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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Sen. Sanders Brings the SOTU Critique

While Rep. Joe Kennedy brought the vision, Sen. Sanders brought the critique following Trump’s State of the Union address. The text follows (via In These Times):

Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Tonight, I want to take a few minutes of your time to respond to President Trump’s State of the Union speech. But I want to do more than just that. I want to talk to you about the major crises facing our country that, regrettably, President Trump chose not to discuss. I want to talk to you about the lies that he told during his campaign and the promises he made to working people which he did not keep.

Finally, I want to offer a vision of where we should go as a nation which is far different than the divisiveness, dishonesty, and racism coming from the Trump Administration over the past year.

President Trump talked tonight about the strength of our economy. Well, he’s right. Official unemployment today is 4.1 percent which is the lowest it has been in years and the stock market in recent months has soared. That’s the good news.

But what President Trump failed to mention is that his first year in office marked the lowest level of job creation since 2010. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 254,000 fewer jobs were created in Trump’s first 11 months in office than were created in the 11 months before he entered office.

Further, when we talk about the economy, what’s most important is to understand what is happening to the average worker. And here’s the story that Trump failed to mention tonight.

Over the last year, after adjusting for inflation, the average worker in America saw a wage increase of, are you ready for this, 4 cents an hour, or 0.17%. Or, to put it in a different way, that worker received a raise of a little more than $1.60 a week. And, as is often the case, that tiny wage increase disappeared as a result of soaring health care costs.

Meanwhile, at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, the rich continue to get much richer while millions of American workers are working two or three jobs just to keep their heads above water. Since March of last year, the three richest people in America saw their wealth increase by more than $68 billion. Three people. A $68 billion increase in wealth. Meanwhile, the average worker saw an increase of 4 cents an hour.

Tonight, Donald Trump touted the bonuses he claims workers received because of his so-called “tax reform” bill. What he forgot to mention is that only 2% of Americans report receiving a raise or a bonus because of this tax bill.

The Vision: Rep. Joe Kennedy’s Democratic Response to the SOTU

The text of Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address follows:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a privilege to join you tonight.

We are here in Fall River, Massachusetts – a proud American city, built by immigrants.

From textiles to robots, this is a place that knows how to make great things.

The students with us this evening in the autoshop at Diman Regional Technical School carry on that rich legacy.

Like many American hometowns, Fall River has faced its share of storms. But people here are tough. They fight for each other. They pull for their city.

It is a fitting place to gather as our nation reflects on the state of our union.

This is a difficult task. Many have spent the past year anxious, angry, afraid. We all feel the fault lines of a fractured country. We hear the voices of Americans who feel forgotten and forsaken.

We see an economy that makes stocks soar, investor portfolios bulge and corporate profits climb but fails to give workers their fair share of the reward.

A government that struggles to keep itself open.

Russia knee-deep in our democracy.

An all-out war on environmental protection.

A Justice Department rolling back civil rights by the day.

Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets.

Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts, and congregations. Targeting our safest, sacred places.

And that nagging, sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs: this is not right. This is not who we are.

It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos. Partisanship. Politics.

But it’s far bigger than that. This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us – they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.

For them, dignity isn’t something you’re born with but something you measure.

By your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size.

Not to mention, the gender of your spouse. The country of your birth. The color of your skin. The God of your prayers.

Their record is a rebuke of our highest American ideal: the belief that we are all worthy, we are all equal and we all count. In the eyes of our law and our leaders, our God and our government.

That is the American promise.

But today that promise is being broken. By an Administration that callously appraises our worthiness and decides who makes the cut and who can be bargained away.

Win Working-Class Voters with State Level Consumer Protection

The following article by Marc Dann, former Attorney General of the State of Ohio, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Donald Trump’s election, made possible in part by his ability to capture the hearts, minds, aspirations, and votes of working-class men and women, has caused confusion and consternation among Democratic Party leaders. Stunned by the outcome, the Party has spent the last year searching for new messages that could lure this critically important constituency back into the fold. So far, that search has been unsuccessful.

However, as Democratic Party factions bicker, Trump himself may be handing them the issue they can use to end his presidency—and it doesn’t involve porn stars, Russians, racism, or tax cuts for the rich, none of which seem to matter much to the president’s supporters.

No, the Trumpites won’t turn away from him because of the outrageous things he says, or even the possibly illegal things he’s done. But they might abandon him when they finally realize that he’s betrayed them by gutting the regulatory framework that really made America great for the working class. Trump’s crusade to kill every rule and law he can get his hands on could be the thing that kills his presidency.

Some may scoff at this idea, but consider how these actions, all taken in the interest of his buddies on Wall Street, harm families who live on Main Street:

  • Net neutrality may seem like an arcane issue, but FCC Chair Ajit Pai ‘s decision to roll back Obama-era internet rules will inevitably lead to increased costs for internet access.
  • Betsy Devos, the clueless Secretary of Education, is repealing rules that made it difficult for private universities to rip-off students and making it more expensive for kids and parents to repay student loans.
  • Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who was installed as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), has submitted a “zero budget” for the agency he absolutely loathes, and instituted a hiring freeze and a prohibition on new regulations.  Just for good measure, he’s also decided to make it easier for the vultures in the payday lending industry to prey on the poor and the working class.
  • The Labor Department’s decision to allow pool-tipping and to ditch rules that would have made hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers eligible for overtime pay will cost working families millions of dollars each year.
  • The unrelenting attack on the Affordable Care Act, which survived repeal but has taken a number of other hits, will lead to premium increases and the loss of coverage in the years ahead.

How Dems Could Benefit from ‘Digital Precinct Captains’

In his Rewire post, “Digital Precinct Captains: A New Strategy for Democrats,” Jeff Hauser writes:

…By focusing less on the traditional advertising tools of the 20th century and more on the new digital organizing tools of the 21st, Democrats can have a true 50-state strategy without all the costs it used to entail.

One way to do this would be by identifying and supporting a team of thousands of “digital precinct captains” around the country who would be supported and organized by paid staff members. These highly motivated super volunteers would serve an organizing role between both ordinary voters and occasional activists and the formal political party itself.  They would seek to engage, serve, and mobilize voters—not just the party—and in doing so, Democrats could become an actual energized community whose leaders and members are perpetually talking to and learning from one another. Their success would be based on engagement, not fundraising.

The idea, in the words of the article’s subtitle, is “move the Democratic Party much closer to being a meaningful organization instead of a mere ballot label.” Hauser adds that “The rise of Indivisible and countless other #Resistance groups have revealed an unprecedented interest in political activism and the power digital organizing tools can wield.”

“Such activism within the Democratic Party itself would increase the people power available to candidates who inspire communities,” argues Hauser. “From incubating voter registration drives to promoting a community picnic, captains would choose the activities that their communities desire while also communicating with the tools that best speak to those communities.”

Untilnow, says Hauser, “digital strategy has essentially been used as a different way to raise money. Everyone’s gotten those emails (probably too many of them) asking if you “can chip in just $5” for a given occasion…That means that the party’s digital strategy has largely been a one-way street: send out a message and judge its success by the dollars it generated.”

Hauser believes the digital precinct captains “would engage a broad swath of voters and ensure a meaningful and consistent point of contact with the Democratic Party.” It would provide “the tools they need to engage and organize throughout the year while informing the party how politics is happening at the most granular level.”

Another benefit would be that the digital precinct capatains could organize by geography, neglected constituencies, “like the parents of kids with disabilities or senior citizens in nursing homes,” or issues, or a combination of those factors.

Digital precincts “could create an enduring semi-decentralized digital-oriented permanent campaign structure.” Utilizing tools like Facebook, Instagram and texting, “this structure would take advantage of the reduced costs of two-way communications between the federal party and grassroots outside the strictures of TV ads or mainstream media.”

Precinct captains once played a much larger role in Democratic politics, particularly in cities where population was concentrated. Neighborhood-level political groups still have an important role to play, but it would be political malpractice for Democrats not to leverage digital tools to strengthen the bonds between the national, state and local Democratic parties on the one hand, and the myriad grassroots groups now proliferating in the Resistance nationwide.

Top Dems Say Russians Still Trying to Influence U.S. Elections

At PowerPost, Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey and Craig Timberg report that “Top Democrats on Tuesday called on Facebook and Twitter to investigate what lawmakers said are Russian efforts to promote the release of a classified Republican memo criticizing the FBI probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign.”Further, say the PowerPost writers,

Hashtags such as “#ReleaseTheMemo” have been trending on Twitter in recent days, and accounts affiliated with Russian influence efforts have been supporting this campaign, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a U.S.-based group that examines efforts by Russia and other nations to interfere in democratic institutions.

“If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process,” said a letter to Facebook and Twitter from Rep. Adam B. Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats from California who are the top members of their party on the House Intelligence Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively.

The revelations won’t come as a jaw-dropper to anyone who has been paying attention to Putin’s doings in recent years. The notion that Russian meddling in U.S. presidential elections was a one-time project, never to be again repeated makes no sense, considering Putin’s aggressive approach to international relations and his commitment to leveraging Russia’s intelligence resources to the fullest.

Democrats, however, have dismissed the Republican campaign to publish the memo as a bid to undermine a legitimate law enforcement investigation into Trump’s campaign and transition. Democrats also have said that releasing information in the memo would amount to a break from past practice in the handling of classified material.

…In alleging involvement by Russian trolls and bots, Schiff and Feinstein cite the Alliance for Securing Democracy, part of the German Marshall Fund. The group hosts on its website a dashboard that tracks roughly 600 accounts that the group says echo or otherwise support Russian influence efforts, though in some cases this is done unwittingly, according to information posted on the site.

…“This should be disconcerting to all Americans, but especially your companies as, once again, it appears the vast majority of their efforts are concentrated on your platforms,” Schiff and Feinstein wrote. “This latest example of Russian interference is in keeping with Moscow’s concerted, covert, and continuing campaign to manipulate American public opinion and erode trust in our law enforcement and intelligence institutions.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

Teixeira: The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

The fourth article in my series with Peter Leyden on “California Is the Future” is now out on Medium. Here’s the intro to the article, but please read the whole thing. It is ungated.

The next time you call for bipartisan cooperation in America and long for Republicans and Democrats to work side by side, stop it. Remember the great lesson of California, the harbinger of America’s political future, and realize that today such bipartisan cooperation simply can’t get done.
In this current period of American politics, at this juncture in our history, there’s no way that a bipartisan path provides the way forward. The way forward is on the path California blazed about 15 years ago.
In the early 2000s, California faced a similar situation to the one America faces today. Its state politics were severely polarized, and state government was largely paralyzed. The Republican Party was trapped in the brain-dead orthodoxies of an ideology stuck in the past. The party was controlled by zealous activists and corrupt special interests who refused to face up to the reality of the new century. It was a party that refused to work with the Democrats in good faith or compromise in any way.
The solution for the people of California was to reconfigure the political landscape and shift a supermajority of citizens — and by extension their elected officials — under the Democratic Party’s big tent. The natural continuum of more progressive to more moderate solutions then got worked out within the context of the only remaining functioning party. The California Democrats actually cared about average citizens, embraced the inevitable diversity of 21st-century society, weren’t afraid of real innovation, and were ready to start solving the many challenges of our time, including climate change.
California today provides a model for America as a whole. This model of politics and government is by no means perfect, but it is far ahead of the nation in coming to terms with the inexorable digital, global, sustainable transformation of our era. It is a thriving work in progress that gives hope that America can pull out of the political mess we’re in. California today provides a playbook for America’s new way forward. It’s worth contemplating as we enter 2018, which will be a critical election year.

Dems Should Make Sure GOP Owns Shutdown

If there is going to be a government shutdown, Republicans are going to own it, despite their best efforts to blame Democrats. The GOP controls all three branches of government, which makes any attempt to evade responsibility for a shutdown a very tough sell. As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin recently explained,

“The Republican gambit to blame Democrats — who control neither the House, Senate nor White House — for failure to keep the government running was always a long shot. They are, as they keep reminding us, in charge and have the majorities to keep the government funded. Nevertheless, they’ve tried to convince dubious voters that Democrats are creating a shutdown because of that party’s desire to protect “dreamers” under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. That’s daft since, once again, a majority of Republicans are available to vote for a spending bill with no DACA fix…What is apparent for all to see is that Democrats have no responsibility to concoct a solution to address the Republicans’ abject incompetence. When a majority party cannot decide what it wants, and cannot find the votes, they are admitting they cannot govern. There is a solution to that: putting the other party in charge.”

Democrats should keep repeating the point that “Republicans control all three branches of government. Any government shutdown has to be their fault.” If Dems do a decent job of getting that message across, the Republicans will blink, or add ‘whiny excuse-makers’ to their image problems. Dems shouldn’t worry too much about lapdog reporters who won’t call the GOP out about why they can’t manage our goverment, when they control all three branches. Just trust in the logic of the argument, that the majority party has to own any shutdown.

Ashley Killough’s  round-up, “Government shutdown: Where the senators stand,” updates positions of Democratic senators on the short-term spending bill, which will need 60 votes to move forward. “It’s a difficult task for Republicans, who only number 51 in the Senate — and not all of them are going to vote for the bill,” writes Killough. “Even if they did, they’d still need another nine Democrats to reach the magic number of 60.” Here’s Killough’s breakdown of “Republican “no” votes and where Democrats stand.”


Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) — “I’m not going to vote for a CR” (Wednesday, to reporters)
Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) — “I want to keep the government open. I’m just going to work and work and work to keep the government open.” (Wednesday to reporters)


Sen. Michel Bennet (Colorado) — “I’m very, very unlikely to support that.” (Thursday, to reporters)
Sen. Tom Carper (Delaware) — “To set the record straight, I’m leaning NO on the CR. I want a comprehensive deal. I’m really frustrated by what’s coming out of the White House — in part the behavior of the president, but also just the unwillingness to negotiate in good faith.” (Tweet on Wednesday)
Sen. Chris Murphy (Connecticut) –– “Yet another CR, kicking the can down the road, hanging the military and millions of Americans out to dry, is an abdication of our responsibility to govern like adults.” (Thursday on Twitter)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (New York) — “Letting this ambivalence and chaos continue for another month is just not the answer. It’s not a good way to get a deal, and it’s not the right way to run our country, our dear, beloved country.” (Thursday on the Senate floor)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) — “Everything Democrats want is bipartisan; why not work with us? Ultimatum after ultimatum from Rs, and not one vote yet in regular legislative order on any Democratic amendment on any bill” (Thursday on Twitter)
Click here for more.

Dem Win in WI State Senate Disrict Likened to ‘Blue Tsunami’

At PowerPost, James Hohman’s “Unexpected defeat in rural Wisconsin special election sets off alarm bells for Republicans” at The Daily 202 shares some good news for Democrats:

THE BIG IDEA: Ten months is an eternity in politics, but a stunning Democratic victory Tuesday in a special election deep in the heart of Trump country suggests a blue tsunami could be forming.

President Trump became the first Republican to carry Wisconsin in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan by running up his score in places like the rural 10th state Senate district, which includes a swath of five counties between Eau Claire and Superior along the Minnesota border.

Trump won there by 17 points in 2016. A special election was triggered when Gov. Scott Walker tapped a popular state senator, who had held the seat since 2000, to become his agriculture secretary. Last night, Democratic candidate Patty Schachtner won by nine points.

Writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Patrtick Marley wrote,

Patty Schachtner, the chief medical examiner for St. Croix County, will take the seat that had been held for 17 years by former Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Harsdorf stepped down in November to take a job as GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s agriculture secretary.

In an interview, Schachtner said she thought she beat state Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) because the race had turned nasty in mailings from groups outside the district.

“It wasn’t nice. It was mean,” she said of the campaign literature. “People just said, ‘You know what? We’re nicer than that.’”

Hohman noted that popular conservative talk radio host called the Democratic upset “a stunning sertback for GOP” in WI. Hohman adds that the GOP candidate Schachtner beat was a “solid assemblyman,” who ran a “spirited” and well-funded campaign. As for Schachtner’s credibility in the race, Hohman explains:

There is an important lesson here for national Democrats: Schachtner is the sort of candidate who can actually defeat GOP incumbents in red congressional districts this fall. She has deep roots in the community, and she is not a fire-breathing liberal.

Her campaign focused not on attacking Trump but fighting the opioid crisis, improving access to health care and bringing good-paying jobs to the region. She didn’t need to talk about the president to benefit from an outpouring of progressive energy and conservative apathy.

This last point is instructive. Trump’s negatives now get plenty of media mentions, even in conservative districts, and will continue to do so in the months ahead. Perhaps Democratic candidates in moderate and conservative legislative districts should not waste valuable messaging exposure on belaboring the obvious and contributing to ‘Trump fatigue,’ when they could be scoring positive points that distinguish their credibility.

Every Democratic candidate ought to prepare a soundbite pivot for questions about Trump, along the lines of  “Mr. Trump’s problems are obvious enough. I’m more concerned with how we can make life better for constituents in this district. That’s what I want to talk about.” And then, be prepared to back it up with a couple of succinct, well-stated examples.

Teixeira: Where Does Trumpism Come From?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

That is the $64,000 question in American politics. Thomas Edsall has an excellent and important take on the question in his latest New York Times column titled “Robots Can’t Vote But They Helped Elect Donald Trump“. Here are some choice excerpts but please read the whole article:

When you look across America to see where jobs and wages have been lost to robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, it is the middle of the country that stands apart from the rest….

“My take is that grievances, both racial and against cosmopolitan, liberal elites, have played an important role,” [economist Daron] Acemoglu wrote me in an email:

“But economic hardships, as they often do, made these fault lines more salient. Dormant grievances have become more alive.”

Acemoglu argues that recent technological developments have helped drive voters to the right:

“The swing to Republicans between 2008 and 2016 is quite a bit stronger in commuting zones most affected by industrial robots. You don’t see much of the impact of robots in prior presidential elections. So it’s really a post 2008 phenomenon.”….

In a September 2017 paper, “Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure,” David Autor, who is also an economist at M.I.T., and three of his colleagues, dug further into the demographics of those suffering the economic costs of trade with China.

Autor and his co-authors found that:

“Trade exposure catalyzed strong movements towards conservative Republicans between 2002 and 2010 in counties with majority non-Hispanic white populations.”….

Their analysis resonates, they suggest:

“with the themes of recent literature on the political economy of right-wing populism, in which economic shocks to dominant population groups engender a political response that sharpens group identities and enhances support for conservative politicians. This pattern is evident in our finding that the impact of trade shocks on political polarization appears largely attributable to increases in foreign competition facing manufacturing industries that are intensive in the employment of non-Hispanic white males.”

Acemoglu, Autor and their colleagues provide a synthesis between the economic and the sociocultural explanations of the rise of the populist right. In doing so, they provide a corrective to the recent tendency in segments of the liberal media to downplay economic factors and to focus instead on racial resentment and cultural dislocation as the primary forces motivating Trump voters.

The point here is that the two generalized explanatory realms — the one focused on race and the other on economic shock — overlap. It is not either/or but both that gave us President Trump.

Still, explanations tend to become monocausal.

Take, for example, the Dec. 15, 2017 headline at the Vox website: “The past year of research has made it very clear: Trump won because of racial resentment.” According to German Lopez, the article’s author, “employment and income were not significantly related to that sense of white vulnerability.” What was? “Racial resentment.”

A May 9, 2017 story in The Atlantic asserted that

“fear of societal change, not economic pressure, motivated votes for the president among non-salaried workers without college degrees.”

Those stories were by no means alone. Salon: “Liberals were right: Racism played a larger role in Trump’s win than income and authoritarianism”; The Nation: “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Make People Vote Trump, Racism Did.”…

Trump’s strongest support in the primaries and in the general election came disproportionately from the least well educated whites — those who, as Acemoglu and Autor argue, are most vulnerable to the economic dislocation resulting from automation, the rise of a robot work force, global trade and outsourcing.

In an email, Autor describes how the two explanatory models dovetail. He starts with a question:

“Do you think non-college, non-urban whites would feel so dislocated if their job prospects were strong and their wages rising?”

He then goes on to point out that

“all of these observations — authoritarianism, racism, cultural dislocation — have relevance. The only claim that’s irrelevant because it’s already been disproved is that economic factors were unimportant to Trump’s victory.”

I agree strongly with Edsall, Acemoglu and Autor. It has always been my view that  it should not be surprising that voting for an anti-immigrant, racially resentful candidate is predicted by, well, being anti-immigrant and racially resentful. But why now and why so much support for a candidate with those views? That is a much more difficult and arguably more important question.

Consider the following. Over time, the most striking thing about anti-immigrant sentiment and racial resentment is that they have been trending steadily downward. Take the basic question of whether immigration should be increased, decreased or stay the same. We are now at levels of “decrease” that have not been this low since the 1960’s. In particular, there has been a huge drop in “decreased” since around the time of Pat Buchanan’s nativist candidacy for the Republican nomination in 1992, reflecting dramatic changes in the views of white Americans. Yet Buchanan was not successful but Trump was.

Similarly, there has been considerable change in basic views about immigration and whether it’s 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 data, that very much includes in the recent period, when Trump has risen to prominence. Indeed, after the “good thing” response was as low as 51 percent in the early 2000’s, it has been around 70 percent in the last two years.

Nor on racial resentment do we see any kind of spike in negative racial attitudes in the recent period. Negative racial attitudes, according to General Social Survey (GSS) data analyzed by 538, were far higher in the early 1990’s than they have been in recent years among both white Democrats and Republicans.

Of course, it is possible that there has been a spike in negative attitudes on race and immigration but it has been confined to, say, the group most likely to support Trump—white working class or noncollege men. But that does not appear to be the case either. According to GSS data, there has been essentially no change in the incidence of these attitudes among white working class men in recent years.

So the question then becomes, in a sense; what set them off? Why did a substantial group of white working class voters, whose views on race and immigration were likely of long standing, rather than recently acquired, make a strong move toward right populism today rather than years ago? It’s a puzzle.

One prime suspect for solving this puzzle is the material circumstances and economic trajectory of white working class Americans– especially white working class men–and their communities in the last 25 years or so since Pat Buchanan first raised his pitchfork high at the Republican national convention. It’s not controversial to say that that trajectory has been quite poor. Earnings declines have been the rule for white noncollege male workers, with those in the bottom quarter of the earnings distribution down by almost half, but even those in the middle of the distribution have seen their earnings decline by over a fifth. And most of this decline has taken place since the turn of the century, with a particularly sharp decline in the Great Recession years.

This is the story told by cross-sectional data. But surely white noncollege men made at least some gains as they aged and their careers progressed? A Sentier Research study indicates that these gains have been very modest indeed, as measured over ages 25-26 to ages 43-44, especially as compared to white college men ($6,000 vs. $54,000). For white noncollege men, that’s an 18 year period with glacial progress.

Of course, there’s more to the material situation of white noncollege workers than annual earnings, though this is surely important. Other important dimensions might include job availability, opportunities for upward occupational mobility, the state of their local communities and health and mortality concerns. But, by all accounts, serious problems have emerged in these areas as well.

So perhaps these changes, especially as exacerbated by the sharp economic decline of the Great Recession, were enough to set off that still-considerable sector of the white working class that harbors negative attitudes around race and immigration. That would be consistent with the “deep story” uncovered by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her study of white working class communities in Louisiana. This is the story these individuals tell themselves to make sense of their world:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

A toxic interaction between economic change and cultural reaction would also be consistent with the historical record on the rise of right populisms. As political scientists Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick and Christopher Trebesch have shown in an influential paper, “Going to Extremes: Politics after Financial Crisis, 1870-2014”, covering 140 years, 800 general elections and 20 countries, far right populist parties driven heavily by xenophobia towards immigrants and minorities typically experience a surge in support in the aftermaths of large and lingering crises. And, as economist Claudia Goldin noted in her study of immigration policy debates in the US in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, “Almost all serious calls for the literacy test [to stem the flow immigrants] were preceded by economic downturns. … and few economic downturns of the era were not accompanied by a call for [immigration] restriction in the halls of Congress.”

To conclude, it seems foolish to try to understand Trumpism without taking into account the material conditions, trajectories and aspirations of Trump supporters and their considerable shortcomings in recent decades—their economic pessimism and fear of the future have real roots, as economists have copiously documented.

Of course, it would also not be credible to analyze Trumpism without a very prominent role for the racial and cultural lens through which Trump’s supporters interpret the world and the problems they face. There are likely some very complicated interactions between the material frustrations of white noncollege voters, particularly men, and a sense of racial “status anxiety” that may have always been there to some degree, but has come out in full force in the aftermath of a great economic crisis. This is what we should seek to understand instead of condemning vast swathes of our fellow Americans as simple racists.

Teixeira: Governors’ and Legislative Elections May Prove More Important Than Congressional and Senate Races

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Sure,  control of the House is very important and the Democrats have an excellent chance to get that back in 2018. More difficult, but not out of the question, would be the Senate.

But let’s face it, 2018, even with very favorable results in the House and the Senate, is not going to be the start of a new progressive era. No, that is really a 2020’s thing when President Trump is defeated and Democrats have enough strength in the states to dominate the next round of redistricting, thereby allowing them to translate their underlying political support into actual political victories.

That’s why the most significant results of the 2018 election may well be those for state, not federal, offices. Here’s what’s at stake:

  • 36 governors’ races, 26 of which are currently in Republican hands. And of the 26 Republican-held seats, 13 are in states that Obama won in at least one of his Presidential victories (pictured above).
  • At least half of state Senate seats in 42 states (in 15 of these states, the entire Senate is up).
  • Every state House seat in the overwhelming majority of states.
These results will set the playing field for state elections in 2020 and the redistricting thereafter. Procedures in states vary but the typical setup is for the state legislature to be in charge of the actual redistricting with the governor having veto power. In 34 states, the governor who will be in office for the upcoming redistricting will be elected this year (two were elected last year, which the Democrats bagged) and in 30 states half or more of state senators who will preside over the process will be elected this year.
Of course, 2020 will be important too, but the revolution, so to speak, starts this year. So if you’re wondering where to put your energy and/or money, you could do worse than throwing it at competitive legislative and govenors’ elections in key states. And in case you want some hard data on state legislative districts, the Presidential results in a given Republican-held district always provide useful information about the potential competitiveness of the district.
Historical and model-based results suggest this could be a very good year indeed for the Democrats at the state level. Let’s make it happen.