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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

TDS Strategy White Papers

A “common-sense populist” Democratic Communication Strategy for Re-building Public Trust in Government.

This TDS Strategy Memo by Andrew Levison, author of two books and numerous articles about working-class Americans, was written in response to the Demos-TDS online forum on Restoring Trust in Government.
Download pdf of this article
In a 2007 article in The American Prospect, pollster Stan Greenberg provided a particularly cogent description of the profound political problem that the decline in trust of government poses for the Democratic coalition:

There is a new reality that Democrats must deal with if they are to be successful going forward. In their breathtaking incompetence and comprehensive failure in government, Republicans have undermined Americans’ confidence in the ability of government to play a role in solving America’s problems. Democrats will not make sustainable gains unless they are able to restore the public’s confidence in its capacity to act through government.


Beyond Civility: in the 1950’s and 60’s the modern politics of “talking points”, “sound bites” and “message discipline” had different names – “propaganda”, “thought control” and “brainwashing” Our standards of political discourse have been deeply degraded

by James Vega
Democrats who grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s often feel a certain subtle disquiet when talking to politically active Dems who came of age during or after the 1980’s. The latter generally accept the modern world of prepared “talking points”, “sound bites” and “message discipline” as the “new normal” of political activity. To them, the hyper-partisan ideological clash of dueling frames and completely incompatible alternate realities simply “is” what American politics is about.
Read the entire memo.


A “common-sense populist” Democratic Communication Strategy for Re-building Public Trust in Government.

by Andrew Levison
Stan Greenberg provided a particularly cogent description of the profound political problem that the decline in trust of government poses for the Democratic coalition:

There is a new reality that Democrats must deal with if they are to be successful going forward. In their breathtaking incompetence and comprehensive failure in
government, Republicans have undermined Americans’ confidence in the ability of
government to play a role in solving America’s problems. Democrats will not make
sustainable gains unless they are able to restore the public’s confidence in its capacity
to act through government.

Download the entire memo.


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.
Download the entire memo.


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.
Download the entire memo.


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.
Download the entire memo.


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.
Download the entire memo.


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: …
Download the entire memo.


“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.”

Download the entire memo.