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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Democratic Strategist

Survey Shows Need for New Democratic Message Platform in Key Midterm Battlegrounds

The following memo by Page Gardner of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Research and Nancy Zdunkewicz of Democracy Corps, is cross-posted from Democracy Corps:

Democrats sit at the edge of a landslide repudiation of President Trump and Republicans – in the Congress and states where they govern in November. Though their momentum has stalled in the last few months, Democrats have important opportunities with minorities, millennials, and unmarried women, and, to some extent, white working class women, that will allow them to increase the number of competitive races and dominate in many battlegrounds in 2018. This is according to the first of three waves of a phone survey (conducted mostly on cell-phones) of registered voters and a coordinated on-going web-panel of more than 3,100 target voters in 12 states that include 12 Governor races, 10 Senate races, and 18 races in DCCC battleground districts. This suite of research provides clear guidance for progressives to get on the winning track.1

Democratic victories in 2017 and 2018 were the result of differential turnout and strong perfor- mance across base and swing groups. Compared to 2016, there is a greater belief that the results of elections matter. But in the past few months, Democrats have appeared less focused on the economic and health care battles that most engage anti-Trump voters; at the same time, Republican base voters, especially white working class men, could finally point to a signature conservative policy achievement in the new tax cut law, where before they were grasping for news to justify their vote. This new research shows an evolved message as well as attacks on Trump and Republicans that allow Democrats to reclaim their footing.

The advice is straightforward: take away the GOP’s presumed strengths – the state of the macroeconomy and the new Republican tax cut – and make the most of their weaknesses on key issues that go to the heart of the case against Republican Trump-ism.

READ MORE


Political Strategy Notes

“To take back the majority in the House this November, political scientists calculate Democrats will have to win the popular vote by an extra 7 to 11 percent to overcome lines drawn by Republicans to keep them out.” notes Amber Phillips in her article, “Ohio voters just made gerrymandering more trouble than it’s worth” at The Fix. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that if Democrats can’t win back a seat at the table for drawing maps by the time the 2020 Census comes out, they could be locked out of power for a generation.” On Tuesday, “Ohio voters decided to limit one party’s power to draw congressional lines that would lock the other out of power for a decade. Advocates say their success in Ohio on Tuesday could be the start of a record-breaking year for redistricting reform, which could be on the ballot in five more states. And that raises the question: Are voters who are sick of Washington now turning their frustration to gerrymandering?”

At slate.com, Josh Voorhees reports that “Women keep winning. On Tuesday night, nearly two-thirds of the women running in congressional primaries won their nomination. Overall, female candidates snagged 27 of the 81 major party House nominations that were up for grabs in Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia. That continues a trend that began with the nation’s first primary in Texas this year and then seemed to stall a bit in the second, in Illinois later that same month…According to Gender Watch 2018, a project of the nonpartisan Center for American Women and Politics, 22 of the 31 women running in a House Democratic primary on Tuesday won the nomination. That means women will make up a majority of the party’s 40 congressional nominees in those states.”

From Ronald Brownstein’s take on the primaries at the Atlantic: “The results of Tuesday’s primary elections simultaneously bolstered the Republican Party mainstream and demonstrated how much ground it has yielded to Donald Trump, particularly on the volatile issue of immigration….In several key races, GOP primary voters rejected candidates who presented themselves as the most ardent acolytes of Trump, in terms of style, political agenda, or both. But the relatively more mainstream alternatives triumphed in those contests only after embracing much, or all, of Trump’s hostility toward immigration. That dynamic underscores Trump’s success at eroding resistance in the GOP toward his racially infused nationalism. And that could prove a defining gamble for the party in a nation inexorably growing more diverse…But in the broader electorate, roughly three-fifths of Americans have opposed building the border wall and an even higher share has supported some legal status for the undocumented. While sanctuary policies can be more difficult ground for Democrats to defend, polls consistently show that significantly more Americans believe immigration strengthens, rather than weakens, the country; the margin was greater than 2 to 1, for instance, in an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released last September.”

“Donald Trump’s disgraceful personal behavior makes him a very tempting target. But there’s not much more that any Democratic can say about Trump that voters haven’t heard already,” writes Democratic pollster Brad Bannon in “A winning strategy for Democrats in 2020: populism, not Trump bashing” at The Hill. “To address Trump’s failure to help working families, Democrats should challenge his tax cuts for corporations, which have led to cuts in spending for education and health care. And to get there, the Democratic presidential hopefuls have an obligation to outline their approach to improve the economy for working families…A powerful populist economic message will attract voters. Personal attacks on Trump will distract people. It’s not enough for Democratic presidential candidates to bash Trump. Presidential hopefuls will also need to lay out their program for moving America forward. The same goes for Democratic Party leaders who want to turn out the party base to vote this year in the midterm elections.”

A new study by Politico indicates that “Trump thrives in areas that lack traditional news outlets: Relentless use of social media and partisan outlets helped him swamp Clinton and exceed Romney’s performance in places lacking trusted local news media.” Shawn Musgrave and Andrew Nussbaum note that “Trump outperformed the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in counties with the lowest numbers of news subscribers, but didn’t do nearly as well in areas with heavier circulation.” Also, “Trump struggled against Clinton in places with more news subscribers: Counties in the top 10 percent of subscription rates were twice as likely to go for Clinton as those in the lowest 10 percent. Clinton was also more than 3.7 times as likely to beat former President Barack Obama’s 2012 performance in counties in the top 10 percent compared to those in the lowest 10 percent — the driest of the so-called news deserts.” Clearly, Democrats have to expand and intensify their social media outreach in rural areas, if they want to improve their prospects beyond the suburbs.

In a FiveThirtyEight.com roundtable, Politics Editor Micah Cohen shares some polling on impeachmant: “In April, Monmouth University asked, “Do you think President Trump should be impeached and compelled to leave the presidency, or not?” and 39 percent said “should” vs. 56 percent who said “not.”…A Quinnipiac poll in April found 38 percent of people think Trump should be impeached and removed; 55 percent do not…A new CBS News poll found that 30 percent of people would be more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate who supports impeachment; 40 percent said less likely. (Twenty-nine percent were unsure or didn’t answer.)…But there’s obviously a big partisan split; here’s the party breakdown from a Marist/NPR poll…”

Impeachment advocates might also give some thought to “Trump Is No Longer the Worst Person in Government,” by WaPo columnist George F. Will, who notes: “Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing…Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”


Women Aren’t the Only “Risky” Candidates–By a Long Shot

In the wake of the sudden, shocking, self-immolation of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s political career, I thought a bit about the broader implications and wrote it all up for New York:

[P]erhaps we should no longer be shocked by incidents like this. Here’s Esquire’s Charles Pierce [on the subject]:

“The downfall of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman completes the unholy trinity of prominent liberal New York politicians whose careers went into the acid bath because, at one level or another, they failed to see women as actual human beings. Eliot Spitzer got involved with a prostitution ring. Anthony Weiner used women as sounding boards for his own pleasure. And Schneiderman, allegedly, physically assaulted his romantic partners. And, in this, again, political pundits learn the lesson that gets drummed into every sportswriter over and over: none of us really know these guys.”

It’s not like you could see Schneiderman’s disgrace coming via some misogynistic political impulse. As David Freedlander notes, he was a progressive role model:

“Schneiderman was the scion of a wealthy Manhattan lawyer who donated generously to causes like Planned Parenthood and public radio. He came up through the world of public interest law, one of those do-good types who keep protesters away from abortion clinics and government running with a minimum of corruption.”

But even if he is a lefty “golden boy” rather than a right-wing “good old boy,” Schneiderman is, after all, a boy. And at some point, people should begin to wonder if placing big bets on male politicians at this particular juncture of history is a mite risky, all else being equal. Indeed, if equity or fair representation isn’t a good enough reason for 2018 to be a “Year of the Woman,” the significantly lower likelihood of female candidates turning out to be abusive could be the clincher, at least until pre-#MeToo-movement generations have passed from the scene. I’m not talking about any sort of ban or crusade against members of my own gender, but just a long look at the growing number of celebrities facing a reckoning and a realistic assessment of the odds of a random politician conflating power with opportunities for coercive sex.

This is true even at the highest levels of politics and government. This isn’t the sort of thing that tends to make it into print, but I cannot tell you how many times progressive friends and acquaintances (including serious feminists) have told me that after what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats would be foolish to run another woman against Donald Trump in 2020, encouraging the same kind of sexist voter reactions and media coverage that beset HRC. From that perspective, the ontological necessity of denying Trump a second term outweighs another assault on the country’s most important glass ceiling; let Nikki Haley or (shudder) Joni Ernst become the first woman to serve as president and defang electoral sexism once and for all.

The reckoning, though, ought to make Democrats think less about the perils of a female nominee and a more about the potentially serious consequences of a male nominee who may, like Schneiderman, have a hidden habit of treating his success as a license to act in a beastly manner out of the public eye. Yes, all human beings, and certainly all politicians, are in some respects weak and fallible. But let’s face it: the kind of sins that tend to lose elections are not equally distributed between the sexes.


Teixeira: Progressive Coalition Now Far Broader Than Industrial Working-Class

The following post by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis (cross-posted from his facebook page):

On Marx’s 200th Birthday: Farewell to the Proletariat

Paul Mason, my favorite radical left writer, has another great piece out in his series on Open Democracy. He asks:

“We can only move forward if we can answer the…question: who wants to change the world, and who has the agency to do it?”

He answers:

“After reporting on the 2011 revolts, and observing the similarities between the people in the streets and squares of Cairo, Athens and New York City, I became convinced that a new kind of person had emerged, which sociologists labelled the “networked individual”.

Networked technology, combined with high levels of education and personal freedom have created a new historical subject across most countries and cultures which will supplant the industrial working class in the progressive project, just as they replaced the cottage weavers and artisans of the 18th century.

Orthodox Marxists are appalled by this proposal, and for good reason. If the classic proletariat, owning no substantial property and destined to spontaneously solidaristic ways of life, is not in fact destined to overthrow class society, then a key tenet of Marxism is disproved.

This, as I argued in ‘Postcapitalism’, is the inevitable conclusion we have to draw from 200+ years of working class history. The working class always wanted to go beyond the piecemeal reforms offered by parliamentary socialists like Beatrice Webb, but never – outside extreme circumstances – wanted to impose the proletarian dictatorship proposed by Marx. Nor during the rare times that workers’ council-type bodies gained power were the working class able to secure these institutions against the influence of outside parties and bureaucracies.

The actual 200 year record of the proletariat is heroic: it wanted control and cultural space within capitalism and would fight to the death for this, even against parties claiming to be communist. But it persistently refused to play the role of capitalism’s gravedigger.”

I think this is exactly right. In this light the political configurations of today make sense. Conversely seeing the industrial working class as the leader of the progressive parade is at best confusing, at worst utterly depressing.

I would add to Mason’s analysis something he touches on only briefly: the inescapable demographic/structural facts of our situation.

Broadly speaking, the progressive coalition for perhaps 150 years—but most robustly for the hundred years between 1870 and 1970—was primarily based in the industrial working class (though of course additional support, especially for the non-socialist left, came from reformist elements of the white collar middle class and the agrarian sector). This coalition led by the industrial working class ebbed and flowed in this period but reached its peak of power and influence in the 30 years after World War II, resulting in the progressive welfare state that dominated the Western world. But this dominance did not last and one of the key reasons is very simple: the industrial working class had typically peaked in size by 1970 (in some countries somewhat earlier) and after 1970 experienced a precipitous decline. The general pattern has been a decline from 40-50 percent of the workforce to only around a quarter in a very short historical time span.

For example, in Germany the proportion of blue collar workers in the workforce has been cut in half since the late 1950’s to just over one-quarter of the workforce today, while the proportion of white collar workers has nearly tripled to 57 percent . Similarly, in Sweden the proportion of blue collar workers has been cut in half to one quarter of the workforce just since the mid-1970’s .

Closely related to this trend, employment in the industrial sector has dropped rapidly across countries, replaced by employment in the service sector. In Germany, the industrial sector has declined from 55 percent of employment in 1950 to just 26 percent today . Similarly, in the Netherlands industrial employment dropped from 40 to 20 percent of the workforce between 1950 and 2003 and in the UK from 47 to 24 percent over the same period .

In the United States, these changes have, if anything, been even stronger. The blue collar workforce is now down to just 21 percent of workers and industrial employment is down to just 16 percent .

To put these changes in perspective, consider that industrial employment in the United States, after rising for around 150 years, is now back roughly back to the level it was in 1820, when 70 percent of employment was agricultural . And now services are well over three-quarters of employment, so agriculture and services have essentially swapped places since 1820, while industry over this nearly 200 year time span has wound up back in the same place as a share of employment.

The profound significance of this remarkable change has yet to be fully absorbed by the left. Surely it is of earth-shaking significance that the class upon which progressive coalitions were built for so long has subsided back to its level of the early 1800’s.

And there are related changes that deepen the significance of this shift in the class structure. For example, union membership, a traditional driver of left voting, has been steadily dropping across countries, as well as shifting its composition toward public sector employees. In the United States, union membership peaked at 35 percent of the non-agricultural workforce in the mid-1950’s and is now down to about 11 percent and even lower (7 percent) in the private sector .

Similarly, in the Netherlands, union membership has dropped from 37 to 21 percent of the workforce between 1979 and 2007. In Germany over the same period, unionization dropped from 35 to 20 percent. In the UK, the decline was from 52 to 29 percent; in Spain, from 43 to 15 percent . Only the Nordic countries have been able to maintain their high union membership rates at close to their historic levels.

But even more significant is the glaring fact that, as the industrial working class has declined in numbers, it has become less supportive of traditional left parties. In Sweden, the social democrats’ share of the LO (blue collar workers union) vote has declined by 20 points from 1982 to 2010. In Denmark, social democrats’ share of the traditional working class vote declined by 17 points from the 1960’s to the 1990’s, in the UK by 18 points from the 1960’s to the 2000’s and in France (second round Presidential) by 19 points from 1974 to 2007. And in the United States, the white sector of the working class is now more likely to vote Republican than Democratic in most elections.

Outside of the US, there is also considerable variation in where the lost support from blue collar workers is going. Some of it is going to the traditional right but in countries with strong multi-party systems much of that lost support has been finding its way to parties of the populist right (e.g., the Freedom Party in Netherlands, the National Front in France, the Sweden Democrats in Sweden, the Danish People’s Party in Denmark, JOBBIK in Hungary) A much smaller portion has typically migrated to parties of the populist left (e.g., the Socialist Party in Netherlands, the Left Party in Germany, the Socialist People’s Party in Denmark). However, the recent emergence of new left populist parties like Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece indicates that the situation may be more fluid in Southern Europe.

In short, the old progressive coalition is dead; by dint of declining numbers and attenuating support, the industrial working class can no longer play a leading role in the broad left. The ongoing (indeed, never-ending) struggle to reform capitalism will have to be waged on a new basis.

The left in the US is probably the farthest along in absorbing the implications of this change and building a new progressive coalition. Partially this reflects the fact that modernizing structural change is somewhat farther along in the US, creating new left constituencies at a particularly rapid rate. But if also reflects the advantage the US left gains from the simple two party nature of the US political system—the Democratic Party is the natural, indeed only viable, vehicle for progressive constituencies, new and old. By contrast, in Europe, to a greater or less degree, the multiparty nature of political systems has brought to the fore a variety of left socialist, ecological (green) and social liberal parties to compete with social democrats, the traditional parties of the industrial working class. To make things even more complicated, these alternative left parties typically do disproportionately well among new constituencies, a development social democrats have had a hard time accepting. This has made it even harder in these countries to fully harness the political power of emerging constituencies.

These emerging constituencies reflect the broad structural shift away from manufacturing and toward a postindustrial, knowledge-based society embedded in a global economy. Accompanying this shift have been changes in family and values norms—lowered fertility, diversity in family forms, rise of postmaterial values, decline of traditional religion—sometimes referred to as the Second Demographic Transition . Together these changes have given rise to an explosion of left-leaning groups that is making up for the decline of the traditional working class and powering the emergence of new left coalitions across the advanced Western world. Conservatives, in contrast, are relying ever more heavily on declining social sectors—very much including the traditional working class–to buoy their electoral fortunes.

So there we are. On Marx’s 200th birthday, let us finally discard the proletariat as the historical subject in the progressive project and accept that we are playing in a different ballgame. The goal of social justice remains but the players have fundamentally changed.


Macomb and America’s new political moment: Learning from Obama-Trump working class voters in Macomb and Democratic base groups in greater Detroit

The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg of Greenberg Research and Nancy Zdunkewicz of Democracy Corps, is cross-posted from Democracy Corps:

On the one-year anniversary of the Trump presidency, Democracy Corps traveled to Michigan to speak with the white working class Obama-Trump voters of Macomb County, the African Amer- ican women of Detroit and the college educated women of suburban Southfield. Each, in their own way, had contributed to one of the most unlikely political outcomes in American history in 2016; and now, each is contributing to an unprecedented level of politicization, polarization and genuine fear for the future of the country. That is the consequence of the Trump election and the context as the country heads into the 2018 election.

This research comes a year after Democracy Corps and The Roosevelt Institute held our first post-2016 focus groups in Macomb County. Democracy Corps and the American Federation of Teachers returned to Macomb to catch up with these Trump voters and Detroit-area base voters.1

The stakes are so elevated in this political moment that both sides speak about a virtual “civil war” in the country, and critically, in their own families. Ordinary voters in focus groups now insist on talking about politics, national issues and the state of the country; they will not be dis- tracted by our moderators who attempt to open conversations with popular culture and entertain- ment. Once participants realize they are in a room with fellow Trump or Clinton voters, they rush to politics. It sucks all the oxygen out of the room.

The anti-Trump voters are consolidated and motivated to resist the Trump presidency. They are seeking out tools and information to win arguments and maximize their engagement and are in- creasingly intent to vote. The college graduate women seemed as much a base, anti-Trump group as the African Americans. The latter said that they won’t make the same mistake again, as the last election allowed so many racists to come out of the closet.

A healthy diet of Fox News is feeding the white working class men fending off the challenges of Trump’s opponents, including those within their own families. They have taken a lot of heat from the millennials and children in their own families, but feel vindicated that a businessman like Trump has produced a strong macro-economy and kept his promises on immigration. They continue to appreciate how he speaks his mind, unlike a typical politician.

But the national drama has tested the resolve of the younger white working class ‘Obama- Trump’ women, especially those under 45 years old. They more openly express their concerns and doubts. They are primarily worried about rising health care costs, the quality of public edu- cation, safety from gun violence, and whether the president will sell out working people by going after entitlements.

From the white working class to African Americans to the college educated suburbs, voter con- sciousness is being shaped by the political pressure cooker set to explode in November.

(1 Democracy Corps and the American Federation of Teachers conducted focus groups on March 7-8, 2018 with white working class Obama-Trump voters and Trump-Democrats in Macomb County, MI and African American women from Detroit, MI. Democracy Corps conducted a focus group with white college-graduate women in Southfield, MI on behalf of The American Prospect on March 9, 2018.)

The politicized, polarized civil war

Voters across ‘the resistance’ and ‘Trump world’ use the same language to describe their feelings about the way things are going in the country. They are “terrified,” “nervous,” “depressed,” and “distraught” because of the political climate, and that is compounded by their fear of gun violence.


Political Strategy Notes

CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer’s “Democrats, focus on midterms — not Trump impeachment talk” pinpoints the party’s 2018 dilemma: “The biggest challenge for Democrats is to avoid letting anti-Trump fervor drown out their own message. To be sure, attacking the President is often an important part of wave elections. Though they already had control of the House in 1982, Democrats expanded their majority by urging voters to take a stand against the Reagan Revolution. In 1994, Newt Gingrich used President Bill Clinton — and his failed health care plan — as a foil to excite voters to turn out in the election. Nancy Pelosi returned the favor in 2006 as Democrats were determined to send a message to President George W. Bush, just as Tea Party Republicans did in 2010 when they took back the House.” However, “Democrats are making a big political bet if they think that the news over Russia, payments to porn stars and ongoing lies will be enough to bring voters out to the polls. This is especially risky given that unemployment is now at historically low 3.9% and Trump might be on the cusp of helping to orchestrate a major peace deal between North and South Korea…Democrats must avoid two big pitfalls — failing to deliver a compelling agenda and dampening their own turnout though excessively hard-line tactics in the primaries. And that could leave Republicans in much better shape than they otherwise would be in the age of Trump.”

The Washington Post provides the following video clip, explaining “How Democrats Are Planning to Take Back Power“:

At npr.com, Jessica Taylor reports that “Republican Fears About Holding The Senate Start To Sink In,” and observes, “In conversations with several top GOP strategists, nearly all conceded that the overwhelming Democratic enthusiasm they’re facing this November is incredibly worrisome. Most still think it’s a better than even chance that they do keep the Senate — albeit narrowly — but it’s no longer out of the realm of possibility that the upper chamber could change hands, especially given the volatility of the GOP’s two-seat majority…Lackluster fundraising as of late from GOP challengers and stronger-than-expected hauls from Democratic incumbents has further stoked worry among Republicans. Taylor probes the political dynamics of ther most vulnerable senate seats of both Democrats and Repubicans and notes, “Tennessee has emerged as the biggest wildcard that could make or break the Senate majority for both parties. Democrats scored a major coup by convincing former Gov. Phil Bredesen to enter the race after frequent Trump critic and GOP Sen. Bob Corker announced he wouldn’t run for re-election.”

In FiveThirtyEight article, “Democrats’ Horrible 2018 Senate Map Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time” Nathaniel Rakitch writes, “Still, Democrats should probably be thrilled with an overperformance of even half that. It all comes back to that pesky Republican bias in the Senate — and specifically its lopsided distribution. In short, 2018 could be not just bad, but a veritable armaggeddon for Senate Democrats. They should count their lucky stars that their worst-case map looks like it’s going to coincide with their best-case turnout environment.” Rakitch cites Demo rats “healthy lead in generic-ballot polling,” but adds that “Democrats need to overperform by a whopping 11 seats in order to snag a majority. Still, Democrats should probably be thrilled with an overperformance of even half that…They should count their lucky stars that their worst-case map looks like it’s going to coincide with their best-case turnout environment.”

In another FiveThirtyEight post, “What’s At Stake In The First Big Primary Day Of 2018,” Rakich previews tommorrow’s primary contests and sets the stage with a trio of questions: “Will a new political dynasty be born? Will a man not quite a year removed from prison become the GOP’s candidate for Senate? Will Dennis Kucinich finally win a nomination — 14 years after his first quixotic presidential bid?” rackich writes, “These things could all happen Tuesday, primary day in the great states of Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. As opposed to recent special election days, when the entire political world turned its eyes to a single district, we’ll be dividing our attention among several key contests as the results come in. There are lots of weird, interesting races, but the most significant takeaway will be whether the Democratic and Republican parties are nominating strong candidates for the fall.” Rakitch provides in-depth insights about several of the major races.

Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin’s NYT op-ed “You Can’t Separate Money From Culture” explores the “misguided debate about whether culture or economics was the driving force in Mr. Trump’s win.” Cherlin argues that “those who try to distinguish between the explanatory power of stagnant wages and a declining industrial base on the one hand, and anxieties about the ascent of minority groups on the other, miss the point: These are not two different factors but two sides of the same coin…astute scholars do not see a wall between economics and culture. They acknowledge that financial hardship affects the daily lives of working-class Americans, but they add that how they respond is based on cultural beliefs that may lead them to scapegoat minority groups…People who are frustrated by their lack of progress may still try to defend the dignity of their work. It is a mistake to see economics and culture as distinct forces. Both propelled Mr. Trump to victory.”

Few political campaign media specialists will be surprised by the title and subtitle of Steven Musil’s CNET article, “Most Facebook users in US still loyal to social networking giant, poll finds: Three-quarters of America’s Facebook users say they use the social network as often or more frequently since a data scandal broke in March.” Sure millions of FB members are ticked off somewhat by revelations of compromised privacy. But anyone who believed that social media platform’s privacy protections were iron-clad was inviting disappointment. Musil notes, “User loyalty remains high with users of the social network, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online poll released Sunday that found about half of Facebook’s American users hadn’t recently changed the amount that they used the site. Indeed, another quarter said they were using it more. Of the approximaely one-quarter of users who said they were using it less frequently, don’t be shocked if they come back.

Further, Elizabeth Grieco reports at the Pew Research Center ‘FacTank’ that “Facebook claims the largest share of social media news consumers, and its news users are much more likely to rely solely on that site for news. Just under half (45%) of U.S. adults use Facebook for news. Half of Facebook’s news users get news from that social media site alone, with just one-in-five relying on three or more sites for news.” According to a survey by statista.com reported in January 2018, “58.3 million U.S. Facebook users were between 25 and 34 years old. This distribution also closely mirrors the overall number of social network users in the United States, as 35.3 million U.S. social media users were aged 25 to 34 years. The total Facebook audience in the United States amounted to 214 million users. With more than 1.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide. In 2014, U.S. users spent an average of 39 minutes on the site every day and the social network has become a part of daily online usage for millions of users.” For the 50 most widely-circulated newspaper’s digital editions, “In the fourth quarter of 2016, there was an average of roughly 11.7 million monthly unique visitors (across all devices) for these top 50 newspapers,” according to the Pew Research Center Newspapers Fact Sheet.

Democratic candidates and campaigns should take a gander at “Political Rhetoric 101 for Beginners (such as Democratic candidates)” by X Smith at Op-Ed news. Smith shares some interesting tips, including: “Democrats should make better use of patriotic imagery. When John Kerry was running (sort of) against Bush Jr. in 2004, being from Massachusetts he had massive scope to drape himself with New England’s patriotic imagery–Lexington’s Battle Green and Concord’s Old North Bridge; Faneuil Hall; the USS Constitution; the Old North Church and Paul Revere statue; working-class war memorials in South Boston and Worcester. He could have used those to counter-act the Massachusetts ultra-liberal label and remind people that New England is the birthplace of American patriotism. Total missed opportunity. Republicans have long since seized the flag; Democrats should seize it back while reminding people what it stands for” and “The hard right will always find a way to make their goals sound reasonable, even a popular imperative: uniter not divider; fiscal conservative, defend our borders, restrain government. So don’t try to argue that their stated goals are undesirable: instead attack them for failing to live up to their word. They’re not delivering what the people who voted for them wanted; worse, they’re skilled at disguising what they’re doing (for example fiscal conservatives who pile up massive deficits.) The goal of this line of attack is to peel some moderate conservative voters away from the phony-conservative party.”


House Chaplain Shows How to Out-Maneuver Paul Ryan

I’ve been following this sage for a while, so I was happy to write up its conclusion for New York:

House Speaker Paul Ryan attended Catholic schools as a child, so this may not be the first time he’s had his knuckles rapped by a representative of his Church. Still, his retreat in the face of an un-resignation by House Chaplain Patrick Conroy, SJ, must have been humiliating to him — not as bad as, say, if Ayn Rand had arisen from the dead to call him a “collectivist,” but close.

In case you missed the beginning of the saga, Conroy announced he was stepping down as Chaplain not long ago, and then last week it came out that he had been pushed to resign by Ryan and/or his staff. Some Democrats speculated (an impression Conroy reinforced) that a “political” prayer that might have been construed as disrespecting that great golden calf of tax cuts had gotten him cashiered. But there were mixed messages, some of them highly unfortunate, like that of U.S. Representative Mark Walker, a member of the search committee for a new chaplain, who allowed as to how the House needed someone who personally knew what it was like to deal with a complaining wife and a misbehaving kid — a job description that would exclude, of course, Catholics and probably women.

Apparently realizing that his critics were not exactly standing on high or solid ground, Conroy has now sent a strongly worded letter (on official House stationary) to Ryan rescinding his resignation, confirming that Ryan’s staff wanted him gone for previously undiscussed shortcomings in his pastoral abilities (similar to those expressed publicly by Walker), and making it clear he’d respond to specific constructive advice but nothing else. There was one particularly damaging charge he made:

“While you never spoke with me in person, nor did you send me any correspondence, on Friday, April 13th, 2018, your Chief of Staff, Jonathan Burks, came to me and informed me that you were asking for my letter of resignation. I inquired as to whether or not it was ‘for cause,’ and Mr. Burks mentioned dismissively something like ‘maybe it’s time that we had a Chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.'”

Conroy dropped a hint or two about lawyering up, and concluded with the kind of rigorous logic for which Jesuits are known:

“Had I known of any failure in providing my ministry to the House, I would have attempted to make the appropriate adjustments, but in no case would I have agreed to submit a letter of resignation without being given that opportunity. Therefore, I wish to serve the remainder of my term as House Chaplain, unless terminated ‘for cause.'”

Ryan immediately caved like an acolyte who had been caught breaking into the communion wine supply:

“I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House.”

He went on to whine a bit about his impeccable intentions, and said he’d “sit down with Father Conroy early next week so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House.” You’d almost think it was Conroy who would have to make a good confession with a firm purpose of amendment. But it’s almost certainly Paul Ryan who will be doing penance.


Midterms a Silver Lining To the Dark Clouds of 2016

In thinking about what’s ahead and what might have been, I offered a counterfactual take at New York:

It is perfectly natural for Democrats to think of the midterm “wave” election they are hoping for in November as representing a righteous repudiation of the particular characteristics of the 45th president — his constant lies and provocations, his manifest lack of respect for the rule of law, his perpetual racial and ethnic appeals, his chaotic approach to decision-making, and his oppressively omnipresent personality. But in fact, the kind of midterm backlash to the White House that appears to be shaping up is entirely normal, even if Trump is not.

To recapitulate: the party that controls the White House almost always loses House seats in midterm elections. There have been just three exceptions in the last century (in 1934, 1998, and 2002), all of them occurring when the president had unusually high job approval ratings and when something else unusual was going on (the Great Depression, for which Republicans were persistently blamed, in 1934; the impending impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998; and a security-conscious reaction to 9/11 in 2002). When the president’s party is in theory “over-exposed” in the House by recent success (e.g., the big Republican wins of 2010 and 2014), the odds of losses are even higher. And while there is a less systematic carryover to Senate elections because of the high variability of the particular “class” of 33 or 34 senators up in any one midterm, an anti-White House midterm “wave” affects those outcomes, too — particularly with partisan voter polarization steadily increasing.

So had Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or John Kasich won in 2016, we’d almost certainly be looking at a very good Democratic midterm performance this year, albeit probably one with lower levels of fear and anger among the Democratic voters flocking to the polls.

And the flip side of that reality is plain as well: Had Hillary Clinton eked out an Electoral College victory in 2016, we would almost certainly be looking at a very good Republican midterm in 2018.

The size of that hypothetical GOP advantage when it comes to the House or down-ballot races is debatable, and largely dependent on things we can never know. Presumably the economy would be doing relatively well, as it was in much of Barack Obama’s second term. But in the partisan climate that existed before the 2016 election (Lock her up! Lock her up!), and that would have been intensified by divided control of the federal government and the certainty of perpetual investigations and accusations aimed at a chief executive the GOP loves to hate — the odds of a President Hillary Clinton being able to accomplish a whole lot, or enjoying robust job approval ratings, would have been vanishingly low. And that would have very likely translated into at least modest, and perhaps larger than modest, House losses, and consolidation of the already large GOP advantages in governorships and state legislatures (a big deal as the next decennial round of redistricting grows nigh).

The Senate landscape for 2018 in a new Clinton administration would have been potentially catastrophic for Democrats. As FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich observes, this is the most vulnerable Democrats have been in a Senate cycle since at least the 1980s:

“2018 could be not just bad, but a veritable armaggeddon for Senate Democrats. They should count their lucky stars that their worst-case map looks like it’s going to coincide with their best-case turnout environment.”

Even so, matching their best post-1990 Senate overperformance (in 2012) would leave Democrats with a net loss of two seats this autumn. And if the wind was blowing the other way, as it undoubtedly would have been had Clinton won in 2016, Democrats could have lost virtually all their red-state senators (heavily concentrated in the class up for reelection this year), leaving the party at a disadvantage in the upper chamber for a long time.

“One bad election cycle for this class could virtually eliminate red-state Democrats from the Senate in one fell swoop. That would give Republicans something like a 20-seat majority in the upper chamber — probably too wide for Democrats to overcome in any single future election cycle. Our current sense that the Senate could switch hands in any given election year would be no more, potentially emboldening the Republican majority to pass more conservative policies. In order to regain control, Democrats would not only need to rebuild their standing in red states from the ground up but also sustain that success over multiple election cycles.”

Add in some marginal considerations like the fact that with a Clinton presidency Jeff Sessions would not have resigned a Senate seat Democrats subsequently captured in a strange special election, and the “Clinton won” scenario could have endangered even routine Senate confirmations for her and possibly for future Democratic presidents. And a bad 2018 midterm for Democrats could have made confirmation of a Supreme Court appointment — the big, permanent prize associated with control of the White House — extremely difficult and perhaps even impossible.

Democrats’ fundamental problem in the Senate, of course, is the institution’s small-state bias; given the current demographic foundations of both parties, there is a built-in GOP advantage. Rakich estimates that all other things being equal, Republicans should control 62 Senate seats. It is rarely discussed, but the same factors give Republicans a natural majority in state governments, which in turn have a disproportionate control over U.S. House and state legislative redistricting. All the interminable and redundant talk about Democrats “collapsing” outside Washington to a considerable extent reflects an illusion caused by the disproportionate power of conservative states. At the moment, a fifty-fifty national electorate logically means about a sixty-forty GOP margin in the Senate and in state governments controlled.

In that context, Democrats really need a great 2018 midterm, both to avoid an almost irreversible disadvantage in the Senate, and to give it a fighting chance to do well during the momentous redistricting cycle just on the horizon. For reasons that have almost nothing to do with her leadership abilities and other sterling qualities, a President Clinton would have made a great 2018 midterm for her party extremely unlikely, and a debilitating defeat quite possible. (The same would have been true, to be clear, with a President Sanders or a President Biden). A President Trump could make an inevitably bad midterm for his party really bad.


Political Strategy Notes

‘You go, Greitens’ has to be the unofficial rallying cry of Missouri Democrats, who hope the redolent mess Missouri’s Republican Governor, Eric Greitens has created for his party will reverberate up and down ballot. As Ed Kilgore explains in his New York Magazine column, “The clock is ticking not just for Greitens but for his fellow party members who don’t want to go into a general election season with this millstone around their necks (all members of the Missouri House and half of the Missouri Senate are up for reelection this year). That is particularly true of the GOP’s putative nominee in the critical fight to take down Senator Claire McCaskill: Attorney General Josh Hawley, who has investigated Greitens himself and called for his speedy resignation.”

In her article, “How Democrats can make Trump chaos a midterm issue” at The PlumLine, Helaine Olen notes that “a poll released Wednesday by Politico and Morning Consult found a growing majority of voters who say Trump is presiding over a disorganized White House, with 62 percent agreeing the administration is either very or somewhat chaotic…This could become a major issue in November’s midterm elections…That chaos percentage is actually up from two months ago, when only 54 percent agreed with the statement. The increasing tendency of voters to believe the Trump administration is something of a shambolic mess gives Democrats yet another cudgel with which to go after Republican congressional candidates in the upcoming fall elections — that is if they strike the right tone.” Olen says that attacking Trump’s character and lack of accomplishments is a “less than effective strategy,” but “The way the White House is run — and its results — offer Democrats multiple opportunities to make their case. Take, for instance, the ongoing Russia investigation or the appalling awfulness of any number of the president’s appointments, such as the seemingly never-ending scandals involving Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. While the public might not be totally focused on these stories, Democratic candidates can still use them to point toward the failure of House and Senate Republicans to properly do their jobs…In other words, Democratic candidates can make the case that leaving Republicans in control of Congress is both enabling and contributing to the chaos emanating from the White House.”

Regarding that aforementioned Politico and Morning Consult poll, Politico’s Steven Shepard writes that “A strong majority of voters say President Donald Trump’s administration is running chaotically after Trump’s pick for veterans affairs secretary, White House physician Ronny Jackson, withdrew his name from consideration last week, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll…More than 3 in 5 voters, 62 percent, say Trump’s administration is running very or somewhat chaotically — nearly twice as many as the 32 percent who say it’s running very or somewhat well…Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say the Trump administration has done a poor job when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified people — roughly twice as many who say the Trump administration has done an excellent or good job combined.” Puzzling that this number isn’t higher, considering the ever-lengthening list of Trump appointees and associates who resign under public pressure or desert to save their hides.

Matthew Walther’s article in The Week, “Why a GOP midterm shellacking would be good for Trump” taps into another promising vein for Democrats — not just campaigns and candidates, but also rank and file Democrats — to mine. Walther, a conservative writer, is interested in helping Trump and the Republicans by ridding them of the burden of the unruly and chaotic House. But what Dems should do is change the last word of Walther’s title to “America,” and work the argument that a midterm shellacking would restore some neeeded balance and sanity to our politics, which just might appeal to some swing voters and moderate Repubicans. Focus groups often reveal a consistent group of voters who distrust any party having too much control. It’s one of those points that often gets taken for granted, but ought to be emphasized to create buzz that can translate into votes.

Normally it would be a little early to start talking about who is going to be the next Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative. But, since the Republicans are making Nancy Pelosi a big theme of the 2018 elections, it’s a front and center issue Democrats are being forced to address in their campaigns.  David Weigel and Paul Kane address the nuances of the Pelosi dilemma in their PowerPost article, “‘We need some new blood’: Many Democrats call for next generation of House leaders.” Among their observations, “So far, 10 Democratic candidates have said they would oppose Pelosi’s return to the speakership, while at least another 10 have conspicuously declined to express support for her, according to interviews with several candidates and a Washington Post review of statements collected by Republicans…This clamor for change at the top underscores the generational tensions within the House Democratic caucus as younger lawmakers look to replace not only Pelosi but also two other septuagenarians — Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), 78, and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), 77.” The recent Ipsos/Reuters poll indicating Democratic erosion among younger voters may feed concerns among Democratic House candidates about aging Democratic leaders in congress.

But nobody is going to argue that Pelosi’s age has diminished her fighting spirit. At Vox, Ella Nilsen notes “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made it clear she isn’t going to leave a “blue wave” up to chance in 2018…“I hope for a wave, but I believe you make your wave,” Pelosi said at a February Austin American-Statesman editorial board meeting. “This is a cold-blooded, strategic, focused campaign to win the Congress for the American people. We don’t waste time. We don’t waste energy, we don’t waste resources.” Fighting spirit is good, but predictions of victory in winning the speakership again can be twisted by Republicans to portray Democrats as arrogant. Also, notes Nilsen, “Pelosi, a formidable fundraiser in her own right, has smashed her own records. She raised $16.1 million in the first quarter alone, and $66.7 million for the entire cycle — about $1 million more than she did in 2016.” Nilsen’s article is an instructive read for other reasons, well-encapsulated in her title, “The Democratic establishment’s controversial meddling in 2018 primaries, explained: The case for and against national Democrats intervening in primaries.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait has a an insightful post about corruption in the House under Speaker Paul Ryan’s reign. From Chait’s concluding paragraph: “Ryan has played an invaluable role covering up and enabling Trump administration scandals. When he says his party needs to keep control of the House to prevent subpoenas, he is both promising the cover-ups will continue if his party keeps its control of government, and expressing his clear belief that he opposes any level of independent oversight of the Executive branch.” Democrats have a potent card to play in noting corruption under Republican leaders, and Chait’s column does a great job of distilling it for mass consumption.

Also at Vox, Dylan Scott has some thoughts on “The 6 Senate seats Democrats could maybe, possibly win from Republicans: The opportunities for Democrats to gain ground in the Senate, ranked from most to least likely.” Scott charts a very narrow path to Democratic victory in Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Arizona. Back on earth, Scottt notes “Democrats have a tall order in the 2018 Senate elections. They have to defend 10 seats in states that Donald Trump won — and on top of that, if they want to reclaim control of the Senate, they have precious few opportunities to take seats from Republicans…At this point, Democrats need more or less a straight flush to win the Senate: They have to hold those 10 seats, some of which are in very hostile territory, and then pick off two states from Republicans.”

 Years from now political scientists will still be studying the rapid success of the movement for acceptance of same-sex marriage, which was succinctly noted in Walt Hickey’s FiveThirtyEight ‘Significant Digits’ column: “A majority of residents support the right of same-sex couples to get married in 44 states. The exceptions are Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina. Only in Alabama do a majority of residents oppose same-sex marriage. That 44 states is up from 30 states in 2014. [Public Religion Research Institute].”


Full Employment A Rising Priority for Democratic Economic Agenda

In recent weeks policies to create a “Job Guarantee” or “Full Employment” have quite suddenly assumed a central position in the discussion of the Democratic economic agenda.

These proposals raise a series of important questions that must be carefully analyzed and evaluated regarding their economic feasibility and potential electoral appeal.

The following set of articles provide an introduction to the economic and political aspects of job guarantees and full employment. We believe it is important for all Democrats to familiarize themselves with this subject and understand the issues it raises. The articles are arranged into the following categories: (1) major proposals, (2) articles supporting the approach, (3) progressive cautions about potential difficulties and (4) historical background.

Four Major Proposals for a Jobs Guarantee/Full Employment

1. Center for American Progress
Toward a Marshall Plan for America
By Neera TandenCarmel MartinMarc Jarsulic, Brendan Duke, Ben OlinskyMelissa BoteachJohn HalpinRuy Teixeira, and Rob Griffin

2. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The Federal Job Guarantee–A Policy to Achieve Permanent Full Employment
By Mark Paul, William Darity, Jr., and Darrick Hamilton

3. Levy Economics Institute of Bard College
Public Service Employment: A Path to Full Employment
By L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva and Stephanie A. Kelton

4. Economic Policy Institute
Recommendations for Creating Jobs and Economic Security in the U.S.>
By Josh Bivens

Articles Supporting the Approach

1. The Nation
Why Democrats Should Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee
By Sean McElweeColin McAuliffe and Jon Green

2. The New Republic
Back to Work: How Democrats can win over Americans left behind in the new economy.
By Bryce Covert

3. The American Prospect
Why the Cause of Full Employment Is Back from the Dead
By Harold Meyerson

4. Vox
What America would look like if it guaranteed everyone a job
By Dylan Matthews

5. The Washington Post
Q & A; on the Democrat’ big idea: A job creation program
By Jared Bernstein

6. The New York Times
Why the U.S. Needs a Federal Jobs Program, Not Payouts
By Robert E. Rubin

7. The Nation
Why Democrats Should Fight for the Right to a Good Job
By Katrina vanden Heuvel

8. The Democratic Strategist
Minority and White Workers Need the Same Help
Harry J. Holzer, former Chief Economist at the US Department of Labor.

Progressive cautions about potential problems

1. The Daily Beast
Dems’ Job Guarantee Isn’t Nearly as Easy as It Sounds
By Dean Baker

2. New York Magazine
Democrats Are Rushing Into a Job Guarantee. It Could Be a Huge Mistake.
By Jonathan Chait

Historical background

1. Boston Review
Why Coretta Scott King Fought for a Job Guarantee
By David Stein

2. Center for economic and policy research
The Full Employment Mandate of the Federal Reserve: Its Origins and Importance
By Dean Baker, Sarah Rawlins and David Stein

3.  The Full Employment Alternative (1980)
By Andrew Levison
Coward, McCann & Geoghegan