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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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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.”

REPUBLICANS VOTING NO ON HOUSE VERSION

Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) — “I’m not going to vote for a CR” (Wednesday, to reporters)
DEMOCRATS LIKELY VOTING YES
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)

DEMOCRATS LEANING NO

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.

How the Midterm Elections Can Change U.S. Politics

There is already a fair amount of horse race coverage speculating on who will win which midterm elections in 2018. But those who want some insight as to how the midterm elections outcome could affect life in America should check out Andrew Prokop’s Vox post, “5 ways the 2018 midterms could change American politics: What’s really at stake in this year’s elections,” which notes,

Depending on how well Democrats do, the party could kill the Republican legislative agenda in Congress, gain new powers to investigate the Trump administration, get the ability to block Trump’s nominees from being confirmed, pass new liberal state laws in many parts of the country, and win many offices with power over the 2021 redistricting process.

Prokop discusses how the elections could help Dems or lead to further gridlock. But he also sketches a scary worst case scenario, and fleshes out each of his five points. He provides a good intro to the importance of the miderm elections, which could be used to help motivate Democratic campaign workers and voters, particularly the young ones whose hopes for a good life could be profoundly affected by the outcome of the midterms. As Prokop asks, “Do conservatives get more chances to enact their dream laws in 2019 and 2020 — laws that could have consequences for decades to come — or do they get stopped in their tracks?”

Prokop could have added a sixth point, that the very survival of American democracy may be at stake. If the Republicans somehow enhance their majorities, who is going to prevent further Russian meddling in our elections? Who is going to check the acceleration of income inequality? Who will prevent the gutting  of Social Security and Medicare, or the rape of the environment? “The stakes are high,” concludes Prokop, “and the consequences will be felt for a very long while indeed.

As Ed Kilgore has noted, Democrats are in very good shape to prevent all of this as 2018 begins, and the signs are in place for a broad ‘wave election’ favoring Dems. But the danger of political apathy and midterm voter drop-off are continuing concerns, and it’s going to take a great effort to build on the impressive electoral gains of 2017 to make it happen.


Teixeira: The Formula for a Blue Texas

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

A formula you say? There’s a formula for a blue Texas? Well, sort of. I mean this in the sense that a sober quantitative accounting of the challenge Democrats face in Texas provides a useful guide to how the blue Texas goal can actually be attained. More useful I think than the countless breathless accounts of grassroots Democratic organizing in Texas (here’s a recent example), which make little effort to explain which groups have to move and by how much to be successful.

So here’s the “formula”. In 2016, Clinton improved over Obama in Texas, reducing his 16 point deficit in the state to 9 points in 2012. How did she do this? The dataset developed at CAP for our Voter Trends in 2016 report indicates that Clinton improved over Obama among both white non-college-educated and college-educated voters. The Democrats’ deficit among Texas’s white non-college-educated voters fell from 60 points in 2012 to 55 points in 2016. The shift toward Clinton among white college graduates in the state was even larger—from a 30-68 percent deficit in 2012 to 37-57 percent in 2016, a margin improvement of 18 points. The white college-educated improvement cut Clinton’s deficit in the state by about 4.5 points and the white noncollege improvement moved things in her direction by about 1.5 points, for a total shift of 6 points toward Clinton from better performance among whites. The rest of Clinton’s gains relative to Obama were accounted for by improvements in Latino turnout and support.

This suggests that the correct formula for a blue Texas is not to rely on demographic change and better mobilization of existing pro-Democratic constituencies, which often appears to be the default strategy. That is not likely to be enough to cut the additional 9 points off of Democrats’s statewide deficit anytime soon. Instead, while demographic change will continue to provide a boost to Democratic prospects and mobilization efforts should continue, the key question is how to keep the trends evident in 2016 going. Rough calculations indicate that if Democrats can cut their white noncollege deficit to 45 points and their white college deficit to 10 points, while continuing positive, if unspectacular, Latino trends (getting Latino turnout of eligibles to around 40 percent, while improving Latino vote margin to around +30D), that should be enough to flip the state or come very close.

Note: I’m not saying this would be easy to do! But I do believe the formula would work and builds plausibly on current trends.


Instead of Counting on Scandals to Flip Trump Supporters, Dems Should Listen Better

Yesterday J. P. Green noted that sometimes an outsider perspective can help illuminate our politics. Venezuelan Economist Andres Miguel Rondon takes a crack at it in today’s Washington Post, and makes a compelling argument that, rather than hoping Trump will be undone by scandals, “To beat President Trump, you have to learn to think like his supporters.” As Rondon writes,

If you’re among the majority of Americans who oppose Trump, you can’t understand why. And it’s making you furious. I saw the same thing happen in my native Venezuela with the late Hugo Chávez, who ruled as precisely the sort of faux-populist strongman that Trump now loves to praise. Chávez’s political career (which only ended with his untimely death) seemed not only immune to scandal, but indeed to profit directly from it. Why? Because scandal is no threat to populism. Scandal sustains populism.

…I know how you feel. You are outraged. What did you ever do to these people to deserve their hate? What can possibly be going on? How can they, for example, make sense of so many former Goldman Sachs men in the Trump Cabinet? Weren’t the bankers supposed to be the enemy? Not to mention Russia? All your senses (and your Facebook friends) tell you that, with all this hypocrisy, justice demands that Trump be impeached, indeed it should have happened long ago. For your sake and for his supporters’ sake, too. Instead, it continues, and each day that goes by, it makes less sense to you. As Venezuelans used to tell one another: Chávez te tiene loco. Trump is making you crazy. Making you scramble for ways to make this end.

Rondon reviews the  litany of Trump’s scandals, from the Access Holywood tape to the recent Mueller indictments and concedes that Trump’s approval ratings have been driven down. Yet, noted Rondon, “in one November poll, only 7 percent of his supporters from last year said they’d vote differently.” Scandals may influence public opinion, but don’t expect much change among his supporters. Further, “If you want to fight Trump effectively, you have to learn to think like they do and give up altogether the prospect that scandal will one day undo him.”

Rondon argues, “his supporters are convinced that you are to blame. Until you can convince them otherwise, they will cheer him on. The name of the game is polarization, and the rookie mistake is to forget you are the enemy.” Trump’s supporters have been whittled down to hard-core ideologues and those who are willing to cut off their noses to spite your face.

Many of Trump’s supporters do harbor an intense hatred of liberals, who they perceive as elitist snobs. Indeed, some may be more driven by this animosity than diferences on policy. But it’s doubtful that they add up to 40+ percent of the electorate.

Although political illiteracy is not exclusive to Trump voters, there are a large number of low-information voters in Trump’s hard-core base. As political researchers Richard Fordling and Sanford Shram note in their Monkey Cage article, “‘Low information voters’ are a crucial part of Trump’s support“:

Our research finds that Trump has attracted a disproportionate (and unprecedented) number of “low-information voters” to his campaign. Furthermore, these voters are more likely to respond to emotional appeals — whether about the economy, immigration, Muslims, racial relations, sexism, and even hostility to the first African American U.S. president, Barack Obama. They are the ideal constituency for a candidate like Trump.

We define low-information voters as those who do not know certain basic facts about government and lack what psychologists call a “need for cognition.” Those with a high need for cognition have a positive attitude toward tasks that require reasoning and effortful thinking and are, therefore, more likely to invest the time and resources to do so when evaluating complex issues. Those with a low need for cognition, on the other hand, find little reward in the collection and evaluation of new information when it comes to problem solving and the consideration of competing issue positions. They are more likely to rely on cognitive shortcuts, such as “experts” or other opinion leaders, for cues.

Fording and Schram conclude that “a core part of his base is made up of low-information voters who appear more susceptible to Trump’s appeals based on race and religion and less prepared to challenge his misstatements and untruths.” It’s hard to credibly quantify this segment, and even harder to ennumerate another group of Trump’s base, who are high-information, low-compassion voters focused more on their portfolios than what may be good for America.

But the most relevant segment for Democrats is the percentage of Trump voters who are now open to voting for Democratic candidates. Some statistical indicators, including recent generic ballot trends, suggest that readiness to vote Democratic is making a dent, however small, among Trump’s suporters. Harry Enten reports that “the Democratic advantage in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot aggregate is up to about 12 points, 49.6 percent to 37.4 percent.with an 18-point advantage among registered voters in the generic congressional ballot question.” And It only takes a small change to make a big difference.

But it does no good to point out to persuadable Trump supporters that they are low-info or morally-challenged. Rondon advises, “before you try to persuade them that they are being racist, or worse, ignorant by believing in Trump, you should ask yourself: Will this help convince them that I am not their enemy? Because what can really win them over is not to prove that you are right. It is to show them you care. Only then will they believe what you say.”

Democrats just might get an edge with ‘persuadable’ Trump voters by ascertaining their fears, hopes and policy priorities. To do this credibly will require some targeted polling, followed by a real commitment to reach out to them with empathy, instead of the anger and condescension of facebook rants.

“So as the second year of Trump’s administration approaches, stop,” concludes  Rondon. “Take a deep breath. Let all the hatred circle from afar. Don’t let it into your echo chamber.”

Rondon may be overstating the uselessness of scandals in changing political opinion. Certainly, there is a distinction to be made between sex scandals and the smell of massive corruption and election-rigging emanating from the Trump Administration’s dealings with Putin and Russian oligarchs. But Dems would be wise to focus their criticism on Trump and Repubican leaders — not on their supporters.


Creamer: Tax Bill Puts GOP Brand in Free Fall

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

In the long struggle to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, the forces of greed and inequality have just won a battle.

The owners of the Republican Party – a small, elite class of wealthy investors and CEO’s – successfully ordered their minions in public office to massively lower their share of the taxes that we all pay for the things we do together, as a country.

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center has found that when all of the provisions of the Republican tax bill are in full effect by 2027, 82.8 percent of the bill’s benefits will go to the top 1 percent ― and 53 percent of Americans would actually pay more in taxes.

The bill also contained provisions that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says will mean 13 million fewer Americans will be covered by health insurance and that premiums will increase by double digits for millions more.

The GOP was successful at teeing up its next campaign – to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education in order to offset the rising federal deficits that will result from their tax cuts for the very rich.

They have won that battle. But the battle will actually make it more likely that progressives will ultimately win the war.

Winning wars is not just a story of individual victories. It is about maneuvering, the alignment of forces, the morale of the troops, the underlying geography defining the conflict. It is about who can take and seize the high ground – in this case, the high political ground.

The Republican Party will pay a huge political price for their tax “victory.”

Granted that the rulers of the Party may not care. The owners of the Party made it ever so clear that their Congressional troops were expected to pay any price to give them the trillions of dollars they will receive from the Republican tax bill.

The GOP foot soldiers were told pretty explicitly that the Party’s owners had invested millions over the last two decades, and now that they were blessed with a once-in-a-generation control over both Houses of Congress and the White House, they expected to be paid their return right now – while the getting is good.

A Senate Budget Committee Analysis shows the kind of payoff the GOP tax bill gives to big GOP donors.

Goldman Sachs for example invested $26,894,393 in donations to Republicans from 1990 to 2017. It will receive about a $6 billion tax cut.

Here are some of the biggest winners:

Goldman Sachs: Contributions, $26,894,393 – Tax Cut, $6,091,800,000

General Electric: Contributions, $20,025,764 – Tax Cut, $15,990,000,000

Citigroup: Contributions, $19,759,908 – Tax Cut, $9,165,000,000

Microsoft: Contributions, $17,934,790 – Tax Cut, $27,690,000,000

Exxon Mobil: Contributions, $16,845,751 – Tax Cut, $10,530,000,000

Pfizer: Contributions, $15,673,394 ― Tax Cut, $38,794,080,000

Walmart: Contributions, $12,894,979 – Tax Cut, $ $5,187,000,000

Chevron: Contributions, $12,779,874 – Tax Cut, $9,048,000,000

Eli Lilly: Contributions, $9,764,311 – Tax Cut, $5,460,000,000

Google: Contributions, $7,392,522 – Tax Cut, $11,836,500,000

Johnson & Johnson: Contributions, $5,636,745 – Tax Cut, $12,909,000,000

Proctor & Gamble: Contributions, $3,682,275 – Tax Cut, $9,555,000,000

IBM: Contributions, $1,873,305 – Tax Cut, $13,923,000,000

Apple: Contributions, $500,381 – Tax Cut, $47,970,000,000

Total: Contributions, $178,903,432 – Tax Cut, $236,453,880,000

As a group, these firms will see tax cuts 1,321 times their original investment in contributions. You have to admit, the GOP is delivering for those who own the Party.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the bill will be, as Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said during floor debate, an anchor around the ankles of every Republican candidate for office in 2018 – and in 2020.

Progressives gained three major advantages from this year’s tax battle.

1). First, Progressives crushed the opposition when it came to framing the tax battle and branding Republican tax policy.

The GOP tax plan is now politically toxic. The most recent NBC poll found that by a margin of 63 percent to 7 percent, Americans believe the GOP tax plan was designed to help corporations and the wealthy, not the middle class. Majorities also say they expect their own taxes and those of middle-class families to stay the same or go up under the bill, while taxes for corporations and the wealthy go down.

The forces opposing the tax bill wanted to brand it as a tax cut for millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations paid for by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education – and by raising taxes on the middle class. They were successful.

A recent CNN poll found that only 33 percent of Americans supported the bill and 55 percent opposed. A Quinnipiac poll had disapproval of the Republican plan at 55 percent, vs. 26 percent approval.

Progressives also won the underlying debate over whether tax cuts for the rich ultimately “trickles down” to ordinary people. According to a recent USA Today poll, most respondents believe it would not materially help grow the economy. White House arguments that the tax bill would raise wages by $4,000 per person were written off by the public as being laughable.

Does all of this matter politically? Quinnipiac found that 43 percent say they are less likely to vote for a U.S. Senator or Member of Congress who supports the plan, with only 18 percent saying they would be more likely. That is a net deficit of 25 percent who are less likely to support those who voted yes on the bill.

Some Conservatives argue that the bill will actually become more popular as working people see cuts in their taxes next year. But as pollster Geoff Garin points out:

Here’s the truth: 80 percent of taxpayers will see an increase of less than 2 percent in their after-tax income (it is not until you get to the 95th percentile that the after-tax income benefits are much greater). There is NO history of voters being grateful for tax cuts that small – in fact history suggests that most taxpayers do not even recognize having received a tax cut when it is that small. The problem is compounded for the Republicans in two ways: (1) they have raised expectations in people’s minds that they would receive a much larger tax cut, and (2) people will feel their tax cut is especially paltry when they hear about the size of the tax cuts that millionaires and billionaires are receiving.

The Republicans have another, even bigger problem: Voters pay more attention to what they are losing than what they are getting. And going forward every proposed Republican cut to things people care about – including Medicare, Medicaid, and education ― can credibly be described as occurring in order to pay for the GOP’s tax cuts for millionaires and big corporations.

And organizations like Not One Penny and Americans for Tax Fairness that spearheaded the campaign against the Republican tax bill plan to run major efforts over the months ahead to drill this frame into the consciousness of the voters.

2). Second, the campaign against the tax bill put large numbers of people into motion. There is nothing more important to engage people in politics – or in a political movement – than motivating them to take action. When people go to a demonstration or town hall meeting or press event – when they make a phone call to Congress or share a Facebook post – they become emotionally invested in the issue and feel a sense of empowerment that spurs further action.

The Republicans and the Tea Party understood that in 2009, when they launched their war on the Affordable Care Act. That paid off in a highly-motivated Republican volunteer and activist base in the 2010 elections.

The tax battle drew from – and added to – the already robust ranks of the Resistance to Trump and GOP policies. Many of those tax warriors will turn their attention to voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities in the months leading up to next fall – the same way they have in Virginia and Alabama.

3). Third, the fact that the campaign to stop the Trump Tax Cuts made the proposal politically toxic, helped insure that not one Democrat voted to support it. You could not ask for a more iconic example of the difference in Republican and Democratic economics. It is a clear example that Democrats support the interests of ordinary people, while the Republican Party is in business to defend the interests of the 1 percent.

Every Republican in the Senate voted to do the will of the GOP donor class.

Susan Collins, often referred to as a “Moderate,” stood up, saluted and did the bidding of the Party’s owners on Wall Street.

Lisa Murkowski – who was a heroine of the ACA battle earlier this year, got down on the proverbial floor and kowtowed to the oil barons who wanted drilling rights in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge and the Koch Brothers who wanted huge corporate tax cuts.

“Deficit Hawk” Bob Corker apparently felt just fine abandoning his “principled” stand against increasing the deficit once huge tax cuts for real estate investors like himself and his friends were added to the bill.

The tax battle has already changed the perceptions of the Republican and Democratic brands.

In June, the NBC/WSJ poll showed Americans preferred Republicans over Democrats to handle the tax issue by 4 percentage points. Now, they prefer Democrats by 4 points. Republicans have moved from a 7 percentage point advantage to a 5 percentage point deficit when it comes to which Party voters think is best equipped to handle the economy.

That is one reason why a new CNN Poll finds that voters prefer Democrats over Republicans by a whopping 18 percent point margin – 56 to 38 ― as their choice in the 2018 Mid-Term elections. And when asked about the Presidential election in 2020 in an NBC poll, 52 percent said they would definitely or probably vote against Trump while only 36 percent said they would definitely or probably vote for his re-election.

The combined effects of the tax battle, the fight to prevent the GOP from taking away people’s health care, Trump’s unpopularity – and the impact of the GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore ― resulted in the surprising result that the Republican Party was actually more unpopular than the Democratic Party in exit polls taken after the Senate election in Red State bastion Alabama.

Nationally, the Republican brand is in a free fall.

If the GOP pursues its goals of “reforming” – actually cutting – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, this trend will intensify and harden.

As we saw during the battle to defend the ACA, people get really riled up when someone tries to take something away from them – like their health care. We saw the same thing in 2005 when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security and during House Speaker Ryan’s previous attempts to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Remember, from the voter’s point of view it isn’t just who wins that matters – it’s who is out there fighting for them. It’s all about who is on your side.

And don’t expect the fact that they now have one “legislative” victory to bolster the GOP’s position with the voters. Only Washington pundits think about putting legislative points on the board – ordinary voters couldn’t care less.

Barack Obama put dozens of legislative points on the board in the first two years of his administration. That didn’t do Democrats any good at all in the 2010 mid-terms.

In 2010, the GOP successfully mobilized millions of people to vote against Democrats who they claimed were trying to “take away their health care.” That was, of course a complete lie. The ACA and the other pieces of legislation passed in Obama’s first two years were actually good for ordinary people – and now they are all very popular.

The GOP tax plan is horrible for ordinary voters. Many might see piddling reductions in their taxes next year or the next. But they will hardly be noticeable. And in the end, whatever benefits there are for ordinary people will expire and those for huge corporations will go into the future – or at least until they are repealed by a Democratic Congress and President. Most people already think they have been had, and they won’t change their minds because they have, in fact, been had.

The GOP tax “victory” won’t look so glorious from the standpoint of late November 2018. As my wife Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky says, we can’t yet see the huge Democratic wave next fall, but we have begun to feel the spray.