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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Daily Strategist

July 17, 2018

The Right Nominates HRC

The folks over at National Review have published a brief symposium wherein ten conservative writers have to make their predictions for the presidential election that will occur one year from now.
They are all over the lot when it comes to the Republican nominee and the ultimate outcome. But all ten assume that Hillary Clinton will be the Democatic nominee.
While these conservatives may have individually and rationally reached this conclusion on their own, you get the sense that they really can’t imagine the “enemy” side of the ballot being led by anyone else.

Is Talk TV Trending Blue?

We’re liking Jacques Steinberg’s article “Cable Channel Nods to Ratings and Leans Left” in today’s New York Times. Apparently, it isn’t just the public opinion polls that show a tilt towards progressive values. As Steinberg notes,

…MSNBC already presents a three-hour block of nighttime talk — Chris Matthews’s “Hardball” at 7, Mr. Olbermann at 8, and “Live With Dan Abrams” at 9 — in which the White House takes a regular beating. The one early-evening program on MSNBC that is often most sympathetic to the administration, “Tucker” with Tucker Carlson at 6 p.m., is in real danger of being canceled, said one NBC executive…

Bill O’Reilly still draws about 1.5 million more viewers “most of the time” than his liberal MSNBC time-slot competitor, Keith Olberman. But Olberman has increased his ratings by a third during the last year and:

On some nights recently, Mr. Olbermann has even come tantalizingly close to surpassing the ratings of the host he describes as his nemesis, Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, at least among viewers ages 25 to 54, which is the demographic cable news advertisers prefer.

Evidently, talk show viewers are increasingly leaning left with their remotes — and their time.

Weyrich and the Little Shrubs Choose Candidates

While candidate endorsements rarely move actual votes, they are sometimes influential in signalling the acceptability of this or that contender to particular constituencies. And that’s definitely true with respect to the GOP candidates for president, who are all struggling to lay claim to what’s left of the party’s once-invincible conservative factions.
Yesterday Mitt Romney got the nod from a especially significant validator of his conservative bona fides: the ultimate Right Wing War Horse, Paul Weyrich.
In case you’re not familiar with Weyrich, he’s been the great instituton builder for the Right over a period of three-and-a-half decades. He played the main role in snagging Coors family money to create the Heritage Foundation and the less-well-known but very important American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is sort of the Johnny Appleseed of bad state policy ideas. Weyrich is generally credited with giving the late Jerry Falwell the name “Moral Majority” for that briefly influential group. And more recently, he helped set up the Council for National Policy, the Cultural Right’s politburo.
For all his contributions to the Right Wing Noise Machine, Weyrich himself is a crotchety maverick forever finding fault with the GOP”s fidelity to The Cause. He has been among those threating to take a dive or go third party if Rudy Giuliani gets the Republican presidential nomination. And so his endorsement of the Mittster will be widely interpreted as signalling a Stop Giuliani effort that brushes aside concerns over Romney’s Mormonism and late-life conversion to cultural conservatism.
Elsewhere on the endorsement front, Michael Shear has a very entertaining front-page article at the Washington Post today running through the presidential preferences of the Bush family. While virtually everyone in former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s political operation seems to be involved in Romney’s campaign, two of his sons have take the famous name elsewhere. George P. Bush, the bilingual heart-throb generally expected to be the next vehicle for the Bush Dynasty, has joined the Big Fred Machine. But Jeb Bush, Jr., has just endorsed Rudy.
Endorsments aside, you’ve got to figure that Jeb Bush, Sr., is looking at developments in the Republican presidential campaign with a strong feeling of What Might Have Been. Universally considered the smarter, tougher and more ideological of the Bush scions, Jebbie lost his Heir Apparent status in 1994, when he narrowly lost the Florida governorship while W. narrowly won in Texas. His brother’s train wreck of an administration made another Bush presidential run in 2008 a political impossibility. And though Jeb’s name used to come up often as a possible Veep candidate, the desire of Republicans to use the anti-dynasty card against Hillary Clinton has all but eliminated that sort of talk.
When you look over the deeply flawed Republican presidential field, and watch conservatives like Weyrich struggle with their bad options, you have to conclude that if the former governor of Florida were named Jeb Smith, he’d wipe up the floor with these bozos and cruise to the nomination. Irony of ironies, The Name has turned out to be more a curse than a blessing for Jebbie.

Redistricting: What We’ve Learned

Believe it or not, the next decennial round of congressional and state legislative redistricting activity is just around the corner. It’s actually been a factor in the huge amounts of time and money the two parties have poured into Virginia’s legislative elections, where the state senators elected today will still be in office when redistricing occurs (Democrats have a good shot at retaking the senate).
I’ve published a brief piece at the DLC’s Ideas Primary site on the many lessons learned from the last round of legal and political jousting over redistricting. The bottom line is that the environment for redistricting reform isn’t particularly good in most states, despite the green light federal courts have given to political gerrymandering.

Election Day

It’s Off-Year Election Day in various spots around the country. RealClearPolitics offers a good basic preview of contests to watch in Kentucky, Virginia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Utah and Washington.

Sullivan On Obama: Both Sides Now

Atlantic magazine has made available an advance copy of a December article by Andrew Sullivan about Barack Obama. And whatever you think of this convoluted piece, it does nicely capture two very different takes on why the Illinois senator might be a “transformative” politician.
Sullivan begins by tying Obama’s post-baby-boomer rap, and his apparent appeal to Republicans, to a narrative of recent politics in which all the polarization is illusory:

The high temperature—Bill O’Reilly’s nightly screeds against anti-Americans on one channel, Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” on the other; MoveOn.org’s “General Betray Us” on the one side, Ann Coulter’s Treason on the other; Michael Moore’s accusation of treason at the core of the Iraq War, Sean Hannity’s assertion of treason in the opposition to it—is particularly striking when you examine the generally minor policy choices on the table. Something deeper and more powerful than the actual decisions we face is driving the tone of the debate.

Sullivan’s follow-up account of the “minor” policy differences between the two parties leads to the equally ridiculous, if more familiar, claim that polarization is purely the product of inflated baby-boomer cultural conflicts. And therein lies his initial argument for Obama, as the post-boomer candidate who could resolve all the petty, artificial differences between Ds and Rs. This High Broder case for Obama is hardly new, and hardly persuasive.
But Sullivan goes on to make an international case for Obama that’s a lot more compelling:

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

In general, Sullivan’s piece captures the MSM fascination with Barack Obama in its two basic dimensions: Obama as transcending American conflicts, and Obama as transcending America’s conficts with the world. My own view is that Barack Obama can acheive the former mission only if Americans begin to care about the latter.

Bipartisan Ghost

We all know that George W. Bush’s promises in 2000 to become a “uniter, not a divider” have been broken over and over again. And moreover, his Texas-based claims of interest in bipartisanship have been limited to “my way or the highway” inducements to Democratic surrender.
The one, and only one, truly bipartisan initiative Bush engaged in was the “No Child Left Behind” initiative, based largely on prior moderate Democratic proposals, and relying heavily on support from Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. George Miller.
NCLB has been steadily bleeding support from local-control Republicans and anti-testing Democrats, and from all sorts of folks unhappy with the administration’s serial refusals to keep its funding promises.
Today’s WaPo has a solid summary by Peter Baker about the current landscape of support for and opposiition to NCLB. Given this administration’s history, the fact that any progressive Democrats are willing to renew support for NCLB is a good indication that they are looking beyond the doomed Bush presidency, and are trying to salvage a few things from the wreakage.

Hope Over Fear

Eriposte asks a question I’ve been wondering about lately “Who is the GOP Rooting For?” Not that it matters much in terms of what the Democrats have to do, which is nominate the strongest possible candidate. But it is of interest in the “know thine adversary” tactical sense.
Eriposte boots the question to Taylor Marsh, who doesn’t really answer it directly. Marsh’s article, “Are Republicans Actually Scared of Hillary Clinton?” is more concerned with unraveling the sources of Hillary-phobia, specifically that it is more about sexism than front-runnership. She makes a good point. A lot of arch-conservatives do not want the example of a strong woman running America.
My guess is most of the GOP strategists are now rooting for anybody but Hillary, since she has proven she is a good debater, knows the issues better than their field, has learned how to project an appealing persona and has a fierce campaign. What they think doesn’t mean she is our best candidate, but it does help explain their strategy going forward.
The Democrats have an exceptionally strong presidential field, in that any of our “top-tier” candidates, and most of our “second-tier” candidates should be able to beat whoever they nominate. Down ticket is where we need a few more strong candidates.
The GOP is a party driven mostly by the psychological elements of fear and resentment. All of their grand strategy points in this direction. It is their bread and butter. They do well when they can create this contagion among swing voters. When they can’t, we win.
Conversely, Democrats are no good at projecting fear. We have always done better when our presidential candidates project a sense of hope, going back to FDR (“We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”), all the way through Bill Clinton (“The man from hope”). If we can keep this spirit front and center in the closing weeks of the ’08 campaign, look for a landslide.

Blue Granite, Oppo Tracks, Thieving Votes, Talking Gender, Mitt’s Mo

Jill Zuckman, Chicago Tribune national correspondent has an informative update on New Hampshire’s “seismic shift” to the Democrats, a significant development, considering Gore would have won in 2000 with the Granite State’s 4 electoral votes.Zuckman provides useful insights into demographic trends and key issues in NH.
Oppo researchers should have a gander at the Sunlight Foundation’sInsanely Useful Websites,” referred by papicek in his Daily Kos post “Action: 2010 Planning Begins Now.” Papicek’s post is more focused on nailing “Bush Dogs,” but the Sunlight Foundation‘s links will work just fine for tracking Republican shenanigans as well — a good launching pad to “follow the money.”
Erin Ferns has a link-rich MyDD post, “Voter Fraud That Isn’t: Tricks of the Voter Suppression Trade,” on that nasty little GOP compulsion to which Dems should pay more attention BEFORE elections.
Another interesting read: Garance Franke-Ruta’s perceptive post at Tapped on “dog whistle” messaging and the “secondary conversation” about women’s political empowerment.
Ever get the queasy feeling that both the MSM and the progressive blogosphere are spending way too much ink, bytes and time prattling on about Rudy Giuliani, while Mitt Romney is quietly racking up gains where it counts? If so, you may be quite right. See posts about the Mittster’s big mo here and here.

Palmetto Bugs

Michael Crowley has an interesting article up on the New Republic site discussing the unsavory past and present of South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary, featuring an array of consultants and operatives who apparently learned the dark arts of smearing opponents at the knee of the late Lee Atwater. Unlike 2000, when virtually all of the nasty stuff was aimed at John McCain, it looks like most of the candidates this time around are getting down into the gutter, or at least allowing their Palmetto State supporters to do so. (BTW, I was dismayed to learn that one of the “haunts” of S.C. Republican operatives is Lizard Thicket, that excellent Columbia-based purveyor of southern fried foods).
But the really scary note comes at the end of Crowley’s piece:

As [GOP consultant Rod] Shealy notes, “The anonymity of the Internet is going to take the whole game to a new and much lower level than thought possible.” Last April, one anonymous blog–“McCain SC,” the “Unofficial Home for Palmetto State McCainiacs”–hawked a New York tabloid story alleging that Giuliani’s wife Judith was “involved in a program that killed innocent puppies” to test medical products. It sounds like the McCain team may have learned its lesson back in 2000, and now knows the secret to victory: When in South Carolina, do as the South Carolinians do.

We’re all used to conservatives calling their pro-choice fellow citizens “baby-killers.” But puppy-killers? That’s cold.