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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Increasing Voter Turnout Requires Both Technical Fixes and Attitude Change

In her New York Times op-ed, “Increasing Voter Turnout for 2018 and Beyond,” Tina Rosenberg does an excellent job of distilling current issues associated with voter turnout and reforms needed to improve turnout. An excerpt:

One way for campaigns to get their voters to the polls is to recruit a good candidate who can inspire voters and run a competitive race…Then there’s painstaking fieldwork. All campaigns do it, but Donald P. Green, a professor at Columbia, said that many do it wrong. With Alan S. Gerber, Green wrote “Get Out the Vote,” which collected evidence from randomized controlled trials about what gets candidates’ supporters to the polls. “There’s a strong consensus that one of the few things that actually does increase turnout is contact, preferably in person,” said Green. “Shoe leather really works.” Especially when it’s a neighbor doing the door knocking.

…Even in 2018, pro-turnout factors will be undercut by numerous structural barriers — long-term obstacles intended to preserve the dominance of rich, white, older people by suppressing the votes of poorer, younger minorities.

Nevertheless, in the last few years, many states and cities have begun institutional reforms that make voting easier.

Denver is a leader. Coloradans have long been among the nation’s most enthusiastic voters, and last November, Denver set a personal best: 72 percent of those registered voted — much more than in most major cities. (The percentage was 67 in 2008, and 63 in 2012.)

“For us, this is a customer service issue,” said Amber McReynolds, Denver’s director of elections. “Whatever we can do to better serve our voters, we’re going to do.”…Denver mailed a ballot to every registered voter. Voters could fill it out at home and then mail it in or bring it to a drop box. Mailed ballots could be tracked with bar codes…Voting at home was popular; 92 percent of voters chose to do it. Those who did go to a polling place could do so anywhere in the city — near home or near work…There were other modernizations: People could register and vote on the same day. Those who moved had their voter registration changed automatically when they updated their driver’s license.

…The Illinois legislature, for example, just adopted automatic registration, by unanimous votes in both houses. If the governor signs it, then citizens who have contact with state agencies, including the motor vehicles department, will be automatically registered unless they decline.

Oregon was the first state to institute automatic registration, but now there are eight, as well as Washington, D.C. They include red states: Alaska, Georgia and West Virginia. Momentum is growing; so far this year, 32 states have introduced proposals to institute or expand it.

Rosenberg discusses a range of other remedies for low voter turnout, and she also calls attention to the problem of voter suppression. Also read reports by The Nation’s Ari Berman and others who cover the problem of voter suppression — the very deliberate practice of rigging and twisting election laws and otherwise interfering to prevent people of color and young voters from casting ballots.

The technical fixes to confront voter suppression are much-needed. But it’s also important that the Republican Party do some soul-searching about their commitment to prevent citizens from voting, based mostly on their race. The way it is now, with GOP control of all three branches of government, they see little need to change their commitment to voter suppression. Not one conservative pundit has even ventured a comment on this issue.

Gone are the Republican patriots of an early era who understood that their party should try to win the votes of all races, if they truly believed in democracy. Now it’s wink, wink, ‘voter fraud is the real problem,’ — a meme that no Republican leaders actually believe is the truth.

The only way to compel Republicans to take an honest look at how essentially unAmerican and morally compromised their party has become on the issue of free and fair elections is a resounding defeat at the polls. That should be the top priority for Democrats, certainly — but also for voters who want to restore balance and integrity to American government.

Greenberg: The Democrats’ ‘Working-Class Problem’ It’s not only with whites. It reaches well into the party’s base

Democrats can’t retake Congress without more white working-class votes. The Democratic Strategist and The American Prospect are presenting the 2017 Roundtable on the White Working Class and the Democrats, including 13 articles on why the Democrats should, and how they can, win those votes—progressively. The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg, founding partner of Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps and author of America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation’s Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and Leading the 21st Century, is part of this roundtable:

The road to a sustainable Democratic majority—nationally, locally, and in the states—must include much higher Democratic performance with white working-class voters (those without a four-year degree). Nearly every group in the progressive infrastructure is busy figuring out how Democrats can get back to the level of support they reached with President Obama’s 2012 victory. That is a pretty modest target, however, given the scale of Democratic losses. It underestimates the scope of the problem and, ironically, the opportunity.

The Democrats don’t have a “white working-class problem.” They have a “working-class problem,” which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly. The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate, including the Rising American Electorate of minorities, unmarried women, and millennials. This decline contributed mightily to the Democrats’ losses in the states and Congress and to the election of Donald Trump.

Fortunately, Democrats have the opportunity to consolidate, engage, and perform much better with all of working America. I say “opportunity” advisedly, because better performance requires Democrats to embrace dramatically bolder economic policies and to attack a political economy that works for the rich, big corporations, and the cultural elites, but not for average Americans.


The Challenge for Dems: Becoming the Party of Working People — of All Races

Public relations pros talk a lot about the power of “branding,” which is really another term for clarifying identity. Since the days of FDR, the Democratic Party has provided the better candidates for advocating reforms that benefit working people, in stark contrast to their Republican adversaries. In recent decades, however, Dems have failed to get credit for it. In PR terms, the ‘brand’ has dissolved in the chaos of modern politics.

It’s a built-in problem for the ‘big tent’ party. By welcoming a broad range of demographic and cultural groups with their myriad and quite legitimate grievances and agendas, the central, unifying message often gets garbled, buried or lost, and some demographic groups are bound to feel neglected and disrespected. In the case of the Democratic Party, the largest of these alienated  constituencies is the white working-class, currently estimated to be about 45 percent of the eligible electorate, down from about 70 percent in 1980.

The Trump campaign deftly exploited white working-class discontent and narrowly flipped key Rust Belt states in the 2016 election for an Electoral College upset, despite Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s substantial popular vote plurality. Political analysts have offered a host of plausible explainations for the 2016 outcome, including voter suppression, Clinton’s ads, travel, email and  Wall St. conections and F.B.I. Director James Comey’s ‘October surprise’ and others, all of which have merit. But most observers agree that Democrats badly underperformed with white working-class voters, a constituency that has little to gain from Republican policies and priorities.

The question arises, how can Democrats repair the broken bonds with white working-class voters, while strengthening their support from working people of all races? There is no short answer, but Robert Griffin, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira open up the dialogue with their article, “Democrats Need to Be the Party of and for Working People—of All Races: And they can’t retake Congress unless they win over more white workers” in The American Prospect. Their article, which includes some fascinating maps and graphics, helps to kick off a series of forthcomming essays and forums presented in partnership with The Democratic Strategist, addressing “The White Working-Class and the Democrats.”

The challenge, as the authors emphasize, is not to win a majority of the white working-class in time for the 2018 and 2020 elections — securing that majority will likely take longer — but to win a bigger portion of this large constituency. “Democrats do not need to win FDR-level support among white working-class voters,” the authors write, “but they cannot afford to lose them by margins as high as 30 to 40 points in some key states—as they have in recent elections…The party needs to rediscover its roots as a working-class party, one that was initially exclusionary of people of color but that today can and must represent the interests and values of working people of all races.”

With that, we’ll encourage TDS readers to check out the entire article and the series, and to respond with their best insights and ideas.

Cohn: Why Battleground State Polls Underestimated Trump’s Support in 2016

Nate Cohn’s “A 2016 Review: Why Key State Polls Were Wrong About Trump” considers three theories to explain why Trump did exceeded polling projections in the Rust Belt, NC and FL. As Cohn explains:

At least three key types of error have emerged as likely contributors to the pro-Clinton bias in pre-election surveys. Undecided voters broke for Mr. Trump in the final days of the race, or in the voting booth. Turnout among Mr. Trump’s supporters was somewhat higher than expected. And state polls, in particular, understated Mr. Trump’s support in the decisive Rust Belt region, in part because those surveys did not adjust for the educational composition of the electorate — a key to the 2016 race.

“Some of these errors will be easier to fix than others,” writes Cohn. “But all of them are good news for pollsters and others who depend on political surveys.”

Further, Cohn adds, “At the annual conference of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), as well as at a number of other meetings held earlier this year, evidence pointed toward an explanation in one of these categories:”

A postelection survey by Pew Research, and another by Global Strategy Group, a Democratic firm, re-contacted people who had taken their polls before the election. They found that undecided and minor-party voters broke for Mr. Trump by a considerable margin — far more than usual. Similarly, the exit polls found that late-deciding voters supported Mr. Trump by a considerable margin in several critical states. These three results imply that late movement boosted Mr. Trump by a modest margin, perhaps around two points.

Cohn cautions, however, that there is a “tendency for respondents to over-report voting for the winner.” Cohn also note “the so-called “shy Trump” effect,” the notion that “Trump supporters took telephone surveys but were embarrassed to divulge their support for an unpopular candidate. If true, the “undecided” voters were really Trump voters all along; they just didn’t want to admit it to pollsters until after their candidate won.”

Cohn also discusses the arument that “likely-voter screens may have tilted polls in Clinton’s direction,evidence in inconclusive. He also notes that an Upshot/Siennna survey found that “Mrs. Clinton’s supporters were likelier than Mr. Trump’s supporters to stay home after indicating their intention to vote.”

In addition, many of the polls failed to adequately ‘weight’ polls to reflect educational levels in keeping with demographic realities. It appears that less educated voters, were somewhat underrepresented in key state polls.

About 45 percent of respondents in a typical national poll of adults will have a bachelor’s degree or higher, even though the census says that only 28 percent of adults have a degree. Similarly, a bit more than 50 percent of respondents who say they’re likely to vote have a degree, compared with 40 percent of voters in newly released 2016 census voting data…Most national polls were weighted by education, even as most state polls were not.

The good news for pollsters, adds Cohn, is that the more accurate “performance of national surveys has been one of the better reasons to assume that last year’s misfire wasn’t a broad indictment of public opinion polls.” However, Cohn cites a need for better demographic data in state polls including more accurate samples of education levels by race. That would help pinpoint correct percentages weighting for whites with no college education in state surveys. Cohn notes,

But many lower-quality state pollsters did not even ask about education at all, suggesting that it wasn’t on their radar as a potential issue in 2016. That’s surprising. The potential for bias should have been fairly obvious, given the media coverage of Mr. Trump’s strength among less educated voters and the well-established difference in response rates along educational lines.

Weighting errors, ‘shy’ Trump voters and late-deciding voters all taken together may explain most of the state-wide polling failure to predict Trump’s success in the Rust belt and other battleground states. Then there is the thorny problem of low-level civic engagement, “the best-known response bias in polling,” which is a more difficult fix to implement. “It’s certainly possible that Mr. Trump’s white working-class supporters were less likely to respond to telephone surveys,” writes Cohn. “But the data, at least in the public realm, is not very clear.”

Looking toward the future, Cohn is not optimistic that state polls are going to get better, in part because newspaper budgets for polling are shrinking. Also, “The failure of many state pollsters to even ask respondents about education does not inspire much confidence in their ability to stave off less predictable sources of bias.”

It’s not clear how much an be done to correct for ‘shy’ voters and late deciders. But whether media-linked polls get their act together in state and local polls or not, it is incumbent on Democratic pollsters to at least address the weighting issue, if Democratic strategy is going to reflect demographic reality. Democrats, in particular, can’t afford to cut corners on their inside polls — if they want a reality-based strategy.

Feingold: How to Fight Voter Suppression

From former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold’s Vox post, “Voting rights are under assault nationwide. Here’s how to protect them.“:

Our democratic legitimacy will be determined by how we respond, as a country, to the growing assault on voting rights. The successful suppression of a single vote is an assault on the citizenry as a whole; it’s an attempt to shift power away from the people and to a specific elite class. We cannot stand back and rely only on our courts to challenge every new voter suppression law. This could be our generation’s civil rights moment, our 1965, and we must rise to meet it. We need a 21st century Voting Rights Act. The onus is on us to demand one, and on Congress to pass it.

…We need a new formula. And the only one that can ensure that no voter is suppressed in America is one that covers all 50 states. Any change to voting regulations in any state should have to be reviewed and precleared. There would be no targeting of specific states and counties, in the way Shelby County invalidated, nor any benchmark in history that can become outdated. The right to vote must be sacrosanct, and that means leaving no room for voter suppression anywhere.

To make a 50-state rule effective, Congress must provide the means to enforce it. It can do so by establishing an independent Office of Voting Rights. The Trump administration makes clear why independence is so essential. In just a few months, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his DOJ have shifted to a much weaker stance towards voting rights than that taken by the Obama administration. Sessions’s DOJ, for example, reversed its position on Texas’s voter ID law, going so far as to seek dismissal of the department’s previous claim that the law was intentionally discriminatory.

…We need an office with the resources and independence to handle a 50-state caseload, regardless of the party in power. The Office of Voting Rights would exist solely to review and approve or disapprove of any proposed changes to voting rights regulations, state by state.

Feingold, who has  formed a new organization,  LegitAction, an organization focused on restoring legitimacy to our democracy, notes further:

There rightfully exists a high threshold for any law that subjects states to the oversight of Washington. Jim Crow met that threshold, the Supreme Court decided in the 1960s. The onslaught of voter suppression in the past four years should also be recognized as the emergency that it is — especially as the state-level efforts have been coupled with an executive branch intent on doubling down on such suppression. This extraordinary set of circumstances meets the criteria justifying oversight. Protecting voting rights — the vehicle through which the power of the people is exercised — must take precedent over the convenience and sovereignty of the states.

Feingold’s 50-state strategy sounds like a fresh approach to a critical problem facing the nation, and Democrats in particular. “Trump’s commission on “election integrity” may be just the first step in a White House-led assault on our most fundamental democratic right,” Feingold concludes. “At this precarious moment, the United States needs a 21st century Voting Rights Act. Every candidate for national office should be required to make public her or her position on this vital piece of legislation.”

GOP Win of MT House Seat Tainted with Assault Charge

In his victory statement on winning the special election for Montana’s House seat by 6+ points, Republican Greg Gianforte, facing assault charges for allegedly attacking a reporter who’d asked him about the recently released CBO scoring of the GOP’s health-care bill, offered a vaguely-stated apology. As David Weigel and Elise Viebeck report at The Washington Post, Gianforte told his victory rally, “I shouldn’t have treated that reporter that way,” he told supporters at his rally here…Some in the crowd laughed at the mention of the incident. “I made a mistake,” said Gianforte.” Further, note the authors,

In interviews at Quist’s final rally, at a Missoula microbrewery, voters were skeptical that the attack could change the race. Gianforte entered the contest with high negative ratings and an image as a hard-charging bully who had joked about outnumbering a reporter at a town hall meeting and sued to keep people from fishing on public land near his home.

“Greg thinks he’s Donald Trump,” said Brent Morrow, 60. “He thinks he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.”

Gianforte and the allied super PACs had deflected attention from his low approval numbers with ads attacking Quist over unpaid taxes and gaffes about gun rights and military spending. To the extent the assault charge hurt — a GOP-aligned poll found 93 percent of voters aware of it — Republicans thought it denied them another day of attention on Quist.

In his Esquire column, “The Ben Jacobs ‘Body Slam’ Was Not an Isolated Incident,” columnist Charles P. Pierce noted,

These attacks on individual reporters should be no surprise. In the wider political world, people like [Gianforte campaign spokesman] Shane Scanlon and Greg Gianforte operate secure in the knowledge of precisely who their audiences hate and why they hate them. They know that those audiences cheered when reporters covering the Ferguson protests got roughed up and busted by the cops, and when that guy got arrested in West Virginia for questioning HHS Secretary Tom Price, and when that reporter got put into a wall while asking questions at an FCC event, and, ultimately, when the 2016 Republican candidate for president spent a good portion of every campaign rally coming right up to the edge of setting a mob loose on the penned-up press at the back of the hall.

A proper history of Republican thuggery in the 21st century should probably include the notorious “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000, when the GOP flew in goons to intimidate the presidential vote recount in Miami. Wikipedia notes that Roger Stone, who has served as an advisor to both Trump and Nixon, is listed among the Brooks Brothers Riot participants.

As for the after-effects of Gianforte’s win, in his post, “Greg Gianforte’s assault charge puts Republicans in a lose-lose situation in Montana,” CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza wrote:

Now, consider what happens if Gianforte wins. Some time between now and June 7, he will have to appear in court to face the assault charge. And based on the audio provided by Jacobs as well as the eyewitness reports from a Fox News crew, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t get convicted. (Nota bene: I am not a lawyer.)
What do Republicans do then? Every member of leadership will be asked, daily, whether seating Gianforte represents a willingness to look the other way. And for a party already struggling with branding issues, that’s not the sort of story House Republicans need bouncing around Washington. If they don’t seat Gianforte, then what? Can they force him to resign? And would that mean — as I suspect it would — another special election where the Democratic nominee, Rob Quist, would almost certainly run and might well start as the front-runner due to the controversy surrounding Gianforte?
Gianforte losing is a bad story for national Republicans. Gianforte winning might well be a worse one.

Today is an especially-sad day for those who are old enough to remember a time when Montana voters repeatedly elected one of the classiest, most dignified and widely-respected political leaders of any era, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.

Brownstein: How Trump’s Budget Would Betray His Rust Belt Suporters

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein explains how Trump’s full budget would bring new hardships to the very the working families of the Rust Belt who provided his margin of victory in the Electoral College:

In the key Rustbelt states that tipped the 2016 election to President Trump, blue-collar white voters at the core of his constituency represent a majority of those receiving benefits from the federal income-support programs he has targeted for large cutbacks in his budget, according a new analysis conducted for The Atlantic.

Whites without a four-year college degree constitute most of those receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income program, and Social Security’s disability program in each of the five Rustbelt states that flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016: Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They also represent a majority of the programs’ beneficiaries in other heavily working-class interior states—from Arkansas and Kentucky through Missouri and Montana—that are central to GOP fortunes in upcoming elections.

Although Trump’s budget is designed to minimize hardships on white seniors, who turn  out at the polls in grater percentages than other constituencies, “the reductions still inevitably reach many of the lower-income and less-educated whites that have emerged as the cornerstone of the modern Republican coalition.” Brownstein notes, further,

As William Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center who formerly worked as a top Senate Republican budget aide, told The New York Times: “The politics of this make no sense to me whatsoever, in the sense that the population that brought them to the dance are the populists out there in the Midwest and South who rely on these programs that he’s talking about reducing.

…”The tilt toward blue-collar whites is, if anything, even more pronounced in the programs Trump’s budget targets than in the health-care law. Consider the SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps. The analysis examined households that have received income from the program over the previous year and separated them according to the education level of the household member with the most schooling.

White households whose most educated member held less than a four-year college degree represented the highest share of all households receiving SNAP benefits in Trump’s key states: 69 percent in Iowa, 57 percent in Ohio, 55 percent in Wisconsin, 52 percent in Michigan, and 50 percent in Pennsylvania. The numbers were comparable in heavily white and blue-collar states like West Virginia (85 percent), Maine (82 percent), Kentucky (74 percent), Montana (68 percent), Indiana (61 percent), Missouri (59 percent), Tennessee (56 percent), and Arkansas (55 percent).

Brownstein also presents other statistics that reveal the extent of Trump’s betrayals of the beneficiaries of the Social Security Disability program, “a lopsided tilt toward whites without a college degree” in key Rust Belt states.

During the next year the effects described by Bronwstein will be increasingly felt in the Rust Belt, as well as the rest of the country. If Democrats have successfully rebranded their party as the real champion of America’s working-class by Fall of 2018, a wave election that will put an end to Republican domination will become a reality.

Dems’ House Battleground Map Grows

From Jim Newell’s post, “The Class of Trump: Why Democrats feel so comfortable trying to expand the 2018 map” at slate.com:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is getting bolder. On Monday it announced 20 new districts it would target for recruitment and potential investment, raising its total target list to 79 districts. The initial round of 59 targeted districts, announced in January, took care of most of the perennial low-hanging fruit, but this new one cuts into some ambitiously red districts…The average rating of the 20 new districts, using the 2017 Cook Partisan Voting Index figures, is R+7.8. In a normal year, a host of districts like that are not worth much time, investment, or recruitment.

..Passage of the American Health Care Act opened new frontiers for Democrats. Representatives from each of the new districts voted for the AHCA, which would use nearly $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts to finance tax cuts for the wealthy. The health care bill itself is just an amuse-bouche for the party’s chief agenda item: additional tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. You don’t have to like Democrats to hate this.

Newell notes a couple of other issues that are encouraging Democrats, including a campaign funds scandal anbd involvement in the Trump-Russia mess, but cautions that “The list is aspirational. Not all of the Democratic challengers for all of these districts are going to get all of the DCCC’s money and support.” He also cites retiring Republican House members and the emergence of some promising Democratic recruits joining the 2018 fray.

At The Hill, Ben Kamisar and Lisa Hagen affirm the same key reasons for improved democratic prospects in the House:

Democrats are increasingly bullish about the prospect of a wave election in 2018 amid backlash against the passage of the House GOP’s ObamaCare replacement bill and the snowballing revelations coming out of the White House…“Anyone who thinks the House isn’t in play is kidding themselves,” a former GOP aide told The Hill…The House healthcare bill is full of landmines and the constant White House drama Republicans have to defend is destroying any ability we have to be on offense or talk about a positive message.”

Kamisar and Hagen note further,

Democrats are, on average, leading Republicans by 7 points when voters are asked which party they prefer in the upcoming elections, according to Friday’s RealClearPolitics average…That average didn’t include a recent Quinnipiac University poll that put Democrats up by 16 points when participants were asked which party should win control of the House in 2018.

The Cook Political Report moved ratings for 20 House districts in favor of Democrats following the healthcare vote in the House, while Sabato’s Crystal Ball did the same for 18 districts in the days after that.

In their Politico post “Paging Rahm: House Dems revive 2006 playbook for 2018: The party is reviving the strategy it used the last time it took the House 11 years ago, but a lot has changed since then,” Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel Debenedetti write:

..Democrats see the same ugly storm forming for Republicans that delivered them the majority 11 years ago, and they’re digging out the blueprint…The party is vastly expanding the number of districts it plans to contest, recruiting veterans and business owners to compete in conservative terrain as it did back then. Three senior House Democrats are soon heading to Chicago to seek advice from Rahm Emanuel, the party’s 2006 master strategist. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been tutoring members on the party’s campaign efforts that year.

…Still, a lot has changed for Democrats since 2006, mostly for the worse, so re-adopting the campaign tactics from that year alone probably won’t cut it. For starters, Democrats need 24 seats to take back the majority vs. 17 seats to make up in 2006. The 2010 redistricting tilted the House landscape toward Republicans, putting more seats even further from Democrats’ grasp. And there’s a year-and-a-half to go in the most unpredictable environment in modern political history.

…This cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is investing early in research into Republican incumbents, diving deep into their records and histories for possible corruption and other liabilities, in hopes of promoting a narrative they then can tie to suspicions about Trump’s self-dealing…“Ethics,” said DCCC Executive Director Dan Sena, “will play a significant role.”

With nearly 18 months to go, Democratic candidates have good reasons not to get overconfident. But there are equally-good reasons for optimism — and for investing resources in promising candidates.

How Public Attitudes on Impeachment and Trump’s Collusion with Russia Inform Democratic Strategy

A poll conducted May 17-20 by the Harris Poll for the Harvard Center for American Political Studies sheds light on pubic attitudes about collusion between the Trump Administration and Russia in the 2016 election and prospects for impeachment of President Trump. Among the findings, as reported by Jonathan Easley exclusively for The Hill:

…54 percent of voters said they have not seen evidence to suggest that Trump campaign officials conspired with Moscow to influence the 2016 election….Respondents were largely split along partisan lines, with 80 percent of Republicans saying there is no evidence of collusion and 74 percent of Democrats saying there is. Only 38 percent of independents said there is evidence of collusion.

When voters were asked, irrespective of the evidence, whether they believe that Trump campaign officials had coordinated with Moscow, 52 percent said no and 48 percent said yes. A majority of independents, 54 percent, didn’t think there was any collusion.

Among Democrats, 66 percent believe Trump will be impeached, while only 36 percent of independents and 20 percent of Republicans believe the same…“Right now nearly 60 percent believe impeachment will go nowhere, though a majority of Democrats think it will and so there is great potential for … disappointment among the party base,” said Harvard-Harris Poll Co-Director Mark Penn.

In addition, “A majority, 52 percent, said it was inappropriate for the president to have divulged sensitive classified information” to the Russians, “including 56 percent of independents.”

Meanwhile Nate Silver reports at fivethirtyeight.com that “people putting money on the line are taking impeachment seriously. According to the prediction market Betfair, the chance that Trump will fail to serve out his four-year term is about 50 percent (!). There’s even a 20 to 25 percent probability (!!) that Trump doesn’t finish out 2017 in office, these bettors reckon.”

Silver proceeds with an exhaustive analysis of impeachment prospects based on what little data is available and historic experience, and he cautions “this is a thought experiment and not a mathematical model.” But Silver adds, “I do think I owe you a range, however. I’m pretty sure I’d sell Trump-leaves-office-early stock (whether because of removal from office or other reasons) at even money (50 percent), and I’m pretty sure I’d buy it at 3-to-1 against (25 percent). I could be convinced by almost any number within that range.”

All of the above taken into account, Democrats don’t yet have reason enough to make impeachment of Trump their top priority. Indeed, as Jeff Alson has persuasively argued in In These Times, there are good strategic reasons for Democrats to avoid “the impreachment trap.” Better to let the Republicans take the lead on it and divide their party, while Democrats focus on building a strong midterm campaign.

Given Trump’s recklessness, however, and the mounting revelations of his administration’s collusion with the Russians to interfere in our 2016 presidential elections, at some point Democrats could be perceived as shirking their duty to protect our national security, if they don’t take impeachment action. Determining the best approach may require daily recalibration, but at least the Democrats don’t have the increasingly bad menu of choices facing the Republicans.

Political Strategy Notes

According to the New York Times editorial board, Democrats and progressives should be encouraged by the appointment of Robert Mueller III as special counsel charged with investigating Russian interference in U.S. elexctoral politics. The editorial calls Mueller “one of the few people with the experience, stature and reputation to see the job through. Mr. Mueller led the F.B.I. for 12 years under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In 2004, he and Mr. Comey, then deputy attorney general, threatened to resign if President Bush allowed a domestic-surveillance program to continue without Justice Department approval.” However, notes the editorial “This appointment does not lift the burden on Congress to conduct its own, bipartisan inquiry, nor does it end the need for an independent commission. But under Justice Department regulations, Mr. Mueller will have significant latitude, including to pursue criminal prosecutions, if necessary — although Mr. Rosenstein has the power to overrule him…”

In his Washington Post column, “Trump Has Caused a Catastrophe’ Let’s End It Quickly,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “There is really only one issue in American politics at this moment: Will we accelerate our way to the end of the Trump story, or will our government remain mired in scandal, misdirection and paralysis for many more months — or even years? There is a large irony in the politics behind this question. The Democrats’ narrow interest lies in having President Trump hang around as close to the 2018 midterm elections as possible. Yet they are urging steps that could get this resolved sooner rather than later. Republicans would likely be better off if Trump were pushed off the stage. Yet up to now, they have been dragging their feet…Nothing could be worse than slow-walking the Trump inquiries.” It’s about striking the optimum balance between taking the time needed to adequately address key concerns, while moving forward to complete the investigation and then act end the chaos. It’s going to take a while, but Democrats should do what they can to move the process along briskly — for the overriding good of the nation.

But NYT’s  Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns report that “Democratic Leaders Try to Slow Calls to Impeach Trump,” and write “The barrage of reports about Mr. Trump’s chaotic and controversial administration has helped revive Democrats, raising their hopes that they can ride a Trumpian backlash to great success in next year’s elections…Party strategists fear that Democrats might sacrifice the moral and political high ground by appearing too eager, and some leaders worry that an impeachment drumbeat would drown out Democrats’ message to voters on kitchen-table issues like health care and taxes…The fear, Democratic officials say, is that they will invite the sort of backlash from their base that Republicans got for overpromising about what was possible while President Barack Obama was in office. They argue that methodically building a case — obtaining and revealing any memos or White House recordings, for example — is the soundest approach if they are to bring Republicans along.”

Democrats would be guilty of  political malpractice, however, if they failed to leverage Trump’s troubles in order to fight his regressive agenda, issue by issue. Josh Keller and Adam Pearce of The New York Times provide a handy, continually-updated widget  “Tracking Trump’s Agenda, Step by Step,” Dems can use to quickly check the status of 14 of Trump’s most frequently-cited policy goals.

“Russian strategic doctrine suggests that it sees hacking as a very specific kind of warfare,” writes Zack Beauchamp in his Vox post, “Vladimir Putin took time at a press conference to gloat about Trump.” Beauchamp further illuminates Putin’s grand strategy: “In an influential 2013 article, Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery V. Gerasimov argued that “non-military means,” including “new information technologies,” have eclipsed traditional weaponry in their strategic importance…The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.”…The goal of Gerasimov-style interventions isn’t solely to elect leaders who will pursue Kremlin-friendly policies. It’s also to exacerbate internal divisions in hostile countries — to distract them with paralyzing infighting that makes it difficult for them to counter Russian strategic moves internationally.”

It’s one thing, when a Democrat accuses top GOP leaders of being paid off. But it’s quite another when it comes from the Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy:

In Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson has an update on Democrat Rob Quist’s campaign to take Montana’s sole House seat away from Republicans in the May 25th special election. It appears Quist is a genuine ‘outsider’ candidate in the sense that he isn’t getting much help from the national Democratic Party. “The Montana special election has laid bare a strategic disconnect between the Democratic Party’s base and the DCCC,” writes Dickinson. “And it underscores just how much work remains to rebuild a robust and effective DNC – the Democrats’ top committee, responsible for keeping all parts of the party working in concert…Montana has demonstrated, on one hand, the free-spending, go-for-broke ethos of the Democratic grassroots – activists eager to charge, uphill, into any battle against the Trump administration…Victory in a red state would make Republicans in swing districts fear for their political lives in the 2018 midterms – driving a wedge between GOP moderates and a president pressing to advance his extreme agenda…On the other hand, a cautious DCCC understands its mission as finding the path of least political resistance to rebuild a House majority for Democrats. Eager to keep its powder dry in advance of the crucial 2018 midterms – where the committee has identified dozens of winnable races in traditional swing districts – the DCCC is reticent to follow party activists into expensive red-district fights, where it does not see a clear path to victory. “We want to maximize gains,” a DCCC spokesman says, “competing in districts where we have a really good shot to win.” On May 3, the DCCC gave Quist’s campaign $400,000, and now he is just single digits behind his Republican opponent in recent polling. Those who want to help Quist can find his ActBlue donations page right here.

If ever there was an issue that will excite the Democratic base, particularly younger voters, it is net neutrality. Tony Romm reports at Recode that “Democrats are readying an all-out war to stop the FCC from killing net neutrality rules: Their hope: Generate enough backlash that Republicans cave.” As Romm explain s, “In many ways, net neutrality is the internet’s longest war: So far, it has spanned two decades, four presidents, scores of court challenges and multiple, wonky rulemaking proceedings at the nation’s telecom regulator, the FCC. It has pitted the country’s cable and broadband giants, which abhor regulation, against the likes of Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter and a host of startups that firmly believe net neutrality rules are critical to their existence….Huddling with reporters in the basement of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz put it plainly: “I just don’t think [Republicans] understand the ferocity of the resistance that they’re about to encounter…Part of our approach right now is to educate the public about the need to weigh in…I think the aperture for legislating in this moment is vanishingly narrow.” The danger is that the conflict will get lost in the media shadow of Trump’s debacle du jour.

Rachael Bade and Kyle Cheny report at Politico that “More than 10 centrist Republicans over the past 48 hours have criticized Trump for reportedly sharing classified information with Russian officials or allegedly trying to quash an FBI investigation. Many joined Democrats in calling for a special prosecutor to take the reins of the Justice Department investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. (The DOJ named a special counsel on Wednesday.) Others want a select congressional committee to be appointed…The break from Trump among centrist Republicans is especially notable because some of them had stuck by the president through the brutal fight over Obamacare repeal legislation two weeks ago, backing an unpopular bill despite great political risk at home…“Any member of Congress who represents a marginal or swing district better develop their own brand very quickly,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who leads the moderate Tuesday Group. “It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the opposition’s attacks on them will be: They’re going to call everybody a rubber stamp” for Trump.”