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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

November 17, 2017

TBA Lights Path for Progressive Dems

The progressive blogosphere and even the MSM has plenty of coverage of the Take Back America Conference, sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future. Rightly so, because it is not only a unique gathering of America’s top progressive activists and leaders, but also a wellspring from which Dems can draw to create an inspiring vision that can win the white house and a stronger congressional majority next year.
By all means read the MSM articles and blogosphere posts about the conference. But the primary source for keeping up with TBA doings is CAF’s website. There you will find gateway links to video and articles about speeches by presidential candidates Kucinich, Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Gravel and Richardson, as well as a “kitchen table” discussion with fighting Senate newcomers Brown, Klobuchar and Sanders. The web pages also feature reports on a presidential straw poll of conference participants and insightful interviews with top bloggers and activists


South Mouth

As a yellow-dog Democrat from Georgia, I am naturally interested in the ongoing debate about the future of our party in the South, a subject on which a lot of nonsense–ranging from claims that only southern Democrats can win the presidency, to arguments that Democrats should loudly demonize the allegedly atavistic region–often gets said and published.
This week there’s a burgeoning blogospheric debate revolving around the assumption that John Edwards’ southern background and accent uniquely enable him to get a hearing for progressive causes in the South. And that makes some people mad.
It started with a Ben Smith Politico comment on a John Edwards speech in Iowa suggesting that his rivals might have trouble going into certain parts of the country, which Smith interpreted as a citation of Edwards’ status as a southern white male.
At TAPPED, Ezra Klein jumped in with this observation:

Edward’s Southern accent and manners are critical in his ability to project a much more combative, sharp form of liberalism than the others are offering. What would sound like Marxism from the mouth of Howard Dean or Hillary Clinton sounds like good, old-fashioned, American populism from Edwards

.
At the same site, Paul Waldman suggested that both southerners themselves and national media elites think of us Crackers as more “authentically American,” giving Edwards a “Dixie Bonus.” And then Political Animal’s Kevin Drum, who says he’s feeling surly today, weighed in with an angry blast at the South’s “victim complex,” and its purported refusal to vote for anybody from “north of the Mason-Dixon line.”
Lord a-mercy. Can a post from Professor Tom “Whistling Past Dixie” Schaller be far behind?
Let’s hold our horses here, fellow bloggers, and at least examine the premise that Edwards has a big southern advantage over other Democratic candidates.


The Re-Emerging Democratic Majority

When Kevin Phillips published his brilliantly prescient book, The Emerging Republican Majority, in 1969, he couldn’t have known that Watergate, the forced resignation of Richard Nixon, and the 1974 Democratic landslide would obscure the fundamental soundness of his analysis.
And in 2002, when John Judis and Ruy Teixeira (a co-editor of TDS) published their own counterpart to Phillips, The Emerging Democratic Majority, they had the misfortune of going to press within months of 9/11, and on the eve of a smashing Republican midterm victory.
Phillips’s long-range view of electoral dynamics, of course, was ultimately vindicated by Ronald Reagan’s landslide win in 1980, and down the road, by the Republican breakthrough victory in 1994.
Does the Democratic comeback in 2006 portend a similar vindication for the Judis/Teixeira hypothesis? That’s the question they examine in an important new article just published by The American Prospect, Back to the Future.
Their conclusion after examining the evidence is quite clear:

[T]his election signals the end of a fleeting Republican revival, prompted by the Bush administration’s response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the return to political and demographic trends that were leading to a Democratic and center-left majority in the United States.

Moreover, say Judis and Teixeira, the demographic categories that were trending Democratic in the 1990s have actually been augmented:

Just as important as these victories is who voted for Democrats in 2006. With few exceptions, the groups were exactly those that had begun trending Democratic in the 1990s and had contributed to Al Gore’s popular-vote victory over George W. Bush in 2000. These groups, which we described in our 2002 book…included women, professionals, and minorities. But in 2006 they also included two groups our book slighted or ignored altogether: younger voters (those born after 1977) and independents. These voters can generally be expected to continue backing Democrats.

It’s become commonplace for Democrats and others to observe that 9/11 (and later, the runup to the Iraq War) made national security a suddenly preeminent public concern, to the benefit of Bush and the GOP. But Judis and Teixeira go further, suggesting a psychological process they call “de-arrangement”:

The focus on the war on terror not only distracted erstwhile Democrats and independents but appeared to transform, or de-arrange, their political worldview. They temporarily became more sympathetic to a whole range of conservative assumptions and approaches. In the past, voters had trusted Democrats to manage the economy, and in 2002 that preference should have been strongly reinforced by a recession that occurred on Bush’s watch. Instead, voters in that election believed by 41 percent to 37 percent that Republicans were “more likely to make sure the country is prosperous.” Recessions could also be expected to reinforce populist perceptions of the economy, but in 2002 the percentage of voters who believed that “the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer” hit its lowest level in 15 years.

This “de-arrangement” began to subside in 2004, and dissipated largely by 2006, as the electoral trends of the mid-to-late 1990s began to reassert themselves, especially among single women, Hispanics, and professionals, all rapidly growing elements of the electorate. And Democrats also made striking gains in the white working class, a shrinking category of the electorate nationally, but one that is still large and crucial in many battleground states of the Midwest. Suddenly voters began to care about economic insecurity again, even though by most measurements the economy was doing better than in 2002 or 2004.


Dems Close Ranks Behind EFCA

The battle for EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act, will come to a head this week, perhaps today when the U.S. Senate takes up the bill. EFCA authorizes employees to unionize as soon as a majority signs cards saying they want a union. Under existing law, employers can require a secret-ballot election, even after a majority sign the cards.
Although it has passed the House of Reps, EFCA faces an all-out GOP effort to kill the legislation, and perhaps even prevent an up or down vote in the Senate. Win or lose, EFCA has become a defining issue for Democrats of all factions, and they have rallied behind the legislation in a remarkable display of unity, winning the support of all Democratic Presidential candidates, as well as all House members and 14 Democratic governors.
To get up to speed on EFCA, there is no place better to go than the AFL-CIO’s EFCA web pages, featuring lots of links covering every aspect of the legislation and the effort to secure its enactment.


Brand and Product

In today’s Washington Post, E.J. Dionne puts his finger on a phenomenon that’s beginning to trouble many Democrats: the significant gap between public perceptions of the Democratic Party, and of actual Democrats, specifically the Democratic-controlled Congress and the leading presidential candidates.
Using a June 8-11 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Dionne notes a 42-35 favorable/unfavorable ratio for the Democratic Party (the GOP weighs in at 28-49), as contrasted with a 23-64 job approval ratio for Congress, roughly equal to Bush’s 29-66 rating. Meanwhile, the same poll shows Democrats with a 52-31 advantage in a “generic” presidential ballot, while head-to-head surveys on actual candidates show a close race, at least when well-known GOP candidates like Giuiliani and McCain are tested against the leading Deomcrats.
Dionne’s basic analysis is that Democrats won in 2006 by putting together a coalition of “base” voters focused on ending the war in Iraq, and swing voters with a broader range of concerns about “getting things done.” Both categories, he suggests, are increasingly disappointed in Congress’ record so far. That doesn’t explain the relative weakness, as compared to the generic numbers, of Democratic presidential candidates, but it does make for an interesting interpretation of the Democratic Party “brand” and its subsidiary “products.”
If you step back for a moment, it’s important to remember that poor approval ratings for Congress are hardly a new thing; the real aberration was the brief moment earlier this year when the positive assessments inched up into the high thirties. Surveys specifically rating Democrats in Congress show a slightly more positive picture; the last ABC/Washington Post poll at the end of May gave them a 44-49 job approval ratio, down from 54-44 in April. Totally aside from specific issues before Congress, it’s reasonable to expect some deterioration as Democratic control of Congress began to sink into the public consciousness, given an environment where the right track/wrong track ratio has plunged to 19-68 (to cite the NBC/WSJ survey).
We’re likely to see a clearer partisan shakedown in terms of assessments of Congress by this fall, if, as anticipated, Bush starts vetoing appropriations bills, and congressional Democrats find new ways to dramatize their efforts to end the Iraq war.
On the presidential front, the gap between “brand” and “product” is partially just a function of the fact that the “well-known” Republicans who are running well in trial heats happen to be those with the strongest appeal to independent voters; that will almost certainly continue to change as the nomination process goes forward, with GOP candidates visibly chewing conservative red meat in every speech and debate. (As my friend Will Marshall has acutely observed, Republicans in their current authoritarian mode seem determined to move from being the “daddy party” to the “abusive daddy party.”) And I personally would bet big money, if I had it, that neither John McCain (whose support is clearly collapsing) nor Rudy Giuliani (who’s been slipping of late) is going to be the Republican nominee. Trial heats involving Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, as they become better known, will be the ones to watch.
In any event, a strong “brand” with relatively weak “products” is preferable to the reverse proposition. A lot was written, and appropriately so, during the long winter of Democratic discontent earlier this decade, about the inability of Democrats to convert “generic” ballot strength into electoral victories. But “generic” advantages mean the door is wide open to gains if you are smart enough to walk through it. And in the long run, that pays off more often than not. Just ask the Coca-Cola people if they’d trade a dip in the warm and fuzzies generated by their treasured brand for a quick upsurge in sales for one of their fruit-flavored Diet Coke offerings.


DCorps ‘Battleground’ Survey Sees Huge Dem Opportunity

DCorps has just released “On the Offensive: First Survey of the 2008 Battleground Districts,” and the findings envision an “immense opportunity” for Democratic congressional candidates to win more seats in 2008. The survey, which included a large interview sample of 1,600 respondents, covered 70 “in-play” congressional districts “half Democratic and half Republican,” and found:

Democratic congressional candidates in this named ballot hold an average 9-point lead in these districts that actually supported the Republican candidate by 1 point in 2006 and President Bush by 8 points in 2004. This means the center of the battlefield has shifted as much since 2006 as it did in the lead up to it.

Even more striking, Dem incumbents are ahead by 20 points, 56-36 percent, and the strength extends to districts held by freshmen elected in ’06, and to rural-small town and exurban areas, as well as to more traditional Democratic constituencies.
The survey also found that “Iraq is central to the changing battlefield,” and the public wants congressional Dems to provide leadership “that will force the President to change policies and reduce the number of troops in Iraq.” The survey includes other interesting findings about voters beliefs and priorities regarding health insurance for children, energy independence, student loans, stem cell research and immigration.


The One Certain Thing

We’ll be hearing all week about the minutiae of the U.S. Senate’s reconsideration of the so-called “grand bargain” on immigration reform: the amendments, the parliamentary maneuvers, the behind-the-scenes lobbying of Bush, Reid, Kennedy, Lott and others, to drag a couple of Republican votes across the line without losing prior supporters.


Dem-Controlled State Legs Lead in Health Care

Business Week‘s Catherine Arnst reports on a new Commonwealth Fund survey comparing and rating health care services in the 50 states. Her overall conclusions are less than encouraging as evidenced by her article’s subtitle “A state-by-state study shows who has the best and worst grades on 32 health indicators, and even the best are none too good.”
However, a look at the state legislatures of the top ten rated states should offer a measure of encouragement for Democrats hoping to benefit by the public clamor for better health care. In the ten highest-ranking states, HA; IA; NH; VT; ME; RI; CT; MA; WI; and SD, Democrats have majority control of 17 of 20 state legislatures. Of the top 8 ranking states, Republicans have majority control in none of the 16 state houses. (Data on party control of state legs here)
Bragging rights are limited by the fact that the Dems also have majorities of a healthy share of the state houses of the bottom ten ranking states. But the fact that Dems have majorities in 85 percent of the state houses of top-performing states is nonetheless impressive — and should be of interest to voters who care about health care reform.


How the GOP Leverages the Net

Political bloggers of all stripes, and Dem oppo researchers in particular, have an interesting post to read over at the Politico. The post, “Excerpts from the NRSC Campaign Internet Guide” includes a wealth of tips for campaigns interested in leveraging the internet, both strategic and technical. For example:

Shadow TV/TVEyes/Critical Mention. These services can be purchased by campaigns to monitor television programs 24 hours a day. If you subscribe to this service your campaign can request a specific clip as well as a transcript via email. Some of these clips can be used in web ads or nposted directly to your site through YouTube (See Copyrightsection below for more deatil) However these clips must be purchased and can be expensive.

and

Rapid Response to Attacks: If candidates are more or less continuously monitored via blog search engines, with the use of websites, such as technorati.com, blogs can often be used as “am early warning system to help discern if an opponent’s attacks are gaining traction….”

or

To achieve successful blog outreach, we recommend the following: Develop a national and local blog outreach plan. The primary focus of the campaign’s national efforts should be the top five conservative political blogs: Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, Captain’s Quarters, Powerline and Hugh Hewitt.

There’s quite a bit more of interest to Dem bloggers and campaigns. This one may not be up too long. Might be a good idea to print it out.


Political Strategy Links Illuminate, Amuse

Are conservatives or progressives a majority in America? You won’t find a stronger case for the progressive majority, on the internet at least, than Media Matters‘ footnote and link rich “The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a Myth.”
Ezra Klein, usually skeptical about advice books for Dems, has a plug for Drew Westen’s forthcoming book, The Political Brain, an excerpt of which is posted at The American Prospect. Klein likes the way Westen’s book focuses on “how voters experience politics, and how Democrats all too often speak on another plane entirely.”
The “amuse” part of this article’s headline comes from Michael Falcone’s “A Gamer’s Guide to Redstricting” at The New York Times. Falcone links to a way cool new interactive game which “simulates many of the challenges involved in the redistricting process, from drawing district maps to winning the support of state and party leadership.” You can play “The Redistricting Game” right here.