washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Buying Blue, Boycotting Red Companies

True blue Dems have a great resource over at buyblue.org, which is loaded with information about which companies are supporting Democrats and Republicans. Check out, for example, “The Top Ten Bluest and Reddest Corporations.” Here’s their ranking list of companies, based on “amounts given by their C-level executives in 2003-2004” in both dollars and percentage terms:
Ten Bluest Corporations
Time Warner, $1,713,621, 77% Blue
Viacom, $892,513, 78% Blue
News Corp, $689,549, 61% *
Walt Disney, $606,504, 70% Blue
IBM, $397,936, 68% Blue
Cablevision, $326,842, 68% Blue
Torchmark Insurance Cos., $314,441, 88% Blue
Sony Corp. of America, $287,535, 69% Blue
Working Assets, $234,255, 100% Blue
Costco, $224,803, 99% Blue
Ten Reddest Corporations
United Parcel Service, $2,361,922, 71%
SBC Communications, $2,028,031, 67% Red
Merrill Lynch, $1,900,326, 72%, Red
Pfizer, $1,465,317, 67% Red
MBNA Corp., $1,453,497, 73% Red
Union Pacific, $1,428,663, 79% Red
Southern Co., $1,041,025, 80% Red
Wachovia Corp, $998,997, 75% Red
Clear Channel Communications, $764,318, 67% Red
General Electric, $747,386, 67% Red
There are other ways of ranking companies according to their financial support for both parties (See April 11th post “Calling All Dems: Stop Funding GOP Causes” below.) The beauty of selective patronage and boycotts is that it is a way that rank and file Dems can get involved in supporting their party on a daily basis and their success does not depend in any way on politicians. Reducing a company’s profits by even 1 percent can start stockholders howling for reform.

Dems Must Rework Gun Control Policy to Win in ’08

Dems who want to get up to speed on the politics of gun control must read Sasha Abramsky’s “Democrat Killer?” in The Nation. Abramsky makes a compelling case that a one-size-fits-all pro-gun control policy is a huge loser for Dems in the west and south:

Nationally, as the Democrats do the Electoral College math and realize the rising importance of the mountain and desert West to their presidential hopes, more and more are making this realpolitik calculation. If the South is now virtually unwinnable for national Democratic candidates, the party can craft a new Electoral College majority only if it can figure out how to make significant inroads into this region, into beautiful Open Road states like Nevada and New Mexico that, in 2004, went mildly Republican in the presidential election, while notching up significant victories or maintaining power for local and state Democratic Party politicians. And crafting a new stance on guns seems to a growing number of Democrats to be just the way to do that.

A more carefully-calibrated approach to gun control, says Abramsky, could reap new victories for Democratic candidates:

Rethinking guns is not only less morally toxic and less politically costly than any effort to recalibrate the party’s position on abortion or gay rights but could yield far greater political gains…It would take only a few thousand such voters to change their votes in New Mexico and Nevada for a Democratic presidential candidate to win both those states; and while Colorado and Montana are harder nuts to crack, they are certainly on the party’s radar. Win three of these four states, or win two of them plus Iowa, and the Democrats have an Electoral College majority again.

Abramsky concedes that there are tough moral and political concerns to balance in reformulating the Dems’ gun control polices. But Dems must not lose sight of the central issue. As Abramsky asks,

After all, what’s the point in staking the moral and intellectual high ground on gun control, as I believe gun-control proponents have done, if in doing so you lose the larger war for political power and the ability to enact all the other aspects of your program?

A good question — and one which Democrats must address to win back control of the White House and congress.

Calling All Dems: Stop Funding GOP Causes

Arguably, the most under-utilized resource rank and file Democrats have at their disposal is consumer spending choice. Worse, most of us inadvertantly give money to the GOP every day by supporting corporations that fund Republican candidates, while contributing very little, if anything at all, to Democrats. Grab a burger at Wendy’s, for example, and you have made a contribution to their PAC, which gives 93 percent of it’s dough to the GOP. (Click here for a longer list of companies that give more than 90 percent of their PAC money to Republicans.}
But who has time to keep up with the political spending patterns of Fortune 500 companies? The Center for American Progress, that’s who. The CAP’s American Progress Action Fund has launched a campaign to “Tell Corporate America to Drop the Hammer,” targeting five corporations that have contributed to Tom (“The Hammer”) DeLay’s defense fund. They are: American Airlines ($5K); Bacardi ($3K); Nissan ($5K); R. J. Reynolds ($17K) and Verizon ($5K).
At the link above, CAP has a nifty “send them a message form” which takes about 30 seconds of your time to express your disapproval to the five companies.

New Poll: GOP Interferes in Americans’ Private Lives

Republicans are always carrying on about how “we have to get government out of our lives.” But a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll just reported indicates that the public views the GOP as more meddlesome in Americans’ private lives than the Democrats — and by a healthy margin. Asked “When it comes to moral values, do you think the Republican Party is trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans, or not?” 55 percent responded affirmatively, compared to 40 percent who felt that way when asked the same question about the Democrats.

Meyerson: Bring White Working Class Back Home

In the current issue of Dissent, Harold Meyerson has a must-read article for Dems, “Beyond the Consensus: Democrats Agree on How to Play Defense, But What Are They Fighting For?” Meyerson offers a lucid assessment of the current state of the Democratic Party, its propects and what can be done to create a majority anchored in Democratic principles:

One point on which all Democrats agree is that the party needs a red-state strategy. In olden days, the DLC might have made this argument, to the strenuous opposition of social liberals. These days, labor has embraced a proposal from the Teamsters that the movement should focus its organizing in battleground and red states….
Consensus reigns. We are all Democrats; we are all cultural moderates…Though the killer issue in last November’s election, we know, wasn’t really moral values; it was national security. And we need to be for that, too.
Will that get us back into the majority? For the really disquieting thing about the exit polling was that it showed that the number of self-identified Republicans equaled the number of self-identified Democrats. It’s particularly instructive, and depressing, to look at the turnout figures in the non-battleground states, where neither party was buying the airwaves or flooding the mailboxes or walking the precincts to get out their vote. In battleground states, Kerry pulled down 3.6 percent more votes than Al Gore had four years before, and Bush exceeded his 2000 totals by 4.4 percent. But in non-battleground states, where voters were left to their own devices, Kerry increased his total over Gore by just 1.5 percent, while Bush boosted his total by 3.9 percent. In Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, where no major offices were on the ballot, turnout hit an all-time high. That’s the white working class, flocking to George Bush.
And did they ever flock! Kerry lost white, working-class voters-a group that constituted roughly half of the 2004 electorate-by 23 percent, six points worse than Gore had done in 2000. The shift away from the Democrats came chiefly among white, working-class women, who voted nine points more for Bush this time than they had four years ago. To a considerable degree, that’s a function of their trust in Bush on matters of national security: 66 percent of white, working-class voters said they trusted Bush to handle terrorism, compared to just 39 percent who trusted Kerry. (These numbers come from Democratic poll analyst Ruy Teixeira, who has been rummaging around in the raw data from the exit polling.)
But it’s a secondary result that should really give the Democrats pause: 55 percent of these voters trusted Bush to handle the economy, compared to just 39 percent who trusted Kerry. The economy? Bush? They trust the man on whose watch the nation lost three million manufacturing jobs in four years, whose recovery has seen the lowest increases in wages and salaries of any recovery since before the Great Depression? That Bush? And among precisely the voters-the white working class-who’ve lost the most economically during his presidency.
Perhaps this collapse of confidence in Democratic economics isn’t as bad as it seems. After all, once Kerry lost these working-class voters’ trust on national security, his trustworthiness on other topics likely plummeted as well. In addition, the Bush people were certainly more successful depicting Kerry as a cultural plutocrat (not that hard a job, really) than Kerry was in depicting Bush as the economic plutocrat’s favorite president. Kerry was always more comfortable talking about America’s proper role in the world than he was discussing America’s economy, and Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg faults Kerry’s campaign for failing to focus on the economy during the homestretch….
Politically, the declining strength of unions has hurt the Democrats most within the white working class. Over the past forty years, white union members have tended to vote Democratic at a rate roughly 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts. But with the rate of private-sector union membership now down to an abysmal 7.9 percent, the voting habits of working-class whites have shifted markedly rightward.

In addition to his sobering observations, Meyerson asks some tough questions and has a lot more to say about how Democrats can challenge corporate abuse of working people. Highly reccommended for Dems interested in building a stronger party.

GOP ‘Big Tent’ Collapsing?

With Republicans controlling the three branches of government and recently winning key votes in congress on the bankruptcy bill and ANWR oil exploration, it would seem there is not a lot for Democrats to be optimistic about. But some previously dim pricks of light are starting to flicker more brightly at the end of the tunnel. As yesterday’s post below indicates, recent polls show President Bush’s approval numbers tanking significantly and the public is clearly unimpressed with the Administration’s ‘leadership’ on issues, including Social Security, economic policy and GOP meddling in the Terry Schiavo tragedy. In addition, it appears that some serious rifts are appearing among the GOP rank and file. Adam Nagourney provides an interesting wrap-up of the Republicans’ internal troubles in his Sunday New York Times article “Squabbles Under the Big Tent”:

Conservative commentators and blogs are even warning that Republican divisions could turn into turmoil once President Bush begins his fade from power. “The American right is splintering,” the sometimes-conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan wrote in a column for The Sunday Times of London headlined, “Bush’s Triumph Conceals the Great Conservative Crack-Up.”

Nagourney also provides a typology of GOP subgroups, which Democratic strategists may find of use as a guide for peeling off potential Republican voters:

Gone are the days when the Republican Party could easily (if simplistically) be divided into social conservatives versus fiscal conservatives. There are libertarian Republicans, Christian conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, Wall Street Republicans, balanced-budget Republicans, tax-cutting Republicans, cut-the-size-of-government Republicans, neoconservative Republicans supporting global intervention and isolationist Republicans who would like to stay at home.

Dems can also find some encouragement about GOP splintering in “Earthly Evangelist,” Deborah Solomon’s New York Times Magazine interview with Richard Cizik, head of the 30 million member National Association of Evangelists. Asked about his group’s influence on the future of GOP environmental policy, Cizik responded,

Look, the big corporate interests have an undue say in party policy. And into this reality come the evangelical Christians. And when confronted with making a choice, this administration will compromise. Because about 40 percent of the Republican Party is represented by evangelicals. They wouldn’t want the two major constituencies of the Republican Party at war with each other

Widening rifts in the GOP (see also March 30 post below) may well provide a margin of victory for Democrats in next year’s congressional elections and beyond, especially for Democratic candidates who make a clear and measured pitch for the votes of Republicans moderates and supporters of environmental reforms.

Targeting the GOP’s Achilles’ Heel

In the Sunday New York Times, columnist Thomas L. Friedman blasts the Bush Administration for its lack of a coherent energy policy, other than drilling for oil. For Democrats paying attention, Friedman’s broadsides reveal another Achilles heel Dems can target leading up to the ’06 and ’08 elections. Friedman’s column “Geo-Greening By Example” lays bare the GOP’s “who needs an energy policy?” attitude and the mounting dangers it entails for our security, our economy and the environment.

By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world…we are financing the jihadists – and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them – through our gasoline purchases…By doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are also setting up a global competition with China for energy resources, including right on our doorstep in Canada and Venezuela…Finally, by doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are only hastening the climate change crisis, and the Bush officials who scoff at the science around this should hang their heads in shame. And it is only going to get worse the longer we do nothing.

Some of Friedman’s remedies are debatable, such as a huge hike in the gas tax, building nuclear power plants and having the President use an armor-plated Ford Escape hybrid as his “limo.” (armor plating would likely obliterate the hybrid’s mpg advantage). He supports some better ideas long-advocated by Democrats, including tax incentives for development of wind, solar and hydro power, but omits mention of the need for accelerating development of mass rail transit within and between cities.
In an earlier (January 30th) article, “The Geo-Green Alternative,” Friedman made a persuasive appeal for energy independence as the most powerful — and cost-effective — leverage we have for promoting democracy in the Middle East. John Kerry and John Edwards touched lightly on the advantages of a comprehensive energy policy during the ’04 campaign, but their efforts were not well-covered in the media or adequately promoted. Because the Republicans are wedded to the interests of the oil companies, it is highly unlikely that they will meet Friedman’s challenge to develop a credible energy policy.
With rising gas prices now identified as the number one economic problem (see March 25 post) and with 61 percent of respondents expressing support for more conservation measures in a recent Harris Poll (see March 22 post below), Friedman’s critique merits serious consideration. As the energy and environmental crises worsen, Democrats have much to gain by uniting behind a comprehensive strategy for energy independence.

Concern About Runaway Gas Prices Soars

Until very recently, the American people have been remarkably unflappable about soaring gas prices. No more, according to the latest Gallup poll, conducted 3/21-23. Asked “What is the most important economic problem facing the country today?,” 17 percent of respondents put “fuel/oil prices” at the top of the list, ahead of such factors as unemployment, health care costs and social security and more than triple the percentage polled a month ago, when 5 percent chose gas prices as top priority.

Ideologues Dis Majority On End-of-Life Issues

In today’s New York Times, Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, sheds some welcome light on the Terri Schiavo case and the GOP’s penchant for interfering in the most sensitive and difficult decisions facing American families. Kohut’s article, “A Political Victory That Wasn’t,” makes a persuasive case that the Republicans’ meddling in the Schiavo family’s affairs demonstrates a blatant disregard for the beliefs of the American people and also shows that the Christian conservative movement may be becomming the most potent driving force of GOP political strategy. Kohut cites an ABC News Poll showing how the American people feel about the GOP-lead congressional vote allowing Terri Schiavo’s parents to take the case to federal court:

…the public, by a margin of 70 percent to 27 percent, opposes Congressional involvement in the case. Fully 67 percent of the poll’s participants thought members of Congress were more focused on using the Schiavo case for political advantage than on the principles involved.

What makes the poll’s findings even more striking, as Kohut notes, is that more than half of the poll’s respondents had been involved in making a decision concerning the termination of life support for a friend or family member. While conceding that some of the members of congress who supported the measure were acting out of conscience, he warns that the vote may signal a dangerous new trend in American politics:

…the Christian conservative movement now has the clout on life-and-death issues to do what the National Rifle Association has done for years on gun control. Strengthened by the results of the November elections, the movement can convey to legislators that the intensity of their constituents’ beliefs is more important than the balance of national public opinion.

Kohut sees the vote in congress as a test run for Christian conservatives, to see “whether they have enough standing to run against public opinion.” But Democrats can take some comfort and hope in the enduring pragmatism of American voters who may be “wary of political constraints on the tough choices their families may face…Like Social Security, end-of-life issues hit close to home, where ideology and partisanship play much less of a role than all-too-human self-interest.”

Newsweek Poll: Majority Oppose GOP ‘Nuclear Option’

The latest GOP ploy to suppress free speech and subvert checks and balances has run into a major roadblock. As a showdown approaches over the so-called “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules to require 51 votes to cut off debate on judicial nominees, instead of 60, a new Newsweek Poll reports that 57 percent of Americans oppose the idea, with 32 percent supporting it. The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International 3/17-18, found an even greater margin of disapproval among self-identified Independents, 60-31 percent.