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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

October 21, 2017

Teixeira: Democratic Wave Building?

The following post by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other major works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog, The Optimistic Leftist:

Special elections provide important clues on political momentum. One under-analyzed area of special elections is state legislative seats. There are many more of these than there are of the heavily-publicized Congressional specials. Brian Stryker and Zac McCrary of ALG Research provide a detailed analysis of the legislative specials and detect very considerable Democratic momentum. Bottom line: the patterns are so strong that if they continue they could be enough to shift dominance of state legislature from Republicans to Democrats in 2018. That would be huge.

Caveats apply of course and Stryker/McCrary provide some at the end of their article. And Republican advantages from incumbency are considerable. Still, their results are rather striking and in an area where Democrats pay far too little attention.

Note this also about where Democrats should compete:

Additionally, many Beltway pundits continue to debate whether Democrats should target so-called blue-collar Obama-Trump type districts or more white-collar, suburban Romney-Clinton districts. The answer so far on the legislative level, is “Yes”; Democrats need not acquiesce to that false choice. Just like FiveThirtyEight, we find that Obama’s 2012 performance and Clinton’s 2016 performance in a district are equally predictive of 2017 results….

Because both 2012 and 2016 have been equally important predictors, a lean Obama district that swung heavily to Trump is just as ripe an opportunity as a strongly Romney district that shifted to Clinton. Republican legislators who hold either of those types of districts — as well as a much broader swath of GOP districts — should be very worried by what has occurred at the legislative level over the past several months. Likewise, Democrats do not necessarily need to choose between targeting state houses in places like Iowa where Trump did well in 2016 or states like Arizona or Virginia, where Trump is generally weaker than other recent Republicans.


Vegas Mass Murder Spotlights GOP’s Failure to Protect Americans

The horrific mass shoting in Las Vegas raises the question, is it at long-last time to ban or restrict assault weapons?

The easy availability of semi-automatic/assault weapons has been a threat to national security for a long time, and we have seen clamor for gun control swell and fade after mass shootings time and again. But the horrifying toll of this one vicious shooting incident — currently at 59 fatalities and 500+ injuries — brings a new urgency to calls for congressional action.

We had a federal ban on assault weapons, which was enacted in 1994. But it was allowed to expire in 2004. there was a failed effort to pass the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. Today, only seven U.S. states have assault weapons bans, and Minnesota and Virginia have training and background check requirements for assault weapons purchases. Some cities and counties in Colorado and Illinois have local laws banning sale of assault weapons, as does Washington, D.C.

The Editorial Board of The New York Times presents a graphics display which helps to put the problem in political perspective. Entitled, “477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress,” the graphic doesn’t provide the horrifiying death and injury toll, which is well into the thousands. But insert the term, “Republican-controlled” before “Congress” and you have a more accurate description of the reason for inaction. Republican leaders of congress have been extremely effective in preventing even modest assault weapons restrictions that might save lives from being enacted.

That’s not to say that all Democrats have supported restrictions on semi-automatic weapons. Some have been cowed by the NRA, and their silence is part of the problem. But it’s equally-accurate to say that all serious initiatives to restrict assault weapons in recent years have come from Democrats. Back in 1993 former Republican Presidents Ford and Reagan joined Jimmy Carter in calling for a ban on  “semi-automatic assault guns.” But today, nearly all Republicans in congress have failed to do anything to protect Americans from the scourge of easilly-available semi-automatic and assault weapons. Democratic Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.) introduced “Assault Weapons Ban of 2015” and was supported by 149 House co-sponsors, but not one of them was a Republican.

Democrats can be confident of public support for restrictions on semi-automatic and assault weapons. A 2016 Quinnipiac University National poll found that 59 percent of voters supported “a ban on the sale of assault weapons.” An even larger majority — 64 percent — agreed that “”It’s possible to make new gun laws without interfering with gun rights.”

There will be heated arguments over the next few weeks about the effectiveness of legislation to restrict assault weapons. But the NRA bromide about a “good guy with a gun” as the best remedy for stopping domestic mass murders has been utterly discredited by the Las Vegas killings. The only thing that is certain is that no legislative remedies will even be given a chance to succeed until Democrats win a working majority of both houses of congress.


Political Strategy Notes

“The Brookings Institution noted that by the end of June, 209 Democrats not currently in Congress had registered with the Federal Election Commission to run,” notes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.  “That was nearly triple how many Republican challengers had registered at this point in 2009, when the G.O.P. was galvanized by antipathy toward President Obama and new candidates were coming out in what was then considered droves. Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House the following year… 23 Republican incumbents represent congressional districts that Clinton won last November…“You have to shoot for the stars,” the Democratic operative Hilary Rosen told me. “You might just reach the moon.”…But even as Rosen said that, she hedged any prophecy of a rout, in a manner that spoke to the difficulty of properly calibrating optimism in 2018. She worried about Democrats’ policy agenda. She worried about the party’s tone. “I still think we lack a sunny, aspirational outlook,” she said. “We’re going down in the mud with Donald Trump.”…She added that the party wasn’t focused on change in the right, compelling fashion. “The change that Donald Trump was selling was blowing up the system,” she observed. “What’s our change? Is our change to patch up the system? Not very sexy.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. boils it down nicely in his column, “The only thing the Republican Party knows how to do” at The Washington Post: “The party of Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell has abandoned the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, who championed the Homestead Act and land-grant colleges; Teddy Roosevelt, who protected vast tracts of nature on behalf of future generations; and Dwight Eisenhower, who pushed for student loans and the Interstate Highway System…The only thing today’s Republican Party knows how to do is cut taxes for the very rich.”

If you were looking for a couple of soundbite-sized stats to frame the Republican’s tax “reform” bill, WaPo’s Kelsey Snell has it at PowerPost: “…Democrats and some outside groups say the outline favors top earners over the middle class. A study released Friday by the nonprofit Tax Policy Center found that the top 1 percent of earners would see nearly 80 percent of the benefits under the GOP tax plan, while those earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would see a slight tax increase.”

At The Fix, Amber Philips provides three reasons Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s entry into the contest for Republican Jeff Flake’s U.S. senate seat in Arizona is a “big deal,” including: “1. Flake is one of two vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection next year; 2. Sinema is the Democrats’ top choice to take on Flake; and 3. Democrats needed a good candidate in Arizona to help them hold the line against Republicans and Trump.” Sinema’s compelling announcement:

PowerPost’s David Weigel  notes another great ad produced by Cheri Bustos (D-IL): “At one point, the candidates saw a direct-mail advertisement Bustos had sent after passing a bill that required the federal government to buy U.S. flags that had been entirely made in the United States. “Made in America, thanks to Cheri Bustos,” read the front of the ad….“It’s the best piece of mail I’ve ever sent,” Bustos said.”

A couple of salient points from  Justin Gest, author of “The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality,” from Chauncey Devega’s interview at salon .com: “The people who I encountered in Youngstown and its surrounding areas were people who voted for Trump not because they thought he was brilliant or he was a once-in-a-generation politician. It was because they had a sense of desperation. They voted Democrat before. They voted Republican before. They had just sat out before as well. They tried everything and they couldn’t get their way. They couldn’t get someone to pick up their issues, to actually empathize with their plight. Because, remember, in Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin they have been feeling a Great Recession way before 2007, going back to the ’70s. Yet no one has come to rescue them. They said, “Hey, what do I have to lose?…I don’t think white working-class people thought the Democrats gave a damn about them in 2016. You know what the truth is? They were right. I don’t think white working-class voters are necessarily “low information.” The truth is, they could easily discern that Republicans didn’t care about them. They were right, which is why they voted for someone who is effectively neither a Democrat or a Republican. That is why I bristle a little bit at the narrative that white working-class people vote against their interests. They are just not voting in their material interests. They’re voting in their cultural interests.”

Michael D. Shear and Yamiche Alcindor report at The New York Times on the Democrats’ strategic dilemma regarding immigration policies: “Fearful of concessions to Mr. Trump that could increase immigration enforcement aimed at their families and friends, the activists are targeting Democratic congressional leaders with loud political protests. And Democratic politicians may be vulnerable. They have already shifted to the left on a number of issues, such as health care, as they try to take advantage of liberal fervor stoked by the Trump era….But moving too far to the left on border security could hold serious risks for a party that lost the presidency with defeats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa — all states where immigration remains a hot-button issue.” Nonetheless, “We are determined to get Republicans votes to pass the clean Dream Act,” says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In his Plum Line column, “Why Democrats aren’t tearing themselves apart — yet,” Paul Waldman shines some sobering light on the “Dems in Disarray” meme that has become a staple of lazy political journalism: “…The market for ideological warfare within the Democratic Party just isn’t as robust as it is within the Republican Party…That doesn’t mean that liberal Democrats are going to eschew strongly liberal candidates and flock to centrists. But it may mean that at certain times, they’ll decide to put aside ideological fights for another day. They may look at a race like Arizona and say, “okay, so Sinema is never going to be my favorite senator. But if she’s the strongest Democratic candidate in this particular election in this particular state, I’m not going to try to turn the primary into an ideological bloodbath.” With 2018 presenting the possibility of a genuine wave election that gives Democrats the House and maybe even the Senate, the stakes of every race become incredibly high…It’s good to remind yourself now and then that Twitter is not America. There will certainly be raging fights in some quarters about this or that 2018 candidate, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you pull out and look at the broader picture, the Democrats seem polite, cooperative and reasonable in their internal debates — particularly when you contrast them with the Republicans.”

From Joy Reid’s MSNBC interview with Faiz Shakir, national political director of the ACLU, about his organization’s new state-specific project to end voter suppression:


Roy Moore’s Abortion Extremism Is Beyond Comparison

In the brief period since Roy Moore won the GOP Senate nomination in Alabama, conservatives have tried to paint Democratic nominee Doug Jones as an “extremist” on abortion policy. As I argued at New York. nobody’s an “extremist” like Roy Moore.

Roy Moore has staked out the most hard-core position imaginable on abortion, and has maintained an uncomfortably close relationship with activists who justify violence against abortion providers and punishment of women for exercising their right to choose. And that’s aside from his regular comments suggesting that legalized abortion and homosexuality have brought down divine wrath on America.

Wherever Doug Jones would draw the line between legal and illegal abortions, there is zero question where Roy Moore would draw it: He wants to make every abortion under any circumstances illegal from the moment of conception, and punish those who procure them, regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court says. He made that clear not in some op-ed, but in an opinion from his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, in a 2014 case involving prosecuting a woman for endangering her fetus by using drugs:

“Because a human life with a full genetic endowment comes into existence at the moment of conception, the self-evident truth that ‘all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights’ encompasses the moment of conception. Legal recognition of the unborn as members of the human family derives ultimately from the laws of nature and of nature’s God, Who created human life in His image and protected it with the commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Therefore, the interpretation of the word “child” in Alabama’s chemical-endangerment statute, § 26-15- 3.2, Ala. Code 1975, to include all human beings from the moment of conception is fully consistent with these first principles regarding life and law.”

As this quote illustrates, Moore is a leader in the “Personhood Movement,” which holds that from the moment of conception a zygote enjoys the full protections of the Equal Protection Clause, which precedes and preempts any claim by the woman involved. If there was any doubt about Moore’s position, it should have been removed by a 2012 amicus brief he and his Foundation for Moral Law signed in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving a proposed personhood constitutional amendment in Oklahoma. Moore and his group noted they were promoting a personhood initiative in Alabama similar to Oklahoma’s, and then argued:

“While Personhood laws may challenge the legitimacy of the so-called ‘right’ to abort that person under Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, by blocking personhood protection for every preborn child, ‘threw the baby out with the bathwater’ and rejected the many other ways a state may protect the life and dignity of the preborn child.

“Finally, the Holy Scriptures provide additional support for the personhood of the preborn child. Though some interpretations of scriptural passages try to devalue the preborn, the Bible, rightly divided, consistently protects the life of preborn persons from murder and assault as equally as it does those already born.”

How extreme is the zygote-personhood position, which would arguably ban in vitro fertilization clinics and various forms of contraception? Extreme enough that initiatives to place personhood provisions into state constitutions have failed by large margins on the five occasions they’ve made it to the ballot: three times in Colorado, once in North Dakota, and perhaps most relevantly for Alabama, once in arch-conservative Mississippi.

Even though it had widespread support from Republican and even a few Democratic elected officials, Mississippi’s Amendment 26 was defeated by a 59–41 margin in 2011.

Roy Moore’s position on abortion was too extreme for Mississippi. Is it just right for Alabama? Perhaps that question should be answered before anyone starts picking apart Doug Jones’s interview answers. But without question, Jones needs to occupy more, not less, of the vast ground between Moore’s positions and those of regular Alabamians, who may frown on late-term abortions but don’t want to treat women as distrusted, ungodly bystanders in the reproductive process.


Creamer: Trump’s War Threats Should Be Met by Renewed Calls for Disarmament

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

No one really believes that an even moderately rational leader of North Korea would use nuclear weapons to launch a first strike against the United States. Such a move would almost certainly lead to the annihilation of North Korea itself – and its leadership. It would be suicidal.

But history shows that the confrontation between the United States and North Korea still carries with it enormous danger: the danger that a horrific conventional or nuclear war could occur as a result of miscalculation or mistake. And the likelihood of such a catastrophe increases exponentially when the leaders who could launch a war are impulsive, erratic megalomaniacs like Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, historians have identified dozens of close calls – miscalculations or mistakes – that could have led to a nuclear war.

On October 27, 1962, the Soviet Fox-Trot class diesel submarine B-59 was cruising in waters off Cuba near the U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Randolph and nine destroyers. The submarine B-59 was in international waters, but as part of the U.S. naval blockage of Cuba, the destroyers began dropping depth charges around the B-59 signaling it to surface to be identified.

The B-59 had been cruising too deep to monitor U.S. broadcasts and had not been in touch with Moscow for three days. Fearing that the depth charging meant that a war had already broken out, the Captain of the B-59, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky decided to launch the ship’s nuclear-tipped torpedoes at the attacking U.S. ships.

Normally, the Captain only had to get agreement from his political officer to launch nuclear-tipped torpedoes or missiles. Luckily, on the B-59 the Captain, his political officer Ivan Maslennikow, and the second-in-command Vasili Arkhipov had agreed that all three must unanimously agree before the B-59’s nuclear armaments were used. This stemmed partially from the lucky coincidence that Ankhipov, though he was only second-in-command on the B-59, was commander of the entire flotilla of submarines and of equal rank with the Captain.

The Political Officer agreed with the Captain to use the nuclear-tipped torpedoes. Only Ankhipov refused to agree and ultimately convinced the Captain to surface and contact Moscow. Ankhipov’s case was bolstered by the lucky fact that the sub’s batteries were low, the air conditioning had failed, and heat and carbon dioxide levels onboard had risen.

He might not have realized it at the time, but Ankhipov’s good judgment and resolve probably prevented a nuclear war. But what if it had been a different sub?

Historian Graham Allison begins his new book Destined for War, by quoting German chancellor Theobald von Bethman Hollweg. “Ah, if we only knew,” he said when pressed by a colleague to explain how his choices, and those of other European statesmen, had led to the most devastating war the world had seen to that point – World War I.

Allison goes on to note that none of the major actors in Europe wanted a war. And by the time it was over in 1918 the key players had all lost what they fought for: “the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the German Kaiser ousted, the Russian tsar overthrown, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of it treasure and youth. And for what. If we only knew.”

The major actors unthinkingly made mistake after mistake and “blundered into the abyss.”

In his December, 2016 article in the New Yorker entitled, World War Three, by Mistake, Eric Schlosser says: “Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.”

He goes on to describe a terrifying episode:

On June 3, 1980, at about two-thirty in the morning, computers at the National Military Command Center, beneath the Pentagon, at the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (norad), deep within Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and at Site R, the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States. The Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan, and the animosity between the two superpowers was greater than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. Air Force ballistic-missile crews removed their launch keys from the safes, bomber crews ran to their planes, fighter planes took off to search the skies, and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land.

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at norad headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

 Let’s remember what a nuclear war is all about. One study showed that a single 1-megaton bomb exploded above the city of Detroit would cause up to 630,000 deaths and injuries from blast alone. And many of those who escaped death initially would ultimately suffer horrific deaths from the effects of nuclear fallout or burns.

In all three of these instances, the decisions leading to a war – or almost leading to a war – did not involve a grand design or conscious action. They involved mistakes or near mistakes that were, or could have been catastrophic. And their likelihood of doing so vastly increases if they are made by erratic, impulsive people who lack self-confidence and a sense of history – people like Donald Trump or Kim Jong Un.

Every day, there are reports of a lover or spouse who kills his or her significant-other in a fit of uncontrolled anger or rage. These are not cases where one spouse wakes up one day and coolly decides to kill the other. The man murders his wife in a fit of uncontrolled passion.

Everyday you hear of teenagers who get into a fight over a girlfriend, pull guns and ruin each other’s lives because somebody insulted somebody else. Neither rationally planned the attack; the names start flying, the hormones start flowing, and pretty soon one or more kids lies dead on a sidewalk or a barroom floor.

Donald Trump seems to have the emotional maturity of one of those teenagers. And remember that the kids who shoot at each other in a dispute over a girlfriend would be throwing punches rather that shooting bullets if they did not have access to guns.

Donald Trump has control of the nuclear launch codes to thousands of nuclear weapons.

And the likelihood of a mistake or miscalculation is not simply limited to national leaders. Once the stakes go up and forces are entangled, the mistakes or miscalculations of scores – or even hundreds – of people who are outside of the span of control of national leaders can snowball into international calamity.

At one point in the Cuban Missile, Kennedy elevated the alert level to Defcon II. With that order German and Turkish pilots took their seats in the cockpits of NATO fighter-bombers, armed with nuclear weapons, ready to attack. If one of those Turkish or German pilots had gone rogue, that one pilot could have started World War III by flying 2 hours or less and dropping his nuclear payload.

That’s why it is so critical that in the cases of both North Korea and Iran, the leadership of the United States lowers the tension. In reality, of course, Donald Trump has done everything he can to bring tensions to the boiling point.

In a world brimming with nuclear weapons, our true national security has very little to do with whether our president can do a better job slinging insults than the leader of North Korea. It has everything to do with avoiding another horrific war – and in particular a nuclear war.

The willingness of North Korea to limit its nuclear program has everything to do with the willingness of the United States to give North Korea credible assurance that it will not attack them, nor seek to change their regime. Every time Trump escalates military threats he does more to convince them that their only defense is nuclear arms.

The North Koreans saw what happened to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi when he ended his nuclear weapons program, and they don’t want it to happen to them.

And, of course, if Trump abandons the Iran Nuclear Agreement, then the North Koreans will be completely convinced that they can’t trust any deal to limit their nuclear program that is agreed to by the United States.

Instead, the United States should use strong economic sanctions to pressure North Korea to the bargaining table and provide an off-ramp for them that guarantees their security ― the same way the Obama Administration did so effectively with Iran.

With the advent of nuclear weapons that are capable of destroying our species, human survival depends on our ability to develop non-violent means of conflict resolution that do not involve war.

Like it or not, knowledge and technology will continue to spread. The only long-term solutions to our survival are strong international agreements to limit and then eliminate the use of that technology to produce nuclear arms at all. And to devise political structures that resolve differences fairly and democratically across the face of the planet.

This is not a radical idea. Mainstream leaders like Pope Francis, former Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, and Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry have all called for enforceable international agreements to eliminate all nuclear weapons – including those controlled by the United States and Russia.

In the end, any thing short of that leaves our own security at terrible risk. And those who bluster on about making America “Great Again” by wiping other countries off the face of the earth, are jeopardizing that security more than anyone else.


How Doug Jones Might Upset Roy Moore in Alabama

After watching Judge Roy Moore dispatch GOP Senator Luther Strange in a Republican special election runoff, I took a long look at New York at the possibility of Democrat Doug Jones pulling off a general election upset. \

The bad news — and it’s really bad — for Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones heading toward a December 12 special general election is that no one from his party has won a statewide election since 2008. And that was just the chairmanship of the Public Service Commission. The good news is that the one time it nearly happened since then (in 2012) the Republican candidate was Roy Moore.

That’s right: the Ten Commandments Judge, who had been stripped of the state’s Chief Justice’s gavel in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a giant monument to the Ten Commandments from his courtroom, and then lost two GOP gubernatorial primaries, made it back to the Chief Justice position five years ago by a narrow four-point margin over Democratic circuit court judge Bob Vance. As has generally been the case throughout Moore’s career, he was heavily outspent (better than six to one), but like the rest of the GOP ticket, won anyway.

Moore subsequently got into another fight with the federal judicial system, this time over compliance with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. While he technically still holds his judicial office, in September 2016 he was suspended from the exercise of its powers until his term ends early in 2019.

The question now is whether Moore — who finished first in the GOP primary and then trounced incumbent Luther Strange in a runoff — is sufficiently controversial to enable Jones to break Alabama’s recently but firmly established mold of race-based partisan voting.

As in several other Deep South states, the tipping point where Republicans began routinely winning statewide and a majority of other contests in Alabama was in 2010, when the GOP conquered both state legislative chambers and every statewide position up for election. Before then, a coalition of 90 percent of African-Americans and 30–40 percent of white voters kept Democrats competitive, and even dominant at the state legislative level. Since then the Democratic share of the white vote in Alabama has regularly fallen below 20 percent; Barack Obama got around 10 percent in 2008 and 15 percent in 2012, according to exit polls (there were no exit polls in Alabama in 2016, but Donald Trump won a higher percentage of the total vote than did John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, and it’s unlikely that enhanced margin came from African-Americans). Doug Jones is going to have to beat that performance significantly, while pulling off the difficult task of mobilizing minority voters in what is normally a low-turnout special election where Moore’s conservative Evangelical base will definitely show up.

One might normally think Jones could batten on embittered supporters of the GOP candidate Moore just beat. But it’s unclear there is a distinctive “Luther Strange vote.” Some voters probably pulled the lever for the incumbent because he was an incumbent, and others because the president and vice-president, along with the senior senator from Alabama (Richard Shelby), endorsed him. Moore is already getting solid GOP support, particularly from the White House.

There are, however, certainly Alabama Republicans who either don’t agree with Roy Moore’s theocratic views, and/or who fear he will damage the state’s image (and its attractiveness to transplants and investors) with the kind of extremist antics he’s performed so often in the past — but this time on the higher-profile platform of the U.S. Senate. Alabama, after all, is still sensitive to the hilarity surrounding their former governor (dubbed the Luv Guv) Robert Bentley, who was forced to resign after a lurid sex-and-corruption scandal. For reasons of his own, Luther Strange did not talk about Moore’s extremism during the primary and runoff (he tried, somewhat hilariously, to attack Moore as a “liberal” and a career politician). Doug Jones can and will, perhaps with quiet encouragement from the Alabama business community and other “respectable” opinion-leaders.

It is clear from the get-go that Jones understands Moore’s main vulnerability: In his initial statement on the general election, variations on the word “embarrassment” are used often:

“After years of embarrassing headlines about top public officials in this state, this race is about the people of Alabama and about choosing a candidate with character and integrity they can be proud of. I will never embarrass the people of Alabama.”

Jones’s own profile as the prosecutor of the 1963 Birmingham Church bombers certainly comports with what Alabamians would prefer to think about themselves. Beyond that, there are some things about the prospect of Roy Moore serving in the Senate that haven’t really been explored adequately. Is he going to ask his enemy Mitch McConnell for Jeff Sessions’s old seat on the Judiciary Committee? How appropriate would it be for a senator who has twice defied federal court orders to vote on confirmation of federal judges? And to what extent can a man who quite literally believes God Almighty is directing his career be expected to behave himself in Washington for the sake of his state’s reputation?

National Democrats have some decisions to make about Alabama. Putting a third GOP-held Senate seat into play (right now only Arizona and Nevada are deemed competitive) could convert 2018 from a purely defensive struggle for Senate Democrats into a drive — a long shot, but hardly impossible given the near-certainty of a midterm trend against the party controlling the White House — for actual control. Moore’s career-long aversion to fundraising could provide a real opening. But anything heavy-handed could help Judge Roy play the martyr and stimulate Alabama’s ideological and partisan juices in an unfortunate way for Doug Jones. The Democrat has a chance, but will have to run a much smarter campaign than Luther Strange’s.


Political Strategy Notes

Among the “Five lessons from the GOP’s failed effort to repeal Obamacare” by Paige Winfield Cunningham at The Daily 202: “1. You can’t easily cut a government program that 69 million benefit from…3. You can’t replace concrete health benefits with a big question mark…4. You can’t win with bad grades from the Congressional Budget Office.” Do not hold your breath, waiting for Repubicans to learn these lessons.

“Single women, minorities and millennials could have a dramatic impact on the 2018 midterm elections—if they register to vote and show up…Called the Rising American Electorate (RAE) in the study, the group in 2016 for the first time made up a majority of the voting-eligible U.S. population…There were nearly 133 million eligible voters in the RAE, comprising 59.2 percent of the U.S. voting-eligible population, researchers said. What’s more, the total number of RAE voters rose by more than 8 million between 2012 and 2016, while the number of voters outside that demographic concurrently dropped by about 3.5 million. But while turnout among the RAE has increased in recent elections, its members “still do not register to vote or turn out in proportion to their share of the population,” researchers said…As of now, “42.7% of vote-eligible Latinos, 39.3% of vote-eligible Millennials, 30.6% of vote-eligible African-Americans and 32.5% of unmarried women are unregistered,” researcher Celinda Lake said in a statement. “We must get these voters on the rolls in 2018…researchers project a major drop-off in turnout in 2018 compared with 2016: While overall turnout in nonpresidential cycles tends to be lower, the study predicts one in three RAE voters who showed up in 2016 will not cast a ballot in 2018. Of 40 million U.S. voters expected to “drop off” in 2018, 25.4 million are expected to be RAE voters, versus 14.4 million from non-RAE demographics…Millennials were the most likely to cite a lack of interest (41.1%) and were also the most likely to miss registration deadlines (16.2%). Latinos were the most likely to cite eligibility issues (12.2%).” — from Celest Katz’s Newsweek article, “Sign Up to Vote: these Americans Could Affect 2018 Elections If they Turn Out, Study Says.”

At The Atlantic, Russell Berman discusses “A Reckoning for the GOP’s Go-It-Alone Legislative Strategy: A party-line approach failed congressional Republicans on health care. Why are they using the same one for tax reform?” Now that the Graham-Cassidy tax bill, masquerading as Obamacare repeal, has tanked, Republicans turn to the task of passing a new tax law, possibly without any Democratic support. Republicans howled that the Senate apssed Obamacare without any Republican votes. But the difference is, Democrats got 60 Senators to vote for it, which is not the same as going it alone with just 50 votes — the GOP’s current tax “reform” strategy. Berman notes, further, “Democrats have…told Republicans that while they were not going to help them repeal their signature legislative achievement of the last decade, they were willing to work on tax reform if the GOP was serious about targeting the benefits to the middle class instead of the wealthy, and if their plan would not add to the deficit. Republicans, however, don’t want to be boxed in on either demand. And the plan President Trump and congressional leaders will unveil on Wednesday is expected both to spike the deficit and cut taxes for top earners.”

At The Nation, Steve Phillips argues “To Win in Midterm Elections, Turnout Is Key: Every dime and day spent trying to show Trump voters the error of their ways is a lost opportunity” and notes “…The outcome of non-presidential year elections depends in large part on voter turnout. And this reality combined with a new report from the Voter Participation Center and Lake Research amounts to a bright, flashing warning sign for Democrats heading into the 2018 election cycle. Absent significant course corrections by progressives, the turnout of people of color and progressive whites is likely to fall dangerously low next year, scuttling the golden opportunity to recapture control of the body that can impeach a president…Analyzing Census and election data, the VPC/Lake report concludes that, based on those past trends, the turnout of people of color, white millennials, and white unmarried women—cornerstones of the Obama coalition—will fall by 35 percent from 2016 levels, accounting for 25.4 million fewer voters from those critical constituencies. For African Americans, the rate is projected to drop 30 percent. For Latinos, the report estimates a decline of 36.5 percent, and for Millennials the drop off is pegged at a dismaying 54 percent…We see studies and articles and special initiatives targeting white working class voters, but nothing—literally nothing—focused on understanding, engaging and mobilizing people of color and progressive whites (including the progressive wing of the white working class). Where is the national conference, the high-level task force, and, most importantly, the multi-million dollar budget focused on addressing the most important key to winning back the House—preventing drop off among core Democratic voters?”

Here’s an encouraging statistic for Dems: “Since Trump’s election, Democrats have flipped eight GOP-held seats at the state level,” notes Rebecca Savransky at The Hill, “and Republicans have yet to flip a seat in 27 special elections.”

In her Politico post, “Majority of voters say Trump isn’t fit to be president,” Emily Goldberg writes that a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday had “51 percent of respondents saying they are embarrassed to have Trump serve as president….The poll reports that 59 percent say Trump is not honest, 60 percent say he does not have good leadership skills and 61 percent say he does not share their values….Fifty percent of white voters say Trump is fit to serve, while 94 percent of black voters say he is not fit for the role; Hispanic voters are split 60 percent to 40 percent. Overall, 62 percent of voters disapprove of the way the president has handled race relations. Sixty percent of voters say Trump is doing more to divide the country than unite it….Men are divided 49 percent to 49 percent, while 63 percent of women say Trump is not fit…Forty-nine percent of voters in the poll are in favor of Democrats winning control of the Senate in 2018.”

Also at The Hill, Cristina Marcos reports, “Democratic lawmakers began calling for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign on Wednesday following a series of reports about his use of private jets at taxpayers’ expense. Five House Democrats joined together to demand Price’s resignation, hours after President Trump said he’s “not happy” with his health secretary’s pattern of costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to ride on private planes.“At a minimum, the American people expect cabinet secretaries to lead with integrity, accept accountability, and use public resources responsibly. In light of your breach of the public trust, we write to urge you to do the right thing and immediately tender your resignation,” Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Brenda Lawrence (Mich.), Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) wrote in a letter to Price.”

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has a long article addressing the question, “Can We Pay for Single Payer?” at Democracy Journal. Baker analyses the complex economic considerations involved and concludes, “The current political environment is presenting a great opening for progressive health-care reform. This opening could be wasted if progressives are not willing to work for a wide range of reforms that would extend coverage and reduce costs and, instead, insist on a single-minded focus on single payer. The new proposal that Sanders put forward with 16 Senate co-sponsors offers the sort of flexibility needed to structure a workable incremental approach. This is a huge step in the right direction.”

Esquire’s Charles Pierce has a message for a certain goup of Alabama’s Republican voters: “Any report about Roy Moore that doesn’t specifically refer to him as a right-wing extremist is not worth your time. No more “firebrand.” No more impotent yap about his “controversial views.” Roy Moore is an extremist or the word no longer has meaning…Moore’s opponent is a guy named Douglas Jones. In 2001, Jones convicted two men for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, one of the iconic white supremacist terrorist acts of that period. One of those bastards already died in prison and the other keeps getting denied parole. If you’d rather be represented in the Senate by a lawless theocratic lunatic, rather than a guy that finally got justice for four murdered little girls, well, you deserve anything that goddamn happens to you.” E. J. Dionne, Jr. adds in his syndicated column, “Jones has the potential to be a strong candidate, but some Democratic strategists have counseled against committing substantial resources to a state where successes for their party have been scarce. Advocates of a major undertaking on behalf of Jones see this as precisely why taking on Moore would be worth the gamble. Jones could do in Alabama this year what Republican Scott Brown did in a 2010 special election in Massachusetts: demonstrate the dominant party’s vulnerability going into the midterm elections by capturing a Senate seat far inside opposition territory. A Jones win would also cut the Republicans’ already tough-to-manage Senate majority to a bare 51 seats.”


Policies Dems Must Emphasize to Win in Rural America

At In These Times, Anthony Flaccavento discusses “A Rural Progressive Platform” developed by a group of progressive citizens and activists in SW Virginia’s 9th congressional district. As Flaccavento points out, the policies could have broad application thoughout rural communities in the U.S.

The Republican edge with rural voters was significant in 2016.  As Daniele Kurtzleben notes at NPR,

Exit polls show that the rural-urban divide grew from 2008 to 2012, and again this election. What’s particularly interesting is that the rural vote seems to have moved more than the urban or suburban votes…Between 2008 and 2016, Republicans’ share of the urban vote barely changed, and Democrats’ share fell by four points. In the suburbs, Republicans likewise didn’t change much, and Democrats lost five points. The shifts were larger in rural areas, where Republicans gained by nine points, and Democrats lost 11 points.

After giving Democrats the usual horse-whipping for getting too cozy with corporate elites and interests, Flaccavento describes the platform as more of a “discussion starter” than a prescriptive laundry list. The platform groups the policies in three “pillars of rural life”– land, livelihood and community.

With respect to land, Flaccavento argues that “progressive policies must make partners of those who live from the land, rather than just regulating and restricting what happens in the countryside.” He sites several “policy examples,” including:

  • Increased investment in sustainable farming, fishing, forestry research and practices, rather than subsidies for corporate farming, fishing, and forest products
  • Support for the RECLAIM Act and reinvestment in coal communities
  • Investment and tax credits for community wind energy, solar gardens and other renewable energy that also provides revenue to local communities, in combination with a modernized electric grid that supports distributed energy
  • Environmental regulations that are ‘scale appropriate’, i.e. less burdensome on small to mid-sized farms, businesses and manufacturers

Regarding livelihood, the emphasis should be on “policies that help people help themselves, and build on our strengths and assets.” Among the reforms that meet this challenge:

  • An end to policies that undermine organized labor
  • Increase in Earned Income Tax Credit, and other savings vehicles for lower income and working folks;
  • Policies and programs that build the wealth of workers, including cooperatives
  • ‘Asset-based’ economic development that addresses real community needs, rather than subsidies for big boxes and outside corporations
  • Free community college
  • College education without onerous debt, in part through reduced university administrative costs, and income-based loan repayment
  • Dramatically increased internet access, including publicly owned options.

To build progressive community in rural America, the focus should be on “economic, tax and trade policy that supports healthy, self-reliant local communities,” including these measures:

  • Tax incentives for regional manufacturers and other businesses that commit to long- term local employment, rather than supporting corporations who offshore jobs.
  • Regulatory relief for community banks, and support for credit unions and community development financial institutions
  • Expansion of rural health clinics, addiction treatment and prevention, and incentives for doctors and health practitioners to work in rural and underserved communities

Many elements of this platform will be familiar to Democrats working in rural communities across the nation. The thing about platforms is that they are routinely ignored or glossed over by the media, and platform discussions too often leave a wake of glazed eyes for everyone except hard-core policy wonks. For purposes of messaging, platforms are most useful as a reference for developing more condensed formats, like talking points, soundbites, buzz-phrases, custom-tailored for each district.

Many Republicans get elected these days, not because their policies are so great – Democrats already have policies that appeal to a broader cross-section of voters – it’s more because the GOP’s marketing pros know how to sell stuff. Eliminating this gap should be doable if Dems invest more time, money and expertise in the effort.

As with blue collar Trump voters, Dems don’t need to “win rural America” as a short-term goal. They just need to improve their percentage of this demographic by a modest mount  to be competitive for the presidency, as well as in congressional, state and local elections. Winning a majority of voters in rural communities is a longer term goal. It’s a distinction still overlooked in much of the press coverage about the Democratic party’s prospects and problems.


Teixeira: Dems on the Rebound

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of major works of comtemporary political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog, The Optimistic Leftist:

Special election shart

It is not generally appreciated how good the special elections have been for the Democrat this year, probably because people have not concentrated on the swings in these elections relative to Democratic performance in 2016. It is these swings, rather than the absolute outcomes, which tells us the most about how the political climate is shifting. Daniel Donner over at the excellent Daily Kos elections–a treasure trove of useful electoral data–has analyzed these swings and reports the following:

There has been considerable consternation and many pixels spilled about the regions of the country where the Democratic margin in the 2016 presidential election fell sharply compared to 2012, including the entire states of Iowa and Ohio. Was this the beginning of a permanent realignment? Was it a new baseline? Or would Democrats be able to recover?
We now have some answers, illustrated in the chart at the top of this post. There have been 10 special elections in districts where the presidential margin shifted 10 points or more toward Donald Trump compared to the 2012 margin. And in all 10 of those, the margin has shifted back toward Democrats in the special election. What’s more, in eight of the them, it has shifted past the 2012 presidential margin, and Democrats have outright won six of them (those where the dark green dot is to the right of the vertical axis).
With just 10 elections in this category, we have to be a little careful, but we can say one thing with certainty: Democrats are not stuck at 2016’s presidential numbers.

The times they are a-changin’. And, as these data indicate, for the better.


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats can rest assured that they have a healthy majority favoring the Affordable Care Act over the Graham-Cassidy alternative, according to a major opinion poll, Amber Phillips reports at The Fix. “A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that more than half of Americans (56 percent) prefer Obamacare to the latest GOP plan. Only 33 percent prefer the bill that Senate Republicans, panicked by a month back home with their base and no Obamacare repeal to show, abruptly put on the table this month…Worse for Republicans: Roughly twice as many people strongly prefer the current law to the Republicans’ plan, 42 to 22 percent…These aren’t necessarily gut reflexes, either. The Post-ABC poll described three aspects of the Cassidy-Graham proposal to voters before asking what they prefer: its elimination of the requirement for nearly all Americans to have health insurance, the phasing out of federal funds to help lower- and moderate-income people buy health insurance, and letting states replace federal rules on health coverage with their own rules.”

From Jonathan Easeley’a post, “Poll: Majority supports single-payer health care“at the Hill: “A slim majority of Americans support a single-payer health-care system that is funded and administrated by the government and eliminates private insurers, according to a new poll…The latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey found 52 percent favor a single-payer system against 48 who oppose it. A strong majority of Democrats — 69 percent — back the idea. Republicans oppose single-payer, 65-35, and independents are split, with 51 percent opposing and 49 supporting…The best-polling aspect of single-payer is the public’s belief that it will cover more people. Sixty-nine percent said it would provide more coverage, including 54 percent of Republicans…Fifty-two percent said a government-run system would save the health-care system money, while 48 said it would be more expensive.  Fifty-two percent said single-payer will improve the efficiency of the health-care system, and 53 percent said they believe they’d be able to keep their current doctor.”

“The so-called health-care industry, which amounts to roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy, is not an industry at all. It is a chaotic crossroads of many different industries and professions, often in fierce competition, each adapted to its own culture and pursuing its own business model,” David Von Drehle writes in “The real reason health care in America is a mess” at The Washington Post. “Insuring patients is a very different business from treating patients; both are distinct from the business of discovering new medicines and inventing new devices. The pharmacy business is different from the fitness business; suing for malpractice is unlike diagnostic testing…A patient needs the endurance of Shackleton, the determination of Tubman and the organizational skills of Eisenhower planning D-Day.” Von Drehle writes that Graham-Cassidy “strikes me as an awful lot of costly disruption in service of a largely symbolic repeal,” serving its supporters as a “fig leaf to wear at town-hall meetings” and urges”Rather than chase the chimera of repeal, Congress should dig deep into the results of the Affordable Care Act. Adjust, revise, reboot or double down as each target demands.”

In a new Gallup Poll, “Overall, just 22 percent of Americans describe Trump as prepared; 25 percent said he’s consistent; 28 percent said he’s inspiring; and only 32 percent feel he’s courageous,” John Haltiwanger writes at Newsweek. “But 84 percent said he’s competitive; 73 percent feel he’s intense; and 53 percent describe Trump as enthusiastic.”

Writing at CNN Politics, Jennifer Agiesta reports on a new CNN/SSRS poll and notes, “Although President Donald Trump insists otherwise, most Americans say it’s likely that Russian-backed content on social media did affect the outcome of the 2016 election, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS…Overall, 54% say it’s very or somewhat likely that such Russian-backed content on Facebook or other social media affected the 2016 presidential vote, 43% say that’s not too or not at all likely. More appear to see this social media effort as having affected the outcome of the election than said so about information released due to Russian hacking. According to a CNN poll back in January, just 40% said that information was significant enough to change the outcome of the election.”

Watch the ad below for Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor Cathy Glasson. As Taylor Gipple writes at HuffPo, “If the Democratic Party wants to win back working class voters, Glasson is laying the groundwork as an ideal progressive candidate to model.” Glasson has embraced single-payer health care reform, tuittion-free community college, action to stop pollution in Iowa, a $15 minimum wage and a restoration of union membership for Iowa workers. I like how Glasson is shown intensely listening to diverse constituents:

In his Washington Post article, “The mysterious group that’s picking Breitbart apart, one tweet at a time,” Paul Farhi spotlights an innovative economic withdrawall strategy being deployed to check right-wing media: “Sleeping Giants’ basic approach is to make Breitbart’s advertisers aware that they are, in fact, Breitbart advertisers. Many apparently don’t know this, given that Web ads are often bought through third-party brokers, such as Google and Facebook. The brokers then distribute them to a network of websites according to algorithms that seek a specific target audience (say, young men) or a set number of impressions…As a result of such “programmatic” buying, advertisers often are in the dark about where their ads end up. Advertisers can opt out of certain sites, of course, but only if they affirmatively place them on a blacklist of sites….So when an ad appears on Breitbart, Sleeping Giants or one of its 109,000 Twitter followers and 35,000 Facebook followers flag the advertiser, often accompanied by an image of the sponsors’ ad next to a Breitbart story.” Farhi points out that Breitbart isn’t going away as a result of Sleeping Ginats campaign, since it is largely funded by right-wing sugar-daddy Robert Mercer. But more such campaigns to encourage corporate accountability for their support of extremist media would be a welcome trend.

In an excerpt of their book, “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported,” E.J. Dionne Jr., Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein explain why “The election of Donald Trump could be one of the best things that ever happened to American democracy.” Among their observations: “The Trump jolt has done more than force the country to a necessary reckoning. It has also called forth a wave of activism, organizing and, perhaps most important, a new engagement by millions of Americans in politics at all levels. Large-scale demonstrations are part of the response, and so are grass-roots efforts by citizens to confront their legislators at town halls and any other venues where politicians can be found….The need to contain Trump has given life to new forms of organization. People of faith, across traditions, have stood up for the most vulnerable in confronting measures that have targeted immigrants and sought to roll back social protections. Lawyers have organized to combat the president’s travel bans, to protect the rights of undocumented individuals and to challenge Trump’s financial conflicts of interest. Public interest groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Project on Government Oversight have expanded their efforts on behalf of political reform, forging new alliances to fight the influence of big money in politics, protect voting rights, end gerrymandering, strengthen anti-corruption statutes and challenge the electoral college.”

Phillip Elliot’s “Divided Democratic Party Debates Its Future as 2020 Looms” at Time provides a fairly conventional “Dems in Disarray” update, along with a plug for two promising Ohio leaders, Congressman Tim Ryan and Senator Sherrod Brown. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, however, the divisions in question are normal enough for the big tent party, not all that far outside the usual ferment that characterizes the Democrats in years of victory, as well as defeat. But no major media outlet is going to publish a story entitled “Dems Fussing with Each Other, As Usual, But Polls and Record Number of Candidates Indicate They Are in Good Position for 2018 and 2020.” Still, Elliot does shed some light on key challenges Dems face, including:  “A poll from CNN/SSRS in August showed Democrats with an 11-percentage-point advantage over Republicans on a generic congressional ballot….The DNC has been hollowed out, first by Obama’s neglect and then by a Clinton campaign that raided its talent. Now it is trying to play catch-up, sending $10,000 a month to each state party to help add bodies and channel activists’ energy into permanent organizations. But the party is still $3.5 million in the red, and Republicans are outraising it by a margin of roughly 2 to 1…Today only 28% of House Democrats hail from states that don’t touch the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, down from 37% in 2007.”