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

June 24, 2017

Senior Voters Growing Skeptical About Trumpcare Kool-aid

From “Older Voters Are Complicating the GOP’s Plans for Health Care” by Ronald Brownstein and Leah Askarinam at The Atlantic:

An Atlantic analysis shows that House Republicans who have expressed opposition to the GOP’s replacement plan are heavily concentrated in districts where the median age, the number of seniors, or both exceed the national average. Because President Trump ran so well in older and often blue-dollar districts, that dynamic produces a paradoxical result: Most of the House Republicans expressing hesitation about the bill, whose passage Trump supports, represent districts he carried. In most of those seats, Trump improved on the performance of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

That unexpected pattern underscores the GOP’s continuing difficulty reconciling its traditional small-government ideology with the material needs of the older and lower-income whites increasingly central to its coalition. While retaining the traditional conservative skepticism of programs targeted at the poor, those older whites have departed from conservative dogma by consistently expressing support in polling for government programs—from Medicare to Social Security—that they believe would benefit their own families. As the House’s legislative struggle suggests, it appears the ACA may be joining that list.

Likewise, in a recent ABC/Washington Post national survey, over three-fourths of adults 50 and older opposed allowing states to opt out from the ACA’s nationwide protections for insurance consumers with preexisting health conditions, as the latest version of the GOP bill allows. The same survey found three-fifths of adults in that age range opposed the bill’s provision allowing states to opt out of providing a menu of essential health benefits, such as covering substance abuse. Those sentiments loom over the pattern of opposition and hesitation on the bill that’s detailed in an unofficial whip count published by The Hill.

It appears that many seniors, if not most of them, are embracing a more prudent brand of conservatism with respect to health care reform. No doubt many are factoring in Trump’s erratic behavior and policy pronouncements into their reluctance to grant him carte blanche on Obamacare repeal.

The thing is, these seniors vote, even in miderm elections, and their Republican representatives know it. As Askarinam and Brownstein note, further,

…Over three-fourths of the bill’s declared House Republican opponents represent districts older than the national average. That significantly exceeds the nearly three-fifths of all House Republicans who represent such greying districts, according to Atlantic calculations. (Updates to the whip count published Tuesday morning did not significantly change any of the patterns described here.)

…Another list of opposed and undecided House Republicans produced by NBC yielded similar results. Among the 20 members NBC listed as opposed, four-fifths represented districts older than the national average and three-fourths held seats with a larger-than-average number of seniors. Of the 16 NBC identified as undecided, three-fourths held seats where the median age exceeded the national average; the same share held districts with an above-average share of seniors.

Republican representatives of these districts who support the latest version of Trumpcare are running a very significant risk of losing their seats next year, while those who play it safe and decline the Trumpcare kool-aid stand a better chance of being re-elected. The deepening doubts about Obamacare replacement held by senior voters who are living on modest budgets will further undermine the credibility of Trump and the Republicans. This could be the first major wedge dividing the GOP’s senior supporters, and  Democrats could realize the benefits.

New Research Confirms Dems Need Both Stronger Base Turnout, Plus Better Engagement of White Working-Class

Alex Roarty of McClatchy’s DC Bureau shares the findings from a new study, which clarifies the reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college vote, and what Democrats must do to win future elections. As Roarty writes:

…New information shows that Clinton had a much bigger problem with voters who had supported President Barack Obama in 2012 but backed Trump four years later.

Those Obama-Trump voters, in fact, effectively accounted for more than two-thirds of the reason Clinton lost, according to Matt Canter, a senior vice president of the Democratic political firm Global Strategy Group. In his group’s analysis, about 70 percent of Clinton’s failure to reach Obama’s vote total in 2012 was because she lost these voters.

Roarty reports that the findings are “shared broadly by other Democrats who have examined the data, including senior members of Clinton’s campaign and officials at the Democratic data and analytics firm Catalist. (The New York Times, doing its own analysis, reached a similar conclusion.)” Each of these groups did a data-driven analysis, based on demographics in key states and “prior vote history.”

The white working-class is a still large share of the national electorate and that of many states and congressional districts. Yet, “There’s still a real concern that persuasion is harder and costs more than mobilization,” notes Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, vice president for social policy and politics at Third Way. She says many say “let’s just triple down on getting out the people who already agree with us” is the more promising approach.

But the study solidifies the growing consensus that arguments for focusing on base turnout vs. winning back a majority of the white working-class present a false choice. Democrats are going to have to do a better job of meeting both challenges to be competitive.  “This idea that Democrats can somehow ignore this constituency and just turn out more of our voters, the math doesn’t work,” Canter said. “We have to do both.” Further, explains Roarty,

Democrats are quick to acknowledge that even if voters switching allegiance had been Clinton’s biggest problem, in such a close election she still could have defeated Trump with better turnout. She could have won, for instance, if African-American turnout in Michigan and Florida matched 2012 levels.

Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA  adds “I really do believe that we should reject this idea that if we just focus on turnout and the Democratic base that that will be enough. If that really is our approach, we’re going to lose six or seven Senate seats in this election…But, I also believe that just talking about persuasion means we are not capitalizing on an enormous opportunity.”

Overall, Roarty  adds, “the data says turnout was less of a problem for Clinton than defections were.” Trump didn’t win so many new voters in the key states — Clinton actually did better in that metric. It was the “defections,” Obama voters who voted for Trump. Focus groups indicate that many of these disenchanted voters felt that the Democratic leaders have gotte too cozy with Wall St. and the wealthy, while failing to defend the interests of working people — of all races.

The centerpiece of a winning Democratic strategy is “a strong message rooted in economic populism,” reports Roarty. Democrats also have to brand their party as the one that looks out for working families. That has to be the indelible message that reaches all voters by election day. This shouldn’t be so hard, especially since the Republicans have already branded themselves as the party of privilege and greed.

None of the lets F.B.I. Director James Comey off the hook. Regardless of the different theories Other data indicate at least a strong possibility that Clinton would have won, had Comey refused to be used for partisan intervention in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.

Trump threaded such a narrow path to electoral college victory than any number of ‘what if’ factors could have changed the outcome. What is now crystal clear is that Democrats can do a lot better with a new committment to both turn out their base and win more support from white working-class voters. Democrats already have the policies and history of accomplishments, including Social Security, Medicare, and numerous other reforms improving wages and working conditions for working people. But they have to do a better job of claiming this heritage, making it known and explaining their policies.

Political Strategy Notes

Jennifer Agiesta reports on a CNN/ORC poll conducted by telephone April 22-25: “Taking an early look at next year’s congressional elections, a generic ballot yields a Democratic advantage, with 50% saying they’d vote for the Democratic candidate in their district and 41% the Republican candidate if the election were held today. A lead that large, this far out, is not necessarily predictive, however — although it approaches the edge Democrats held early on in the 2006 election cycle when they won control of the House, it is also similar to their advantage early on in the 2010 cycle, which ended with a Republican takeover of the chamber.”

In their Washington Post article, “Public pans Republicans’ latest approach to replacing Affordable Care Act,” Amy Goldstein and Scott Clement report that, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, “Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House. These would allow states to choose whether to keep the ACA’s insurance protection for people with preexisting medical problems and its guarantee of specific health benefits…Public sentiment is particularly lopsided in favor of an aspect of the current health-care law that blocks insurers from charging more or denying coverage to customers with medical conditions. About 8 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 independents and even a slight majority of Republicans say that should continue to be a national mandate, rather than an option for states to retain or drop…The Post-ABC poll shows that, beyond the criticism of GOP proposals for devolving health policy to the states, many Americans appear leery in general about a major overhaul to the health-care law often called Obamacare, with 61 percent preferring to “keep and try to improve” it, compared with 37 percent who say they want to “repeal and replace” it. About three-quarters of Republicans prefer repealing and replacing the ACA, but more than 6 in 10 independents and nearly 9 in 10 Democrats favor working within its framework.” Ironically, Republicans are actually lucky that this bill appears doomed, because if they enacted it, public reaction would position Democrats for a landslide midterm victory.

To give you an idea of the challenging course Democrat Jon Ossoff has to navigate in his campaign to defeat Republican Karen Handel in the GA-6 run-off election, Elise Viebeck and David Weigel note in their article “GOP candidate now embracing Trump in Georgia’s 6th District runoff” at PowerPost that “The last pre-primary poll conducted by Opinion Savvy suggested that Handel would trail Ossoff by two points in a runoff. At the same time, Trump’s approval rating in the district was 53.7 percent, evidence that Handel’s decision to align herself with him might be a good move.” Despite all of the pre-jungle primary buzz about Ossoff’s formidable fund-raising, the Republicans may have the spending edge in the race. As Viebeck and Weigel note, “The National Republican Congressional Committee is already spending $3.65 million ahead of the runoff, bringing its total spending close to $6 million…The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee aligned with House GOP leaders, announced $3.5 million in new spending — bringing its total to $6.5 million” and ‘Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, has kept up its own ground campaign, and Ending Spending, a PAC that has supported Handel in multiple elections, has charged back in to Georgia.”

NYT columnist Frank Bruni provides an apt description of one of Trump’s most shameful “accomplishments”: “…Who among the presidents of the last half-century has been so publicly cavalier about conflicts of interest, so blithe about getting away with whatever grifts he could, so lavishly meanspirited and so proudly rude? Who among those presidents made so little concession to decorum?…Who stooped so low, on the campaign trail or in office, as to ridicule a disabled journalist and make light of a prisoner of war’s ordeal? Who talked incessantly about how heroic his election was, summoning more energy for self-congratulation than he ever exhibited for the praise of others?…Who taunted his adversaries with such abandon? Who made such a spectacle of his grievances that he invented a phenomenon: sore winning?”

In his interview with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Michael Tomasky observes at The Daily Beast, “Trump got 36 percent of his members’ votes against Hillary Clinton. That’s only three points more than Mitt Romney, but three points isn’t nothing in a close election. And as Trumka emphasized to me, it wasn’t only or even chiefly that Trump did better than Romney. Clinton, he wanted me to know, did worse than Obama—10 points worse, snaring just 55 percent of his rank-and-file’s vote. The rest went third party or sat it out.  Tomasky quotes Trumka: “The Democratic Party quite frankly had no coherent economic message,” he said. “Workers have been facing stagnant wages, dropping benefits, and economic security being taken away from them over a 40-year period. Trump said a lot of stuff—hasn’t followed through on it, but said it, and they were willing to take a chance.”…“Look, you can’t beat something with nothing,” he says. “If you don’t have an economic message that resonates with working people you’re not gonna win. That’s why people like Sherrod Brown and a number of other people running in the same difficult environment that presidential candidates run in succeed. They have a consistent economic message that people know they can believe.”

At The Plum Line, however, Paul Waldman shares a critique of the Democratic party’s message, or lack therof, by Democratic pollsters Allan and Sheri Rivlin, who are also warning that Republicans have an edge in midterms. “Democrats do poorly in midterms,” Rivlin argues. “Republicans are rarely on the losing side of this.” It’s partly because Republican voters — older, whiter, more affluent — are more likely to turn out in any election while many Democrats don’t bother showing up in midterms. But Rivlin is especially concerned with Democrats’ lack of a core economic message, since the economy is usually voters’ most important issue. “We think we have an economic message,” he says, “but we don’t…What Democrats lack is a message on economics that can pass what he calls “the Listerine test.” Listerine had what Rivlin describes as a nearly perfect message: “Listerine kills the germs that cause bad breath.” Eight words that describe the problem, the solution and how it works…The Republican message on the economy passes this test. It’s simple, easy to understand, and explains both every economic problem you could think of and what their solution is: Government is the problem, so if we cut taxes and cut regulations, the economy will blossom.” The Rivlins don’t have a Democratic message that passes ‘the Listerine test,’ but they advocate creating a focus group to develop one.

David Weigel boils the Democratic message problem even more at The Fix: “To progressives, it doesn’t feel like Republicans share this despondence. They compete in the suburbs; they compete in the cities where they can (Omaha, Indianapolis, San Diego). They let the party’s brand shift from race to race, and are nimble about it. But running through each race, they let it generally be known that a Republican is going to be easier on your wallet than a Democrat. There’s an existential argument here that Democrats have not really engaged in for years.”

But it’s not only about message content, argues Paul Kane at PowerPost. “Presence is important,” [Sen. Tim]Kaine (Va.) said in a brief interview. “You’ve got to go to these places.” That adage about presence is one of the increasingly accepted lessons Democrats are heeding from the debacle of last year’s White House and congressional elections…Last year, however, the party’s smart set — including Kaine’s running mate, Hillary Clinton — became so fixated on cranking up the Democratic base that it did not do enough tending to potential supporters in exurban and rural counties. That led to a cratering of support in those regions and opened a path for President Trump’s victory — and helped Republicans keep control of the Senate…Despite the myth of low turnout last year among minorities and liberal activists, Clinton performed better than Obama did in 2012 in Philadelphia, the four large suburban counties around that city and Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh. She lost the state’s rural parts. The same thing happened in Florida, which also had better turnout than in 2012. Clinton got the necessary votes in urban centers but then got swamped by Trump in inland counties…For now, though, Democrats from the left to the center agree that the first step is Kaine’s “presence” theory — to at least show up in these small towns where some of them went missing in 2016…“You won’t be able to have an organization of any kind in those counties until you actually put some effort into it and some resources,” [Ruy] Teixeira said, calling the “fundamental problem” for Democrats their almost -complete neglect of rural towns. “I think that’s got to change.”

To conclude on an optimistic note, from John Judis’s “Why The Left Will (Eventually) Triumph: An Interview With Ruy Teixeira” at Talking Points Memo, quoting Teixeira: “I favor what economists are calling  a model of equitable growth. It would mean substantial government investment in creating new opportunities for the middle and aspirational classes. It could include a dramatic expansion of the educational system and a Manhattan-style investment in bringing down the price of clean energy and building the infrastructure to match. Granted, these kind of proposals would not get through Congress now, but it is the kind of agenda that I am optimistic that the Democrats will endorse and that the country will eventually embrace…Democrats are the ones who are going to put us there and I think they are going to be rewarded for it…[White working-class] Voters were fed up with stagnation and with the Democrats and they turned to someone who thought could blow up the system. The way the Democrats and the left could mitigate that problem is to show these voters that they take their problems seriously and have their interests in mind, and could improve their lives. I don’t think there is any way of doing that without a new model of economic growth.”

The “Ten Commandments Judge” Now Wants to Go to Washington To Lend Trump a Hand

An old, notorious name returned to the news today, and I wrote it up for New York:

Robert Bentley recently resigned the governorship of Alabama in a plea deal after years of fighting a losing battle against heavy evidence of an extramarital affair with a staffer that went over the line into misappropriation of state funds and attempted intimidation of witnesses. But before he left office the septuagenarian “Love Gov” had the opportunity to appoint a temporary U.S. Senate replacement for new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He chose state Attorney General Luther Strange, ignoring rumors the new senator had given the Bentley scandal a wide berth in exchange for this supreme favor. Now the voters of Alabama will get to weigh in via a special election (the primary is in August and the general election is in December), and thanks to his Bentley connection, Strange is far from being a shoo-in.

This week the Alabama Senate race went from being overshadowed by peculiar things to being a peculiar thing in itself when Roy Moore, the twice-elected, once-removed, and once-suspended chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and perhaps America’s most prominent theocrat, declared his candidacy. Moore pledged to help Donald Trump “make America great again” by first returning the country to fidelity to God and the traditional family. In case this left anyone in doubt that the man once called “the Ten Commandments Judge” had not changed, he offered this pithy observation:

“I know and I think you do too that the foundations of the fabric of our country are being shaken tremendously….Our families are being crippled by divorce and abortion. Our sacred institution of marriage has been destroyed by the Supreme Court, and our rights and liberties are in jeopardy.”

So Moore is not running on what you’d call an upbeat, “right track” message.

But he never really has. After a West Point education and some odd experiences as a kickboxer and an Australian cowboy, Moore settled into a reasonably quiet legal and judicial career in eastern Alabama. He first came to national attention in the 1990s as a state circuit court judge who was sued by the ACLU for posting the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and holding pretrial prayers. He eventually prevailed on appeal, but more important, was able to use his attempted martyrdom by godless liberals to get himself elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000 after winning a highly competitive Republican primary. In an early concurring opinion on a case involving a lesbian mother who was trying to win custody of her children from an allegedly abusive ex-husband, Moore threw down the gauntlet to the tyranny of sodomites everywhere:

“Homosexual behavior is a ground for divorce, an act of sexual misconduct punishable as a crime in Alabama, a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it. That is enough under the law to allow a court to consider such activity harmful to a child. To declare that homosexuality is harmful is not to make new law but to reaffirm the old; to say that it is not harmful is to experiment with people’s lives, particularly the lives of children.”

Soon Moore became embroiled in a dispute with a federal judge over his continued display of the Ten Commandments — this time via a large monument he commissioned — and after defying the judge’s orders and arguing the “Judeo-Christian God” reigned over church and state alike, he was finally removed from his position by a state commission and became a national conservative evangelical martyr for real.

Moore inevitably entered electoral politics, but in part because of his poor fundraising skills, he fell short in two gubernatorial elections in 2006 and 2010. In 2012, though, after a brief feint toward a Republican presidential run, he made a triumphal return to the state Supreme Court, being elected chief justice again. True to form, by 2016 Moore managed to get himself suspended (a sanction just short of removal) for fighting implementation of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Quite a career, eh? And now Moore will take his virtually universal name recognition and his hard-core Christian-right base of support into a low-turnout multicandidate Senate race where almost anything can happen. At least one Alabama political observer, John Archibald of the Birmingham News, thinks Moore will at least make a runoff.

If he does even better than that, Moore would become a figure who might even stand out in Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

The one sure thing is that if Moore fails in his third statewide non-judicial race, he cannot follow it up with a third run for the Supreme Court and perhaps a third effort to get himself tossed off the bench. At the age of 70, Moore is under Alabama law too old to run for that position. So this Senate race could be his last hurrah, praise the Lord.

Creamer: Democrats and Disillusioned Trump Supporters

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

One hundred days in, why do most of his voters still love Trump? It might not be what you think.

A recent poll showed 96% of Trump supporters have no regrets about their votes. As always, it is still a minority of Americans. But after all of the miss-steps, and outright lies of the first 100 days, that leaves many other Americans mystified. Is there anything progressives can do to chip away at his seemingly solid base?

Politics is more like a love affair with the voters than an exercise in convincing some economic theorist’s “rational decision maker” to make calculations about the benefits and negatives of a candidate or leader. People don’t tote up all of the ways a candidate will benefit them or hurt them on lists and weigh the calculation, any more than a lover makes a list of the pros and cons of the subject of his or her affection.

There are some very biological reasons why people fall into “lust.” But falling in love is different.

You don’t fall in love with someone because you have such a high opinion of all his or her personal qualities, or their skills or their brilliant mind or their body. When you fall in love, it is more than anything else because you feel good about yourself in the presence of the other person. It is because your lover makes you feel special, empowered – because he or she pays attention – to you.

The same is true in politics. People become committed to leaders who make them feel good about themselves – who make them feel strong and respected – empowered and cared about.

It’s not about their policy agenda, or their great abilities, or their political skill. All of these might contribute to the feeling we have about our relationship with them, but the feeling itself is the central matter at issue.

People become committed to leaders who make them feel good about themselves – who make them feel strong and respected…

Just like in a love affair, we want to feel that the leader is unconditionally on our side; that he or she really likes us for who we are; that the leader respects us – believes that we’re important, that we matter. We want to feel that the other person empowers us to be more than we would otherwise be.

Competence matters, but it matters in exactly the same way it does in a personal relationship. We want to believe not only that the leader is unconditionally on our side, but that we can trust him or her to have the competency to take care of us – to keep us safe – to actually find a way to be there for us when we need her.

Inspiration functions exactly the same way.

When we say that a leader inspires us, we mean something very specific. The feeling of inspiration has two components. First, the leader makes us feel that we are part of a cause that is bigger than ourselves. But second, he or she also makes us believe that each of us, personally, can play a significant role in achieving that larger goal or mission. In other words, we are not inspired by someone because of his or her qualities. We are inspired because of how he or she makes us feel about ourselves. We are not inspired because we think that the leader is “important,” but because the leader gives us a sense that we are important. The inspirational leader gives us meaning.

Donald Trump courted his base. Before Donald Trump, many of his base voters felt they had been left behind by the global economy – ignored and cast aside by political leaders. Some felt they had been ridiculed as bumpkins or rednecks.

Donald Trump didn’t just make them feel that he cared. He made them feel that they mattered. He gave them a sense of empowerment. Some of it was good old fashion racism. But it was more than that. At his rallies he made his base voters feel good about themselves. He gave them a sense of agency.

Of course, Donald Trump was a great con man. He didn’t really love ordinary working people. He was not unconditionally on their side. He could not be trusted to keep them safe. It’s not too big a stretch to say that he showered his attentions on them, he seduced them, he married them – for their money.

He may come home at night with flowers. He may look them in their eyes and whisper sweet nothings into their ears. But every day he goes out and gallivants around with his true lovers: the billionaires who – like himself – want to con them out of their already shrinking assets.

Donald Trump didn’t just make them feel that he cared. He made them feel that they mattered.

His base voters should have remembered what all of their mothers had told them: don’t marry someone you want to reform. He cheated on them from the first day – the same way he cheated years earlier on the students he defrauded at Trump University.

He proposes eliminating health insurance coverage from 24 million Americans – many of whom voted to support him – so he can give $600 billion in tax breaks to himself and the billionaire elite.

He proposes cutting taxes for big corporations and the wealthy – because he says, it will create jobs for you, “my love.” Of course there is no empirical evidence whatsoever that cutting taxes for the rich creates new jobs, or new tax revenue. In fact, we tried trickle-down economics during the Bush years and it ended producing stagnation and ultimately the Great Recession that cost 8 million jobs. Tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy have always had only one result: they make the rich, richer – every time.

Trump rails about companies that outsource jobs abroad. But all the while his firm has outsourced the production of clothing and furniture and even steel.

When Donald Trump wants to socialize, he doesn’t go to a VFW hall or the corner tavern – he goes to his exclusive private club at Mar-a-Lago.

When Donald Trump selects decision-makers for his cabinet or to staff his White House, he doesn’t turn to those who work to advance the interests of workers or organizes unions that allow ordinary people to bargain together with the boss for better wages and working conditions. He turns to his true loves – millionaires and billionaires.

So why are all of those ordinary voters who fell in love with Trump sticking with him?

For the same reason lovers of all stripes ignore the fatal flaws in the subject of their affections for a long time before they decide to break it off. They are invested. He still comes home and tells them – with enormous sincerity – just how much he loves them – how much they matter.

You can’t really tell someone that his or her spouse is a complete jerk. People have to find out for themselves.

And before long, many Trump supporters – especially those who supported Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012 – will inevitably begin to have second thoughts.

Their ardor will cool. And even if they don’t completely abandon him, they’ll become disillusioned. In fact, many won’t be chomping at the bit to go out to vote for GOP members of Congress who supported his program in 2018.

And in 2018, Democrats and progressives will have something else going for them. All of the vast majority of Americans who never fell in love with Trump will be fired up like never before.

But what about those working-class Trump supporters? What can we do to speed the process of disillusionment along? How can we help them see Trump’s true colors sooner rather than later?

Three things are key:

  • We can continuously point out the contradictions between his ardent testimony about how much he cares about ordinary people and his actual actions and policies.
  • We can offer bold, compelling initiatives that actually do address the interests of ordinary people: more taxes on the rich, not less; a public option that guarantees an affordable health care alternative to all Americans who need it; stronger unions to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions for ordinary workers; breaking up the biggest banks – rather than eliminating the restrictions that are intended to prevent their excesses from once again sinking the economy; a real bold public infrastructure program to create jobs and create value for us all, rather than subsidies for companies who build private infrastructure for themselves.
  • Most importantly, we must respect and pay attention to the needs and interests of all ordinary Americans – not just the big campaign donors and the coastal elites. Respect is the key. We have to show them everyday that we will do battle for miners’ pensions; that we insist that our society spends as much educating the kids of rural and urban parents as we do educating the kids of families in upscale suburbs; that we are completely devoted to the idea that everyone should have a job that allows them to really contribute to our society and to build an economically secure future for their family – everyone.

If we do those things, we can be confident that by 2018 a portion of those Trump supporters will be “former” Trump supporters – and for many others, the heat of Trump passion will have faded into the cold morning light.

And for some – hell hath no fury like a voter scorned.

No Love in the Senate For Zombie Trumpcare

As Republicans battled to get enough votes to bring the revised American Health Care Act to the House floor, I took a look ahead and the prospects for this legislation in the Senate. It was not a pretty sight, as I explained at New York.

Normally in a situation like this, where a party’s president is 100 percent invested in a piece of legislation, you would look for scattered signs of internal opposition among that party’s senators and speculate as to whether the White House could wear it down. But there is nothing scattered about Senate Republican misgivings over Trumpcare: It appears to be endemic, as Politico reports:

“The hurdles in the upper chamber were on vivid display Wednesday as House Republicans celebrated their breakthrough on the stalled repeal effort. The compromise cut with House Freedom Caucus members won over the right flank, but the changes will almost surely make it harder to pick up votes in the more moderate-minded Senate.

“Not to mention that some Senate conservatives still seem opposed to the emerging House deal.”

They sure are. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who helped derail the original “replace and delay” strategy that might have at least temporarily papered over GOP differences of opinion over health-care policy, are making discouraging noises about Zombie Trumpcare. Paul in particular seems determined to quash any happy-talk about consensus:

“The Freedom Caucus has done a good job of trying to make the bill less bad,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the lead Senate agitators against the House health care push, said Wednesday. “For me, it’s a big stumbling block still that there’s taxpayer money that’s being given to insurance companies, and I am just not in favor of taxpayer money going to insurance companies.”

The more any eventual bill has to shift in the direction of Senate conservatives, of course, the less support there will be from moderates. And lest we forget, the GOP can only lose two senators to pass health-care legislation, barring any support from Democrats — and there are zero signs of any Democrats even considering a defection so long as the bill is being pushed on a party-line basis via budget-reconciliation rules that prohibit filibusters.

The rules governing the reconciliation procedure present another potentially big problem for Senate Republicans. The House bill, and particularly the new version with its authorization of state waivers of existing Obamacare regulations, is very likely to run afoul of the Senate parliamentarian’s enforcement of the Byrd Rule prohibiting non-budget-germane provisions in budget bills. If such provisions have to be struck, the compromises that have made it possible for the House to revive Trumpcare could quickly unravel.

And then there is the strong possibility that the Congressional Budget Office will “score” the House bill in a manner that makes its negative impact on health-care coverage vivid. The House itself may be able to avoid terrible publicity on the “score” by racing to a vote before CBO’s analysis comes down. But that evasion will not be possible for senators.

Political Strategy Notes

“In the outpouring of commentary on President Trump’s first 100 days in office, his greatest single achievement is almost never mentioned, which is itself a sign of what a major triumph it is: We are not talking much about whether Russia colluded with Trump’s campaign to help elect him…Our distraction was not inevitable. Recall that just a little over a month ago, FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the bureau was investigating possible cooperation between Trump’s team and Russia’s hacking and disinformation campaign to undercut Hillary Clinton. As the New York Times wrote, Comey’s testimony “created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump…Given the substantive emptiness of Trump’s presidency so far, his greatest achievement is that he is still standing there, making pronouncements as if he means them and moving noisily but without any clear plan from one thing to the next. Every day he can postpone his reckoning with Russia is a victory.” Yet the president slipped by.” — from “Trump’s greatest single achievement almost never gets mentioned” by E. J. Dionne, Jr.

Slate’s Michelle Goldberg has a slight vaiation on Dionne’s take: “The president’s main 100-day accomplishment—besides sticking a reactionary on the Supreme Court—has been to make previously inconceivable levels of corruption and staggering breaches of national security appear normal…One could list 100 things that Trump has done—one for each debased day of his wretched presidency—that would be enough to impeach a Democrat. (Not all of Trump’s violations involve Russia, of course, though a bizarre number of them do.)…Trump’s presidency, like his campaign, is a lowlife carnival; there are so many macabre sideshows and freakish violations of normal political behavior that we’re left stunned and dazed. Much of the mainstream media, and almost all elected Republicans, act as if the horror of this presidency were less than the sum of its parts. The outrages cancel each other out rather than accumulating. This massive inflation in what constitutes a scandal has the potential to be permanently corrupting…Already, because of Trump, America is a more cynical, corrupt, lawless place than it was 100 days ago. There is only one way back from this, and that is to make sure that someday, when Democrats retake at least one chamber of Congress, they investigate every shady thing that Trump, his cronies, and his relatives have done either in achieving or using public power, even if it takes decades. ”

In their Washington Post op-ed, “Trump’s FCC chairman wants to hand the Internet over to big corporations,” Sens. Al Franken and Ron Wyden and former Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler writwe: “For as long as the Internet has existed, it has been grounded on the principle of net neutrality — that what you read, see or watch online shouldn’t be favored, blocked or slowed down based on where that content is coming from. Net neutrality means that cable companies can’t reserve the fastest Internet speeds for the biggest companies and leave everyone else in the slow lane. That’s what ensures a website for a local pizza place in rural Oregon or Minnesota loads as quickly as the website for Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Or why a social network built in a garage is available to the same people as Instagram or Twitter…That’s why it’s so alarming to see that the Federal Communications Commission, a federal agency that’s expected to help protect the Internet, is planning to roll back net neutrality rules…So with powerful forces pushing to get rid of net neutrality — Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other multibillion-dollar companies — it’s going to take Americans speaking up to protect the Internet that we depend on. In 2014, nearly 4 million Americans contacted the FCC, with an overwhelming majority sending a very simple message: protect net neutrality. And as a result of those efforts, we got policies put in place to do just that. But now those very policies are on the chopping block. Unless people fight back, these deep-pocketed corporations will upend how we get our news, watch our favorite shows, use social media or run our businesses…Small businesses shouldn’t have to outbid massive conglomerates just to get their product in front of consumers’ eyes.”

From Ed Kilgore’s “Here’s Another Good Omen for Democrats in 2018” at New York: “To the gradually but steadily increasing body of evidence that Democrats are likely to have a solid performance in the 2018 midterm elections comes another factor: the so-called “generic congressional ballot,” which means polling of which party voters are likely to prefer in upcoming U.S. House elections….FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten notes that in generic congressional balloting Democrats are in the best position at this early stage of the midterm election cycle of any opposition party dating all the way back to 1942. They currently lead the GOP by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin in the polling averages…Midterms are almost always about the president. Voting for Congress in midterm years is essentially just a mechanism for passing judgment on the White House. In 2018, unlike 2014, the House and presidency will be controlled by the same party.”

Trump’s walkback vs. “My first 100 days” promise, as nailed by CNN:

David Siders notes an innovative strategy against Trump’s border wall idea in his post, “Democrats turn the screws on border wall builders: The idea is to punish businesses that work on Donald Trump’s project” at Politico: “Democrats in cities and statehouses across the country are pressing forward with a calculated, long-range effort designed to undermine Trump’s plan by turning the screws on the businesses that work on the project….In California, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a measure to bar the state from awarding contracts to any company involved in the wall’s construction, while a bill to prevent the state’s massive pension funds from investing in those companies stands pending. Lawmakers introduced similar measures in New York and Rhode Island. The city of San Francisco is considering a blacklist, and Berkeley adopted one last month.”

Talking Points Memo’s Alice Ollstein presents a couple of insightful quotes about Trump’s trickle-down tax cut proposals: “I want a tax reform proposal that works for working families, not just for the people who can hire a lot of accountants and lawyers,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sits on the Senate’s Taxation and Budget committees, told TPM. “Today, if you’re a cop or a nurse, your taxes are compulsory. They come out of your paycheck once or twice a month. No Cayman Islands thing for you. But if you’re someone who can afford lots of lawyers and accountants, you can pretty much decide what you’re going to pay, when you’re going to pay, and maybe if you’re going to pay any at all.” As for the outcome of Trump’s tax plan, Ollstein notes, “Blumenthal predicted, as have former lawmakers, staffers, and tax experts, that Republicans will find it difficult—potentially impossible—to pass any tax reform this year as they have promised. “I have a feeling this proposal will meet the same fate as their Trumpcare plan: imploding in divisions among themselves.”

The Atlantic has a good video on the hottest congressional race of the moment, Jon Ossoff’s quest to win the GA-6 Runoff:

At Maddowblog, Steve Benen highlights what will likely be the howler of the week by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In his post, “Laughable White House claim: Trump has ‘rebuilt’ US global standing,” Benen quotes Spicer: “The world is responding to the leadership that the president is bringing under this – bringing to Washington. In all, during his first 100 days, the president has made 68 calls with 38 different world leaders, and hosted a total of 16 bilateral meetings. The president has rebuilt America’s standing in the world.” I mean, he’s only pissed off Mexico, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Sweden, Australia, China and the U.K. in his first 100 days.

He’s Ba-a-a-ack: Wolfowitz, Trump-Whisperer

Now that former isolationist Trump has flipp-flopped into budding neo-con Trump, he is starting to attract the counsel of some of the political wizards who brought us the six-trillion dollar debacle interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports Heather Digby Parton at salon.com. As Parton writes:

It was entirely predictable that as soon as President Donald Trump decided to drop some bombs on a Middle Eastern country, the neoconservative claque that had rejected him during the election would slither back into the GOP orbit…Despite the obvious fact that Donald Trump is a torture-loving, “bomb the shit out of ’em” and “take the oil” kind of guy, his opportunistic distancing of himself from the Iraq War (despite evidence that he actually supported it) gave many people the impression that he wouldn’t support military intervention. That included members of the neocon establishment, who were leery of him. But now they’re back in the public eye, and one of the main architects of the Iraq War is once again making his presence known. According to Susan Glasser of Politico, Wolfowitz can take some credit for the action. In an interview with him she said:

Paul, you’ve jumped back into the fray as it were with what appears in hindsight to be an extremely well-timed intervention in the Wall Street Journal, saying Donald Trump should go ahead and do something in Syria, should intervene militarily in some way to respond to the chemical weapons strike. Miraculously enough, perhaps, he surprised much of the world by going ahead and taking your advice and doing so.

Parton adds that “Wolfowitz modestly replied that he’s not sure Trump took his advice but he’s awfully glad he did bomb Syria because the U.S. is back in business…” However, notes Parton, “The scariest part of the interview…involved Wolfowitz’s views on Iraq. He seems eager to get right back into the quagmire and stay there… Wolfowitz recalled the period after the Iraq “surge” with great nostalgia as a sort of golden era:

[W]e do have a model there. I think it’s a model that worked dramatically…the alternative is to let a very important, critical part of the world go to hell literally and lose American influence.”

Given Trump’s tendency to reverse policies with no qualms whatsover about appearing dangerously inconsistent, poorly-informed and trigger-happy, there is no way for Democrats to anticipate his next move, particularly as he surrounds himself with right-wing extremists of al sorts. The only constants in Trump’s foreign policy appear to be chaos, confusion and disarray, and Democrats have to be ever-ready to respond with reason, prudence and consistency.

As if Trump’s Mid East polcies weren’t chaotic and dangerous enough, he has attacked and confused many of our strongest allies, and added nuclear weapons brinksmanship with North Korea into the mix. There are good reasons for moderates, as well as progressives, to be concerned when two world “leaders” with the emotional maturity of nine year-olds are threatening each other with real weapons of mass destruction.

What Democrats must do as Trump’s foreign policy follies roll on, is provide a clear demonstration that they are the adults in the room, the ones who can actually resolve crises without making a horrific global mess. The hope is that enough moderate Republicans will eventually realize that America — and the world — have too much to lose by allowing this confusion to continue, and join in taking action to help restore a some sobriety to our foreign policy.

Women Candidates Do Better as Democrats, But Party Still Lags Badly

The Center for American Women in Politics of Rutgers University provides the most up-to-date information about the gender of elected officials at the federal, state and local levels. Exploring their data yields this profile:

Women are 21 percent of the current U.S. Senate, with 21 senators, 16 of whom are Democrats and 5 are Republicans.

83 women are members of the House of Representatives, comprising 19.1% of the 435 members in 2017.  62 of them are Democrats and 21 are Republicans.

Five women, or 10 percent of the governors of the 50 states, including 2 Democrats and 3 Republicans serve as governors in 2017.

443 women serve as state senators, 22.5 percent of all state senators, incuding 253 Democrats and 176 Republicans

1399 women serve as state House/Assembly members, 25.9 percent of all House/Assembly members, including 859 Democrats and 532 Republicans.

292 women serve as Mayors of cities with over 30,000 population, or 20.7 percent of all mayors of cities this size. Party data for this subset is not avsailable. But a hefty majority of Mayors, especially in larger cities, are Democrats.

These statistics lead to the inescapable conclusion that Democrats have failed to recruit and elect enough women candidates, and the  track record of Republicans is an even greater embarrassment (with the exception of governorships and Lieutenant Governors). When the women’s rights movement began to catch fire in the 1970s, few thought that parity for women in politics would still be so far away, more than four decades later.

The top ten states in terms of the highest percentage of state legislators who are women includes:

Vermont (40.0%)
Nevada (39.7%)
Colorado (39.0%)
Arizona (38.9%)
Washington (36.7%)
Illinois (36.2%)
Maine (34.4%)
Oregon (33.3%)
Minnesota (32.3%)
Maryland (31.9%)

The worst include:

Wyoming (11.1%)
Oklahoma (12.8%)
West Virginia (13.4%)
South Carolina (13.5)
Mississippi (13.8%)
Alabama (14.3%)
Louisiana (15.3%)
Kentucky (16.7%)
Tennessee (16.7%)
North Dakota (18.4%)

Notice a blue state/red state pattern here? But Democrats clearly have a lot of work to do before they can lay claim to being the party that empowers women.

Among the organizations working to rectify the gender imbalance of America’s office-holders, Emerge America has set up state-wide affiliates in 18 states, which have had some impressive success in advancing the role of Democratic women as elected officials. The organization provides “in-depth, seven-month, 70-hour, training program providing aspiring female leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system.” and, “Since the first Emerge state was launched in 2002, the Emerge network has trained over 2,000 Democratic women to run for office to date…In the 2016 election, 70% of our 213 alumnae on the November ballot won their elections.”

Democratic women who are thinking of running for office can check out Emerge America’s resources right here.

Political Strategy Notes

Ed O’Keefe reports “Here’s how congressional Democrats plan to mark Trump’s first 100 days” at PowerPost, and notes “While negotiating this week with the White House on a plan to avoid a government shutdown and strongly opposed to any new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are planning to lead a series of events designed to call out Trump’s work and words on the economy, trade, health-care reform and his vows to “drain the swamp” in Washington. The offensive begins Monday with a conference call hosted by Schumer, Pelosi and Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and will continue with other events hosted by lawmakers throughout the week…Democrats are planning for events on Capitol Hill headlined by rank-and-file lawmakers who will release scorecards designed to criticize the new administration’s work on the economy, trade, health care and ethics. Schumer and Pelosi will cap the week on Friday with another event designed to draw attention to the looming shutdown. Their offices will be circulating talking points and social media guidance to House and Senate offices each day — the kind of material likely to end up in floor speeches and members’ Twitter feeds.”

Politico’s Heather Caygle writes about the rising spirit of optimism among Democratic leaders and activists: “House Democrats are heading toward the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency with the kind of feel-good unity they haven’t experienced since the election. Coming off a rowdy recess where Republicans continued to be skewered by constituents on everything from health care to Russia to Trump’s tax returns, Democrats say walking through the political wilderness isn’t so bad — at least for now…It’s a stunning reversal from the despair dominating the caucus just a few months ago when Trump entered the White House and Republicans seemed poised to wreak havoc on Democratic priorities…Now, some members are even talking openly about the possibility of taking back the House in 2018. They would need to pick up two dozen seats, an uphill battle to say the least. But the chatter speaks to the optimism the caucus is feeling.”

Dominique Mosbergen’s HuffPo article, “Happy Earth Day! Here Are All The Terrible Things Donald Trump Has Done So Far,” provides a pretty comprehensive list of “some of the major ways President Trump has changed climate and environmental policy in his first 100 days.” Mosbergen quotes Rhea Suh, the president of the National Resources Defense Council, who called Trumps first three months “100 Days of Harm.”  Suh continues, Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president’s term normally tells us only so much about what’s to come. In the case of President Trump’s all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we’ve already seen more than enough…Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air, and lands. He’s moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he’s betrayed the covenant we’ve forged with our children to leave them a livable world.” Mosbergen adds, “More than 60 percent of Americans said they disapproved of how Trump is handling the environment in an April Quinnipiac University poll. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they “are embarrassed to have Trump as president.”…Activists have said it’s not too late to stop Trump’s anti-climate and anti-environment agenda. While his executive orders have garnered a lot of hype, a majority of them have not yet had a substantive impact on actual policy.”

In her article, “The first brick hasn’t been set, and Trump’s border wall is already going south on him,” at The Fix, Amber Phillips explains why his Wall obsession is a disaster for Republicans. “Democrats have their own divisions to deal with. But opposing Trump’s wall is a near-perfect rallying cry nearly everyone in their party can get behind. It’s just too good of an opportunity to whack Trump and Republicans in Congress. If Congress funds Trump’s wall, Democrats can argue Trump has broken yet another campaign promise by building a wall without getting Mexico to pay for it.” Trump now says he eventually will force Mexico’s to pay for it, but his many vacillations on policies have tainted his credibilty. “They can also argue Republicans are raising the deficit and that they’re teetering on a shutdown when they control Washington because of this wall,” notes Phillips. “Fifty-four percent of Americans oppose building a wall along the entire Mexican border, according to CNN exit pollingfrom the 2016 election…A recent KVUE Austin poll found that in Texas (Trump country), 61 percent oppose his wall.”

Audrey Carlson and Jugal K. Patel present a quartet of Trump’s most important flip-flops in their post, “Trump’s Policy Reversals, in His Own Words,” at The New York Times. Many others could be cited, but these four flip-flops illustrate the utter unreliability of his policy pronouncements well enough. In just one example, on Sept. 5, 2013, he tweeted “Do NOT attack Syria, fix U.S.A.” On April 6, 2017, he goes on television and says “Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. … I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”

Historian Bruce W. Dearstyne shares “Six Strategies To Revitalize the Democratic Party” at historynewsnetwork.org. Dearstyne focuses on the lessons of the 1950s, leading up to JFK’s victory in 1960, and noptes, “Democrats are still reeling from Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss last November. Democratic leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer are leading the opposition to President Trump’s proposals to overturn reforms such as the Affordable Healthcare Act. But history suggests that opposition to the president and vows of action to reconnect with alienated voters will not suffice. The Democrats will need new ideas, better alignment with the spirit of the times, and fresh new candidates to make a comeback and recapture the presidency.” Dearstyne flags JFK’s candidacy as offering a model for Democrats going forward: “Unlike the other Democratic contenders for the presidency that year, Kennedy had youth, charisma and he was vigorous and dashing. He drew on his party’s momentum – the ideas of the Finletter Group, Stevenson’s elevation of a sense of national purpose, the track record of Johnson and others in showing the party cared about popular issues, and a sense of freshness and progressivism. But his campaign themes – we need to do more, we need to get the country moving – took the party to a new level and gave it new energy. The themes resonated with the changing public mood, which was becoming more attentive to the need for dedication and sacrifice and for new ways of using American power in the world…Democrats can return to national power again. To accomplish that, they need to learn from their own history, particularly the long comeback in the 1950’s.”

“A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll finds 57 percent of the public saying that the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of Americans, versus 39 percent who said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” reports Carrie Dann at nbcnews.com. “That’s the highest share yearning for a more active government since the poll began asking voters about the role of government in 1995. And it’s a significant shift even since 2015, when 50 percent said that the government should do more while 46 percent complained that it was too active.” Dann notes a particularly bstrong shift among self-identified Independents: “In 2010, independents favored a less active government by 22 percentage points. This year? They favor a more active government by the same share.”

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent shares some thoughts on the future of the Democratic Party, including: “Clinton rolled out a detailed political reform agenda, but it’s not clear whether she conveyed a gut sense that she really wanted to shake things up. As one Democrat sighed to me in August: I wish Clinton would show more discomfort with our political system and with how business is done in Washington…This possibility — that Clinton did not show a gut level of discomfort with our current arrangements — is worth mulling. Trump’s numbers were even worse than Clinton’s on honesty, and his promises to bust up the system were crude and laughably absurd — he actually argued that he was well qualified to reform our corrupt system because he had milked it himself from the inside to great effect. But it’s worth asking whether he somehow conveyed a visceral disdain for the way business is done in Washington that Clinton simply did not… The polling evidence is mixed on whether Clinton’s economic message even failed — exit polls showed she won among voters most concerned about the economy in many swing states. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and her extremely close losses in multiple states might not have happened if turnout had shaped up differently even on the margins.”

Although a lot of conservative commentators tried to spin Jon Ossoff’s 48.1 percent plurality in the GA-6 ‘jungle primary’ as a loss for Democrats, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway argues that,”Yes, Georgia Democrats believe they can take the Sixth District. And Republicans should, too.” Galloway quotes Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz: “It would be different if [Ossoff] had 40 percent. Forty-eight? That’s putting him very close. The margin between him and Karen Handel is quite large. It’s 28 points.” Galloway emailed Charles Bullock, Abramowitz’ counterpart at the University of Georgia and noted that “one of Bullock’s many specialties is the study of runoffs in Georgia elections. He’s written one book on the topic, and his research continues…“The research in the book found that the larger the margin of the primary leader, the more likely the leader would win the second round,” Bullock wrote in reply. “Research I am currently doing, which includes Georgia elections through 2016, continues to find primary margin the most powerful predictor. “In 54 congressional runoffs since 1966, the primary leader won 79.6 percent.”