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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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Tomasky: Why Dems Need Moderates

Michael Tomasky’s latest Daily Beast article, which we highlighted yesterday, provides a succinct summation of the argument for Democrats welcoming moderate candidates, as well as progressives. Here’s an excerpt:

This is a fact, and I mean it’s an immutable, undeniable fact, which I’ve written about before. Democrats can’t get to 218 (a House majority) with liberals alone. Republicans can get to 218 with conservatives alone. Right now there are 240 Republicans in the House, only about a dozen of whom you’d call moderate, and even that’s stretching it. There are 194 Democrats, most but not all of whom you’d call liberal. And that’s about the outer limit on liberalism in House districts. So to be a majority, Democrats need moderates, and quite a lot of them.

That means they need to make efforts to appeal to voters in the kinds of districts they won back in 2006 and 2008 but have lost overwhelmingly in the Obama/Tea Party era. Look at these two maps. This one is a map of congressional control after the 2008 election, when Democrats held 257 seats. And this one is a map of the same thing after the 2016 elections, when Democrats were reduced to 192.

Look how much bluer the first map is. Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona. North Carolina, Georgia, Florida. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin. Real estate yielded everywhere.

n 2006 and 2008? It wasn’t coastal liberals, friends. It was the kind of candidate who could win in a place that was somewhat more conservative than your typical metropolitan/suburban blue district. And it’s those people who gave the Democrats their majority, who made Nancy Pelosi speaker, and who passed us (with some agita, but still, they did it) Obamacare. There were, as I recall, 53 Democrats in the Blue Dog coalition in 2009. There are 18 now.

The only way for the Democratic Party to grow is with more Blue Dogs. And so as they think about their post-Pelosi/Hoyer/Clyburn future, Democrats ought to think about this. Obviously, any Democratic leadership team has to be racially diverse, and has to include at least one woman. It seems to me especially important that the new triumvirate include a Latino, which would be a first.

The next leader should not, however, be from New York or Boston or Los Angeles or San Francisco. Chicago might be a little different, the city of broad shoulders and all that jazz. But they should find someone who isn’t from a deep-blue district. Look at Paul Ryan. He’s from a district that Cook Political Report rates as R+5; it leans Republican, but only leans. Pelosi’s district is D+37. Having a leader from a district like that reinforces the media trope, fair or not, that the party represents only certain cosmopolitan enclaves. The Democrats’ next leader should be from a district that’s a little closer to a 5 than a 37.

Trump’s unpopularity opens the door for a Democratic comeback. I think a bold move like this could kick that door wide open and could actually augment Pelosi’s legacy. She helped pass monumentally historic legislation, and now she can pass the torch at a time when the party needs someone with the self-awareness to lead the way.

The most moderate Democratic members of congress are far more amenable to progressive reforms than even the most moderate Republicans, who Ed Kilgore reminded us yesterday are nearly extinct. The majority party in congress gets to set the agenda and control the debate, as well as committee chairmanships. That’s too important to shrugg off in pursuit of ideological purity.


Teixeira: Will Rust Belt Voters Bail Out Trump?

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

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As Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall everywhere, his tenuous hold on the key Rustbelt states that handed him the Presidency is slipping away. Here’s the key paragraph from a new Morning Consult analysis of data from 472,000 (!) interviews conducted since Trump’s inauguration:

A majority of voters in 25 states and the District of Columbia said they disapproved of the president’s job performance in September, including those residing in Upper Midwest states with large Electoral College hauls that were critical to Trump’s victory over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — and some of which are home to some of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats of the 2018 election cycle. Fifty-five percent of respondents in Michigan said they disapproved of Trump, as did 53 percent in Wisconsin and Iowa and 51 percent in Pennsylvania.


Will Bannon’s Primary Challengers Help Dems?

In his  Politico post, “Democrats look to wreak havoc in GOP primaries,” Gabriel Debenedetti reports that deepening divisions within the Republican Party are leading to primary challenges that endanger their mid-term candidates and may help Democrats. Citing Roy Moore’s recent win in the Alabama race for the Republican nomination for Senate, Debenedetti notes that Alt-Right strategist Steve Bannon, who supported Moore, is also evaluating similar challenges to the GOP establshment in Mississippi and Tennessee.

Ed Kilgore notes further at New York Magazine,

Regular readers of Breitbart News were aware that Judge Roy Moore’s Senate candidacy in Alabama had become a major priority of the fiery site over the last couple of weeks. And its chairman, Stephen Bannon, became very personally involved, as reflected by his leading role in Judge Roy’s final rally on Election Eve…When Roy Moore got to the podium (and before he brandished a gun), the famous Ayatollah of Alabama gave Bannon a shout-out as “an outstanding man” who had done more than anyone else to encourage the judge in his campaign.

So once the returns came in and Moore handily dispatched the appointed incumbent Luther Strange, Breitbart News was not at all bashful about taking credit and threatening more primary challenges. “MOORE WIN MAKES STEVE BANNON, BREITBART NEWS TAKE CENTER STAGE” shouted the headline above a half-gloating, half-menacing story from Breitbart’s senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak.

Bannon may also be eyeballing divisive senate primaries in West Virginia, Montana and Ohio, Arizona and Nevada. As Debenedetti adds, “Democrats are considering ways to step in and wreak some havoc. The idea: Elevate the GOP’s most extreme option in each race, easing Democrats’ path to victory in a range of states tilted against them.” Also, notes Debenedetti, “At the Democrats’ Senate campaign headquarters in Washington and their local offices in the states, operatives have started compiling files of the GOP hopefuls’ more outrageous statements and positions, while combing through the daily news clips for hints of further themes to pursue against them.”

Debenedetti sees echoes of Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill’s strategy of skillfully exploiting division in the Missouri GOP Senate primary five years ago:

At its most aggressive, the tactic could be a sequel to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 campaign against then-GOP Rep. Akin in Missouri. She actively intevened in the Republican primary with ads designed to boost the conservative Akin to the front of the pack. Once he became the nominee, a series of gaffes — led by his “legitimate rape” comment — and hard-line positions unraveled his campaign.

…“What happened [with Akin] has been multiplied [in Alabama], by both the character of this candidate and the positions he’s taken, but also by the fractures in the Republican Party — which are being fought much more publicly — and the extraordinary unpopularity of Mitch McConnell,” said Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, referring to the Senate majority leader who became a central punching bag in Moore’s primary bid.

…Republicans are in an increasingly public, multi-front civil war, and Trump’s base is openly fed up with its own party’s congressional leadership. With support for McConnell as Republicans’ Senate leader emerging as a primary issue, Greenberg called his unpopularity figures among Republican voters “way beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

There may well be a bumper crop of opportunities in 2018 for Democratic candidates for office at the state and local level to actively exploit Republican divisions. It might even be a good idea for state Democratic parties to have projects and task forces developing variations on the ‘Akin strategy.’ But the emphasis for Democratic campaigns everywhere must be on recruiting, training and funding strong candidates for every state legislative seat, state-wide office and congressional district. With that commitment, Democrats will do well against all opponents.


Teixeira: Democratic Wave Building?

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

Special elections provide important clues on political momentum. One under-analyzed area of special elections is state legislative seats. There are many more of these than there are of the heavily-publicized Congressional specials. Brian Stryker and Zac McCrary of ALG Research provide a detailed analysis of the legislative specials and detect very considerable Democratic momentum. Bottom line: the patterns are so strong that if they continue they could be enough to shift dominance of state legislature from Republicans to Democrats in 2018. That would be huge.

Caveats apply of course and Stryker/McCrary provide some at the end of their article. And Republican advantages from incumbency are considerable. Still, their results are rather striking and in an area where Democrats pay far too little attention.

Note this also about where Democrats should compete:

Additionally, many Beltway pundits continue to debate whether Democrats should target so-called blue-collar Obama-Trump type districts or more white-collar, suburban Romney-Clinton districts. The answer so far on the legislative level, is “Yes”; Democrats need not acquiesce to that false choice. Just like FiveThirtyEight, we find that Obama’s 2012 performance and Clinton’s 2016 performance in a district are equally predictive of 2017 results….

Because both 2012 and 2016 have been equally important predictors, a lean Obama district that swung heavily to Trump is just as ripe an opportunity as a strongly Romney district that shifted to Clinton. Republican legislators who hold either of those types of districts — as well as a much broader swath of GOP districts — should be very worried by what has occurred at the legislative level over the past several months. Likewise, Democrats do not necessarily need to choose between targeting state houses in places like Iowa where Trump did well in 2016 or states like Arizona or Virginia, where Trump is generally weaker than other recent Republicans.


Vegas Mass Murder Spotlights GOP’s Failure to Protect Americans

The horrific mass shoting in Las Vegas raises the question, is it at long-last time to ban or restrict assault weapons?

The easy availability of semi-automatic/assault weapons has been a threat to national security for a long time, and we have seen clamor for gun control swell and fade after mass shootings time and again. But the horrifying toll of this one vicious shooting incident — currently at 59 fatalities and 500+ injuries — brings a new urgency to calls for congressional action.

We had a federal ban on assault weapons, which was enacted in 1994. But it was allowed to expire in 2004. there was a failed effort to pass the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. Today, only seven U.S. states have assault weapons bans, and Minnesota and Virginia have training and background check requirements for assault weapons purchases. Some cities and counties in Colorado and Illinois have local laws banning sale of assault weapons, as does Washington, D.C.

The Editorial Board of The New York Times presents a graphics display which helps to put the problem in political perspective. Entitled, “477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress,” the graphic doesn’t provide the horrifiying death and injury toll, which is well into the thousands. But insert the term, “Republican-controlled” before “Congress” and you have a more accurate description of the reason for inaction. Republican leaders of congress have been extremely effective in preventing even modest assault weapons restrictions that might save lives from being enacted.

That’s not to say that all Democrats have supported restrictions on semi-automatic weapons. Some have been cowed by the NRA, and their silence is part of the problem. But it’s equally-accurate to say that all serious initiatives to restrict assault weapons in recent years have come from Democrats. Back in 1993 former Republican Presidents Ford and Reagan joined Jimmy Carter in calling for a ban on  “semi-automatic assault guns.” But today, nearly all Republicans in congress have failed to do anything to protect Americans from the scourge of easilly-available semi-automatic and assault weapons. Democratic Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.) introduced “Assault Weapons Ban of 2015” and was supported by 149 House co-sponsors, but not one of them was a Republican.

Democrats can be confident of public support for restrictions on semi-automatic and assault weapons. A 2016 Quinnipiac University National poll found that 59 percent of voters supported “a ban on the sale of assault weapons.” An even larger majority — 64 percent — agreed that “”It’s possible to make new gun laws without interfering with gun rights.”

There will be heated arguments over the next few weeks about the effectiveness of legislation to restrict assault weapons. But the NRA bromide about a “good guy with a gun” as the best remedy for stopping domestic mass murders has been utterly discredited by the Las Vegas killings. The only thing that is certain is that no legislative remedies will even be given a chance to succeed until Democrats win a working majority of both houses of congress.


Creamer: Trump’s War Threats Should Be Met by Renewed Calls for Disarmament

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

No one really believes that an even moderately rational leader of North Korea would use nuclear weapons to launch a first strike against the United States. Such a move would almost certainly lead to the annihilation of North Korea itself – and its leadership. It would be suicidal.

But history shows that the confrontation between the United States and North Korea still carries with it enormous danger: the danger that a horrific conventional or nuclear war could occur as a result of miscalculation or mistake. And the likelihood of such a catastrophe increases exponentially when the leaders who could launch a war are impulsive, erratic megalomaniacs like Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, historians have identified dozens of close calls – miscalculations or mistakes – that could have led to a nuclear war.

On October 27, 1962, the Soviet Fox-Trot class diesel submarine B-59 was cruising in waters off Cuba near the U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Randolph and nine destroyers. The submarine B-59 was in international waters, but as part of the U.S. naval blockage of Cuba, the destroyers began dropping depth charges around the B-59 signaling it to surface to be identified.

The B-59 had been cruising too deep to monitor U.S. broadcasts and had not been in touch with Moscow for three days. Fearing that the depth charging meant that a war had already broken out, the Captain of the B-59, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky decided to launch the ship’s nuclear-tipped torpedoes at the attacking U.S. ships.

Normally, the Captain only had to get agreement from his political officer to launch nuclear-tipped torpedoes or missiles. Luckily, on the B-59 the Captain, his political officer Ivan Maslennikow, and the second-in-command Vasili Arkhipov had agreed that all three must unanimously agree before the B-59’s nuclear armaments were used. This stemmed partially from the lucky coincidence that Ankhipov, though he was only second-in-command on the B-59, was commander of the entire flotilla of submarines and of equal rank with the Captain.

The Political Officer agreed with the Captain to use the nuclear-tipped torpedoes. Only Ankhipov refused to agree and ultimately convinced the Captain to surface and contact Moscow. Ankhipov’s case was bolstered by the lucky fact that the sub’s batteries were low, the air conditioning had failed, and heat and carbon dioxide levels onboard had risen.

He might not have realized it at the time, but Ankhipov’s good judgment and resolve probably prevented a nuclear war. But what if it had been a different sub?

Historian Graham Allison begins his new book Destined for War, by quoting German chancellor Theobald von Bethman Hollweg. “Ah, if we only knew,” he said when pressed by a colleague to explain how his choices, and those of other European statesmen, had led to the most devastating war the world had seen to that point – World War I.

Allison goes on to note that none of the major actors in Europe wanted a war. And by the time it was over in 1918 the key players had all lost what they fought for: “the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the German Kaiser ousted, the Russian tsar overthrown, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of it treasure and youth. And for what. If we only knew.”

The major actors unthinkingly made mistake after mistake and “blundered into the abyss.”

In his December, 2016 article in the New Yorker entitled, World War Three, by Mistake, Eric Schlosser says: “Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.”

He goes on to describe a terrifying episode:

On June 3, 1980, at about two-thirty in the morning, computers at the National Military Command Center, beneath the Pentagon, at the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (norad), deep within Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and at Site R, the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States. The Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan, and the animosity between the two superpowers was greater than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. Air Force ballistic-missile crews removed their launch keys from the safes, bomber crews ran to their planes, fighter planes took off to search the skies, and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land.

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at norad headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

 Let’s remember what a nuclear war is all about. One study showed that a single 1-megaton bomb exploded above the city of Detroit would cause up to 630,000 deaths and injuries from blast alone. And many of those who escaped death initially would ultimately suffer horrific deaths from the effects of nuclear fallout or burns.

In all three of these instances, the decisions leading to a war – or almost leading to a war – did not involve a grand design or conscious action. They involved mistakes or near mistakes that were, or could have been catastrophic. And their likelihood of doing so vastly increases if they are made by erratic, impulsive people who lack self-confidence and a sense of history – people like Donald Trump or Kim Jong Un.

Every day, there are reports of a lover or spouse who kills his or her significant-other in a fit of uncontrolled anger or rage. These are not cases where one spouse wakes up one day and coolly decides to kill the other. The man murders his wife in a fit of uncontrolled passion.

Everyday you hear of teenagers who get into a fight over a girlfriend, pull guns and ruin each other’s lives because somebody insulted somebody else. Neither rationally planned the attack; the names start flying, the hormones start flowing, and pretty soon one or more kids lies dead on a sidewalk or a barroom floor.

Donald Trump seems to have the emotional maturity of one of those teenagers. And remember that the kids who shoot at each other in a dispute over a girlfriend would be throwing punches rather that shooting bullets if they did not have access to guns.

Donald Trump has control of the nuclear launch codes to thousands of nuclear weapons.

And the likelihood of a mistake or miscalculation is not simply limited to national leaders. Once the stakes go up and forces are entangled, the mistakes or miscalculations of scores – or even hundreds – of people who are outside of the span of control of national leaders can snowball into international calamity.

At one point in the Cuban Missile, Kennedy elevated the alert level to Defcon II. With that order German and Turkish pilots took their seats in the cockpits of NATO fighter-bombers, armed with nuclear weapons, ready to attack. If one of those Turkish or German pilots had gone rogue, that one pilot could have started World War III by flying 2 hours or less and dropping his nuclear payload.

That’s why it is so critical that in the cases of both North Korea and Iran, the leadership of the United States lowers the tension. In reality, of course, Donald Trump has done everything he can to bring tensions to the boiling point.

In a world brimming with nuclear weapons, our true national security has very little to do with whether our president can do a better job slinging insults than the leader of North Korea. It has everything to do with avoiding another horrific war – and in particular a nuclear war.

The willingness of North Korea to limit its nuclear program has everything to do with the willingness of the United States to give North Korea credible assurance that it will not attack them, nor seek to change their regime. Every time Trump escalates military threats he does more to convince them that their only defense is nuclear arms.

The North Koreans saw what happened to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi when he ended his nuclear weapons program, and they don’t want it to happen to them.

And, of course, if Trump abandons the Iran Nuclear Agreement, then the North Koreans will be completely convinced that they can’t trust any deal to limit their nuclear program that is agreed to by the United States.

Instead, the United States should use strong economic sanctions to pressure North Korea to the bargaining table and provide an off-ramp for them that guarantees their security ― the same way the Obama Administration did so effectively with Iran.

With the advent of nuclear weapons that are capable of destroying our species, human survival depends on our ability to develop non-violent means of conflict resolution that do not involve war.

Like it or not, knowledge and technology will continue to spread. The only long-term solutions to our survival are strong international agreements to limit and then eliminate the use of that technology to produce nuclear arms at all. And to devise political structures that resolve differences fairly and democratically across the face of the planet.

This is not a radical idea. Mainstream leaders like Pope Francis, former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, and Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry have all called for enforceable international agreements to eliminate all nuclear weapons – including those controlled by the United States and Russia.

In the end, any thing short of that leaves our own security at terrible risk. And those who bluster on about making America “Great Again” by wiping other countries off the face of the earth, are jeopardizing that security more than anyone else.


Teixeira: Dems on the Rebound

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

Special election shart

It is not generally appreciated how good the special elections have been for the Democrat this year, probably because people have not concentrated on the swings in these elections relative to Democratic performance in 2016. It is these swings, rather than the absolute outcomes, which tells us the most about how the political climate is shifting. Daniel Donner over at the excellent Daily Kos elections–a treasure trove of useful electoral data–has analyzed these swings and reports the following:

There has been considerable consternation and many pixels spilled about the regions of the country where the Democratic margin in the 2016 presidential election fell sharply compared to 2012, including the entire states of Iowa and Ohio. Was this the beginning of a permanent realignment? Was it a new baseline? Or would Democrats be able to recover?
We now have some answers, illustrated in the chart at the top of this post. There have been 10 special elections in districts where the presidential margin shifted 10 points or more toward Donald Trump compared to the 2012 margin. And in all 10 of those, the margin has shifted back toward Democrats in the special election. What’s more, in eight of the them, it has shifted past the 2012 presidential margin, and Democrats have outright won six of them (those where the dark green dot is to the right of the vertical axis).
With just 10 elections in this category, we have to be a little careful, but we can say one thing with certainty: Democrats are not stuck at 2016’s presidential numbers.

The times they are a-changin’. And, as these data indicate, for the better.


How DNC, DLCC Are Mobilizing for State Wins

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

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

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

MORE:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Needed: Ideas to Increase Midterm Voter Turnout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can We Increase Voter Turnout” at FairVote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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