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

March 20, 2018

Teixeira: The math is clear – Democrats need to win more working-class white votes

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from Vox:

Following the noteworthy Democratic successes in the 2017 elections, we’re once again hearing that Democrats can achieve their electoral goals without any greater success among the white working class. Indeed, some on the left seem to feel that Democratic gestures toward the white working class would not only be ineffective but are politically suspect.

“There’s always been something problematic about the Democratic Party’s fixation on white working-class voters,” writes Sally Kohn at the Daily Beast. “After Alabama, it’s clear that obsession isn’t just fraught with bias. It’s also dumb.”

Steve Phillips of Democracy in Color remarked in a New York Times op-ed: “The country is under conservative assault because Democrats mistakenly sought support from conservative white working-class voters susceptible to racially charged appeals. Replicating that strategy would be another catastrophic blunder.”

“The ceiling with the white working class is what it is,” Phillips adds with a shrug in The Nation.

However popular, the view that Democrats can get along without working-class white voters is simply wrong. It reflects wishful thinking and a rigid set of political priors — namely, that Democrats’ political problems always stem from insufficient motivation of base voters — more than a cold, hard look at what the electoral and demographic data say. Consider the following:

There were far more white non-college voters in the 2016 election than shown by the exit polls

The exit polls claimed there were more white college voters (37 percent) than white non-college voters (34 percent). But in a report for the Center for American Progresssynthesizing available public survey data, census data, and actual election returns, Robert Griffin, John Halpin, and I found that 2016 voters were 44 percent white non-college and just 30 percent white college-educated. (The balance were black, Latino, Asian, or “other.”)


Win Working-Class Voters with State Level Consumer Protection

The following article by Marc Dann, former Attorney General of the State of Ohio, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Donald Trump’s election, made possible in part by his ability to capture the hearts, minds, aspirations, and votes of working-class men and women, has caused confusion and consternation among Democratic Party leaders. Stunned by the outcome, the Party has spent the last year searching for new messages that could lure this critically important constituency back into the fold. So far, that search has been unsuccessful.

However, as Democratic Party factions bicker, Trump himself may be handing them the issue they can use to end his presidency—and it doesn’t involve porn stars, Russians, racism, or tax cuts for the rich, none of which seem to matter much to the president’s supporters.

No, the Trumpites won’t turn away from him because of the outrageous things he says, or even the possibly illegal things he’s done. But they might abandon him when they finally realize that he’s betrayed them by gutting the regulatory framework that really made America great for the working class. Trump’s crusade to kill every rule and law he can get his hands on could be the thing that kills his presidency.

Some may scoff at this idea, but consider how these actions, all taken in the interest of his buddies on Wall Street, harm families who live on Main Street:

  • Net neutrality may seem like an arcane issue, but FCC Chair Ajit Pai ‘s decision to roll back Obama-era internet rules will inevitably lead to increased costs for internet access.
  • Betsy Devos, the clueless Secretary of Education, is repealing rules that made it difficult for private universities to rip-off students and making it more expensive for kids and parents to repay student loans.
  • Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who was installed as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), has submitted a “zero budget” for the agency he absolutely loathes, and instituted a hiring freeze and a prohibition on new regulations.  Just for good measure, he’s also decided to make it easier for the vultures in the payday lending industry to prey on the poor and the working class.
  • The Labor Department’s decision to allow pool-tipping and to ditch rules that would have made hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers eligible for overtime pay will cost working families millions of dollars each year.
  • The unrelenting attack on the Affordable Care Act, which survived repeal but has taken a number of other hits, will lead to premium increases and the loss of coverage in the years ahead.

Political Strategy Notes

Associated Press reporter James Anderson explains why “Strong health sign-ups under Obamacare encourage Democrats” at abcnews.com: “Both parties are paying attention, especially after a better-than-expected enrollment season under the health care law. Democrats especially have used health care to go on the attack, and the issue is coming up in congressional races in California, Colorado, Michigan, Washington and elsewhere. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Friday found health care as the top issue voters want congressional candidates to address…Enrollment was especially robust in many of the states that operate their own insurance marketplaces, where enrollment periods were longer than on the federal exchange and promotional budgets were beefed up. Strong sign-ups came despite Republican attacks against the law and President Donald Trump’s administration taking several steps to undermine it, including cutting the federal sign-up period in half and slashing advertising…California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, New York, Vermont and other states with their own exchanges saw enrollment approach or surpass 2017 levels. Minnesota’s health insurance exchange set a record for private plans with an enrollment period that was more than two weeks shorter than in 2017.”

At The American Prospect Longform, Jacob S. Hacker makes the case for “Medicare Part E,” and observes, “Medicare Part E would cover the broad range of benefits covered by Medicare Parts A (hospital coverage), B (coverage of physicians’ and other bills), and D (drug coverage)…The central feature of Medicare Part E is guaranteed insurance. All Americans would be presumed to be covered. They would not need to go through complicated eligibility processes or hunt down coverage that qualified for public support or even re-enroll on an annual basis. Once someone was in Part E, they would remain in Part E unless and until they were enrolled in a qualified alternative—whether an employment-based health plan with good benefits or a high-quality state Medicaid program…Thus, the centerpiece of Medicare Part E is the same as that of single-payer: a guarantee that Medicare is there for everyone. Unlike single-payer, however, Medicare Part E seeks to improve employers’ role rather than replace it. It does so by establishing new standards for employment-based plans and requiring that all employers contribute to Medicare if they do not provide insurance directly to their employees.”

In his post, “As State of the Union nears, is America great again for the working class? Donald Trump has painted himself a champion of workers, and will probably do so again next week. But the record tells a different story,” Dominic Rushe takes a look at the Trump/Republican’s deregulation strategy, which includes: “The Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act, which would block requirements that federal government contractors at national parks pay workers $10.10 an hour, overtime and sick pay…The Future Logging Careers Act, which will expand the use of child labour in the forestry industry so that 16- and 17 year-olds can work in logging under adult supervision…The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a rollback of a 2015 rule that banned children under 18 from working with toxic pesticides...Last March, Trump revoked Barack Obama’s 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplacesexecutive order, which barred companies from federal contracts if they had a history of violating safety, workplace harassment or wage theft laws.”

“…We can split Trump’s base if we take on fights that will improve the lives of people who are struggling economically…Over the last ten years, Maine has been pulled to the right, in general. But even while that’s true, we also see a lot of hope, especially when we’ve done these referendums.  We’ve won same-day voter registration and a public financing- clean elections systems. We passed the minimum wage, and we passed a tax on the rich for education. We just won Medicaid expansion. We’ve found that when you talk to people about what they care about and about what’s right and wrong, they can really get that…Take the people in the second Congressional District here in Maine. They have a lot to be angry and upset about. The old mill jobs are gone, and they are struggling economically…It’s not surprising to me that they voted for Trump, but that they would also vote to raise the minimum wage and for Medicaid expansion. And fighting for these kinds of policies tips the hands of the Republicans…forces the Republicans to come out and directly say that they oppose these programs that will help these people who are struggling, even when those people have directly voted in support of those policies. We think that they might expose themselves so badly this year that we have hopes that it could actually mean that we would have a wave election in 2018.”  — From editor Harmony Goldberg’s interview of Maine People’s Alliance’s Director Jesse Graham in “Splitting Trump’s Base through a Fight Over Medicaid in Maine” at Organizing Upgrade: Engaging left Organizers in Strategic Dialogue.

WaPo conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin argues, “…Republicans have made their least defensible, their cruelest stance — deport the dreamers — the centerpiece of their immigration approach and one of the key issues in the 2018 midterms. They want to run on a position that 80 percent to 90 percent of voters reject, an issue that will help Democrats drive turnout in places such as Texas, California and Florida. Democrats should be delighted to engage. They can rightly argue that the scare-mongering racist ads about murderers coming over the border have nothing to do with the dreamers; the ads do, however, have everything to do with the nasty strain of xenophobia Trump articulated in his “shithole” remarks. If Democrats cannot use an issue (legalize dreamers) with 80 percent to 90 percent approval to their advantage in a slew of House races, they might want to close up shop…”

Democratic and progressive leaders had some harsh words for the latest Republican DACA/immigration “reform” proposal, as quoted by Daniella Diaz, Jim Acosta, Elizabeth Landers and Tal Kopan at CNN Politics: “Dreamers should not be held hostage to President Trump’s crusade to tear families apart and waste billions of American tax dollars on an ineffective wall,” Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who has fought for protection for participants in the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said in a statement…Democratic immigration advocate Eddie Vale, who’s been closely involved in the recent immigration talks, called the White House proposal “a legislative burning cross.” What the White House is filling you in on now is in no way an attempt to get to a real deal,” Vale told CNN, adding that rather it is a way to “get every item on (White House senior adviser) Stephen Miller’s white supremacist wish list.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, said “This is the moment that the hardliners — John Kelly, Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton, Bob Goodlatte, John Cornyn and their outside collaborators — have been waiting and planning for,” he said in a statement. “The hardliners are high-fiving; the Statue of Liberty weeps.”

Democrats interested in leveraging the boom in “resistance” groups should check out Kate Aronoff’s “How To Resist, in 6 Books: Your guide to the guides to the resistance” at In These Times. An excerpt: “Jonathan Matthew Smucker, author of Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, also wrestles with the Left’s more insular and self-limiting habits. A not-insignificant number of leftists, he argues, have come to fetishize their position as righteous outsiders and have lost faith in the ability to win power at the highest levels. “Do we believe that power will be inspired by our brave acts of eschewing power?” he prods. Instead, he urges the Left to mainstream the movement and embrace power.”

A bit of good news for the labor movement from John Schmitt at the Economic Policy Institute: “Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on changes in union membershipfrom 2016 to 2017. It was good news for workers, as the total number of union members grew by 262,000 in 2017. Three-fourths of these gains (198,000) were among workers aged 34 and under, who account for less than 40 percent of total employment.”

A year after Trump’s inauguration, the mere appearance of Hillary Clinton at the Grammys in a skit (see video here) poking gentle fun at Trump by reading an excerpt of “The Fire and the Fury” is enough to get the Tweeter-in-Chief and his munchkins all bent out of shape. This presents a potentially useful tactic for Democrats.  It’s SOP when Trump distracts the press and the public from major issues with inane tweets and comments designed to provoke off-topic storms of outrage. Clinton drives Republicans into splenetic rage just by showing up. She can throw Trump and his minions off their game with surprise media appearances. In this way, ‘Clinton derangement syndrome’ can be a useful tool for Dems.

Vulnerable Senate Democrats Hanging In There For Now

After examining the latest batch of approval numbers for U.S. Senators from Morning Consult, I offered some thoughts about the landscape at New York.

The big trend is that politically vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2018, many of whom are being softened up with attack ads, are losing some ground, though many are still in relatively good shape.

For this particular election cycle, “vulnerable” mostly means Democrats, particularly the ten running for reelection in states carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

“The data show declines in net approval ratings [during 2017] for nine of the 10 Democratic incumbents who are running in states President Donald Trump won in 2016, and who have faced attacks on the airwaves and online from their Republican challengers, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and outside conservative groups.”

But of the Trump Ten, none are actually “underwater” in approval ratios, though two — Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin (40/40) and Claire McCaskill of Missouri (41/41) — are dead even. Three (Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia) have approval ratings at or above 50 percent and relatively low disapproval ratings. And several others have net positive approval ratios in double digits (Sherrod Brown at 46/28; Joe Donnelly at 44/30; and Bob Casey at 43/32), and two others are close to that (Debbie Stabenow at 44/35 and Jon Tester at 57/40).

All in all, the Trump Ten are hanging in there, particularly if they benefit from a late Democratic “wave” or from nasty GOP primaries to choose challengers. And there’s one Republican incumbent, Dean Heller of Nevada, who’s not doing all that well at 41/39.

The star of the cycle is probably Amy Klobuchar, who, despite being from a competitive 2016 state, has an approval ratio of 59/24 and no prominent GOP opponent as of now. And the problem child is easy to identify, too: Robert Menendez of New Jersey, whose approval ratio is a dreadful 29/45, and that was from polling before the announcement that he will be retried for corruption in federal court (a mistrial was declared in his earlier trial in November). Menendez is obviously lucky to be running in a solidly blue state, but the fact that he’s the least popular senator in the country is likely to attract a credible opponent sooner rather than later. But he can draw some comfort from the fact that his partner in unpopularity in the Senate is none other than Mitch McConnell, whose approval ratio back home is 32/53. Persistent meh-to-terrible numbers in Kentucky haven’t kept McConnell from getting reelected and wielding great power. Sometimes money and luck can go a very long way.

How Dems Could Benefit from ‘Digital Precinct Captains’

In his Rewire post, “Digital Precinct Captains: A New Strategy for Democrats,” Jeff Hauser writes:

…By focusing less on the traditional advertising tools of the 20th century and more on the new digital organizing tools of the 21st, Democrats can have a true 50-state strategy without all the costs it used to entail.

One way to do this would be by identifying and supporting a team of thousands of “digital precinct captains” around the country who would be supported and organized by paid staff members. These highly motivated super volunteers would serve an organizing role between both ordinary voters and occasional activists and the formal political party itself.  They would seek to engage, serve, and mobilize voters—not just the party—and in doing so, Democrats could become an actual energized community whose leaders and members are perpetually talking to and learning from one another. Their success would be based on engagement, not fundraising.

The idea, in the words of the article’s subtitle, is “move the Democratic Party much closer to being a meaningful organization instead of a mere ballot label.” Hauser adds that “The rise of Indivisible and countless other #Resistance groups have revealed an unprecedented interest in political activism and the power digital organizing tools can wield.”

“Such activism within the Democratic Party itself would increase the people power available to candidates who inspire communities,” argues Hauser. “From incubating voter registration drives to promoting a community picnic, captains would choose the activities that their communities desire while also communicating with the tools that best speak to those communities.”

Untilnow, says Hauser, “digital strategy has essentially been used as a different way to raise money. Everyone’s gotten those emails (probably too many of them) asking if you “can chip in just $5” for a given occasion…That means that the party’s digital strategy has largely been a one-way street: send out a message and judge its success by the dollars it generated.”

Hauser believes the digital precinct captains “would engage a broad swath of voters and ensure a meaningful and consistent point of contact with the Democratic Party.” It would provide “the tools they need to engage and organize throughout the year while informing the party how politics is happening at the most granular level.”

Another benefit would be that the digital precinct capatains could organize by geography, neglected constituencies, “like the parents of kids with disabilities or senior citizens in nursing homes,” or issues, or a combination of those factors.

Digital precincts “could create an enduring semi-decentralized digital-oriented permanent campaign structure.” Utilizing tools like Facebook, Instagram and texting, “this structure would take advantage of the reduced costs of two-way communications between the federal party and grassroots outside the strictures of TV ads or mainstream media.”

Precinct captains once played a much larger role in Democratic politics, particularly in cities where population was concentrated. Neighborhood-level political groups still have an important role to play, but it would be political malpractice for Democrats not to leverage digital tools to strengthen the bonds between the national, state and local Democratic parties on the one hand, and the myriad grassroots groups now proliferating in the Resistance nationwide.

Political Strategy Notes

The don’t miss article of the day is “Enough Trump Bashing, Democrats,” a New York Times op-ed intwerview of Democratic strategust Joe Trippi, who guided the Doug Jones campaign to victory in Alabama and former Massachusetss Governor Deval Patrick by columnist Fank Bruni. There are many instructive quotes in the article, including this one by Patrick: “Republicans behave as if favoring a few will eventually help everybody. Democrats believe serving everybody serves the common good. The more we caste our approach in those terms — unifying, humble, enabling, responsive, about a better common future — the more we win, and deserve to win…If the Democrats fight for a big-hearted, pragmatic, forward leaning, fearless country, we will win.”

In his Talking Points Memo post, “Stop whining, Move Forward,” Josh Marshall brings an adult perspective to all of the fuss about who “won” the first act of the shutdown drama: “Listen to people talking this morning and you would think that Democrats surrendered their leverage and a major point of policy and suffered a damaging political blow. Neither is true. Trump’s high-fiving Stephen Miller and talking shit on Twitter doesn’t really matter as anything more than a head game. It’s conventional bully tactics. It doesn’t move votes. It only has an impact to the extent you bring to the table an internal drama about Democratic ‘toughness’ and forget that being in the minority is hard…The reality is that very few people whose opinions of things are not set in stone are even paying attention to the optics of this. The policy question – settling the Dreamers issue – is very important. But that remains to be decided as much as it was before. Get up, dust yourself off and realize that this is a skirmish in a larger political battle which will come to a head again in three short weeks…What to think about all this? Think that Democrats are fighting for key policy priorities with virtually no power. That’s not easy. It won’t be accomplished in a day. That’s an honorable position not a shameful one.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that Democrats “should be highlighting what the shutdown made clear. In mobilizing raw nativism, Trump and the Republican leadership underscored the extent to which they are hogtied by their party’s right-wing extremists. As a result, the GOP is incapable of temperate governance and compromise. The barrier to sensible legislation in Washington is not a left that lacks any institutional authority, but the hard-line right in the White House and in the House of Representatives…Republicans are crowing about “winning” the shutdown. But their victory will be short-lived if Democrats (and Republicans willing to work with them) shift the ground of the discussion from tactics to larger purposes. This is a long fight and, like it or not, the endpoint is Nov. 6. Only voters can change the balance of power.”

At Truthdig, Paul Street flags an essay by Nancy Fraser from “US Politics in an Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality,” a collection of left perspectives. As Street frames Fraser’s insights: “Hillary Clinton’s ignominious defeat marked “The End of Progressive Neoliberalism”—the defeat of “an alliance of mainstream currents of new social movements (feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism, and LGBTQ rights), on the one side, and high-end ‘symbolic’ and service-based business sectors (Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood), on the other.” This “real, if perverse political alignment,” Fraser explains, “developed in the United States over the last three decades and was ratified with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992” (and then reauthorized with Obama’s two terms, she might have added). Under its terms, “progressive forces are effectively joined with” financial capitalism, lending “charisma” and “gloss” to “policies that have devastated manufacturing and what were once middle-class lives.” While trumpeting outwardly progressive ideals like diversity and empowerment, the Clinton-Obama formation “bears a heavy responsibility for the weakening of unions, the decline of real wages, the increasing precarity of work, and the rise of the two-earner family in the place of the defunct family wage.”

Street also flags an essay frpom the book by sociologist and activist Charlie Post, Labor Notes founder Kim Moody and author Mike Davis, who ” demolish the ubiquitous media storyline that attributed Trump’s election to an uprising of enraged white “heartland” proletarians. None of these writers denies that a vast swath of “the white working-class” (WWC)—loosely and problematically defined as “whites without college degrees”—voted for Trump (as most WWC voters did for Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney) or that this reflected the Democrats’ neoliberal flight from working-class issues. Still, as Post, Moody and Davis show, it is lazy and factually incorrect to identify the WWC as Trump’s “base” and to see his election as the reflection of some great wave of white proletarian wrath…When we realize that “the many millions of people who did not vote … far outnumbered those who voted for either party in 2016,” it becomes clear that the biggest electoral story about the U.S. working-class in 2016 is that it sat out the contest between the two dismal capitalist candidates and parties, not that it made some (imaginary) wild shift to the white-nationalist right. Trump didn’t flip white working-class voters. The Democrats continued the long neoliberal loss of those voters.”

Ed Kilgore writes at New York Magazine that on Tuesday “the Florida Rights Restoration Initiative succeeded in securing the 766,000 certified signatures necessary to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot automatically restoring voting rights for people who have served their sentences (with the exception of murderers and sex offenders).” Kilgore cites evidence that “some 1.5 million Floridians—about 10 percent of the adult citizen population—are voteless, some because they are still serving sentences, but most because of felony convictions in their past. Among African-American men in the state, the number is north of 20 percent.” However, “some 1.5 million Floridians—about 10 percent of the adult citizen population—are voteless, some because they are still serving sentences, but most because of felony convictions in their past. Among African-American men in the state, the number is north of 20 percent.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel cites a warning for Democrats: “A Democratic pollster warned Wednesday that the party is not motivating lower-propensity voters at the levels it needs, putting gains at risk with poor messaging…“Democrats are setting themselves up to squander the opportunity Donald Trump is serving them on a silver platter because they aren’t motivating the Rising American Electorate to vote this fall,” said Page Gardner, the president of the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, which funded the poll…The poll, conducted by Democracy Corps and Greenberg Research, finds the generic Democratic ballot advantage at a new high — 49 percent support for Democrats to 38 percent for Republicans. That marks a gain from November, when the WVWVAF, warned that the advantage had tumbled to just five points…“Our prediction is that 40 million Americans who voted in 2016 won’t cast a ballot in the 2018 midterms — and to make matters worse, two-thirds of those drop-off voters will be members of the Rising American Electorate,” said spokesman Kevin McAlister at the time.”

Geoffrey Skelley of Sabato’s Crystal Ball sees Democrats in good position to benefit from a blue wave in November: “…Democrats certainly have reasons to be hopeful about a wave. In the Trump era, if we look at the races where no incumbents (Democratic or Republican) ran — 84 of the elections — the average Republican candidate ran five points behind Trump in the two-party vote. Considering the sizable number of Republican retirements in the U.S. House and the early signs of something similar in state legislative elections, GOP-held open seats will be a pivotal part of the 2018 arithmetic. Special elections made up most of the non-incumbent races (71 of the 84) as almost all special elections featured no incumbent (some elections in New Jersey and Washington state did include appointed incumbents). In those 71 specials, the average Republican ran 6.1 points behind Trump’s 2016 two-party percentage. In fact, according to left-leaning Daily Kos Elections’ new Special Elections Index, 2017 was the strongest Democratic year in special elections going back to the late 1980s. Additionally, it is possible that the environment will improve for Democrats: The average Democrat in 2017 specials with no incumbent ran 5.6 points ahead of Clinton’s two-party vote while the average 2018 Democrat has run 11.6 points ahead of her. However, there have only been five specials thus far in 2018, so the jury is still out on whether 2018 will be markedly better for Democrats than 2017.”

From Margaret Carlson’s post, “This Time, It’s Really the Year of the Woman:We’re seeing an unprecedented surge of female candidates. And they aren’t fans of Mr. Access Hollywood. The women of 2018 are about to undo the damage of 2016” at The Daily Beast:”Emily’s List says that since President’s Trump’s election, more than 26,000 women have reached out about launching a campaign. There are at least 79 women exploring runs for governor. The number of women in the Senate lining up to challenge Trump would more than fill the cramped room called the women’s gym. There is an increase of nearly 350 percent in those running for Congress.”

Being Strongly Pro-Choice Might be Good as Well as Principled Politics for Democrats

Given the post-2016 debate over a “big tent” approach to abortion policy, I thought the findings of a new survey were well worth considering, so I wrote it all up at New York.

A perennial topic among Democratic officeholders and activists is whether the party’s increasingly uniform pro-choice position on abortion ought to be relaxed to run anti-abortion candidates or appeal to anti-abortion voters. This is not just a subset of the usual centrists-versus-progressives argument either. Indeed, more than a few left-bent “economic populists” have argued that downplaying pro-choice views or social-issues liberalism generally can help bring back some white working-class voters — Democrats or former Democrats — alienated by the “cultural elitism” of self-consciously cosmopolitan upscale voters and opinion leaders. Bernie Sanders embraced this view in campaigning for Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello last year.

In any event, the debate within the Democratic Party on having something like an abortion-rights “litmus test” is most often framed as a choice between principle and political expediency. This way of looking at the issue begins with an assumption that a “big tent” approach makes more sense politically. But what if it actually doesn’t?

That’s the question raised by some new research indicating that there really aren’t many Democrats or independents whose likelihood to pull the lever for Democratic candidates would increase if they oppose a right to abortion. Conversely, there are a lot more independents and Republicans who are more likely to vote for a candidate who is pro-choice. As Vox’s Anna North sums up the numbers:

“Just 8 percent of Democrats would be more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes abortion, according to a report released by the polling firm PerryUndem earlier this month, ahead of Roe v. Wade’s 45th anniversary on Monday. Meanwhile, 31 percent of Republicans would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights….

“46 percent of independents told the firm they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported abortion rights, and just 15 percent said they’d be more inclined to vote for someone who opposed them.”

And despite the absolute grip RTLers have on Republican elected officials, and the reputation that anti-abortion activists have for a grim, determined efficiency, among Republican voters generally, ending abortion rights is less of a big deal:

“In general, abortion appeared to be a bigger issue for Democrats than for Republicans — 71 percent of Democrats said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported women having the right to an abortion, while just 36 percent of Republicans said a candidate’s opposition to that right would help win their support. Thirty percent of Republicans said a candidate’s position on abortion made no difference to their vote, while only 20 percent of Democrats said the same.”

All of this should add up to a general argument that Democrats win more and risk less by sticking to their principles on abortion rights.

No, that doesn’t necessarily address the argument that Democrats should speak less loudly or often on the abortion issue, or adopt a different kind of message on how it all fits together. And there may be a few places in the country where anti-abortion views are so popular that it’s tough to win without accommodating them (though Doug Jones’s win in Alabama undermines that claim).

But the belief that strongly favoring abortion rights is a political lodestone for the Donkey Party is assumed far more often than it is demonstrated.

Top Dems Say Russians Still Trying to Influence U.S. Elections

At PowerPost, Karoun Demirjian, Josh Dawsey and Craig Timberg report that “Top Democrats on Tuesday called on Facebook and Twitter to investigate what lawmakers said are Russian efforts to promote the release of a classified Republican memo criticizing the FBI probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign.”Further, say the PowerPost writers,

Hashtags such as “#ReleaseTheMemo” have been trending on Twitter in recent days, and accounts affiliated with Russian influence efforts have been supporting this campaign, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a U.S.-based group that examines efforts by Russia and other nations to interfere in democratic institutions.

“If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process,” said a letter to Facebook and Twitter from Rep. Adam B. Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats from California who are the top members of their party on the House Intelligence Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively.

The revelations won’t come as a jaw-dropper to anyone who has been paying attention to Putin’s doings in recent years. The notion that Russian meddling in U.S. presidential elections was a one-time project, never to be again repeated makes no sense, considering Putin’s aggressive approach to international relations and his commitment to leveraging Russia’s intelligence resources to the fullest.

Democrats, however, have dismissed the Republican campaign to publish the memo as a bid to undermine a legitimate law enforcement investigation into Trump’s campaign and transition. Democrats also have said that releasing information in the memo would amount to a break from past practice in the handling of classified material.

…In alleging involvement by Russian trolls and bots, Schiff and Feinstein cite the Alliance for Securing Democracy, part of the German Marshall Fund. The group hosts on its website a dashboard that tracks roughly 600 accounts that the group says echo or otherwise support Russian influence efforts, though in some cases this is done unwittingly, according to information posted on the site.

…“This should be disconcerting to all Americans, but especially your companies as, once again, it appears the vast majority of their efforts are concentrated on your platforms,” Schiff and Feinstein wrote. “This latest example of Russian interference is in keeping with Moscow’s concerted, covert, and continuing campaign to manipulate American public opinion and erode trust in our law enforcement and intelligence institutions.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

Teixeira: The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War

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

The fourth article in my series with Peter Leyden on “California Is the Future” is now out on Medium. Here’s the intro to the article, but please read the whole thing. It is ungated.

The next time you call for bipartisan cooperation in America and long for Republicans and Democrats to work side by side, stop it. Remember the great lesson of California, the harbinger of America’s political future, and realize that today such bipartisan cooperation simply can’t get done.
In this current period of American politics, at this juncture in our history, there’s no way that a bipartisan path provides the way forward. The way forward is on the path California blazed about 15 years ago.
In the early 2000s, California faced a similar situation to the one America faces today. Its state politics were severely polarized, and state government was largely paralyzed. The Republican Party was trapped in the brain-dead orthodoxies of an ideology stuck in the past. The party was controlled by zealous activists and corrupt special interests who refused to face up to the reality of the new century. It was a party that refused to work with the Democrats in good faith or compromise in any way.
The solution for the people of California was to reconfigure the political landscape and shift a supermajority of citizens — and by extension their elected officials — under the Democratic Party’s big tent. The natural continuum of more progressive to more moderate solutions then got worked out within the context of the only remaining functioning party. The California Democrats actually cared about average citizens, embraced the inevitable diversity of 21st-century society, weren’t afraid of real innovation, and were ready to start solving the many challenges of our time, including climate change.
California today provides a model for America as a whole. This model of politics and government is by no means perfect, but it is far ahead of the nation in coming to terms with the inexorable digital, global, sustainable transformation of our era. It is a thriving work in progress that gives hope that America can pull out of the political mess we’re in. California today provides a playbook for America’s new way forward. It’s worth contemplating as we enter 2018, which will be a critical election year.

Political Strategy Notes


In his New York Times op-ed, “What the Shutdown Says About the Future of the Democrats,” Michael Tomasky comments on why Democrats are right to hold the line on a fair immigration policy: “For now, liberals should cheer this unreservedly. For one thing, the cause of these young undocumented Americans is a good one. But more broadly, the Republicans have been playing this way for years. If Democrats won’t, they’ll just lose. You can’t bring a squirt gun to the O.K. Corral.” It’s a good point. Dems have a lot to gain by standing up for a fair immigration policy, despite the GOP blame machine’s dubious efforts to spin the fault away from their own weak leadership. Not only does public opinion strongly support “the Democratic position that they be permitted to stay and given a path to citizenship,” as Tomasky points out; As FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten shows just below, a healthy majority places the blame for the shutdown at the feet of the Republicans.

At FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten explores the political reverberations of shutdown blame: “… We don’t have divided government. During those previous shutdowns, Democrats controlled the White House and the GOP controlled Congress. But Republicans control everything right now. So maybe the public will pin even more of the blame on Republicans this time than in past shutdowns. An ABC News/Washington Post poll taken before the shutdown started found that 48 percent of Americans believe President Trump and congressional Republicans would be more to blame for a shutdown, while just 28 percent said congressional Democrats… A CNN poll, like the ABC News/Washington Post poll, found that most people would blame Trump or congressional Republicans for a shutdown…All that said, and even if there is quick shutdown effect in the polls, the midterm elections are not until November. With Trump in the White House, it’s difficult for any story to stay at the top of the news cycle for more than a few days. With that in mind, it’s easy to see one side picking up political support in the immediate aftermath of the shutdown, only for that bump to fade with time.”

“Faced with intra-party discord and malevolent prevarication from Republicans, what are Democrats to do about DACA?,” asks Mark Joseph Stern in his article, “Democrats Are Doing the Right Thing” at slate.com. “Rely on more easily broken promises from Ryan, McConnell, and the White House? Go along with the lie that Dreamers can wait until March for relief? Surrender altogether to the whims of a Republican Party dominated by serial fibbers? Of course not. The first DREAM Act was introduced in 2001. Republicans have foiled its passage for 17 years. At some point, Democrats had to draw a line in the sand. That moment arrived on Friday…A government shutdown is an awful thing. It’s a humiliation for the nation that disrupts hundreds of thousands of lives, and it may well provoke backlash against progressives. But Democrats had no other choice. Republicans cannot be trusted to protect Dreamers from a crisis of the GOP’s own making. To capitulate on DACA would be an abdication of the Democratic Party’s moral responsibilities. Dreamers belong in this country, and Democrats should use every bit of leverage they have to keep them here.”

Matthew Yglesias has a good summation of the current impasse on immigration reform and the shutdown at Vox: “Instead of negotiating positions, [immigration] hawks have put forth a comprehensive wish list for entirely transforming the American immigration system. They say they want billions of dollars in new border security funding plus the full RAISE Act vision of cutting legal immigration in halfwhile ending family and diversity visas in favor of an exclusive focus on job offers and educational attainment….There’s just no way Democrats are going to agree to these changes as the price to pay for helping the DREAMers. There’s a total disproportion between the scale of the asks and the significance of the DACA issue. To get sweeping changes in the immigration system enacted, conservatives would need to come to the table with some kind of help for the entirepopulation of long-settled undocumented immigrants — precisely the kind of comprehensive immigration reform they’ve been eschewing for years.”

As for ther price tag of government shutdowns, Danny Vinik writes at Politico, “Quantifying the exact cost to the government is difficult, in part because every shutdown is different. Between November 1995 and January 1996, the government shut down twice for a total of 27 days as Democrats and Republicans clashed over Medicare funding, among other issues. A subsequent analysis conducted by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget estimated that both shutdowns together cost the government $1.4 billion—more than $2 billion today after adjusting for inflation…Of that $1.4 billion, roughly $1.1 billion was salary paid to federal workers who stayed home and didn’t work. The remaining $300 million came from other sources, such as the lost revenue from the closure of national parks and public museums.”

Best quote of the day goes to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, as reported in Jennifer Rubin’s WaPo column “Shutdown agreement! Trump is to blame.” As Rubin writes, ” On the floor of the Senate on Saturday, Schumer sounded exasperated. He first reviewed the sequence of events. “The bottom line is simple: President Trump just can’t take yes for an answer. He’s rejected not one but two viable bipartisan deals, including one in which I put his most prominent campaign pledge on the table,” he said. “What’s even more frustrating than President Trump’s intransigence is the way he seems amenable to these compromises before completely switching positions and backing off. Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.”

At NBC News Politics First Read, Dante Chini writes, “There are 142 congressional districts that have Hispanic populations greater than the national average, about 18 percent, and 52 of those districts are currently held by Republicans. Among those 52 GOP-held districts, 18 are already rated as competitive by the Cook Political Report. (In 21 Republican-held House districts, the Hispanic population tops 30 percent.)…A Republican failure to fix DACA could drive up turnout among Hispanic and swing voters in those districts. Hispanic Americans already lean strongly against Republican control of Congress. This week’s NBC/WSJ poll found that 64 percent of Hispanics preferred the Democrats control the Congress, compared to 19 percent who favor Republican control…And the most important number of all in 2018 may be 24: the number of seats the Democrats would need to net in November to take back the House. If the Democrats are actually going to win that many seats this fall, these GOP-held districts with large Hispanic populations are an important target for them.”

Who can devise—and pursue—wedge strategies to help Democrats broaden their coalition?…Not the party. It recognizes, correctly, that its full focus has to be on turning out its Base Vote. Midterm elections bring that into sharp relief; drop-off within the Democratic base is usually greater than the GOP’s…Nor can the party, even if it does much better than it’s done before, maximize its Base Vote by itself. Not only are its resources too few, but it has less credibility than entities on the independent side, both local and national….The Alabama special election proved the indispensability of independent efforts; it took every effort of the candidate, the party, and independent groups to produce the mammoth base vote turnout that propelled Doug Jones to the Senate…There is much to be learned from a granular examination of the suburban swing to Jones, identifying which suburban moderates swung and which did not…So little effort has been devoted to wedge strategies by Democrats that we have no hard evidence of what might work among—to cite a few possibilities—veterans, seniors, suburban moderates, small town/rural/exurban (STREX) voters, or evangelical Christians. Even the Latino realignment has been under-resourced; though resources have been made available for the issue fight around immigration and for civic engagement in election cycles, they have not produced a self-sustaining mass-membership organization, which could enroll millions.”– From Paul Booth’s “Building an Enduring Democratic Majority,” his final article for The American Prospect.