washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ruy Teixeira

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

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

Read the article…

Matt Morrison

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

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

Read the article…

The Daily Strategist

October 18, 2017

Political Strategy Notes

Paul Krugman has a sobering reminder in his NYT column, “Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate,” and observes, “…Thanks to Trump’s electoral victory, know-nothing, anti-science conservatives are now running the U.S. government. When you read news analyses claiming that Trump’s deal with Democrats to keep the government running for a few months has somehow made him a moderate independent, remember that’s it not just Pruitt: Almost every senior figurein the Trump administration dealing with the environment or energy is both an establishment Republican and a denier of climate change and of scientific evidence in general…It’s true that scientists have returned the favor, losing trust in conservatives: more than 80 percent of them now lean Democratic. But how can you expect scientists to support a party whose presidential candidates won’t even concede that the theory of evolution is right?”

A Tutorial on partisan gerrymandering” from Sam Wang at The Princeton Election Consortium:

E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “Trump has spent his whole presidency making Democrats stronger,” and previews the short-term strategy ahead for Dems, noting that Trump “is still somewhat distinctive in his nativism, but this hardly bodes well for cooperation with progressives and moderates. And oddly enough, the departure of nationalist-in-chief Stephen K. Bannon removed one voice in his circle advocating positions on infrastructure, trade and taxes that had at least something in common with Democratic views…Democrats will certainly try to press the temporary advantage they seem to have on behalf of immigrants endangered by Trump’s moves against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They’ll also push for Obamacare funding, an end to the debt ceiling and a variety of budget concessions.”

Meanwhile, Jake Tapper argues at CNN Politics that “Bannon and allies preparing primary challenges against GOP senators.” As Tapper writes, “Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and his allies are preparing primary challenges against Republican senators, a source close to Bannon confirmed to CNN. The target list includes Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the source said…He has begun working with conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer and has installed an ally in an outside group that is expected to target GOP lawmakers and push Trump’s agenda…”

Kyle Kondik reports at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “The retirement of Rep. Dave Reichert (R, WA-8) on Wednesday from a swing district immediately transforms that district from a longshot Democratic pickup opportunity to one of their best chances to flip a GOP-held seat in the whole country. Accordingly, we’re moving it from Likely Republican all the way to Toss-up…If one would have asked Democrats at the start of the year to pick two, but only two, House Republicans to retire in advance of 2018, they might have easily picked Reichert and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL-27), who holds a seat Clinton won by 20 points and where we have installed the Democrats as early favorites after Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement. Had they been running for reelection, Reichert and Ros-Lehtinen may have been close to unbeatable even in a Democratic wave environment; now Democrats have, probably at worst, even odds to win both seats.” However, cautions Kondik, “One potential problem for Democrats is that Washington, like California, is a top-two primary state, meaning that all candidates run together in the primary and the top two finishers advance to the general election. It’s possible that if there are several Democrats running and just two credible Republicans, the GOP could squeeze two candidates into the general election and shut out the Democrats.”

[Bannon] “seemed to criticize the president’s recent decision to rescind protections for “dreamers” — those 690,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as young children — while giving Congress six months to devise a legislative solution,” writes Ashley Parker in “Bannon declares war with Republican leadership in Congress” at Post Politics. “The move, he said, could cost Republicans the House in the 2018 election….“If this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March, it will be a civil war inside the Republican Party that will be every bit as vitriolic as 2013,” Bannon said. “And to me, doing that in the springboard of primary season for 2018 is extremely ­unwise.”

“…The psychological relationship between the parties has a certain symmetry. Both fear each other will cheat to win and use their power to stack the voting deck. “If Republicans win in close elections, Democrats say it’s only because they cheated by making it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote; if Democrats win in close elections, Republicans say it’s only because they voted illegally.” But while it is nottrue that Democrats have allowed illegal voting in nontrivial levels, it isextremely true that Republicans have deliberately made voting inconvenient for Democratic-leaning constituencies. The psychology is parallel, but the underlying facts are not.” — from “The Only Problem in American Politics Is the Republican Party” by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

In his TPM Editor’s Blog, “More Thoughts on the Intra-Democratic Divide,” Josh Marshall offers an analogy that illuminates the role of racism in American politics: “A small but significant number of whites in the industrial midwest who had voted for Barack Obama once or even twice were susceptible to being ‘activated’ by the politics of white backlash. I think political racism or white supremacy is best seen like a virus which can remain dormant only to be activated under certain conditions…To the extent that a significant number of these are sometimes Democratic voters, we can say they are racists, people who can be activated to support white backlash politics under the right conditions or are at a minimum people who are ready to vote for a racist candidate even if that’s something they want to ignore rather than embrace. But however you define them, Democrats need to win some percentage of them back to win elections. And without winning elections, there’s no progress on voting rights, universal health care, wealth inequality, civil rights or anything else.”

Is it a mistake to pass legislation that is wholly opposed by one political party? Matthew J. Belvedere notes in his CNBC post, “Democrat Sen. Mark Warner: We perhaps screwed up passing Obamacare with only support from our party” that “Republicans are making a mistake by not taking a bipartisan approach and trying to craft tax reform by themselves, Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner told CNBC on Monday.”If there’s one thing we’ve seen, when either political party tries to do big things only with one side of the aisle, you generally screw up,” said Warner, a member of the Senate Finance and Budget committees.” But the suggestion that Democrats screwed up in passing the Affordable Care Act without any Republican votes ignores the fact that Obama and the Democrats bent way over backwards to try and win some Republican votes. What are they syupposed to do — not pass health care reform because one party refuses to negotiate in good faith? Also the measure passed with the support of 60 percent of the U.S. Senate, which is an overwhelming majority, even if they were all Democrats.


Lux: How Dems, Progressives Should Define Freedom

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Conservatives spend a lot of time talking about freedom. They seem deathly afraid that government is going to take all their freedoms away.

Progressives don’t talk about freedom nearly enough, even though it is the cornerstone of what we want in society. For too long, we have let conservatives go on and on about it without saying very much on the subject ourselves. That needs to change.

At the heart of the matter is how we define freedom. Conservatives are obsessed that government might actually keep them from mistreating their workers, worsening climate change, or cheating their clients and gaming their taxes. Some of them even glory in their freedom to harass the women in their workplace and say racist things to people of color. In other words, what they seem to treasure most is the freedom to be an a-hole.

Progressives define freedom differently. We want the liberty to pursue our happiness in our own way, live a good life, and contribute to society without being controlled and dominated by the powers that be. We want to live  without the ravages of poverty even when we are working full-time, or at two or three jobs. We want the security of knowing our family’s finances won’t be destroyed if we or one of our kids gets sick. We want the freedom to band together with other workers and bargain for better wages and working conditions without getting fired. We want to know the food we eat is safe, the water we drink is clean, the air we breathe won’t make us or our families sick, and that the planet won’t get so cooked that our grandchildren won’t be able to have a good life. We want the freedom of knowing that whatever our race, sex, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, immigration status, or religious beliefs, we can get equal rights and not have people discriminate against or be nasty to us.

That’s the debate: the freedom to pursue happiness and build a good life versus the freedom to be an a-hole. You choose which side you want to be on.

In the first episode of season two of “Mike Lux: The Politics Guy,” I talk about this debate some more. Enjoy…


Political Strategy Notes

Matt Zapotosky reports at The Washington Post that “A group of attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop the administration from winding down the DACA program, which granted a reprieve from deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The lawsuit “alleges that rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a “culmination” of President Trump’s “oft-stated commitments — whether personally held, stated to appease some portion of his constituency, or some combination thereof — to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots…The lawsuit says that one expert estimated that rescinding the DACA program would cost New York state $38.6 billion over the next 10 years…The suit says revoking DACA would violate components of the Fifth Amendment, along with the Administrative Procedure Act, which “prohibits federal agency action that is arbitrary, unconstitutional, and contrary to statute.”

Thomas B. Edsall observes in his New Yok Times column that “The debate going into the next election cycle raises the question of whether the Democratic Party will be most successful with continued — or enlarged — support from a segment of the white working class: 34 percent of non-college white women and 23 percent of non-college white men voted for Clinton in 2016. Can these numbers be maintained or improved or should Democrats look elsewhere — for more votes from minorities and deeper support from women, along with continued improvement among upscale whites — to piece together victory in 2018 or 2020?” Edsall notes the rising influence of left-leaning groups like Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, and cites a study by the Pew Research Center showing that the percentage of Democrats describing themselves as “liberal” grew from 27 to 48 percent from 2000 to 2017, while self-identified Democratic moderates fell from 45 to 36 percent. Conservative Democrats dropped from 23 to 16 percent.”

The shelf life of Trump’s comments on various issues has been pretty short, to put it generously, since he often reverses himself within 24 hours. But two of his comments this week are drawing grumbles from the GOP for being excessively postive for Democrats: First, his calling Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp a “good woman” at a North Dakota event is noteworthy because Heitkamp is a top GOP target in 2018, and also because her Republican opponent was at the event. Second, “Republicans left the Oval Office Wednesday stunned. Trump had quickly sided with Democrats on a short-term debt ceiling increase, even overruling his own Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to concur with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he later called them on Air Force One,” report Rachel Bade, Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey at Politico. It’s easy to read too much into these developments, but, considered along with the firing of Bannon, Sacaramucci and the sudden departure of Gorka, we can hope that Chief of Staff Kelly is talking sense to his boss and some of it is beginning to register.

Ryan Lizza explains how “How Democrats Rolled Trump on the Debt Ceiling” at The New Yorker: “…When conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items…in the Oval Office, Ryan, McConnell, Schumer, and Pelosi sat down with Trump and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, to negotiate. The Republican leaders—at first—stuck to their demand for an eighteen-month debt-ceiling increase. But the Democrats held fast as the Republicans dropped their request to twelve months and then to six months. Mnuchin argued that the financial markets needed a long-term deal. Trump cut him off and abruptly sided with Schumer and Pelosi on their three-month request…After the deal was announced, Republicans inside and outside of government were shocked. Ryan was left looking ridiculous.”

From the Executive Summary of a 2016 “landmark report is based on a sample of more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states” by the Public Religion Research Institute: “White Christians, once the dominant religious group in the U.S., now account for fewer than half of all adults living in the country. Today, fewer than half of all states are majority white Christian. As recently as 2007, 39 states had majority white Christian populations… Jewish Americans constitute 2% of the public while Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus each constitute only 1% of the public. All other non-Christian religions constitute an additional 1%…Atheists and agnostics account for only about one-quarter (27%) of all religiously unaffiliated Americans. Nearly six in ten (58%) religiously unaffiliated Americans identify as secular, someone who is not religious; 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans nonetheless report that they identify as a “religious person…There are 20 states in which no religious group comprises a greater share of residents than the religiously unaffiliated.”

Philip Bump mulls over the role of Facebook in the 2016 election and concludes that “in an election that gave Donald Trump the White House thanks to 78,000 votes in three states, it’s possible that the targeting of voters on Facebook played a bigger role than expected.” Further, notes Bump, “The 2016 campaign marked Facebook’s arrival as a political force, though not necessarily in the way the company expected. The Trump campaign invested heavily in Facebook, using the tool to target voters with very specific messages and, it hoped, to spur people to the polls.” Bump also cites another Post Politics article by Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, which observes that a “Russian troll farm” bought Facebook ads “pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.”

At The Guardian, read “Trump’s voter suppression efforts must be defeated. Here’s one thing we can do” by former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who calls automatic voter registration (AVR) “one of the single greatest ways to improve the legitimacy of our elections, and in turn our democracy. It results in a default “opt-out” system, whereby people have to take action to opt out of being registered, rather than having to go out of their way to register to vote. Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, captured it perfectly when he said: “Citizens should not have to opt in to their fundamental right to vote…in states that have enacted AVR, it has significantly increased voter registration, and initial indicators point to increased voter participation in elections…A national AVR bill was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in June, and if enacted would result in the automatic registration of eligible voters who interact with federal agencies, with the option for individuals to opt out…AVR is now standard practice in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and legislation has been introduced in as many as 30 other states.”

Writing at FiveThirtyEight, Dave Wasserman explains why “2018 Could Be The Year Of The Angry White College Graduate: And that’s bad news for Republicans.” The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal national survey found that whites with a college degree disapproved of Trump’s job performance 61 percent to 37 percent, with 51 percent strongly disapproving — a remarkable level of intensity for a group that he carried just 10 months ago. By comparison, non-college whites approved of Trump 56 percent to 38 percent, with only 27 percent disapproving strongly…If numbers like these hold through November 2018, college-educated voters could swing hard toward Democrats at a time they represent a disproportionate share of the electorate. Somewhat counterintuitively, the impact of these angry graduates won’t be felt only in highly educated districts. That’s because the story isn’t just about them. It’s just as much about their non-college counterparts dropping out of the electorate.”

Dylan Matthews discusses “What America would look like if it guaranteed everyone a job” at Vox and writes, “In the wake of the 2016 election, liberal commentators have latched onto the job guarantee — an idea pushed by some left-wing economists for years — as a way to forge a cross-racial working-class coalition. They need a plan that appeals to both to the white Wisconsin and Michigan voters who switched from Obama to Trump and to black and Latino workers left behind by deindustrialization. The ideal plan would both improve conditions for lower-income Americans while supporting Americans’ strong intuition that people should work to earn their crust.” Further “A federal job guarantee is both universal—it benefits all Americans—and specifically ameliorative to entrenched racial inequality,” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie notes, and “If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump’s empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one,” writes Bryce Covert in the New Republic. “It’s time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party’s platform.”


Knowingly Or Not, Trump Punishes GOP With Spending/Debt Limit Deal

The deal Donald Trump cut with congressional Democratic leaders to bundle disaster relief with a short-term spending extension and debt limit increase has stunned Republicans. That he sprang the deal in a public meeting attended by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell gave new meaning to the term “adding insult to injury.” And the congressional Republicans weren’t the only ones blind-sided, as the New York Times reported:

“A chastened Mr. Mnuchin left the room, in what one witness described as a state of shell shock. Mick Mulvaney, the president’s fiscally conservative budget director, told Republican lawmakers later that he would do his best to cope with the new reality that his boss was dealing with the opposition.

“And Mr. McConnell, who is barely on speaking terms with the president, quietly seethed, according to two people familiar with the situation. He breezed past other lawmakers and staff members in purse-lipped silence when he returned to the Capitol.”

In terms of the substance of the deal, Trump blew up GOP hopes of postponing future debt limit votes until after the 2018 midterms, instead keeping must-pass debt limit and appropriations votes on the table for mid-December, when GOP congressional leaders hoped to be focused on tax cuts. And by agreeing to tie it all to Harvey relief and recovery funds, Trump made it almost impossible for the GOP to do anything other than to grudgingly accept it.

The key question is whether Trump was just behaving impulsively, or if instead he is punishing the GOP for failing to get more done this year, and/or for failing to make his own priorities (e.g., border wall funding) their own. One informed source, Joel Pollack of Breitbart News, certainly read it the latter way:

“By working with Democrats, Trump can bypass the Republican leadership, GOP moderates, and personal foes like Sens. John McCain (R-AZ). However, it also means that he can cobble deals together between liberal Republicans and the Democrat minority, leaving conservatives out in the cold.

“The only way to stop him is for Republicans to unite. By showing he can deal with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump may have found the one way of making them do so.”

If this is indeed Trump’s idea of a bid for GOP unity, Democrats can only hope he keeps doing it.


Teixeira: Progressives Should Focus on the Long Haul

The following article by Ruy Teixeira is cross-posted from the The Optimistic Leftist.

In Praise of the Long Run

On the left, the long run gets a bad rap. As in: we’ve got no time to think about the long run; it’s just a distraction from the fights we need to win right here, right now. Besides, things are terrible right now–Trump and so on. It would be deceptive to focus on the long run. And in the long run, we’re all dead. Etc.

But I think the virtues of a long run perspective are seriously underrated. Here are a few of the ways.

1. The fact of the matter is that very little changes in the short-term, especially the things the left tends to care about. Even for big things like progressive legislation, it takes years for their full effects to be felt. The near future tends to look a lot like the present, which frustrates many on the left.

Considered over the long run, things tend to look different and a lot better. Take Obamacare. There are lots of problems with Obamacare and left supporters of single-payer have noted all of them. But looked at in the long run, the program is an absolutely amazing step forward, getting the left much closer toward the goal of universal coverage it’s been pushing for 100 years. Even if the right succeeds in some temporary pushback, it will be temporary (and the smart ones already know this). Over the long run, progress will continue and the left is highly likely to achieve its goal.

Similarly, it’s easy to get upset with current levels of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment and so on. That’s understandable. Looked over the long term, however, what is striking is how far public sentiment has shifted in the last 50 years–and all in a positive, more tolerant direction. That’s an enormous gain for the values of the left.

2. What we do have in the short-term is winners and losers. Lots and lots of winners and losers. There are the winners of the day, the week, the month.And most of all there the big winners and losers: the winners and losers of the last election and the upcoming winners and losers of the next election. The latter expands to fill all available mental space the closer that next election becomes.

You can lose your head and your perspective keeping track of all these winners and losers and most do. The question of what is really changing in our society disappears from sight.

3. A long run perspective helps you keep your eye on the prize and have clear priorities. The left can’t do everything at once nor should it try. The historical record suggests many things are moving in the right direction but the main thing that is not is the level and quality of economic growth. Over the long run, correcting the latter trend is almost certainly the key to maximum success for the left and its goals. Therefore, rather than rending its garments about short-term wins and losses, the left would be well-advised to concentrate on fixing what is most likely to matter over the long run.


Political Strategy Notes – Labor Day Edition

From “The Working Class Can’t Afford the American Dream” at howmuch.net:

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“This map tells us several things about the working class in America. Of the ten most populous cities in the country, the only place where you can enjoy a decent standard of living without taking on debt is San Antonio. Out of the top 50 largest cities, only 12 are considered affordable. Low-wage workers are better off in smaller cities…The geography of affordable cities is also remarkable. Newark, NJ, Chesapeake, VA and Jacksonville, FL are the only coastal locations where a worker can support his or her family. There are exactly zero affordable cities on the West Coast. Matter of fact, inexpensive locales tend to be far away from the coasts and can be found in the interior of the country. This is especially true in the southwest in states like Arizona and Texas.” ‘Best’ cities include: 1. Fort Worth, TX ($10,447); 2. Newark, NJ (($10,154); 3. Glendale, AZ ($10,120); 4. Gilbert, AZ ($9,760); and 5. Mesa, AZ ($7,780). You can probably guess the ‘worst’: 1. New York, NY (-$91,184); 2. San Francisco, CA (-$83,272); 3. Boston, MA (-$61,900); 4. Washington, DC (-$50,535) and 5. Philadelphia, PA (-$37,850). The chart should be helpful for targeting locations for minimum wage and union organizing campaigns, affordable housing, food co-ops and other projects.

Former Clinton and Obama staffer Ronald Klain’s “Here’s the most significant thing Democrats could do to help working families now” at The Washington Post, and notes: “There’s energy in the Democratic Party around big ideas, such as single-payer health care or a universal basic income. But the most significant thing Democrats could do to help working families right now isn’t designing a grand new program — it’s getting in the trenches to fight for a simple old idea. Specifically, trying to stop the Trump administration from denying millions of workers the overtime pay they have earned…Rather than siding with his voters, President Trump caved to major employers. Last month, his Labor Department announced that it was considering “stakeholder” — read: business — concerns that the new rule’s salary level was “too high.” Attention MAGA red-hat wearers: The president believes if you are making $600 a week, you may be making too much to deserve overtime. The Lord of the Apprentice Boardroom, the King of Mar-a-Lago, the Master of Trump Tower thinks you — making $15 an hour — may be paid too much to get overtime. He believes your boss should be able to make you come to work at dawn, stay far into the night, and not pay you one dime more for the extra hours worked…Democrats should try to attach amendments to legislation, updating the law…and putting the Obama rule into effect. They should talk about overtime whenever they can, and challenge Republicans on it in every corner carryout, gas station, work site and suburban mega-store.”

An optimistic take from syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.: “Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg explained last week in an online commentary for The Post that the president is using his executive power to undercut regulations on workers’ pay, financial security and job safety, and also their right to form unions. Here again, Trump’s actions belie his words…Trump seems to think that if he goes after immigrants, picks fights about his border wall, regularly recites the words “law and order” and assails “political correctness,” workers won’t notice any of this. He’ll keep attacking academic and media elites to distract from his service to financial elites. And there is so much focus on the scandals genuinely worthy of public attention that the substance of Trump’s economic policies will be confined to the back pages of newspapers or the nether reaches of the Internet…Will it work? I’d insist that it’s always safe to wager that, over time, American workers judge politicians by looking at their paychecks, their working conditions and the economic prospects of their families. Trump will discover the limits of his flimflam…It was Reuther who said: “There’s a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box.” I still think he was right.”

Some updated stats on union membership from “Their purpose evolved, but labor unions still protect worker rights” by John O’Connell at the [Hazleton, PA] Standard-Speaker: “About 8 percent of the nation’s 136 million workers, or 14.6 million people, are [private sector] union members. The “top 5 states for union members in workforce”: New York …. 24 percent; Hawaii …. 20 percent; Alaska ….. 19 percent; Connecticut …. 18 percent; Washington …. 17 percent; and Pennsylvania … 12 percent of workforce.” The “Bottom 5 states for union members in workforce”: Texas …. 4 percent; Georgia …. 4 percent; Arkansas …. 4 percent; North Carolina …. 3 percent and: South Carolina …. 2 percent.

There is some statistical good news in the most recent Gallup poll, conducted Aug 2-6, 2017: “In the U.S., 61% of adults say they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage since the 65% approval recorded in 2003. The current labor union approval is up five percentage points from last year and is 13 points above the all-time low found in 2009…Eighty-one percent of Democrats approve of unions this year — significantly higher than the 42% of Republicans who approve. This disparity is not as stark as it was in 2011 when Republican approval was 26% and Democratic approval was 78%. Democratic approval of unions has been fairly steady over time, while the approval levels of independents and Republicans have fluctuated…As more U.S. adults approve of unions, their interest in wanting unions to have more influence is also on the rise. Thirty-nine percent of Americans would like unions to have more influence — the highest figure recorded in the 18 years Gallup has asked this question. Consequently, those who want labor unions to have less influence is at a record low of 28%. Thirty percent want unions to have the same influence as today.”

“On Labor Day — designated a federal holiday in 1894 to honor America’s labor movement — at least eight Democratic candidates will hold rallies in five Midwest cities to tell workers just how far the country has veered from its pro-labor roots,” reports Kira Lerner at Think Progress. “Each candidate will center their campaigns on their support for a $15 minimum wage, progressive health care, and pro-union policies.” At least two labor leaders are running for state-wide office. “Cathy Glasson, a registered nurse and union leader in Iowa who will officially announce after Labor Day her campaign for governor in 2018, said that before this year, she had never considered running for elected office…In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of Wisconsin who announced his run for governor in July, will rally with workers at a hospital.”

Dollars & Sense Magazine is featuring a revealing interview with Labor journalist Chris Brooks and veteran union organizer Gene Bruskin about “Labor’s Southern Strategy.” At one point, Bruskin comments on the successful campaign to organize 5,000 workers at Smithfuled foods in Tarheel, NC: “The first time the UFCW tried to organize the plant in 1994, they thought they could just go through the normal NLRB procedures. The company just unloaded on them. During the second election in 1997, the company brought in the Sheriff’s office, they stood outside the plant with armed rifles when people walked into work. During the vote, the lights went out in the plant when people were casting ballots. They beat up organizers. It was a massive, unrestrained employer campaign. It wasn’t public though, because the union was keeping it quiet outside of the plant and the company was exerting total control inside of it…It took years before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the courts weighed in. It also took years before the union decided to engage in a big public campaign outside the plant to counter the company’s inside campaign. We put a lot of time, energy and resources into telling the story of the workers, not just in the plant. but also in an aggressive media campaign, also in the churches all around the state and in public places all along the East and Midwest, using key allies like Jobs with Justice. These stories put the company on the defensive. By making the oppression that workers faced in the plant synonymous with the Smithfield brand, we created a wall of public pressure to guard workers against the company’s attacks. I think we successfully exposed Smithfield’s actions in a way that hurt their brand, in a way that the UAW hasn’t seemed to be able to do to Nissan or Volkswagen.”

In his HuffPo article, “A Labor Day Cheer For Economic Nationalism: Trump had no intention of delivering for American workers, except at the level of rhetoric. His actual policies are viciously anti-labor,” Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, writes, “Trump had no intention of delivering for American workers, except at the level of rhetoric. His actual policies are viciously anti-labor. His infrastructure program is a complete phony, using privatization of vital public facilities with no net increase in public investment. The Goldman-Sachs wing of the administration has taken control of trade policy, and with Bannon gone that control will be complete…Now that right wing economic nationalism is defunct, there is an opening for progressive economic nationalism. It would include serious spending on public infrastructure and a green transition both to modernize made-in-USA technology and to create good domestic jobs. If taxpayer dollars or public debt is funding these investments, it’s perfectly fair play to demand that they produce made-in-USA employment. It’s also fair play to ask countries that don’t respect decent labor or environmental standards to pay a social tariff so that we don’t import the wretched standards along with the products (and under Trump, America could barely pass such a test). It’s time to clean up our own act.”

In The New York Times, William E. Forbath, professor of law and history at the University of Texas and Brishen Rogers, a Temple University law professor,  urge “A New Type of Labor Law for a New Type of Worker” and they argue that Democratic lawmakers should be “putting labor-law reform at the top of their agenda.” Further, “A few simple but bold legal reforms would make a world of difference. First, Congress could pass laws to promote multi-employer bargaining, or even bargaining among all companies in an industry. If all hotel brands, all fast-food brands, all grocers or all local delivery companies bargained together, none would be placed at a competitive disadvantage as a result of unionization, which is often the main reason employers resist it so fiercely. Second, Congress could ensure that organized workers can bargain with the companies that actually profit from their work by expanding the legal definition of employment to cover more categories of workers…Organized and united under new labor laws that they had a hand in achieving, retail, hospitality, health care and other service workers could become a solid, multiracial working-class base for a progressive Democratic Party.”


Guess What? Young People Really Loathe Donald Trump

This bit of polling news was of interest to me, so I wrote it up for New York:

It’s not exactly breaking news that millennials are not a hotbed of support for Donald J. Trump (or for that matter, his party). But via Axios, we learn that the latest weekly Gallup approval-rating numbers for the president among 18-to-29-year-olds have hit a dismal new low of 20 percent.

Trump’s approval rating in this age cohort has been sloping downward since late April, when it stood at a merely abysmal 36 percent.

Like most Republicans, of course, Trump’s popularity is directly proportional to the number of years poll respondents have been walking the earth. He’s currently at 33 percent among 30-to-49-year-olds; 42 percent among 50-to-64-year-olds; and 43 percent among those over the age of 65. If you have to pick where to be strong or weak, this is the pattern you’d like in the very short term, since likelihood to vote is also more or less directly related to age. These Gallup numbers are not screened for voter registration, much less likelihood to vote, so the overall profile for Trump isn’t quite as bad as it looks when it comes to people who will, for example, be voting in 2018.

In the long run, though, you don’t want your political party to be led by someone who is loathed by the voters of the future.

No, you don’t see many MAGA hats among millennials.


Waldman: What Dems Should Learn from Obamacare Experience

At The Plum Line, Paul Waldfman’s “‘Single payer’ is becoming Democratic Party consensus. Here’s the danger to avoid” identifies some lessons learned about health care politics. “So what lessons can we take from the experience of the ACA that might help Democrats as they move toward another enormous health-care reform?,” asks Waldman. “Here are a few”:

It’s going to take years. There’s a certain amount of wishful thinking in some quarters that goes like this: Medicare-for-all is an idea people find attractive; single-payer systems are simpler than what we have now; so all that’s required to get it done is the proper application of will. But it’s never that easy. It’s going to require lots of detailed policy work and lots of political work to prepare for the moment where Democrats control the presidency and Congress and can make it happen. We all laughed at President Trump when he said “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” so liberals need to keep that in mind.

Disruption is frightening. The fact that people don’t want to lose what they have — and can easily be frightened into thinking they might — is a political reality that will always need to be dealt with. It helped defeat the Clinton plan, it helped undercut the ACA, and it helped defeat the Republican repeal effort. You can’t wish it away. If you’re going to change the insurance millions of people now have, you’d better have a darn good plan to overcome their fears.

We need to think about the transition from where we are now to where we want to go. Other countries with universal systems had an easier time putting them in place than we will, because health care was less complicated decades ago when they did it. We now have an exceedingly complex system in place and transforming it won’t be easy, so the plan we decide on has to be one we can get to from where we are now. The implementation of the ACA was hard enough; implementing a single-payer plan would be even harder. The design of your favored plan should include an understanding of what will happen in the first months and years.

Republican demagoguery is a certainty. Republicans will have legitimate critiques of any universal plan, but they will also tell insane lies about it. Remember “death panels”? Expect that times 10 in the case of single payer.

Beware the interest groups. Some on the left look with scorn on Obama’s decision to co-opt those groups, but if you don’t do that, you’d better be ready for a vicious fight. Insurers, drug companies, medical device makers, hospitals, doctors — they all have a lot of money at stake, and whatever plan you come up with, you’re going to have to deal with them.

There will be winners and losers. Democrats can reasonably claim that many more people will be better off if we move to a universal system, and that everyone has something to gain. But that doesn’t mean that there will be no one who winds up with something worse than they have now, and acknowledging that fact can help you prepare for the backlash.

You have to be able to explain it to people. This was one of the major liabilities of the ACA: It was a complex solution to a complex problem, and few ordinary citizens understood what it did. Single-payer systems start off with an advantage in this area; you can say “Everyone gets Medicaid,” and that’s easy to understand. But if that’s not your preferred plan, you need to find a simple way to describe it.

Waldman argues further that the term “single-payer” may be asking for trouble because it is too narrow. The term “suggests that the only system they’d accept is one in which there is one government insurer and no private insurers. That’s one possibility, but there are many other ways to get to universal, secure coverage that have multiple payers.” Further,

I happen to think the best and most achievable system given where we are is one in which there’s a basic government plan that covers everyone — an expanded Medicaid, perhaps — plus private supplemental insurance on top of it, a hybrid system of the kind that works well in countries such as France and Canada. The point is that it would be much better to speak of “universal coverage,” which allows for a number of different designs as long as they achieve the same goal.

Waldman concludes by repeating his first point, that it’s going to take years. It’s going to require phases, incremental reforms and hybrid public/private policies to move America toward universal coverage. Democrats have to accept that it’s all up to them, since the modern Republican Party is uninterested in building a bipartisan consensus, and seems wholly devoted to obstructing any forward progress on health care. That’s why the 2018 midterm elections are a critical priority for better health care in America.


New Centrist Group Comes In Peace

When a new group of Democratic centrists calling itself New Democracy was formed recently, I watched carefully, and had this initial assessment at New York:

Right away, the ranks of those who are ever-ready for a “struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party” rejoiced, glimpsing a new factional fight. That included conservatives eager to suggest the group would be a redoubt for pro-life candidates progressives wanted to exclude; progressives quick to label it as advocating the “rich-friendly neoliberalism inflected with white identity politics” that Democrats have begun to repudiate; and mainstream-media folk looking for a new entrant in the “fight over the party’s direction….”

Those who were familiar with the New Democrats (and the organization that launched them, the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council) can be forgiven for assuming the new group would again be taking up the cudgels against “fundamentalist liberalism” and an interest-group-dominated Democratic Party — particularly given the new prominence of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and his followers. After all, New Democracy’s founder, Will Marshall, was a co-founder of the DLC more than three decades ago, and he still espouses some of the same policy views (bemoaning economic anti-globalization and pessimism) and political perspectives (embracing a “big tent” party committed to persuasion as well as mobilization of voters) familiar to participants and spectators of intra-party fights in the past.

But in an interview with Ezra Klein, Marshall disclaimed any interest in struggling for souls:

“I was interested to see that Marshall has formed a new organization: New Democracy, which promises to “expand the party’s appeal across Middle America and make Democrats competitive everywhere.” The DLC wing of the Democratic Party has been surprisingly quiet as its legacy has come under attack, and as the argument over the future of the party has centered on how far left it should go. The debate, I assumed, was about to be joined. But when I reached him, that’s not what happened.”

“’I don’t know the one true path to durable progressive majorities, and I don’t think anyone else does either,” Marshall says. “’When you’re in the minority, you need to expand in every direction.’”

When asked to live up, or down, to his reputation as a lefty-basher, Marshall demurred:

“A few decades ago, Marshall helped lead a confident ideological insurgency that reshaped the Democratic Party from top to bottom. Today, he sounds chastened. ‘We’re not interested in engaging in sectarian battles for control of the Democratic Party’s steering wheel,’ he says. ‘New Democracy isn’t aimed at safe blue districts. The Democratic Party is doing well there. We’re focused on the competitive ground where we need to make big gains.'”

Among the current and former elected officials New Democracy has signed up, most are indeed from red and purple states. But they hardly resemble the “southern white boys” the DLC was often accused of representing. Their southern contingent prominently includes two African-Americans from the reddest of red states, U.S. Representative Terri Sewell of Alabama and Columbia, South Carolina, mayor Steve Benjamin. Perhaps their best-known white Southerner is New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose conspicuous stand against neo-Confederate monuments makes the idea this group promotes “white identity politics” a bit absurd. Most typical of the New Democracy supporters is probably former Iowa governor and Obama Cabinet member Tom Vilsack, who has watched his state’s hard-won Democratic majorities unravel rapidly over the last few years, from the top to the bottom of the ballot.

I should note that I was a colleague of Marshall at the DLC back in the day. I almost certainly preceded and exceeded him in the sort of humbled reevaluation of the organization’s tenets that Klein observes, as reflected in my own conflicted assessment of the DLC when it closed its doors, in 2011. But his ecumenical spirit was exemplified by a joint statement on economic policy he co-signed with the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner — yes, the same rigorously progressive Robert Kuttner whose commitment to economic “populism” made Stephen Bannon think he might make common cause with Trump in China-bashing — back in 2004. Some of us who knew both men thought this meeting of the Democratic minds could be a sign of the End Times.

In any event, Marshall and his colleagues appear to come in peace, asking for a job some Democrats are loath to do. As Jesse Jackson once said to a DLC gathering, “it takes two wings to fly.” That doesn’t mean party conflicts can be perpetually avoided. As Klein observes, when it comes time to nominate a presidential candidate for 2020, there can only be one winner. And Marshall’s suggestion of a red-state/blue-state division of labor won’t convince populists who believe that their own message, not some squishy business-friendly centrism, is the ideal ice-breaker for white working-class voters. But with Donald Trump still raging around the White House, and Republicans still controlling most of the levers of power in Washington and a majority of the states, a delay in the intra-party fisticuffs as long as possible probably makes sense.


Political Strategy Notes

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “A Hurricane of Conservative Hypocrisy“: “…it is entirely appropriate to call out the hypocrisy of Texas conservatives who voted against assistance for the victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey but are now asking for federal help on behalf of their folks. They broke this basic rule of solidarity in the name of an ideology that, when the chips are down, they don’t really believe in. Of course we should help all the areas devastated by Harvey. I’d just appreciate hearing our Texas conservative friends, beginning with Sen. Ted Cruz, admit they were wrong.”

The ‘Medicare for All’ cause in the Democratic Party just got a big boost from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who announced her co-sponsorship of the single-payer health care bill of Sen. Bernie Sanders. As Brooke Seipel notes at The Hill:  “I intend to co-sponsor the ‘Medicare for All’ bill because it’s just the right thing to do,” Harris announced Wednesday at a town hall in Oakland…It’s not just about what is morally and ethically right, it also makes sense just from a fiscal standpoint,” she said.” Harris’s support of single-payer health care reform will likely enhance her cred as a national leader with younger voters and help position her for a white house run.

Anthea Butler says it straight in her NYT op-ed “The Cheap prosperity Gospel of Trump and Osteen,” and observes, “while the storm churns through Texas and Louisiana, causing floods, death and misery, it is time to consider the damage the prosperity gospel has done to America. Mr. Trump and Mr. Osteen unwittingly revealed its ugly underbelly: the smugness, the self-aggrandizing posturing. It has co-opted many in the Republican Party, readily visible in their relentless desire to strip Americans of health care, disaster relief and infrastructure funding…Now Ted Cruz and Texas Republicans seek federal disaster aid, although they voted against the same in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The Republicans in states affected by the disaster will find out soon enough what it feels like to come to Washington and relief organizations with their hat in their hands.”

At HuffPo Allan Abramson proposes “A New Democratic Agenda,” and suggests: “After all these years, we need to learn from the defeats. We must learn to focus on a few key issues, and hammer them repeatedly. We need charismatic speakers and meaningful slogans. And, we need a 50 state strategy…Here are some suggestions for an agenda for 2018. Keep it simple, and keep it focused on the priorities of our base. People need to see the benefits of voting Democratic. Otherwise, another decade in the wilderness. Abamson then presents a 4-point agena for Dems, with jobs, Medicare, voting rights and  a fair tax system for everyone.

Sen. Bernie Sanders makes a couple of important points in his interview with Alexandra Jaffe at Vice news. “Asked by one disaffected supporter why he hasn’t simply started a new party, Sanders defended the Democrats, insisting his only option was to work within the party. “Don’t lump Democrats and Republicans together,” he said…If you want to be critical of Democrats, I’m with you. There’s a lot that we can criticize. But to say that the average Democrat is equivalent to the average Republican member — these are the guys doing voter suppression. They don’t believe in climate change. They condone racism and homophobia.” So the place that I am in right now is to try to transform the Democratic Party, to open it up to people like you…Things don’t happen overnight. And especially when you’re taking on the entire political establishment, you have to begin someplace,” he said. “Our job now is to mobilize people to talk about the advantages the costs effectiveness, the human right that healthcare is.”

At Newsweek, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich notes a disturbing change in Ameircan attitudes: “…Trust in all the major institutions of our society has plummeted…In 1964 more than 60 percent of Americans thought government was “run for the benefit of all the people” while just 29 percent said government was “pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.”…Nowadays the numbers are almost reversed, with 76 percent believing government is run “by a few big interest” and just 19 percent saying government is run “for the benefit of all.”…In the early 1960s most Americans said they had a “great deal of confidence” in the nation’s major companies, banks, and financial institutions…Now just one in ten has a great deal of confidence in them.”

Alexandra Whittaker of Instyle Magazine has an article that spotlights training resources for women political candidates, “Want to Run for Office? These Boot Camps Will Teach You How.” Whittaker notes in her introduction: “In the face of political tension and an increasingly polarized country, individuals have two choices: turn inward and avoid talking about sensitive issues or get in the ring. A cultural movement has emerged encouraging people to pursue the latter, not just as volunteers, organizers, and thought leaders but as elected officials too. And at the forefront that movement? Women. Organizations that train candidates to run campaigns for local offices and federal positions alike are reporting more inquiries from interested female candidates than ever before.”

Eric Bradner has an instructive  CNN Politics article about Elizabeth Warren’s successful outreach to African American voters. Bradner notes “Warren has increasingly added a focus on racism and cultural issues to her signature economic populism over several major speeches — while also developing new relationships with black leaders across the country…”People talk about her in presidential terms often when I travel the country, and I think in the African-American community, it’s because they appreciated that she, in a very full-throated way, will speak to the issue of racism,” said Michael Curry, who chairs the national NAACP’s advocacy and policy committee and was until recently the NAACP Boston chapter president…”The fight against racism and inequality and ugliness in all its forms is a righteous fight,” Warren said. “I came to Detroit to say I will be part of that fight.”…”I saw in her speech an intentionality to speak to our communities — to say, ‘I’m here for you, and I plan to be a champion on the issues you care about,'” said Curry, the NAACP board member from Boston…”She does not marginalize the community,” [Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna] Pressley said. “She sees an African-American in their totality, and I appreciate that. She is inclusive. So I don’t only get a call to come sit at a table about an issue that is disproportionately impacting communities of color. I’m invited into any room where she believes that my office … or my lens could add value.”

Jonathan Chait writes at New York Magazine about the tendency of Republicans to conflate Trump’s Electoral College win with a popular vote victory: “The Electoral College has turned two of the last five Republican national-vote defeats into victories. The Republican Party has developed a very convoluted way of suppressing this strange reality. The larger part of their response consists of constant implicit or explicit equations of the election result with the will of the voting public. So frequently do Republican partisans depict their candidate as the conscious choice of the majority that they themselves forget the actual circumstances of his election…On the rare occasions when the merits of the Electoral College do arise, Republicans will explain that the electoral vote system is the perfect expression of the Founders’ divine will, and changing to a national-vote system would create all manner of evils. Then, when they have satisfied their qualms about the creaky presidential voting apparatus, they revert to talking about the election as if it really was a national popular vote.”