate cost-shifting mechanism — a fancy way to reduce federal funding and transfer financial responsibility for the health care of low-income Americans to states. A 2014 assessment by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of Representative Paul Ryan’s plan, which contained elements similar to those in the current proposal, estimated that this accounting trick would increase Medicaid costs for state budgets by $169 billion by 2026. So, under the banner of flexibility, the current Republican plan would force states to make a series of Hobson’s choices.

This would be even worse than going back to the days before the Affordable Care Act. It would force states to ration care and deny some Americans lifesaving treatments or nursing home care. Cruel only begins to describe the Republican plan.

And the Times editorial, “No Wonder the Republicans Hid the Health Bill,” notes,

While working people lose health care, the rich would come out winners. The bill would eliminate the taxes on businesses and individuals (people making more than $200,000 a year) who fund Obamacare. The tax cuts would total about $600 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

As Timothy Stoltzfus Jost puts it in his WaPo op-ed “the real focus of the legislation is not on health-care reform, not even on repealing the ACA as such. What the AHCA would in fact do is massively redistribute wealth from the poorest Americans to the wealthiest.”

After 8 years of blasting Obamacare and offering no alternative, the Republicans have kludged together a  predictable disaster. “Republicans have found themselves frantically scrawling out a hopelessly inadequate solution in order to meet a self-imposed deadline driven by their overarching desire to cut taxes for the rich,” writes Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine, who preers the term “Trumpcare.” He quotes Republican health care guru Avik Roy: “Expanding subsidies for high earners, and cutting health coverage off from the working poor: it sounds like a left-wing caricature of mustache-twirling, top-hatted Republican fat cats.” And “the caricature,” writes Chait, “is true.”

But Republicans don’t have a lot of wiggle room. They can afford no more than 21 GOP House members voting against the proposals, a pretty narrow path to enactment, given the criticism of the proposals that has emerged, just on the Republican side. Indeed, many of the GOP dissenters want something even worse.

It’s the same old game of cutting federal spending to later provide tax cuts for the rich, which is the emblematic goal of the GOP. This nightmare of a health care “plan” reveals in stark relief  the moral and intellectual bankruptcy that defines the modern Republican Party like no other.


Teixeira: Why Liberals Will Prevail, Despite Trump’s Setbacks

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think,” is cross-posted from The Washington Post.

Is Donald Trump the end for the left? Is it really possible, as a baby boomer averred in an interview last month with The Washington Post, that “all the things we cared about for the past 40 years could be wiped out in the first 100 days”?

American leftists are not known for their optimism, and yet, even for them, the prevailing sentiment is that these are especially dark days. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats say they are “worried or pessimistic” about the future of the country in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll.

Historian Jeremi Suri, writing in the Atlantic, assessed that “with his barrage of executive orders, Trump is taking America back to the historical nightmares of the world before December 1941: closed borders, limited trade, intolerance to diversity, arms races, and a go-it-alone national race to the bottom.” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) spoke out against Trump’s attorney general pick, saying, “If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man.” Climate scientists offer a similarly bleak view, fearing that Trump will quickly unravel President Barack Obama’s legacy and that “the world, then, may have no way to avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming, including rising sea levels, extreme droughts and food shortages, and more powerful floods and storms,” as the New York Times put it.

But fears that Trump will set back the left’s agenda dangerously and irreparably are not well founded. Core advances can’t be undone. Although Trump could do some real temporary damage, he and his movement will fade, and the values and priorities of the left will eventually triumph.

Consider social equality and tolerance, where some of today’s greatest fears are concentrated. It is true that Trump has said many egregious things, like associating Mexican immigrants with criminal behavior, and has tried (though so far failed) to implement a ban on immigration from some Muslim countries. But people should not lose sight of the massive progress in the past half-century, led by the left. This includes the destruction of formal and many normative barriers to racial equality, the rise of the black middle class, the advancement of women in higher education and the professions, the dominance of anti-sexist views in public opinion, and the acceptance of gays, including the institution of same-sex marriage. We still have far to go in the attainment of full social equality, but it is also true that we have gone far.

Public-opinion data is quite clear that the United States has become more, not less, liberal in all these areas over time and that these trends are continuing. Take the standard question about whether immigration levels should increase, decrease or stay the same. The 38 percent of people who say “decrease” is about as low as it ever has been since Gallup started tracking the question in the 1960s. The current number represents a massive drop, of about 30 points, since the early 1990s, when Pat Buchanan first raised his pitchfork high at the Republican National Convention. There has also been a considerable change in views about whether immigration is a good or bad thing for America — and it’s positive, not negative, change, even if one confines the data to white Americans. According to Gallup, the “good thing” response by whites was as low as 51 percent in the early 2000s but has been around 70 percent in the past two years.

Nor has there been any kind of spike in negative racial attitudes in recent years — in fact, according to the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey , such attitudes were far more prevalent in the early 1990s than they are today, including among white Democrats and Republicans. This is true even as perceptions of the quality of race relations have been dimming, thanks primarily to conflict around police shootings and to a tiny minority of genuine haters whose rhetoric and actions have been widely covered. But the underlying trend toward racial liberalism continues.

So the idea that Trump will somehow successfully relitigate the role of immigrants, minorities, gays and women in American society is scary but absurd. He may continue the Republican campaign to restrict voting rights. He may seek to overturn Roe v. Wade (supported by 70 percent of the American public). He may promote prejudice against Muslim Americans. Such actions may in fact be cheered on by his hard-core supporters. But he will ultimately fail, because what he wishes to do is both massively unpopular and runs against the grain of legal precedent and institutional norms.

And he can’t hold back the one true inevitability in demographic change: the replacement of older generations by newer ones. Underappreciated in November’s election was the continuing leftward lean of young voters, once again supporting the Democratic candidate by around 20 points — and with younger millennials, including both college-educated and noncollege whites, even more pro-Democratic than older ones. That is huge. And don’t expect these voters to shift right as they age. Political science research shows that early voting patterns tend to stick.

Another locus of disquiet, if not hysteria, on the left is the environment. But consider this: In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire; in 1979, when Obama was attending college in Los Angeles and remembers constant smog, there were 234 days when the city exceeded federal ozone standards. Our water and air are now orders of magnitude cleaner than they were back then.

Trump will not be able to suddenly wipe out all these gains. Sure, he says he will severely cut environmental regulations, especially ones put in place by Obama; hollow out the EPA; somehow bring back the coal industry; and much more. But saying and doing are two different things. Getting rid of Obama-era rules such as the Clean Power Plan would take years and be challenged by litigation. Reversing the decline of the coal industry is economically impossible. Abolishing the EPA and gutting the clean air and water acts is politically impossible. When the George W. Bush administration tried to eliminate one Clinton-era rule on levels of arsenic in drinking water, it ran into a political buzzsaw and had to retreat.

The left’s priority of a clean environment with clean air and water is immensely popular, with deeply entrenched programs and practices that sustain it. Trump will be able to slow down environmental advances, by chipping away at relatively obscure regulations and reducing enforcement, but he cannot reverse them.

Nor will Trump be able to derail the remarkable progress on another cherished goal of the left: a green economy that can stave off global warming. The key here is abundant, cheap, clean energy, and work toward that goal has been going forward at a breakneck pace. World investments in clean energy, chiefly wind and solar, have reached levels that are doublethose for fossil fuel. Renewables now provide half of all new electric capacity around the world. The cost of solar has fallen to 1/150th of its 1970s level, and the amount of installed solar capacity has increased a staggering 115,000 times. Indeed, it is increasingly common for clean energy in some areas to be fully cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Trump will not and cannot stop this trend.

Or take living standards and the middle class, where progress has admittedly been slow (though not absent) in the recent past. Capitalism is certainly capable of performing much better — but Trump is not the man to make that happen. All he’s going to succeed in doing is blowing up one of the main roadblocks to better economic performance: the conservative Republican anti-government, quasi-libertarian consensus around economic policy. A protectionist president who proposes to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, criticizes corporate decisions on job location, and swears to oppose any and all Social Security and Medicare cuts is miles away from that consensus, even if he does support slashing taxes for the rich and undermining unions. He is on a collision course with his own Congress that will result in incoherent economic policy with little or no benefit to the working-class voters who elected him.

Finally, consider the tremendous progressive achievements of the Obama era, from a stimulus bill that saved the economy and poured money into clean-energy investments to the Dodd-Frank act regulating the financial sector to the Affordable Care Act and much more. These were remarkable gains for the left, attained despite severe headwinds in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Of course, Trump and the Republican Congress have declared their intention to roll back these advances and then some. The president has already signed executive orders that seek to weaken Dodd-Frank and undermine the ACA. But can Trump and his GOP allies really get rid of these programs, as opposed to nibbling at their edges? It will not be as easy as they expect and as many on the left fear.

The chaos surrounding Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act illustrates just how difficult this rollback would be. The idea of repealing the ACA first and coming up with a replacement later died quickly, forcing Republicans to confront the fact that they cannot agree on what the new plan should be. Some want to keep the Medicaid expansion, some balk at requiring higher deductibles, some worry about reducing subsidies, and many fear political damage from throwing millions of people off health insurance. The disunity of the repeal forces is so palpable that former House Speaker John Boehner, who once led the charge to repeal the ACA, now admits that repeal is “not going to happen” and that “most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act” will remain in place.

Trump and the Republican Congress fail to understand, and the left would do well to remember, one of the most enduring features of American public opinion. The dominant ideology in the United States is one that combines “symbolic conservatism” (honoring tradition, distrusting novelty, embracing the conservative label) with “operational liberalism” (wanting government to take more action in a wide variety of areas). As political scientists Christopher Ellis and James Stimson, the leading academic analysts of American ideology, note: “Most Americans like most government programs. Most of the time, on average, we want government to do more and spend more. It is no accident that we have created the programs of the welfare state. They were created — and are sustained — by massive public support.”

That’s why, now that the ACA has delivered concrete benefits for many people, it is so very hard to get rid of. As a constituent of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) put it: “I’m on Obamacare. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, we wouldn’t be able to afford insurance. With all due respect, Sir, you’re the man that talked about the death panel. We’re going to create one great big death panel in this country if people can’t afford to get insurance.” In the long run, it is far more likely that the ACA will be built upon and improved, so that it extends coverage and tamps down rising medical costs even further (that will be the “something terrific” Trump has talked about), than truly be eliminated.

The Trump administration could still do some real damage. There will be lax enforcement of financial and environmental regulations. There will probably be tax cuts for the rich and underfunding of important social programs. There will be more harassment of immigrants and no progress on comprehensive immigration reform. But its ability to remake America in the libertarian image (privatize Social Security! voucherize Medicare!) envisioned by Paul Ryan is distinctly limited — even assuming that Trump backs such moves wholeheartedly, which he very well might not, given his public pronouncements on these programs.

In the end, the Trumpian populism of the 2010s will probably have no more staying power than the agrarian populism of the 1880s and 1890s, which was also driven by demographic groups on the decline and was similarly undercut by structural change and the transition to a new economic era. That earlier populist era was followed by an era of strong social advancement in the early 20th century — the Progressive Era.

What will have staying power in the 21st century is the values and priorities of the left. They will not win every battle, but they will win the war.


Stoehr: Dems Can Win By Focusing on Trump’s Weaknesses

The Trump campaign — it’s more that than an actual functioning government — is all puffed up about some favorable feedback he got for his State of the Union speech. But it remains weak at the core, which for any Administration, rests on the twin pillars of integrity and competence.

In that regard, Yale political scientist John Stoehr, a U.S. News & World Report contributing editor who has written for a broad range of progressive newspapers and magazines, has some strategic insights for highlighting Trump’s weaknesses. As Stoehr addresses his readers at The Washington Monthly,

I really want you to understand the connection between Trump’s appearance and the trust his supporters place in him. What the Democratic opposition needs to do is undermine that trust. Part of doing that is pointing out every time Trump lies. (The Washington press corps is doing that.) But the opposition must also attack the president where it really hurts him—by appealing to logic and reason, but not only logic and reason. The opposition must wound the president by focusing on his weakness

….When confronted with the fact that he did not win a bigger electoral victory than anyone since Reagan, he immediately backed down, spluttering something about how he had been given that information so it’s not his fault. Some have implied he will never accept the truth, so don’t bother. But that’s an argument of logic and reason. What happened in that brief exchange needs to happen a million times over in order to reveal that the president is weak and that in that weakness his supporters have misplaced their trust.

So, say it with me: The president is weak. Say it again. Over and over. Then when the president really does demonstrate weakness, as he did when confronted by the reporter about his fake electoral landslide, the president will have substantiated the opposition’s charge of weakness.

That will hurt.

Trump ran on strength. Only he was strong enough to solve our problems. And people believed him. They still believe him. But if the opposition can establish an image of weakness, it will come close to breaking trust in him.

Stoehr is revealing something unique here. He advises watching Trump on television with the sound turned off to get a sense of how much he relies on projecting the visual image of strength, even while confidently spouting transparent lies and nonsense that contradicts what he said a few days before. More importantly, many of his supporters are mesmerized by his blustering boldness, longing as they do for a simplistic authoritarianism, somewhat like the ‘strict father‘ paradigm referenced by George Lakoff.

In his U.S. News & World Report column, “Trump Can’t Govern: The Democrats’ best play may be to highlight the Trump administration’s incompetence,” written just before Trump’s SOTU address, Stoehr explains further,

More than exposing Trump for his white nationalist sympathies, the best way forward may be stressing what’s emphatically evident: Trump can’t govern.

This president sold an image of himself as a billionaire businessman who knows how to get things done. He hires the best people. He has the best words. He knows the system better than anyone. He said: Vote for me and I will bring real change.

But after more than a month, it’s clear the Trump administration is broken. It’s equally clear the public is noticing. The president’s popularity has sunk to historic lows. His White House has lurched from one trumped up crisis to another. It leaks like a sieve. Aides can’t corral Trump in person, so they corral him through the media. His executive orders have been a mix of pixie dust and plagiarized text (literally) from previous administrations. Hundreds of positions remain vacant while Trump does photo-ops at Boeing before alighting to Florida for rounds of golf.

 The closest we got to non-crisis normal was last week. But by Friday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer banned some media outlets from a briefing. As Roll Call put it: “an otherwise routine Friday morning at the White House had suddenly given way – yet again – to confusion, chaos, deflecting and denials.”
The incompetence appears baked in.

Ben Carson never ran anything, much less the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he is nominated to lead. Betsy DeVos literally bought her place as head of the Department of Education. Scott Pruitt was best buds with Big Oil before taking the Environmental Protection Agency’s helm. Trump’s first pick for labor secretary was toxic and withdrew. His first replacement for Michael Flynn on the National Security Council said no thanks. Wilbur Ross, the new commerce secretary, is chair of a European bank known to launder Russian mafia money. Trump’s nominees for secretaries of the Army and Navy have taken a pass. White House aides told Axios they believe the Russia story is a useful distraction rather than a scandal threatening to take down a president. And an adviser, Sebastian Gorka, has the makings of a 100 percent grade-A con artist.

Stoehr has even more to say about the Trump Administration’s incompetence, but warns, “none of this is to say Trump’s critics are wrong. Though incompetent, this administration could still fumble blindly into fascism…But it’s important to be clear about the disease in order to cure it.”

“The Democrats are already making a play for Republican-held congressional districts that voted for Hillary Clinton,” notes Stoehr, “targeting affluent white voters who normally support Republicans but who found Trump’s overt bigotry beyond the pale.” Stoehr concludes, presciently,

Trump can bring those voters back by muting his ethno-nationalist rhetoric (we’ll see what happens at tonight’s joint session of Congress), but the Democrats know, or should know, that to affluent educated white voters, muted rhetoric is one thing. Basic competence is another.

All of which puts Trump’s SOTU speech and a key challenge facing Democratic activists and candidates in clearer perspective.