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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

TDS Strategy White Papers

Beyond “sabotage” – the central issue about the growing political extremism of the Republican Party is that it’s undermining fundamental American standards of ethical political conduct and behavior. It’s time for Americans to say “That’s enough”.

by Ed Kilgore, James Vega and J. P. Green
In a recent Washington Monthly commentary titled “None Dare Call it Sabotage,” Steve Benen gave voice to a growing and profoundly disturbing concern among Democrats — that Republicans may actually plan to embrace policies designed to deny Obama not only political victories but also the maximum possible economic growth during his term in order weaken Democratic prospects in the 2012 elections.
The debate quickly devolved into an argument over the inflammatory word “sabotage” and the extent to which the clearly and passionately expressed Republican desire to see Obama “fail” will actually lead them to deliberately choose economic and other policies that are most conducive to achieving that result.
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Obama cannot be an activist, an organizer and a legislator at the same time. He is right to redefine himself but has not successfully made one coherent role his own. The careful study of these three political roles suggests how he can proceed

by Andrew Sabl
The arguments among Democrats and progressives over President Obama’s tax deal have revealed disagreements over many things: strategy, tactics, principles, history. But some of the most bitter criticisms have involved matters of loyalty and political character.
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Progressives: Obama’s recent criticisms seemed deeply unfair but could turn out to be the most helpful thing he could possibly have done for us – if it makes us finally take seriously the job of building an independent grass-roots progressive movement.

by James Vega
It is understandable that progressives had a deeply emotional reaction to Obama’s recent press conference in which he forcefully asserted his commitment to seeking compromise and used the adjectives “sanctimonious” and “purist” to describe inflexible positions on issues like the public option and the deal on the tax cut extension.
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An urgent TDS Strategy Memo: Democratic Unity after the Elections

by Ed Kilgore, James Vega and J. P. Green
In the next several weeks two things are certain to occur:

  • Dems will engage in a robust and often bitter debate about the strategic lessons of the elections
  • The mainstream media will build this into a “Dems in disarray” narrative that will have major negative consequences for Democratic morale, mobilization and public image.

The problem is particularly acute this year because Democrats are now facing a Republican Party even more extreme and radicalized than the one that emerged after the mid-term elections of 1994.
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Is the Electorate Moving to the Right? Ruy Teixeira says no.

by Ed Kilgore
According to one major narrative of the 2010 election, the key to Democrats setbacks was the fact that they “lost the independents.” The election supposedly confirmed that these voters had rejected Obama’s agenda, become more conservative and turned to the Republicans.
In this perspective, independent voters are invariably pictured as thoughtful and cautious political moderates, fearful of excessive government and seeking a “sensible center” between Democrats and Republicans. Here is how David Brooks described them last January: …
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“Independent voters” are the political equivalent of ectoplasm – they only appear on devices specially designed to measure them and are invisible in everyday normal life.

by James Vega
According to one major narrative of the 2010 election, the key to Democrats setbacks was the fact that they “lost the independents.” The election supposedly confirmed that these voters had rejected Obama’s agenda, become more conservative and turned to the Republicans.
In this perspective, independent voters are invariably pictured as thoughtful and cautious political moderates, fearful of excessive government and seeking a “sensible center” between Democrats and Republicans. Here is how David Brooks described them last January: …
Download the entire memo.


What’s behind the changing number of “moderates” and “independents” within the Republican coalition between 2006 and 2010?

by Andrew Levison
In his latest analysis of the 2010 polling Ruy Teixeira points out that the shifts in the numbers of “independents” and “moderates” between 2006 and 2010 is actually an internal process occurring within the Republican coalition. As he says:

“We’re shifting Republicans around between straight identifiers and leaners and both straight Republican identifiers and leaners have become more conservative over time…there is no big ideological shift here viewed across registered voters as a whole. It’s overwhelmingly an intra-Republican story.”

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EDITORIAL: It’s Time To Unmask the Republican Agenda

by Ed Kilgore
…What Democrats can — and must — do more of during the shank of the campaign season is to challenge Republicans to disclose their own agenda for the country, and draw greater attention to the extremist logic of where Republican positions of current events would lead. The vast majority of all Democratic messaging in the next two months needs to relentlessly focus on this single topic.
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Democrats: calm down and regain some perspective. Yes, we’ll suffer losses this fall, but there’s actually not any profound Anti-Obama or pro-Republican attitude shift going on. This may sound wildly at variance with the polls you’ve seen, but it’s true.

by Andrew Levison
In recent days, as increasingly negative projections regarding the November election have appeared, a substantial number of Democrats have been seized with a genuine sense of panic. Many political commentaries have tended to suggest that what is happening may not be just the result of structural factors like the lower participation of pro-Obama groups in off-year elections or the deep recession. Rather, they suggest that a major shift in basic attitudes is occurring – that many Americans are now shifting their allegiance to the Republicans and abandoning Obama and the Democrats. Many Democrats have a sinking fear that support for Obama and the Dems is somehow collapsing.
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Progressives: we’ve forgotten (or maybe just never learned) the ideas of “critical support” and “strategic voting” which European center-left voters have applied for years. It’s how they defeated conservatives many times in the post-war period.

by James Vega
One reason for the low enthusiasm among many Obama voters is their feeling that voting for Democrats who have been vacillating or inconsistent in their support for a robust progressive-Democratic agenda means those politicians completely get away with “taking progressive votes for granted” or “betraying progressive supporters”
From this point of view, the only way progressives can ever really have any influence on “Blue Dog” and other centrist Democrats is to “punish” them by staying home on Election Day.
Read the entire memo.