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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Daily Strategist

June 23, 2018

Political Strategy Notes – Democrats and Full Employment

At The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson explains why “Why the Cause of Full Employment Is Back from the Dead,” despite a relatively low official unemployment rate, 4.1 percent (which incudes jobs that don’t pay a living wage). “The rise of precarious and poorly paid work, chiefly in but not confined to the service sector; the wage stagnation affecting most of the workforce (which Jared Bernstein documented in a piece for the Prospect earlier this week; the declining level of labor force participation in those parts of the country where work, particularly remunerative work, has largely disappeared; the chronic economic insecurity of millennials, and the political left turn they’ve executed in response; the opening to more radical economic reforms unleashed by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign—all these have led to a new economic radicalism bleeding its way into the Democratic mainstream.”

Full employment still polls well for Democrats. As Sean McElwee, Colin McAuliffe and Jon Green recently write in their article, “Why Democrats Should Embrace a Federal Jobs Guarantee” in The Nation: “To explore the possibility of Democrats’ running on a guaranteed-job plan, we asked the respected data analytics firm Civis Analytics to not only poll guaranteed jobs, but poll it in the way that would be most likely to gain opposition from voters. They asked respondents: “Democrats in congress are proposing a bill which would guarantee a job to every American adult, with the government providing jobs for people who can’t find employment in the private sector. This would be paid for by a 5 percent income tax increase on those making over $200,000 per year. Would you be for or against this policy?”…We expected that in a generic scenario, people would support guaranteed jobs, but before urging Democrats to embrace it, we wanted to see if the policy might take a hit when Republicans made the issue partisan and talked about tax hikes…The results of the Civis polling were nothing short of stunning, showing large net support for a job guarantee: 52 percent in support, 29 percent opposed, and the rest don’t know. “Even with explicit partisan framing and the inclusion of revenue in the wording, this is one of the most popular issues we’ve ever polled,” said David Shor, a senior data scientist at Civis Analytics.”

Another finding revealed from The Nation article: “…Our think tank Data for Progress modeled state-level support for guaranteed jobs using data provided to us by the Center for American Progress, with the help of Senior Adviser Austin Rochford. We find that the job guarantee polls stunningly well in all 50 states. Even in the state with the lowest modeled support, Utah, support is still 57 percent. Deep-red states like West Virginia (62 percent support), Indiana (61 percent), and Kansas (67 percent) all boast strong support for a job guarantee. Indeed, the places where the job guarantee is most popular might be surprising: DC (84 percent), Mississippi (72 percent), North Carolina (72 percent), Hawaii (72 percent), and Georgia (71 percent) have the highest estimates, though support is also high in solid-blue states like California and New York (both 71 percent)…“The results of this research were just staggering. Americans not only overwhelmingly oppose cuts to programs like Medicaid and nutrition assistance. They also support really bold progressive alternatives—including a jobs guarantee,” said Jeremy Slevin, the director of advocacy for the Poverty team at CAP. “If there was any doubt as to whether progressives should champion far-reaching proposals to help people find good-paying jobs, I hope this erases it,” he said.

Meyerson notes that Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced a comprehensive “guaranteed full employment bill” and “the [Democratic] party now embraces the $15 minimum wage; the cause of single-payer is taken up by a surprising number of elected officials. In addition to the Sanders bill, “New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has proposed setting up pilot full employment programs in 15 urban and rural areas with persistently high levels of unemployment…And Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin—up for re-election in a state where working class whites forsook their Democratic allegiances to vote for Donald Trump in 2016—has authored a bill that requires corporations to have their workers elect one-third of their corporation’s board of directors—a feature, somewhat modified, of German social democracy, and one reason why Germany’s workers are, on the whole, doing better than ours.”

The Sanders jobs bill would require the “federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker “who wants or needs one,” embracing the kind of large-scale government works project that Democrats have shied away from in recent decades,” reports Jeff Stein at The Washington Post. Sanders’s public sector jobs program “would fund hundreds of projects throughout the United States aimed at addressing priorities such as infrastructure, care giving, the environment, education and other goals…”A dozen regional centers would develop proposals for needed public works projects. Current jobs proposals trend away from President Obama’s “public-private partnerships or government incentives to reshape private markets and toward an unambiguous embrace of direct government intervention, adds Stein. “The goal is to eliminate working poverty and involuntary unemployment altogether,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist at the New School who has advocated for a jobs guarantee program along with Stony Brook University’s Stephanie Kelton and a group of left-leaning economists at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College. “This is an opportunity for something transformative, beyond the tinkering we’ve been doing for the last 40 years, where all the productivity gains have gone to the elite of society.”

Jane Sanders interviews Stephanie Kelton, former senior economist on the Senate Budget Committee and economic advisor to Sen. Sanders, on the need for a natinal jobs guarantee:

In their Article, “The Full Employment Solution,” also in The American Prospect, Professors Mark Paul, William Darity Jr. and Darrick Hamilton, make a case that the time is right for Democrats to make full employment a priority: “These conditions warrant the resurrection of a bold idea, an Economic Bill of Rights for all Americans, tailored to the conditions of the 21st century.” The authors cite “the first article of a new Economic Bill of Rights—a federal job guarantee…First, we invariably have major economic crises that drive people out of work; the most recent episode is the Great Recession. Second, even in “good” economic times, the United States has more people seeking employment than the private sector is willing to employ. And third, not only do we generally have an inadequate number of jobs, but we have a tier of jobs that feature low pay, uncertain hours, and few or no benefits…What the nation needs is federal legislation that would guarantee employment to every American at non-poverty wages.”

In early March, Democratic leaders shared the broad strokes of an ambitious infrastructure upgrade program, which would provide millions of new jobs at a living wage As Mike Debonis reported at Powerpost, “As the White House struggles to finance an ambitious infrastructure plan, Senate Democrats are proposing one alternative — albeit one unlikely to pass muster with President Trump: rolling back the recently passed Republican tax overhaul…The proposal unveiled by Democratic leaders Wednesday would plow just over $1 trillion into a wide range of infrastructure needs, including $140 billion for roads and bridges, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure and $50 billion to rebuild schools.”…The spending would be offset by clawing back two-thirds of the revenue lost in the Republican tax bill by reinstating a top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, restoring the individual alternative minimum tax, reversing cuts to the estate tax, and raising the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 25 percent…Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview Tuesday that the plan sets up a stark contrast for voters ahead of the midterm elections.”’…“We believe overwhelmingly the American people will prefer building infrastructure and creating close to 15 million middle-class jobs than giving tax breaks for the wealthy,” he said.” Although much of the Democratic plan would send money to traditional infrastructure priorities like highways, transit and waterways, Schumer highlighted less conventional spending priorities, including $40 billion to build high-speed Internet connections in rural areas and $80 billion to upgrade the country’s energy grid.”

Will centrist and more conservative Democrats also support a party agenda that puts full employment as a unifying priority? In their article, “Get to Work, Democrats: Become the Jobs Party,” about findings of their focus groups on jobs at thirdway.org, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and Ryan Pougiales conclude, “The lesson that stands out from this research is clear: the Party needs to actively and impassionedly seek out the title of “the jobs party.” In House and Senate Democrats’ new Better Deal agenda , the focus on and promise of Better Jobs is essential. Hopefully, this shows that Democrats are coming to grips with the jobs tension that they have failed to reconcile in recent years. Even as the economy approaches full employment, there remains real economic anxiety, and people will always aspire to new and better job opportunities. Trump spoke to this—and voters responded. To rebuild the Party and regain the power to enact their priorities, Democrats need to craft a broad path that’s inclusive of a diverse coalition and sustainable across election cycles. Reclaiming its status as the party of jobs is a unifying way to do just that.”

Narrow GOP Win in AZ-8 Tainted by Voter Suppression Concerns

Republicans are making the most out of GOP candidate Debbie Lesko’s 5+ point victory over Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in the special election to represent Arizona’s 8th district. But it was the reddest district in Arizona, one that Trump won by 21 percent. That Tiperneni got 47 percent of the vote is a scary statistic for Republicans, all the more so considering Republicans have a 17 percent voter registration edge in the district. Arizona Republicans are reportedly very worried about holding the governorship and a U.S. Senate seat in November.

A win is a win. But a narrow win tainted by voter suppression is even less for Republicans to crow about. As Kira Lerner writes at ThinkProgress, “As residents of Arizona’s eighth congressional district cast ballots in a special election to replace former Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) in Congress, roughly 140,000 of them may be unaware they are eligible to vote because they did not receive the ID card the county is required to send them after they register.” Further,

According to the Arizona Republic, Maricopa County officials have not sent all voters the cards they can use to cast a ballot under Arizona’s voter ID law because of an issue with the company used to print the materials. The paper reports that just 60,000 ID cards have been mailed to people who recently registered or changed their registration, while about 140,000 have not been sent.

Adrian Fontes, the county recorder who oversees elections in Maricopa County, told ThinkProgress on Monday that he’s not concerned with what he sees as a “little hiccup in printing.”

Failing to provide 140,000 eligible voters their registration card in a race won by  about 9 thousand votes can not be accurately described as “a little hiccup.” Lerner elaborates,

Arizona was one of the first states in the country to enact a non-photo voter ID law when a ballot measure was approved by voters in November 2004. Under the law, the state must take steps to ensure that all eligible voters have an acceptable form of ID. According to the secretary of state’s office, “a county recorder must issue a voter ID card to any new registrant or an existing registrant who updates his or her name, address or political party preference.”

But because of an error by the company used to print the ID cards, they have not been mailed out since December.

We’ll never know what might have happened if Maricopa County had done it’s job. Yet, even as it is, the special election results don’t bode well for the Republicans across the nation, as well as the Arizona GOP’s fading hopes for holding the governorship and the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Jeff Flake.

States of Change conference held last week in Washington D.C.

Excerpt from the remarks of Matt Morrison, Executive Director of Working America, at the States of Change conference held last week in Washington D.C.

The changing demography of the country over the next 14 years that is revealed by the States of Change report shows us both how determinative the emerging populations of non-white voters are becoming in the electoral college, and how non-college white voters are still central to the electoral fortunes in a gerrymandered House and key US Senate and presidential battlegrounds.

But as the saying goes, demography is not destiny. Indeed, when Working America asked African American voters in Ohio why they thought there was such a steep drop in turnout from 2012 to 2016, the resounding response was “does it even matter.” In an era without a historic figure like Barack Obama on the ballot, Democrats should not expect the same level of participation and vote share from this bedrock constituency when neither party is making changes in the big concerns in their lives- education, affordable healthcare and quality employment opportunities.

But the GOP should also be sobered. There is no meaningful path to electoral success for the Republican Party without substantially over performing with non-college educated White voters. For Democrats, the irony, and opportunity, is that the very issues that concern people of color are also central to the future of these voters as well.

To see the video of Matt Morrison’s full presentation, Click HERE.

Wasserman: Dems Can Leverage GOP House Candidates ‘Risk Factors’

The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman identifies 7 key “risk factors” for Republican House candidates in the Midterm elections, including:

  1. Sits in a district with a Cook PVI score of R+5 or less Republican.
  2. Sits in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
  3. Received 55 percent of the vote or less in the 2016 election (or a 2017 special election).
  4. Voted in favor of the American Health Care Act in the May 4 roll call vote.
  5. Voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the December 19 roll call vote.
  6. Raised less money than at least one Democratic opponent in the first quarter of 2018.
  7. Has a Democratic opponent with at least $200,000 in cash on hand as of March 31.

Wasserman notes, further, “Only one incumbent, Rep. Steve Knight (CA-25), has all seven risk factors. Eight incumbents have six risk factors, 23 incumbents have five, 23 incumbents have four and 32 have three. This is not a hard and fast list, and over the next quarter, many incumbents will add or subtract factors based on their own and their opponents’ progress. ”

In addition, Wasserman adds that “Democrats have a donor enthusiasm edge: in the first quarter of 2018, at least 43 sitting Republicans were out-raised by at least one Democratic opponent.”

According to Wasserman, “Our latest ratings point to 56 vulnerable GOP-held seats, versus six vulnerable Democratic seats,” along with 18 Republicans in “toss-up” territory.

One of the interesting things about the “risk factors” is that they aren’t linked to opinion polling, which may appeal to (ahem) armchair analysts. The names with the risk factors will change somewhat over the next six months, and it would be instructive to compare predictive value of this template to the opinion polls, and also how well it performs together with polls, compared to polls alone.

Holzer Probes Challenge of Increasing Working-Class Earnings

Now that the pundits and political activists are more focused than ever before in the post-war period on the importance to Democrats of winning a larger share of white working-class voters (thanks in some measure to TDS efforts), the “how” question arises and demands some answers. Brookings Senior Fellow for Economic Studies Harry J. Holzer offers some policy ideas for increasing compensation of non-college workers of all races in his article, “Jobs for the working class: Raising earnings among non-college graduates,” which may prove helpful to Democraic campaigns. As Holzer writes,

Federal and state efforts to improve earnings among non-college educated Americans should focus on: 1) Improving education and skills programs at community colleges while incentivizing employers to create better jobs; 2) Raising job availability in depressed geographic regions; 3) Reducing barriers to work associated with opioids and criminal records; and 4) Strengthening work incentives by “making work pay“ in low-wage jobs and reforming income support programs like SSDI.

Holzer concedes that such an agenda would certainly require “significant new expenditures at both the federal and state levels.” He believes that “some actions, like efforts to spur employment in distressed regions, should grow slowly until more evidence is generated about their cost-effectiveness,” but “the overall package of policies outlined above should be implemented robustly.”

Regarding the degree of difficulty in implementing his agenda, he notes that “the federal fiscal outlook has been severely damaged in the past few months by the passage of reckless tax cuts as well as spending increases.” He leaves no doubt about the need to correct the GOP’s “extremely regressive” tax policy and  “rescinding some if not all tax cuts to allow new spending of the type outlined here…”

With the unemployment rate relatively low, it is important for Democrats to get out front on the need to reduce income inequality and boost the real wages of working-class voters of all races. Democratic candidates and campaign directors should give a thoughtful read to Holzer’s entire Brookings essay for starters.

Political Strategy Notes

Talk about ‘Clinton Derangement Syndrome,’ Associated Press reports that, eighteeen months after the 2016 election Hillary “Clinton Stars as Central Villain in GOP’s Midterm Strategy,” with big bucks being invested in ads ‘linking’ Democratic midterm candidates to her. What’s hard to understand is how Republicans think obsessing about HRC is going to win them any new votes in 2018, instead of branding the GOP as the yesterday party that is hopelessly constipated by their own misogyny. Yes, Republicans, by all means, invest vast sums of money, time and energy in a new round of Clinton-bashing, which will win you oodles of seats in the midterms.

The late Social Security and Medicare recipient, Ayn Rand still occupies a tender spot in the hardened hearts of Republican leadership, despite the fading fortunes of her acolyte, lame duck Paul Ryan. But a new, less atheistic guru has now arisen from the currents of modern conservative thought, reports Hugh Drochon at The Guardian: “American conservatives, especially among the country’s powerful Catholic minority (which includes six of the nine supreme court justices), have found a new champion for their cause in the Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen. His latest book, Why Liberalism Failed, has been critically acclaimed throughout the conservative press, with the prominent Harvard legal scholar Adrian Vermeule, himself a recent convert to Catholicism, declaring it a “triumph…Deneen never spells out exactly what these local communities might look like, but it’s clear that what he wants, in reality, is a return to “updated Benedictine forms” of Catholic monastic communities. Like many who share his worldview, Deneen believes that if people returned to such communities they would get back on a moral path that includes the rejection of gay marriage and premarital sex, two of Deneen’s pet peeves.”

In his syndicated column, “Where are the conservatives we need?,” E. J. Dionne also comments on the moral vacuum at the center of modern conservatism: “If conservatism in the United States has claimed to stand for anything, it is the idea that government authority should be limited. Conservatives regularly argue (especially when Democrats are in the White House) that the executive’s clout should be checked and that legitimate law enforcement authorities deserve our respect, particularly when they are investigating abuses of power…Any doubts that Republicanism and conservatism have given themselves over to one man, his whims and his survival were dispelled by the GOP’s use of the congressional oversight process to undermine a legitimate probe into a hostile power’s interference in our elections…There is an emptiness where problem-solving conservatism used to be…the corruption of American conservatism is the primary cause of our inability to have constructive debates that move us to resolve issues rather than ignore them…except for a small, honorable cadre of writers and think-tankers, the American right has taken itself out of the game. Our politics will remain broken as long as conservatism confines its energies to cutting taxes and defending a reckless president at all costs.”

From “America is still unprepared for a Russian attack on our elections” by The Washington Post Editorial Board: “As this year’s midterm elections approach, the country is still unprepared for another Russian attack on the vote, and President Trump continues to send mixed signals — at best — about what he would do if the Kremlin launched an even more aggressive interference campaign than the one that roiled the 2016 presidential race…In last month’s omnibus spending bill, Congress set aside more than $300 million for states to invest in hardening their election infrastructure. They have a lot to do. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks election technology and procedures nationwide, reports that most states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016…Beyond voting machines, there are softer targets that are more exposed to remote hacking, including electronic voting rolls, vote-tallying servers and state elections websites. These are the sorts of electronic resources that Russian hackers seem to have infiltrated in 2016. There is no evidence the hackers changed anything, but there is also no guarantee they will not try in the future.”

Jared Bernstein argues “Why Democrats must, for the sake of the future, repeal and replace the Republican tax cut,” and observes that “The tax bill obliterates the revenue needed to protect those hurt by globalization and technological change. As we speak, conservatives are trying to disassemble the safety net and impose work requirements, regardless of whether remunerative work is available or feasible. Now that they’ve shifted revenue from the Treasury to their donor base, they are arguing that we can’t afford social insurance programs…Deficit spending can relieve the tension for a while. But, eventually, the tax cut, unless it is reversed, will erode the policy insulation that must both provide meaningful opportunity to those on the wrong side of the inequality divide and prevent the rigging of the system. Because once the system is rigged, rest assured that Trump-like characters will promise that its de-rigging depends on global insulation and nationalist racial/immigration policies…the opposition party must make repealing and replacing the tax cuts its top priority. And it must understand the point of doing so is not to cut taxes for those with less means, but to help those hurt by forces beyond their control to reconnect to the broader economy, which has long left them behind.”

“It’s been just 17 months since the election, and we have a completely new consensus among Democratic politicians,” Paul Waldman writes at The Plum Line. “A group of Democratic senators led by Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) has introduced the Choose Medicare Act, which would open up Medicare to anyone who wants it and isn’t already eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Individuals could get it through the exchanges and employers could put their employees on it instead of private insurance. In its basic structure, it’s extremely similar to the Medicare Extra For All plan put out by the Center for American Progress, the most influential liberal think tank. There’s also a plan to allow states to create a buy-in to Medicaid introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and a Medicare-X Choice Act from Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) still has his Medicare for All plan, which differs from these in that they emphasize that it would be voluntary, and private insurance would stay around as long as it can compete…These plans are not identical, and the details do matter — about how it’ll be structured, what will be covered, how it’ll be paid for, and so on. But the basic idea seems to have been decided. Here’s the most succinct summary I can offer: Open up an existing government health insurance program, either Medicare or Medicaid, to anyone who wants it…But even if we don’t have a consensus among Democratic policy wonks, we’re getting awfully close to a consensus among Democratic politicians, on that one basic idea.”

Trump is a fount of political distractions. But it may be that one that he can’t control could end up helping him, as Ronald Brownstein explains in his article “Why Stormy Daniels Poses a Problem for Democrats: The intense media focus on President Trump’s personal dramas hurts the party’s ability to sell its message to the voters it needs most” in The Atlantic. “As Brownstein concludes, “as in 2016, personal doubts about the president may not prove disqualifying for enough voters to provide Democrats a winning majority. By contrast, even without much media focus in recent weeks, polls show that most Americans now tilt slightly negative on the GOP tax plan and slightly positive on preserving the ACA. The election results in November are much more likely to turn on which side wins the arguments over those policies than on whether slightly more or fewer Americans than today consider Trump unfit for the presidency. In other words: For a sunny outcome this fall, Democrats probably need more health care and taxes—and less Comey and Stormy.” See Ed Kilgore’s take just below on Brownstein’s article, and note also Ruy Teixeira Facebook post, “Ron Brownstein has this exactly right in my opinion.

There is plenty of hand-wringing about whether or not young people will actually vote in November. “The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February sparked a renewed interest in gun control, with students who survived the attack leading rallies, marches, walkouts and campaigns for gun legislation. People across the country, and the world, participated in hundreds of events demanding action on gun violence…Now, leaders are hoping the momentum from the March for Our Lives movement will lead to a more enduring next phase: getting young people to the voting booth in November, an effort to change not just policy in Washington, but the people who set it,” writes Katie Zezima at The Washington Post. “NextGen America, a liberal advocacy group founded by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, and gun-control advocacy groups Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety have announced an initiative aimed at getting 50,000 teenagers registered to vote ahead of the midterm elections in November…Groups from around the country are hosting voter drives at high schools and colleges, including during widespread school walkouts on Friday, the anniversary of the 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School. They are setting up voter-registration tables at gun-control marches and are working to galvanize the nation’s youngest voters around a single issue…The groups plan to mail voter-registration forms to 18- and 19-year-olds on their birthdays, target them with online voter-registration ads and, where legal, preregister 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. The focus will be on students who will reach legal voting age by Election Day 2018.”

It appears that one controversial reform is rapidly gaining traction with both parties, according to “Democrats say looser marijuana laws attract young voters, and some Republicans are catching on” by Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim. The authors write “As they gear up for the fall campaign, both parties are trying to energize their bases to turn out at the polls. For Democrats, who have embraced the most liberal platform in decades, marijuana reform is another issue they hope will enliven their core voters…“This motivates young people because it’s a question of freedom, of justice,” said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, part of a younger, more liberal generation of Democratic lawmakers…The percentage of Americans who support legalizing marijuana is nearly double what it was in 2000, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the fall. The poll showed a partisan divide, with most Democrats favoring legalization and a majority of Republicans opposed. But younger Republicans saw legalization as much more favorable than older Republicans…Former House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) recently joined the board of advisers for a company that cultivates and dispenses cannabis. Boehner was previously an opponent of decriminalizing marijuana…Recreational marijuana is legal for adults in nine states and the District. One of those states is Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner secured a major concession from the Trump administration last week…The White House said Trump will get behind legislative efforts to protect states that have legalized marijuana, even though that collides with the approach favored by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

Do White Working Class Voters Care That Much About Comey and Stormy?

During a week that featured a heavy dose of Trump scandal coverage, one of my favorite journalists, Ron Brownstein, wondered how it was all going over in different demographic groups. It was an important enough of a question that I wrote about it at New York:

[A] lot of things about the man who became the 45th president that worry upscale Republicans (and their elite #NeverTrump representatives) just don’t matter as much to the white working-class folk who have provided Trump’s sturdiest base of support. Some of it may have to do with news consumption habits: If you watch Fox News rather than read National Review, you got a very different impression of the options available to conservative-leaning voters in 2016.

It’s also entirely possible that white working-class voters are more cynical than their more highly educated counterparts about the moral tone of politicians who are not named Trump; “They’re all crooks” is a pretty common sentiment in those circles. In any event, this is a question that is not important strictly as a matter of retrospectively figuring out how a man of Trump’s character and background managed to get himself elected in the first place; as Ron Brownstein observes, it may well determine the political impact of the continuing Trump scandals we are hearing about nearly every day:

“All three national polls released this week placed Trump’s approval rating among whites without a college degree below his commanding two-thirds in 2016. But he remained positive with those voters overall, and in each survey they preferred Republicans over Democrats for Congress by at least 13 percentage points. That’s despite last week’s nonstop news about Comey’s new book; the continued sparring between Trump and Daniels, the adult film star; and the FBI’s raid on Cohen, the president’s longtime ‘fixer.'”

Trump is taking much more of a beating among college-educated white voters, who are also an important part of his coalition, and that’s not surprising. They are to some extent Comey voters:

“Comey embodies precisely the voters the GOP has been shedding under this president—even despite his unusually personal reasons to recoil from a Trump-led party. The former FBI director, after all, is a white man with a post-graduate education who’s long leaned Republican.”

Brownstein thinks this is a problem for Democrats not just because white working-class voters are relatively indifferent to evidence that Trump is a little bit piggy and a little bit thuggy. The saturation media coverage of the president’s scandals is also interfering with anti-Trump messaging about his broken promises to precisely this element of the electorate. To put it bluntly, if all these voters hear is the familiar tale they’ve heard for years about Trump’s womanizing and shady business practices, they may not hear more compelling information about Trump selling them out to Wall Street and gorging himself and his rich friends on the perks of public office.

A vote is a vote, of course, and losses among college-educated voters may (particularly if supplemented by less dramatic losses among non-college-educated voters) be enough to give Trump a black eye and Democrats control of the U.S. House. But as Brownstein notes, a significant erosion of support among Trump’s white working-class base could represent the difference between a modest and a large Democratic victory: “For a sunny outcome this fall, Democrats probably need more health care and taxes—and less Comey and Stormy.”

As we continue to absorb data on the larger-than-originally-realized size of the white working-class portion of the electorate, this is a dynamic worth watching closely. As much as the chattering classes may marvel at the ever-increasing evidence of the president’s corruption, outrage doesn’t earn the outraged any extra votes.

Greenberg: Mid-terms Can Launch New Era of Progressive Reform

In Stan Greenberg’s article, “How the US mid-terms could kickstart a new era of progressive reform” at Prospect, he provides an optimistic scenario for Democrats:November’s vote will almost certainly kick off a new progressive era of reform, much like the cluster of elections, starting with the 1910 mid-terms, which launched America’s first progressive era.” Further,

A new American majority has been growing now for some time. It is composed of black people, Hispanics and Asians, unmarried women and millennials. Already by the 2012 election, these Americans collectively comprised 53 per cent of the electorate, rising to 54 per cent by 2016, and by 2020 this majority should reach 56 per cent. What I labelled the “rising American electorate” was poised in 2016 to form part of a progressive coalition with the growing number of well-educated suburban voter and college-educated women, while also running respectably with white working class women. That coalition should have readily defeated Trump and put Democrats in power.

Yet, as Greenberg has noted eslewhere, Hillary Clinton’s failure to campaign energetically in white working class communities in Pennsylvania, Florida and the midwestern rustbelt proved a pivotal mistake, as Trump got enough votes in those areas to win the Electoral College. Greenberg believes both Clinton and Obama failed to “understand what was happening in America and the deep, persistent resentments caused by the financial crisis after 2008.”

With benefit of hindsight, Obama could have been tougher on the financial elites and helped to strengthen the Democrats’s brand as the party of working people. He was able to get re-elected anyway, thanks to his strong appeal to African American voters and his ability to win a larger share of white working-class voters than did Clinton, who had lost credibility with this consituency as a result of her associations with wealthy elites and decades of hammering GOP’s attacks on her character. As Greenberg explains,

Their own constituency of voters—and the US public more broadly—was incensed by the continued corporate dominance of American life. They were disgusted by over-paid CEOs who had betrayed their employees and their country, and by the corruption of Wall Street and Washington that rigged the political game, even as wages and wealth had crashed for most Americans. Obama bailed out the banks and auto industry and guaranteed the bosses’ bonuses, but did nothing for homeowners. Nobody went to jail.

Despite all of the impressive achievements of President Obama, including saving the economy from an all-out depression and the most significant health care reform since President Johnson, Obama was unable to provide the leadership needed to adequately strengthen Democratic credibility with the white working-class. To be fair, he faced the most intransigent Republican leadership in a generation, who refused all compromises, with their stated purpose of limiting his accomplishments. As a result,

Democrats lost among white working class voters in 2010 by 64 to 34 per cent, and by a similar margin among white seniors. They also failed to dominate sections of the vote where they should have cleaned up. Republicans won over 40 per cent of votes among millennials and unmarried women. Critically, turnout in these groups dropped or stayed flat in comparison to previous mid-term years.

In 2018, however, Greenberg argues that Democrats have a unique opportunity, because “All the ingredients that gave the Republicans a 2010 Tea Party wave are poised to produce a Democratic 2018 wave, with similar implications for Congress and state and local offices. These are the building blocks of a durable majority.” Greenberg notes further,

In the 2017 special elections, as well as in our most recent national polls, support for Democrats has reached over 90 per cent with African Americans, 65 per cent with Hispanics, 67 per cent with unmarried women and 75 per cent with millennial women. For all of them, the battle with Trump and Tea Party Republicans has made clear what they believe, what values are at stake and how much politics matters.

It sounds like a winning formula is shaping up nicely for Democrats. Assuming the “resistance” energy can be mobilized into turning out the voters who now see the Republicans as the party of wealthy elites who are ripping off working families, Greenberg’s informed analysis looks like a very good bet: “The coming wave could wipe away the Tea Party wave and counter-revolution. And that will mark the beginning of a new era of reform.”

If Trump Is Reelected in 2020, It Would Be An Even Bigger Surprise Than His 2016 Election

There was some buzz this week about the possibility that Trump might have an easier time getting reelected in 2020 than we’ve generally assumed. I looked at some historical precedents and offered a take at New York:

The belief that 2017 to 2021 is the danger zone for really serious Trumpian damage to the republic has lent some additional urgency to the Democratic drive for a big midterm victory that will neuter Trump until such time as he departs — voluntarily or under compulsion — the White House, cursing and boasting at every step.

Reinforcing this one-term assumption is the remarkable number of Republicans who will not commit to supporting Trump’s reelection, despite the GOP’s largely supine surrender to his takeover of their party.

But Kyle Kondik of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has published a warning to the complacent based on predictive models (mostly drawn from international samples) that suggest the power of incumbency is a bigger factor in reelection contests than is normally believed.

“[A]ssuming Trump is on the ballot, and assuming his approval rating stays around the 40% mark, it would probably be wrong to assume he’s an underdog for reelection. That’s not to say he would be a sure winner, but he wouldn’t be a sure loser, either.”

Placing a higher-than-normal value on incumbency has the benefit of helping explain why Trump managed to win in 2016: There was no Democratic incumbent, and moreover, it was (to use the title of political scientist Alan Abramowitz’s model, which predicted a Trump win) “Time for a Change,” since Democrats had held the White House for two terms. Here’s Abramowitz’s general take on how incumbency matters initially and then erodes as a party continues to hold the presidency:

“[C]andidates running for reelection after only one term in the White House enjoy a substantial advantage. In fact, in the past hundred years there has been only one election in which a party lost the White House after only one term — the 1980 election in which Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan. After two or more terms in the White House, however, it appears that this advantage disappears. Even if the incumbent president is a candidate, there is no incumbency advantage in third or later term elections. As a result, these third or later term elections tend to be highly competitive. And of course 2016 is another third term election.”

And 2020 is another second-term election — the kind an incumbent party rarely loses.

That’s one way to look at the historical record. But there are others.

Jimmy Carter wasn’t just the only second-term incumbent to lose; he was also the only one (since the 1940s, when presidential-approval-rating polls became available) to have Trump-like approval numbers. According to Gallup, here are the preelection job-approval numbers for presidents facing voters after their party had just one term holding the White House: Eisenhower ’56: 68 percent; Johnson ’64: 74 percent; Nixon ’72: 56 percent; Reagan ’84: 58 percent; Bush ’04: 53 percent; Obama ’12: 51 percent. Carter’s final job-approval number before the 1980 election was 37 percent.

Using the same source (Gallup), Trump’s highest approval rating was registered on the week of his inauguration, at 45 percent. Unlike his predecessors, his approval ratings appear to have a very limited range. So it is not at all clear, unless you really value non-U.S. examples, that Trump would be an even bet for reelection if he doesn’t become more popular.

There are, of course, four crucial variables we cannot possibly know this far away from the 2020 election: the possibility of a disabling scandal like the one that swept away Richard Nixon’s presidency less than two years after he carried 49 states; the performance of the economy (crucial to many reelections); the possibility of intra-party opposition (Johnson ’68, Ford ’76, Carter ’80, and Bush ’92 were all incumbent candidacies damaged badly by primary opposition); and the identity of the Democratic nominee.

You’d have to say at this moment that Trump’s reelection prospects are most definitely threatened by ever-emerging scandals, a likely pre-2020 economic downturn, and a Democratic opponent not as thoroughly unpopular as Hillary Clinton was in 2016. A primary opponent is less likely unless Trump otherwise looks like a loser.

On top of everything else, it’s worth remembering that Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by more than two percentage points, winning basically the same percentage that big-time loser John McCain won in 2008. Yes, he won the electoral college via the political equivalent of an inside straight, but pulling that off a second time is significantly less likely.

Anyone would be foolish to write off Trump’s reelection prospects entirely. But even with the advantages of incumbency, he’s going to have to do a lot better than he has so far to stay in the White House beyond 2021. And the sense that this strange man is never more than an inch from the political precipice is not entirely the product of his critics’ wishful thinking.

Political Strategy Notes

In her Vox post, “Democrats now have 5 competing plans to expand government health care.” Sarah Kliff explains, the plans include:”A Medicare-for-all bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders…A Medicare buy-in bill from Sens. Tim Kaine and Michael Bennet…A Medicaid buy-in bill from Sen. Brian Schatz…A Medicare “extra”-for-all proposal from the Center for American Progress, an influential liberal think tank that has strong ties to Clinton-land…This new Medicare buy-in bill from Sens. Murphy and Merkley.” Kliff adds, “when I had a chance to discuss this with Sens. Murphy and Merkley Tuesday, they made the case that health care will definitely be a top item in the party’s agenda — that Democrats will return to the issue that defined the early 2010s….“There is no question we’ll have to act,” says Murphy. “It’s the No. 1 issue in America. The polls are clear.” Read the article fopr more detail about the five bills.

At The Plum Line, Helaine Olen’s “Memo to Democrats: A progressive economic agenda is popular” provides one oif the best interpretations of the new CAP study: “…A new report released today by the Center for American Progress makes a convincing argument, using extensive polling data, that this divide does not need to exist. As it turns out, in many cases, voters — both college educated and working class, and of all races — are in favor of an economic agenda that would offer them broader protections whether it comes to work, sickness or retirement…The polling shows that workers across race support similar views on economic policy issues,” said David Madland, the co-author of the report, entitled “The Working-Class Push for Progressive Economic Policies.” “They support a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and more spending on healthcare and retirement. There is broad support among workers for progressive economic policy.” Among the findings: “Spending more government money on retirement draws wide support, with 52 percent of college-educated workers, 64 percent of the white working class, 78 percent of the black working class and 72 percent of the Hispanic working class saying they would like to see this…When it comes to health care, 63 percent of college-educated workers, 64 percent of the white working class, 84 percent of the black working class and 77 percent of Hispanic workers agree say the government should increase, and not decrease, spending…Paid family leave is supported by 73 percent of college-educated workers, 69 percent of the white working class, 72 percent of the black working class and 63 percent of the Hispanic working class…This shows that it’s possible to make economic issues front and center in a campaign platform in a way that doesn’t just talk to working class whites and dismisses the concerns of female and minority voters. It also shows that the oft-discussed dilemma among Democrats — whether to prioritize college educated voters or working class ones — may be a false choice…Indeed, a progressive economic agenda can talk to all of these groups and bridge the gap between them.”

A new  poll from “NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist shows that 47 percent of registered voters say they would definitely vote against a candidate for Congress who proposed impeaching Trump, compared to 42 percent who said they would definitely vote for that candidate. One in ten voters were unsure…While Democrats and Republicans remained mostly in their partisan corners, with 70 percent of Democrats saying they would definitely vote for a candidate who favored impeachment and 84 percent of Republicans saying they’d do the opposite, independents were opposed to supporting a pro-impeachment candidate, 47 percent to 42 percent…That finding comes even as independents say they have an unfavorable view of Trump overall by almost a 2-1 margin.” – From “Poll finds risks for Democrats toying with impeachment promise

“Former attorney general Eric Holder is now in charge of a Democratic organization dedicated to overturning Republican gerrymanders, but that doesn’t mean he wants to replace them with districts drawn to favor Democrats, he said Tuesday,” writes Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. “Holder’s committee says that electing Democrats is one part of its four-part strategy to end gerrymandering, which also includes challenging gerrymanders in court, engaging voters in the redistricting process and enacting state-level reforms to ensure fairer congressional maps. It’s that last part — changing laws about redistricting — that independent experts say is key to mitigating gerrymandering. In most states, redistricting is handled like any other piece of legislation, with partisan lawmakers drawing maps that are subject to a governor’s veto.” Ingraham adds, “A number of states, such as California, Arizona and New Jersey, have opted to put the redistricting process in the hands of an independent commission. Researchers have found that districts drawn by independent panels tend to be more competitive and show less partisan skew than those drawn by politicians.”

Steve Bousquet reports at The Tampa Bay Times that Florida Governor “Rick Scott has made enemies over voting rights during the last eight years,” and it is likely to be a significant issue in his campaign for the U.S. Senate. As Bousquet writes, “In the nation’s largest swing state, Scott’s actions on voting have angered county election supervisors, the League of Women Voters, college students and federal judges, one of whom recently dismantled Florida’s system of restoring voting rights to convicted felons…The courts have repeatedly ruled against Florida in voting cases, including the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who ordered Scott to create a new process to restore felons’ voting rights…Under Scott, Florida had the longest lines at early voting sites of any state, creating indelible images of obstacles to voting in 2012, the year President Barack Obama won re-election…That was a year after Scott signed the Legislature’s notorious House Bill 1355 that created new barriers to registering voters and curtailed early voting times…It also ended early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, a practice known as “souls to the polls” that helped churches mobilize African-Americans, who support Democrats.” Bousquet’s article may be the most thorough piece yet written about Scott’s lengthy record of voter supression, and Florida Democrats should circulate it widely.

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore writes that a “New Arizona Poll Shows Another Special Election Upset Is a Possibility” in Arizona’s 8th congressional district. “A new poll of district voters by Emerson College shows Democrat Hiral Tipirneni leading Republican state senator Debbie Lesko by a 46-45 margin…The only two previous public polls of this race showed Lesko leading by double digits. But the early polling in Pennsylvania’s 18th showed the Republican leading, too; it was Emerson College, as it happens, that first showed the Democratic winner Conor Lamb taking the lead.” However, notes Kilgore, “Republicans have a 17-point advantage in party registration in Arizona’s eighth, while Democrats held a 6-point advantage in the Pennsylvania district.” The special election will take place on April 24th.

Thing are also getting interesting in another sunbelt state, this one in the deep south. As Josh Voorhees reports in his post, “Mississippi’s Senate Free-for-All Starts to Look Like a Two-Person Race” at slate.com, “With two candidates from each party, and no primary to winnow the field, Mississippi’s special election for a U.S. Senate seat could get very messy between now and November. But for now, at least, the two party favorites appear to be firmly in control…A new poll out Tuesday, the first since the field expanded to four candidates earlier this month, found a 20-percentage-point gap between the two establishment favorites and their intra-party rivals in the race to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran. The Y’all Politics survey shows Democrat Mike Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith—who was appointed to the seat earlier this month—in a virtual tie, with 33.1 percent and 33 percent support respectively, followed by Republican Chris McDaniel at 13 percent and Democrat Jason Shelton at 8 percent…If no candidate gets 50 percent on Election Day, which seems likely, then the race will be decided in a runoff. The pollsters found Hyde-Smith with a 6 point advantage in a hypothetical head-to-head with Espy, 42 percent to 36 percent. If McDaniel were to qualify, Espy’s lead grows to 19 points—43 percent to 24 percent. (The poll did not provide a margin-of-error, but it’s likely that Hyde-Smith’s lead on Espy is within or at least near it.).”

Some encouraging polling data from the Muhlenberg College Institue of Public Opinion/Morning Call 2018 Midterm Election Survey: “With about 7 months remaining before the 2018 elections Democratic candidates are in strong positions across an array of races within Pennsylvania…In a generic ballot in the midterm congressional elections in Pennsylvania the state’s voters are leaning towards Democrats over Republican candidates with 47% of voters preferring the Democrat in their district compared with 38% supporting a Republican.” Asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the tax reform law that was passed by Congress and signed by the President in December?,” 39 percent of respondents approved, 46 percent disapproved and 15 percent were “not sure.” Asked, “Do you favor or oppose building along the U.S. Mexico border to try and stop illegal immigration?,”  37 percewnt said they favored the measure,  57 percent were oppoes and 6 percent were “not sure.”

The New Yorker staff writer Margaret Talbot sheds light on “The Women Running in the Midterms During the Trump Era: This year’s wave of female candidates has some striking features besides its sheer size.” Talbot writes, “our hundred and seventy-two women have entered the race for the House this year, which is a lot of women. Fifty-seven women have filed or are likely to file their candidacies for the Senate. A useful comparison is to 2012, which marked the last big wave of female candidates: two hundred and ninety-eight ran for the House, thirty-six for the Senate. The number of women likely running for governor this year, seventy-eight, is a record high. The majority of female candidates in 2018 are Democrats, so it seems safe to conclude that many of them are fuelled by frustration, not to say fury, with Donald Trump…There is also a great deal of diversity within the group. It includes more women of color than previous electoral years, as well as a number of immigrants. There are more female veterans in the mix than we’ve seen before, and they’re representing both sides of the aisle…The last time women challenged the overwhelming gender imbalance among elected officials this forcefully was in 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman. Twenty-four women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives that year—the largest group of women ever to enter the House in a single election. The number of women in the Senate tripled—though because there had only been three to begin with, the resulting total wasn’t exactly a throng.