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

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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

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The Daily Strategist

July 22, 2017

Southern Demographics and the Electoral College

Before swallowing the “skip the south” meme whole hog, Democratic presidential aspirants should take a look at R. Neal’s post “The Changing Southern Demographic” at Facing South. Neal’s summary of the trend of the South’s African American demographic is especially interesting:

…While the Black population in the South is growing in numbers, the percentage of Black population as compared to the total has declined overall, presumably because of the increase in Hispanic and other minority population. The percentage of Black population decreased in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, increased in Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi, and stayed the same in Louisiana and Tennessee. (The figures for Louisiana seem off, but perhaps the data was collected before Katrina.)

A key word in the above graph being “overall.” But Neal also provides this snapshot table:

Percentage of Black population (2005):
Mississippi 36.5%
Louisiana 32.5%
Georgia 29.2%
South Carolina 28.5%
Alabama 25.8%
North Carolina 21.0%
Virginia 19.1%
Tennessee 16.4%
Arkansas 15.3%
Florida 15.0%
Kentucky 7.2%
West Virginia 3.1%

Pretty much the whole south, with the exception of KY and WV (are they really southern, anyway?) has a higher percentage of the Democrats’ most loyal constituency than the nation as a whole. Five southern states have double or better the national average. Given these numbers — and a strong presidential candidate — Dems should be able to win a few southern states.


How ’06 Shake-up May Tilt Electoral College

LA Times columnist Ron Brownstein’s article “The electoral college map is morphing” merits a read by Democrats interested in what the ’06 election bodes for the 08 presidential contest. Among Brownstein’s more encouraging observations:

More important, Colorado emerged next to Virginia as the top new target for Democrats. A party nominee who could hold all the states Kerry won in 2004 and add just those two states would obtain an electoral college majority.
In Colorado in 2004, Democrats captured both chambers of the Legislature and got Ken Salazar elected to the U.S. Senate. This year, Ritter won the governorship in a landslide — helped by commanding margins in the vote-rich Denver suburbs that propelled Bush’s two victories in the state.

Brownstein also suggests that Democratic wins in statewide races in Arkansas, Montana and Ohio offer additional hope. Brownstein doesn’t discuss demographic changes underway in many states that could tip the balance in favor of Dems during the next two years. But it’s clear that winning the states carried by Gore or Kerry, plus one or two others adds up to an electoral college majority.


Dems Poised for Big Senate Gains in ’08

All eyes and ears may be tuning into the Presidential prospects of ’08, but WaPo‘s Chris Cillizza takes an early peek at the ’08 Senate races in The Fix’s The Friday Line, and the view is very good. As Cillizza explains:

A cursory evaluation of the 2008 Senate playing field shows Democrats seemingly well-positioned to build on their 51-seat majority. Of the 33 seats up for reelection, just 12 are held by Democrats. And of those 12, only two Democratic incumbents received less than 54 percent of the vote in 2002 — Sens. Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Mary Landrieu (La.).
….Republicans must defend 22 seats and have more obvious vulnerabilities. At first glance, just three GOP senators — Norm Coleman (Minn.), John Sununu (N.H.) and Wayne Allard (Colo.) — look vulnerable, as each won in 2002 with less than 54 percent of the vote. But the complicating factor for Republicans is that there are a number of rumored retirements that may come before 2008, creating more open-seat opportunities for Democrats.

Cillizza also provides a race by race run-down. Bottom line is that the nine seat pick-up needed for a fillibuster-proof Senate majority is within reasonable range, but a 16 seat-pick up needed for a veto-proof majority is probably not. Ironically, Dems probably wouldn’t need it, because if we pick up nine Senate seats, we will likely win the presidency as well. (corrected 11/20, thanks to Kevin Drum).


Fair Trade May Give Dems Edge in ’08

The 2006 mid-terms may go down as the turning point when fair trade finally became a major cutting-edge issue. Many commentators have noted that a backlash against “free” trade played a pivotal role in Democratic victories in the mid-west and rust belt. The call for fair trade was a common denominator in the Democrats’ Senate victories over incumbents, as Harold Meyerson explains in his American Prospect article “The Fair-Trade Election”:

The Democratic pickups — Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Montana’s Jon Tester, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, and Virginia’s James Webb — all unseated free-trade incumbents with campaigns that stressed the need to pay far greater attention to the downward leveling that globalization entails. Tester ran ads attacking trade agreements for putting “our jobs and the viability of family farms and ranches across Montana in jeopardy.” Webb’s Web site states, “We must reexamine our tax and trade policies and reinstitute notions of fairness.”

Likewise in the House races, as Christopher Hayes notes in his article in The Nation “The New Democratic Populism”:

A postelection analysis by Public Citizen found that campaigns cut twenty-five ads attacking free-trade deals, and that trade played a significant role in more than a dozen House races won by Democrats. In the entire election, Public Citizen noted, “no incumbent fair trader was beaten by a ‘free trader.'”

Fair trade may prove to be the issue that helps Democrats make inroads into the south, where the textile industry has been devastated in a number of communities. Democrat Heath Shuler’s victory in his North Carolina House race benefitted from his embrace of fair trade as a priority.
Fair trade is an issue that has clearly arrived in a big way for a growing number of voters in industrial heartland communities. Yet, with characteristic elitism, President Bush has already taken some pot shots at the newly-elected fair trade Democrats. Let’s hope the GOP’s next presidential nominee will be equally clueless.


Make Nice — Not

Post of the day goes to Paul Waldman, whose “Democrats, Don’t Wimp Out” at TomPaine.com does a refreshing number on the “Let’s be nice bipartisans” school of thought about what congressional Democrats should do now. Waldman, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, puts it this way:

…What Democrats need to do is spend the next two years crushing their opponents like bugs. It’s not about mercy, it’s not about manners, it’s about three fundamental goals: limiting the damage the Bush administration can do, passing whatever legislation they can in the short term to help the American public and laying the foundation for future progressive victories.

For example, with respect to empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, Waldman counsels:

…Democrats should wage the fight…Two outcomes are equally likely: Either they won’t be able to pass such a bill in both houses, or they’ll pass a bill and Bush will veto it. Either way, it shows whose side they’re on, and whose side the Republicans are on.

His point is nicely-echoed by American Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner in his web-exclusive piece “Bye Bye, Bipartisanship“:

Pelosi has said her first actions will include legislation to raise the federal minimum wage and create an effective prescription drug benefit under Medicare. If Bush signs these progressive bills, we can all sing bipartisan Kumbaya. If he vetoes them, Democrats can keep reminding voters which party serves whose interests.

Waldman has an interesting idea for dealing with the GOP’s lapdog media:

…Democrats should say the following to Fox: You want to spread GOP propaganda all day? Be our guest…But don’t expect any Democratic newsmakers to legitimize you with their presence. We’ll go on every other network, be interviewed by every legitimate news organization. But we don’t consider ourselves under any obligation to pretend that buffoons like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson are news professionals who deserve a moment of our time. We’re not going to try to fight you; we’ll just act like you don’t exist.

There’s more, and Waldman concludes:

Democrats need to understand that they are engaged in a war of ideas, one that stretches far beyond any one Congress or presidency….Democrats should wake up every day thinking, “How can we keep Republicans on the run?” Never give them a moment’s rest, never let them advance their agenda, keep them on the defensive so they have to apologize for being the standard-bearers of a discredited ideology and a disgraced president. Do that, and every legislative battle and election to come will be that much more likely to swing in your favor.

Kuttner lays it out with equal clarity:

Forget treacly calls to come together to solve national problems. There are huge, principled differences here. The voters rejected the policies of the governing party and gave Congress a mandate to help regular people for a change.

If Waldman’s and Kuttner’s calls to arms seem draconian, answer one question: If the tables were turned, would the GOP hesitate to consolidate their power and crush the opposition?


Will Dems’ Winning Formula Hold in ’08?

E. J. Dionne, Jr. makes a persuasive case in his column in today’s WaPo that, after all of the spin has been rolled out on all sides, the relevant message of the election is that the Dems’ winning formula was progressives plus angry moderates equals victory. In addition, Senator Lieberman would do well to give some thougthful consideration to Dionne’s take on his win:

Some Republicans say that Sen. Joe Lieberman’s reelection as an independent suggests that rejection of Bush’s Iraq policies was not, to use Rove’s word, the “determining” factor in the election. But exit polls make clear that Lieberman won despite his support for the war, not because of it.
Connecticut voters disapproved of the war by a margin of two to one, and nearly two-thirds favored withdrawing some or all of our troops. Lieberman, who enjoyed residual affection among Connecticut Democrats, managed to carry close to 40 percent of the vote among those who favored troop withdrawals, including a remarkable 29 percent among those who favor withdrawing all our troops.

The botched, misguided Iraq policy was not the only source of moderates’ anger, nationwide. Many polls show an enormous backlash against corruption and scandal in the GOP, while economic concerns fueled voter discontent in the pivotal midwest. The ’06 formula may have to be tweaked for ’08 — but it’s clear Democrats will nonetheless have to provide credible leadership to address these issues.


New Dems Provide Strong Voice for Environment

Mother Earth was one of the winners on November 7, according to Amanda Griscom Little’s Salon article “Green Gains“. Little reports that the League of Conservation Voters re-elected 8 of its 9 supported candidates and defeated 9 of the 13 “dirty dozen” it targeted for defeat. And it gets better, as Little explains:

Jerry McNerney (a Democrat), also has the environment to thank for his stunning victory over House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo (a Republican), who for 14 years represented the Golden State’s 11th Congressional District and rose to become one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress. A no-name wind-energy engineer, McNerney made clean energy his signature issue and painted himself a zealous eco-warrior against the backdrop of Pombo’s relentless efforts to drill in sensitive natural areas, butcher the Endangered Species Act and open millions of acres of public lands to development.
…The new Democratic senator-elect from Montana, Jon Tester, beat out Republican environmental foe Conrad Burns with a similarly enthusiastic environmental platform. An organic farmer turned state senator, Tester centered much of his TV advertising on his plans to make Montana a stronghold of the new energy economy. As president of the state Senate, he pushed through a 2005 law requiring utilities in Montana to derive 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015.
This same message also cropped up during the campaign of Missouri’s new Democratic senator-elect, Claire McCaskill, who ousted Republican Jim Talent, an avid proponent of oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And it was a theme in the gubernatorial races of Democrat Bill Ritter in Colorado, who beat out his drilling-happy Republican opponent Bob Beauprez, and Democrat Ted Strickland in Ohio, who walloped Republican Ken Blackwell with a campaign that included a promise to spend roughly $250 million on next-gen alternative-energy projects.

In addition, Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi has named energy independence one of the top action priorities for the incomming House of Representatives. As Cathy Duvall, Sierra Club political director “Voters…gave a green light to a new energy future.”


Sunday Post-Election Articles Speculate on Dem Future

Sunday after the election offers a bountiful harvest of post-election wrap-ups in the major dailies. Some of the better ones include:
In “Liberal groups expect postelection results” LA Times reporters Peter Wallsten and Janet Hook focus on potentially divisive issues facing Dems as the try to consolidate their victory. The LA Times also has American Prospect Editor Michael Tomasky’s “Dems put the ‘big tent’ back together,” arguing that Dems shouldn’t buy into the ‘conservative victory’ view of the election, and instead should build the left-center coalition that has always been the key to their most significant wins.
The New York Times post-election wrap-up “Incoming Democrats Put Populism Before Ideology” by Robin Toner and Kate Zernike probes some of the newly-elected Dems to assess prospects for bipartisanship. Leon Panetta’s “Govern, Don’t Gloat” op-ed argues that now is a good time for some Democratic humility and a genuine spirit of bipartisna cooperatrion. Nonetheless, No good Democrat should miss “2006: The Year of the ‘Macaca’,” Frank Rich’s blistering critique of GOP bigotry and fear-mongering in campaign ’06.
WaPo‘s Jonathan Weisman’s “Democrats Find Lessons In GOP Reign” mulls over the lessons Dems should glean from the failure of Gingrich’s scorched-earth philosophy of congressional leadership. Wapo is also featuring Joe Trippi’s “The Democrats: Is Winning Winning?“, predicting more trouble for the GOP ahead and assessing prospects for Dem ’08 candidates from Bayh to Vilsack.
And speaking of hot prospects, check out the Boston Globe’s Politics Section for a host of articles on Deval Patrick’s historic election as Governor of Massachusetts, rich with lessons for winning strategies. Then relax, take a moment to savor the victories of ’06, because campaign ’08 begins in ernest tommorrow.


Mining Tips From Best ’06 Ads for ’08

Yes, we’re all sick of lame political ads. But now is not the time for good Dems to hibernate, because there’s still a lot of interesting analysis to be digested if we want to learn how to win even bigger in ’08. So take a gander at the Campaign for America’s future web page “Truth in Advertising: 2006 Campaign Ads Reveal Progressive Populism.” There you be able to watch ads deemed most effective for the successful campaigns of Ron Klein, Sherrod Brown; Claire McCaskill; Bob Casey; Amy Klobuchar; Bill Ritter; the Appollo Alliance; The DNC and the DCCC. Bit of a slow load, so go pour a drink, kick back and see how the winners do it.
Then read the PDF analysis by Robert L. Borosage, Eric Lotke and Robert Gerson discussing the framing psychology, spending decisions, issues spin and image-shaping in the aforementioned ad campaigns.


What Does ’06 Turnout Mean for Dems?

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate has posted its preliminary report on the 2006 turnout, and the numbers may hold some clues for Dems looking to ’08. Overall the report concludes that “a modestly increased percentage of Americans turned out” at polls across the nation — 40.4 percent of eligible citizens, compared to 39.7 percent in the ’02 mid terms. This was the highest percentage since 1982 (42.1%).
Turnout increased in 21 states, but decreased in 26 states and the District of Columbia(CA, OR and WA absentee ballots are still being counted). The five highest turnout rates were recorded in MN, SD, MT, UT and ME, the lowest five in MS, LA, DC, NC, and AZ.
The highest Democratic turnout percentage increases over ’02 were recorded in NE (+10.7%); WI (+14.8%); VA (+13.2%); SD (+9.9%); WY (+9.8%); OH (+9.6%); VT (+8.6%) and NH (+8.6%). The highest Democratic turnout declines were in LA (-8.8); IL (-5.1%); AL (-5.0%); MS (-3.8%); GA (-3.5%); NC (-2.7%); and MA (-2.6%).
The most obvious conclusion is that the GOP GOTV operation praised in the MSM didn’t make a dent in the congressional elections. Even if the GOP did have a superior GOTV operation, it couldn’t overcome the rising tide of discontent or the limitations of Republican candidates. Good GOTV can make a difference in a close election, but not enough when a strong trend is surging.
The Democratic turnout decline in southern states lends some credence to the argument that Democratic resources would be more profitably invested in other regions. However, it could also be argued that these figures indicate not enough effort has been invested in developing southern candidates and campaigns.
Lastly, note that two of the top five turnout states, MN and ME allow voter registration on election day. Having picked up six governorships and nine state legislative chambers, Democrats may now be in a position to enact same day registration bills in more states. Note also that only three states have no voting restrictions on convicted felons or even prisoners, and two of them, ME and VT are top five turnout states.