Given how unlikely it is that the House Republican majority would approve articles of impeachment (no American president ever has been impeached when his own party controlled the House), the real political prize for Democrats is winning the House in 2018.
And making impeachment the major theme of 2018 elections is not a winning formula, at least not yet, in the view of party strategists.
Electing Democrats and flipping the House to Democratic control is the only way to provide a real check on Trump’s reckless ways, they argue. And the way to do that is by maintaining a focus on pocketbook issues, criticizing the Republican policy agenda, and, in swing districts, winning over some who voted for Trump in 2016 and may be turned off by strident talk of impeachment.
That emphasis makes sense for several reasons. If Democrats took the bait and made impeachment their central priority, they would look pretty ineffectual if it didn’t happen, which remains at least a strong possibility. They would also become the new ‘Party of No,’ which is also risky, since voters are growing tired of do-nothing government which investigates more than it legislates.
That is not to say that Dems should avoid getting involved in moving impeachment of Trump forward. It’s really about not making it the Democratic party brand. Democrats can’t dodge their responsibility to defend America’s national security, which Trump has grotesquely compromised. They should be eager participants in the impeachment process when the time is ripe. But Democrats who make impeaching Trump the focal point of their identity as a 2018 candidate risk courting defeat.
Another strategic argument against Democratic candidates leading the campaign for impeachment is that Republicans really ought to be held more accountable for their Frankenstein. They created the climate that nurtured the Trump disaster, and they should be forced to spend their time, energy and resources on getting rid of him. Trump’s impeachable offenses are also a wedge that can further divide the Republican Party, thereby helping Democratic candidates to chart a path to victory.
There is also an argument that Pence could be even worse for Democrats, since he doesn’t have Trump’s immaturity and arrogance, and might end up looking like a significant improvement to scandal-weary voters. In the worst case scenario, Pence could legally serve as President for 10 years or longer. Dems should not rush to give him that opportunity.
“…At this early stage,” report Herndon and McGrane, “many party leaders contend, putting impeachment front and center in House races across the country would be a mistake. Most elected Democrats are proceeding with extreme caution, avoiding the word impeachment and in most cases refusing to straight-out accuse Trump of committing crimes.” Further,
Strategists say Democrats are right to tread a careful line. Focusing 2018 messaging on impeachment — at least at this early stage — runs the risk of getting ahead of public sentiment. Democrats are better served, they say, by talking up the Republican effort to replace the Affordable Care Act. Polls show the House-passed GOP bill, which would cause an estimated 23 million people to lose insurance, is highly unpopular with voters of all political stripes.
“Impeachment is so high-stakes that you have to be very careful moving forward with that,” said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “The waters are so muddy now, with Comey and Mueller, and the committees looking into that. I’d certainly focus on health care, where Republicans look very vulnerable.”
Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, in a recent memo offering guidance on political messaging, cautioned Democrats against losing focus on health care. Trump’s ongoing crisis does not necessarily rub off on House Republicans, it said.
As the chorus for impeachment grows, Democrats will likely face increasing pressure to get out in front of the effort to rid America of Trump. But Democrats should keep focused on the essential task — creating a message that brands Democrats as the only political party that fights for working people of all races and their families. Give Trump and the GOP the room they need to self-destruct, while Democratic candidates show American voters what serious leadership looks like.
In his article, “How attitudes about immigration, race and religion contributed to Trump victory,” Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz discusses four reports just released by Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. Balz reports that “The findings are based on online surveys, including one after the election with a sample of 8,000 people who had participated in other such surveys in 2011, 2012 and mid-2016. The surveys were conducted by the firm YouGov” and address “the appeal of candidate Trump, the multifaceted coalition that came to support him, political divisions that continue between and within the parties, and how certain issues came to prominence in 2016.”
Much of the study covers some familiar ground. Balz shares the views of George Washington University political scientist John Sides, who notes that,
“…Attitudes about immigration, feelings toward black people and feelings toward Muslims became more strongly related to voter decision-making in 2016 compared to 2012.”…Sides argues that, even before 2016, there was “an increasing alignment between race and partisanship” and among whites there was “an increasing division based on education,” with non-college-educated whites moving away from the Democratic Party, especially after the election of Obama in 2008.
“The shifts among white people overall and white people without a college degree occurred mostly among white people with less favorable attitudes toward black people,” he writes. “No other factor predicted changes in white partisanship during Obama’s presidency as powerfully and as consistently as racial attitudes.” But he also notes that there also were clear divisions between white Democrats and white Republicans in their evaluations of Muslims and their attitudes toward immigration…What did change between 2012 and 2016 was the increased significance in voters’ minds of issues about immigration and attitudes toward blacks and Muslims, among whites both with and without college degrees.
The study apparently did not provide metrics indicating how much of any such attitude change was amplified by Trump’s immigrant-bashing and xenophobic rants, nor to what extent real attitude changes were a function of growing economic insecurity experienced by the survey respondents. Trump’s Electoral College win — let’s not forget that he lost the national popular vote — may well have been a one-time souffle of fears and resentments that he was able to serve up in the rust belt, NC and FL at a particular moment.
Balz adds that “Economic stress also was a factor, with those who expressed negative views about the economy in 2012 “more likely to express key negative cultural attitudes in 2016,” according to a news release summarizing the findings.” However, writes Balz, Sides also found that there was “no statistically significant relationship between trade attitudes and vote choice in either election [2012 or 2016]. Nor was the widely discussed issue of economic anxiety more important in 2016 than in 2012.”
Balz shares a “typology of the Trump Coalition” presented by Emily Ekins of the Cato Institute. As Balz writes:
She labels his core constituency as “American Preservationists” who comprise about a fifth of his supporters, and are less loyal Republicans than are other Trump voters. They lean economically progressive, think the political systems are rigged and have “nativist immigration views and a nativist and ethnocultural conception of American identity.”
About 1 in 3 Trump supporters are “Staunch Conservatives.” Ekins writes that they are “steadfast fiscal conservatives, embrace moral traditionalism and have a moderately nativist conception of American identity and approach to immigration.”…“Free Marketers,” a quarter of Trump supporters, hold more moderate-to-liberal views on race and immigration and supported Trump primarily because of their dislike for Clinton. “Anti-Elites,” about a fifth of the Trump coalition, are motivated by a belief that the political systems are rigged but take a more moderate position on immigration, race and national identity. She labeled a small fraction of his supporters as “The Disengaged” and said they feel unable to influence political and economic institutions.
The typology seems excessively rigid, however, since most voters hold overlapping constellations of priorities and concerns that change from day to day. In addition, the scandals and failures of the Trump Administration since election day have whittled his supporters down to the hard core, as his tanking approval ratings suggest.
As for relevance to the 2018 midterm elections, the erosion of Trump’s credibility since last year raises furhter doubts about how many of his former supporters are going to vote for his fellow Republicans in 2018. It remains equally unclear how many are going to even show up at the polls.
In her New York Times op-ed, “Increasing Voter Turnout for 2018 and Beyond,” Tina Rosenberg does an excellent job of distilling current issues associated with voter turnout and reforms needed to improve turnout. An excerpt:
One way for campaigns to get their voters to the polls is to recruit a good candidate who can inspire voters and run a competitive race…Then there’s painstaking fieldwork. All campaigns do it, but Donald P. Green, a professor at Columbia, said that many do it wrong. With Alan S. Gerber, Green wrote “Get Out the Vote,” which collected evidence from randomized controlled trials about what gets candidates’ supporters to the polls. “There’s a strong consensus that one of the few things that actually does increase turnout is contact, preferably in person,” said Green. “Shoe leather really works.” Especially when it’s a neighbor doing the door knocking.
…Even in 2018, pro-turnout factors will be undercut by numerous structural barriers — long-term obstacles intended to preserve the dominance of rich, white, older people by suppressing the votes of poorer, younger minorities.
Nevertheless, in the last few years, many states and cities have begun institutional reforms that make voting easier.
Denver is a leader. Coloradans have long been among the nation’s most enthusiastic voters, and last November, Denver set a personal best: 72 percent of those registered voted — much more than in most major cities. (The percentage was 67 in 2008, and 63 in 2012.)
“For us, this is a customer service issue,” said Amber McReynolds, Denver’s director of elections. “Whatever we can do to better serve our voters, we’re going to do.”…Denver mailed a ballot to every registered voter. Voters could fill it out at home and then mail it in or bring it to a drop box. Mailed ballots could be tracked with bar codes…Voting at home was popular; 92 percent of voters chose to do it. Those who did go to a polling place could do so anywhere in the city — near home or near work…There were other modernizations: People could register and vote on the same day. Those who moved had their voter registration changed automatically when they updated their driver’s license.
…The Illinois legislature, for example, just adopted automatic registration, by unanimous votes in both houses. If the governor signs it, then citizens who have contact with state agencies, including the motor vehicles department, will be automatically registered unless they decline.
Oregon was the first state to institute automatic registration, but now there are eight, as well as Washington, D.C. They include red states: Alaska, Georgia and West Virginia. Momentum is growing; so far this year, 32 states have introduced proposals to institute or expand it.
Rosenberg discusses a range of other remedies for low voter turnout, and she also calls attention to the problem of voter suppression. Also read reports by The Nation’s Ari Berman and others who cover the problem of voter suppression — the very deliberate practice of rigging and twisting election laws and otherwise interfering to prevent people of color and young voters from casting ballots.
The technical fixes to confront voter suppression are much-needed. But it’s also important that the Republican Party do some soul-searching about their commitment to prevent citizens from voting, based mostly on their race. The way it is now, with GOP control of all three branches of government, they see little need to change their commitment to voter suppression. Not one conservative pundit has even ventured a comment on this issue.
Gone are the Republican patriots of an early era who understood that their party should try to win the votes of all races, if they truly believed in democracy. Now it’s wink, wink, ‘voter fraud is the real problem,’ — a meme that no Republican leaders actually believe is the truth.
The only way to compel Republicans to take an honest look at how essentially unAmerican and morally compromised their party has become on the issue of free and fair elections is a resounding defeat at the polls. That should be the top priority for Democrats, certainly — but also for voters who want to restore balance and integrity to American government.
Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff, & Olivia Myszkowski explain why “Absent a MoreProgressive Economics, the Democrats Will Lose” at The American Prospect/Democratic Strategist roundtable on ‘The White Working Class and the Democrats’: “…Too many times, our party has been guilty not just of sins of omission—failing to stand up to the Republicans on critical issues, or even providing the GOP cover in some cases (as when some congressional Democrats supported the Bush tax cuts and the war in Iraq)—but of commission, too. The Obama administration’s embrace of the financial industry early in his first term, combined with its decision not to prosecute any of the individuals and institutions responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, led to a new low point in the Democratic Party’s credibility as a check on Wall Street. In the 2010 midterm elections, voters who blamed Wall Street for the country’s economic problems preferred Republican candidates by a margin of 16 points, despite the Democratic Party’s efforts to deliver a message against Wall Street special interests…Given this reality, it is not particularly surprising that the party has yet to articulate a clearer, more credible, and more commanding vision for the economic revitalization of the country, the middle class, and, more specifically, the hollowed-out communities in which many white working class voters struggle.”
In the same forum, Guy Molyneux, partner and senior vice president at Peter Hart Research Associates, writes, “…Trump will lose ground if and when white working-class voters see that he is not delivering for them, and is in fact serving others. Democrats must aggressively contest Trump’s core promise to the white working class: that he is putting the government to work for them. Much of Trump’s actual agenda is of course devoted to helping millionaires and large corporations. Our job is to make it impossible for working-class Americans to miss, or deny, that reality…In terms of a broader message, Democrats’ traditional economic populism offers a starting point, but we need to also borrow a bit from Trump’s playbook. We must speak not only about inequality and unfairness in our economy, but also about politicians who use their political power on behalf of corporations and the wealthy…We now have a tremendous opportunity to leverage public disgust with government, while focusing it on its proper target: Republicans’ determination to use government power to enrich the rich and empower the powerful. ”
“We need to start winning the trust of working-class voters through year-round, in-person engagement,” writes Matt Morrison, the deputy director of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO,” also at the roundtable on The White Working Class and the Democrats. “In those conversations and subsequent communications efforts, we need to change the narrative so voters’ frustrations are refocused on the appropriate targets instead of on other working-class people who are different from them. By doing so, we can defuse right-wing messages that target “others” and negate demands for racial justice….We must engage voters with face-to-face conversations that are as much about listening as talking. It’s this kind of organizing that persuades the skeptical and mobilizes the committed. As Andrew Cockburn has noted in Harper’s Magazine, “Of all the ways to get people to come out and vote tested by the academics, one emerged as the absolute gold standard. Talking to them face-to-face, the longer the better, turned out to have a dramatic effect. … [T]he effect is infinitely more cost-effective than any traditional media-heavy approach.””
The McCaskill Smackdown:
In his PowerPost article, “Inspired by Sanders, activists push Democrats to the left — or out of the way,” David Weigel notes an important distinction between two different kinds of populism: “Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a freshman who has become the face of the Justice Democrats political action group, which was set up to beat “corporate” incumbents in primaries, said there was such a thing as too much negativity…“There’s a populism that goes after a villain, and there’s a populism that’s aspirational,” Khanna said. “Aspirational populism cuts across the party. It means talking about single-payer health care. It means the bill I’m working on with [Sen.] Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio] to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Six months ago, people said that was crazy. And now everyone who might run in 2020 is calling and asking if they can endorse it.”
Ronald Browstein writes at The Atlantic: “If the continued decline of blue-collar whites is the principal warning sign for Republicans in the new figures, the red light flashing most brightly at Democrats is the disappointing turnout among minorities. Though Trump presented a uniquely polarizing and provocative foil, the Census figures showed that turnout in 2016 sagged among Hispanics and skidded among African Americans….Among Hispanics, the States of Change analysis found that turnout declined slightly among those with a college education (down from nearly 71 percent in 2012 to just over 68 percent in 2016) and among those without (from just under 44 percent last time to just under 43 percent this time). Overall, the Census put total Hispanic turnout at just under 48 percent, which is within the narrow range of 47 percent to 50 percent over the past four presidential elections that has frustrated Democrats hoping for larger gains and greater impact.” — from Ron Brownstein’s article ..The most positive sign for Democrats was state-level Census data showing Hispanic turnout surging in Arizona and improving somewhat more modestly in Nevada and Colorado, all states where the party made a significant organizational effort. (Surprisingly, the Census data show Hispanic turnout declining from 2012 in Florida and slipping modestly in Virginia and North Carolina.)…In 2016, turnout sagged to about 73 percent among college-educated African Americans (down from nearly 80 percent in 2012) and to about 56 percent among those without degrees (down from over 63 percent in 2016). Overall, the Census data showed turnout among eligible African Americans dropped fully 7 percentage points from 2012 to 2016, the biggest drop over a single election for the group since at least 1980. In the battlegrounds that tipped the election to Trump, state-level Census data show black turnout plummeting in Wisconsin; skidding in North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio; and declining more modestly in Michigan and Pennsylvania.”
Those who are concerned about the deployment of pro-Republican groups to provoke physical confrontations and intimidation of Democratic voters should check out “Bikers for Trump dip toe into local politics with Handel-Ossoff contest” by Tamar Hallerman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As Hallerman writes, “It wasn’t exactly your typical Saturday afternoon sight in this sleepy Sandy Plains neighborhood: almost a dozen barrel-chested, leather-clad bikers — led by a quartet of clean-cut high school students, no less — going door to door asking if these 6th District voters plan to support Republican Karen Handel…“We’re here to put Karen Handel where she needs to be,” one of the bikers told a voter at his front door, “in D.C. supporting President Trump.”…So members of the group – some from as far as Florida – dropped in on a Handel campaign event Saturday at Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q in Marietta. The contrast in style was striking: Handel, sporting boat shoes and a white collared shirt, shaking hands with the bikers, clad in leather vests with patches stating “all my ammo is dipped in pig’s blood…“This is not about Karen Handel. It’s about the Republican Party,” said Strzalkowski. “We support Karen Handel because she supports President Trump.”
At FiveThirtyEight.com Harry Enten explains why “Democrats Have A Slight Edge In The Georgia 6 Runoff But the race is too close to call,” noting that “The race remains too close to call. Ossoff’s lead is slim, especially given the past accuracy of special House election polling, and we simply don’t know what to expect voter turnout to be in Round 2 compared with Round 1. Still, it’s significant that Ossoff has maintained and even widened his lead as voters make up their minds, because it suggests that undecided voters aren’t overwhelmingly Republican. It’s possible that Handel will pick up the vast majority of the remaining undecided voters in the campaign’s final days, but there’s no reason to expect that to happen… If the current polling holds, Handel’s just a normal polling error away from winning — but she, not Ossoff, needs that error. Either way, this one’s probably going down to the wire.”
“If Republicans don’t act fast, Democrats will pitch their plan for single-payer, universal health care as a choice between something that costs individuals less vs. more, that is simpler vs. more complicated, that leads to greater equality vs. more inequality,” writes freaked out Republican strategist Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. “Republicans should be on the lookout. While we try to muddle through repealing and replacing Obamacare, Democrats are sharpening their message on health care. In their race to the left, Democrats are increasingly calling for a full-fledged single-payer system. And considering Republican credibility on repeal-and-replace is damaged, if not shot, the Democrats’ message will be compelling to a lot of voters who sense nothing but confusion from the GOP. The momentum is shifting, and the stakes are getting higher for Republicans…And in this fight, Republicans cannot just become the party of no. If Republicans fail to stand up and speak with clarity, we may be forced to defend the remnants of Obamacare as the best option to ward off socialized medicine. The public senses confusion, and the Democrats sense an opportunity. Time is running out.”
I used to live in the Sixth Congressional District of Georgia. I can assure you the people of that suburban area have never seen a political fight quite like the special election runoff contest between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff. I offered an update at New York this week:
Ossoff has led Republican Karen Handel in all four public polls released since the April 18 first round. The latest, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, shows the Democrat up 51 percent to 44 among likely voters.
Early voting in the district is looking significantly stronger than it was in the first round, with nearly 70,000 votes cast already, and a trajectory of perhaps 100,000. Ossoff handily won among the 55,000 early voters in the primary, when the total vote was only 159,000. So this could be another good sign for him, although, as Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman says: “The extraordinary pace has Republicans optimistic they’ve awoken their dormant base.”
Lord knows they are trying. Earlier pro-Handel ads from national GOP groups focused on linking Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi, depicting the whole Ossoff campaign as a stealth effort to give San Francisco another congressman. The idea was to remind sixth-district Republicans that the mild-mannered, bipartisan-sounding young man was in fact a Democrat. But now anti-Ossoff ads have taken on a frantic urgency and some of the most over-the-top mischaracterizations of an opponent in living memory. The fake-Trump-beheading Kathy Griffin (who offered an unsolicited endorsement of Ossoff in a tweet not long ago but otherwise has no connection to the campaign or to the candidate) has replaced Pelosi as the demon-figure, as in a new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The message, which is about as subtle as a 5 a.m. jackhammer, is that any Republican who doesn’t bother to vote against Ossoff will be enabling “childish radicals” (an allusion to Ossoff’s youth, which apparently makes him suspiciously similar to the window-smashing anarchists in the ad) to destroy the country. The ad even mentions President Trump, which Team Handel has generally avoided in this district he only won by a single point last year. The capper is a quick, grainy image of Griffin high-fiving a young man. It’s actually fake-Trump-beheading photographer Tyler Shields, but in the flash of a moment he could sure pass for Jon Ossoff. It should be reasonably clear Republicans are counting on older voters to win this thing.
The two candidate debates (there could be more, though none have been confirmed) have been largely wonky affairs punctuated by Handel stressing Ossoff’s inexperience and residency outside the district and Ossoff calling Handel a “career politician.” Handel did make one gaffe in the first debate, saying she didn’t support a “livable wage,” but that was probably not a game changer in this wealthy, conservative district.
With the airwaves super-saturated from now until June 20, the outcome of this election probably depends on the ground game. One theory about why early voting is so high is simply that voters want to get off the campaigns’ contact lists and stop the constant phone calls and knocks on the door, which are occurring at levels Georgians have never before experienced. The silence after June 20 will be deafening.
As complicated as health care is, the case against Trump’s health-care bill is simple. Trump promised to provide “insurance for everybody”; the American Health Care Act passed by the House last month would cause 23 million Americans to lose their coverage. Trump promised not to cut Medicaid; the AHCA would slash more than $800 billion from the program. Trump promised to protect people with preexisting conditions; the AHCA would allow discrimination against such patients. As National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro put it, Republicans are essentially proposing “a 21st Century version of ‘Lord of the Flies.’ ”
For Democrats, opposing Trump’s plan, which a measly 8 percent of Americans support in its current form, is a no-brainer. But with health care emerging as the American people’s top concern , according to recent polls, Democrats would be wise to seize the moment, go on the offensive and rally around a bold alternative to the Republican Party’s backward vision. It’s time for progressives and Democrats to unite behind Medicare for all.
Under a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, the United States would join virtually every other Western country in recognizing health care as a fundamental right and providing insurance for every citizen. It would reduce the burden on employers, which bear the brunt of the cost of insurance today, and it would bring down overall health-care costs because Medicare is more efficient than for-profit private insurance…
Public opinion data indicate that majority support for such a system has arrived. As vanden Heuval writes,
Contrary to how it is often portrayed, this is not some left-wing fantasy but an idea with widespread across-the-aisle support. An April survey from the Economist/YouGov showed that 60 percent of Americans support “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American,” including a majority of independents and nearly half of self-identified Republicans. Likewise, a Gallup poll conducted last month found that a majority of Americans would like to see a single-payer system implemented. (Given how deeply Medicare is woven into the fabric of our society, I prefer the term “Medicare for all” over the wonky “single-payer.”)
The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, but far short of the broader health security that would be provided by a universal, single-payer, Medicare for all system. Americans are ready for serious health care reforms. But the Republicans have shown they can’t deliver it. Democrats now have a unique opportunity to lead the way forward.
Perhaps the best reason reason to energize a ‘Medicare for all’ movement is that it will literally save lives, help millions of Americans to heal more quickly and prevent a lot of unnecessay illnesses. Every day of delay exacts a heavy cost in lives lost and Americans staying sick longer than necessary. And toward what end — bigger profits for health insurance companies?
Health care is the central, progressive reform — the one that is most urgently-needed for a thriving democratic society. It’s the reform that can re-inspire the confidence of citizens in their government. It can also position the Democratic Party as the most credible choice for voters who believe we can do better.
Universal health security is a simple, easy to understand principle, and Medicare for all is the most credible way to get it. It is an easier sell than yet another set of ‘reforms’ in a for-profit system. Many who believe in economic competition and a strong private sector also understand that taking the profit motive out of our health insurance system is really the only way to cover everyone.
Some may argue that Medicare for all is a radical reform that will scare a lot of voters. Which voters? Not those who have no health insurance. Not those who are paying too much out-of-pocket for skimpy coverage. Not those who are fed up with the ever-increasing premiums of for-profit unsurance companies.
There is some legislation already pending, as vanden Heuval reports:
A bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) in the House has 112 co-sponsors, representing a solid majority of the Democratic caucus, up from just over 60 in the last Congress. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made Medicare for all a central plank of his presidential campaign platform, is preparing to introduce a bill in the Senate. And last week, supporters of Medicare for all scored a big victory when the California Senate advanced a state-level single-payer bill that DeMoro hailed as a “moral model” for the country.
Yes, the Republicans have the votes to defeat a Medicare for all bill. But that’s not a good reason to campaign for something weaker. They are going to defeat anything Democrats propose, at least until the midterm elections. So why not use the opportunity to brand the Democrats as the party that has a serious proposal to cover everyone and build a movement for a healthier society?
Win or lose, a stronger Medicare for all campaign can educate millions of voters, help take the boogeyman out of the term “socialized medicine” and advance the day when everyone has health security, just like in other industrialized nations. It’s a much more appealing alternative than fighting for another ‘reform’ bill that leaves millions uncovered.
Some may say “yes, Medicare for all is the best goal, but we have to get there gradually.” The legislation should provide adequate time for health insurance companies to diversify assets and reallocate their resources. But ‘delay’ too often translates into ‘never,’ and America has been postponing a reckoning with our failed health care system for many decades.
For Democrats, the leadership challenge is clear. As civil rights leader Dorothy Height once put it, “If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.”
Read former F.B.I. Director James B. Comey’s prepared testimoney to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Among the better articles interpreting Comey’s prepared statement, read E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “Trump doesn’t understand how to be president. The Comey story shows why,” which notes “Here are the things Trump still doesn’t get: (1) Comey is his own person concerned with his own reputation and standing. (2) A president, unlike a despot, can’t unilaterally change the rules that surround a legal investigation. (3) People in government don’t work only for the president; their primary obligation is to the public. (4) Personal relationships matter a great deal in government, but they aren’t everything; Comey could not go soft on Michael Flynn just because Trump likes Flynn or fears what Flynn might say. (5) Because of 1, 2, 3 and 4, Comey was not going to do what Trump asked, even if this meant being fired.”
In his WaPo op-ed “I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey’s statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice case,” Phillip Allen Lacovara sees it this way: “Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.”
“Sixty percent of U.S. voters believe President Trump did something illegal or unethical in his dealings with Russia, fewer than three in 10 voters believe he is level-headed and more than half say they disapprove of the way he is handling the economy, immigration and climate change, according to a poll released Wednesday…Those negatives, and more, contributed to a new low in the president’s overall approval rating as charted by Quinnipiac University. Only 34 percent of American voters approve of the president’s performance, while 57 percent of voters disapprove.” — from Cody Fenwick’s post at The Patch, “President Trump’s Approval Rating Falls To Lowest Point: Poll.”
Yet CNN’s Eric Bradner explains why “Even amid Russia probe, many Democrats see health care as their real winner,” and offers this quote: “I would encourage all of our candidates to make sure that health care stays front and center of the election,” said Guy Cecil, the chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.”The visceral, gut reaction that people have makes it more powerful than Russia,” he said. Further, adds Bradner, “No matter the outcome of the Russia investigation, “health care will be a cornerstone issue in 2018,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of the liberal blog Daily Kos. “It motivates the base like few other issues, and more and more, moderates are aligned with liberals,” Moulitsas said. “It’s a win-win.”” And, “When I’m talking to candidates,” [Democratic political consultant Zak] Petkanas said, “I tell them that they should be saying ‘health care’ five times for every time that they say the word ‘Russia.'”
Dave Weigel reports on a “resolution” of the incident in which congressman-elect Greg Gianforte assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The outcome is an apology by Gianforte coupled with a donation of $50K to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims.” Weigel adds that “Gianforte is still facing criminal misdemeanor charges in Gallatin County, Mont.” Even still, I have to wonder if Gianforte is getting off pretty easy and if the agreement will encourage more violence against journalists.
The Economist argues that “A surge in activism could reinvigorate the Democratic Party…Or perhaps sink it.” The magazine’s editors note “The energies unleashed by the Women’s March, the biggest political protest in American history, have been sustained. In even the most conservative places, including the lily-white northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, where [Republican Rep.] Mr Rothfus won in November with a big majority, established centre-left groups report massive increases in support and new ones are mushrooming. MoveOn, an online protest outfit with 8m members, says it has three times as many monthly donors as it had before Mr Trump’s inauguration. “This is what we were made for,” enthuses its director in Washington, DC, Ben Wikler. Primed by social media, and fuelled by ever-rising outrage at Mr Trump, the most successful new entrants are growing even faster…Pantsuit Nation, a pro-Clinton Facebook group started during the election campaign, had 3m members by the end of it. A report by the Centre for American Progress, a think-tank, reckons 140 new groups have been launched since then. The breakout star of the new activists, Indivisible, was launched by a pair of former Democratic congressional staffers in January, and now has 6,000 groups, in every congressional district, including 15 in Mr Rothfus’s…Indivisible followers swamp their local Republican lawmaker with pestering letters, jam their phone lines with inquiries, about their votes or intentions to vote, buttonhole them in public and organise protests rallies when they go to ground, as many now have…” However, cautions The Economist in the concluding paragraph, “For Democratic politicians vying to appeal to this massive and growing crowd of fired-up progressives, the answer may be to worry less about ideology and more about tone.”
Thomas B. Edsall makes a case that “The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought” in his NYT column, after reading some of the articles featured in The American Prospect/The Democratic Strategist roundtable “The White Working Class and the Democrats.” Edsall’s observations include, “Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions…What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide. Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and raceare in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets…Democratic pessimism today stands in contrast to the optimism that followed the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2012.” Unlike Republicans, however, Democrats are at least facing their internal problems with open dialogue and searching for solutions.
In his post, “Democrats Keep Losing, but They May Be on Track to Win” at The Upshot, Nate Cohn writes, “But even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018. They’re consistent with a strong Democratic showing in next year’s midterm elections, and they’re even better than what one would expect in a so-called wave election, like the one that swept Democrats into power in the House in 2006 and back out in 2010. It’s what the Democrats need to win the 24 seats necessary to retake the House next year…Even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018…Democrats need to win seats like Georgia’s Sixth, but they don’t need to win all of them…What Democrats really need is put these races into play. They have done that and more.”
So, “What does an early voting surge mean for Georgia’s 6th District?,” asks Kristina Torrez in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her take: “Adding to the suspense, nearly 8,000 voters have been added to the district’s voting rolls since the April special election. Experts say those are likely to be “high propensity” voters — meaning they are more likely to turn out to vote than skip the race. “The federal judge’s ruling to reopen voter registration was a game changer for the Ossoff campaign because it allowed him to hopefully expand the electorate,” Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson said…Johnson said the early voting numbers should favor Ossoff because Democrats traditionally do a better job of getting their voters to the early voting sites.”
As the taking down of monuments to Robert E. Lee continues to create controversy, I weighed in with some perspectives at New York:
While observing the brouhaha over Robert E. Lee’s legacy that has arisen again after certain cities (most famously New Orleans and Charlottesville, Virginia) have chosen to take down monuments to the general who surrendered at Appomattox, I had the frequent thought that the debate suffered under the misapprehension that these monuments were memorials to the Confederacy. They weren’t. They were monuments to the neo-Confederacy that dominated the South and national race relations up until and in some respect beyond the civil-rights movement. In his second eloquent take on why the monuments need to come down, Adam Serwer makes the key point:
“The Lee monument in New Orleans went up not in 1876 but in 1884, as racist paramilitaries like the White League helped the Democratic Party re-establish its political dominance over the city; these statues are commemorations of those victories, not politically neutral commemorations of fallen warriors. They were raised to, in the words of the historian David Blight, help ‘construct a story of noble sacrifice for a holy cause of home and independence, and especially in the service of a racial ideology that would sustain white supremacy.'”
This is true not just of monuments to Lee and other Confederate leaders, but of that other recent source of controversy, the maintenance of Confederate emblems (typically the Confederate battle flag) on southern state flags and at state capitals. For the most part, these emblems were adopted not immediately after the Civil War, but after the South had regained its “sovereignty” and proceeded to erect a Jim Crow society (in Mississippi, that was in 1894) — or even much later, in the 1950s, when Jim Crow was finally challenged in the courts and in civil protests (the Confederate battle flag appeared on the flag of my own home state of Georgia in 1956). As the preeminent political scientists who studied this issue concluded:
“The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.”
Neo-Confederacy is in some respects even more consciously racist than the Confederacy itself. But however you assess its motives, it has been very clearly focused not on the personalities and sacrifices of the Civil War, but on the racist South’s long and amazingly successful struggle to maintain white supremacy despite the abolition (formally, at least) of slavery and the enactment of the Civil War amendments to the Constitution that were long in conflict with southern realities. As Serwer notes, Lee was a convenient symbol of the supposed “reconciliation” between North and South that made Jim Crow possible.
“The so-called ‘Redemption’ that ended Reconstruction did not come from weary Americans wanting to lay down the sword, it came from the champions of the white South reddening their swords with the blood of the emancipated, and the white North making a conscious decision that the cost of protecting the freedmen’s rights was not worth paying.”
By his surrender at Appamattox, and his much-honored postwar career, Robert E. Lee was very much a symbol of the idea that in losing the Civil War the white South had given up slavery but maintained its “honor,” its “states’ rights,” and its self-determination in choosing to subjugate ex-slaves and deny them the rights for which the war was allegedly fought, at least in northern eyes. The postwar white terror that afflicted the South until the United States wearily abandoned Reconstruction was invariably treated as a product of Reconstruction rather than what is actually was: a partial victory for the “lost cause” that lasted much longer than the Confederacy.
It’s this neo-Confederacy that must be acknowledged and finally repudiated by people in all parts of the country, in no small part because all parts of the country were complicit in the horrible betrayal of African-Americans (and the white people who died and sacrificed on their behalf) that occurred when Reconstruction was abandoned and white supremacy reigned supreme in the former Confederacy.
The road to a sustainable Democratic majority—nationally, locally, and in the states—must include much higher Democratic performance with white working-class voters (those without a four-year degree). Nearly every group in the progressive infrastructure is busy figuring out how Democrats can get back to the level of support they reached with President Obama’s 2012 victory. That is a pretty modest target, however, given the scale of Democratic losses. It underestimates the scope of the problem and, ironically, the opportunity.
The Democrats don’t have a “white working-class problem.” They have a “working-class problem,” which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly. The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate, including the Rising American Electorate of minorities, unmarried women, and millennials. This decline contributed mightily to the Democrats’ losses in the states and Congress and to the election of Donald Trump.
Fortunately, Democrats have the opportunity to consolidate, engage, and perform much better with all of working America. I say “opportunity” advisedly, because better performance requires Democrats to embrace dramatically bolder economic policies and to attack a political economy that works for the rich, big corporations, and the cultural elites, but not for average Americans.
At The Washington Post, Kristine Phillips reports that “Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised to provide up to $15 million in funding that he says the United Nations will lose because of President Trump’s decision to pull out from the landmark Paris climate deal. The billionaire’s charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, on Thursday pledged to shoulder the United States’ share in the operating costs of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the organization’s climate negotiating body in charge of helping developing countries fulfill environmental requirements under the 2015 pact…Previously a longtime Democrat, Bloomberg switched to the Republican Party to run for New York mayor in 2001. He switched again in 2007 and became an independent.” Prospective Democratic presidential candidates might do well to expect a Bloomberg run in 2020, and his choice of party affiliation could make a pivotal difference.
Professors Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu argue at The Monkey Cage that “It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class,” noting that some political writers overstated Trump’s working class support during the primaries, and offer data showing that “Trump supporters were mostly affluent Republicans” and “Trump seemed to have about as many people without college degrees in his camp as we would expect any successful Republican candidate to have.” Lupu and Carnes concede that “During the general election, 69 percent of Trump voters in the election study didn’t have college degrees,” but “white non-Hispanic voters without college degrees making below the median household income made up only 25 percent of Trump voters. That’s a far cry from the working-class-fueled victory many journalists have imagined.” The authors are surely right that working-class status can’t be precisely measured by either income, occupation or education as separate factors, and most writers for the better publications use these stats as a rough indicator, not the indicator. Expelling all white workers with household incomes above the median income from the working-class also seems a bit rigid. If a mechanic who works a lot of overtime, while his spouse waits tables in a restaurant together earn household income equal to 115 percent of the median, are they no longer working-class? By any measure, the white working-class is still one of the largest voter demographics and Trump’s Electoral College victory got a big boost from white working-class votes in battleground states. Yet, Democrats should be able to win a larger share of this constituency. Even a small improvement could make a significant difference.
Meanwhile, in the post, “Most Discussions On “The White Working Class” Are Based On An Awful Caricature: Part I, Demographics,” Smallch offers these observations at Daily Kos: “First off, we need to note that the white working class is not predominantly a small town or Red State phenomena. In fact, the truth is almost the complete opposite. As the Washington Post noted after the election, about 70 million people in the “white working class” live in or around large and medium sized cities, against only about 20 million who live in small towns and rural areas*. Like pretty much any group, the white working class is predominantly suburban….the common picture of the white working class voters as being uniquely motivated by racism is somewhat true, but nowhere near enough to support the idea that the group is uniquely, or monolithically racist. About a 39% of white people with no college degrees say being white is a very important part of their identity, compared with 29% of people with college degrees. If we use that as a proxy for general racial sentiment, that means someone in the white working class is about a third more likely to be racist, which is significant but hardly overwhelming. And, truth be told, I suspect most of that difference comes down to regional distribution, i.e. the south and much of the southwest are disproportionately working class.”
In a round-up at The Hill, Amy Parnes writes that some “Dems want Hillary Clinton to leave spotlight,” and quotes a number of observers to support the contention. Parnes cites “string of remarks explaining her stunning loss in November coupled with the public remarks blaming the Democratic National Committee for the defeat — which many took as also critical of Obama — are hurting the party and making the 2016 candidate look bitter.” But the arguments that Clinton should pipe down and fade away suffer from the fact that she, ahem, won the popular vote, and has earned the right to speak her mind, particularly on policy. Nor could Clinton avoid commenting on Comey’s role and Russian interference in the 2016 election, even if she wanted to, since it’s such a big story. She might well be more effective if she focused more on policy, and less on blame. But it’s really up to other Democratic leaders to distinguish themselves, regardless of what Clinton says or does.
Joshua Zeitz explores the phenomenon of Hillary-hatred in his Politico post, “Why Do They Hate Her? Hillary Clinton is the most maligned presidential loser in history. What’s going on?,” Again, she won the national popular vote, which is more important in measuring attitudes toward her than are the polls. It’s likely that far more people detest Trump. Among many other factors, Trump’s narrow margin of victory in key battleground states could be explained in terms of his votes from those who felt more that it’s time to try an outsider, rather than being driven by intense dislike of Clinton. The media’s Clinton-bashing is not necessarily an accurate reflection of public opinion. But Zeitz is right that conservative media subjected her to an unprecedented campaign of villification, and it would be amazing if it didn’t have an effect — even though she has never been charged with anything.
The New York Times has a report, “First Rule of Far-Right Fight Clubs: Be White and Proud” by Alan Feuer and Jeremy W. Peters, which exposes violent hate groups supporting Trump. The article notes the proliferation of right-wing groups with names like ‘Alt-Knights,’ ‘Proud Boys’ and ‘Oath-Keepers,’ who “recruit battalions of mainly young white men for one-off confrontations with their ideological enemies — the black-clad left-wing militants who disrupted President Trump’s inauguration and have protested against the appearances of conservative speakers on college campuses.” The authors note that “Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime associate of Mr. Trump’s, has taken the Proud Boy oath.” His website, “The Stone Zone,” notes “In 2000 Stone is credited with the hard-ball tactics which resulted in closing down the Miami-Dade Presidential recount. Stone is credited in HBO’s recent movie, “Recount 2000” with fomenting the so-called “Brooks Brothers Riot” in which a Republican mob swarmed the recount demanding a shutdown while thousands of Cuban-Americans marched outside the Courthouse demanding the same thing.” One common denominator of right-wing physical attacks, from the Brooks Brothers Riot, to counter-protests at rallies protesting against Trump on thru the Gianforte meltdown, is their targeting of the elderly, women or vulnerable males.
The Jon Ossoff campaign for the GA-6 House seat is sparring with their adversaries about debates. The Ossoff campaign wants debates to be hosted by “the metro Atlanta press corps” to help keep the focus on district-wide concerns, and it has turned down a debate format hosted by CNN’s national anchors for a national audience. “Ossoff’s campaign pointed to a May 31 statement in which he repeated his support for six local debates and “expressed disappointment” that [Karen] Handel declined to participate in a showdown hosted by CBS 46.,” notes Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Also re the GA-6 election, Mike DeBonis and David Weigel explain at PowerPost why “Amid Trump’s unpopularity, Democrats face rising criticism for failing to invest more in special elections,” and note: “Republican-aligned outside groups funded mainly by large donors have swamped their Democratic counterparts, led by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Paul D. Ryan-aligned super PAC that has announced plans to pump $7 million into the race. The main Democratic super PAC aimed at House races, in comparison, has announced only $700,000 in spending ahead of a June 20 runoff…The disparity in outside funding has raised alarms among Democrats who fear that the party is squandering clear opportunities in its quest to win the House majority in 2018…“Democrats make it as hard as possible to be successful in the outside money game,” said Bill Burton, who co-founded the first major Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA. “The roadblocks preventing donors from wanting to engage are far more abundant. Our activists want our values to be reflected in everything we do, and that’s great — but on the GOP side they’re not as adherent to principles.””
“…The media are just totally unable to grasp the idea that some people are turned away from the polls by voter suppression efforts. They’re constantly pouring cold water on the idea that people could be turned away. They spent so much time interviewing Trump voters and trying to figure out, why did people vote for Donald Trump, what was their motivation—as opposed to spending even any time trying to interview people who were turned away from the polls or who weren’t registered to vote, and asking them, what happened to you, why were you disenfranchised, why did you decide not to participate, why did you try to participate and you couldn’t? So to me, I still have a lot of issues with how the media is covering this issue.” –From Janine Jackson’s FAIR interview with The Nation’s Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
After the agony of Election Night for GA-06 on January 20, I thought it might be a good idea to offer Democrats some immediate hope. So I wrote up the electoral prospects for the rest of 2017 at New York:
[M]any Democrats are undoubtedly wondering when the impressive anti-Trump passions of 2017 will produce a win in a nationally significant and competitive contest. The two remaining scheduled special elections this year are not very promising for the Donkey Party. The first, in November (assuming a battle over control of the special election between the governor and legislature is resolved) is in dark-red Utah, in the district of Representative Jason Chaffetz (who is resigning at the end of this month), the 16th-most Republican House district in the country according to the Cook Political Report. There are 15 Republicans, as compared to four Democrats, who are running for the Chaffetz seat at this point.
In December (after primaries in August and party runoffs in September), Alabama will hold a special election to formally choose a successor to Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Republican Luther Strange at least temporarily holds the seat he was appointed to by disgraced former governor Robert Bentley, who resigned shortly after filling the seat). There is a lot of intrigue around the crowded GOP primary for this seat, and potentially some divisive intra-Republican activity, but no one at this point is giving any Democrat a chance. Perhaps that could change if the infamous “Ten Commandments judge,” Roy Moore, wins the GOP nomination. But Moore has won statewide as recently as 2012, which is something no Alabama Democrat can say. Democrats haven’t held a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in 20 years, since Howell Heflin was replaced by Jeff Sessions.
So more than likely Democrats looking for a boost going into the midterm-election year of 2018 will rely on their solid prospects in the two states holding regular gubernatorial elections in November, New Jersey and Virginia.
The Garden State contest looks like a very solid bet to break the Democratic losing streak. This remains a fundamentally Democratic state; Hillary Clinton handily defeated Donald Trump 55–41 there in 2016, and the state legislature has been under Democratic control since 2004. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy (a former ambassador to Germany and one of the remarkably large cast of former Goldman Sachs officials in politics these days) has money to burn and is fresh from an easy June 6 primary win over a large field. Republican Kim Guadagno won her primary pretty easily as well, but as lieutenant governor she is laboring in the large and dark shadow of Chris Christie.
According to a post-primary Quinnipiac poll, Christie’s job-approval rating has dropped to an astounding 15 percent, the worst Quinnipiac has found in any state for any governor in the last 20 years. (Not that he cares.) Unsurprisingly, the same poll showed Murphy leading Guadagno by better than a two-to-one margin (55 percent to 26). The best news for the Republican is that half of voters don’t know enough about her to have an opinion of her — though it is unclear where Guadagno will get the money or the credibility to convince them she’s what the state needs.
In Virginia, the Gillespie/Northam campaign has just begun, but a new Quinnipiac poll shows Northam leading 47 percent to 39. Aside from a united party and the support of reasonably popular incumbent governor, Terry McAuliffe, Northam has history on his side: Nine of the last ten Virginia gubernatorial races were lost by the candidate from the party controlling the White House (McAuliffe, in fact, was the one exception). Things could change, but Donald Trump does not seem like the kind of president who will help his party buck that trend in a state he lost last year.
So Democrats who are wondering why they cannot have good things may only have to wait for a little less than five months for some validation.