At The Monkey Cage, Amanda Clayton and Pär Zetterberg explore the ramifications of an expected “pink wave” in the midterms. Not pink in the sense of the blue-red spectrum (Democrat-Republican) , but in “the record number of women who have entered midterm congressional races.” If recent patterns hold, most of the 2018 women candidates will be Democrats, and if generic polling averages stay on course, there should be an increase in the percentage of congress members who are women.
For those who wonder what more women in congress might mean in terms of policy changes, Clayton and Zetterberg analyzed the experience of nations which have implemented “electoral gender quotas that require a certain minimum proportion of women in political institutions. Most countries in the world have adopted electoral gender quotas, with the majority doing so in the past 25 years…To see whether female representatives change government spending, we looked at annual government budget data that the World Bank collected from 139 countries from 1995 to 2012 in three categories: public health, education and the military.” Among their findings:
Countries whose quotas increase women’s representation by more than 10 percentage points see the most dramatic increases in health spending — jumping, on average, from 10.3 percent of total government expenditures in the budget years before quotas to 13.1 percent in the budget years afterward. That increase is more than a full percentage point higher than in countries that did not implement quotas during comparable periods.
Costa Rica, for example, implemented a gender quota in 2002 — and saw female representation jump from 19 percent to 35 percent of parliament. Before that jump, from 1995 to 2002, Costa Rica was spending 22.7 percent of its budget on public health on average every year. In the decade following the quota, health spending increased, on average, to 25.4 percent each year. That’s about $120 million more in government health funding each year.
We also examined two other budget categories: education and military spending. We see that military spending went down after quota adoption, changes that are relatively minor when measured as a percentage of total expenditures. But when we measure military spending relative to health spending, we see that ratio of health to military spending increases significantly after quotas are adopted, particularly in countries where quotas dramatically increased female representation.
However, add the authors, “We see no changes in education spending after countries adopt gender quotas.” In conclusion, they write that “The record number of women expected to enter Congress after November’s election may not bring the leaps in representation that often come with quota policies. But if other countries are any indication, they may bring with them a new set of government priorities.”
For the many millions of Americans struggling with health security issues, more women in congress could bring welcome change, and for Democrats, a stronger appeal to working families.
Dare I say it? The Democrats may actually be doing something right!
I get asked a lot by the press to comment on the Democratic civil war. It is always my sad duty to inform them that the rumors of war are greatly exaggerated. Folks are actually getting along pretty well and seem to have a solid idea of what they need to do to inflict a defeat on the merry band of lunatics running our country.
One guy who does get it is David Leonhardt. He has a terrific column in the Times on the actually-existing Democratic midterm campaign rather than the caricature of infighting factions favored by many reporters.
Leonhardt has this to say:
“Stacey Abrams and Conor Lamb are supposed to represent opposite poles of the Trump-era Democratic Party. She is the new progressive heroine — the first black woman to win a major-party nomination for governor, who will need a surge of liberal turnout to win Georgia. He is the new centrist hero — the white former Marine who flipped a Western Pennsylvania congressional district with support from gun-loving, abortion-opposing Trump voters.
But when you spend a little time listening to both Abrams and Lamb, you notice something that doesn’t fit the storyline: They sound a lot alike.
They emphasize the same issues, and talk about them in similar ways. They don’t come across as avatars of some Bernie-vs.-Hillary battle for the party’s soul. They come across as ideological soul mates, both upbeat populists who focus on health care, education, upward mobility and the dignity of work…
Yes, there are some tensions on the political left. But these tensions — over Obama-style incrementalism vs. Bernie-style purism, over the wisdom of talking about impeachment, over whether to woo or write off the white working class — are most intense among people who write and tweet about politics. Among Democrats running for office, the tensions are somewhere between mild and nonexistent.
Democratic candidates aren’t obsessed with President Trump, and they aren’t giving up on the white working class as irredeemably racist. They are running pocketbook campaigns that blast Republicans for trying to take health insurance from the middle class while bestowing tax cuts on the rich (charges that have the benefit of being true)….
The political scientist Theda Skocpol is among the sharpest observers of modern American politics, having studied the Obama presidency, the Tea Party reaction and now the Trump resistance. Skocpol and her colleagues are tracking Trump-leaning areas in four swing states, and she too has been struck by the Democrats’ relative unity. “Media pundits and even social scientists want to look for some kind of ideological divide,” she told me. “I just don’t see a huge set of divisions in the Democratic Party. They’re all talking about economic issues.
Doing so is smart, because it helps Democrats send the most powerful message in politics: I’m on your side — and my opponent isn’t. Americans really are divided on abortion, guns, race and other cultural issues, but they’re remarkably progressive on economics. When Democrats talk about health care, education and jobs, they can focus the white working class on the working-class part of its identity rather than the white part. And Democrats can fire up their base at the same time.
Abrams is a particularly good case study. In the primary, she argued that Democrats should stop chasing conservatives who were lost to the party and instead work to lift progressive turnout. But Abrams’s universal, populist message shows that she hasn’t given up on swing voters. Her message resembles the one that helped Barack Obama win over enough white voters in his 2012 re-election campaign.”
All correct. Now if he could just get his colleagues in the rest of the press to report this rather than the chimera of a Democratic civil war.
The conference will explore “how an explicit recognition of class can deepen our understanding of the structures and ideas that divide individuals, communities, societies, and nations across the globe. Presentations for this conference will consider how walls, borders, and other dividing lines–of both the material and figurative variety–are constructed, upheld, resisted, and dismantled.”
The program for the conference will feature more than three dozen roundtables, workshops and sessions on a broad range of sub-topics, including “Geographies of 20th- Century American Working-Class Culture,” “Globalization, Global Justice, and Populism,” “Race and Class in the South,” “The Future of Working- Class Movement-Building” and “Working-Class Cultures of Resistance,” to name just a few. For an updated program schedule, click here.
In his New York Times column, “Democrats Are Running a Smart, Populist Campaign,” David Leonhardt writes, “…Democrats are more united than many people realize — and are running a pretty smart midterm campaign…Yes, there are some tensions on the political left. But these tensions — over Obama-style incrementalism vs. Bernie-style purism, over the wisdom of talking about impeachment, over whether to woo or write off the white working class — are most intense among people who write and tweet about politics. Among Democrats running for office, the tensions are somewhere between mild and nonexistent.”
“Today the Democrats unveiled a new plank in their Better Deal agenda, an anti-corruption platform that both depicts the broken nature of the political system and puts reform at the forefront of any campaign to give regular people a voice in our democracy. It brings together the anti-Trump and populist-economics messages in a way that makes them inextricable,” writes David Dayan in his article “Democrats’ New Midterm Approach: It’s the Corruption, Stupid” at The Nation. “The agenda has three main components: voting rights, campaign-finance reform, and ethics laws. Democrats have been focused on the first two for a long time; both are critical to restoring a democracy where everyone counts…With ethics reform, the Democrats’ focus is unusually prominent, most directly attacking the era of outsize Trump corruption. Much of the agenda codifies into law concepts that had been unwritten rules, and it strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, whose only weapon currently is a kind of moral opprobrium, with stepped-up policing authority. It includes requiring that any lobbying conduct be publicly reported—what Senator Chuck Schumer calls closing the “Cohen loophole”—rewriting the bribery statutes to more broadly encompass corrupt self-dealing, and cementing that the president is not exempt from conflict-of-interest laws.”
David Catanese has an update on “The Democrats’ Labor Pains” at U.S. News. Subtitled “How can unions rebuild their alliance with a party warming to free trade?” Catanese explains that “The problem for labor is finding politicians who will loudly carry this banner at a time when Democrats and even independents are warming to freer trade. An expansive issue survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in December demonstrated an arresting realignment on the issue…While 72 percent of Democrats favored free trade over more trade restrictions, only 49 percent of Republicans agreed with that laissez faire principle. Nearly as many Republicans – 45 percent – chose more restrictions…In March, a national Quinnipiac University survey found that while nearly three-fifths of Republicans backed Trump’s aluminum and steel tariffs, almost three-fourths of Democrats opposed it.”
At slate.com Osita Nwanevu has a perceptive riff on long term strategy for Democrats, and notes that “it’s well past time to consider whether it’s any less quixotic to believe that the deep problems of the American economy—rising inequality, stagnant wages, long-impoverished communities, a vast racial wealth gap, and more—can be solved by the same package of tax credits, job training, and cheapskate safety net policies the Democratic Party has been offering for more than a quarter-century now. It is moreover a certainty that the most urgent problem facing America and the world today—climate change—can only be addressed by significant and unprecedented state intervention in the economy…In sum, Democratic leaders are probably right to believe that they can eke out marginal victories with moderate candidates in the near term. But the threat of a 2010 will follow every attempt to recreate 2006 and 2008, and an electoral strategy dependent on moderate and conservative candidates will undermine efforts to pass the policies Democrats will ostensibly want to win elections for in the first place, as was the case with the ACA and other fights early in the Obama administration. As it stands, the Democratic Party is likely to do well in November whether it adopts a long-term vision for itself and the country or not. Winning the midterms will be relatively easy. Winning the century will be harder.”
Read Ed Kilgore’s “The Joy of Voting byMail,” in which he notes, “As Dave Roberts, a distinguished environmental writer who is a resident of all-voting-by-mail Oregon (a system also embraced by Colorado and Washington) notes, voting by mail ought to be strongly considered as the wave of the future nationally. It has raised voter turnout every place it’s been used. It’s cheaper than voting systems that rely on polling places and polling workers. It is attractive to all sorts of voters — particularly people who may not find it easy to take off work to stand in line during working hours on a random Tuesday — who value convenience. Indeed, there’s not much of a downside for abandoning the old system…It’s something for election reformers — especially progressive election reformers — to think about seriously, if not this year (where it’s largely too late to change anything) then before the crucial 2020 election that will determine control not only of the White House and Congress, but of the state governments that will dictate the next decennial round of redistricting.”
You may remembert that recent Ipsos/Reuters poll that got lotsa buzz because it showed a big, new GOP lead in the generic ballot? Well, Taylor Link reports that the “Outlier poll that showed GOP lead in the race for Congress abruptly shifts back to the Democrats” at salon.com. As Link explains, “A poll that helps survey the generic Congressional ballot no longer shows a dramatic lead for the GOP, a drastic shift that will crush conservatives looking for evidence of a feeble blue wave this upcoming November…The Reuters/Ipsos poll indicated last week that Republicans attained a five-point lead in the ballot, a drastic bump considering Democrats had a plus-three margin in the previous two polls. Right-wing pundits were absolutely giddy over the turn of events, as they shared the new poll on social media to their then-disheartened audience…That same poll Hannity was referencing released new numbers on Sunday, which now report a seven-point lead for Democrats…As it stands, Democrats maintain a six-point margin, according to a composition of polls made by FiveThirtyEight.”
In her Washington Monthly post, “A New Strategy for Democrats in the Old South,” Nancy LeTourneau nicely distills Democratic prospects in the Georgia govenor’s race: “In a state where only 30 percent of eligible black voters are registered, white people are projected to be a minority by 2025 and Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at an abysmal 37 percent, party politics in Georgia are changing rapidly. Will 2018 be the year that those dynamics are strong enough that a focus on mobilizing disenfranchised voters can help elect the country’s first African American female governor? That is precisely what everyone will be watching come November…The other dynamic that is important to recognize in this governor’s race is that the “establishment” Republican, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, did not win a majority of votes in yesterday’s primary and faces a run-off with Secretary of State Brian Kemp in July. It is actually the Republican side where extremists are pulling the contest pretty far outside the mainstream…This election in the old South state of Georgia was destined to be an uphill battle for Democrats no matter who won the primaries. But with a dynamic candidate like Stacey Abrams working to mobilize disenfranchised voters and Republicans attempting to out-Trump each other to win the primary, it will be a test-case for whether a new Southern strategy for Democrats is developing on the horizon.”
For Dems who may be worrying excessively about Trump’s very modest uptick in his approval ratings and the 3.9 percent unemployment rate for April, The Economist magazine has unveiled a wonky new “prediction model for America’s mid-term elections,” with some encouraging data for Democrats. The methodology article is replete with jazzy graphs and is subtitled “Our model estimates both the national political climate and the nuances of each district.” Credit The Economist with putting a lot of thought and effort into their model. In one paragraph, the author(s) explain,
With just 38 House elections in the dataset, there are not enough historical examples available to tease out the individual impact of each of these variables with all the others held constant—particularly since many of them tend to point in the same direction in any given year. However, for the purposes of prediction, we did not need to know exactly how much each type of information matters when taken in isolation. Instead, we can be satisfied simply by determining which composite blend of all the ingredients yielded the most accurate forecasts when presented with data about an election that had not been used to train our model.
Got that? The methodology article gets even more impenetrable for lowly laypersons who prefer cutting to the chase over nuanced statistical analysis. But The Economist is also providing daily updates based on the model, and it will be interesting to see how they perform in the closing days of the 2018 elections. You’ll have to read the article to see the lovely charts, But yesterday, The Economist gave Dems an “around 2 in 3” chance of winning a House of Reps majority. “On average, we expect the Democrats to win a 9-seat majority,” a ballpark 222-213 advantage. That’s better than Sabato’s Crystal Ball analyst Kyle Kondik, who sees “a coin flip battle for the House” in his latest update.
As for the number of House seats in play:
Although every seat is up for election, the real battle for control of the House is fought in a much smaller array of seats. We rate 278 seats, about two-thirds of them, as “safe”—where one party has a better than 99% chance to win. Another 87 are rated as “solid” (with a 90-99% chance to win). That leaves the remaining 70 seats to determine which party will control the House.
Not that it tells us much about the House lineup after the elections, but the model sees Democrats getting 54.1 percent of midterm votes, compared to 45.9 percent for Republicans, who get a hefty helping hand from gerrymandering. The Economist notes that “In 2014, for example, the Democrats won a House seat for every 189,000 votes they received. The Republicans, by contrast, won a seat for every 162,000.”
Further, “In order to be favoured to win the House our model thinks the Democrats must win the two-party national popular vote by about 6.9 points. If as many people vote in 2018 as did in 2014, that would mean the Democrats need to win 5.2 million more votes than the Republicans.” The daily update notes in closing that Democrats lead in “the best measure of how the election is playing out across the country,” the generic ballot by 43-37.
No doubt there are plenty of factors that don’t fit so well into such predictive models, especially unexpected events that impact national security, like a terrorist attack, or a sudden market crash or natural disaster. And no model will change the political reality that Democrats have to improve their recruitment, training and support of candidates, which is a huge challenge, especially with an unprecedented number of candidates running nationwide in 2018.
Thinking about the Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary that occurred earlier this week, I offered some ruminations at New York as a long-time Georgia Democrat about the evolution of the party in the region:
It has been remarked upon often that Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams is bidding to become the nation’s first African-American woman to serve as a governor. But it is equally significant that she is the first African-American of either gender to be nominated by a major party for governor of her state, and a rarity nationally. If she wins in November (still an odds-defying accomplishment) she will be just the third elected African-American governor, and just the second from a former Confederate state.
The absence of African-American officeholders in the south was no accident during the period between Reconstruction and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when most black citizens in the region were disenfranchised or at best politically marginalized. Since then African-Americans have become a pivotal, often dominant factor in the southern Democratic Party as the two major parties have polarized both ideologically and racially. But to a remarkable extent southern black Democrats have been expected to loyally support white candidates who spent most of their time appealing to white swing voters, including those who at the presidential level routinely voted Republican. More often than not African-Americans were the silent partners in statewide southern politics, expected to confine their ambitions to majority-minority jurisdictions where their presence would not arouse a racial backlash.
The few exceptions to this rule helped confirm it in the minds of many southern white Democratic political professionals. In North Carolina, Harvey Gantt, a politically centrist African-American who had served as mayor of Charlotte, twice won Democratic nominations to take on the intensely reactionary U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. Gantt lost twice to racially saturated Helms campaigns in the 1990s. Another prominent black centrist, Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, ran for the U.S. Senate in Texas in 2002, losing to John Cornyn by a landslide.
The first African-American anywhere to win election as governor (he was later joined in that incredibly exclusive club by Massachusetts’s Deval Patrick) was Virginia’s Doug Wilder, who as sitting lieutenant governor ran behind his white ticket-mates in 1989 but still eked out a remarkable victory. Wilder was not (and still is not) easy to typecast ideologically; he ran for governor on an anti-crime and fiscal-responsibility platform. He was banned by the state’s system from running for a second consecutive term, and became a largely marginal and sometimes eccentric figure in statewide politics, though he did make a comeback as mayor of Richmond. Virginia now has an African-American lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, but it’s anybody’s guess whether he will ascend to the top job like Wilder did.
It has all but been forgotten that in Stacey Abrams’s own state of Georgia, two ideologically centrist African-American Democrats were elected to statewide office in three consecutive elections (1998, 2002, and 2006) before flaming out in unfortunately timed bids for higher office. Attorney General Thurbert Baker actually ran to the right of former governor Roy Barnes (who himself ran behind African-American Andrew Young in a 1990 gubernatorial race won by Zell Miller) in the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and lost. Labor Commissioner (an elected position in Georgia) Michael Thurmond actually won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate that same year, which was a terrible year for any Democrat to take on popular U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who defeated another rare African-American statewide nominee (and another perceived centrist), U.S. Representative Denise Majette (best known for upsetting Cynthia McKinney in a U.S. House primary in 2002), by a similar margin in 2004.
You see the pattern. African-Americans in the South have struggled to construct two-way biracial coalitions within the Democratic Party, and when they could it often required conspicuously nonprogressive messages. As the parties have continued to polarize, that path has become less viable than ever. There just aren’t that many white swing voters to whom to “reach out,” as the saying goes. Some may still try the old formula: in Mississippi, former congressman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, a darling of Clintonian New Democrats, is given some chance to win a special U.S. Senate election with the GOP split between appointed senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel, though there will be a post-November low-turnout runoff that will likely pit Espy against just one Republican.
But the very different strategy pursued by Stacey Abrams looks like the future of biracial Democratic politics in the South: a strongly progressive (though not abrasively so) African-American who can expand turnout among a rising minority population while still appealing to increasingly liberal white Democratic and independent voters as well. Interestingly, in the gubernatorial primary Abrams faced the relative novelty of a white progressive opponent in Stacey Evans, who differed little from Abrams on issues but whose entire campaign was based on the old strategy of a one-way biracial coalition (black voters supporting white candidates) and outreach to white swing voters. In a Democratic electorate that is now over 60 percent African-American, it’s not surprising that Abrams won. But her better than three-to-one margin over Evans showed she had built her own biracial coalition without a white skin — or conspicuous centrism.
One of the moving parts in this development was explained by Sean McElwee in a New York Timesop-ed this week: white Democrats are becoming not only more progressive, but more responsive to the kinds of racial-justice concerns their fellow Democrats from minority backgrounds care about. Within the Democratic Party, racial divisions are simply less compelling than they once were, even as minority politicians are taking a more active and visible role.
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nomineee Stacy Abrams not only beat her Democratic opponent, Stacy Evans, by a 3-1 margin; she also received more votes than the two Republican candidates, Brian Kemp and Casey Cagle, combined. Kemp and Cagle are now in a run-off that is already dividing Republicans. In his New York Times column, “In Georgia, Democrats Go With a Voter-Turnout Strategy,” David Leonhardt writes, “Last night, Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination in that Georgia governor’s race. She isn’t only the first black woman to be a major party nominee for governor anywhere in the country — a welcome milestone. Abrams has also made clear that she plans to win by motivating liberals more than winning over conservatives…“The approach of trying to create a coalition that is centered around converting Republicans has failed Democrats in the state of Georgia for the last 15 years,” she said recently…The Abrams approach will not be easy. The turnout of voters under 30, as well as Asian-Americans and Latinos, tends to be extremely low in midterms — each below 30 percent. By comparison, African-American voter turnout is substantially higher, almost as high as white turnout in midterms, despite years of voter suppression against African-Americans in many places.”
Vox’s P.R. Lockhart illuminates the critical role of Black political groups in Abrams’s landslide primary victory, noting that “this historic win didn’t happen by accident. It was the result of months of effort by an increasingly influential network of political groups and outreach initiatives, many of them helmed by black women, that are eager to build political power and influence in black communities.” Key groups that worked tirelessly for Abrams include, Glow Vote, Higher Heights, Democracy in Color, BlackPac, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the Center for Popular Democracy Action, “the New Georgia Project Action Fund, a division of the New Georgia Project, a group Abrams founded to register voters of color and boost their turnout in elections. Lockhart quotes Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, who explained that Abrams has “run a campaign that is a model for candidates all across the country on how to engage and excite Black voters.”
Here’s an interview with Abrams, conducted by Frank Ski at Atlanta’s V-103:
The Abrams landslide primary win may have helped another Black woman candidate in Georgia — Lucy McBath. As Jamilah King reports in her article, “Last Night Was Huge for Black Women in Georgia—and Not Just Because of Stacey Abrams: Lucy McBath will advance to a July run-off, putting her gun-safety message to the test in GA6.” at Mother Jones: “…Another victory of sorts was playing out in nearby DeKalb County, where first-time candidate Lucy McBath earned the most votes in the Democratic primary for Georgia’s sixth congressional district. Though it wasn’t the same kind of celebration as Abrams’—McBath didn’t top 50 percent of the vote, so she will now advance to a July run-off against businessman Kevin Abel—many in the chattering classes considered even getting to this point a real long shot. McBath is a black woman running on gun safety in Georgia, and, what’s more, she only entered the race for GA6 in April. If elected, McBath would be the only black woman in Georgia’s congressional delegation.” McBath could benefit from the intersection of two rising movements — Black women’s political empowerment and gun control.
“It’s been a long drought in statewide elections for Georgia Democrats, but the state’s shifting demographics along with President Trump’s unpopularity in Georgia — according to a Gallup poll, Mr. Trump had an approval rating of only 41 percent and a disapproval rating of 53 percent during 2017 — give Democrats some reason for optimism.” writes Alan Abramowitz in his New York Times op-ed, “Can Stacey Abrams Change the Way Democrats Win in the South?” Abramowitz adds, “One recent poll from Survey USA had Mr. Cagle leading Ms. Abrams by only five points in a general election matchup. And in Tuesday’s primary, Democratic turnout came close to matching Republican turnout — Democratic primary voters made up 48 percent of those who turned out…In the Survey USA poll, almost all Democratic identifiers supported Ms. Abrams and almost all Republican identifiers supported Mr. Cagle, with independents splitting evenly. If those voting patterns hold true in November, the outcome of the race will hinge on which party does a better job of energizing and turning out its base voters. Since 2002, Republicans have had the advantage in that regard. In nominating Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats are betting that anger at President Trump and a candidate with strong appeal to the state’s growing nonwhite electorate will drive enough Democratic voters to the polls to reverse that trend and make history.”
In their Washington Post article, “Stacey Abrams, Democrats’ newest Southern hope, looks to Virginia, Alabama for path to victory in Georgia,” Michael Scherer and Vanessa Wiliams note that ““It’s possible for a Democrat to win statewide office in Georgia, but it would have to be under unusual circumstances,” said Trey Hood, a professor and pollster at the University of Georgia, who has polled the race for local news organizations. “There would have to be probably depressed Republican turnout as well, and Abrams will have to win a certain share of the white vote.”…Hood points to a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the challenge facing Abrams. Based on the 2014 midterm turnout rate, if Abrams won 95 percent of the black vote, she would need to capture about 36 percent of the white vote to win a two-person race. In a January statewide poll by Hood, only 24 percent of white Georgia voters identified as Democrats.”
At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore’s post, “Stacey Abrams and the New Democratic Coalition in the South” puts Abram’s impressive victory in perspective: “In a Democratic electorate that is now over 60 percent African-American, it’s not surprising that Abrams won. But her better than three-to-one margin over Evans showed she had built her own biracial coalition without a white skin–or conspicuous centrism…One of the moving parts in this development was explained by Sean McElwee in a New York Times op-ed this week: white Democrats are becoming not only more progressive, but more responsive to the kinds of racial justice concerns their fellow-Democrats from minority backgrounds care about. Within the Democratic Party, racial divisions are simply less compelling than they once were, even as minority politicians are taking a more active and visible role.”
Ruy Teixeira makes the case that “Abrams must perform relatively well among white voters to win Georgia. There is a very simple reason for this. While the minority vote is large in Georgia, the white vote is much larger. It’s highly unlikely to be under 60 percent of the vote and will probably be a bit higher…Even in 2012, when Georgia black turnout was actually higher than white turnout (and way higher than white noncollege turnout), whites were still 62 percent of voters and blacks were just 32 percent…Clinton in 2016 actually did better than Obama in Georgia, losing the state by just 5 points, compared to Obama’s 8 point deficit. This improvement is entirely attributable to Clinton’s improved performance among whites, both college and noncollege. Granted, her absolute support levels were still low among these groups, but her relative improvement was enough to make the state significantly closer.”
In a state which seems to have more than its share of GOP voter suppression incidents, the Abrams campaign should take note of Josh Meyer’s post, “Midterms are in Putin’s crosshairs, ex-spy chief says” at Politico: “Not content with installing Donald Trump in the White House in 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now revising his sophisticated meddling operation in order to outflank U.S. security agencies and tip the scales in the upcoming congressional midterm races, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told POLITICO on Wednesday…Clapper made that assertion as part of a wide-ranging interview timed with the release of his memoirs about his 50-plus years in the U.S. intelligence community, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” which he wrote with Trey Brown…Clapper, 77, says he thinks the Kremlin, led personally by Putin, is already engaged in an ongoing and active influence effort that is even more elaborate than the one he believes was used during the 2016 campaign to swing the election.”
Keen-eyed observers of recent polling data will have noticed that Trump’s approval rating has edged up lately achieving the exalted level of 42 percent in 538’s rolling approval average. In addition, the generic Congressional ballot has also narrowed so that Democrats now have only a comparatively weak 5 point lead over the GOP in 538’s rolling average.
These figures are both the best Trump and the GOP have achieved for almost exactly a year. So…how worried should Democrats be?
Well, here’s the thing. Even as this trend has manifested itself, the Democrats’ prospects in specific 2018 races have remained very good–if anything, they have improved (see the link to Inside Elections’ latest rating changes). And of course, the results of elections that have already been held in 2017-18 have been nothing short of spectacular for the Democrats. Nate Cohn runs it down:
“On average, Democrats have run 14 points ahead of a district’s partisanship (as measured by the last two presidential elections, compared with the national popular vote) in special elections for Republican-held districts so far this cycle. They’ve run more than 20 points ahead on three occasions — Kansas’ Fourth, Pennsylvania’s 18th and Arizona’s Eighth — and that doesn’t include Doug Jones’s victory in the Alabama Senate race.
These Democratic over-performances are a startling departure from the Obama years, when congressional election results polarized along national political lines.
Over the more than 1,000 special and general House elections in Democratic-held districts in the Obama era, there were only four elections when the Republicans ran 20 points ahead of the district’s lean in presidential elections. This cycle’s Democrats have pulled it off three times out of seven.
In a broader historical context, though, the Democratic over-performance is not quite as startling. It is still impressive, but the Democrats ran 20 points ahead of a Republican-held district’s presidential partisanship in 31 races combined in 2006 and 2008.
Over all, the Democrats’ performance in 2018 special congressional elections looks a lot like their showing in open districts in 2006, and well above the average from wave elections in 1994, 2006, 2008 and 2010. On average, Democrats ran 14 points ahead of a district’s partisanship in open races in 2006 — exactly the same as the Democratic over-performance so far this cycle. The Democrats had a similar 10-point over-performance in 2008.”
So, there you have it. Some cause for concern, some cause for optimism. Where you land may depend partly on your personality type and partly on your preferred interpretation of the GOP’s recent polling uptick. Finally getting payoff from an improving economy? Endless press coverage of Trump scandals actually benefits Trump? Democratic malpractice? Just a blip? Not enough of a swing to counteract Democratic enthusiasm?
The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg, a founder of Democrracy Corps, and Page S. Gardner, president of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, is cross-posted from The Hill:
With approval ratings of 42 percent for President Trump and a dismal 18 percent for the Republican Congress, Democrats could be poised to win landslide victories in this year’s elections — from the U.S. House and Senate to governorships and state legislatures. But they’ll lose this opportunity if they don’t address the economic challenges confronting their strongest supporters, who are at risk of staying home on election day.
Struggling to stay even economically, and with a history of under-participating politically, the Democratic Party’s base consists largely of people of color, unmarried women and young people. Now numbering an estimated 133 million adults, these fast-growing groups constitute what we call the “Rising American Electorate,” or RAE. Since 2016, they’ve comprised a clear majority of the voting-age population.
The RAE still doesn’t register or vote in proportion to its increasing share of the population. Although they accounted for almost six in 10 people who were eligible to vote in 2016, these voters made up little more than half (52.6 percent) of the voting electorate — and, compared to past elections, that turnout was a high watermark.
Research from the Voter Participation Center shows that 40 million voters from 2016 won’t cast ballots in 2018, and two-thirds of these “drop-off “voters will be members of the RAE. In the effort to engage this emerging electoral majority, the stakes couldn’t be higher — for the Democratic Party and the democratic process. Having suffered discrimination by race, gender, ethnicity and marital status, the RAE has been overlooked, underrepresented and underserved by every level of government.
Over the last few elections, RAE members have made progress in closing the gap and are a larger share of the electorate – but there is still work to do. If their increasing representation is reversed in November, the political system will lose legitimacy and public policies will become disconnected from the fastest-growing segments of society, with disastrous consequences for our country.
While President Trump and his critics squabble, the danger of disconnection between the RAE and the political process is great — and growing. Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund and Democracy Corps just conducted groundbreaking research that concentrated on Democratic base voters and potential swing voters in 12 battleground states.
The findings should serve as a wakeup call: The Democrats’ momentum has stalled because the party isn’t focusing enough on the economic and health care challenges confronting its base supporters as well as swing voters, particularly white working-class women. (This failure is bipartisan: While some African-Americans, Latinos, unmarried women and young people are tuning out on the Democrats, they aren’t turning to the Republicans.)
In order to reconnect with the RAE, Democrats should not be distracted by the Trump administration’s boasts of a “booming economy.” Democratic base voters and white working-class women are struggling to survive in a world very different from Washington and Wall Street. Their wages aren’t keeping up with rising costs, especially the cost of health care. Some 70 percent of African-Americans and white unmarried women say they haven’t benefited from the GOP tax cut, as do about 60 percent of Hispanics and white working-class women. These voters are also concerned that tax cuts that reward the rich and add trillions of dollars to the deficit will be paid for by cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In this research, these voters respond to an economic message that says our elected officials must do better than a short-term spending spree that endangers retirement security for older Americans, health care for families, and education. Saddened by school shootings, disgusted by the lack of progress on commonsense gun safety from politicians, and inspired by student protests, millennials also respond to appeals about gun safety, including universal background checks and ban on assault-style weapons, as well as the economic message.
These messages speak to RAE members and increase interest in the 2018 elections across the board, including among millennials. While only 37 percent of the RAE expressed great interest in voting when first asked, this jumps to 43 percent after hearing messages in touch with their daily struggles.
That’s good news for anyone who is concerned with revitalizing representative government. When a majority of Americans — unmarried women, people of color and young people — can cast their ballots, give voice to their concerns, and hold their elected officials accountable, then public policies will be more effective and we will set a powerful example to the world that American democracy is stronger than ever.
“On the day after the Ohio primary election, President Trump tweeted about Michael DeWine’s victory in the Republican gubernatorial contest: “Congratulations to Mike DeWine on his big win in the Great State of Ohio. He will be great Governor with a heavy focus on HealthCare and Jobs. His Socialist opponent in November should not do well, a big failure in last job!” With less hyperbole (and fewer capital letters) Politiconoted a “lack of enthusiasm” among Ohio Democrats, who selected Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general and then the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as their gubernatorial candidate. Statewide, 147,000 fewer Democratic voted than Republicans, and DeWine received 73,000 more votes than Cordray. DeWine also received more votes than Cordray in 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Based on these numbers, Ohio Republicans seem to be doing just fine.
But primaries aren’t always good predictors of general elections, and Democrats have several reasons to be more optimistic than the turnout numbers suggest. As David Peppers, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), has pointed out, uncompetitive races might have kept voter turnout low for his party’s primary. Even more important, while the raw numbers make the gap between Republican and Democratic turnout seem huge, as a percentage of primary votes cast, Democrats gained ground this year. In 2016, Republicans got 62.5 percent of the state’s 3.2 million primary votes. This year, they won 827,039 votes out a total of 1,524777, or just 54.2 percent. That is a significant drop, especially considering that Ohio Republicans significantly outspent Democrats in the primaries.
Does the drop reflect a return to the Democratic Party by voters who crossed over to vote Republican in 2016? Or did those swing voters just not turn out for the primary? Until we have more data, it’s hard to tell. But regardless of the reason, the gap between the parties seems to be narrowing—a shift that could help Democrats this fall.
Any time new state-by-state data about Trump’s popularity comes out, I am very focused on those once-blue “Heartland” states that shocked the world in 2016 and lifted him to the presidency. So I wrote about some new Morning Consult findings at New York:
The president’s ratings among registered voters are underwater (more negative than positive) in the very heartland states he flipped from a past heritage of Democratic voting in 2016: Wisconsin (-12), Michigan (-9), Iowa (-7), Ohio (-4), and Pennsylvania (-4). In the short term, that matters because all these states other than Iowa have Senate races in November, and there are a total of 12 highly competitive House races among them (according to the Cook Political Report).
There are some other Trump ’16 states where his high standing has eroded significantly, including six that are holding Senate races this year: Arizona (+2), Montana (+3), Florida (+5), Missouri (+5), Texas (+5), North Dakota (+6), and Indiana (+8). There are other 2018 Senate battlegrounds, however, where POTUS is still very popular, such as Tennessee (+20), Mississippi (+23), and West Virginia (+27).
It may be argued that Trump did, after all, win in 2016 despite poor favorability ratings. But presidential elections are comparative, and Trump was fortunate to face a Democratic opponent with pretty bad favorability ratings as well. Since midterms are typically more of a straight-up referendum on the president (and are likely to be so even more with a president who dominates the news like this one has), lack of presidential popularity should be a much bigger deal. Yes, Trump’s national approval ratings have drifted upward in 2018, but are still well south of 50 percent. And there’s one bit of historical data from Gallup that ought to especially worry Republicans: the parties of presidents facing midterms with job approval ratings below 50 percent have on average lost 36 House seats.
Of course, 2020 is a different matter, and what happens then will depend on a thousand variables, including the identity of Trump’s Democratic opponent (assuming he’s running for reelection). But let’s don’t forget he won in the first place by executing what amounts to an inside straight based on extremely narrow wins in heartland states in the context of a national popular-vote defeat. And that’s why we might pay especially close attention to how his party does this November in those very states.