washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ed Kilgore

Trump Will Betray His White Working-Class Base

What Democrats should keep in mind, however, is that whichever way he goes he is very likely going to betray his white working-class base — the people who put him into office — sooner or later. The “later” part is the most certain. Donald Trump does not have the power to bring back the Industrial Era economy he has so avidly embraced. He will not be able to reopen the coal mines, rebuild the manufacturing sector, or repeal the international economic trends that would exist with or without NAFTA or TPP. And for that matter, he has little ability to reverse the demographic and cultural trends most of his voters dislike.
–Ed Kilgore

The Optimistic Leftist

The Optimistic Leftist

“…The case he makes cogent and persuasive. If you’re anywhere on the left side of the political spectrum, you’re feeling pretty glum these days. Well, read this book.”
 —Michael Tomasky
E. J. Dionne Jr

E.J. Dionne Speaks Out

Donald Trump cast himself as the champion of a besieged American working class and a defender of its interests. His early decisions tell us something very different: This could be the most anti-worker, anti-union crowd to run our government since the Gilded Age.
–E.J. Dionne Jr.

The Optimistic Leftist

Ruy Teixeira’s, “The Optimistic Leftist”

“…a powerful, provocative and persuasive case that progressives are in a better position than they realize to make our world better.”
—E.J. Dionne

The Daily Strategist

April 26, 2017

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “The Gorsuch filibuster is about far more than payback” in his nationally-syndicated column and lays it out bold and clear: “This is thus about far more than retaliation, however understandable, for the Senate Republicans’ refusal to give even a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat Gorsuch would fill. Behind the current judicial struggle lies a series of highly politicized Supreme Court rulings…Let’s can all of these original-sin arguments about who started what and when in our struggles over the judiciary. From Bush v. Gore to Citizens United to Shelby County, it is the right wing that chose to thrust the court into the middle of electoral politics in an entirely unprecedented and hugely damaging way…There is nothing moderate about Gorsuch except his demeanor…Graciousness and tactical caution have only emboldened the right. It’s past time to have it out. From now on, conservatives must encounter tough resistance as they try to turn the highest court in the land into a cog in their political machine.”

At Mother Jones, Pema Levy explains “This Is What Democrats Have to Gain From Filibustering Gorsuch: For Democrats not to do this would have been a potentially catastrophic mistake.” As Levy reasons, “Beyond the issue of the base, some progressives see more potential upsides in triggering the nuclear option. “This is an exercise of a raw political power grab, and the hope is that the American people see that for what it is in coming elections,” said Neil Sroka, communications director for Democracy for America, a progressive group that is supportive of Democrats’ current strategy of filibustering Gorsuch. This is a position echoed by Schumer himself. When asked at a press conference Tuesday what would happen if Republicans ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, he responded, “They will lose if they do it.” That’s because the voters willsee that McConnell “will do anything to get his way,” and Republicans will not be seen as acting in a reasonable or bipartisan fashion. In the long term, Sroka believes progressives will be better off without the filibuster hindering their own nominees when, perhaps after the 2020 elections, Democrats are in a position to pick the next nominee.”

Maria Liasson is more skeptical about the effects of the Gorsuch filibuster in her NPR post “5 Insights On The ‘Nuclear’ Battle Over The Gorsuch Supreme Court Nomination.” She argues that “If Gorsuch is going to be confirmed one way or another, why tick off your base when you will gain nothing for it? That’s the situation Democrats find themselves in this week…The impending death of the judicial filibuster feels like another big step down the slippery slope to tribal politics…Trust in all American institutions is at an all-time low, including the Supreme Court and Congress. The end of the judicial filibuster will make that trust deficit even bigger.” But the end of the judicial filibuster could also encourage voters to pay more attyention to the Supreme Court, the ways it affects their lives and the votes they cast for President and Senator.

Katie Mettler’s “Angie’s List rejects O’Reilly boycott: Trusts members to make ‘make their own’ decisions” at The Washington Post probably spells trouble for Fox News, as well as the company. As Mettler writes, “More than 30 advertisers have fled the airwaves of The O’Reilly Factor, the most popular cable television show on the most popular cable network, after a New York Times report on previously unknown sexual harassment allegations against the host spurred yet another woman to step forward…Angie’s List, the Indianapolis-based online community that functions like a high-end Yelp, has said it will not self-censor, but instead let its customers think for themselves…Angie’s List was met with swift online contempt, incurring the wrath of #GrabYourWallet advocates who threatened to cancel subscriptions to the site and claimed the company’s position was effectively an endorsement of O’Reilly’s alleged actions. “Sexual harassment is not a ‘viewpoint,’” wrote one woman on Twitter, tagging the company. “You’re not spending your ad money wisely and we’re paying attention!” Several other companies, like Trivago and Expedia, have declined to comment on their ad buys related to The O’Reilly Factor, but none have solicited the same fierce backlash as Angie’s List.” The company was also reluctant to quit sponsoring Rush Limbaugh, when his program was boycotted. Although sponsors are boycotting The O’Reilly Factor boycott for the hosts alleged sexual harrassment, rather than his political views, the boycott does call ntion-wide attention to O’Reilly’s sponsors and their politics, which many of them don’t want.

Progressives may want to further explore leveraging economic withdrawall from companies and organizations which support right-wing causes. One example might be companies that serve on the “Corporate Board” of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provides “template” bills that enhance voter suppression and advance other right-wing bills in state legislatures. Still another possibility would be organizations and companies, whose leaders give most heavilly to Republican candidates.

In their Washington Post article, “Bannon removed from security council as McMaster asserts control,” Robert Costa, Abby Phillip and Karen DeYoung include this quote from a House Democrat, who some observers see as a rising star in Democratic politics as a result of his deft probing of Russian meddling in the 2016 election: “Bannon says he was put on NSC to ‘de-operationalize’ it. Think the word he was looking for was ‘dysfunctionalize,’ ” tweeted Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Mission accomplished.”

At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait predicts, only partly tongue in cheek, “Before This Is Over, Republicans Are Going to Wish Hillary Clinton Won” and writes, “Trump is not a shrewd politician. A string of horrifying leaks has depicted a man far too mentally limited to do his job competently. The president is too ignorant of policy — he simply agrees with whomever he spoke with last — to even conduct basic policy negotiations with friendly members of Congress who want him to succeed. Nor does Trump know enough to even identify competent people to whom he can delegate his work. He’s a rank amateur who listens and delegates to other amateurs. (In a normal administration, the hilariously broad portfolio charged to his political novice son-in-law would be seen not as a joke but as a crisis.)…One Republican staffer, dismayed by Trump’s flailing, told Ezra Klein, “If we get Gorsuch and avoid a nuclear war, a lot of us will count this as a win.”

William Wan’s “Democrats are still ignoring the people who could have helped them defeat Trump, Ohio party leaders say” features some informative and provocative comments from several eloquent sources, including David Betras, chair of Ohio’s Mahoning County Democratic Party: “It doesn’t matter how much we scream and holler about jobs and the economy at the local level. Our national leaders still don’t get it,” said David Betras, the county’s party chair. “While Trump is talking about trade and jobs, they’re still obsessing about which bathrooms people should be allowed to go into…The workers we’re talking about don’t want to run computers, they want to run back hoes, dig ditches, sling concrete block,” he wrote. “They’re not embarrassed about the fact that they get their hands dirty. . . . They love it and they want to be respected and honored for it…What Trump slapped onto his plate last election was a big juicy steak. Real or not — that’s what it looked like to the hungry working voter,” Betras said. “What the elitists in our Democratic Party did with their side issues was say, ‘Look at all this broccoli we have for you. Sure, there’s some meat pieces mixed in, too, but look at the broccoli.” If Democrats ever want to win back Ohio, they better listen to Betras.

The last word for this edition of our notes goes to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who said in his speech to the National Press Club, “If you pull a bait-and-switch on working people, if you say that you’re with us and then attack us, you’re going to fail,” Trumka said. When the president says, ‘I’m for you,’ and then he does the old switcheroozy and he pulls a healthy or safety regulation that hurts us, we’ll let him know…We will not be an ATM for any political party…We’ll stand up to the corporate Republicans who attack working people and the neoliberal Democrats who take us for granted…It gets frustrating to us when people say, ‘Why do you support so many Democrats?’ Give me more Republicans that support our issues and we’ll support them. But we can’t find them. We look everywhere, trust me. We look under rocks, but we can’t find them.”


Are Dems Preparing to Correct Midterm Turnout Gap?

At The Upshot, Nate Cohn explains why “Democrats Are Bad at Midterm Turnout. That Seems Ready to Change“: Cohn writes that “the history of midterm turnout, the recent special elections, the protests, the donations and the early vote all seem consistent with the same story: The Democrats might be fixing their midterm turnout problem.”

In the past, notes Cohn, “Democrats have depended on young and nonwhite voters, two groups that produce low turnout in midterm contests. Nationwide, Republicans were more than 20 percent likelier to vote than Democrats (defined by party vote history and registration) in 2010 and 2014, according to an Upshot analysis of voter file data from the company L2.” More recently, however,

Democrats have fared well in recent special elections, and they have turned out in strong numbers in the four contests where complete turnout numbers are now available: a relatively uncompetitive special election in Iowa’s 45th State Senate district in December, two January contests in Virginia, and Delaware’s 10th State Senate district race in February.

In Delaware, the turnout for Democrats and the unaffiliated matched 2014 levels, while Republican turnout was five percentage points lower. In the end, the partisan composition of the electorate was about the same as in 2016, and Democrats won the race. (For a special election in a state senate race, simply matching previous turnout levels is an impressive feat.)

In Iowa, Democratic turnout was far higher than Republican turnout, improving the Democratic share of the electorate by 14 points since the last midterm election.

The turnout data is harder to interpret in Virginia, where voters do not register with a party. But Republican primary voters outnumbered Democratic primary voters by a somewhat smaller number in both contests than they did in the 2014 elections.

The trend toward higher Democratic turnout appears to be continuing in the April 18 special election for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, where early voting has recently gotten underway. So far, the party’s turnout is running about twice as high as it did at this point in 2014, while Republican turnout is about half what it was.

In her NBC News post, “Thousands of Would-Be Democratic Candidates Flood States in Trump Backlash,” Alex Seitz-Wald notes,

Democrats typically have trouble recruiting candidates for Statehouse races, but now they’re having trouble keeping up with all the people who want to run.

Candidates are already coming out of the woodwork across the country, thanks to a backlash against President Donald Trump and a newfound recognition on the left of the importance of state legislatures to counter GOP control in Washington, D.C.

…The surge of potential candidates has been so unusual that, for the first time, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee felt the need to coordinate its recruiting efforts with all the groups that work to find candidates. Democratic officials have had to add extra candidate training sessions to keep up with demand and increase enrollment in existing ones.

One major training group, Emerge America, reports an 87% surge in candidate applications over last year.

…When Amanda Litman, a former Hillary Clinton campaign aide, launched Run for Something on Inauguration Day, she was planning to spend a lot of her time hunting for potential candidates…”We thought we would have to struggle to find 100 people who would want to run,” she said in an interview. More than 1,000 people signed up in the first week.

Good signs, all. “A few elections aren’t enough to prove that turnout is really shifting.,” as Cohn notes, but “millions who marched and protested a day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, or the abundant fund-raising for Mr. Ossoff” are also encouraging for Dems. Add to that the fact that “The Democratic turnout disadvantage is smaller — or basically nonexistent — when Republicans hold the White House.”

Further, “Republican turnout has been just 6 percent higher than Democratic turnout in midterm elections when Republicans have held the White House, like in 1982, 1986, 1990, 2002 and 2006.”

Both historical trends and recent developments provide Democrats with reasons to hope for a better turnout of pro-Democratic constituencies. If the national, state and local Democratic parties improve their turnout operations in competitive races, and take advantage of divisions among Republicans, the outcome could be even better.


How Dems Can Win Back Working-Class Communities

One of the questions of intense concern for Democrats in the nearly six months since the presidential election is how to win a larger share of white working-class voters, particularly rural areas. in In his  article, “Can the Democratic Party Be White Working Class, Too? While Hillary Clinton was losing Montana by more than 23 points, Steve Bullock was elected governor running as a progressive Democrat. What can the rest of us learn from Montana?” in The American Prospect, Justin Guest explores the phenomenal success of Montana Democrats in meeting this challenge, focusing on current Governor Steve Bullock. As Guest writes:

In the race for the White House, the Democratic presidential candidate has won steadily fewer U.S. counties with average incomes under the national median and with populations that are more than 85 percent white in every general election since 1996. Concentrated in the Midwest, Appalachia, and the upper Rocky Mountains, there are 660 such counties today. Hillary Clinton won two of them.

…So what does Steve Bullock know that Hillary Clinton’s army of consultants and advisers missed? Indeed, how can local politics inform a more national strategy for general elections and down-ballot races? In a predominantly white working-class state, Democrats have won four straight gubernatorial races, maintained one U.S. Senate seat since 1913, and recently won a series of other statewide races until losing the incumbent secretary of state and attorney general last autumn. Do Montana Democrats have a template that can be applied elsewhere?

Those are two great questions, which have significant implications for the future of the Democratic Party, especially in a region they would very much like to mine for support — the mountain west. Regarding Bullock, Guest observes,

While Hillary Clinton lost Montana by more than 20 points in 2016, Bullock was narrowly re-elected, winning by a margin of 50 percent to 46 percent…“I’ve never spent time with Donald Trump, and I don’t govern the same way,” he finally said. Quizzically, the second-term Democrat added, “20 percent of my voters supported him on the same ballot though…

I think Montanans knew that I was fighting for them. I spoke about public education, public lands, public money, and those are things that affect us all. We hunt, we fish, and I asked whether we are promoting all Montanans’ interests or only narrow special interests, and how we are going to build folks up individually.”Perhaps realizing that this doesn’t exactly coincide with most people’s impression of the president, he added, “If there is overlap, it’s making people know that I will fight for them, and that I work for them. I’m not sure that the values are that different in Manhattan, Montana; Manhattan, Kansas; or Manhattan, New York. People want to feel safe, have good schools, and want their kids to do better than they did.”

What Democrats have in Montana is a Governor, who is no bomb-thrower like Trump, with a personaliy that impresses his constituents with humility and sincerity, rather than braggadocio and bombast. Bullock is also a guy who does his homework, shows up prepared and is driven by a passion to serve, rather than gratify his ego. “Bullock is connecting with his brand of progressive populism,” writes Guest, ” —a focus on providing solid public education to level the playing field, protecting access to public lands, and maintaining public services without increasing taxes or instituting a sales tax.”

Guest provides several revealing quotes from his interviews with Montana workers who voted for Trump and Bullock. They provide insights like, “I don’t care about the wall, but I do care about infrastructure and focusing on this country. The reason why Donald Trump got elected is because the general working guy is infuriated by what’s happened in Washington.” Guest also flags the frequency of his interviewees expressing appreciation for candidates like Bullock who “show up” and connect on a human level with their constituents. “In an era when so much of politics is mediated by cable news, scripted social media missives, and airbrushed web profiles,” writes Guest, “showing up reveals candidates’ humanity. It is where bonds are born.”

As for the way Democrats navigate Montana’s homogeniety (the largest minority is native Americans, who are 6 percent of the population), Guest observes,

That same homogeneity benefits Democrats in Montana. For example, whereas Georgia Democrats must bond with Atlanta’s cosmopolitans and African Americans before rural white voters down the I-75 corridor, Montana Democrats’ focus is undivided.

“Yeah, I suppose it’s a benefit, the homogeneity,” Bullock told me, upon reflection. “But if the premise is that Democrats have lost white working-class men, then that could be a [national] problem, yeah. In 2020, you could weave together a coalition based on identity politics. If that’s the bedrock foundation, you might win the presidency, but you’ll lose the country. I don’t want to be part of a party that ideologically only reflects the East and West Coasts. And while our experiences are different, I think a Native American, Latino, or me, as parents, have the same aspirations for our kids. Your hopes are the same.”

Currently, searching for rural Democrats in the national party caucus is, as they say in Montana, diggin’ where there ain’t no taters. There is little space for Pat Williams who was broadly against gun control, Brian Schweitzer who supported the construction of oil pipelines, John Tester who pushed for the once-endangered gray wolf to be fair game. In turn, the party of diversity appears quite exclusive and inhospitable for key electoral constituencies, like the working-class voters of Montana.

The Montana experience suggests that Democrats must either compromise or risk being ideologically “pure” but confined to their strongholds in coastal cities.

Guest has a lot to say about how the Democratic Party lost credibility in working-class communities by embracing globalization and identity politics, while cozying up to Wall. Street and financial hustlers, beginning in the late 1980s. He quotes Leo Gerard, president of the Steelworkers Union: “Step by step, Democrats tried to broaden their base at the expense of working-class families…You didn’t lose the [2016] election because you had a shortage of rich white voters; you lost because working-class people, unionists, had nowhere to go.” Guest continues,

I think of these white working-class people as the “Exasperated,” as I wrote in Politico in February: “They feel betrayed by the countless politicians who have stood in front of shuttered mills and smelters and promised to bring manufacturing and mining economies back to life. It’s why they have swung from party to party, from year to year—often reacting to the failures of previous candidates to deliver.” They choose to sit elections out. “They are not ‘Independent’ so much as they are just constantly disappointed. The Exasperated voted against Clinton in 2016 because, as a longtime member of the Washington establishment, she portended more broken promises. They voted for Trump because he was the first politician in a generation to make a deliberate, authentic pitch for their support.”

Guest quotes pollster Celinda Lake and Democratic strategist Joe Lamson, who observe,

“America is not a pretty place when things are contracting,” said Lake, who hails from Montana and now runs a prominent polling firm in Washington, D.C. “Racism and sexism emerge when people think that America is losing its place—when things start to feel zero-sum. And identity politics accentuates that. We articulated ‘Stronger Together’ with a divisive candidate and ‘Together’ didn’t seem to include white, blue-collar types. They don’t think they’re part of that togetherness.”

“Hillary’s campaign could not fathom losing the Rust Belt,” and they weren’t speaking to their particular issues, said Lamson. “People just couldn’t relate to her because they thought that she would take away their guns and shut down the natural resource industry. It was hard to go anywhere after that. … I mean, why are we spending all of our time talking about bathrooms? It’s not that it’s not important; it’s just a matter of perspective.”

Lake recalled a line Brian Schweitzer liked to use: “Yeah, I’m for gay marriage rights, but I think you care a whole lot more about whether there’s grain on the High Line.”

Guest closes his article with a message that deserves consideration from every Democratic candidate seeking votes from working-class communities:

Integrating Montana’s template into Democratic success will entail integrating Montana’s constituents—white, working-class, often rural voters who, despite their cultural differences, face many of the same frustrations with debt, health care, and labor as other working-class people in the Democratic coalition.

No doubt, much of the national partisan landscape depends on how Donald Trump and congressional Republicans govern. But for Democrats, this is also a question of how inclusive their party really is.

If the Democratic candidates want to be considered truly inclusive, they are going to have to reach out, ‘show up’ and proclaim their support for white working-class constituents, along with women, people of color, youth, seniors and all other identity groups. When that becomes an active principle of every Democratic campaign in every state-wide, congressional and state legislative district, Republican domination of American politics will disintegrate into a bad memory.


Political Strategy Notes

Ed Kilgore, Eric Benson, Morgan Kinney, Jordan Larson, Amelia Schonbek, Isaac Shuband Matt Stieb collabrate on a major analysis at New York Magazine, “Will This Midterm Be Different From All Other Midterms? Will the race portend a sea change for 2018? The most up-for-grabs seats in an election year that could be epic.” The authors provide an in-depth preview of 30 key races for seats in the House of Representatives. In his introduction to the preview Ed Kilgore notes, “Thanks to a highly adverse Senate landscape in 2018 — Democrats must defend 25 seats, ten in states carried by Trump — the House offers the best opportunity to disrupt the GOP’s congressional stranglehold. Democrats will need 24 seats to win a majority there — 23 if Jon Ossoff wins his special election in Georgia later this month…“Tsunami” elections like those Democrats are hoping for in 2018 often build slowly. But across the country anti-Trump activists believe they can see big waves gathering. We may hear their distant thunder very soon.”

Adam Jentleson, senior strategic adviser at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, offers a rationale for Democratic filibuster against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court in his New York Times op-ed, “Mitch McConnell’s Nuclear Trigger Finger.” Jentleson writes “Going nuclear, or changing Senate rules to make a Supreme Court confirmation possible with a simple majority, would be a hugely disproportionate response to reasonable Democratic opposition and will expose Mr. McConnell’s much-ballyhooed “institutionalism” as the fraud it has always been…Even though the word “institutionalist” is frequently uttered in the same breath as Senator McConnell’s name, nothing could be further from the truth. No institutionalist would abide so many filibusters or deny a qualified nominee like Judge Garland a hearing…If Senator McConnell blows up Senate rules to jam through President Trump’s nominee, he will be exposed as the radical that he truly is.” In other words, McConnell has to pay a price for his heavy-handed denial of even a fair hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, even if it makes an easier path to confirmation for the next Republican Supreme Court nominee. The argument has some merit, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others may have a more compelling case that, because Trump is under investigation for facilitating Putin’s interference in America’s 2016 election, Democrats should oppose all of his nominees, at least as long as the investigation is underway.

It’s fallen to a courageous U.S. Senator from a red state, Claire McCaskill, however, to make the overriding moral case against the Gorsuch nomination: “I cannot support Judge Gorsuch because a study of his opinions reveal a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations. He is evasive, but his body of work isn’t. Whether it is a freezing truck driver or an autistic child, he has shown a stunning lack of humanity…Then there is Citizens United, the single most corrupting force in the history of politics in this nation. I cannot and will not support a nominee that allows dark and dirty anonymous money to continue to flood unchecked into our elections…I reject this nomination because Judge Gorsuch would continue an activist position that states that corporations have the same rights as people. The men who wrote our Constitution would reject that nonsense, since they were highly suspect of corporations as the tools of royalty. Corporations don’t cry or laugh or marry or worry about sending their kids to college. Judge Gorsuch’s allegiance to corporations disqualifies him from the highest court in the land…The President who promised working people he would lift them up has nominated a judge who can’t even see them.”

At The Nation, Joshua Holland provides additional arguments for the Demoratic filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination, including “…The White House and Congressional Republicans are currently on the ropes, reeling from the defeat of Paul Ryan’s awful health-care plan, and Politico reports that they’re “desperate for a win on Gorsuch.” Democrats shouldn’t give it to them without a fight. As the minority party, it’s probably not possible to keep that seat open until a legitimately elected president takes office, but sending them back to the drawing board for another nominee—and demanding someone more moderate than Gorsuch—would eat up more of the legislative calendar and further weaken an already unpopular president…Mitch McConnell was OK with an eight-justice Supreme Court for the past 14 months, and Republicans vowed to keep it that way by blocking Hillary Clinton’s nominee if she had won. They created the precedent, and Democrats would be foolish to “buck their base” and not follow the GOP’s lead.”

For a summation of the concerns about filbustering the Gorsuch nomination, read Alexander Bolton’s  Senators fear fallout of nuclear option” at The Hill. But the most regrettable thing is that McConnell’s refusal to give Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing has escalated rancor about Supreme Court nominations beyond measure and further crippled already diminished hopes for bipartisanship.

“After five days of early voting in the special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district,” writes Daniel Marans at HuffPo, “Democratic voter turnout has significantly outpaced that of Republicans…That is a good sign for Democrats hoping that the surge in liberal enthusiasm after the election of President Donald Trump will be enough to elect 30-year-old candidate Jon Ossoff. The seat opened up when Trump named former Rep. Tom Price to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services…Of the more than 8,100 people who have voted so far in the suburban Atlanta district, 44 percent were Democrats and 23 percent were Republicans, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a political science professor and election specialist at the University of Florida…McDonald’s end-of-week estimates are consistent with the findings of New York Times election expert Nate Cohn for the first day of early voting. Using a slightly different methodology, Cohn found that Democrats constituted 60 percent of voters of those who voted on Monday, compared with 28 percent of Republicans…It is important to note of course that early voting is not a rock-solid indicator of final election outcomes. Early general-election voting patterns in North Carolina and Florida, for example, appeared to favor Hillary Clinton, but she ended up losing both states in November.”

More evangelicals vote Republican than otherwise. But Scott Malone’s Reuters article, “Religious left’ emerging as U.S. political force in Trump era” flags a trend which presents a more complex — and hopeful — picture. As Malone explains, “Although not as powerful as the religious right…the “religious left” is now slowly coming together as a force in U.S. politics…This disparate group, traditionally seen as lacking clout, has been propelled into political activism by Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics. A key test will be how well it will be able to translate its mobilization into votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections…”It’s one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn’t done a good job of organizing,” said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York. “It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square,” Hornbeck said…Although support for the religious left is difficult to measure, leaders point to several examples, such as a surge of congregations offering to provide sanctuary to immigrants seeking asylum, churches urging Republicans to reconsider repealing the Obamacare health law and calls to preserve federal spending on foreign aid.The number of churches volunteering to offer sanctuary to asylum seekers doubled to 800 in 45 of the 50 U.S. states after the election, said the Elkhart, Indiana-based Church World Service, a coalition of Christian denominations which helps refugees settle in the United States – and the number of new churches offering help has grown so quickly that the group has lost count…Leaders of Faith in Public Life, a progressive policy group, were astounded when 300 clergy members turned out at a January rally at the U.S. Senate attempting to block confirmation of Trump’s attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, because of his history of controversial statements on race. “I’ve never seen hundreds of clergy turning up like that to oppose a Cabinet nominee,” said Reverend Jennifer Butler, the group’s chief executive.The group on Wednesday convened a Capitol Hill rally of hundreds of pastors from as far away as Ohio, North Carolina and Texas to urge Congress to ensure that no people lose their health insurance as a result of a vote to repeal Obamacare.Financial support is also picking up. Donations to the Christian activist group Sojourners have picked up by 30 percent since Trump’s election, the group said…The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, which encourages alliances between Jewish and Muslim women, has tripled its number of U.S. chapters to nearly 170 since November, said founder Sheryl Olitzky.”

Timothy Egan’s New York Times op-ed ‘Trump’s Chumps” provides a compelling litany of Trump’s betrayals of his working class supporters. But he also offers some advice to progressives who are ready to write off this constituency: “In a New York magazine piece titled “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly,” Frank Rich wrote that white voters without a college degree, who went for Trump by 39 points, are never going to come around — no matter how much this president turns his back on them. An earlier piece, from the right, made some of the same points. “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good,” Kevin Williamson wrote in National Review. “So does OxyContin.”…The condescension, like the opioids, may feel good as well, but it won’t do anything to help the forces of reason and progress. The way to bring around the forgotten men and women is to remind them, every day, that Trump has forgotten them. And to give them something — say, Medicare for all, being pushed by the energized Bernie Sanders base — to back words with action.”

In her HuffPo post, “The Anti-Trump Movement In North Carolina Has The Potential To Flip The South: Activists say the state’s long history of protesting has prepared it for this political climate,” Juila Craven sees reason for Democrats to be encouraged by recent developments in at least one southern state: “Many people assume North Carolina is a Republican state, but the state Senate was under Democratic control from 1992 to 2011. Democrats also controlled the state House from 1992 to 1994, and again from 1999 to 2010. Only three Republican governors have led the state in the last 50 years, and North Carolina went blue for former President Barack Obama in 2008. But that was the first time since 1976 that the state had voted for a Democratic presidential nominee, and it went for Republicans Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Last year’s election was very close, however: Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just 3.6 percent. Activists say they hope flipping North Carolina can cause a ripple effect across the 14 states that constitute the South. Republicans below the Mason-Dixon Line currently control 24 Senate seats, 110 House seats and 180 Electoral College votes (167 of which went to Trump in November)…“If you fundamentally shift any of those states ― and they begin to vote in more progressive ways ― then you fundamentally change the American democracy and the landscape,” Rev. William Barber, the president of North Carolina’s NAACP, told reporters last year. An estimated 80,000 people participated in the 11th annual Forward Together Moral March on Feb. 11, which Barber led. This year’s march focused on the duty of participants to stand against the Trump administration and its policies ― such as repealing the Affordable Care Act ― as well as race-based gerrymandering and HB 2. An estimated 80,000 people participated in the 11th annual Forward Together Moral March on Feb. 11, which Barber led. This year’s march focused on the duty of participants to stand against the Trump administration and its policies ― such as repealing the Affordable Care Act ― as well as race-based gerrymandering and HB 2…“We march not as a spontaneous action but as a movement that stands upon deep foundations of organizing that have gone on for years, setting the groundwork for times such as this,” Barber said to the crowd at the march. “Four years later we realize we have been preparing all along for such a time as this.”


Opposition to Medicaid Expansion: It’s Not the Money, It’s the Ideology

There was a brief flurry of excitement this week about the possibility of more states accepting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. I poured some cold water on the idea at New York:

The train wreck involving the American Health Care Act in the U.S. House last week offered a burst of fresh hope to those in the 19 states that have not yet accepted the Medicaid expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act and made optional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Most versions of GOP health legislation have canceled the expansion and its generous federal funding with variations in terms of speed and ferocity. The version of AHCA that slipped and fell while approaching the House floor contained a flat prohibition on any new expansions, reportedly at the behest of the House Freedom Caucus.

Coincidentally or not, early this week a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Kansas legislature sent conservative governor Sam Brownback a bill designed to make that state the 32nd to expand Medicaid eligibility to poor people without children or disabilities…. But alas for any sense of momentum for Medicaid expansions, Brownback promptly vetoed the legislation, with a message that should remind everyone that rejection of the expansion has often been about ideology rather than money:

“I am vetoing this expansion of ObamaCare because it fails to serve the truly vulnerable before the able-bodied, lacks work requirements to help able-bodied Kansans escape poverty, and burdens the state budget with unrestrainable entitlement costs.

“Most grievously, this legislation funnels more taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. From its infancy, the state of Kansas has affirmed the dignity and equality of each human life. I will not support this legislation that continues to fund organizations that undermine a culture of life.”

Alrighty then!

Vox has just conducted a quick survey of the non-expansion states and didn’t find much new activity despite some optimistic talk from expansion proponents. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has launched a new Medicaid-expansion campaign, but unless Democrats make gains in the legislature he will continue to be blocked. In Maine a ballot initiative has already been certified for November of this year to force an expansion that Governor Paul LePage has bitterly opposed.

There’s some mysterious talk in Georgia about Governor Nathan Deal’s administration approaching former Georgia congressman and now HHS Secretary Tom Price for “major changes” to the Medicaid program. Under HHS’ previous management, this might have been an allusion to one of those deals the Obama administration encouraged whereby states were given waivers to conduct conservative policy experiments with the entire Medicaid program in exchange for grudgingly accepting expansion and the massive federal funding that accompanied it. Since the Trump administration doesn’t support the expansion in the first place, it’s unlikely that it will be interested in bribing additional states into going along. It’s more likely Georgia will seek and perhaps receive permission to do unpleasant things to the existing Medicaid population.

All in all, the AHCA fiasco removed a big new disincentive to additional Medicaid expansions. But it didn’t remove the determination of conservatives in many states to reject free money to achieve better health coverage on grounds that it would benefit the undeserving, or make government too popular. That’s a forever thing.


Teixeira: Dems Must Mobilize Base, But Also Strive to Win More Working-Class Voters

Alex Carp has a revealing interview with Ruy Teixeira, author of influential political books, including “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think” and (co-author with John Judis) of “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” at New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer. In one section of the interview Teixeira talks about the problems of the Clinton campaign messaging  strategy, and the implications for the future.

…Look at Hillary Clinton’s platform, for example, and the things she was supposedly running on. She actually had a lot of pretty good ideas for things that would benefit white non-college-graduates, even ideas that were specific to those areas of the country where they’re concentrated. But she didn’t talk about them; she didn’t even go to these places, by and large.

In fact, she didn’t really talk about policy. There’s a now well-known study of campaign advertising that showed Hillary Clinton was at a historically low level. She spent money like crazy — she way outspent Donald Trump, but the advertising was all about how Trump was not a progressive, he wasn’t a good guy, he didn’t like black people and Latinos and immigrants, and he’s intolerant, his issues with women, and so on. But very little of it was about what she actually would do for people, what her policies were.

As far as messaging goes, Clinton talked quite a lot about economic issues and reforms in her speeches. But, as Teixeira points out, her ads were much more focused on criticizing Trump. Perhaps one of the lessons of the 2016 presidential campaign is that campaign speeches are generally not well-covered. Indeed, when you see campaign speech coverage on television news, it’s usually a very short soundbite, and not always the best one. Clinton’s speech coverage was further undermined by Trump’s almost daily bomb-throwing tweets. Thus, speeches are good for rallying the host audience, but not so much for influencing swing voters nation-wide. Ads may be more powerful for meeting this last challenge, and candidates must use them to pitch their policies and vision, not just to beat up on the adversary.

Teixeira is more hopeful about the future:

I think that’ll be corrected. Is there a single policy or two policies that they’ll talk about? I don’t know. But I think there’s going to be a lot of ripe targets from the first two years of the Trump administration, in terms of them doing and saying things that are directly an attack upon those people. And these voters voted for Trump because they thought he was going to solve their problems. This is something that the left should hang on to with tenacity. Don’t typecast these voters as voting for Trump just because he had reactionary views on immigration or race or what have you. These voters want their lives to be better, and they thought that Trump could make it better. When this doesn’t happen, when things don’t get a lot better, and in fact when things might even get worse in some ways, that’s an opening.

Asked “Do you think the recent wave of outreach to white working-class voters by Democratic strategists and thinks tanks is smart?,” Teixeira responds:

I do, I do. There is some debate about this, obviously. There are people who have made the case that essentially these voters are hopeless and that the real problem is not investing enough in mobilizing base Democratic voters, but I think that’s crazy, basically. Clearly, you can and should do both!

Any party worth its salt mobilizes its base, and it would be silly not to. But I think it’s political malpractice not to go out there and try to narrow your deficits among these very large groups of people in very important parts of the country. And if it requires somewhat more resources than you’ve been investing to do it, of course you should do it. I mean, I don’t even think it should be much of a debate.

Earlier in the interview Teixeira acknowledges that “even though the Democrats represented more people, they were inefficiently distributed for political purposes,” as a result of systemic problems, including gerrymandering, the small state advantage Republicans enjoy in the Senate and the distortion of voting power in the Electoral College — all of which have undercut the political advantage of demographic trends favoring Democrats.

Democrats now appear to be much more attentive to addressing these structural problems, and hopefully, a little wiser about what issues and vision to emphasize in campaigns. Add to that the growing rifts in the GOP, and Democratic prospects for 2018 and 2020 look much improved than was the case just after the election.


A Health Care Zombie Apocalypse?

Just when you thought it was safe to write a firm post mortem of GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare this year, strange growling noises emerged from Congress and the White House. I wrote about them at New York.

It seems the source of this alleged reanimation may be the GOP faction most attributed as causing Trumpcare’s death — hard-core conservatives associated with the House Freedom Caucus. Just before the story broke of renewed high-level GOP meetings on health care, Representative Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama and a Freedom Caucus bravo who was an announced opponent of AHCA, let it be known he was filing a “discharge petition” to force a House vote on a simple Obamacare repeal (presumably similar to what Congress passed last year in the safe knowledge Barack Obama would veto it). It’s an extreme, long-shot measure to bypass the committee system and the leadership, made sensible only by the Freedom Caucus’s dogmatic belief those enslaved by Obamacare would rattle their chains and bellow their support for such a measure.

While it’s unclear whether Brooks’s determination to force health care back onto the GOP agenda had anything to do with it, something must have sent an impulse into the slowly cooling cadaver of the dead bill. According to the New York Times, there’s activity across the full spectrum of Republican opinion, with the unlikeliest ringleader of all:

“The new talks, which have been going on quietly this week, involve Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, and members of the two Republican factions that helped sink the bill last week, the hard-right Freedom Caucus and the more centrist Tuesday Group.”

It is abundantly unclear how these talks will fare any differently than earlier talks that exposed the deep divide between conservatives who thought AHCA was too generous and “moderates” who though it was too stingy, particularly since every available compromise seemed to make the disastrous coverage and cost numbers the Congressional Budget Office assigned to the legislative product even worse. Bannon’s involvement is even stranger, though obviously if he were able to pull off a legislative feat that eluded Paul Ryan, the cheering in Breitbart-land would be ear-shattering.

The story keeps getting odder. At his daily press briefing yesterday, Sean Spicer provided his usual clarity when asked about the reported revivification:

“Staff has met with individuals and listened to them….
Have we had some discussions and listened to ideas? Yes. Are we actively planning an immediate strategy? Not at this time … So there has been a discussion and I believe there will be several more.”

Paul Ryan, probably wanting to make it clear Bannon hasn’t cut him out of the picture, churned still more fog into the air:

“We want to get it right,” Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters after a GOP conference meeting Tuesday. “We’re going to keep talking to each other until we get it right. I’m not going to put a timeline on it, because this is too important to not get right and to put an artificial timeline on it.”

Meanwhile, Ryan’s Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, was having nothing of it:

“Mcconnell [sic] making clear Obamacare repeal efforts dead. ‘We have the existing law in place and we’ll just have to see how that works out.'”

If that’s not enough Republican confusion for you, there are fresh reports today that some GOP senators don’t agree with McConnell, and remain interested in moving their own repeal-and-replace legislation, independently from what the House is thinking about doing.

And to top it all off, the president of the United State told a bipartisan group of senators last night that enacting a health-care bill was going to be a snap:

“I know that we are all going to make a deal on health care.

“That’s such an easy one.”

All this talk had better materialize into action pretty quickly, or it may be too late. Anti-abortion activists are already eyeing the abandoned reconciliation instrument that was supposed to make passage of Trumpcare easier, and demanding that it be used for their pet cause, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that that item won’t wind up being filibustered by Democrats as part of a stopgap appropriations bill. For those still discussing health-care legislation, it’s use-it-or-lose-it time. The dead can’t walk much longer.


Political Strategy Notes

Ariel Edwards-Levy reports on polling data regarding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court at HuffPo, and finds: “Americans say by a 17-percentage-point margin, 40 percent to 23 percent, that Gorsuch, the federal appeals judge nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia, should be confirmed. An additional 37 percent aren’t sure. (A poll taken after Gorsuch’s nomination was first announced in February found that Americans favored confirmation by a similar 15-point margin, 43 percent to 28 percent, with 29 percent undecided.)…Voters who supported Trump are overwhelmingly aligned in favor of Gorsuch: 87 percent think the Senate should confirm him, and just 3 percent say that it shouldn’t. In contrast, while most Clinton voters oppose the nomination, they do so less strongly. Fifty-four percent don’t want the Senate to vote to confirm Gorsuch, but 17 percent say that it should, and 29 percent say that they aren’t sure…While health care tops the list of Americans’ biggest concerns, recent polling suggests, the Supreme Court currently lags near the bottom ― and while Hillary Clinton voters in the presidential election rallied strongly against the health care bill, which Trump voters supported only tepidly, the intensity gap seems to be reversed when it comes to Gorsuch’s confirmation…Less than half of the public reports following the confirmation hearings even somewhat closely, with just 14 percent saying they’ve followed the proceedings very closely.” It looks like public disinterest in Supreme Court nominations is all out of proportion to the importance of who will be the next swing vote on the high  court. Arguments about the slippery Gorsuch appear to be mostly framed in terms of his anti-worker, pro-corporate views, along with his unsavory eagerness to personally benefit from the GOP’s outrageous refusal to grant Merrick Garland a fair hearing. Call it at least tacit collaboration with grossly-partisan suppression of open debate – a cornerstone principle of democracy. The question is how to make this concern more of an issue of public concern.

Mounting evidence that Judge Neil Gorsuch would be another rubber stamp favoring employers against worker rights on the Supreme Court raises increasing concerns among union leaders. “The current eight members of the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously disagreed last week with the measly educational standard Gorsuch set. In the case of Endrew F. vs Douglas County, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that a school district has a duty under the law to provide such children with “an educational program that is reasonably calculated to enable [them] to make progress” and that the program “must be appropriately ambitious.”…To Gorsuch, Alphonse Maddin is not a man, but a “trucker.” In Gorsuch’s world, an autistic child is not a human deserving an education. In his mind, a college professor relinquishes personhood when she falls ill. Gorsuch’s perverse propensity to discount humanity makes him unfit for the court. A soulless man cannot serve justice.” –from “Gorsuch on Labor: A Soulless Man Cannot Serve” by  Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, at OurFuture.org.

In addition to Gorsuch’s bias against worker rights, Robyn Thomas and Adam Skaggs explore the reasons why the “Gun Lobby May Have Their Man in Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nominee” at Newsweek, while Melanie Campbell’s “Neil Gorsuch’s Frightening Record on Protecting Women’s Rights” at NBC  News has a good summary of what women stand to lose if Gorsuch is confirmed and Arn Pearson eplains why “Gorsuch Would Move the Supreme Court in the Wrong Direction on Money in Politics.”

At The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Darla Cameron and Kevin Schaul report “29 Democrats oppose Gorsuch’s nomination and say they will block it from getting to a full vote. They need to successfully block him with a filibuster.” Senators who are still undecided about using the filbuster to block Gorsuch include: Michael F. Bennet (Co); Richard Blumenthal (Conn.); Sherrod Brown (Ohio); Maria Cantwell (Wash.); Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.); Christopher A. Coons (Del.); Catherine Cortez Masto (NV); Joe Donnelly (Ind.); Tammy Duckworth (Ill.); Dianne Feinstein (Ca); Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.); Angus King* (Maine); PatrickbJ. Leahy (Vt.); Claire McCaskill (Mo.); Robert Menendez (N.J.); Brian Schatz (Hawaii); Jon Tester (Mont.); and Mark R. Warner (Va).

From The Atlantic, this approach merits more experimentation among Democratic ad-makers, as well as Facebook-users, who are more interested in changing attitudes than preaching to the choir:

At New York Magazine Ed Kilgore has “9 Big Questions About GOP Tax Reform” including, “(2) How about Democrats? Will they be consulted? As with health-care legislation, tax-reform legislation will be pursued through special budget procedures so that it can be enacted by simple majorities in both houses without the possibility of a Senate filibuster. That means congressional Democrats will be pure bystanders unless something big goes wrong, at which point the whole exercise may be scaled back if not abandoned. The flip side of that situation is that Democrats will be free to take pot shots at the legislation as simply representing a bonanza for the rich and powerful and an implicit betrayal of the working-class people who voted for Trump.”

There’s an important message for Democrats and progressives in the agreement to repeal North Carolina’s odious bathroom law. It is that boycotts can decisively strengthen campaigns for political change. Marc Tracy reports at the New York Times that “An Associated Press study released this week found that over a dozen years House Bill 2 could cost North Carolina nearly $4 billion because of canceled events.” In this case, progressive organizers skillfully leveraged N.C.’s basketball obsession, ‘March madness’ and business community concern to compell a Republican-dominated state legislature to reverse itself.

Alex Byers reports at Politico on another issue that may spell disaster for Republicans: “Congressional Republicans drew blood this week by voting to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s Obama-era broadband privacy rules. The GOP’s next target is likely to be the Obama administration’s top technology legacy: net neutrality rules that essentially require internet providers to treat all Web traffic equally, a policy championed by Silicon Valley.,,Even in a Capitol often dominated by fights over defense or health care, the GOP’s technology offensive has handed a potential political weapon to Democrats and consumer groups, who are eager to use it. Democrats followed Tuesday’s privacy vote by launching broadsides against GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada, supporters of the privacy repeal who face reelection in 2018 — denouncing the GOP work as “creepy” and “indefensible.”…“Voters across party lines understand the importance of personal privacy and are not going to be happy as they find out that Republican senators and Senate candidates used a party-line vote to put data including health and financial information for sale to the highest bidder,” said Ben Ray, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee…”We think the Open Internet Order has been good for the public, good for consumers, and we think it’s tremendously popular with people, too,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). “While they have the power and authority to do it, I just think they’re going to pay a heavy price if they keep moving in the direction they’re moving.”

Early voting is already underway in the much-monitored special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district, where Democrat Jon Ossoff leads in polls to replace former Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s Secretary for Health and Human Services. Nate Cohn has an update at The Upshot, explaining “Why Democrats Have a Shot in a Georgia District Dominated by Republicans,” and notes, “So far, 55 percent of early voters in the special election — either in-person or absentee — have most recently participated in a Democratic primary, while just 31 percent have most recently participated in a Republican primary. For comparison, just 23 percent of voters in the district in the 2016 general election had most recently participated in a Democratic primary, compared with 46 percent in a Republican primary…The huge Republican field probably helps the early Democratic turnout edge: Republican voters are less likely to know at this stage whom they’re going to vote for. But the Democrats also enjoy a similar 45-to-21-point edge among the larger group of voters who have requested but not yet returned absentee ballots…These sorts of lopsided turnout advantages aren’t sustainable in a high-turnout presidential election or even a midterm. But in a low turnout election like this, it doesn’t take much to generate a meaningful turnout edge.”


Cohn: Turnout Not Pivotal in Trump’s Electoral College Win

In Nate Cohn’s post “A 2016 Review: Turnout Wasn’t the Driver of Clinton’s Defeat” at The Upshot, he mines data indicating that, in the 2016 presidential election, “the turnout was only modestly better for Mr. Trump than expected,” and “To the extent Democratic turnout was weak, it was mainly among black voters. Even there, the scale of Democratic weakness has been exaggerated.” Further,

Instead, it’s clear that large numbers of white, working-class voters shifted from the Democrats to Mr. Trump. Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.

This analysis compares official voter files — data not available until months after the election — with The Upshot’s pre-election turnout projections in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The turnout patterns evident in these states are representative of broader trends throughout the battleground states and nationwide.

The turnout was slightly and consistently more favorable for Mr. Trump across all three states. But the turnout edge was small; in one of the closest elections in American history, it might not have represented his margin of victory.

Cohn explains that “the black turnout was roughly in line with our pre-election expectations.” However, “On average, white and Hispanic turnout was 4 percent higher than we expected, while black turnout was 1 percent lower than expected.” African American turnout,  Cohn notes, “was significantly lower than it was four or eight years ago, when Mr. Obama galvanized record black turnout,” but not far our of line with what pre-election studies anticipated.

Cohn cites a broad increase in white voter turnout “among young voters, Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated voters, urban, rural, and the likeliest supporters of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.” But “The greatest increases were among young and unaffiliated white voters.” Cohn adds that “The turnout among young and white Democratic voters was quite strong,” and he sees a slight edge for Trump in voter enthusiasm among his supporters. “Over all, the turnout among white voters with a greater than 80 percent chance of supporting Mr. Trump was 7 percent higher than expected, while the turnout was 4 percent higher among white voters with greater than an 80 percent chance of supporting Mrs. Clinton.”

“If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory,” concludes Cohn, “then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side…The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion.”

None of this is to argue that Democrats wouldn’t benefit from a more effective effort to turn out their base. It’s just a description of what really happened in the November elections. But it does corroborate the argument that Trump secured his electoral college victory in the predominantly white working-class precincts of the battleground states.

A few things to remember in mulling over Cohn’s conclusions: Clinton won the popular vote by a nearly 3 million vote margin, and the popular vote winner has been elected President in all but a very few elections. Monday morning quaterback generalizations about her campaign strategy should be considered in that light; Secondly, be a little skeptical of pundits spinning Cohn’s findings into an argument that Democrats must reconfigure their strategy to win a “majority of the white working-class.” In reality, Democrats need only a larger piece of this constituency, and a ten percent improvement in a few states would likely have been adequate in 2016; and, thirdly, Trump was poster-boy for an unusual presidential candidate, and it’s hard to see how future Republican candidates will be able to get away with similar shenanigans — especially considering the litany of disasters that have defined his first 100 days.


Mending Obamacare: Where Do Dems Go from Here?

Now that the Affordable Care Act has been granted a stay of execution, Democrats have a unique opportunity to once again get in front of health care reforms that can win the support of working-class voters of all races. The extremely weak public support for the GOP ‘repeal and replace’ bill (just 17 percent in the recent Pew Research poll) indicates that there is simply no chance whatsoever that the Republicans might provide credible leadership on the issue. Democrats alone have the capacity to build a majority consensus in support of specific reforms needed to strengthen Obamacare, and they should seize the political moment to do so.

Republicans will now try to destroy Obamacare by a thousand cuts, and they do have some worrisome weapons at their disposal, including appropriations and executive orders. They may have some success, but ultimately these battles will be sorted out in the courtroom and the courts of public opinion, where alert Democrats will have the edge. But the challenge here is not so much to react effectively, as to get pro-active and claim ownership of mending Obamacare, while their GOP adversaries continue muck about in their swamp of unproductive ideological excess.

In his Washington Post opinion article, “Democrats should offer solutions, not silence, on health care,” James Downie writes:

Rather than stay on the sidelines, Democrats in Congress should introduce and promote a new health-care plan. The outlines of such a plan are straightforward: expand Medicare and Medicaid, create a public option for everyone else that can use those programs’ pricing power, push regulatory reforms to lower drug prices, and give Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices. Many progressives would prefer a Medicare-for-all system, but this plan would satisfy most of the party, and it has the political advantage of being closely tied to the extremely popular Medicare program.

Those are generally good ideas. but the wisest course may be to not pitch “a new health care plan,” which would be unnecessarily complex, and might cause many time-challenged voters to tune out. Polls now indicate that the public sees Obamacare as a good start, but they believe it needs improvements. Instead of a big, new package, the improvements could be pitched as a series of specific, easily-digestible amendments, one at a time, where possible. That approach has a better chance of securing gradual voter “buy-in,” than does glazing over the eyes of citizens who are still trying to understand the provisions of the ACA. Voters at this political moment don’t want a big honking radical re-do, with lots of bells and whistles; They want credible easy-to-understand reforms, served up in intelligible portions.

Such an approach has the additional virtue of rendering impotent one of the GOP’s most powerful weapons — distraction. By staying on a simple bill, such as an amendment lowering the age for Medicare, or broadening eligibility for Medicaid, or price controls for commonly-used drugs, Democrats can improve the odds that voters will pay attention to the merits of their proposals. Other needed fixes for Obamacare include further reducing the burdens of deductibles and premium costs. As soon as one reform is enacted, Democrats should immediately introduce another.

Republicans have an edge in debates about big package reforms, because they are practiced in distraction. Democrats should not play by their rules. Breaking down needed reforms and presenting them clearly shows respect for health care consumers, and makes it easier for them to identify which elected officials serve their interests, instead of insurance company profits. None of this is intended as a way to head off single-payer or Medicare for all. Rather it is a way to get there, step by achievable step.