washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ruy Teixeira

Democrats Need to Be the Party of and for Working People—of All Races

And they can’t retake Congress unless they win over more white workers.
by Robert Griffin, John Halpin & Ruy Teixeira

Read the article…

Matt Morrison

Rebuilding a Progressive Majority by Winning Back White Working-Class Moderates

From the findings of Working America, the AFL-CIO’s outreach program to non-union working people.
by Matt Morrison

Read the article…

The Daily Strategist

July 22, 2017

Ossoff Wins 48.1 Percent in GA Jungle Primary, Heads Into Runoff Election

Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 6th congressional district Jon Ossoff received 48.1 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s special election, and fell just 3, 700 votes short of winning his race without a runoff. In the June 20th runoff election, Ossoff will face former Republican Secretary of State of Georgia Karen Handel, who came in 2nd and topped the GOP field with just 19.8 percent of the vote.

No matter what happens in the runoff, Ossoff has proven to be an effective candidate, who ran an impressive campaign. But the challenge ahead is to build that into a June 20th victory.

There is a lot of national interest in this race, not only because it is being spun as a referendum on Trump. In addition, it provides a test of Democratic ability to win a suburban southern House district, which is  demographically-similar to those near a dozen or more other southern cities. If Democrats are competitive in such an emblematic suburban district, the net gain of two dozen seats needed to win a House majority in 2018 doesn’t look like such a long stretch.

As Jonathan Martin and Richard Fausset report at The New York Times:

The contest here effectively represented the first performance review at the ballot box for Mr. Trump and the Republican Congress among the sort of upscale voters who were left without a political home last fall. Mr. Price’s former district is the most highly educated Republican-controlled district in the country. And while the president won here in Atlanta’s booming northern suburbs, he did so by just a single point four years after Mitt Romney romped to a 23-point victory….

Mr. Ossoff’s strong showing will ensure that national Democrats continue to compete here and will increase pressure on the party to contest a special House election next month in Montana that it has so far ignored. Combined with Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in a special House election in Kansas last week, the Georgia result will be an immediate boon to Democratic groups, lifting their fund-raising and bolstering candidate recruitment efforts, while sobering Republicans who are assessing whether to run in Mr. Trump’s first midterm election. Already, Republican candidates and outside groups have had to spend over $7 million against Democrats in a series of deeply conservative districts.

Although the 6th district has been reliably Republican in recent years, demographic trends favor Democrats to some extent. As Tom Baxter recently noted, “There are some interesting aspects to the 6th. Only 13 percent of its voters are black, but Latino and Asian voters comprise 21 percent of the electorate, second only to the neighboring 7th District to the east, where the combined Latino-Asian total is over 29 percent.”

Democrats should be on high alert for voter suppression shenanigans, leading up to the June 20th runoff election. Georgia’s current Secretary of State, Brian P. Kemp has been criticized for conducting “criminal investigations of voter registration drives, especially if they’re run by minority organizations.” As a former Georgia Secretary of State, Handel was also criticized for her efforts to reduce voter eligibility, as noted in her Wikipedia bio:

Soon after taking office as Georgia Secretary of State Handel, began a project to purge voter rolls.[15] By 2008, more than 50,000 registered Georgia voters had been “flagged” by state officials because of computer mismatches in personal identity information, forcing them to prove their eligibility.[15] Some eligible voters were told that they were “non-citizens” although in fact they were citizens.[15] The project raised fears about voter suppression, and was the subject of a federal lawsuit by the ACLU of Georgia and MALDEF, which accused Handel’s office of engaging in a “systematic purging procedure” expressly barred by federal law within 90 days of an elections.[15][16] In 2009, the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division ordered a halt to the state’s “voter verification” effort (denying it approval under the Voting Rights Act of 1965), determining that “thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged” and that the “flawed” program “frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote.”[16] The marked the first time since the 1990s that the Justice Department had denied approval to a change in Georgia election practice.[16] Handel defended her program, asserting that it was appropriate and necessary.[16]

Handel may be more vulnerable for her virulent opposition to Planned Parenthood, which remains popular with educated women, a large segment of 6th district voters. As Baxter notes, “The 6th is 64 percent white, according to the Almanac of American Politics, and its generally well-educated and affluent voters come from all over the place.”

Republicans are going to bring in bundles of corporate cash and their top spin-doctors to try and stop Ossoff. GA-6 is in for an intense ad war.

Ossoff’s campaign has to navigate a tricky course to win the runoff, deftly exploiting Handel’s extremism on a range of social issues, but emphatically not at the expense of under-selling needed economic reforms, such as infrastructure investment and creative ideas for bringing jobs to the 6th district. He will also have to parry personalized attacks against his age, money and residence, while avoiding gaffes.

Ossoff has to project an image of a dynamic, pro-active and energetic champion of economic uplift for his district. Equally-important, his campaign, message and ad-makers are going to have to bring their A-game in both early voting and June 20th turnout mobilization. It’s a formidable challenge, but Ossoff’s 48.1 showing indicates that he is in a good position to meet it.


Stoehr: How Dems Can Divide Trump Supporters with ‘Wedge’ Issues and Win Over His Persuadable White Working Class Voters

The following article by John Stoehr, Yale political science lecturer, Hearst Newspapers columnist, New Haven Register essayist and U.S. News & World Report contributing editor, is cross-posted from U.S. News & World Report:

I find Steve King to be a insightful indicator of what’s going on inside the far-right wing of the Republican Party. Not because he’s smart. Not because he’s important. But because the Iowa congressman tends to view politics in stark black and white instead of more opaque sepia tones.

King admitted in 2015 to the real reason hard-liners like himself are opposed to immigration reform: President Barack Obama, he said, “is importing millions of illegal aliens, who, when they arrive here, he thinks, and he’s right, they are undocumented Democrats. The next phase of this is to document these Democrats so they can vote. This is a raw political power move.”

Obama wasn’t importing anybody. But otherwise King was right. Naturalized immigrants, or their natural-born children, would likely over time vote Democratic. A raw political power move, maybe. This was astute political analysis underneath a layer of racism.

King was equally helpful last week. On a conservative radio show, he warned President Donald Trump that he had better deliver on the anti-immigrant platform he campaigned on or risk losing his base. King noted that Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, appears to be increasingly marginalized. The millionaire former head of Breitbart News was the visionary behind the president’s nationalist agenda.

Unfortunately, for him, Bannon picked a fight with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Blood is thicker than water to this president, so Bannon is now on the outside looking in. In his place is economist Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs CEO and, according to King, Trump’s “pro-immigrant” adviser. King told his interviewer: “People are policy. So whenever I see those kind of appointments come in place, I do get concerned about it.”

It would be easy to dismiss King’s remark as the racist drivel that it is. King has advocated for mass deportations, even of adults who were brought here as children and whose only country is the United States. But if we’re really deeply listening, racist drivel can be politically insightful – and helpful to Democratic strategy. As with King’s 2015 remark, there’s more here than meets the eye.

Who is Trump’s base? The answer is rooted in what nationalism means. Does it mean anti-immigrant or pro-white American worker? Or both? If purely anti-immigration, King has little reason to fret. Trump has had a lock on the hardcore racist vote since the day he first cast doubt on the legitimacy of the country’s first African-American president. Trump’s administration is eminently capable of executing a passel of nativist policies. Hardcore racists are going to support Trump no matter what happens to Bannon.

But without Bannon, there is no significant voice in the Trump administration that represents, or at least pretends to represent, the white working class, a key part of Trump’s base. All that remains are the nativists like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the billionaires like Cohn. This is a huge problem for Trump, because without an economic message, the respective factions of his administration risk affirming everything the opposition is saying about the president – either he’s a racist or his in thrall to moneyed interests. Without Bannon’s populist messaging, even if it’s populist in name only, Trump’s base risks being irreparably wedged, because white working-class voters did not support Trump due to racist appeals alone. They want something in exchange for for their support. They want good jobs and a return to prosperity.

This is the political danger of running an explicitly racist campaign. The “other” isn’t real. It’s a rhetorical device intended to inflame racial resentments. Even if Trump were to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, it would make no positive difference in the lives of his supporters, because the “other” isn’t real. Deporting immigrants is to them like deporting an abstraction. Meanwhile, life continues to suck for the white working class, and Trump is too incompetent or too weak politically to do anything about it.

Despite much fanfare, the Trump administration’s regulatory changes, especially dismantling Obama’s environmental rules, are essentially a sop to the energy industry and the Republican Party’s donor class. His rule-gutting may have some trickle-down effect, but hardly enough to mitigate the despair felt by Trump’s white working-class base. The president’s photo-ops with corporate heads are only that. Good public relations, not effective jobs policy.

About the only economic agenda Trump could pursue that would truly give the white working class what it wants is a massive and historic $1 trillion investment in the country’s rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. That was Bannon’s brain child from the get-go, but we have heard nary a word about it during the president’s first 100 days. Even if Bannon were not marginalized from the White House’s sanctum sanctorum, his boss would need the Democrats to make infrastructure happen. But the Democrats have little need to compromise with a president increasingly weakened by scandal, incompetence and the baked-in insanity of his own party.

How can the Democrats appeal to the white working class without surrendering the hard-fought gains among women and minorities over two decades? This is how. Trump’s base is increasingly wedged. The Democrats need to wedge it further. They don’t have to return to their former days as the working man’s party. But they do need exploit what is going to become a baneful wedge issue.

There is overlap, obviously, but there are serious differences between hardcore racists who support the president no matter what and the working-class white voters who are seeking tangible results from a candidate who promised far more than he could possible deliver. Using a combination of policy proposals, like “Medicare for all,” and messaging, like “health care is a right,” the Democrats can drive the wedge down more deeply, picking off white working-class voters here and there as they rebuild their winning coalition.

The Democrats are already on their way to this end. They have proposed an alternative infrastructure bill, one that would truly empower the working class of all races. They have the policy. Now comes the right message and, more importantly, finding the right messenger.

As I said, Steve King isn’t smart and isn’t that important. But he’s good at telling us what Republicans fear most. Time will tell if the Democrats are listening, and if the base of the party will allow it.


Pundits Offer Cautious Optimism for Ossoff in GA-6 Special Election

Regarding the much-discussed special election today for the GA-6 congressional district, Nate Silver writes at fivethirtyeight.com:

If the polls are right, then Democrat Jon Ossoff will receive by far the most votes in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which is holding a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Price on Tuesday.1 But Ossoff will probably finish with less than 50 percent of the vote, which would trigger a runoff between him and the next-highest finisher — most likely the Republican Karen Handel, but possibly one of three other Republicans (Bob Gray, Dan Moody Judson Hill) who are closely bunched behind her in polls.

Furthermore, the combined vote for all Republican candidates will probably exceed the combined vote for Ossoff and other Democrats, although it should be close. And the district has historically been Republican-leaning, although it was much less so in the 2016 election than it had been previously. All of this makes for a fairly confusing set of circumstances and a hard-to-forecast outcome.

Silver then crunches numbers, poll averages. regressions, aggregate party margins etc. and comes up with a formula that yields the result of Ossoff winning a runoff by 4 percent. However, Silver cautions that the partisan voting index favors Republicans and his calculations include a large margin of error (“about 8 percentage points for projecting one candidate’s vote share in the runoff, or 16 percentage points (!) for projecting the margin between the candidates”).

Apply these principles to the Georgia 6 race, and you’ll conclude that Tuesday night’s first round won’t actually resolve that much — unless Ossoff hits 50 percent of the vote and averts the runoff entirely. (That’s an unlikely but hardly impossible scenario given the fairly high error margins of polls under these circumstances.) Even if Ossoff finishes in the low 40s, it will be hard to rule him out in the second round provided that he still finishes in first place by a comfortable margin…An Ossoff win would unambiguously be good news for Democrats. But a narrow loss could be anywhere from disappointing to encouraging for them, depending on the margin and whether you think 2016 represented the new normal in the district. If judged by its 2012 results, merely coming within single digits in Georgia 6 would count as a decent result for Democrats, as was the case in a special election in the Kansas’s 4th Congressional District last week.

But Democrats will like Silver’s conclusion:

As of Sunday evening, betting markets gave Ossoff about a 40 percent chanceof eventually being the next member of Congress from Georgia 6, whether by winning a majority of the vote on Tuesday or prevailing in the June runoff. While that isn’t a ridiculous assessment, it looks too pessimistic on Ossoff. If the polls are right, the outcome of a runoff is more like a true 50-50 proposition — plus, there’s an outside chance that Ossoff could win outright on Tuesday…But I generally think the conventional wisdom has been too slow to catch upwith the fact that midterm and off-year elections are often problematic for the president’s party, and especially when the president is as unpopular as Trump. What might seem like an extraordinary feat — Democrats flipping Gingrich’s old seat — is going to be more commonplace in an environment like this one.

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik observes,

We’re calling GA-6 a Toss-up, a designation we applied to the race roughly two weeks ago after the National Republican Congressional Committee sounded the alarm bell and started aggressively spending money in the district. That’s in addition to the millions the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that is close to Speaker Ryan, has also spent in the district. Since then, Ossoff’s huge fundraising has come to light, as have early voting statistics that seem to indicate heavy Democratic interest in the race (although Republicans, who have more candidate choices and thus perhaps waited longer to vote, are catching up).

So there’s a lot of uncertainty about the outcome: Polling, typically spotty in House races, generally shows Ossoff in the low 40s. If that’s all he gets in the first round of voting, and the combined Republican vote is over 50%, one would assume that Ossoff’s general election opponent would start with the upper hand: After all, the first round results are better than any poll — they are actual voting results that can be a preview of the runoff on June 20, if there is one. However, if Ossoff’s vote and the scattered votes for the four other Democratic candidates add up to a total approaching 50% (say, 45% or more), it may indicate that the runoff should be quite competitive. Obviously, a first-round win by Ossoff would be noteworthy because he would have exceeded Clinton’s 46.8% 2016 share significantly — and blown recent previous Democratic House performance in the district out of the water. Another factor: As of now, Ossoff and Democrats have not been attacking the Republicans because it’s anyone’s guess how the first round will play out, while outside GOP groups have been hammering Ossoff, hoping to drive down his numbers (and while Ossoff has been running lots of positive ads on his own behalf). Ossoff and national Democrats may be preparing to drop the hammer on whichever Republican emerges from the first round, again assuming Ossoff does not win outright on Tuesday. In other words, the dynamic changes on Tuesday in advance of a possible runoff: The GOP survivor goes from running against his or her fellow partisans to running against Ossoff, while Ossoff can shift into attack mode because he would have a clear opponent.

HuffPo poll wonks Ariel Edwards-Levy and Grace Sparks note,

HuffPost Pollster’s average puts Ossoff at just below 43 percent, with surveys from both parties this month giving him a share of the vote ranging from 39 to 45 percent. As Enten notes, even with undecided voters proportionately allocated between the candidates, that leaves him several points shy of the 50 percent needed for an outright win…

At The Upshot, Nate Cohn warns:

Republicans have dominated the district for a generation, but the leading Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, has an outside shot to win outright on Tuesday by winning more than 50 percent of the vote…It’s not clear what to expect Tuesday night, however. It’s hard to estimate how many people will vote, and the public polls are of fairly low quality. One prediction: It’s likely that the first votes counted will be misleadingly good for Mr. Ossoff…There is no reasonable way to look at the polls and conclude that Mr. Ossoff is likely to get to 50 percent. But it would not take an especially unusual polling error, at least for a special election, for him to pull it off.

Tom Baxter, one of the top political observers of Georgia politics, takes note of the 6th district’s demographic stew:

…There are some interesting aspects to the 6th. Only 13 percent of its voters are black, but Latino and Asian voters comprise 21 percent of the electorate, second only to the neighboring 7th District to the east, where the combined Latino-Asian total is over 29 percent. These are not “us” voters.

The 6th District also has the state’s highest share of residents — 21 percent — classified as “white ethnic” based on their response to Census questions. This can refer to anyone who identifies with a list of over 30 countries, very few of which are “us” countries. As a political rule of thumb it generally applies to Jews, Greeks and Italians. For a point of comparison, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s south Florida district is 27 percent white ethnic…Set aside white ethnics and you are left with only 43 percent of the district that can safely and confidently, winking at every nod, be called “us.”

I think Ossoff’s potential has been so oversold that anything shy of an outright win — which would be a stunning achievement for a Democrat in this district — will be looked on as a disappointment in some corners. But there are reasons why this could be an important election, past its short-term significance as a national bellweather.

The popular conception of what’s going on in the district is that a lot of reliably Republican voters, sort of like the ones you see in the NRCC ad, are so turned off by President Trump they are turning away from a buffet line of Republican choices to vote for a Democrat in the race to succeed Tom Price.

Some of that is going on, surely. A lot of normally Republican voters didn’t vote for Trump last November, and that’s what worries the national party most. Republican voters may also be disgusted with the Republican Congress and perhaps even Price for failing to deliver on an ObamaCare replacement. But it’s a much more difficult leap for a practiced Republican to vote for a Democrat five months after the presidential election.

 Ed Kilgore, who knows Georgia politics from the inside out, comments at New York,

If these indicators are accurate, Ossoff may have banked a majority of early votes (representing as much as a third of the total vote) and is fighting to hold off an election-day majority of Republicans. This is the same dynamic that characterized last week’s special election in Kansas, although Ossoff has resources for getting out his vote on election day that Kansas Democratic candidate Jim Thompson could have only dreamed of possessing. The other variable that separates the contests in Kansas and Georgia is that the latter does not have the former’s deep reservoirs of intensely pro-Trump rural counties. Indeed, it is the preponderance of college-educated white suburban voters who aren’t fond of Trump that made Georgia’s sixth district a Democratic target the moment Tom Price was confirmed and resigned his seat.

…Polls vary, but it appears the GOP challenger with the best chance of beating Handel is Bob Gray, a local elected official from Handel’s home base of north Fulton County (where about half the electorate resides) who is being backed by the Club for Growth and by elements of the Trump 2016 organization (Gray is going total MAGA in branding himself). If he winds up in a runoff with Ossoff, the already-high typecasting of this election as a referendum on Trump will, if possible, ascend even more.

Yes, Republicans would have nine weeks to unite before a runoff, and it’s unclear Ossoff could sustain anything like his early fundraising pace as other campaigns (such as the May 25 special election in Montana) and the soon-to-be-assembling 2018 field compete for resources. So his win-it-all-the-first-time strategy makes abundant sense…

This is likely a close race, and the large Republican field undoubtedly helps Ossoff in the first round. If Ossoff wins it all in the first round, it will be a political earthquake. The consensus is that he will at least be competitive in a runoff, and that is very good news for Democrats.


Political Strategy Notes

Alex Seitz-Wald has a sneak preview of possible Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 at nbcnews.com, including: Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Tammy Duckworth, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Murphy, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown and Kamala Harris; Govs. Andrew Cuomo, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Dan Malloy, and Terry McAuliffe; former Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Vice President Joe Biden; along with business leaders Sheryl Sandberg, Howard Schultz and Mark Cuban and film actors George Clooney and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. A few House Democrats, including Tim Ryan (OH-13), Elijah Cummings (MD-7) and Adam Schiff (CA-28) have recently demonstrated impressive political gravitas, party commitment and media skills that merit inclusion on such a list. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, current chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, may also be interested.

Protestors Call Out Trump for Hiding Taxes, Breaking His Promise:

Speaking of taxes, check out “New poll shows what Americans really think about taxes: the rich should pay more” by Matthew Yglesias who notes at Vox: “Americans’ top concern about the tax code is that they want corporations and wealthy individuals to pay more taxes. Even among rank-and-file Republicans, soaking the rich is at least moderately popular…That’s according to a new report out from the Pew Center that takes a deep dive into public opinion on taxes. It reveals that there is extraordinarily little public support for the main thrust of GOP tax reform efforts that aim to “simplify” the tax code and deliver lower rates for businesses and high-income households…upward of 60 percent of the public says they are very worried that some corporations and wealthy individuals aren’t paying their fair share.”

Jarvis DeBerry, a columnist for nola.com, reports that Alabama’s Republican ‘Luv Guv’ Robert Bentley’s diddling with a staffer may have screwed up his voter suppression initiative. As Deberry writes, “According to the impeachment report, Mason – nicknamed Flim Flam by the rest of the governor’s staff – was leading the governor around by the nose.  According to the impeachment report, “the Bentley-Mason relationship evolved to the point that nothing could be done in the Office without Mason’s sign-off.”  That press secretary stated that “Governor Bentley’s typical reaction to any advice given without Mason present was, ‘What does Rebekah think about it?'”…Well, apparently Rebekah thought it would be just swell for Alabama to shut down driver’s license bureaus in majority black counties after a photo ID became a necessity for voting.  Secretary of Alabama Law Enforcement Spencer Collier, who the report says “ultimately assented to the closure plan” was concerned enough about it that he told the state’s Attorney General’s office that he thought it may represent a violation of the Voting Right Acts…From AL.com: “The closures sparked a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which determined that the stoppages disproportionately affected black residents. The DOT determined that ALEA’s plans were a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.” Thus, the plan was thwarted.”

The latest GOP plan to weaken America’s health security is not going to inspire much support from consumers. In his New York Times article, “G.O.P. Bill Would Make Medical Malpractice Suits Harder to Win,” Robert Pear reports, “Low-income people and older Americans would find it more difficult to win lawsuits for injuries caused by medical malpractice or defective drugs or medical devices under a bill drafted by House Republicans as part of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act…The bill would impose new limits on lawsuits involving care covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. The limits would apply to some product liability claims, as well as to medical malpractice lawsuits involving doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.”

The Washington Post editorial, “Does Trump want to be the president who broke health care?,” puts it this way: “More desperate than clever, Mr. Trump’s talk of annihilating Obamacare, for which he would be justly blamed, is unlikely to coerce Democrats into supporting anything like the House Republican repeal-and-replace plan he backed, which failed to attract enough GOP support to pass the House. The indecency of Mr. Trump taking millions of Americans’ health care hostage is compounded by his suggestion that repeal-and-replace is about freeing budgetary space for Republicans to tinker with the tax code rather than about fixing health care. Even posing his threat, meanwhile, is astonishingly reckless.”

Can Trump Take Health Care Hostage?,” asks Paul Krugman in his syndicated column. “Mr. Trump promised health care that would be “far less expensive and far better”…all he and his allies had to offer were surging premiums, higher out-of-pocket expenses and mass loss of coverage…And on Wednesday, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he openly threatened to sabotage health care for millions if the opposition party doesn’t give him what he wants…“Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” he declared, referring to cost-sharing subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket expenses for low-income families, and are crucial even to higher-income families, because they help keep insurance companies in the system…Mr. Trump is trying to bully Democrats by threatening to hurt millions of innocent bystanders — ordinary American families who have gained coverage thanks to health reform…Maybe Mr. Trump believes that he could somehow shift the blame for the devastation he has threatened to wreak onto Democrats. “See, there’s the death spiral I predicted!” But that probably wouldn’t work even if he hadn’t effectively proclaimed his own guilt in advance. Voters tend to blame whoever holds the White House for bad things, and in this case they’d be right: If there is a death spiral, it will have Mr. Trump’s name on it, and deservedly so…But here’s the thing: Even if Mr. Trump wimps out, as he is doing on so many other issues, he may already have done much of the threatened damage. Insurers are deciding right now whether to participate in the 2018 Obamacare exchanges. Mr. Trump’s tough talk is creating a lot of uncertainty, which in itself may undermine coverage for many Americans.”

The Times also has a devastating editorial calling out “Mr. Trump’s 10-Second Convictions” as he “caters to the oligarchs who surround him, builds his personal fortune and stirs the darker passions of his base. Why else would he break his promise to release his taxes or relinquish control of his business? Mr. Trump now surrounds himself with the bankers he once lambasted; he’s lagged behind on promises of infrastructure jobs, manufacturing revival and health care, while opening up bidding on the wall. He’s decried Syria’s gas attack on “beautiful babies” but continues to bar Syria’s children from America…To attribute the president’s pirouettes to personal growth would also require ignoring what’s actually staring us in the face — that there is no foundation to this presidency. With his all-important ratings tanking, the reality-TV maestro is rewriting the script, enthusiastically swapping out any position in pursuit of a “deal.” He is revealing himself to be a tactical, transactional president, with no guiding convictions or principles beyond “winning.” Not winning for everyone, as he so famously promised. Winning for Mr. Trump…Democrats or House Freedom Caucus members, NATO members or Middle East dictators, potential allies or adversaries — all must be deeply unsettled by the one clear pattern emerging here, a pattern that is consistent with Mr. Trump’s treatment of others in private life, from his stiffing of his creditors to his swindling of students at Trump University: betrayal.,,And where does that leave the working-class voters who pinned their hopes on this man? They can live with what Mr. Trump calls successes, and hope that his interests align enough with theirs to achieve some peripheral benefit. Or they can press their legislators, and demand from Mr. Trump himself, that he stop spinning and start delivering.”

Tuesday’s jungle primary in GA-6 is drawing wide interest, primarilly because Democrat Jon Ossoff is doing exceptionally-well in the polls, and has demonstrated impressive prowess in fund-raising that is driving Republicans to distraction. The Washington Post opinion staff is running a little contest, “Guess the result of the Georgia special election (and win a prize).” So far, The Post has the following guestimates from four pundits: David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, Jon Ossoff’s first round vote share: 48 percent, Runoff: Karen Handel 51 percent, Ossoff 49 percent. Hanna Hope, chief of staff at the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, Ossoff’s first round vote share: 44 percent, Runoff: Bob Gray 58 percent, Ossoff 42 percent; Matthew Towery, managing partner of Opinion Savvy, Ossoff’s first round vote share: 47 percent, Runoff: Ossoff 52 percent, Handel 48 percent; Tom Davis, former representative (R-Va.), now director of federal government affairs for Deloitte, Ossoff’s first round vote share: 43 percent, Runoff: Handel 54 percent, Ossoff 46 percent.” Beat the pundits and “Submit your own guesstimates for this question below. (If the form is not displaying, click here.) The reader with the best guesstimate will receive a free “Democracy Dies in Darkness” T-shirt.


Paul LePage’s Threat to the Senate

In those wonderful days before Donald Trump ran for president, the most ridiculously entertaining Republican pol in the country was often Maine governor Paul LePage. He was back in the news this week with a frightening threat, as I discussed at New York.

Per the Boston Globe:

“Maine’s Republican governor says he’s strongly considering running for the U.S. Senate, but also feels he ‘wouldn’t make a very good legislator.’’’

“Gov. Paul LePage made the comments on a radio appearance on WGAN-AM on Thursday morning. The two-term governor is termed out of his current job in 2018 and he has been the source of speculation about his next move.”

Most of said speculation has revolved around a 2018 LePage challenge to Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. He’s considering it, even though he doubts he would be good at the job and is concerned committee meetings “would be boring.”

Since he’s not that jazzed about the gig, perhaps LePage should make a Senate run conditional on someone talking Eliot Cutler into running as well — Cutler’s two independent candidacies for governor aided LePage’s election in 2010 and reelection in 2014 by pluralities.

There is possibly a different, easier route for LePage to get from Augusta to Washington: Senator Susan Collins has been openly talking about returning to Maine next year and running to succeed LePage. If she won, under current state law LePage would get to appoint someone to finish the last two years of Collins’s Senate term. He might find the most qualified candidate to be the belligerent man staring back at him from the mirror.

Yikes.


Trump’s Obamacare Squeeze Play on Democrats Backfires Spectacularly

Donald Trump probably thought he was pulling a trick out of The Art of the Deal when he tried to pressure Democrats into helping him salvage his healthcare disaster. But he tricked himself, as I explained at New York:

A heavy-handed effort by the president to take hostage insurer subsidies critical to the proper functioning of Obamacare — with the demand that Democrats cooperate to salvage Trump’s own failed health-care initiative — seems to be backfiring loudly. Soon after Trump made it clear (first via a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services, and then in his own words, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal) that he was indeed threatening to stop payment of the so-called Cost-Sharing Reduction subsidies (amounting to $7 billion in 2017 and an estimated $10 billion in 2018), congressional Democrats quickly struck back, reports The Hill:

“Congressional Democrats are demanding that key Obamacare payments be included in the next spending bill, raising the possibility of a government shutdown if they are not.”

The “spending bill” in question is the omnibus appropriations measure needed to keep the lights on in the federal government beyond April 28, the expiration date of the funding bill enacted last December. It has been the subject of extended negotiations involving the White House and both parties in Congress, aimed at removing “poison pills” that might produce a deadlock, a Senate Democratic filibuster, and a government shutdown.

Providing an appropriation for CSR payments would permanently take this particular weapon out of Trump’s hands — no matter how an underlying lawsuit, over the constitutionality of the Obama administration making the payments without such an appropriation, turns out….

Far from forcing Democrats to the table to help him pass the Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation he cannot get with Republican votes alone, he has emboldened them to fight back. Given significant Republican support (even among House Freedom Caucus members) for keeping the CSR payments flowing to avoid an individual-insurance-market meltdown, Trump may have gone into battle with his own flanks exposed. And he has now managed to add a new complication to the already-sensitive discussions aimed at avoiding a government shutdown, for which he would inevitably bear the major responsibility.

He will likely have to back down pretty quickly. Besides the low odds of success — and the terrible optics of risking health coverage for millions of Americans because he can’t get his own party in line — there’s yet another problem: If Trump goes to the mats on this issue, he’ll have to answer to all the other powerful interests who are deferring their own demands to keep the federal government open. Is this complicated gambit on health care really more important to Trump than defunding Planned Parenthood or getting money for a border wall? That’s one of the problems with hostage-taking: All your friends will want their demands included on the ransom note.


Grass Roots Stirrings Bode Well for Dems

In her HuffPo article, “Democrats In Illinois Just Unseated A Whole Bunch Of Republicans: They’re local races, but they fit with an emerging trend that could mean big trouble for the GOP in 2018,” Jennifer Bendery provides an encouraging report for Democrats. Some excerpts:

In a spate of local elections last week in Illinois, Democrats picked up seats in places they’ve never won before.

The city of Kankakee elected its first African-American, Democratic mayor. West Deerfield Township will be led entirely by Democrats for the first time. Elgin Township voted for “a complete changeover,”flipping to an all-Democratic board. Normal Township elected Democratic supervisors and trustees to run its board ― the first time in more than 100 years that a single Democrat has held a seat.

“We had a pretty good day,” said Dan Kovats, executive director of the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association. “We won in areas we normally would win, but we also won in areas Republicans never expected us to be competitive in. They were caught flat-footed.”

But, it’s not just Illinois, as Bendery adds:

…a Democratic congressional candidate in Kansas nearly pulled off a shocking win in a heavily Republican district. In Georgia, 30-year-old Democratic newcomer Jon Ossoff is outpacing his GOP rivals in a race to replace former Rep. Tom Price. The seat has long been Republican and was once held by former Speaker Newt Gingrich. These races come after a Democratic state Senate candidate in Delaware, buoyed by anti-Trump activism, annihilated her GOP challenger in an election that’s traditionally been close.

The mechanism that fired the grass roots victories in Illinois just may provide a workable template for local groups around the country. Bendery explains:

In the case of Illinois, a number of Democrats who just won got a boost from a program launched by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) called Build The Bench. It’s an all-day boot camp that offers nuts-and-bolts details for running a successful campaign. Bustos came up with the idea last year when she noticed a dearth of new Democratic candidates for Congress, and decided the best way to help build up her party’s ranks was at the local level.

She’s held two boot camps in her district so far ― The Huffington Post attended one of them in March ― and she’s already seeing tremendous payoff. Twelve Build The Bench alumni ran for local seats in this election cycle, and eight of them won. A ninth alum, Rita Ali, is currently down by one vote in her race for Peoria City Council.

“I am incredibly proud that the majority of our graduates who were on the ballot in April municipal elections won their races,” said Bustos. “If we want to be successful in the heartland, we need to connect Democratic candidates for office at all levels with the best practices, skills and expertise needed to run winning campaigns.”

Democrats face a steep, uphill battle to reverse the devasting effects of Republican gerrymandering in federal, state and local elective office districts. But it’s good to know that creative grass-roots initiatives are emerging, and good Democratic candidates are coming forward.


Political Strategy Notes

Democratic Senate candidates are doing well as their 2018 campaigns begin to crank up. As Ed Kilgore notes at New York Magazine, “The Democrats running in all those 2016 red states are by and large doing better than one might expect when it comes to job-approval ratings from their constituents. And the numbers do not invariably correlate to the presidential strength of the two parties in each state, either…Then we come to Democratic senators in states that Trump carried much more narrowly — indeed, narrowly enough that the usual midterm pushback against the party controlling the White House might erase any presumed GOP advantage entirely. All are in favorable territory…”

Alex Roarty of McClatchydc.com explores why “Liberals fume at Democratic establishment for refusing to take more risk,” and notes a debate about the role of the Democrtic Congressional Campaign Committee in the recent special congressional election in Kansas, in which a Democratic candidate lost in a bright red district by less than 7 percent: “The DCCC will continue its longstanding and failed model of helping only most favored candidates until grassroots disgust makes that stance untenable,” said Jeff Hauser, a longtime progressive strategist. “Taking `chances,’ especially in a cycle which might well prove to be a wave, should be the DCCC’s default approach.”…Democratic allies of the DCCC have argued that running TV ads in the Kansas district would do more harm than good because Republicans could have used them to argue that Thompson was a tool of the national party – a potent criticism in a conservative area. They also say that calls for the party to help with mail or field staff would have taken months of preparation for a race nobody knew would be competitive until last week. (The DCCC did not conduct a poll of the race until days before the election.)..Democrats in Washington – at the Democratic National Committee and the DCCC, which is House Democrats’ campaign arm – flatly reject the charge that they did anything wrong in Kansas, arguing that involvement from the national party would have been counterproductive and an unwise use of scarce resources. For many reasons, moving the needle in a district this conservative is difficult for a group like the DCCC.”

Trump’s gloating tweet, “Great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes, easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!” was met with the following tweet from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight: “Estes underperformed Trump’s margin by 20.3 points. If every district behaved like that, Dems would gain 122 (!) House seats next November…They’d also win Senate races next year in Texas, Utah and Mississippi (plus Arizona and Nevada).”

As political observers fix on the GA-6 House race, Kyle Kondix has this to say about it at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “We’re calling GA-6 a Toss-up, a designation we applied to the race roughly two weeks ago after the National Republican Congressional Committee sounded the alarm bell and started aggressively spending money in the district. That’s in addition to the millions the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that is close to Speaker Ryan, has also spent in the district. Since then, Ossoff’s huge fundraising has come to light, as have early voting statistics that seem to indicate heavy Democratic interest in the race (although Republicans, who have more candidate choices and thus perhaps waited longer to vote, are catching up)…So there’s a lot of uncertainty about the outcome: Polling, typically spotty in House races, generally shows Ossoff in the low 40s. If that’s all he gets in the first round of voting, and the combined Republican vote is over 50%, one would assume that Ossoff’s general election opponent would start with the upper hand: After all, the first round results are better than any poll — they are actual voting results that can be a preview of the runoff on June 20, if there is one. However, if Ossoff’s vote and the scattered votes for the four other Democratic candidates add up to a total approaching 50% (say, 45% or more), it may indicate that the runoff should be quite competitive. Obviously, a first-round win by Ossoff would be noteworthy because he would have exceeded Clinton’s 46.8% 2016 share significantly — and blown recent previous Democratic House performance in the district out of the water. Another factor: As of now, Ossoff and Democrats have not been attacking the Republicans because it’s anyone’s guess how the first round will play out, while outside GOP groups have been hammering Ossoff, hoping to drive down his numbers (and while Ossoff has been running lots of positive ads on his own behalf). Ossoff and national Democrats may be preparing to drop the hammer on whichever Republican emerges from the first round, again assuming Ossoff does not win outright on Tuesday. In other words, the dynamic changes on Tuesday in advance of a possible runoff: The GOP survivor goes from running against his or her fellow partisans to running against Ossoff, while Ossoff can shift into attack mode because he would have a clear opponent.”

According to a new CBS News poll (conducted 4/7-9), “More than half of Americans are worried about President Donald Trump’s ability to handle the situation with North Korea’s nuclear program, according to a new CBS News poll…Fifty-six percent of respondents described themselves as “uneasy” about Mr. Trump’s capabilities, while 39 percent said they were “confident” in his ability…On the plus side for Mr. Trump, a growing number of Americans say that he is not “too friendly” toward the Russian government. Forty-eight percent now say his approach to Russia is “about right,” and only 35 percent say he is too friendly. In February, that number was 43 percent.”

Yet, Claude Brodesser-Akner  of the NJ Advance Media for NJ.com reports, “A new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found that 69 percent of New Jerseyans believe Trump is not releasing his tax returns “because they would show his close financial ties to political business figures in Russia.” Forty-four percent believe this to be “possibly true,” while 25 percent say the statement is “definitely true…The FDU poll found whatever New Jerseyans believe about Trump and Russia, it’s sharply informed by their party affiliation…Four-in-ten (39 percent) of Garden State Democrats believe it’s “definitely true” that Trump is hiding a close connection to political and business figures in Russia.Just four percent of Republicans believe the same.”

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof taps into the insights of top experts of nonviolence and comes up with advice for the anti-Trump resistance. His key points: “First, advocates are often university-educated elites who can come across as patronizing. So skip the lofty rhetoric and emphasize issues of pocketbooks and corruption. Centrist voters may not care whether Trump is riding roughshod over institutions, but they’ll care if he rips them off or costs them jobs….Second, movements must always choose between purity and breadth — and usually they overdo the purity. It’s often possible to achieve more with a broader coalition, cooperating with people one partially disagrees with. I think it was a mistake, for example, for the Women’s March to disdain “pro-life” feminists…Third, nothing deflates an authoritarian more than ridicule. When Serbian youths challenged the dictator Slobodan Milosevic, they put his picture on a barrel and rolled it down the street, allowing passers-by to whack it with a bat…In recruiting for the Trump resistance, Stephen Colbert may be more successful than a handful of angry Democratic senators. Trump can survive denunciations, but I’m less sure that in the long run he can withstand mockery.”

“Bill Bishop, co-author of the book “The Big Sort” and a founder of The Daily Yonder, makes the case that the political split in America is not an urban-rural divide. Instead, he argues, it is between the largest cities and the rest of America. In an email, Bishop noted that…outside of cities of a million or more — and really outside of the 56 central city counties of these large metros — Democrats lose….This applies not only to presidential races, but to the House as well. In a piece for The Daily Yonder, Bishop wrote that “Democrats don’t have a ‘rural problem.’ They have an ‘everywhere-but-big-cities problem’.” He provided data on the pattern of partisan victory in 2014 House races on a scale from super urban to very rural. Democrats won a majority of districts only in the most urban counties, while Republicans won two out of every three in very rural districts.” – from Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times op-ed column, “Reaching Out to the Voters the Left Left Behind.”

At some point, the ‘worst flip-flopper ever‘ designation has got to cost votes.


Stoehr: Democrats Need a Larger Share of White Working Class Votes to Win Presidential Elections — Even a Small Increase Could Do It

The following article by by John Stoehr, a Yale political scientist, columnist and essayist, is cross-posted from U.S. News & World Report.

The Democrats were sweating the question of what to do about the white working class long before President Donald Trump came along. They used to be, virtually, the white working man’s party, while the Republicans used to be the white rich man’s party (with an influential African-American bloc) before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board decision and the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, both signed into law by a Southern Democrat.

Race became then a complicating factor like never before. Southern whites abandoned the party. So did many white “ethnics” in major Northern and Midwestern cities who hated “forced busing” but loved Republican Richard Nixon’s message of “law and order.” Meanwhile, the Democrats had to make room for new and growing factions while holding on to what was left of the old ones.

Then came the election of America’s first black president. A new idea immediately took hold: Maybe the Democrats didn’t need to worry anymore about the white working class. The party’s base was increasingly diverse. The economy was changing dramatically. Maybe a party that relied heavily on voters who benefited from an economy based on manufacturing could safely and successfully pivot to voters who had not benefited from the old paradigm.

Obama didn’t think so. The president labored mightily to secure the support of voters in rusting industrial states like Wisconsin and Michigan, sending Joe Biden, the scion of blue-collar Scranton, to fire up crowds before joining in the attack of Mitt Romney, the corporate raider bent on tearing down the economy, as he tore down factories and good jobs. That populist message, and others like it, ensured Obama’s famous “Midwest firewall.” Even if he lost Florida and other swing states, he would still have

But even before his re-election, Obama was becoming a minority in his own party. As the Republicans made huge gains in the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 – as well as in state legislatures around the country – Democratic elites, especially the party’s donor class concentrated on the coasts, remained convinced that time was on their side. Demographics, they told themselves, was destiny.

The story went something like this: The past belongs to the ignorant, the racist, the reactionary and those who could not keep pace with the technological challenges of the 21st century, while the future belongs to the Obama coalition, to the cosmopolitan and to the audacious who dared to hope for a more perfect union. Hillary Clinton’s loss was made more painful by the fact that everything post-Obama Democrats told themselves was true was false.

In retrospect, the problem was a familiar one. The Democrats tend to confuse politics for ethics. Sometimes they are the same. Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes they are distinct. But never in the history of the world has ethics been a substitute for politics. Post-Nixon Republicans have had no such illusions. They are often eager to jettison ethics if ethics threaten their hold on power.

Ethically speaking, the Democrats are right. Trump is a lying, thieving, philandering sadist whose pathological inclinations threaten American values and embolden America’s enemies. But being right didn’t win the election, and being right won’t win future elections. Yes, Clinton won 3 million more votes, but that means next to nothing as the Democrats rethink their strategy.

Central to that strategy should be the humble admission that the Democrats were wrong. Obama didn’t believe he could win without the white working class. Neither should any future Democrat. The party must continue, as it has for decades, to strike balance between old factions and new. The Great Recession, economic inequality, globalization and polarization are macro forces that have carved up the country in such a way that the Democrats face long odds in the Electoral College if they do not present a plausible alternative to Trumpism, especially in the Midwest. Yes, white won, as one of my favorite writers, Jamelle Bouie, put it post-election. But white has nearly always won. The strategy now should be figuring out ways to create electoral conditions in which white wins a little bit less.

The goal is more modest than it seems. The Democrats do not need, and should not try, to win over all white working class voters. Those like Bernie Sanders who decry “identity politics” and long for a return to labor movements are expressing nostalgia, or worse, not constructive advice. The party needs only to drive a wedge into that voting bloc. Seriously. It’s not going to take much. Trump won by about 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Democrats have the policy. Now they need the message. Time will tell what that will be. For now, my concern is about factions within the party that see appeals to the white working class as surrender to white supremacy. Indeed, the white working class was OK with bigotry. But being OK with bigotry is not the same as being for bigotry. And when the goal is driving a wedge into the white working class, racism can be met with powerful policies, like expanded Social Security, that only the Democrats can offer.

It has been argued that Trump expanded the map for Republicans, but it can also be argued that the Democrats allowed that to happen. The Republicans hope to maintain their hold on white working class voters in the Midwest. Perhaps they will, but not if the Democrats admit they were wrong and return to fight.


Democrats Reframing Tax Debate to Highlight Trump’s Abuses

As millions of taxpayers prepare to pay taxes to subsidize give-aways to the wealthy, Democrats are refocusing their strategy to call attention to the ways President Trump benefits from Republican tax “reform” and his refusal to honor his promise to release his tax documents. Greg Sargent explains the strategy at The Plum Line:

The Republican Congress has essentially built a protective wall around President Trump — and at times, this can make efforts to bring transparency or accountability to his unprecedented conflicts of interest and serial shredding of democratic and governing norms appear hopeless.

But now Democrats have a new opening to try to chip away at that protective wall: the debate over tax reform.

…The New York Times reports that Democrats are coalescing around a strategy that would use the White House’s desire for tax reform to try to leverage more transparency about Trump’s business holdings. The basic idea — which your humble blogger suggested back in January — is that tax reform is particularly ripe for conflicts of interest, given Trump’s refusal to divest from those holdings. So Democrats can use the reform measures the White House pushes to demand that he reveal the specific ways in which his holdings might benefit from those measures, while using the broader attention to the issue — which impacts the tax bills of millions of voters — to renew the demand that Trump generally release his returns.

In an interview with me this morning, former Obama ethics chief Norm Eisen noted that GOP divisions on health care have shown that Republicans struggle to pass legislation on their own, despite GOP control. “You’re going to see similar fractures,” Eisen said, meaning Democrats may end up with “substantial leverage.”

“Democrats can use questions about the multiple conflicts raised to drive attention to the issue and to insist on concessions,” Eisen continued. “One is specific disclosures related to any policies he’s pushing for. We’re looking at corporate rates. What is the rate differential going to be into his pocket? We’re looking at particular areas of cuts. Will there be a cut relating to real estate? Will the alternative minimum tax be eliminated?”…“When he signs this bill, he may be giving himself a huge financial transfer,” Eisen told me. “He may be directly benefiting himself with some of these tax policies, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars or more.

…We’re going to have a big burst of attention to his taxes this week, with the tax march,” Eisen said, adding that recent disclosure documents revealing that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump continue to benefit from an enormous array of holdings could increase the pressure to recuse themselves from policy debates that could impact them — such as tax reform…“You’re going to see angry constituents in the districts applying pressure as well. It’s going to be a continued festering wound for Trump. I believe eventually he’s going to have to make some concessions on this. It’s part of his low approval ratings. There’s been a constant miasma of scandal because he won’t provide this information and won’t divest.”

“At a minimum,” argues Sargent, the strategy “could draw increased attention to the fact that congressional Republicans continue to look the other way while Trump continues shredding basic norms of ethics and transparency.”

Sargent notes that the White House is planning a big campaign to spin Trump’s first 100 days as a great success, which will try to show that he honors his promises. But Democrats have an embarrassment of riches indicating the contrary. If they present their case well, the GOP media blitz could backfire spectacularly.

When Democrats call “attention to Trump’s untold conflicts of interest, lack of transparency around his holdings and refusal to release his returns — and to the ways in which those things are intertwined,” writes Sargent, it will help reveal that the “swamp” Trump promised to drain “has become a veritable cesspool.” Add to that images of Trump’s unprecedented number of golf outings, Mar-a-lago trips and the costs to tax payers of the jet-set shenanigans of his offspring, as well as exorbitantly-expensive policy ideas like his border wall, and a clear picture emerges of a President and party who give no pause to squandering the tax-payer dollars of working people to subsidize a corrupt regime — which now seems more accountable to Vladimir Putin than hard-working American taxpayers.