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

Pete Galuszka’s WaPo op-ed “Virginia’s sudden turn to progressivism,” includes this encouraging note: “…Long-dormant Democrats are planning to challenge 45 Republican state legislators, including 17 whose districts voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. In 2015, Democrats didn’t bother showing up to run in 44 of 67 races.”

In addition to that good news, Ed Kilgore reports in his New York Magazine post, “VA Governor’s Race Is Good Test for Post-Trump Election Strategy” that “In terms of the kind of smaller, off-year electorate we can expect in November, it is significant that Clinton nearly matched Trump among white college graduates, those most likely to show up in non-presidential elections, while Trump won the more marginally participating white non-college graduates by a massive 71/24 margin. If this kind of education gap occurs in the Virginia governor’s race, particularly if white working-class voters stay home in significant numbers, a GOP win will be very difficult to produce.”

“On the Senate side, Democrats told CNN they see opportunities to message directly to older voters in states with 2018 elections such as Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Maine…Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada are of particular interest to Democrats. Both their states have a sizable number of senior voters, and were fertile ground for Clinton — she won Nevada and lost Arizona by just 4%. Voters 65 and older backed Trump over Clinton nationally by 7% in 2016, according to exit polls. In Arizona, that number was a more stark — 13%. But in Nevada, Clinton won seniors by 5%…Florida and Maine, meanwhile, are two of the oldest states by population…Democrats are hopeful that concerted messaging will mean their candidates — both Senate and House — could turn out seniors, a reliable voting bloc even in off-year elections. On average, voters over 65 make up close to 20% of voters in midterms, more than their share in presidential elections.”– from Dan Merica’s “How Democrats will use the GOP health care bill against Republicans in 2018” at CNN Politics.

Kyle Kondik’s “Initial 2018 House Ratings” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball notes: “Democrats argue that with the right candidates they can put several Trump-friendly heartland districts into play, such as those held by Reps. Andy Barr (R, KY-6), Mike Bishop (R, MI-8), Bob Gibbs (R, OH-7), and Alex Mooney (R, WV-2). That seems like a significant stretch, but perhaps one or more of these districts makes it onto our competitive list depending on the emergence of strong candidates and the national environment. For what it’s worth, Democrats say that they are seeing considerable interest from candidates in a wide range of districts who are inspired to run by the Trump presidency. Whether those candidates actually run, and whether they can perform in red districts, is an open question, although Democrats did have success in some GOP-leaning districts in their 2006 midterm victory…Overall, though, voters’ perceptions of Trump and congressional Republicans will loom large next year — or at least history suggests those factors will be important. If perceptions are neutral or broadly positive, the GOP should have little trouble keeping the House. If they are negative, the House will be in play, and some of those Likely Republican districts — the districts that truly will make or break the GOP House majority — might start to slip away.”

Reid Wilson reports at The Hill: “More voters cast ballots in November’s elections than when President Obama won reelection in 2012…About 139 million Americans, or 60.2 percent of the voting-eligible population, cast a ballot in November’s elections, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project. That compares with 58.6 percent of eligible voters who turned out in 2012…Nearly 3 in 4 voters in Minnesota turned out to vote in November’s elections, a rate higher than in any other state. Last year marked the eighth time in the past nine elections that Minnesota notched the highest turnout in the nation. Clinton won the state’s 10 electoral votes by a slim 45,000-vote margin…More than 70 percent of voters turned out in Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado and Wisconsin, all states where both presidential campaigns invested heavily. Turnout hit 69 percent in hotly contested Iowa, and more than two-thirds of voters cast ballots in Massachusetts, Oregon, Maryland and Virginia…Researchers from the group Nonprofit Vote, which promotes voter participation and policies that will increase turnout, said states where more people showed up shared one of two similarities: They were either battleground states, or they allowed voters to register and cast ballots on the same day…Voter participation in the 15 states with same-day registration laws on the books was 7 percentage points higher than in states where voters have to register weeks before Election Day. In battleground states, turnout hit 65 percent, 5 points higher than in nonbattleground states.”

At The American Prospect Miles Rapoport notes that the aforementioned study also reveals that “Three additional states—California, Vermont, and Hawaii—will offer same day registration in 2018, bringing the total to 18. There are some variations in the law among the states. Most offer registration opportunities up to and including Election Day, while two states (North Carolina and Maryland) offer them only during the early voting period…Connecticut and Illinois, the two most recent SDR adopters (neither of them battleground states) had the highest increases in turnout between 2012 and 2016, at 4.1 percent and 4 percent, respectively…The three states that offered all mail elections were all in the top 12 states. Colorado (fourth), Oregon (eighth) and Washington (12th). Colorado is particularly significant because it combines the ballots mailed to every voter with the additional option of Election Day centers that allowed people to vote in person, and to register and vote using SDR.”

In his Boston Review article “How People Vote,” U.C. Berkeley philosophy professor Niko Kolodny writes “Just as we are struggling to understand Brexit, Trump, and a string of electoral surprises in Europe, along comes a book that seems to make sense of it all, with a new theory of why people vote the way they do. “The primary sources of partisan loyalties and voting behavior,” Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels argue in Democracy for Realists, “are social identities, group attachments, and myopic retrospections.” Their thesis challenges the received “folk theory,” as they call it, which assumes that policy preferences and ideology account for voter behavior…Voters “myopically” ignore long-term performance. They reelect incumbents if things are going well right before the election and cast them out if not.”

It looks like senate Democrats are going to anchor their case against confirming Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court in his anti-worker rulings, reports Bridget Bowman in her Roll Call article, “Senate Democrats Preview Their Case Against Gorsuch: Supreme Court nominee cast as foe of workers.” As Bowman writes, quoting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “But his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate, special interest agenda.” The strategy could be viewed as part of an effort to reclaim the Democratic Party’s identity as the champion of the rights and interests of the working-class.

There is lots of grumbling about Rachel Maddow’s reporting of the Trump tax return story. And yes, the foreplay was a little long compared to the payoff, his 2005 tax return. But credit Maddow with providing a solid analysis, enhanced by top tax analyst, David Cay Johnston. Much of the big media whining about the report had more to do with jealousy about Maddow’s soaring ratings. As Erik Wemple puts it in his Washington Post column, “It bears noting that “The Rachel Maddow Show” is starting to best Fox News in a key television rating metric. That is a big deal in the media world. Could we be witnessing the coalescence of the Trump opposition into a bona fide cable-news audience — one that a channel like MSNBC can cultivate? And could the freakout from Hannity, Kurtz & Co. signal that Fox News is very, very worried about this prospect?”


Vanden Heuval: To Win Back Working-Class, Dems Must Offer Proactive Agenda

Katrina vanden Heuval explains how “How Democrats can win back the working class” in her Washington Post column.

…A tireless commitment to fighting Trump’s disastrous policies and support for the activists marching in the streets are important. But there is also a natural danger of falling into the default mode of opposing Trump, and merely defending existing policies, without offering the serious solutions that people so desperately need. Rebuilding the party requires Democrats to speak boldly about what they are for and not just what they are against. Otherwise, they risk replicating the failed campaign strategy of 2016, when the Clinton campaign hammered away at Trump without appealing to working Americans with a clear and bold alternative vision of its own. To that end, it has been encouraging to see progressive leaders recently taking their message straight to working-class voters across the country, including in red and purple states where Trump maintains solid support.

In addition to Sen. Bernie Sanders, writes vanden Heuval, Democrats have another exemplar who is focused on meeting this challenge, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has unveiled “a progressive populist economic blueprint that he’s been developing since late 2015. At the heart of Brown’s plan is the fundamental principle that “it’s not businesses who drive the economy — it’s workers.” Vanden Heuval credits Brown with offering “a passel of bold measures designed to empower workers, from a $15 minimum wage and paid family and medical leave to protections against wage theft and expanded collective bargaining rights.”

In addition, vanden Heuval cites impressive progress towards a proactive working-class message and agenda at the state level:

Meanwhile, progressives have been aggressively pushing a pro-worker agenda at the state level as well. State Innovation Exchange (SiX) Action, which advocates for progressive policies in state legislatures, responded to Trump’s congressional address by spearheading a “week of action” that brought together progressive lawmakers and grass-roots organizations in more than 30 states to advocate for some 130 pieces of pro-worker legislation. As part of the effort, state legislators introduced, advanced or highlighted paid sick leave in Michigan and Maryland, equal pay in Oklahoma and Colorado, and minimum wage hikes in New Mexico and North Carolina, among other bills.

None of this is to back away from strong criticism of Trump and the Republicans, whose increasingly “barbaric policies” must be called out and challenged. However, concludes vanden Heuval, “regaining the trust of working-class voters who supported Trump will take more than opposition. As Sanders recently argued, it will take a forward-looking message and a real commitment to addressing the challenges that working people face. “You cannot just be defensive,” Sanders said. “You need a proactive agenda that brings people together to fight for a new America.”

Leaders like Sanders and Brown are lighting the way forward for Democrats who want to win the support of workers of all races. Progressive candidates and campaigns who want to shed the Republican branding of the Democratic party as elitist ought to pay close attention to the messaging and policy agenda of these  two energetic champions of the working-class.


CBO Takedown of ‘Replacement’ Bill Describes a Nightmare for America

The Congressional Budget Office’s report on the Republican Obamacare replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, is the closest thing we have to an objective analysis of the legislation. With that in mind,  the credibility of this version of the replacement bill is ireparably damaged.

Vox.com has some of the best coverage of of the CBO analysis, nicely distilled in this excerpt of Ezra Klein’s blistering critique:

The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the GOP’s American Health Care Act is one of the most singularly devastating documents I’ve seen in American politics. For a thorough explanation of the findings, read Sarah Kliff’s explainer. But here is the one-sentence summary: Under the GOP’s bill, the more help you need, the less you get.

The AHCA would increase the uninsured population by about 24 million people — which is more people than live in New York state. But the raw numbers obscure the cruelty of the choices. The policy is particularly bad for the old, the sick, and the poor. It is particularly good for the rich, the young, and the healthy.

Here, in short, is what the AHCA does. The bill guts Medicaid, halves the value of Obamacare’s insurance subsidies, and allows insurers to charge older Americans 500 percent more than they charge young Americans.

Then it takes the subsidies that are left and reworks them to be worth less to the poor and the old, takes the insurers that are left and lets them change their plans to cover fewer medical expenses for the sick, and rewrites the tax code to offer hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich. As Dylan Matthews writes, it is an act of class warfare by the rich against the poor…This is not fine. It is not decent, it is not compassionate, and it is not what Republicans promised. It is a betrayal of Donald Trump’s vow to protect Medicaid from cuts and to pass a health care bill that covers everyone with insurance that has lower deductibles and better coverage.

Predictably enough, Speaker Paul Ryan tried to put lipstick on the pig in his statement reacting to the CBO analysis. Ryan’s strategy, however, was less predictable in that he claimed the CBO report affirmed the AHCA’s merits, instead of bashing away at the CBO like other Republicans. “This report confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care,” said Ryan. “It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford.”

Having affirmed the credibility of the CBO on the AHCA makes it difficult for Ryan to blast it later on. In is New York Magazine aticle, “Paul Ryan Tries to Bluff and Fib His Way Through CBO Fiasco,” Ed Kilgore comments on Ryan’s response:

This is, to put it mildly, a disingenuous take. According to CBO, the AHCA will actually boost premiums in the short term, and will boost them even more for poorer and older Americans. It does not, in fact, improve “access to quality, affordable care” — the insufficiency of its tax credits are a big reason for the coverage losses CBO anticipates. Ryan’s argument that this is just part of a “three-pronged approach” is specious for the reason I mentioned above: The idea that any iteration of this deeply broken Republican health-care plan will conceivably command 60 votes in the Senate is pure fantasy.

The Republican vision of national security never seems to include the health of millions of Americans, who would be seriously endangered by this Obamacare replacement bill. It would certainly kill and sicken many more Americans than terrorists likely will murder in the years ahead. Apparently, Speaker Ryan and the bill’s supporters think that is an acceptable sacrifice to make on the altar of the GOP’s most sacred cause, ever-increasing tax cuts for the wealthy.


Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article “Data Firm Says ‘Secret Sauce’ Aided Trump; Many Scoff,” Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim report on the effectiveness of the GOP’s favorite microtargeting firm, Cambridge Analytics and the political uses of psychographic profiles in general. Among their observations: “Cambridge Analytica’s rise has rattled some of President Trump’s critics and privacy advocates, who warn of a blizzard of high-tech, Facebook-optimized propaganda aimed at the American public, controlled by the people behind the alt-right hub Breitbart News…But a dozen Republican consultants and former Trump campaign aides, along with current and former Cambridge employees, say the company’s ability to exploit personality profiles — “our secret sauce,” Mr. Nix once called it — is exaggerated…Trump aides, though, said Cambridge had played a relatively modest role, providing personnel who worked alongside other analytics vendors on some early digital advertising and using conventional microtargeting techniques. Later in the campaign, Cambridge also helped set up Mr. Trump’s polling operation and build turnout models used to guide the candidate’s spending and travel schedule. None of those efforts involved psychographics.”

As part of her ongoing series, “Interviews for Resistance,” Sarah Jaffe of The Nation Institute interviews Stephen Lerner, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor on the topic “Organizing to Hit Trump’s Corporate Cabinet and Allies Where it Hurts” at Moyers & Company. One excerpt: “What we have been looking at is, how do you identify the corporate collaborators with Trump, and then look at ways to start putting pressure on them so that they pay a price…Trump’s job czar [Stephen Schwarzman, who chairs President Donald Trump‘s Strategic and Policy Forum] is actually involved in cutting wages, benefits and outsourcing work. This is one of the pieces that I think is the most critical, which is showing that the people that Trump has put in charge, like [Secretary of Commerce] Wilbur Ross, are job destroyers…We want to completely change the story by putting the spotlight on them by saying, “These are the people that got rich destroying good jobs. It is not evil foreigners or immigrants. It is these guys.” That lets you raise a whole set of issues in terms of showing who they are and then, all the different ways that they gamed the system to enrich themselves at the expense of workers.”

A new study by the Wesleyan Media Project concludes that “Clinton’s unexpected losses came in states in which she failed to air ads until the last week” and “Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests.” Further, notes an abstract of the study, “The 2016 presidential campaign broke the mold when it comes to patterns of political advertising. Using data from the Wesleyan Media Project, we show the race featured far less advertising than the previous cycle, a huge imbalance in the number of ads across candidates and one candidate who almost ignored discussions of policy. This departure from past patterns, however, was not replicated at the congressional level…Team Clinton’s message that Trump was unfit for the office of presidency may not have been enough.”

At The National Memo, however, Steven Rosenfeld explains “How James Comey’s ‘October Surprise’ Doomed Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy,” and notes, “Do you remember how you felt last October after you heard that FBI Director James Comey was reopening the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s possible illegal handling of classified communiqués while Secretary of State — just 11 days before the presidential election? That news, which left me with a sinking feeling that all but erased the confidence I had in Clinton’s prospects after the three presidential debates, was the moment that Donald Trump won the election, according to an analysis released this week by a data firm that tracks the psychological elements below patterns of consumer behavior, moods, and sentiment…According to Brad Fay, an executive with Engagement Labs, “Comey’s “October surprise” was the tipping point that turned voter sentiment away from Clinton—because people inclined to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt lost their enthusiasm, just as Comey’s announcement buoyed Trump voters…Immediately afterward, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump,” he said. “At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth ‘standings.’ The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.”

It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that the latest job figures make Trump “look good,” since he has only been president for a few weeks, but Christopher Ingraham’s “19 times Trump called jobs numbers ‘fake’ before they made him look good” in the Washingtron Post does reveal, once again, Trump’s detachment from anything he said in the past. Despite Trump’s confidence that he will not be held accountable for any of his reversals, Democrats should call him out on it every time, so his remaining supporters will reap the collateral damage in the 2018 midterms.

Marketwatch is running an excerpt of Ruy Teixeira’s new book, “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think.” Teixeira presents several reasons why progressives shouldn’t over-worry about right-wing populism emerging in the U.S. and Europe, including “the right populist movement is riding on demographic borrowed time. Typically, the greatest strength of these parties comes from the votes of less- educated aging whites. But to a greater or lesser degree, the population weight of these voters is declining across countries. In the United States, the white non-college-educated share of voters declined by 19 percentage points just between the 1988 and 2012 presidential elections. Projections indicate that this group’s share of voters should continue to decline by 2–3 points every presidential election for decades…The flip side is that the left’s burgeoning postindustrial coalition is composed of groups for whom right populist cultural attitudes are anathema. As these groups continue to grow, their values too will be in the ascendancy, crowding out the space for right populism. This is not to say that right populism will not continue to be a problem for some time but rather that over the medium to long term the movement has intrinsically limited growth potential.”

This headline says it all. But if that doesn’t quite do it for you, the subhead “In 2013, 20.4% of Kentuckians were uninsured. In 2016, 7.8% were” ought to be enough to convince any sentient being that the Veep needs to just put a sock in it.

John Judis interviews noted union organizer Marshall Ganz at TPM Cafe and elicits an insightful distinction from Ganz: “Many Democrats confuse messaging with educating, marketing with organizing. They think it is all about branding when it is really about relational work. You engage people with each other, creating collective capacity. That’s how you sustain and grow and get leadership. That’s how you make things happen. Organizers have known this for years. But then Green and Gerber at Yale showed that face to face contact with a voter, especially if relationally embedded, increases voter turnout. Broockman and others at Stanford showed interpersonal conversation— what they call “deep canvassing”—can change deep gender attitudes.”

At Vox Matthew Yglesias explains why “The Republican health plan is a huge betrayal of Trump’s campaign promises” and observes, “Trump’s embrace of more centrist positions on health care and retirement security was a crucial aspect of his campaign, and there was enough campaign-season tension between Trump and the GOP leadership that a voter could be forgiven for assuming Trump meant what he was saying…He did not. Trump ran and won promising to cover everyone, avoid Medicaid cuts, and boost funding for opioid abuse treatment. He is now lobbying Congress to pass a bill that does none of those things. Instead, millions will lose insurance and Medicaid spending will be sacrificed on the altar of tax cuts for the rich… “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump told the conservative Daily Signal way back in May 2015. “Every other Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn’t, they don’t know what to do because they don’t know where the money is. I do.”..In an early January interview with the Washington Post, he said that Trumpcare would feature “insurance for everybody,” in contrast to an ACA that, while bringing the uninsurance rate to a historic low, has still left 25 million people without coverage. The plans, he said, would have “much lower deductibles.” And ability to pay, he said, wouldn’t be an issue. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”…it’s hard to know for sure exactly how many people with go with how much less. But Standard & Poor’s thinks 6 million to 10 million people will lose insurance, while Brookings analysts think the number may be 15 million or higher.


“So-Called” Judges Still a Threat to Revised Trump Travel Ban

The revised Trump travel ban released this week addresses a lot of the original order’s legal problems. But it’s still haunted by the suspicion it’s really just a “Muslim ban,” as I noted at New York:

Seattle-based federal District Court Judge James Robart — famously called a “so-called judge” by the president of the United States for putting a hold on the Trump administration’s hasty and sloppy travel-ban executive order — will be back in the spotlight again, as a revised travel ban receives judicial scrutiny. Three states (original travel-ban petitioner Washington, plus New York and Oregon) are asking Robart to rule that his original suspension applies to the new order as well.

Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson, who announced the new petition, does not seem to care about the administration’s assertions that it took care of the problems that snarled its earlier travel ban. “The court decides that, not the president,” he said.

“Ferguson and other state lawyers said they believe the burden is on the government to convince a judge that the freeze should not be in effect, rather than the other way around.”

If Robart agrees, there will at least be another round of hearings in federal court. Whether Trump explodes at this George W. Bush appointee then, or waits to see what he ultimately decides to do, will be an interesting question that could threaten the “presidential” image he conveyed in his speech to Congress last week.

In any event, Robart will have a chance to weigh in before a colleague in Hawaii holds a hearing next Wednesday on a parallel suit by the State of Hawaii. In both suits, the key issue will likely be whether the first or the second travel ban represents nothing more than a fig leaf for an unconstitutional ban on Muslims.

And it’s another reason to watch the news, and Trump’s Twitter feed, over the weekend.


Republicans Prepare to Fire the Scorekeepers To Save Trumpcare

The amazing dumpster fire over the new Republican health care plan had a sudden burst of deceptive heat and light as the GOP began to defend the bill against its actual consequences. I explained at New York.

There have been a lot of raised eyebrows about congressional Republicans rushing out an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill before it could be “scored” — that is, evaluated for its impact on federal spending and revenues and health-care coverage — by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Generally, CBO scoring would be a foundational step before trying to advance legislation significantly overhauling an industry that constitutes 20 percent of the national economy. One reason for the hastiness is that Republicans wanted to get something out there before its members go home for a long and potentially protest-filled Easter recess and perhaps come back gun-shy. Another is that they are on a self-imposed (and potentially self-imploding) timetable to get health care out of the way so they can deal with other legislative priorities, including a giant tax-cut bill.

But it is the third reason for not waiting on CBO that is looking most compelling right now: Republicans are terrified that CBO’s numbers will paint a disastrous picture of the American Health Care Act’s impact. The bill has problems enough without being described by Congress’s own hirelings as a bill that blows up budget deficits, throws many millions of people out of their health insurance, and, perhaps most importantly, undermines the tax cuts and defense-spending increases Republicans are itching to enact by setting a baseline that already looks bad.

Indeed, as Jennifer Haberkorn reports, there is so much Republican angst over what CBO might say that there is a sudden barrage of advance criticism of the agency, which is likely to reveal its score later this week or early next week:

“Anticipating that their plan will leave fewer Americans insured than Obamacare and potentially cost the federal government more, Republican leaders on Tuesday launched a preemptory strike against forthcoming predictions from Congress’s independent scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office.”

When former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for the abolition of CBO back in January, most observers probably chuckled at the old bomb-thrower insisting that an objective assessment of GOP plans would screw everything up. Now that’s rapidly becoming the conventional wisdom. Keep in mind that Republicans, after taking control of both congressional chambers in 2014, hired CBO’s current director, George W. Bush administration veteran Keith Hall. It’s safe to say that Hall hardly resembles Gingrich’s description of CBO as a “left-wing, corrupt, bureaucratic defender of big government and liberalism.”

So what’s the solution? Republicans seem to have found an alternative source of authoritative-sounding numbers that is more ideologically reliable: the Office of Management and Budget, which is directly under the control of the president:

“Republicans are going so far as releasing their own estimates. The Office of Management and Budget, part of the Trump White House, is expected to issue its own estimates of the plan, according to several Republican senators.”

This helps explain why Trump’s OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, is suddenly being described as a “player” in the GOP’s very crowded health-care-policy arena. As budget maven Stan Collender pointed out when Gingrich proposed eliminating CBO, such a step would quite literally turn the clock back to those pre-1974 days when OMB was the only “scoring” entity, and Congress had no independent source of information. In the end Congress can use whatever numbers it chooses. But trying to boost the credibility of its agenda by cooking the books is probably not going to be a very persuasive approach.

One would normally think Mulvaney had enough on his plate — developing Trump’s first budget, for example — without having to leap into the middle of the health-care fray. That’s how panicked Republicans have become by the consequences of their shoddy work on repealing and replacing Obamacare. It’s one thing to work the refs when you are in danger of losing a game. It’s another thing altogether to fire and replace the scorekeeper while the ball’s in play.


Political Strategy Notes

At In These Times, Daniel Moraff makes a tight case that socialists and others on the left should not run as third party candidates, and their best prospects for winning elections remain inside the Democratic Party. Among Moraff’s many well-argued points: “Thanks to the Sanders campaign, the case for left challenges within the Democratic Party has never been stronger…He received over 43% of the total primary vote…We all just participated in the most interesting (and certainly the biggest) socialist electoral project ever to take place in the United States…Thousands of local left-to-progressive formations are springing up or growing, from DSA to Indivisible to the Working Families Party. Many of them will, in 2018, have the ability to draft and run candidates for office…Outside of extraordinary cases, a good left third-party candidate gets 15-20% of the vote in a partisan race without a Democrat whereas they attain 3-5% in a race with one. A Democratic primary challenger can sleepwalk to 20%. Local activists need to understand this, and take a hard look at what can and cannot be done outside the primary.”

We’re already hearing concerns from policy-holders about myriad problems with the Republican “replacement” health care bill. Now “Doctors, hospitals and insurers oppose Republican health plan,” write Juliet Eilperin and Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post: “We cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations,” James L. Madara, chief executive of the American Medical Association and a doctor, wrote in a letter to committee leaders overseeing work on the bill…Richard Pollack, CEO of the American Hospital Association, voiced similar fears, saying efforts to “restructure the Medicaid program” by shifting it from an entitlement program to one based on a per capita allocation “will have the effect of making significant reductions in a program that provides services for our most vulnerable populations and already pays providers significantly less than the cost of providing care.”…America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s largest trade association, sent a letter Wednesday saying that while it appreciated several of the proposed changes, the changes to Medicaid “could result in unnecessary disruptions in the coverage and care beneficiaries depend on.”

It’s ‘Trumpcare’ now, since “The White House announced that Trump is preparing to launch a “full-court press” on behalf of the bill, including stakeholder meetings, local media interviews and travel by officials in his administration,” reports Elise Viebeck at PowerPost. So much for Trump’s promise that he was going to provide leadership for a fresh approach that provides coverage for everyone, instead of just rubber-stamping whatever congressional Republicans came up with. What shall Democrats call it, “Trumpcare” or “Obamacare Lite”? Both terms make a point, but neither one seems adequate for  capturing the hardship this legislation would create for millions of Americans, if enacted.

Heidi Pryzybyla reports at USA Today that “Democratic lawmakers in at least 30 U.S. states are either unveiling or highlighting legislation this week aimed at President Trump’s working-class voters, in a nationwide coordinated rebuttal to the agenda the president will outline in his first joint address to Congress on Feb. 28…It’s an attempt to form the legislative spine of a state-level resistance to Trump’s policies, Nick Rathod, executive director of State Innovation Exchange Action [SiX Action], which is overseeing the initiative…The timing creates a juxtaposition between Democratic economic security prescriptions for workers, such as raising the minimum wage and paid family leave, and Trump tax reform and federal budget policies that, Democrats say, are at odds with his populist campaign oath to prioritize “forgotten” Americans from the factory floors of the Rust Belt to the sawmills of the Mountain West.”…Rathod said in an interview previewing the legislative “Week of Action” that will spotlight more than 130 bills in states from Oklahoma to Alaska….SiX Action, a nonprofit trying to help Democrats regain power at the state level, marshaled 40 different left-leaning organizations to help coordinate the effort. It includes bill introduction ceremonies to draw media attention even in states where the legislative packages face an uphill battle because Republicans control both chambers.”

The Atlantic’s Michelle Cottle has a reality check for those who keep saying Democrats should not be so negative and should emphasize their vision, constructive policies and ideas. Particularly in the midterm elections, writes Cottle, that is emphatically not the way to win. “Obama-era Republicans offered a master class in the political efficacy of being “anti…Democrats busted their humps trying to make Republicans pay for their gridlocking. But, for all voters’ grousing about congressional dysfunction, they rarely bother punishing lawmakers for not playing nicely. Indeed, the quickest way for a GOP legislator to get booted under Obama was to be labeled a compromising squish…“One thing we can take from the past several elections is that political obstructionism does not have the political price many people thought it did,” observed a Democratic Senate aide…In early 2005, a freshly reelected George W. Bush was hot to overhaul Social Security. Republicans held the White House and both chambers of Congress. They had the vision. They had the numbers. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. Even thinking about messing with entitlements is politically fraught, and Pelosi decided to make Bush bleed for it. For months, she kept her troops focused on beating the bejesus out of Bush’s proposal, driving public support for it down, down, down. By spring, Bush’s plan was deader than disco—and stayed dead despite his efforts to revive it, which ran right through the 2006 midterms. That November, Democrats retook both chambers of Congress in a wave election that startled pretty much everyone…In midterm politics, as in pain relief, rule No. 1 is to destroy the other guy’s credibility. You can sort the rest out later.”

Bill Scher’s Politico post, “The Resistance Will Be … Underwritten By Corporations: A grassroots fundraising strategy isn’t enough. Democrats need the big money” will surely piss off advocates of a small donor-driven financial strategy for winning elections. But Scher does present some sobering numbers: “Consider the cost of the last midterm election in 2014. The dollar figures were staggering. Both parties (including money from party-allied independent groups) combined spent $3.77 billion in 435 U.S. House and 36 Senate campaigns. Another $2.2 billion was raised at the state level, including candidates in 36 gubernatorial and more than 6,000 state legislative races, with additional $284 million coming from outside groups. Total midterm election cost: approximately $6.25 billion, with at least $2.7 billion spent by Democrats… Among gubernatorial candidates, Republicans trounced Democrats $493.7 to $357.7 million. And Republican state legislative candidates topped their Democratic rivals $487.1 to $438.2 million. (The GOP’s state legislative edge was partly due to its larger roster of candidates: 4,845 to 4,665. But that speaks to a Democratic weakness in candidate recruitment, which is exacerbated by its comparatively weaker fundraising.)..The lower down you go on the ballot, the more major donors matter, because there is less free media available to level the playing field and attract small donors. In 2014, 82 percent of the U.S. Senate winners were the candidates that spent the most, compared to a near-perfect 94 percentof U.S. House winners…To maximize resistance to Donald Trump, Democrats need to win as many 2018 midterm election races as possible. And they can’t do it on $27 checks alone.”

A new CNN/ORC poll conducted March 1-4 found that 79 percent of U.S. adults support increased spending on infrastructure and 61 percent disapprove of taxpayers funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Further, “a majority of Americans, 58 percent, also oppose increasing military spending by cutting funding for the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency or other nondefense agencies.”– From “Majority supports increased infrastructure spending, opposes border wall funding” by Rebecca Savransky at The Hill.

Also at The Atlantic, Clare Foran conducts an interview with Ruy Teixeira. Here’s an excerpt from Teixeira’s comments: “In The Emerging Democratic Majority, I think we correctly diagnosed how the overall country is changing, and how some states were likely to change, but I think we didn’t pay enough attention to some of the structural obstacles that Democrats must now confront, including the concentration of Democratic-leaning voters in urban areas, and how that might interact with gerrymandering. Those dynamics have turned out to be quite important. The lesson I take from that is that the left needs to be more competitive in a lot of places and can’t just rely on changing demographics. Democrats need to get into a position where they can de-gerrymander congressional districts, and to get to that point the party will need to be more competitive in parts of the country that aren’t necessarily liberal-leaning. They cannot just cede that to the Republican Party.”

Thomas B. Edsall dissects “Donald Trump’s Political Stew” in his New York Times column and shares doubts of some political commentators and scholars about the the ability of Democrats to hold on to majorities of major electoral components. Edsall notes, “Trump won college-educated whites by four points and non-college whites by a record-setting 39 points, a larger margin than Ronald Reagan, the previous record-holder at 29 points. Put another way, insofar as Trump voters define the contemporary Republican electorate, non-college whites are the majority, 55.1 percent, with college-educated whites becoming the minority at 44.9 percent.” In another section, Edsall quotes University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato: “The key constituency, Sabato said, is the “slice of non-college-educated white blue-collar workers from cities and older suburbs” who are the “Obama-Trump voters.” In 2016, 209 of the 676 counties that cast majorities for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 backed Trump, many in the Midwest. Sabato noted that it was these voters who “put Trump over the top in Michigan and possibly Wisconsin and Pennsylvania…If Trump produces, they’ll reward him with a second term. If he doesn’t — and he needs to create lots of high-paying jobs in the face of automation and a global economy moving in other directions — then they’ll be ripe for a return to their former home, the Democratic Party — if Democrats give them an appealing nominee.”


How the Republican Plan, ‘Obamacare Lite,’ Cheats the Middle Class, Helps the Wealthy

The early reviews of ‘Obamacare lite,’ the just-released House of Represenatives Republican majority plan to replace the Affordable Care Act are rolling in, and those who were expecting the GOP proposal (aka ‘The American Health Care Act’)  would screw working people to benefit high-end health care consumers will not be surprised at the changes.

The AHCA is a predictable mess of irrational concessions to Obamacare-bashers, designed more to mollify knee-jerk extremists than thoughtful conservatives. Those who entertained the fantasy that the Republican alternative would have a clear explanation of how the plan would be funded will be disappointed, as will those who believed the Republicans would find a way to make sure no one lost the health security the ACA provided or be forced to pay more for health care.

As  Mike DeBonis, Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell report in the Washington Post,”Starting in 2020, however, the GOP plan would restrict the government’s generous Medicaid payment — 90 percent of the cost of covering people in the expansion group — only to people who were in the program as of then…“Trumpcare doesn’t replace the Affordable Care Act, it forces millions of Americans to pay more for less care,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).”

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jay Bookman elaborates,

In fact, if enacted into law, the GOP plan would strip millions and millions of our fellow Americans of their health insurance, and all the progress that we’ve made in reducing the percentage of uninsured to record low levels will be quickly reversed.

Some would be forced to drop their policies because the subsidies that have allowed them to purchase individual coverage will be slashed and slashed dramatically in many instances. Others would lose coverage as the expansion of Medicaid is rolled back by the GOP bill, and as federal funding for traditional Medicaid is cut as well.  We have no good estimate on how many millions will be affected — House Speaker Paul Ryan is trying to force the plan through the committee process before the Congressional Budget Office can produce such numbers — but there is no plausible way to make cuts of the proposed magnitude without significant reductions in coverage.

On the other hand, if you’re wealthy, the House plan gives you a lot to smile about. The taxes on Americans making more than $200,000 a year that have helped to pay for Obamacare and that make it deficit-neutral at worst would be rolled back under the House plan, producing an average tax benefit of $165,000 a year for those in the top 0.1 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center.

In their New York Times article, “Millions Risk Losing Health Insurance in Republican Plan, Analysts Say,” Abby Goodnough and Reed Abelson explain:

Starting in 2020, the plan would do away with the current system of providing premium subsidies based on people’s income and the cost of insurance where they live. Instead, it would provide tax credits of $2,000 to $4,000 per year based on their age.

But the credits would not cover nearly as much of the cost of premiums as the current subsidies do, at least for the type of comprehensive coverage that the Affordable Care Act requires, analysts said. For many people, that could mean the difference between keeping coverage under the new system and having to give it up.

“The central issue is the tax credits are not going to be sufficient,” said Dr. J. Mario Molina, the chief executive of Molina Healthcare, an insurer that offers coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in California, Florida and several other states.

Other people likely to be hurt under the new plan are those in areas where the cost of coverage is high. Subsidies are now pegged to the cost of a plan within a specific market, but the tax credits in the Republican plan are the same whether you live in Alaska or Minnesota. Coverage tends to be most expensive in parts of the country where there are few hospitals or few insurers. “When it comes to health insurance, high-cost areas tend to be rural areas,” said Cynthia Cox, a researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which recently did an analysis of how the tax credits compared with the subsidies now available.

In their New York Times op-ed, “How Republicans Plan to Ration Health Care,”

The Republicans say they want to give states more flexibility. But that flexibility most likely means they could use the money for non-health-care programs, or to close state budget gaps. When given budgetary flexibility with large sums of money, this is a common state tactic.

…State flexibility is a ruse. Per-person allotments are an elaborate cost-shifting mechanism — a fancy way to reduce federal funding and transfer financial responsibility for the health care of low-income Americans to states. A 2014 assessment by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of Representative Paul Ryan’s plan, which contained elements similar to those in the current proposal, estimated that this accounting trick would increase Medicaid costs for state budgets by $169 billion by 2026. So, under the banner of flexibility, the current Republican plan would force states to make a series of Hobson’s choices.

This would be even worse than going back to the days before the Affordable Care Act. It would force states to ration care and deny some Americans lifesaving treatments or nursing home care. Cruel only begins to describe the Republican plan.

And the Times editorial, “No Wonder the Republicans Hid the Health Bill,” notes,

While working people lose health care, the rich would come out winners. The bill would eliminate the taxes on businesses and individuals (people making more than $200,000 a year) who fund Obamacare. The tax cuts would total about $600 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

As Timothy Stoltzfus Jost puts it in his WaPo op-ed “the real focus of the legislation is not on health-care reform, not even on repealing the ACA as such. What the AHCA would in fact do is massively redistribute wealth from the poorest Americans to the wealthiest.”

After 8 years of blasting Obamacare and offering no alternative, the Republicans have kludged together a  predictable disaster. “Republicans have found themselves frantically scrawling out a hopelessly inadequate solution in order to meet a self-imposed deadline driven by their overarching desire to cut taxes for the rich,” writes Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine, who preers the term “Trumpcare.” He quotes Republican health care guru Avik Roy: “Expanding subsidies for high earners, and cutting health coverage off from the working poor: it sounds like a left-wing caricature of mustache-twirling, top-hatted Republican fat cats.” And “the caricature,” writes Chait, “is true.”

But Republicans don’t have a lot of wiggle room. They can afford no more than 21 GOP House members voting against the proposals, a pretty narrow path to enactment, given the criticism of the proposals that has emerged, just on the Republican side. Indeed, many of the GOP dissenters want something even worse.

It’s the same old game of cutting federal spending to later provide tax cuts for the rich, which is the emblematic goal of the GOP. This nightmare of a health care “plan” reveals in stark relief  the moral and intellectual bankruptcy that defines the modern Republican Party like no other.


Teixeira: Why Liberals Will Prevail, Despite Trump’s Setbacks

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think,” is cross-posted from The Washington Post.

Is Donald Trump the end for the left? Is it really possible, as a baby boomer averred in an interview last month with The Washington Post, that “all the things we cared about for the past 40 years could be wiped out in the first 100 days”?

American leftists are not known for their optimism, and yet, even for them, the prevailing sentiment is that these are especially dark days. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats say they are “worried or pessimistic” about the future of the country in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll.

Historian Jeremi Suri, writing in the Atlantic, assessed that “with his barrage of executive orders, Trump is taking America back to the historical nightmares of the world before December 1941: closed borders, limited trade, intolerance to diversity, arms races, and a go-it-alone national race to the bottom.” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) spoke out against Trump’s attorney general pick, saying, “If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man.” Climate scientists offer a similarly bleak view, fearing that Trump will quickly unravel President Barack Obama’s legacy and that “the world, then, may have no way to avoid the most devastating consequences of global warming, including rising sea levels, extreme droughts and food shortages, and more powerful floods and storms,” as the New York Times put it.

But fears that Trump will set back the left’s agenda dangerously and irreparably are not well founded. Core advances can’t be undone. Although Trump could do some real temporary damage, he and his movement will fade, and the values and priorities of the left will eventually triumph.

Consider social equality and tolerance, where some of today’s greatest fears are concentrated. It is true that Trump has said many egregious things, like associating Mexican immigrants with criminal behavior, and has tried (though so far failed) to implement a ban on immigration from some Muslim countries. But people should not lose sight of the massive progress in the past half-century, led by the left. This includes the destruction of formal and many normative barriers to racial equality, the rise of the black middle class, the advancement of women in higher education and the professions, the dominance of anti-sexist views in public opinion, and the acceptance of gays, including the institution of same-sex marriage. We still have far to go in the attainment of full social equality, but it is also true that we have gone far.

Public-opinion data is quite clear that the United States has become more, not less, liberal in all these areas over time and that these trends are continuing. Take the standard question about whether immigration levels should increase, decrease or stay the same. The 38 percent of people who say “decrease” is about as low as it ever has been since Gallup started tracking the question in the 1960s. The current number represents a massive drop, of about 30 points, since the early 1990s, when Pat Buchanan first raised his pitchfork high at the Republican National Convention. There has also been a considerable change in views about whether immigration is a good or bad thing for America — and it’s positive, not negative, change, even if one confines the data to white Americans. According to Gallup, the “good thing” response by whites was as low as 51 percent in the early 2000s but has been around 70 percent in the past two years.

Nor has there been any kind of spike in negative racial attitudes in recent years — in fact, according to the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey , such attitudes were far more prevalent in the early 1990s than they are today, including among white Democrats and Republicans. This is true even as perceptions of the quality of race relations have been dimming, thanks primarily to conflict around police shootings and to a tiny minority of genuine haters whose rhetoric and actions have been widely covered. But the underlying trend toward racial liberalism continues.

So the idea that Trump will somehow successfully relitigate the role of immigrants, minorities, gays and women in American society is scary but absurd. He may continue the Republican campaign to restrict voting rights. He may seek to overturn Roe v. Wade (supported by 70 percent of the American public). He may promote prejudice against Muslim Americans. Such actions may in fact be cheered on by his hard-core supporters. But he will ultimately fail, because what he wishes to do is both massively unpopular and runs against the grain of legal precedent and institutional norms.

And he can’t hold back the one true inevitability in demographic change: the replacement of older generations by newer ones. Underappreciated in November’s election was the continuing leftward lean of young voters, once again supporting the Democratic candidate by around 20 points — and with younger millennials, including both college-educated and noncollege whites, even more pro-Democratic than older ones. That is huge. And don’t expect these voters to shift right as they age. Political science research shows that early voting patterns tend to stick.

Another locus of disquiet, if not hysteria, on the left is the environment. But consider this: In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire; in 1979, when Obama was attending college in Los Angeles and remembers constant smog, there were 234 days when the city exceeded federal ozone standards. Our water and air are now orders of magnitude cleaner than they were back then.

Trump will not be able to suddenly wipe out all these gains. Sure, he says he will severely cut environmental regulations, especially ones put in place by Obama; hollow out the EPA; somehow bring back the coal industry; and much more. But saying and doing are two different things. Getting rid of Obama-era rules such as the Clean Power Plan would take years and be challenged by litigation. Reversing the decline of the coal industry is economically impossible. Abolishing the EPA and gutting the clean air and water acts is politically impossible. When the George W. Bush administration tried to eliminate one Clinton-era rule on levels of arsenic in drinking water, it ran into a political buzzsaw and had to retreat.

The left’s priority of a clean environment with clean air and water is immensely popular, with deeply entrenched programs and practices that sustain it. Trump will be able to slow down environmental advances, by chipping away at relatively obscure regulations and reducing enforcement, but he cannot reverse them.

Nor will Trump be able to derail the remarkable progress on another cherished goal of the left: a green economy that can stave off global warming. The key here is abundant, cheap, clean energy, and work toward that goal has been going forward at a breakneck pace. World investments in clean energy, chiefly wind and solar, have reached levels that are doublethose for fossil fuel. Renewables now provide half of all new electric capacity around the world. The cost of solar has fallen to 1/150th of its 1970s level, and the amount of installed solar capacity has increased a staggering 115,000 times. Indeed, it is increasingly common for clean energy in some areas to be fully cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Trump will not and cannot stop this trend.

Or take living standards and the middle class, where progress has admittedly been slow (though not absent) in the recent past. Capitalism is certainly capable of performing much better — but Trump is not the man to make that happen. All he’s going to succeed in doing is blowing up one of the main roadblocks to better economic performance: the conservative Republican anti-government, quasi-libertarian consensus around economic policy. A protectionist president who proposes to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, criticizes corporate decisions on job location, and swears to oppose any and all Social Security and Medicare cuts is miles away from that consensus, even if he does support slashing taxes for the rich and undermining unions. He is on a collision course with his own Congress that will result in incoherent economic policy with little or no benefit to the working-class voters who elected him.

Finally, consider the tremendous progressive achievements of the Obama era, from a stimulus bill that saved the economy and poured money into clean-energy investments to the Dodd-Frank act regulating the financial sector to the Affordable Care Act and much more. These were remarkable gains for the left, attained despite severe headwinds in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Of course, Trump and the Republican Congress have declared their intention to roll back these advances and then some. The president has already signed executive orders that seek to weaken Dodd-Frank and undermine the ACA. But can Trump and his GOP allies really get rid of these programs, as opposed to nibbling at their edges? It will not be as easy as they expect and as many on the left fear.

The chaos surrounding Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act illustrates just how difficult this rollback would be. The idea of repealing the ACA first and coming up with a replacement later died quickly, forcing Republicans to confront the fact that they cannot agree on what the new plan should be. Some want to keep the Medicaid expansion, some balk at requiring higher deductibles, some worry about reducing subsidies, and many fear political damage from throwing millions of people off health insurance. The disunity of the repeal forces is so palpable that former House Speaker John Boehner, who once led the charge to repeal the ACA, now admits that repeal is “not going to happen” and that “most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act” will remain in place.

Trump and the Republican Congress fail to understand, and the left would do well to remember, one of the most enduring features of American public opinion. The dominant ideology in the United States is one that combines “symbolic conservatism” (honoring tradition, distrusting novelty, embracing the conservative label) with “operational liberalism” (wanting government to take more action in a wide variety of areas). As political scientists Christopher Ellis and James Stimson, the leading academic analysts of American ideology, note: “Most Americans like most government programs. Most of the time, on average, we want government to do more and spend more. It is no accident that we have created the programs of the welfare state. They were created — and are sustained — by massive public support.”

That’s why, now that the ACA has delivered concrete benefits for many people, it is so very hard to get rid of. As a constituent of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) put it: “I’m on Obamacare. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, we wouldn’t be able to afford insurance. With all due respect, Sir, you’re the man that talked about the death panel. We’re going to create one great big death panel in this country if people can’t afford to get insurance.” In the long run, it is far more likely that the ACA will be built upon and improved, so that it extends coverage and tamps down rising medical costs even further (that will be the “something terrific” Trump has talked about), than truly be eliminated.

The Trump administration could still do some real damage. There will be lax enforcement of financial and environmental regulations. There will probably be tax cuts for the rich and underfunding of important social programs. There will be more harassment of immigrants and no progress on comprehensive immigration reform. But its ability to remake America in the libertarian image (privatize Social Security! voucherize Medicare!) envisioned by Paul Ryan is distinctly limited — even assuming that Trump backs such moves wholeheartedly, which he very well might not, given his public pronouncements on these programs.

In the end, the Trumpian populism of the 2010s will probably have no more staying power than the agrarian populism of the 1880s and 1890s, which was also driven by demographic groups on the decline and was similarly undercut by structural change and the transition to a new economic era. That earlier populist era was followed by an era of strong social advancement in the early 20th century — the Progressive Era.

What will have staying power in the 21st century is the values and priorities of the left. They will not win every battle, but they will win the war.


Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics Tom Lobianco and Davis Siegal explore why “Democrats say long-term success starts with 2018 governors’ races,” and notes “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi huddled privately with the leaders of the Democratic Governors Association last weekend and looked over maps of top targets. The group has 14 states in its sights and believes it would be impossible to lose more states to Republicans, especially if President Donald Trump continues to struggle…The organization has picked out nine states that Hillary Clinton won and another five that went to President Barack Obama. Some of the targets are clear — true blue bastions like Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, where Republicans upset Democratic favorites in 2014. But others are likely to be a slog reminiscent of the drubbing Clinton took in the Rust Belt, like fights in Wisconsin and Ohio…The bright spot for Democrats is that they are only defending 11 out of 38 seats over the next two years. But Democratic strategists who have been in the trenches of the states are leery that national Democrats, and Obama’s own redistricting group, are ready to support them after years of ignoring them.” 2017 tests set for this year include New jersey and Virginia.

Regarding Trump’s latest distraction: “He signaled his lack of evidence first by reportedly pushing his White House staff to ransack sensitive intelligence information to find support for his claim. Then on Sunday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wanted Congress to look into the matter and that the administration would offer no further comment. Trump has a problem either way. If he was not wiretapped, he invented a spectacularly false charge. And if a court ordered some sort of surveillance of him, on what grounds did it do so?” — from “Trump has gone completely through the looking glass” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. in his syndicated Washington Post column.

“About two-thirds of Americans say a special prosecutor should investigate contacts between Russians and Trump campaign associates” in a new CNN/ORC poll, reports Jennfer Agiesta at CNN Politics. However, “At the same time, Trump’s approval rating for handling the economy has increased to 55%, up from 49% a few weeks into his tenure…The economy, which 26% of Americans call the most important issue facing the country, remains his strongest issue..the only issue tested where Trump earns clearly positive reviews.”

WaPo’s Philip Bump highlights the idiocy of Trump’s false equivalence of Sessions’s secretive meeting with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak with a photograph of Sen Schumer and the Ambassador “noshing on doughnuts and gas station coffee” in full public view.

James Hohmann and Breanne Deppisch describe the Sessions mess succinctly at The Daily 202: “The country’s chief law enforcement officer made a false statement to Congress, while under oath, about his contacts with one of this nation’s biggest adversaries. (Legal experts, including Republicans, note that others have been prosecuted for less.) When he got busted, the attorney general initially claimed through a spokeswoman that he couldn’t recall specifics of what had been said during his undisclosed sit-down with the Russian ambassador, except that it wasn’t political in nature. Then, with his job on the line, he miraculously remembered supposedly exculpatory details…Last Thursday, Sessions said at his press conference that he would write the Judiciary Committee “today or tomorrow” to clarify his misleading testimony. It’s now been four days, and he has yet to formally clean things up. A spokesman said he’ll submit amended testimony later today. We’ll see. Either way, a delay this long only happens when one is trying to get one’s ducks in a row.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders continues with his impressive one-man, 50-state strategy. In his PowerPost article, “Bernie Sanders backs unionization campaign in Mississippi as Democrats draft populist agenda,” David Weigel quotres from a Sanders speech at a Nissan plant Canton, Mississippi: “…the facts are very clear, that workers in America who are members of unions earn substantially more, 27 percent more, than workers not in unions,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in an interview before the speech. “They get pensions and better working conditions. I find it very remarkable that Nissan is allowing unions to form at its plants all over the world. Well, if they can be organized everywhere else, they can be organized in Mississippi…Some of the poorest states in this country, where large numbers of people have no health insurance and have experienced stagnating wages, have not had the support from progressives that they need,” Sanders said. “It’s time we change that. It means standing up for working men and women…These workers are incredibly courageous,” Sanders said. “One thing we already know is that workers who have stood up for their rights are being harassed, are being discriminated against and are being lectured about the so-called perils of trade unionism. There’s a massive anti-union effort going on, and these guys are standing out their own. They deserve our support.”

There’s a lot for progressives to argue with in conservative Democrat Joel Kotkin’s Los Angeles Daily News article “How the Democrats can rebuild.” But Kotkin is on target in writing that “Sanders’ key plank — a single-payer, Canadian-like health care system — also could appeal to many small businesses, consultants and the expanding precariat of contract workers dependent on the now imperiled Obamacare. Critically, both health care and economic mobility priorities cross the color line, which is crucial to spreading social democracy here.” The rest of Kotkin’s critique reflects the way many  less extreme Trump voters see the Democratic Party.

Sen. Rand Paul calls Republican’s bill providing repeal/replace of the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare Lite,” reports Tami Luhby, also at at CNN Politcs.

Congratulations to Rachel Maddow. “Rachel Maddow Has a Top 10 Show on All of TV,” reports Chris Ariens of TV Newser. “In an interview with The Wrap, Maddow says the secret to her coverage–which almost exclusively covers politics–is pretty simple: “I stopped covering [Trump’s] Twitter feed and we started covering only what they do rather than what they say.” She has to be one of the most fearless reporters ever.