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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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Tomasky: Hurricane Harvey Spotlights GOP Hypocrisy on Federal Spending

At The Daily Beast Michael Tomasky has some choice words for Republican hypocrisy on federal spending. “You could say calling Texas politicians hypocrites because they voted against Hurricane Sandy aid but presumably want every federal dollar they can get their hands on now is shooting fish in a barrel,” Tomasky writes. “That, of course, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Some fish end up in barrels for a reason.”

However, Tomasky adds, “The flood victims are people and they’re Americans, and we should support them getting the federal aid they need, because we believe in the government doing this kind of thing irrespective of who the people are.” Helping Texas get through this disaster is part of our patriotic obligation and also a matter of simple human decency. But that doesn’t mean ted Cruz and other Republican politicians get a free ride on their double standard when it comes to helping people of other states when they experienced natural disaster, nor their monumental hypocrisy about government spending in general, as Tomasky points out:

We should have a discussion about hypocrisy on this question that’s a lot broader than disaster relief. How much federal money do those government-haters down in Texas get, anyway? How many federal dollars go to its many excellent research hospitals? How many federal highway dollars? How much federal money sustains Texas agriculture and livestock? How many senior centers and convention centers and community centers were built with federal money? It’s an awfully big state!

It can be hard to find answers to these questions because no single clearinghouse exists to provide, which is something I’ve long argued some rich liberal ought to fund (read this piece I wrote on the topic in the journal I edit). But I did find this on scientific research funding at higher-education institutions in Texas. The total amount was $4.52 billion in 2014, 45 percent of which came from the feds (20 percent private, 19 percent state, 16 percent from the institutions themselves). Here, if you’re interested, is a documentprepared by some outfit in Texas called the Legislative Budget Board that summarizes the federal money Texas receives in every area from human services to homeland security and everything else. Even if you do no more than browse through the table of contents, you’ll see the staggering extent to which the state, like any state, simply could not function without the federal dollars it gets. Federal funds across the board pay for one-third of everything the state of Texas does.

Democrats and liberals need to do a much better job of getting in the faces of Texas Republicans, and the ones from all the other deep-red states, and calling them on this. Suppose the next time a gun nut shoots up a movie theater in a red state, Democrats muse about withholding federal crime victim assistance money to that state? They shouldn’t do it, of course. But they should make citizens aware of the contradiction that the government-haters live every day of their lives.

Further, notes Tomasky:

Let’s get out of the false narrative that there’s either rugged self-reliance (laudable, American!) or government dependence (weak, foreign!) and nothing in between. In real life, virtually everything is in between. Everybody—yes, everybody—needs the federal government. Even the richest Texas oilman, needs police protection, a fire department, good roads to drive on, clean water to drink and air to breathe, someone to clear take-off and landing for their private planes, and 50 other services that only government can provide and only tax dollars can pay for. I’d happily acknowledge that yes, sometimes government does get in the way, provided they’d acknowledge this obvious truth.

As Tomasky concludes, “So let’s save Houston. But while we do it, let’s remind Texas what it owes Washington.” And let’s do a better job of reminding voters that the same Republicans who trash federal government spending can often be found feeding on it in their home states.


Lux: What Does It Mean to Be a Democrat?

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

The events of the last week have reminded all people of good will how important it is to elect a president who is thoughtful, even-tempered, and unalterably opposed to hate groups and hateful rhetoric. In times of violence and hate, we need a president who will stand up strongly for what is right and work hard to heal the hatred and bigotry in this country, not inflame it. Sadly, my Democratic Party allowed Trump to win the presidency because he had a far clearer message than we did. Now more than ever, we know that our failure allowed the worst person we could have elected to win, and for our country to be a decent place to live it is urgent that we start winning elections again.

But to do it, we have to answer an important question: what is a Democrat, anyway?

If you follow politics, you know that Democrats craft their message the way members of Congress make legislation: with committees making compromises and coalitions bickering over word choices. It’s like the old adage of legislation as “sausage making.” The difference is that while “sausage making” sometimes produces good legislation, it never produces good messaging. The latest example is the rollout of the big new slogan Congressional leaders recently announced: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.” Besides not being very exciting, the whole frame implies tinkering, that the system is fine but we can do just a little bit better.

The problem with this is that most Americans today believe this country is seriously off-track, and are hungry for a powerful message of change. To find a path back and win, Democrats need to tell a big, compelling story, based on our values, of who we are, what we will do, and why we are Democrats in the first place.  What voters need to hear from any Democrat running for office is the answer to one central question: Why are you a Democrat? The Democratic Party has lost nearly a thousand state, local, and federal seats in the last decade, and is at one of its lowest points of political power in almost 90 years. Why are you putting the (D) next to your name?

As Democrats chart a path back and push through the current internal struggles, we all must answer this question: why are we Democrats?

I think we need to begin by going back to our roots, rediscovering our identity as the party of the people, not the well-off and powerful. We can start answering that identity question by looking at our party’s history as the oldest continuous political party in the world— it was founded in the first decade of our country’s existence. Doing that is tricky because our party, just like our country, was founded by deeply imperfect people, including racists, slaveowners, and people who countenanced the killing of the indigenous people already living here. We should not forget or forgive these sins, or sweep them under history’s carpet. But I do not believe we are well served by throwing away everything our ancestors did or believed in creating the United States of America. However flawed The Democratic Party’s founders were as people, their aspirational beliefs about equality and democracy laid the foundation for the country we live in today.

The Democratic Party, from its beginning days at the founding of our nation’s history, has always had as its foundational idea that the government should be of, by, and for the people.  Unlike Alexander Hamilton, who viewed democracy as a “great beast” and wanted the government to partner with big New York banks to run the country, and John Adams, who feared the idea of expanding the vote to non-property owners because someday people might want to expand the vote to “even women and slaves,” the founders of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, wanted the big banks to have less power and working people to have more power. They wanted to expand democracy so that the government would be more responsive to everyday working people. The name, “Democratic” Party, represented that idea and identity.  Democrats from the very beginning fought for more, rather than less, people getting the right to vote; more people getting a good public education; and more power for small businesses, farmers and workers instead of more power for the big banks.

That history still guides who we are today. To me, there are five reasons to be a Democrat:

First, we are Democrats because we take seriously the big idea in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which began by dedicating our new nation to the aspirational concept that all people are created equal. That means all of us should have the opportunity to have our liberty and pursue our happiness, that we should all be treated fairly in our courts of law, that we each should be able to get a good education and a legitimate chance to make a success of ourselves, that we should all be judged, as Martin Luther King said, “by the content of our character, not the color of our skin.” The irony is that even though Jefferson was a slaveowner, the power of that foundational idea has driven progressive reformers ever since to abolish slavery and secure equal rights for all our citizens.

Third, we are Democrats because we want to fight for the many, not the few. We know that when economic and political power gets too concentrated in a few very wealthy hands, the middle class, and our democracy, will break down. We know that huge corporate cartels with near-monopoly power distort markets, squeeze workers, jack up prices, evade rules everyone else has to live by, hurt small businesses and innovative entrepreneurship, and get sweetheart deals from government. We want to put more power into the hands of working people, communities, and consumers, and less into the hands of big business and the wealthy. That’s why Democrats fight for strong anti-trust enforcement, breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks, closing corporate loopholes, and having the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.

Fourth, as the party of the people, we value compassion and community. We want a government that invests in our people and fights for working folks, children, and senior citizens. We fight for people to have good jobs with good wages and benefits. Democrats have always advocated for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, VA care, strong labor unions, affordable college education, great public schools, and a higher minimum wage.  We know that compassion is not only the right thing to do, it pays off in the long run. Immigrants we welcome to the American community make huge contributions to building a stronger country and economy. Getting poor kids enough food and a good education pays off tenfold when they become productive adults. Giving people the security of health coverage allows them to take the risk of starting new businesses that generate good jobs.

Finally, Democrats understand what “freedom” really means. We know that people want freedom in the pursuit of their happiness; they want a chance at the American Dream. They want a good education growing up and a good job and decent place to live as they enter adulthood. They want the freedom to drink clean water and breathe clean air. They want a future without the specter of climate change hanging over their heads. Women need the freedom to control their own bodies and destinies. People don’t want to be burdened down by overwhelming debt. They want the freedom to be able to negotiate a decent wage with their employer. They want the freedom to start their own small business without worrying that huge corporations are going to make it impossible for them to innovate or compete.

This is what it means to be a Democrat.

The Democratic Party’s problems will not be solved by a new slogan. Our credibility and our very identity as a party has been badly eroded over the last few decades. Most voters don’t see us as the party of the people, in large part because too many Democrats forgot where we came from and lost their way. Clinton and Obama won by promising hope and change for people who worked hard and played by the rules, and they did a lot of good things. But when Wall Street bankers who crashed the economy got bailouts, bonuses and get-out-of-jail-free cards, while millions of workers lost their jobs, people turned away from us. And we have paid the price, losing over 1,000 offices up and down the ballot since 2009.

Our message and identity problems will be only solved when we go back to our roots: Democrats began as the champion of workers and farmers and small businesses. Our founders promoted aspirational ideas like equality, fraternity, the freedom to pursue happiness as each of us defined it, and building a more perfect union.  If we embrace those historic values, and fight for them, rather than just mouth the words, we will start winning elections again.


Galston: Trump’s Charlottesville response falls flat with public, working-class base

The following article by William A. Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow – Governance Studies at Brookings and author of  Public Matters: Politics, Policy, and Religion in the 21st Century, is cross-posted from Brookings:

An NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll released on August 16contained bad news for President Trump. Only 31 percent of registered voters believe that his response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, was strong enough, compared to 51 percent who think that it was not.

A CBS News poll released the next day continued the drumbeat, with a new twist: the more the president reacts, the deeper the hole he is digging for himself. Among respondents surveyed before Mr. Trump’s impromptu news conference on Tuesday, 35 percent approved of his response and 52 percent disapproved, a negative margin of 17 points. Among those surveyed after the news conference, approval fell slightly, disapproval rose sharply, and his negative margin widened to 25 points.

In both surveys, reaction to the president divided along partisan lines, with a majority of Republicans supporting the president and majorities of Democrats and Independents opposed. But there was a surprise that should give the rally-the-base strategists in the White House pause: although 59 percent of Republican respondents in the NPR/PBS/Marist poll felt that that Mr. Trump’s Charlottesville response was strong enough, just 32 percent of white working-class voters—the linchpin of Mr. Trump’s upset victory last November—agreed.

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Cohn: Data Suggests Dems Can Win Back a Share of Obama-Trump Voters

Regarding the impact of Obama-Trump voters in 2016, Nate Cohn writes at The Upshot:

The story of the 2016 presidential election is simple. Donald J. Trump made huge gains among white voters without a college degree. His gains were large enough to cancel out considerable losses among well-educated white voters and a decade of demographic shifts.

There are questions and details still up for debate: whether Democrats can win back these voters, and how to think about and frame the decline in black turnout. But postelection surveys, pre-election surveys, voter file data and the actual results all support the main story: The voters who switched from President Obama to Mr. Trump were decisive.

Cohn cites a study which “found that 9.2 percent of Obama voters flipped to support Mr. Trump — a hair lower than the estimates from other surveys.” But Cohn emphasizes that the Obama-Trump voters were critically-important in key states, noting that Clinton “lost primarily because of the narrow but deep swing among white working-class voters who were overrepresented in decisive battleground states.” Further, “Just 74 percent of white Obama voters with a high school diploma or less backed Mrs. Clinton,” according to the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. “Similarly,” notes Cohn, “the Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that Mrs. Clinton won just 78 percent of white Obama voters without a bachelor’s degree. The figure was even lower in the key Rust Belt battlegrounds.”

Cohn adds that “Strong evidence suggests a lot of these voters will lean Republican for the foreseeable future, and certainly will lean toward Mr. Trump. But Democrats can still win a meaningful and potentially decisive share of these voters, many of whom probably voted Democratic down-ballot in 2016.”

Cohn concludes that “it does seem likely that at least a portion of the Obama-Trump vote can be lured back to the Democrats — especially against traditional Republican candidates who emphasize small government, free markets and social conservatism…Whether that means it should be the crux of the Democrats’ path to power is another question. But it will most likely be a part of it, and will probably need to be for Democrats to secure parts of the Rust Belt that continue to play an outsize role in American elections.”

And what keeps getting overlooked in many media discusssions of Democratic prospects for winning back white working-class voters is that it doesn’t have to be a majority, or even a plurality of this large constituency — just a bigger share in key states.


Creamer: Are There Really ‘Two Sides’ When It Comes To Political Violence In The U.S.?

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

Three days after the violence in Charlottesville, Donald Trump doubled down on his shocking accusation that when it came to political violence in the United States, there were “two sides.” In fact, he argued that the media simply ignored the “Alt-Left” and left-wing political violence in general.

The notion that there is any moral or empirical equivalency between the political violence of the right and the left in the United States is simply wrong. It is wrong empirically. And just as importantly, it is wrong because when it comes to the use of violence, there is a massive difference in values between the left and the right.

First, consider the facts.

The violence in Charlottesville was precipitated by a crowd led by self-proclaimed Neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan – two organizations whose histories are steeped in the most extreme forms of political violence.

Trump’s assertion that it included many “good people” ignores the fact that the crowd was chanting the Nazi slogan “blood and soil” and “the Jews will not replace us.” It would not take but a second for any “good people” who joined the crowd to realize they were in the wrong place and leave.


Teixeira: How Vulnerable is Trump?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think and other works, is cross-posted from his blog, “The Optimistic Leftist”:

Some have argued that the emotional bond between Trump and his supporters is so strong that it’s nearly impossible to break.

I don’t believe this is true for a couple of reasons. First, Trump is attached to the GOP and the GOP is remarkably out of touch with the voters who supported Trump. This is a non-trivial problem, as Ron Brownstein explains in The Atlantic.

The Senate Republican health-care bill has been repeatedly crushed in a slow-motion collision between the party’s historic ideology and the interests of its modern electoral coalition. Yet congressional Republicans appear determined to plow right through the wreckage.

Even as the Senate’s latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed on Tuesday, the House Republican leadership released a 10-year federal-budget blueprint that points them toward a similar confrontation, between their dominant small-government dogma and the economic needs of their increasingly blue-collar and older white base.

The Urban Institute found that 80 percent of those who would lose coverage under the Senate repeal-and-replace bill were non-college educated, 70 percent worked full-time and 60 percent were white. Rural areas would be particularly hard hit by the Medicaid cuts and so on. Candidate Trump of course said he would do none of this stuff but that went out the window once he started dealing with Congressional Republicans and their libertarian proclivities.

This matters. Brownstein notes that Trump’s approval ratings among white noncollege women is now 19 points lower than his vote support among this group back in November. Will all of these voters abandon him? No, but if a serious chunk does it will hurt both him and the GOP.

But isn’t it true that Trump’s overall support has been rock-steady? On net, aren’t his voters sticking with him? This is a myth. It is certainly true that he retains most of this support. But that’s different from all. Brendan Nyhan points out in a New York Times Upshot column that the seeming stability in Trump’s approval rating among GOP partisans may be an illusion. This is because Republican identifiers who disapprove of Trump may cease identifying as Republicans, thereby propping up his numbers among that group. But he’s still losing support.

A new Ipsos poll finds that one in eight Trump supporters from last November now say they aren’t sure they’d do it again after the last six months. We don’t know of course whether these voters would actually follow through on their sentiments. But it is not a good sign, either for Trump or the GOP.

People are reluctant, understandably so, to believe in Trump’s vulnerability. People will not soon forget the night of November 8, 2016 when nothing turned out like it was supposed to. But if his supporters have a fear of falling downward economically, what happens if they conclude he can’t stop the fall, much less lift them up? He will be punished like all politicians. It is just a matter of when and how much.


Creamer: Congress Should Curb Trump’s Nuclear First Strike Capability

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

Donald Trump actually threatened North Korea with a nuclear attack if their egomaniacal leader continued to “threaten” the United States.

The idea that the United States of America would seriously consider launching a nuclear war over a verbal taunt is simply unthinkable.

But remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last year is reported to have asked why, if we have nuclear weapons, we shouldn’t use them.

Last January, Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu introduced legislation that would forbid the president to launch a nuclear first strike without a Congressional declaration of war.

It’s time for Congress to enact that legislation.

No one questions that to give deterrence credibility, the president should have authority to retaliate immediately if our country is attacked by nuclear weapons. But a first strike is a different matter altogether.

The Constitution gives the Congress the ability to declare war. A nuclear attack is the most extreme attack on another country imaginable. If the Congress does not have the authority to declare war in those circumstances, the Constitution is meaningless.


Teixeira, Judis Dialogue on Prospects for Progressive Change

The following interview of Ruy Teixeira by John Judis, co-authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority and other books, is cross-posted from Talking Points Memo:

Ruy Teixeira (pronounced Tush-aira) and I have been friends since the early 1970s when we were members of a socialist group, the New American Movement, that was supposed to perpetuate the saner parts of the new left. (It merged later with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to form the Democratic Socialists of America.) I didn’t see him for 15 years or so until we both turned up in Washington, D.C. In 2001, we co-authored “The Emerging Democratic Majority.”  Radio and television producers would sometimes call me to do interviews because, one TV person explained, they wanted someone who could speak English clearly. In fact, Ruy, the son of a Portuguese diplomat, was born and raised in Silver Spring. Ruy has worked with various think tanks in Washington and most recently has been a fellow at the Center for American Progress. His new book is titled “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century will be Better Than You Think.” It’s a potentially tough subject, but Ruy writes clearly and persuasively, and it’s surprisingly easy to read. As readers will note from this interview, I don’t quite share Ruy’s optimism, but I certainly hope that he is right.

Judis:  In your book, you explain at several points that you are no longer a socialist and instead support a reformed capitalism. When we met many years ago, we were in a socialist organization. When did this transformation occur?

 Teixeira:  What happened is that I began to think a lot about how economies actually work. When I was a socialist, I didn’t think very carefully and long about what actually a socialist economy would look like. I had this general idea that the capitalist system was inefficient and prone to crisis and that one should somehow tamp down the profit motive and limit the freedom of action of capitalists. But the more I thought about how economies worked, it was hard to gainsay that the market was absolutely essential for the efficient delivery of goods and services. And  the more I read, the more I realized my viewpoint was closer to social democrats than to socialists. Capitalism needs to be regulated, it needs to be pointed in the right direction, you need to have a big safety net, but you can’t replace it.

GQR Swing District Poll: Strong Opposition To Firing Mueller, Pardons

The following article by Jeremy Rosner and Anna Greenberg is cross-posted from a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Memo:

A new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll of the top 99 battleground congressional districts for 2018 shows voters in these swing districts strongly oppose any move by President Donald Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and even stronger majorities oppose the idea of the President pardoning either himself or his top aides and family members.

These findings are especially notable since the survey is based only on voters in battleground House districts – with 79 of the 99 districts now represented by Republican House members. That means the sample, and the results, lean more Republican than a full nationwide survey.

By a two-to-one margin, 60-29%, respondents say they would disapprove if President Trump and his team fire Special Counsel Mueller in the coming weeks; this includes 44% who strongly disapprove. Even in the 79 districts that are now Republican-held, the margin is essentially the same, 59-30%. Disapproval is even stronger among Independents, 66-23%.

A 64-33% majority already favors creating an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate issues linked to Russia and the 2016 election, and to report to the public. If the President were to fire Mueller, support for such a commission rises even higher, to a 72-22% majority. Again, the figure is essentially the same, 73-22%, among respondents in the 79 Republican-held districts. If Trump were to fire Mueller, a 67-26% majority across the full sample would also support having Congress establish a Special Prosecutor that President Trump could not fire.

An overwhelming 86-10% majority says Trump should not be allowed to pardon himself from criminal prosecution – a possibility the President and his team reportedly examined. Even among self-identified Republicans, an overwhelming 74-19% majority objects to the idea of the President pardoning himself. Respondents also oppose the President pardoning his aides and family members by a strong 69-27% margin.

Even with the Russia investigation in its early days and the election more than a year off, there is already a notable enthusiasm edge among Democrats in these battleground districts. Across all these districts, 61% of self-identified Democratic voters say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting for Congress in 2018 (10, on a 0-10 scale), compared to only 48% of self-identified Republicans.

These results are based on a survey of 1,000 telephone interviews with likely 2018 voters in the country’s 99 most competitive congressional battleground districts (79 currently Republican held; 20 Democratic held), conducted July 27 to August 1, 2017. Half of the interviews were conducted by landline, and half by cell phone. The results are subject to a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The survey was designed and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and funded by a coalition including: American Bridge; End Citizens United; MoveOn; and Stand Up America.


Teixeira: Why Rural Areas Really Are Different

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of  The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think and other works of political analysis, is cross posted from his blog, “The Optimistic Leftist”:

I don’t think you can understand the resolute Trump support in much of rural America without taking into account the absolutely appalling economic and social trends in these areas. Janet Adamy at the Wall Street Journal has been doing some great work exploring these trends, both generally and in particular rural places (here and here). In the first of these articles, Adamy notes:

Starting in the 1980s, the nation’s basket cases were its urban areas—where a toxic stew of crime, drugs and suburban flight conspired to make large cities the slowest-growing and most troubled places.
Today, however, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows that by many key measures of socioeconomic well-being, those charts have flipped. In terms of poverty, college attainment, teenage births, divorce, death rates from heart disease and cancer, reliance on federal disability insurance and male labor-force participation, rural counties now rank the worst among the four major U.S. population groupings (the others are big cities, suburbs and medium or small metro areas).
In fact, the total rural population—accounting for births, deaths and migration—has declined for five straight years.

Is it any wonder these folks aren’t in a good mood and are inclined to lash out? They are particularly sour on the situation with jobs and job opportunities where they live. A recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll allows for direct comparisons of the views of rural, suburban and urban residents.

  • 21 percent of rural residents say jobs/unemployment is the biggest problem facing their community, compared to 7 percent of suburban residents and 6 percent of urban residents.
  • 34 percent in rural areas describe the job situation in their community as “poor” compared to 18 percent in suburbs and 14 percent in cities.
  • 31 percent of rural residents say the availability of jobs in their area is worse than it was 10 years ago, compared to 22 percent of suburban residents and 17 percent of urban residents.
  • 59 percent in rural areas would encourage young people to leave their community for more opportunity elsewhere, compared to 47 percent in suburbs and 41 percent in cities.
  • 53 percent of rural residents say their area has lost manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years; 38 percent say farming jobs have been lost; and 31 percent say natural resources jobs like coal or lumber have been lost.
  • 56 percent of those who report these job losses say their community has not yet recovered from these job losses.
Interestingly, by far the most effective policy fix for the job situation in rural areas, according to rural residents, would be for the federal government to invest in infrastructure projects like fixing roads, bridges and schools. This easily beats out better trade deals, cracking down on illegal immigrants and decreasing regulations on business.