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

September 24, 2017

How ‘Viral Video’ Can Give Dems Edge

For those of us who are a little behind in understanding the use of viral video and other new video tools in politics, Peter Leyden’ Blog at NDN provides a good introduction here. Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, paints an interesting picture of the unfolding communications technology leading up to the 2008 elections:

Emotionally powerful, visually complex video has finally arrived on the internet – and it’s moving fast. Those in politics will need to hustle to keep up with it.
This urgency is particularly important today, because the forty-year reign of broadcast and cable television thirty-second ads is coming to a close. Among other things, the spread of digital video recorders (DVRs) like TiVo allows an increasing chunk of Americans to skip ads altogether. By the 2008 election roughly one-third of all American households will have DVRs, and the percentage of likely voters with them will be even higher.
Understanding video also requires understanding how people are accessing video. NPI Fellow Tim Chambers tells us that “by the 2008 election, more than 90 percent of the mobile phones used in the U.S. will be internet-enabled…by 2011, 24 million U.S. cellular subscribers and customers will be paying for some form of TV/video content and services on their mobile devices.” At that point mobile video services combined would have more than 3 million more users than the largest cable operator in the U.S. does today.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to visualize the potential power of such tools for creating buzz for candidates and campaigns with limited budgets. And it can cut both ways. Leyden notes that George Allen’s “macaca moment” was first publicized through “viral video” (wikipedia also has an informative entry on the term here). Leyden introduces the first installment of NPI’s new series “Re-Imagining Video” with former Hollywood producer Julie Bergman Sender’s more in depth piece on the subject “Viral Video in Politics: Case Studies in Creating Compelling Video” Readers can link to the PDF from this summary.

My Bad….

by Scott Winship
Commenter “David” notes an error that I made in my response to Tom Schaller’s roundtable discussion piece from a couple of months back. I claimed that just 2 of 28 Democratic governors led southern states, which was badly wrong. I’ll let David speak for himself:

I’m unclear what states you count as “southern,” but going with the Old Confederacy, I count *five* Democratic governors, in VA, NC, LA, AR and TN. That doesn’t leave you with a majority of governorships outside the South, at least using ordinary math.

For the record, I apparently misread the election map I examined and counted as in the Dem column only the two states where Dem governors were elected in November (rather than adding the sitting governors in the other Southern states). I then subtracted 2 from 28 to get a non-Southern majority of 26. Dumb, dumb mistake — an example of writing up something far too quickly.
David makes some other criticisms in his post that I take issue with, which you can consider for yourself at the link above.

Dems Need Stronger Candidates — Women and Men

Gadflyer Sarah Posner’s post “Why, oh Y?” criticizes the notion that the Dems need more macho candidates, recently addressed in Ryan Lizza’s New York Times piece “The Invasion of the Alpha Male Democrat.” Posner says:

I had a creepy feeling reading Lizza’s piece, in part because I hate that silly macho pissing contest, where the Democrats feel they have to work so hard not to look French or worry about their hair (unless they’re a woman, in which case they should worry very much about it) and drink Bud instead of latte. But also because I know that if success in Democratic politics depends on a macho test, female politicians will always face the eternal tug between flaunting their toughness while constantly tempering it with a prominent display of estrogen.

While Lizza’s article was more reporting on a perceived trend than advocating a candidate recruitment strategy, Posner makes a good point: “Before they go too far down that path, Democrats should avoid overplaying the macho hand.”
Who knows? Some candidates may win votes as a result of their macho vibes. But there is no feasable way to accurately evaluate what portion of a victory margin is due to perceived “manliness.” In some elections, too much macho could be a liability. Either way, it’s guesswork talking, not rigorous poll analysis.
Better Dems should focus on recruiting energetic, articulate and competitive candidates, and last time we checked they came in all genders. We can be fairly confident that Schumer, Van Hollen and Dean, who likely watched MN Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar shred her GOP adversary in Meet the Press and C-SPAN2 debates, get that.
Democrats can be proud of Speaker Pelosi, and that Senator Boxer and other Democratic women in Congress are now taking over the chairs of key Senate and House committees. And newly-elected Dem women are an equally impressive group. However, women are still substantially underrepresented at every level of representative government in the U.S. (See TDM’s Nov. 24 post here for the latest percentages). Correcting this shortfall is the more worthy challenge for the party of the people.

Western Strategy Gains Cred

Sasha Abramsky’s “The Blue-ing of the West” in The Nation makes a compelling case for The Western Strategy as the Dem’s best option for ’08. The mid-terms improved the Dems’ western prospects considerably, as Abramsky explains:

November’s election results vindicated this strategy. Building on gains in 2004, Democrats picked up four Congressional and Senate seats in the interior West, bolstered by one the number of governorships they control in the region and increased their presence in statehouses…In 2000 all eight of the interior Western states had Republican governors; today, with Bill Ritter’s recent win in Colorado–springing from Senator Ken Salazar’s victory in the state in 2004–five of the eight are run by Democrats….Many strategists, who tout more than thirty Electoral College permutations that would allow a Democratic victory based primarily on inroads in the West, believe every Western state but Idaho, Utah and Wyoming could fall to a strong progressive-leaning presidential candidate in 2008.

Further, Abramsky notes:

Such states as Montana are now electing Democratic populists. Moreover, even before November’s election, most of the big cities throughout the region, including Denver, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Boise and Missoula, were already run by Democratic mayors, or by mayors elected in nonpartisan races who openly identify with their state Democratic parties.

Abramsky details the Dems’ considerable advantage on a host of key issues in western states. He discusses promising proposals to create a western regional primary and hold the ’08 convention in Denver, promoting it as a “Rocky Mountain West Convention.”
Abramsky makes a convincing argument that the west is the most fertile region for anchoring a well-rooted Democratic majority. But it will require a substantial investment. As DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton explains, “In Western states more people are coming our way, but we need to put in the resources to take it over the top and win in these states.”

Anatomy of Close House Races Revealed

The Congressional Quarterly Staff has a New York Times post, “Fifteen Republicans Squeaked by in 2006, Analysis Shows,” which sheds some interesting light on House races Dems lost by less than three percentage points. The article has short run-downs on each of the races, and on the two House races the Dems won by less than three percent. This should be interesting reading for potential challengers for their seats in ’08, as well as Dem strategists.

Dems’ Mandate: Full Speed Ahead With 100-Hour Agenda

Today begins a new era of Democratic control of congress. Much has been said by various pundits about the wisdom of the Dems embracing a more bipartisan spirit than their predecessors. But Digby gets the nod for most eloquent screeds as he makes the case that Dems were instead elected to, gasp, lead.

The Dems ran on a platform to stop the Republican insanity, not to “work with them” and I think those of us in the Democratic base might have noticed if they did that…The people who voted for the Dems are a little less concerned with that right now than ending the war in Iraq, overseeing the executive branch and restoring the constitution. Restoring civility is out of the Democrats’ hands — the Republicans are free to start behaving decently any time they choose. Meanwhile, somebody has to start thinking about the needs of the American people.

And in an earlier post, Digby hammers the point home:

…these past twelve years alone have been characterized by smears, toxic rhetoric, impeachments, abuse of power, stolen elections, power mad governance, corruption and ineptitude…the country just can’t take another couple of decades of Republican politics and Republican rule. We have to stop it — and it won’t be stopped if Democrats play nice. The Republican undead never learn their lesson. We must defeat them at the ballot box until they get tired of being defeated and change their ways.

And in another, Digby channels a little Hunter Thompson to seal the deal:

…the best thing for the Dems to do is be quite ruthless out of the box. They can do it with a smile on their faces, but they should do it. The Republicans created these prison rules and the Dems will either survive and be respected or they will continue to be the Republicans’ and the media’s prison bitches. I’m encouraged so far. The pundits are already heading for the fainting couch.

In other words, Dems need to be all about doing the peoples’ business, and we can extend the olive branch of bipartisan civility after the good fight is won.

Is Population Growth Red or Blue?

Chris Cillizza gets some grief in the comments section following his argument in WaPo that new census figures showing that 2004 red states are leading in population growth is good news for the GOP. Cillizza’s analysis of population trends fails to acknowledge that much of the population growth will come from disproportionate increases in the percentage of African American, Latino and out-state migrants, none of whom are likely to favor the GOP. Some of those commenting on Cillizza’s article put it this way:

When looking at the shift in population, it might be wise to consider who is shifting and to where they are shifting. My guess would be that you would find a lot of Democrats shifting from the Northeast to Florida, Georgia, N.C., etc. This will make the 2008 Election much less predictable than usual. (Gail Mountain)
Agree with Gail–this is an extremely specious and vacuous way of looking at these results. As usual, Chris, your republican slip is showing. Always looking for a ‘bright spot’ for your party. I have a feeling that just the opposite of your analysis is true — that those who are moving will simply be making red states bluer. (drindl)
Some radically presumptious analysis here!
Who says that the people who are moving to these states will vote republican? In fact recent gains for democrats appear to be from new voters in states that have traditionally been republican. Indeed, this may be REALLY bad news for the republican party! (dONHAH)
Please consider a follow-up that factors in ethnic and religion changes.It seems to me that Hispanics and immigrants may be as important as raw population numbers in determining the fate of the GOP.Thanks.(Paul Silver)

It goes on like this for more than 100 comments, providing an instructive lesson in what happens when one uses a static analysis to assess a dynamic situation. What is needed instead, is a more thoughtful analysis — Where is the growth coming from? Are Republicans reproducing like rabbits on viagra? How much of the Hispanic influx is permanent or transitory? Is the African American “reverse migration” to the south still strong?
Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in southern cities knows that they are thick with northeastern and midwestern expats. Are these folks Republican refugees or a broader cross-section of sun-seekers and those longing for a slower pace of life? Let’s discuss.

Dems’ Future on Line As New Congress Convenes

The Democratic majority takes control of Congress this week for the first time in 12 years, and Lyndsey Layton and Juliet Eilperin have an insightful preview in their WaPo article “Democrats To Start Without GOP Input.” Those who favor a strong “take charge” strategy for Dems over a more bipartisan approach will be encouraged. As Eilperin and Layton note:

Democrats are planning to largely sideline Republicans from the first burst of lawmaking…instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories.

But Speaker Pelosi’s spokesman Brendan Daly indicated that the take charge strategy applies primarily to the much publicized “plan for first 100 hours” when the House convenes on Thursday:

Daly said Democrats are still committed to sharing power with the minority down the line. “The test is not the first 100 hours,” he said. “The test is the first six months or the first year. We will do what we promised to do….We’ve talked about these things for more than a year,” he said. “The members and the public know what we’re voting on. So in the first 100 hours, we’re going to pass these bills”

The authors point out that Senate Democrats will implement a more conciliatory strategy, owing to their slender majority.
WaPo has another article of interest regarding the Dems’ congressional strategy, E. J. Dionne’s “The New Crowd’s First Test,” in which he makes the case that Dems must pass strong ethics legislation. Noting that the November election was the first time since 1954 that Dems have taken back both houses of Congress, Dionne warns:

This allows the new Democratic majority, in principle at least, to come in with no commitments to doing business as it was done in the immediate past…If Democrats don’t seize this rare opportunity, their party will pay for a long time. Not only will they disillusion their own supporters, but, more important, the angry centrists of the Ross Perot stripe who voted the Republicans out last year will either go back to the GOP or seek other options.

More specifically and with respect to ethics reform, Dionne notes:

…any Democrats who think this anti-corruption talk is just a fad should consult a memo written two weeks after November’s elections by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the incoming chairman of the Democratic caucus and the House’s shrewdest electoral tactician.
Emanuel counted eight districts the Democrats won largely because of corruption issues. The Democrats, he said, need to be the reformers they said they’d be. “Failing to deliver on this promise,” he added, “would be devastating to our standing with the public, and certainly jeopardize some of our marginal seats.”

Dems have an unprecedented opportunity to solidify public support, and ethics reform is clearly Job 1.

Focus: Swing States and Electoral Votes

In long range terms, true blue Dems should be all about the 50 State Strategy, though we may differ on shorter range strategy options. With this in mind, we kick off the New Year — and campaign ’08 — with a look at margins of victory in key swing states in ’04. Swing State Project’s, DavidNYC has a post listing states that voted for Kerry or Bush in ’04 by a margin of less than 10 percentage points. The list includes 21 swing states, here broken down into subcategories (- denotes voting margins for Bush):
Squeekers (0 to 1% margin): WI (0.38); IA (-0.67); and NM (-0.79)
Nail-biters (1 to 3% margin): NH (1.37); OH (-2.10); PA (2.50); and NV (-2.59)
Swingers (3 to 5% margin): MI (3.42); MN (3.48); OR (4.16); and CO (4.67)
Winnables (5 to 8% margin): FL (-5.01); NJ (6.68); WA (7.8); MO (-7.2); DE (7.6)
Do-ables (8 to 10% margin): VA (-8.20); HI (8.75); ME (8.99); AR (-9.76;) and CA (9.95);
Any of these 21 states could provide the pivot in a close election. Nail-biters OH and PA merit heightened concern because they rank 6th and tied for 5th, respectively in electoral votes among all states. Winnables FL and NJ also rank among the top ten of all states in electoral votes. The good news is Dems did extremely-well in ’06 state-wide races in top ten electoral vote states, and demographic trends generally favor Dems in all of them.
Democratic candidates and campaigners will have to navigate the complex demographics, political geography, polls and candidate profiles of the swing states, with an eye focused on building support among swing constituencies and independent voters. Meanwhile, Dem strategists should read the Swing State article and comment thread, which contains some interesting tips for different states.

Dem Seers Chart Course for New Year

The political year-ender articles are appearing in blogs and rags everywhere. Most of them are straight-forward wrap-ups, but a few have some interesting things to say about the Democrats’ future.
Todd Gitlin’s Mother Jones piece “Big Tent. Big Plans?” charts a course for the Democrats’ future. As Gitlin suggests:

Democrats have to contain the tensions already evident under the big tent: netroots vs. apparatchiks, free traders vs. fair traders, red-staters vs. blue-staters, Hillaryites vs. anyone-buts…Don’t bet that the cracks are fated to deepen into fault lines either. Political pros and amateurs alike know that a widening base requires more than “enough is enough.” To build such an alliance, a majority that doesn’t have to rely on winning by margins so skimpy they invite vote fraud, Democrats need to take care of both the immediate no-brainers—minimum wage up, drug prices and college costs down—and the common-good programs that will endure for more than one season.My own middle-term wish list is fourfold: a rapid exit from Iraq along with real Middle East diplomacy; universal health insurance; a return of progressive taxation; and real R&D on energy alternatives, a twofer that creates jobs while addressing global warming. All of these embody liberal principles and skirt what’s left of the culture-war morass.

You know that stuff about Dems making nice and extending a spirit of bipartisan collegiality to the Repubs? Progressive populist Jim Hightower isn’t having any of it. As he puts it in his Alternet year-ender, “Throw the Bums Out and Change Direction”:

…there are still too many go-slow, don’t-rock-theboat, weak-kneed, money-grubbing, corporatized Democrats who won’t break their habits of bedding down with the lobbyists and even the Bushites. They will push hard from inside the Democratic Caucus (while the White House, the money interests and the establishment media pushes from outside) for the majority to “be nice,” move to the corporate right, and agree from the start to surrender half of what they want (and then compromise down from there).
Now is the time for progressives to be more vigilant than ever — focus on what the Democrats are doing and not doing, make loud and clear demands that they do more, and keep organizing at the grassroots level. Just a few months ago, George W. declared, “I’m the decider.” No, he’s not. Neither are the Democrats. You are.

Hightower makes another good point in his article — Dems need to start paying more attention to winning Secretary of State posts in the states to prevent further election theft, the “key to getting a grip on our democracy.”
And Salon‘s Joe Conason warns

…the opportunity to rebuild a governing majority of the center-left could evaporate without being realized…the new Democratic congressional leaders must quickly deliver real government accountability as well as substantial reorganization of their own institutions. While voters may understand that major changes in healthcare, education and environmental stewardship will be difficult to enact under this administration, they will not have much patience for any evasion on reform of Congress.

If there is a common thread in these three posts, it is that Dems don’t have a lot of time to produce and need to get busy to get in optimum position for the ’08 elections.