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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Moyers and Winship: The Cost of Putin’s Meddling in Our Elections

In their post, “Trumped by Putin: There are lots of reasons why Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won, but the hacking of our election by Russia’s Vladimir Putin is the most frightening” Michael Winship and Bill Moyers sound an alarm at Moyers & Company, which the Electoral College ought to consider before casting their votes:

As we all know, The Washington Post and The New York Times recently reported just how deeply Russian hackers invaded the computers of the Democratic Party, a move intended to confuse voters with leaked excerpts of emails and other documents and thus throw a monkey wrench into the election. Now The Post reports that the CIA believes the Russian meddling was deliberately intended to help sway the vote in Trump’s favor. And NBC News says it was Putin himself who “personally directed” those leaks

….It is, in the words of former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who briefed George W. Bush on 9/11 but supported Hillary Clinton this year, “an attack on our very democracy. It’s an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11.”

Nancy LeTourneau notes at Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog, “To understand what is happening here, it is important to reject the old Cold War frame about a contest between capitalism and communism. Russia has long since ceased to be a country built on the teachings of Karl Marx and has evolved into a right-wing ethno-nationalist plutocracy.”

So why did Putin do it? The most important reason, accoding to Michael McFaul, the former American ambassador to Russia: “He wants to discredit American democracy and make us weaker in terms of leading the liberal democratic order. And most certainly he likes President-elect Trump’s views on Russia.” According to former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson it may be “the largest intelligence coup since the cracking of the Enigma code during World War II.” Further, Moyers and Winship write:

Did Trump or members of his staff know what was going on? Probably. Remember that Trump’s first campaign manager Paul Manafort — the “King of K Street” lobbyists — had pro-Russian factions as clients; his name with multimillion amounts beside it was found in a log of financial transactions after he had helped Putin’s friends in the Ukraine. When word began to spread of these ties, Manafort left the campaign. He is now back in Trump’s graces and, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, positioned to reap the  harvest of his relationship with Trump and his merry band of crony capitalists. It could be most revealing to hear what Manafort would say, under oath, about his intercession between Trump and Putin.

And just how extensive are our president-elect’s ties to Russian oligarchs? How much does he owe Russian banks? Now we may know more exactly why Trump has refused to release his tax returns; they could be full of clues about his foreign creditors. We’d learn more if he’d divest his business interests, too, but he won’t. We do know that Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” And there’s more to come as Putin and Trump mix and mingle Russian oligarchs with American plutocrats.

“Not only does this increasingly seem like yet another step in Putin’s worldwide subversion of liberal democratic beliefs and Trump’s desire to enrich his family and cronies by surrounding himself with multimillionaires and billionaires known for their predatory appetites,” write Moyers and Winship, “it is one more step to a planet dominated by international oligarchs and kleptocrats…”

These are sobering insights to add to the fact that Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes for President than did Trump. On Monday the electors have a patriotic duty to give them serious consideration before deciding whether or not they want to become accomplices to thwarting the will of the people.

Lux: Why the Darkness Will Pass and Progressive Populism Will Light the Way Forward

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:

I have been thinking a lot about the song Pete Seeger wrote in 1969 called “Quite Early Morning” where he sings, “You know it’s darkest before the dawn and it’s this thought that keeps me moving on…”

1969 was a pretty rough year for American progressives. 1968 had seen the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and the election of arguably the most appalling man ever elected president of these United States, Richard Nixon — up until the 2016 election anyway. The Vietnam War was at its worst moment. Riots raged in the streets of America, frequently instigated by FBI and CIA domestic spies trying to discredit the peace and civil rights movements.

Seeger, who a generation before had seen his and many of his friends’ careers almost destroyed by McCarthyism, knew a thing or two about darkness. He wrote this song at that awful moment, and over the next five years, his hope was proven true: Nixon destroyed himself in an orgy of corruption unseen before in American history; the peace movement finally forced an end to the Vietnam War; the environmental movement blossomed and made the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the EPA a reality; and the feminist movement blossomed as well, bringing about profound changes in the lives of women.

This darkest-before-the-dawn pattern is a recurrent theme in American history, as some of our worst periods in history have directly preceded some of our biggest progressive change moments. The decade before the abolition of slavery and three of the most profoundly progressive amendments to the U.S. Constitution saw the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott decision, three of the most dreadful, slavery-promoting actions our government had ever taken.

The Robber Baron era and the height of Social Darwinism in the 1880s and 1890s came immediately before the Progressive Era in American history which ended child labor; created the National Park System; advanced food and consumer safety; and resulted in the right to vote for women. The 1920s, which brought the crushing of unions and rampant corruption and speculation in an unchecked stock market, were followed immediately by FDR’s New Deal and economic reforms that created 40 years of economic stability and prosperity for the largest middle class in the history of the world. In the decade before the civil rights breakthroughs and the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s, we had McCarthyism and rising anti-civil rights violence in the South.

Just a decade ago, we got another example. After the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush and Republican control of both houses of Congress, Karl Rove was bragging confidently about the permanent Republican majority they were creating. In great part due to GOP overreach on Social Security and the Iraq war, Democrats came back in 2006 to take over both houses of Congress, and in 2008 gained more seats in both and the presidency of Barack Obama as well.

Today, we are at another profoundly dark and frightening moment in American history. Trump’s administration full of bigots, right-wing generals, and big business barons is confirming all of progressives’ worst fears about what we face in the next four years. An enormous amount of damage will be done in the years ahead. The biggest question being discussed among Democrats and progressive movement leaders today is whether this nation’s democratic institutions of checks and balances will be strong enough to withstand the authoritarianism that is at the heart of Trumpism. This is a truly scary time.

Trump’s presidency will be the ultimate test of progressives and progressivism: do we have the courage, the vision, the creativity, the solidarity, and the passion to stick together and keep our worst fears from happening? But I also believe that if we can work together and forge a strategy that meets the moment, we could easily come out of the Trump years stronger than ever before and ready for another moment of great progress in American history. Think about the following:

1. Trump is going to make a lot of mistakes. Trump is a clever communicator, but he is too narcissistic, too petty, and too shortsighted to not mess up a whole lot. It’s not like he ran a flawless campaign — he veered off the track at many different moments and had the biggest negatives of any presidential candidate in history.

2. The economy is going to run into some trouble. This economic expansion has been the longest expansion by far in modern history, and just the business cycle alone will likely slow this economy down. Add to that Trump’s erratic Twitter habits and off-the-cuff statements that will almost certainly spook investors on a semi-regular basis and will make long-term investment less likely. His general economic and budget policies will be a contradictory mess of mostly bad things; rampant corruption and cronyism that we are already seeing will corrode markets; and the likely deregulation of the financial industry will result in more risk than we have seen since the financial panic of 2008-9. The bottom line is that we are likely to see a very troubled economy in Trump’s first term in office.

3. Populism on both the right and the left is growing in political strength. On the right, sadly, it has produced Donald Trump, but the better version of populism opens the door for strong progressive populists to run and win for offices at every level. With Trump creating an administration full of billionaire CEO types, that kind of progressive-style populism will be on the rise in the next four years.

4. Underneath the current wave of people kissing the victor’s ring, the Republican Party remains as deeply divided today as it ever has been, with Trump-style populists, corporate establishment types, neo-conservatives, and Tea Party radicals all still jockeying for power and openly opposing each other on all kinds of issues. If Trump is indeed making lots of mistakes and politically weakening himself, other Republicans won’t mind sticking the knife in and twisting.

Look, let’s be clear about something: Trump’s presidency will be the most unpredictable of any in American history. With this guy, we just don’t know what will happen next, and we’ve all been imagining some pretty bleak scenarios. I take nothing off the table in terms of what’s possible in the next four years, including Trump turning out to be a very successful president or calling a state of emergency. Maybe he will call off all future elections, and jail dissidents like me in a gulag. But it is also quite possible this country reacts to Trump the way it has reacted to other terrible turns to the right in our history: that we foment a rebellion on the other side and successfully turn the tide.

Here’s a scenario I think is entirely possible: Trump and the Republicans overreach on their far right and unpopular agenda, which includes cutting and restructuring programs the older, blue collar base of their party counts on like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; Trump is involved in a series of running controversies that weaken him over time; the economy starts to weaken; Trump gets more and more defensive and irritable. In this rapidly souring environment, Democrats have a very big wave election in 2018.

With this as the backdrop, Democrats enter the 2020 cycle with arguably the most wide open presidential nominating fight since 1992 and some strong progressive populists as viable potential candidates. In fact, I think 2020 is the best chance progressive populists have had in modern political history. In the past, we have had populist protest candidates with little chance of winning the nomination like Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinch; or candidates like John Edwards who ran as a DLC moderate the first time he ran and took on faux populism because he thought it might work.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders shocked the political world when he switched political parties and came out of nowhere to come close to winning the nomination against an overwhelming frontrunner with all the endorsements, name ID, money, branding, and experience in the world. In 2020, with Trump having almost certainly spent his entire term in service to the big business, trickle-down agenda, voters in both the Democratic primary and the general election are going to be in a feisty populist mood. We could certainly see a candidate such as Elizabeth Warren fire up the Democratic base; appeal to working class swing voters; and sweep to a big victory.

And don’t forget that 2020 is the election before redistricting. If a candidate with a powerful populist message and brand is leading the Democratic Party to a big win that year (and we do well in 2018 as well), Democrats could end up dominating the re-districting process. That would build the Democratic Party with progressive candidates in both Congress and state legislatures all over the country.

So here’s my message: assume nothing; work your ass off for the greater good; but always, always keep hope alive. Our beloved nation has schizophrenia built into its DNA — I guess that’s what happens when the man who wrote our country’s founding document declaring that we are all created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was also a slaveholder.

The same government that handed down Dred Scott emancipated the slaves six years later. The most pro-corporate trust president ever elected (McKinley) had his VP (Teddy Roosevelt) follow him in office and launch a trust-busting campaign. The president who signed into law the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the War on Poverty took us deep into Vietnam. And now our first black president, the one with the Muslim immigrant’s name, will be succeeded by Donald J Trump.

Maybe it takes acting on our worst instincts to make our best instincts flower into progress. The next four years are going to be as ugly as hell, but keep hope alive, my friends. You can’t organize other people to do good when you are depressed. We may well come out of the Trump years and have a new birth of freedom.

A Look Inside the Trump Campaign’s Digital Media Strategy

On the the treasured myths entertained by Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign was the belief that the Trump campaign lagged badly in digital media operations. Media reports were full of disparaging comments about Trump’s poor or nearly nonexistant ‘ground game,’ coupled with references to the Clinton campaign’s whiz bang digital media edge. Both views appear to have been grossly overstated.

In Joel Winston’s Medium post, “How the Trump Campaign Built an Identity Database and Used Facebook Ads to Win the Election,” he explains:

…The Trump campaign used data to target African Americans and young women with $150 million dollars of Facebook and Instagram advertisements in the final weeks of the election, quietly launching the most successful digital voter suppression operation in American history.

..Trump shrewdly invested in Facebook advertisements to reach his supporters and raise campaign donations. Facing a short-fall of momentum and voter support in the polls, the Trump campaign deployed its custom database, named Project Alamo, containing detailed identity profiles on 220 million people in America.

With Project Alamo as ammunition, the Trump digital operations team covertly executed a massive digital last-stand strategy using targeted Facebook ads to ‘discourage’ Hillary Clinton supporters from voting. The Trump campaign poured money and resources into political advertisements on Facebook, Instagram, the Facebook Audience Network, and Facebook data-broker partners.

“We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” a senior Trump official explained to reporters from BusinessWeek. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.”

When the ballots were counted, African American turnout was substantially lower than for 2008 and 2012, and Clinton lagged significantly with young women behind projections based on polls. At salon.com, for example, Nico Lang notes, “While black voters accounted for 25 percent of all early ballots cast in the Sunshine State in 2012, that number dropped to just 16 percent on the eve of the 2016 election, as Politico reported…Amid data showing an 8.5 percent drop in blacks’ early voting in North Carolina, the state’s GOP sent out a press release arguing that this showed a lack of enthusiasm for Clinton’s campaign among people of color.”

It has been argued that the attrition of African American voters in 2016 was understandable, without Obama on the ballot, and Republican-driven voter suppression measures were also far more prevalent in 2016. However, Winston notes that the Trump campaign also created an animation of Clinton’s controversial “super predator” comment, and targeted large numbes of African Americans on Facebook.

As for the scope of the Trump campaign’s digital operations, Winston reports that “the Trump digital team consisted of 100 staffers, including a mix of programmers, web developers, network engineers, data scientists, graphic artists, ad copywriters, and media buyers” headed by Brad Parscale in the campaign’s San Antonio HQ (hence ‘Project Alamo’).

In addition, “Parscale worked closely with President-Elect Trump and was one of select few members of Trump’s inner-circle entrusted to tweet from his personal Twitter account, @ realDonaldTrump…On the strength of Parscale’s ability to generate campaign donations using Facebook and e-mail, the digital operations division was the Trump campaign’s largest source of cash.”

Winston quotes Sasha Issenberg and Joshua Green, who wrote in Business Week that “Trump himself was an avid pupil. Parscale would sit with him on the plane to share the latest data on his mushrooming audience and the $230 million they’ve funneled into his campaign coffers.” In terms of Parscale’s methods, Winston notes:

Parscale uploaded the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of known Trump supporters into the Facebook advertising platform. Next, Parscale used Facebook’s “Custom Audiences from Customer Lists” to match these real people with their virtual Facebook profiles. With Facebook’s “Audience Targeting Options” feature, ads can be targeted to people based on their Facebook activity, ethic affinity, or “location and demographics like age, gender and interests. You can even target your ad to people based on what they do off of Facebook.”

Parscale then expanded Trump’s pool of targeted Facebook users using “Lookalike Audiences”, a powerful data tool that automatically found other people on Facebook with “common qualities” that “look like” known Trump supporters. Finally, Parscale used Facebook’s “Brand Lift” survey capabilities to measure the success of the ads…Parscale also deployed software to optimize the design and messaging of Trump’s Facebook ads.

Winston also reports that “RNC Chairman Reince Preibus famously invested more than $100 million dollars into the party’s data and infrastructure capabilities since Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss…The RNC granted Trump access to its list of 6 million Republicans, but Trump could only keep 20% of any cash he raised from the list. The other 80% of campaign donations belonged to the RNC.” Further,

Trump’s revolutionary database, named Project Alamo, contains the identities of 220 million people in the United States, and approximately 4,000 to 5,000 individual data points about the online and offline life of each person. Funded entirely by the Trump campaign, this database is owned by Trump and continues to exist.

Trump’s Project Alamo database was also fed vast quantities of external data, including voter registration records, gun ownership records, credit card purchase histories, and internet account identities. The Trump campaign purchased this data from certified Facebook marketing partners Experian PLC, Datalogix, Epsilon, and Acxiom Corporation. (Read here for instructions on how to remove your information from the databases of these consumer data brokers.)…Another critical supplier of data for the Trump campaign and Project Alamo was Cambridge Analytica, LLC, a data-science firm known for its psychological profiles of voters…The locations of Trump’s campaign rallies, the centerpiece of his media-centric candidacy, were chosen by a Cambridge Analytica algorithm that ranked places in a state with the largest clusters of persuadable voters.

“I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” says the Trump campaign Chairman Steve Bannon. (Bannon is also a Board Member of Cambridge Analytica.) “Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.”

Winston clearly believes that Trump’s digital media operations were the pivotal factor leading to his Electoral College victory. We’ll leave it to historians to argue about whether that’s an overstatement, in light of all of the other factors, which together add up to a giant clusterf*ck. But Dems surely now have enough evidence, thanks to Winston, to bury forever the quadrennial myth of Democratic digital dominance in presidential elections.

Trump’s Betrayal of White Working-Class Ahead of Schedule

Well, that was quick. Most political observers outside of the knee-jerk right-wing culture had little doubt that Trump was eventually going to betray the white working-class that elected him. But few imagined he would do it so quickly.

The most plausible scenario for Trump’s betrayal would have been his forming a conservative cabinet with a few economic moderates thrown into the mix, just to avoid the appearance of his sucking up to the fat cats and GOP beltway insiders too soon, then later reneging on his promises, as he is wont to do. That way he could make some “bringing us together” noises, at least for openers. But Trump never had much capacity for remembering, much less honoring his promises.

Joy-Ann Reid at The Daily Beast and Joan Walsh at The Nation document Trump’s fast track betrayal with impressive precision. The title of Reid’s post, “Hey, White Working Class, Donald Trump Is Already Screwing You Over: The Carrier deal was a sham. Ivanka’s moving her shoe production out of China—and into Ethiopia. Wake up, people. You’ve been played,” nicely encapsulates her major points. As Reid elaborates:

You voted for Donald Trump, thinking that he was on your side; that he will save your jobs and your way of life, whatever you imagine that is. Well, you got played…Now, your supposed hero of the working class, the “blue collar billionaire” who you insisted both during the campaign and afterward heard you, understood you, spoke to you, and cared about you, is attacking one of you. Trump used his Twitter account this week to savage United Steelworkers 1999 of Indiana and its president, Chuck Jones, an ordinary working man who dared to tell the truth about the phony Carrier deal that the media shamefully allowed Trump to ride to glowing headlines and boosted poll numbers.

…When Jones pointed out that Trump used Carrier employees as props and “lied his ass off” about the jobs he was supposedly saving, Trump got mad. He tweeted at Jones, blaming him, and US1999, for driving jobs out of Indiana and out of the United States. Think about that for a moment—your next president doesn’t think corporate greed and the pursuit of low wages are driving jobs out; he thinks unions are. That means he thinks your health care benefits and retirement package are the problem, not your CEO and the singular goal of “enhancing shareholder value” at your expense.

Trump the CEO manufacturers his tacky suits and ties in Mexico and his daughter manufactures her clothes and shoes in China. But neither of them plan to set the example for their fellow tycoons by moving those jobs to the U.S.A. Ivanka is moving some of her production to Ethiopia. And she just struck a new production deal in Japan, while on the phone with her dad and the Japanese prime minister.

At The Nation Joan Walsh presents Trump’s cabinet picks in all of their reactionary glory in her article, “Democrats Should Fight All of Trump’s Nominees. Yes, All of Them: He’s betrayed his working-class supporters by naming a cabinet of millionaire and billionaire insiders.” As Walsh writes, “The so-called champion of the working class is assembling a gilded cabinet. Not only will it be the richest, ever; it features plutocrats who’ve presided over the hollowing out of the working class Trump pretended to care about. Party leaders should be shouting about this from every imaginable platform.” Walsh continues:

  • The Treasury secretary appointed after a campaign spent demonizing Wall Street and “hedge-fund guys” is a former Goldman Sachs banker and hedge-fund guy, Steve Mnuchin, whose bank foreclosed on 37,000 homeowners after the housing crash.

  • Trump’s reported choice for labor secretary is the minimum wage–opposing, job-killing fast-food mogul Andrew Pudzer, who talks fondly about the day robots will replace workers at his restaurants. Pudzer has been a leader of the corporate fight against the Fight for $15…

  • Then there’s the billionaire nominee for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, who owned the deadly Sago Mine in West Virginia when 12 workers were killed in a 2006 explosion. Three years later, he closed the mine. Trump, you’ll recall, has promised to “bring back coal” and “bring back miners.” How will coal country feel about Secretary Ross?

  • Meanwhile, Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is a climate-change denier who has sued the EPA as Oklahoma attorney general.

  • His Health and Human Services nominee, Representative Tom Price, opposes the Affordable Care Act and wants to privatize Medicare. Price once claimed it was impossible that any woman would be unable to pay for her own birth control…

  • Then there’s Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, who has zero experience in housing or urban development and appears to oppose Fair Housing laws.

  • Betsy DeVos, the pick for education secretary, is yet another billionaire. She sent her children to private schools and has crusaded to privatize public education.

Walsh argues that Democrats have so far been a little too silent in responding to Trump’s anti-worker cabinet picks, with the exception of his nomination of Sen. Sessions for A.G., and it does seem like there ought to be more protest on the part of Democratic leaders. Social media is already aflame about it, so it’s a good time for new leaders to speak out.

Trump could have used his cabinet picks to actually promote unity and make an effort to build bipartisanship, which would have won him praise and a sense that he is sincere about healing the divisions. Instead it appears he has chosen to allow himself to serve out of the gate as an anti-worker puppet manipulated by the wealthy elites — not what his working-class supporters had in mind.

Dems Call Trump’s Bluff on Outsourcing

Donald Trump’s campaign shrewdly leveraged working-class anger about outsourcing jobs as a cornerstone of his Electoral College victory. But it was always more noise than substance, and now a group of Democratic U.S. Senators are calling his bluff by urging a bipartisan war on outsourcing. As Mike Debonis writes in his PowerPost article, “Citing Trump, Rust Belt Democrats demand crackdown on outsourcers“:

Six Democratic senators from Rust Belt states won by President-elect Donald Trump called Tuesday for a swift congressional crackdown on U.S. companies that send manufacturing jobs abroad, claiming common cause with Trump’s crusade against outsourcing.

…The Democratic senators from Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin stopped short of calling for a protectionist tariff regime. But in a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday, they applauded “the recent attention President-elect Trump has brought to the issue of outsourcing and its impact on middle-class families” and called for legislation that would penalize companies that send jobs abroad.

…Those penalties, they say, should include taking into consideration any history of outsourcing while awarding federal contracts and potentially keeping outsourcers from receiving tax breaks and other federal incentives, and “clawing back” those incentives if companies later ship jobs out of the country.

The Democratic senators include Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-In), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Their challenge is part of a Democratic effort to reclaim credibility as the party most strongly against job-killing outsourcing and “off-shoring.” For decades Democratic have tried to enact legislation to stop “runaway plants,” but were frequently blocked by a coalition of Republicans and some Democrats, who wanted to protect unfettered corporate autonomy and “free” trade.

The proposed Democratic reforms are not as flashy as Trump’s Sunday threat that “any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG!” Trump also threatened to impose a 35 percent tariff on those companies, knowing full-well that it is an empty threat because his fellow Republicans won’t let that happen. No matter, it’s the noise that counts.

But Trump’s tweet does show that he intends to double down on keeping his identity as the leader most opposed to unfair trade, verbally at least. A letter alone isn’t going to enable Democrats to get their fair share of the credit. Democrats are going to need a full-court media press just to keep up with Trump’s noise machine on the trade issue. But they have a real chance of reclaiming the mantle of fair trade, if they propose and more energetically promote realistic legislation to restrict outsourcing and offshoring, coupled with job-training programs to help American workers prepare for both the short and long-term future.

What Trump Voters Want Done About Obamacare

The millions of Americans who have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have reason to be concerned about President-elect Trump’s intentions regarding the legislation.

It’s not just Trump’s pledge to repeal the legislation and replace it with something “terrific.” Trump’s  nominee for Secretary of Health Education and Welfare Rep. Tom Price is cause for further concern. Price, as New York Times reporter Tom Hulse has noted, is “not only a leading proponent of repealing the Obama-era health care law, but he has embraced Republican efforts to move future Medicare users into private insurance programs and raise the eligibility age.”

At some point, however, Trump will have to reassess at his “mandate,” tempered though it is by Clinton’s popular vote win. More specifically, he should examine what Trump’s 62+ million voters want to do about Obamacare. The most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted Nov. 15-21, offers some guidance in arriving at a credible answer to what his voters want, regarding the ACA.


Clearly Trump voters overwhelmingly support the key provisions of Obamacare, with the very significant exception of the individual and employer mandates — even though many of them voice fervent opposition to the legislation by name. If Trump wants to respect his supporters’ wishes, he has to navigate a very difficult course.

One of the trickier questions Trump and the Republicans will face in preserving the ACA’s ban on denying coverage because of prior medical history, is whether insurance companies will be able to charge higher rates to those with a history of medical issues, and if so, how much higher. Seniors are also worried that the Trump regime may force Medicare recipients to pay more out of pocket, and middle-aged voters have reason to be concerned about raising the Medicare eligibility age.

These and other questions almost guarantee that a lot of Trump voters are going to be sorely disappointed. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Metzgar: Engaging the ‘Unreachables’

The following article by Jack Metzgar of Chicago Working-Class Studies is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Those of us from white working-class families with people we know and love who voted for Trump have a special heartache over this year’s election.  Why do so many good people have such deplorable politics?  I mostly took a pass this election on arguing with family members, because it was convenient to avoid the emotion and hurt feelings that these arguments often generate, even though I know those hurts eventually pass into our stronger lifetime relationships without leaving significant scars.  I also didn’t work this time to help turn out the vote.  Why did I do that and what have I learned from it that might be useful to others going forward?

First, it is self-satisfying in the aftermath to blame Hillary Clinton and her kind of Democrats.  Pushed by us Berniecrats, she actually had a pretty good progressive economic program to run on. It wasn’t big enough to make the kind of transformational political and economic change we need (or to inspire people with a sense of possibility), but it was moving in all the right directions.  What I blame her for is the strategic decision to focus her campaign on Trump’s character vs. her character, his temperament and style vs. hers, rather than on their very different policy positions – especially class issues like the minimum wage and their tax policies, even the wonky class differences between a tax credit and a tax deduction for child care expenses — anything that would have shifted the political “debate” to substance rather than style.  Her ambiguous (and untrustworthy) position on trade and her lack of a larger economic vision or narrative had an impact as well, but I don’t blame her for that in the same way that I don’t blame frogs for being amphibious.  She is who she is, and she is representative of many professional middle-class Democrats whose hearts are in the right place, by my lights.

But, like those Democrats, Clinton’s presumption that “people” vote on character not policy condescendingly underestimates the political and economic intelligence of most voters, and especially “low-information voters.” Instead of “I’m a really good person and you can trust me,” what low-information voters need is well-articulated explanations for policy choices – not just facts or information, but arguments and rationales.

Complicated economic explanations can be challenging for a low-information, “poorly educated” voter to follow in the first instance, but not so much when you repeat and elaborate, as can happen in national political campaigns.  I know from three decades of teaching working-class adults that though you’re not going to convince many of them, you can complicate their thinking (which is the goal in my line of work), and, more relevant to politicians, you can win their respect.  That is, you’ll get some points for character for making the effort to explain and convince.  Engagement, real engagement, in arguing for your view as if convincing people mattered has political benefits beyond getting them to vote for you.  It also puts you in a better position to govern if you are elected, and it advances your political agenda for next time even if you’re not.

Though I knew better, I hoped that Clinton’s running on “Trump is an asshole” would be effective because he was so good at illustrating it, but it also undermined the perception of her character, getting her into a mud fight with a mud wrestler.  The polls, which as a data-driven middle-class professional I put altogether too much faith in, kept reinforcing my complacency.  So, like many of my friends, I also blame Nate Silver!  Clinton couldn’t motivate me, and Silver unintentionally led me to think that was okay this time around.  So, I got my excuses, but it’s on me that I didn’t put in the work.

The other mistake I made is that I overestimated the good sense of that part of the white working class I think I know, the so-called Blue Wall Rust Belt states from Pennsylvania to Iowa.  And I underestimated the necessity and importance of contesting for that good sense.

I didn’t underestimate the long-term, grinding pain of deindustrialization in those states – the social and economic dislocation of increasingly unsteady work at lower and lower wages.  Nor did I miss what Sarah Jaffe calls Clinton Dems’ “colossal misreading of a moment when rage at the establishment (of both parties) was simmering everywhere.”  I even expected the Blue Wall states would not match the relatively high levels of support white workers had given Obama in 2008 and 2012 (with actual majorities in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa in 2008).   But I did not expect the precipitous drops in both voter participation (except in Pennsylvania) and percentage support for Clinton vs. Obama. Clinton garnered from 10 to 21 points less support in these states than Obama had won in 2008.

My gripe with much of the punditry is that they so routinely mistake one part of the white working class for the whole, thereby stereotyping a class of people with whom they have little direct contact or knowledge.  I insist on the value of using a union organizer’s approach when discussing the politics of working-class whites.  Following Andrew Levison’s three-part breakdown, based on opinion research, one part are unreachable conservatives who can never be won over, but you must work to “neutralize” them in order to reduce their influence on others.  Calling them boilerplate names rather than engaging their arguments doesn’t accomplish that, however, and it may actually increase their influence.  Another part consists of solid supporters, and you need to enlist their activity and leadership in persuading “the persuadables,” which is the third part that Levison calls “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand thinkers.”

By sitting out the 2016 election within my own family, for example, I did not do the work of neutralizing the unreachables, which is who I usually argue with.  It seemed like a reasonable choice; why stir up old feuds if they are unreachable? But by not engaging them as I have in the past, I gave up what influence I might still have among the persuadables who listen in, “putting in their two cents” from time to time, often simply by asking a challenging question.  What’s more, I didn’t help the solid supporters amplify their voices, which they often do by distancing themselves from “the professor” even as they agree with me. In one instance a Hillary supporter mentioned after the election that she had kept largely silent because she didn’t think two of her daughters “would actually vote for that asshole.”  I made the same mistake.

I’m still puzzling over why such large majorities of non-college-educated whites voted for Trump.  But it looks like part of what happened in the Blue Wall States is that hundreds of thousands of white working-class Obama voters from 2008 just didn’t show up in 2016, thereby increasing the relative weight of the unreachables.  Sort of like me, they may have lacked enthusiasm for a flawed candidate executing an even more flawed campaign message.  Or, unlike me, they may have come to the actually very reasonable but terribly misguided conclusion that it really does not matter.

Greenberg: Why Pollsters Like Me Failed to Predict Trump’s Victory

The following article by Stan Greenberg is cross-posted from Democracy Corps:

America is being shaped irreversibly by a growing new majority of millennials, racial minorities, immigrants and secular people. So how did the presidential election produce such a reactionary result, surprising all the pollsters, including me? “Shy” Tories and Brexiters apparently upended Britain. Did “shy” Trump voters upend America?

To understand what happened, you have to start with the demand for “change”.

The elites, academics, pundits and even President Barack Obama look at the US and see a dynamic country that is economically and culturally ascendant. But America is also a country of deepening inequality and growing political corruption. Most people struggle with declining or stagnant incomes, while CEOs and billionaires have taken most of the gains in income and wealth. More than anything, people are angry that the game appears to be rigged by corporate special interests.

Donald Trump managed to become the Republicans’ candidate of change by attacking crony capitalism, trade deals favoured by big business, the billionaire SuperPacs that fund the candidates and Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street. That allowed him to ride the support of the Tea Party and white people without a four-year college degree all the way to the nomination.

But the cry for change coming from the new liberal American majority was just as intense. Bernie Sanders’ call for a “revolution” produced landslide victories with millennials and white Democrats without a four-year degree. This progress nearly allowed him to contest the convention. No less than Trump, Sanders attacked Clinton for her Wall Street speeches and SuperPacs.

Clinton achieved her most impressive leads in the polls when she, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren embraced after the primaries and after her convention speech that demanded an economy that worked for all, not just the well connected. She emerged with her biggest lead when she closed the debates with a “mission” to “grow an economy, to make it fairer, to make it work for everyone”, and “stand up for families against special interests, against corporations”.

That led many more voters to see Clinton as standing for the American middle class, which most working people aspire to, and being better on the economy, truthful and willing to stand up to special interests.

Working as a pollster for Bill Clinton in 1992 and Al Gore in 2000, I watched voters settle into their decisions immediately after the debates. Trump and Hillary Clinton were both talking about change, and Clinton was winning.

But then the campaign’s close was disrupted by a flood of hacked emails, whose release was linked to Russia, intended to show that friends of Bill Clinton were using the Clinton Foundation to enrich the former president, and then by FBI director James Comey’s letter to Congress announcing the reopening of his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

This allowed Trump to close his campaign with a call to “drain the swamp” and reject “the Clintons’ big business trade deals that decimated so many communities”.

The Clinton campaign fought back. It attacked Comey for his unprecedented intervention and then used its advertising muscle to shift the spotlight from Clinton to Trump. Its ads running right through the very last weekend showed Trump at his worst. By then, nobody could remember that Hillary Clinton was a candidate with bold economic plans who demanded that government should work for working people and the middle class, not corporations. She was no longer a candidate of change.

As President Obama campaigned for her at the end, Clinton urged voters to “build on the progress”. She closed her campaign with a call for continuity and incrementalism. That turn is why the polls turned out to be so wrong.

This was a “change election” for the new American majority too, and that late turn by Clinton produced disappointing turnout among Hispanics, African Americans, single women and millennials. The African Americans’ greatly diminished turnout in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee likely gave the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump.

Clinton’s total vote fell well below Obama’s in 2008 and 2012.

The new American majority really did make up the majority of voters for the first time, and they helped Clinton win the popular vote. But their late pull back upended the pollsters’ key assumptions about turnout.

The other change voters, the white men without a four-year college degree, did their part too. They were never shy about their support for Trump, but concentrated in rural and smaller towns in the rust belt, they became even more consolidated in their support for him, put out lawn signs and turned out to vote in unprecedented numbers. Our polls showed him with a 36-point lead before the conventions. But further consolidation and higher-than-expected turnout gave Trump an unimaginable 49-point lead and 72% of the vote among this group. The Trump vote was never shy, just not fully consolidated.

And don’t forget the non-college-educated white women who, after all, are a majority of the white working class. Through most of the campaign, Trump’s disrespect of women and Clinton’s plans for change allowed her to compete with him for their support. She trailed by just nine points after the debates. But with Clinton mostly attacking Trump and no longer talking about change, the women shifted, almost unnoticed but dramatically, to Trump. He won them by 27 points, a nine-point bigger margin than that achieved by Romney in 2012.

These late turns allowed Trump to win Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by a percentage point.

America has changed, but this change election produced a reactionary result.

Greenberg and Zdunkewicz: Roosevelt Institute’s election night survey revealed unheard winning, bold economic agenda

The following Democracy Corps memo, written by Stan Greenberg and Nancy Zdunkewicz  for The Roosevelt Institute, is cross-posted from a DCorps release:

Last week, the American people were determined to vote for change – change that would crash the dominance of special interests over government and bring bold economic policies so the economy would work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected. That narrative underlines why Donald Trump received an audience and why he is now the president-elect.(1)

It does not explain, however, why Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency on November 8th. The Comey letter re-opened the vote decision for some people and critically impacted the race, but the Clinton campaign moved from running on change to running on continuity. She fully articulated an economic change message throughout the three debates and offered her plans for change, but after the Comey F.B.I. letter, the campaign no longer spoke of change, the economy and her bold plans for the future. In the final weeks, the Clinton campaign conceded the economy and change to Trump, while seeking to make him personally unacceptable. Frustratingly, it closed the campaign appealing for unity, promising to promote opportunity and to “build on the progress” of the Obama presidency. That is why key groups of voters moved to Trump in the Rust Belt and why the turnout of many base groups was so disappointing in the end.

Understanding what really happened allows one to see how ready voters were to vote for a “rewrite the rules” economic message, how white working class women stuck with Clinton until she abandoned that message, and how much the new Rising American Electorate – from millennials to unmarried women to minority voters – required an economic change offer, not identity politics, to stay fulling engaged.

Clinton’s incomplete consolidation of Democrats and Sanders voters and failure to energize African Americans, unmarried women and millennials was known at these late decision points. Public polls a week before the election showed that white working class women were starting to pull away from Clinton and that the white working class men who favored Trump were even more determined to vote. But we did not know that the Clinton campaign would close the election by appealing to unity and group identity, experience and continuity and attacking Trump as divisive – and not the economy, change and the future.

Of course there are many head winds in an election like this, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign did impressively put herself into a clear and decisive lead when she stated her “mission” was building an economy that worked for all, not just those at the top – as she did at her convention and through the three debates in mid-October. She mocked Trump’s trickle-down economics on steroids. She condemned corporate irresponsibility and promised to battle for middle class families and she spoke passionately about an ambitious Roosevelt Institute-inspired economic agenda to “rewrite the rules” of the economy.(2)

Her failure at the very end – for the reasons we will discuss – should not obscure that her embracing that perspective put her in a strong position. She was starting to consolidate Democrats behind her, including those who opposed her in the primary. She was staring to win big margins with unmarried women and was improving with millennials. She held a strong position with women college graduates. Critically, she was nearly tied with white working class women who had gone for Mitt Romney by 19 points – and that support had proved resilient in the race with Trump.

And thus it should not be surprising that the electorate that put Donald Trump in the White House today wants bold, not incremental change. This is a country that still wants deep and long- term investments in America’s infrastructure and is ready to invest in our under-served communities. It wants to limit corporate power that reduces competition and innovation and reform trade, starting with a dramatic ability to prosecute and enforce trade laws.

Economic change election and the working class vote

Throughout this election cycle, polling conducted on behalf of the Roosevelt Institute and others revealed the potential of a “rewrite the rules” narrative, message and bold policy agenda to win broad and deep public support. It fit the times where voters wanted change and were tired of corporate interests dominating politics at the expense of the middle class.

It was also appealing to swing groups including white college graduates and white working class women. True, Trump always enjoyed big margins among the white working class men who identified with him, and they turned out for him early and in growing numbers. But there were points where Clinton was outperforming Obama with white working class women. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had the lead narrowing to 4-points before moving sharply away a week before the election.

Greenberg and Carville: Why Trump Won, Part 1

The following article is cross-posted from a Democracy Corps e-blast (website link here):

We are entering a period too awful to contemplate, and James and I thought it important to share our first take on what happened and why. Thankfully, Women’s Voices Women’s Vote Action Fund and the Roosevelt Institute supported this election night survey and critical research on the changing electorate and the economy throughout this cycle that allows us to offer unique perspective. There are extensive findings that we are only just beginning to fully explore and will continue to release to add texture to this complicated outcome. This note focuses on why people voted the way they did and what happened across this very diverse and divided electorate.

First, we believe Hillary Clinton and Democrats could have won this election if Democratic base voters turned out at higher numbers and appealed to enough white working class voters, particularly women, to win the Rust Belt.

Second, it should not be ignored that some of the reason for Trump’s upset is malicious interference by the Russian Federation and their allies at WikiLeaks, as well as reckless politics by the F.B.I. in the post-debate period. Battling back against this media coverage forced Clinton to take her foot off the pedal. She was unable to end the campaign turning out her voters by talking about the change they were demanding.

Democracy Corps’ research for WVWVAF and Roosevelt has consistently shown the importance of putting forward a progressive economic agenda and message of change to motivate a changing electorate, reach out to persuadable voters, and consolidate the Democratic base. In our polling we found that Hillary Clinton gains her biggest leads when she is calling for an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected, and puts forward bold policies to end trickle-down economics. Debate dial-meter testing for WVWVAF found voters became more enthusiastic about Clinton and viewed her more positively when she went after Trump for proposing massive tax-breaks for himself and failed to release his own tax returns. (View our debate dial meter group reporting here and here)

Instead, the campaign closed by attacking Trump and few voters remembered her bold economic plans and the change she was promising. The result was an election where the “New American Majority” did not turnout in anywhere near the numbers expected.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump was on message running on cleaning-up the political system, attacking Clinton as a tool of big business and Wall Street, and offering a reprieve from bad trade deals that cost American jobs and greater public investment. For those who voted for – or considered – Trump, his vow to repeal Obamacare and keep liberals off the Supreme Court were the most important reasons to cast their ballots. But nearly as important were his economic plans and how his business success prepared him to create jobs.

Trump’s hard-line immigration stance ranked fifth and may be an overstated factor in the outcome of the election. Even a plurality of Republicans say that “Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.

The arguments for Clinton that won her support were her experience, her temperament and suitability to serve as Commander in Chief, her capacity to govern for Americans of all backgrounds and her support for women on equal pay, the right to choose and funding Planned Parenthood. As we saw, that was her closing argument. Her plans to grow the economy by taxing the rich and investing in the middle class were overshadowed and only rank fifth in voter attention.

The attacks on Trump that registered among those who voted for Clinton and considered her concerned the hateful things he has said about vulnerable minority groups, his disrespect for women, and his inability to handle the nuclear codes given his thin-skin.  His plans to cut taxes on the rich, likely himself, and his refusal to release his tax returns scored even lower, and were not elevated enough to make an impression on voters.

Because the Clinton campaign ended up running on her experience, suitability to govern and openness to America’s diversity and women, but not on the economy and change, it is not surprising that the Democrats ended up best on uniting the country and reviving the middle class. Because they did not run on the economy and change, Republicans have a 6-point lead on handling the economy. And while voters questioned Trump’s capacity to serve as Commander in Chief, the GOP has a 10-point lead on keeping the country safe.

On Election Day, millennials and Hispanics – two of the groups that form the Rising American Electorate – were among the least engaged voting blocs, with obvious consequences (only 72 percent of Hispanics and 68 percent of millennials gave the highest rating of significance of this election on a 10-point scale).

Despite all that, the Rising American Electorate did become the majority of the vote for the first time. The groups of minorities, unmarried women and millennials who twice elected President Obama now formed 55 percent of voters, pushed up by the growth of millennials and Hispanics. African American voters held their share of the vote at 12 percent, while unmarried women still fell just short of being one-quarter of the voters. They helped Clinton win the popular vote.

White working class voters played a big part in the very late swing to Trump, particularly in the battleground states. This came in part from further consolidation of white working class male voters and elevated turnout, particularly in the rural areas and small towns in the Rust Belt. We always had Trump performing well here: he held a 36-point lead before the conventions, and in the end, won by 49-points with 72 percent of their vote.

Just as important was the late switch of white working class women. Hillary had been competitive among white non-college women after the debates, pushing Trump’s margin to 7-points.  But the disrupted close to the campaign saw those women move dramatically away, with Trump winning by 26 points, 7-points better than Romney.

These voters thought Trump was raising legitimate working class issues, and with the Clinton campaign mobilizing its diverse base and no longer talking about change, the white working class women moved to the Republicans in many states.

Obviously, we are only beginning to understand this new moment and what it means for progressives. We look forward to sharing the rest of our findings in the coming week.

This survey took place Monday, November 7 – Wednesday November 9, 2016 among 1,300 voters or (on Monday only) those with a high stated intention of voting in 2016.  In addition to a 900 voter base sample, oversamples of 200 Rising American Electorate voters (unmarried women, minorities and millennials) and 200 battleground state voters (AZ, FL, OH, IA, NC, NV, NH, PA, VA, WI) were included. Margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.27 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.  Of the 1,300 respondents, 65 percent were interviewed via cell phone in order to accurately sample the American electorate.