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

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The Daily Strategist

November 19, 2017

Dems Set to Benefit from Health Care Mandate

If there was any doubt that the American people want health insurance guaranteed for all Americans, it should be extinguished by the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll. Asked whether “the government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes,” 64 percent of respondents agreed in the poll. Even more Americans (73 percent) agreed when the guaranteed coverage was limited to children under age 18, according to the poll, which was conducted 5/4-6.
For a progressive critique of America’s current health care system, read “The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It” by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells in the New York Review of Books. Krugman and Wells discuss the tricky politics of health care reform and make strong case that Democrats should fight for a single-payer system.
These links take you to the Health Care Reform web pages of eight announced candidates:
Joe Biden
Hillary Clinton
Chris Dodd
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Dennis Kucinich
Barack Obama
Bill Richardson
All of the Dems’ health care packages provide credible alternatives to the GOP field’s defense of the status quo. The plans will be refined in the months ahead and the Democratic nominee should benefit substantially from the growing public clamor for health care reform.

Exposing GOP Candidates’ Bogus Populism

Noam Scheiber’s irresistibly-titled “Pickup Artist: Populist Poseur Fred Thompson” in The New Republic illuminates a cornerstone of GOP strategy — to portray their rich boy candidates as good-ole, aw-shucks working-class guys. Scheiber has some fun describing Thompson getting all gussied up in blue jeans and boots, delivering folksy speeches from the bed of a rented, used pick-up truck, and then explains something Dems need to better understand:

…Thompson is hardly the only Republican to have ridden phony populism to elective office. In 2003, Haley Barbour, perhaps the most accomplished Washington lobbyist of his generation, pig-in-a-poked and dog-won’t-hunted his way to the Mississippi governor’s mansion. (One of Barbour’s signature tricks was to have himself paged at Ole Miss football games.) And, of course, a certain Yale-educated Northeastern Brahmin reinvented himself as a brush-clearing country boy en route to winning the White House in 2000. These days, phony populists win with such regularity that you’ve got to look beyond any particular candidate to find an explanation.

Republicans are very good at this scam, despite the fact that it would be extremely difficult to identify even one of their policies that actually benefits the working-class. Conversely, they are adept at portraying Democratic candidates, whose policies actually help working people, as elitists. Witness now, for example, the GOP’s concerted effort to portray John Edwards, the son of two union organizers and an advocate of genuine populist policies, as an elitist.
Dems need to get wise and mount a relentless assault on the GOP’s bogus populism. Reading Scheiber’s article is a good start.

Party Regulars, Street Join Forces

In These Times has a pair of articles spotlighting the working relationship between the Democratic party and progressive activists. Adam Doster’s “Dancing Into the Majority” provides an encouraging look at how “once alientated” activists are finding creative ways to work with the “party establishment.” Says Doster:

…more and more progressives who refused to support spineless Democrats and instead backed unsuccessful third-party candidates have come to understand the pragmatic necessity of working within the Democratic Party.

Doster focuses on the innovative efforts of groups like the Progressive Democrats of America, Code Pink, the Aurora Project and the Party in the Street, as well as MoveOn, to work in coalition with the Democrats. His article explains the problems and pitfalls the groups have experienced in working with the Democratic Party, as well as the accomplishments. Doster’s piece should be of interest to a broad range of progressive activist groups seeking new paths of cooperative action with the Democratic Party.
While Doster focuses on activist organizations, Connor Kenny’s ITT article “Hello, I’m a Democrat: Meet the netroots activists who have moved online and into political office” shines a light on four of the nation’s most energetic progressive activists: Mario Champion; Chris Bowers; Anna Brosovic; and Jeremy Horton. Notes Kenny:

In coming years, netroots activists will be moving up from local party positions to state and national ones. And, while they are more progressive than the party as a whole, first and foremost they are committed Democrats who want to win, and who are willing to put in the money and the time to make it happen. Though their outsider identity may sometimes cause them to break the door down rather than ask for a key, they want to help.

Taken together, the ITT articles paint a promising picture of the Dems’ future, energized by an infusion of netroots and grasssroots activists, determined not only to win stable Democratic majorities, but to elect diverse candidates of stronger character and heightened commitment.

Wanted: Dem Senate Candidates in Key States

Chris Bowers MyDD article “Spinning Our Wheels On Senate Recruitment” should come as a wake-up call to Dem leaders looking toward ’08. Bowers does a nice job of outlining the Dems bright prospects for picking up Senate seats next year, noting,

…with twenty-one potential Republican targets, only twelve defenses of our own, and a large and still increasing fundraising advantage, Republican defenses are stretched thin from the get-go. Given the national mood and the structural problems Republicans face, if all goes well, this situation should allow us to pickup between four and seven seats next year, thus returning the Senate to its pre-1994 Democratic majority.

However, Bowers makes a disturbing case that we are seriously behind schedule:

…right now this situation does not seem to be translating into many good pickup opportunities. Off hand, the problem seems to center around recruitment problems. In some states, we are failing to get our top recruits. In other states, our top recruits now seem less promising than they did just a couple months ago. Worst of all, in most states, we don’t have any challengers yet….While the situation could be reversed with improvements just two or three major Senate campaigns, the way things have been going so far, further downgrades seem more likely than further upgrades. We need to start getting our best candidates in every state, or else we could waste this historic electoral opportunity.

Bowers then gets down to specific races, with capsule reports on five key races, and he notes some others that merit more attention. Granted there is still 17 months to go, and we can be confident that Chuck Schumer is on the case. But the Democratic party activists in these states would do well to address Bowers’ concerns.

Reframing the Iraq Funding Debate

Apropos of the post below, Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald shreds the myth that Democrats have little choice but to support unrestricted funding for Iraq. As Greenwald explains in his article, challenging Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter’s defense of Democrats’ support for funding without timelines:

…our Iraq war policy was just determined, in large part if not principally, by a complete myth: that de-funding proposals constitute an abandonment or, more ludicrously still, “endangerment” of the troops.
It is difficult to overstate how irrational this theme is, and yet it is equally difficult to overstate what a decisive role it just played in ensuring the continuation of the war. Polls consistently demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly favor compelled withdrawal of the troops from Iraq. Other than defunding, they overwhelmingly favor every legislative mechanism for achieving that goal — from a straightforward bill setting a mandatory time deadline to a rescission of the resolution authorizing military force to compulsory benchmarks. Yet polls are equally uniform in showing that a solid majority of Americans oppose de-funding.
Yet, rationally speaking, this makes absolutely no sense. De-funding is nothing more than a legislative instrument for ending the war, and is substantively indistinguishable in every way from the other war-ending legislative means which Americans favor.

In other words. Americans want deadlines and timetables attached to Iraq funding legislation, but many are under the false impression that voting against funding bills that have no limitations will leave our troops vulnerable. Republicans know this, and they exploit this myth effectively, so much so that many liberal Democratic leaders supported unlimited funding legislation. Thus, many of the same elected officials who advocate deadlines and timetables on Iraq funding feel compelled to vote for unrestricted funding legislation when it is offered.
Apparently most Americans don’t want to spend a lot of time studying the fine points of all the Iraq funding proposals. And so the parliamentary chess game goes on, and by the time November ’08 rolls around voters will be inundated with charges and countercharges about who did or didn’t support the troops. But Democrats must not allow this simplistic meme to dominate concerns about Iraq policy on election day. They must make sure that the more resonant message voters take to the polls is that the GOP is the party that supports open-ended occupation of Iraq.
In his latest post at the Rockridge Institute web page, George Lakoff and co-author Glen W. Smith explain the framing psychology behind GOP myth-mongering:

Congress allowed the president to take over its job to decide the strategic mission and to put Congress in the role of merely providing funding. This allowed the president to cast Congress in the role of “refusing to fund the troops,” “endangering the safety of our troops,” “playing chicken with the lives of our troops,” “hamstringing our troops,” and so on. It allowed President Bush to portray Congress as responsible for the safety of our troops, whereas the real responsibility lay with him. By allowing the president to reframe the Constitution and take away their powers, Congress made itself fatally vulnerable. Most of the Democrats wound up adopting the president’s framing of them as responsible for the safety of the troops.

But rather than reacting with expressions of disgust and let it go at that, Lakoff and Smith offer a number of interesting ideas for reframing the issue of Iraq funding, including:

Progressives must point out that it is the president, with an enabling Congress, who commenced a foolhardy adventure with no clear exit strategy or way to “win.” That same president has refused to properly prepare or adequately equip soldiers — and now he is blaming Congress. When Congress passed a supplemental spending bill with reasonable timetables attached, he refused it. The betrayer is the president. Say it over and over: The president has betrayed our troops and the nation.

Lakoff and Smith point out that the current funding authorization is only good through September and that there will be other opportunities for Democrats to act. They even outline a course of action for Democratic activists. Their article should be a keeper for party strategists and activists alike.

Dems Struggling to End Iraq Quagmire

The “hawk” vs. “dove” terms now seem outdated in describing current divisions within the Democratic party, given the overwhelming opposition to Bush’s Iraq policies, not only among Dems, but the nation at large. Very few Dems favor open-ended military occupation of Iraq. What we have now is more in the vein of differences over how to get out.
The bad news for Dems is well-reflected in the Senate vote (80 to 14) to support funding for our continued occupation of Iraq, without deadlines or timetables. The progressive blogosphere is generally livid about the number of Democratic Senators who refused to hang tough and oppose any further funding without timelines, including many prominent liberal Senators. Kos‘s Georgia10 calls it “the Capitulation Bill.” And The Left Coaster Steve Soto has the list of Democrats who voted for it here. Others say they feel “betrayed” by the votes of some of the newly-elected Democratic senators, for whom they had high hopes.
But for Dems who favor deadlines and timetable restrictions on Iraq funding, there is also some good news: Three out of four Democratic Senators running for the Presidency voted against funding without timetables or deadlines — Clinton, Dodd and Obama. Only Biden among Dem presidential candidates, voted for funding without time restrictions. Edwards, a former Senator, has also voiced his strong opposition.
Sure the 80-14 vote count is disappointing for those who wanted to see a little more backbone in the Senate, especially since 60 percent of the American people want timelines on further Iraq war funding, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted 5/18-23. No doubt, many of the Democrats who voted for the bill would have liked to vote against it, but felt they couldn’t survive the political fallout. It is nonetheless encouraging that the Democratic presidential nominee will almost certainly be a strong opponent of any more blank checks for the Iraq quagmire.

Dem Pres Candidates Fund-Raising Tops GOP — in the South

Tom Baxter, political reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an eyebrow-lifter for those who see the south as irretrievably red. Baxter’s article compares fund-raising of presidential candidates’ of both parties, and reports:

Democratic presidential candidates collected about 62 percent of the $1.6 million raised from Georgians in the first three months of 2007.
Democrats also led presidential fund-raising in Georgia in the same quarter leading up to the 2000 presidential election — the last race without an incumbent. But back then, their hold on the dollars wasn’t nearly as tight: Democrats led Republicans by just $36,000.
Now Democrats are leading Republicans by $382,000 — a gap more than 10 times greater — according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of first-quarter presidential contributions.

Baxter notes that Barack Obama topped all other candidates of both parties in Georgia, with Romney second and Edwards third. Baxter adds:

One striking facet of the Democrat’s first-quarter resurgence in the South: It isn’t based on just one candidate.
In North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, Democrats held the overall advantage, and Edwards was the top fund-raiser. In Florida and Virginia, Democrats collected the most, with U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as the overall leader. Democrats also took in more in Kentucky, with Obama in the lead.
Only four states in the region — South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas — gave more money overall to Republican presidential candidates. And in South Carolina, Edwards was the leading individual candidate.

Natch, the Republican spin doctors quoted in the article pooh-pooh the Democratic Presidential candidates lead as a temporary phenomenon. Going by the numbers, however, it appears that southern Donkeys still have some kick.

Memo to Dems: Don’t Blur Distinctions

Bill Scher of Liberal Oasis has an instructive riff on the Dodd-Gingrich debate on Sunday’s Meet the Press. On one level, it was an odd pairing — a ‘second-tier’ Democratic candidate who has one of the more impressive resumes in the field vs. an all-but announced Republican, who is arguably one of his party’s most creative strategists. First, thanks to Russert for giving the nation more of an in-depth, head-t-head look at somebody besides the front-runners. But Scher picked up on something important that concerns all Dems who are faced with debating Republicans:

Dodd didn’t say anything that was abhorrent. But he missed an opportunity to frontally challenge and decimate the neocon “World War III” foreign policy vision offered by Newt, and clearly contrast that fundamentally flawed vision with his own alternative.
…Dodd chose to blur distinctions by saying he agrees with Newt about “the war on terror.” In fact, he doesn’t…Dodd sees the difference between terrorists that must be opposed and isolated, and distasteful but rational state governments where the possibility of successful diplomacy not only exists, but can help advance democratic reform and weaken terrorist threats.
It’s a fundamental difference that should be clarified and brought into the open.
If Dodd squarely put his vision up against Newt’s, showing the moral and pragmatic superiority of his vision, that could have turned heads and helped him break out of the second-tier.
Instead, by blurring distinctions, Dodd made some decent points that will soon be forgotten.

Dodd’s longevity in the Senate indicates he is no slouch when it comes to winning elections and making needed distinctions, and generally he is one of the Democrats’ better debaters. But this presidential race is being run in the middle of an elective war that many believe is the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history. Now is not a good time to rely on subtle distinctions. Sher’s point is well-taken.

Averaging Horse Race Polls Gives Best Snapshot

With the presidential election 17 months out, it may seem a little early to be paying a lot of attention to the horse race polls. But Super Tuesday is 8 and 1/2 months away, and that seems a good time to begin monitoring the Democratic polls. To put the polls in perspective, start with Chris Bowers’ post, “Inflated Clinton Poll Theory: Prudence Sets In” at MyDD. Bowers argues that averaging polls gives the best snapshot:

With so many polls, it just seems unlikely to me that one extreme Clinton-Obama margin or the other is absolutely correct, or that one methodology or the other is absolutely correct. When has there ever been a large, hidden vote out that that most pollsters were missing? Outside of the Iowa caucuses and post-Katrina New Orleans, the answer over the last thirty years has been “basically never.” These days, the worst-case scenario is for poll averages to be about six points off the final margin, which isn’t that bad and can be accounted for in margin of error and turnout programs.
…At this point, with so many different polls floating around, with so many different methodologies, with about half of the primary and caucus electorate not even paying “somewhat” close attention, and with an ever-changing and developing campaign, the simple fact is that widely varying results among polls is unavoidable…
Average the polls–all of the polls–and don’t dismiss any of them just because they seem odd or you don’t like the results for your candidate. Right now, that would indicate that Clinton is probably up by 10-12 points. And so she probably is. However, as the differences between the varying polls shows, there is still a lot of movement left in this electorate. It ain’t over until February 6th.

In his previous post Bowers discussed some of the problems with the most recent polls, noting:

Could the difference be social pressure, where Democrats don’t tell live-interviewers that they are currently leaning against Clinton? Rasmussen’s numbers consistently back up that theory, but those produced by Harris do not. Could it be that traditional live-interview polls and newer polling methodologies sample different universes of voters, thus producing different results? Possibly, but even if that is the case, it is extremely difficult to say which group of polls is sampling a more representative universe right now, both because we don’t know who will vote in the 2008 primaries and because few polling firms release comprehensive crosstabs and methodologies. Could it simply be that when it comes to the 2008 Democratic nomination, live-interview polls are growing less useful due to the rising wireless-only population and social pressure, or that newer techniques are not yet able to achieve the same level of accuracy as traditional methods? Both are possible, but neither can be confirmed at this time.

The rapid increase in wireless only voters does present an interesting challenge to pollsters. Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal sheds some fresh light on the problem here.

Movement to Disempower Electoral College Picks Up Steam

Chris Kromm has an encouraging update on the effort to render the Electoral College irrelevant at Facing South. As Kromm reports on recent action by the North Carolina state senate:

This week, North Carolina became the latest state chamber to endorse a direct popular vote, as the Charlotte Observer reports:
“North Carolina would enter a compact that could eliminate the power of the Electoral College system to choose a president, according to a bill that passed the Senate Monday night. If agreed to by states representing a majority of the nation’s 538 electoral votes, the measure would require North Carolina to give its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.”
Nationwide, 41 bills have been introduced. In Maryland, it’s been signed by the governor, and both of Hawaii’s legislative chambers have passed the hill. North Carolina is now one of five states where it’s passed at least one house, the others being Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, and most recently California…And if states that represent a majority of the current 538 Electoral College votes form a compact to do away with the system, they can move the country to direct popular vote for President and Vice President.

North Carolina being a moderate to moderately-conservative state, the action of its state senate bodes well for the popular vote campaign nation-wide. Apparently, this movement has some legs.