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

August 20, 2017

Political Strategy Notes

Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff, & Olivia Myszkowski explain why “Absent a MoreProgressive Economics, the Democrats Will Lose” at The American Prospect/Democratic Strategist roundtable on ‘The White Working Class and the Democrats’: “…Too many times, our party has been guilty not just of sins of omission—failing to stand up to the Republicans on critical issues, or even providing the GOP cover in some cases (as when some congressional Democrats supported the Bush tax cuts and the war in Iraq)—but of commission, too. The Obama administration’s embrace of the financial industry early in his first term, combined with its decision not to prosecute any of the individuals and institutions responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, led to a new low point in the Democratic Party’s credibility as a check on Wall Street. In the 2010 midterm elections, voters who blamed Wall Street for the country’s economic problems preferred Republican candidates by a margin of 16 points, despite the Democratic Party’s efforts to deliver a message against Wall Street special interests…Given this reality, it is not particularly surprising that the party has yet to articulate a clearer, more credible, and more commanding vision for the economic revitalization of the country, the middle class, and, more specifically, the hollowed-out communities in which many white working class voters struggle.”

In the same forum, Guy Molyneux, partner and senior vice president at Peter Hart Research Associates, writes, “…Trump will lose ground if and when white working-class voters see that he is not delivering for them, and is in fact serving others. Democrats must aggressively contest Trump’s core promise to the white working class: that he is putting the government to work for them. Much of Trump’s actual agenda is of course devoted to helping millionaires and large corporations. Our job is to make it impossible for working-class Americans to miss, or deny, that reality…In terms of a broader message, Democrats’ traditional economic populism offers a starting point, but we need to also borrow a bit from Trump’s playbook. We must speak not only about inequality and unfairness in our economy, but also about politicians who use their political power on behalf of corporations and the wealthy…We now have a tremendous opportunity to leverage public disgust with government, while focusing it on its proper target: Republicans’ determination to use government power to enrich the rich and empower the powerful. ”

“We need to start winning the trust of working-class voters through year-round, in-person engagement,” writes Matt Morrison, the deputy director of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO,” also at the roundtable on The White Working Class and the Democrats. “In those conversations and subsequent communications efforts, we need to change the narrative so voters’ frustrations are refocused on the appropriate targets instead of on other working-class people who are different from them. By doing so, we can defuse right-wing messages that target “others” and negate demands for racial justice….We must engage voters with face-to-face conversations that are as much about listening as talking. It’s this kind of organizing that persuades the skeptical and mobilizes the committed. As Andrew Cockburn has noted in Harper’s Magazine, “Of all the ways to get people to come out and vote tested by the academics, one emerged as the absolute gold standard. Talking to them face-to-face, the longer the better, turned out to have a dramatic effect. … [T]he effect is infinitely more cost-effective than any traditional media-heavy approach.””

The McCaskill Smackdown:

In his PowerPost article, “Inspired by Sanders, activists push Democrats to the left — or out of the way,” David Weigel notes an important distinction between two different kinds of populism:  “Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a freshman who has become the face of the Justice Democrats political action group, which was set up to beat “corporate” incumbents in primaries, said there was such a thing as too much negativity…“There’s a populism that goes after a villain, and there’s a populism that’s aspirational,” Khanna said. “Aspirational populism cuts across the party. It means talking about single-payer health care. It means the bill I’m working on with [Sen.] Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio] to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Six months ago, people said that was crazy. And now everyone who might run in 2020 is calling and asking if they can endorse it.”

Ronald Browstein writes at The Atlantic: “If the continued decline of blue-collar whites is the principal warning sign for Republicans in the new figures, the red light flashing most brightly at Democrats is the disappointing turnout among minorities. Though Trump presented a uniquely polarizing and provocative foil, the Census figures showed that turnout in 2016 sagged among Hispanics and skidded among African Americans….Among Hispanics, the States of Change analysis found that turnout declined slightly among those with a college education (down from nearly 71 percent in 2012 to just over 68 percent in 2016) and among those without (from just under 44 percent last time to just under 43 percent this time). Overall, the Census put total Hispanic turnout at just under 48 percent, which is within the narrow range of 47 percent to 50 percent over the past four presidential elections that has frustrated Democrats hoping for larger gains and greater impact.” — from Ron Brownstein’s article ..The most positive sign for Democrats was state-level Census data showing Hispanic turnout surging in Arizona and improving somewhat more modestly in Nevada and Colorado, all states where the party made a significant organizational effort. (Surprisingly, the Census data show Hispanic turnout declining from 2012 in Florida and slipping modestly in Virginia and North Carolina.)…In 2016, turnout sagged to about 73 percent among college-educated African Americans (down from nearly 80 percent in 2012) and to about 56 percent among those without degrees (down from over 63 percent in 2016). Overall, the Census data showed turnout among eligible African Americans dropped fully 7 percentage points from 2012 to 2016, the biggest drop over a single election for the group since at least 1980. In the battlegrounds that tipped the election to Trump, state-level Census data show black turnout plummeting in Wisconsin; skidding in North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio; and declining more modestly in Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Those who are concerned about the deployment of pro-Republican groups to provoke physical confrontations and intimidation of Democratic voters should check out “Bikers for Trump dip toe into local politics with Handel-Ossoff contest” by Tamar Hallerman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As Hallerman writes, “It wasn’t exactly your typical Saturday afternoon sight in this sleepy Sandy Plains neighborhood: almost a dozen barrel-chested, leather-clad bikers — led by a quartet of clean-cut high school students, no less — going door to door asking if these 6th District voters plan to support Republican Karen Handel…“We’re here to put Karen Handel where she needs to be,” one of the bikers told a voter at his front door, “in D.C. supporting President Trump.”…So members of the group – some from as far as Florida – dropped in on a Handel campaign event Saturday at Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q in Marietta. The contrast in style was striking: Handel, sporting boat shoes and a white collared shirt, shaking hands with the bikers, clad in leather vests with patches stating “all my ammo is dipped in pig’s blood…“This is not about Karen Handel. It’s about the Republican Party,” said Strzalkowski. “We support Karen Handel because she supports President Trump.”

At FiveThirtyEight.com Harry Enten explains why “Democrats Have A Slight Edge In The Georgia 6 Runoff But the race is too close to call,” noting that “The race remains too close to call. Ossoff’s lead is slim, especially given the past accuracy of special House election polling, and we simply don’t know what to expect voter turnout to be in Round 2 compared with Round 1. Still, it’s significant that Ossoff has maintained and even widened his lead as voters make up their minds, because it suggests that undecided voters aren’t overwhelmingly Republican. It’s possible that Handel will pick up the vast majority of the remaining undecided voters in the campaign’s final days, but there’s no reason to expect that to happen… If the current polling holds, Handel’s just a normal polling error away from winning — but she, not Ossoff, needs that error. Either way, this one’s probably going down to the wire.”

“If Republicans don’t act fast, Democrats will pitch their plan for single-payer, universal health care as a choice between something that costs individuals less vs. more, that is simpler vs. more complicated, that leads to greater equality vs. more inequality,” writes freaked out Republican strategist Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. “Republicans should be on the lookout. While we try to muddle through repealing and replacing Obamacare, Democrats are sharpening their message on health care. In their race to the left, Democrats are increasingly calling for a full-fledged single-payer system. And considering Republican credibility on repeal-and-replace is damaged, if not shot, the Democrats’ message will be compelling to a lot of voters who sense nothing but confusion from the GOP. The momentum is shifting, and the stakes are getting higher for Republicans…And in this fight, Republicans cannot just become the party of no. If Republicans fail to stand up and speak with clarity, we may be forced to defend the remnants of Obamacare as the best option to ward off socialized medicine. The public senses confusion, and the Democrats sense an opportunity. Time is running out.”

GOP Attacks on Ossoff Grow Savage As He Moves Ahead in GA-06 Polls

I used to live in the Sixth Congressional District of Georgia. I can assure you the people of that suburban area have never seen a political fight quite like the special election runoff contest between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff. I offered an update at New York this week:

Ossoff has led Republican Karen Handel in all four public polls released since the April 18 first round. The latest, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, shows the Democrat up 51 percent to 44 among likely voters.

Early voting in the district is looking significantly stronger than it was in the first round, with nearly 70,000 votes cast already, and a trajectory of perhaps 100,000. Ossoff handily won among the 55,000 early voters in the primary, when the total vote was only 159,000. So this could be another good sign for him, although, as Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman says: “The extraordinary pace has Republicans optimistic they’ve awoken their dormant base.”

Lord knows they are trying. Earlier pro-Handel ads from national GOP groups focused on linking Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi, depicting the whole Ossoff campaign as a stealth effort to give San Francisco another congressman. The idea was to remind sixth-district Republicans that the mild-mannered, bipartisan-sounding young man was in fact a Democrat. But now anti-Ossoff ads have taken on a frantic urgency and some of the most over-the-top mischaracterizations of an opponent in living memory. The fake-Trump-beheading Kathy Griffin (who offered an unsolicited endorsement of Ossoff in a tweet not long ago but otherwise has no connection to the campaign or to the candidate) has replaced Pelosi as the demon-figure, as in a new ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The message, which is about as subtle as a 5 a.m. jackhammer, is that any Republican who doesn’t bother to vote against Ossoff will be enabling “childish radicals” (an allusion to Ossoff’s youth, which apparently makes him suspiciously similar to the window-smashing anarchists in the ad) to destroy the country. The ad even mentions President Trump, which Team Handel has generally avoided in this district he only won by a single point last year. The capper is a quick, grainy image of Griffin high-fiving a young man. It’s actually fake-Trump-beheading photographer Tyler Shields, but in the flash of a moment he could sure pass for Jon Ossoff. It should be reasonably clear Republicans are counting on older voters to win this thing.

The two candidate debates (there could be more, though none have been confirmed) have been largely wonky affairs punctuated by Handel stressing Ossoff’s inexperience and residency outside the district and Ossoff calling Handel a “career politician.” Handel did make one gaffe in the first debate, saying she didn’t support a “livable wage,” but that was probably not a game changer in this wealthy, conservative district.

With the airwaves super-saturated from now until June 20, the outcome of this election probably depends on the ground game. One theory about why early voting is so high is simply that voters want to get off the campaigns’ contact lists and stop the constant phone calls and knocks on the door, which are occurring at levels Georgians have never before experienced. The silence after June 20 will be deafening.

Vanden Heuval: Time is Ripe for Medicare for All

In her Washington Post column “Time for Democrats to unite around Medicare for all,” Katrina vanden Heuval calls on progressives to press the case for universal health insurance:

As complicated as health care is, the case against Trump’s health-care bill is simple. Trump promised to provide “insurance for everybody”; the American Health Care Act passed by the House last month would cause 23 million Americans to lose their coverage. Trump promised not to cut Medicaid; the AHCA would slash more than $800 billion from the program. Trump promised to protect people with preexisting conditions; the AHCA would allow discrimination against such patients. As National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro put it, Republicans are essentially proposing “a 21st Century version of ‘Lord of the Flies.’

For Democrats, opposing Trump’s plan, which a measly 8 percent of Americans support in its current form, is a no-brainer. But with health care emerging as the American people’s top concern , according to recent polls, Democrats would be wise to seize the moment, go on the offensive and rally around a bold alternative to the Republican Party’s backward vision. It’s time for progressives and Democrats to unite behind Medicare for all.

Under a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, the United States would join virtually every other Western country in recognizing health care as a fundamental right and providing insurance for every citizen. It would reduce the burden on employers, which bear the brunt of the cost of insurance today, and it would bring down overall health-care costs because Medicare is more efficient than for-profit private insurance…

Public opinion data indicate that majority support for such a system has arrived. As vanden Heuval writes,

Contrary to how it is often portrayed, this is not some left-wing fantasy but an idea with widespread across-the-aisle support. An April survey from the Economist/YouGov showed that 60 percent of Americans support “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American,” including a majority of independents and nearly half of self-identified Republicans. Likewise, a Gallup poll conducted last month found that a majority of Americans would like to see a single-payer system implemented. (Given how deeply Medicare is woven into the fabric of our society, I prefer the term “Medicare for all” over the wonky “single-payer.”)

The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, but far short of the broader health security that would be provided by a universal, single-payer, Medicare for all system. Americans are ready for serious health care reforms. But the Republicans have shown they can’t deliver it. Democrats now have a unique opportunity to lead the way forward.

Perhaps the best reason reason to energize a ‘Medicare for all’ movement is that it will literally save lives, help millions of Americans to heal more quickly and prevent a lot of unnecessay illnesses. Every day of delay exacts a heavy cost in lives lost and Americans staying sick longer than necessary. And toward what end — bigger profits for health insurance companies?

Health care is the central, progressive reform — the one that is most urgently-needed for a thriving democratic society. It’s the reform that can re-inspire the confidence of citizens in their government. It can also position the Democratic Party as the most credible choice for voters who believe we can do better.

Universal health security is a simple, easy to understand principle, and Medicare for all is the most credible way to get it. It is an easier sell than yet another set of ‘reforms’ in a for-profit system. Many who believe in economic competition and a strong private sector also understand that taking the profit motive out of our health insurance system is really the only way to cover everyone.

Some may argue that Medicare for all is a radical reform that will scare a lot of voters. Which voters? Not those who have no health insurance. Not those who are paying too much out-of-pocket for skimpy coverage. Not those who are fed up with the ever-increasing premiums of for-profit unsurance companies.

There is some legislation already pending, as vanden Heuval reports:

A bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) in the House has 112 co-sponsors, representing a solid majority of the Democratic caucus, up from just over 60 in the last Congress. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made Medicare for all a central plank of his presidential campaign platform, is preparing to introduce a bill in the Senate. And last week, supporters of Medicare for all scored a big victory when the California Senate advanced a state-level single-payer bill that DeMoro hailed as a “moral model” for the country.

Yes, the Republicans have the votes to defeat a Medicare for all bill. But that’s not a good reason to campaign for something weaker. They are going to defeat anything Democrats propose, at least until the midterm elections. So why not use the opportunity to brand the Democrats as the party that has a serious proposal to cover everyone and build a movement for a healthier society?

Win or lose, a stronger Medicare for all campaign can educate millions of voters, help take the boogeyman out of the term “socialized medicine” and advance the day when everyone has health security, just like in other industrialized nations. It’s a much more appealing alternative than fighting for another ‘reform’ bill that leaves millions uncovered.

Some may say “yes, Medicare for all is the best goal, but we have to get there gradually.” The legislation should provide adequate time for health insurance companies to diversify assets and reallocate their resources. But ‘delay’ too often translates into ‘never,’ and America has been postponing a reckoning with our failed health care system for many decades.

For Democrats, the leadership challenge is clear. As civil rights leader Dorothy Height once put it, “If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.”

Political Strategy Notes

Read former F.B.I. Director James B. Comey’s prepared testimoney to the  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Among the better articles interpreting Comey’s prepared statement, read E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “Trump doesn’t understand how to be president. The Comey story shows why,” which notes “Here are the things Trump still doesn’t get: (1) Comey is his own person concerned with his own reputation and standing. (2) A president, unlike a despot, can’t unilaterally change the rules that surround a legal investigation. (3) People in government don’t work only for the president; their primary obligation is to the public. (4) Personal relationships matter a great deal in government, but they aren’t everything; Comey could not go soft on Michael Flynn just because Trump likes Flynn or fears what Flynn might say. (5) Because of 1, 2, 3 and 4, Comey was not going to do what Trump asked, even if this meant being fired.”

In his WaPo op-ed “I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey’s statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice case,”  Phillip Allen Lacovara sees it this way: “Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.”

“Sixty percent of U.S. voters believe President Trump did something illegal or unethical in his dealings with Russia, fewer than three in 10 voters believe he is level-headed and more than half say they disapprove of the way he is handling the economy, immigration and climate change, according to a poll released Wednesday…Those negatives, and more, contributed to a new low in the president’s overall approval rating as charted by Quinnipiac University. Only 34 percent of American voters approve of the president’s performance, while 57 percent of voters disapprove.” — from Cody Fenwick’s post at The Patch, “President Trump’s Approval Rating Falls To Lowest Point: Poll.”

Yet CNN’s Eric Bradner explains why “Even amid Russia probe, many Democrats see health care as their real winner,” and offers this quote: “I would encourage all of our candidates to make sure that health care stays front and center of the election,” said Guy Cecil, the chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.”The visceral, gut reaction that people have makes it more powerful than Russia,” he said. Further, adds Bradner, “No matter the outcome of the Russia investigation, “health care will be a cornerstone issue in 2018,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of the liberal blog Daily Kos. “It motivates the base like few other issues, and more and more, moderates are aligned with liberals,” Moulitsas said. “It’s a win-win.”” And, “When I’m talking to candidates,” [Democratic political consultant Zak] Petkanas said, “I tell them that they should be saying ‘health care’ five times for every time that they say the word ‘Russia.'”

Dave Weigel reports on a “resolution” of the incident in which congressman-elect Greg Gianforte assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The outcome is an apology by Gianforte coupled with a donation of $50K to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims.” Weigel adds that “Gianforte is still facing criminal misdemeanor charges in Gallatin County, Mont.” Even still, I have to wonder if Gianforte is getting off pretty easy and if the agreement will encourage more violence against journalists.

The Economist argues that “A surge in activism could reinvigorate the Democratic Party…Or perhaps sink it.” The magazine’s editors note “The energies unleashed by the Women’s March, the biggest political protest in American history, have been sustained. In even the most conservative places, including the lily-white northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, where [Republican Rep.] Mr Rothfus won in November with a big majority, established centre-left groups report massive increases in support and new ones are mushrooming. MoveOn, an online protest outfit with 8m members, says it has three times as many monthly donors as it had before Mr Trump’s inauguration. “This is what we were made for,” enthuses its director in Washington, DC, Ben Wikler. Primed by social media, and fuelled by ever-rising outrage at Mr Trump, the most successful new entrants are growing even faster…Pantsuit Nation, a pro-Clinton Facebook group started during the election campaign, had 3m members by the end of it. A report by the Centre for American Progress, a think-tank, reckons 140 new groups have been launched since then. The breakout star of the new activists, Indivisible, was launched by a pair of former Democratic congressional staffers in January, and now has 6,000 groups, in every congressional district, including 15 in Mr Rothfus’s…Indivisible followers swamp their local Republican lawmaker with pestering letters, jam their phone lines with inquiries, about their votes or intentions to vote, buttonhole them in public and organise protests rallies when they go to ground, as many now have…” However, cautions The Economist in the concluding paragraph, “For Democratic politicians vying to appeal to this massive and growing crowd of fired-up progressives, the answer may be to worry less about ideology and more about tone.”

Thomas B. Edsall makes a case that “The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought” in his NYT column, after reading some of the articles featured in The American Prospect/The Democratic Strategist roundtable “The White Working Class and the Democrats.” Edsall’s observations include, “Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions…What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide. Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and raceare in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets…Democratic pessimism today stands in contrast to the optimism that followed the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2012.” Unlike Republicans, however, Democrats are at least facing their internal problems with open dialogue and searching for solutions.

In his post, “Democrats Keep Losing, but They May Be on Track to Win” at The Upshot, Nate Cohn writes, “But even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018. They’re consistent with a strong Democratic showing in next year’s midterm elections, and they’re even better than what one would expect in a so-called wave election, like the one that swept Democrats into power in the House in 2006 and back out in 2010. It’s what the Democrats need to win the 24 seats necessary to retake the House next year…Even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018…Democrats need to win seats like Georgia’s Sixth, but they don’t need to win all of them…What Democrats really need is put these races into play. They have done that and more.”

So, “What does an early voting surge mean for Georgia’s 6th District?,” asks Kristina Torrez in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her take: “Adding to the suspense, nearly 8,000 voters have been added to the district’s voting rolls since the April special election. Experts say those are likely to be “high propensity” voters — meaning they are more likely to turn out to vote than skip the race. “The federal judge’s ruling to reopen voter registration was a game changer for the Ossoff campaign because it allowed him to hopefully expand the electorate,” Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson said…Johnson said the early voting numbers should favor Ossoff because Democrats traditionally do a better job of getting their voters to the early voting sites.”

Time To Stop Honoring Monuments to Jim Crow

As the taking down of monuments to Robert E. Lee continues to create controversy, I weighed in with some perspectives at New York:

While observing the brouhaha over Robert E. Lee’s legacy that has arisen again after certain cities (most famously New Orleans and Charlottesville, Virginia) have chosen to take down monuments to the general who surrendered at Appomattox, I had the frequent thought that the debate suffered under the misapprehension that these monuments were memorials to the Confederacy. They weren’t. They were monuments to the neo-Confederacy that dominated the South and national race relations up until and in some respect beyond the civil-rights movement. In his second eloquent take on why the monuments need to come down, Adam Serwer makes the key point:

“The Lee monument in New Orleans went up not in 1876 but in 1884, as racist paramilitaries like the White League helped the Democratic Party re-establish its political dominance over the city; these statues are commemorations of those victories, not politically neutral commemorations of fallen warriors. They were raised to, in the words of the historian David Blight, help ‘construct a story of noble sacrifice for a holy cause of home and independence, and especially in the service of a racial ideology that would sustain white supremacy.'”

This is true not just of monuments to Lee and other Confederate leaders, but of that other recent source of controversy, the maintenance of Confederate emblems (typically the Confederate battle flag) on southern state flags and at state capitals. For the most part, these emblems were adopted not immediately after the Civil War, but after the South had regained its “sovereignty” and proceeded to erect a Jim Crow society (in Mississippi, that was in 1894) — or even much later, in the 1950s, when Jim Crow was finally challenged in the courts and in civil protests (the Confederate battle flag appeared on the flag of my own home state of Georgia in 1956). As the preeminent political scientists who studied this issue concluded:

“The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.”

Neo-Confederacy is in some respects even more consciously racist than the Confederacy itself. But however you assess its motives, it has been very clearly focused not on the personalities and sacrifices of the Civil War, but on the racist South’s long and amazingly successful struggle to maintain white supremacy despite the abolition (formally, at least) of slavery and the enactment of the Civil War amendments to the Constitution that were long in conflict with southern realities. As Serwer notes, Lee was a convenient symbol of the supposed “reconciliation” between North and South that made Jim Crow possible.

“The so-called ‘Redemption’ that ended Reconstruction did not come from weary Americans wanting to lay down the sword, it came from the champions of the white South reddening their swords with the blood of the emancipated, and the white North making a conscious decision that the cost of protecting the freedmen’s rights was not worth paying.”

By his surrender at Appamattox, and his much-honored postwar career, Robert E. Lee was very much a symbol of the idea that in losing the Civil War the white South had given up slavery but maintained its “honor,” its “states’ rights,” and its self-determination in choosing to subjugate ex-slaves and deny them the rights for which the war was allegedly fought, at least in northern eyes. The postwar white terror that afflicted the South until the United States wearily abandoned Reconstruction was invariably treated as a product of Reconstruction rather than what is actually was: a partial victory for the “lost cause” that lasted much longer than the Confederacy.

It’s this neo-Confederacy that must be acknowledged and finally repudiated by people in all parts of the country, in no small part because all parts of the country were complicit in the horrible betrayal of African-Americans (and the white people who died and sacrificed on their behalf) that occurred when Reconstruction was abandoned and white supremacy reigned supreme in the former Confederacy.

Greenberg: The Democrats’ ‘Working-Class Problem’ It’s not only with whites. It reaches well into the party’s base

Democrats can’t retake Congress without more white working-class votes. The Democratic Strategist and The American Prospect are presenting the 2017 Roundtable on the White Working Class and the Democrats, including 13 articles on why the Democrats should, and how they can, win those votes—progressively. The following article by Stanley B. Greenberg, founding partner of Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps and author of America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation’s Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and Leading the 21st Century, is part of this roundtable:

The road to a sustainable Democratic majority—nationally, locally, and in the states—must include much higher Democratic performance with white working-class voters (those without a four-year degree). Nearly every group in the progressive infrastructure is busy figuring out how Democrats can get back to the level of support they reached with President Obama’s 2012 victory. That is a pretty modest target, however, given the scale of Democratic losses. It underestimates the scope of the problem and, ironically, the opportunity.

The Democrats don’t have a “white working-class problem.” They have a “working-class problem,” which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly. The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate, including the Rising American Electorate of minorities, unmarried women, and millennials. This decline contributed mightily to the Democrats’ losses in the states and Congress and to the election of Donald Trump.

Fortunately, Democrats have the opportunity to consolidate, engage, and perform much better with all of working America. I say “opportunity” advisedly, because better performance requires Democrats to embrace dramatically bolder economic policies and to attack a political economy that works for the rich, big corporations, and the cultural elites, but not for average Americans.


Political Strategy Notes

At The Washington Post, Kristine Phillips reports that “Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised to provide up to $15 million in funding that he says the United Nations will lose because of President Trump’s decision to pull out from the landmark Paris climate deal. The billionaire’s charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, on Thursday pledged to shoulder the United States’ share in the operating costs of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the organization’s climate negotiating body in charge of helping developing countries fulfill environmental requirements under the 2015 pact…Previously a longtime Democrat, Bloomberg switched to the Republican Party to run for New York mayor in 2001. He switched again in 2007 and became an independent.” Prospective Democratic presidential candidates might do well to expect a Bloomberg run in 2020, and his choice of party affiliation could make a pivotal difference.

Professors Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu argue at The Monkey Cage that “It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class,” noting that some political writers overstated Trump’s working class support during the primaries, and offer data showing that “Trump supporters were mostly affluent Republicans” and “Trump seemed to have about as many people without college degrees in his camp as we would expect any successful Republican candidate to have.” Lupu and Carnes concede that “During the general election, 69 percent of Trump voters in the election study didn’t have college degrees,” but “white non-Hispanic voters without college degrees making below the median household income made up only 25 percent of Trump voters. That’s a far cry from the working-class-fueled victory many journalists have imagined.” The authors are surely right that working-class status can’t be precisely measured by either income, occupation or education as separate factors, and most writers for the better publications use these stats as a rough indicator, not the indicator. Expelling all white workers with household incomes above the median income from the working-class also seems a bit rigid. If a mechanic who works a lot of overtime, while his spouse waits tables in a restaurant together earn household income equal to 115 percent of the median, are they no longer working-class? By any measure, the white working-class is still one of the largest voter demographics and Trump’s Electoral College victory got a big boost from white working-class votes in battleground states. Yet, Democrats should be able to win a larger share of this constituency. Even a small improvement could make a significant difference.

Meanwhile, in the post, “Most Discussions On “The White Working Class” Are Based On An Awful Caricature: Part I, Demographics,” Smallch offers these observations at Daily Kos: “First off, we need to note that the white working class is not predominantly a small town or Red State phenomena. In fact, the truth is almost the complete opposite. As the Washington Post noted after the election, about 70 million people in the “white working class” live in or around large and medium sized cities, against only about 20 million who live in small towns and rural areas*. Like pretty much any group, the white working class is predominantly suburban….the common picture of the white working class voters as being uniquely motivated by racism is somewhat true, but nowhere near enough to support the idea that the group is uniquely, or monolithically racist. About a 39% of white people with no college degrees say being white is a very important part of their identity, compared with 29% of people with college degrees. If we use that as a proxy for general racial sentiment, that means someone in the white working class is about a third more likely to be racist, which is significant but hardly overwhelming. And, truth be told, I suspect most of that difference comes down to regional distribution, i.e. the south and much of the southwest are disproportionately working class.”

In a round-up at The Hill, Amy Parnes writes that some “Dems want Hillary Clinton to leave spotlight,” and quotes a number of observers to support the contention. Parnes cites “string of remarks explaining her stunning loss in November coupled with the public remarks blaming the Democratic National Committee for the defeat — which many took as also critical of Obama — are hurting the party and making the 2016 candidate look bitter.” But the arguments that Clinton should pipe down and fade away suffer from the fact that she, ahem, won the popular vote, and has earned the right to speak her mind, particularly on policy. Nor could Clinton avoid commenting on Comey’s role and Russian interference in the 2016 election, even if she wanted to, since it’s such a big story. She might well be more effective if she focused more on policy, and less on blame. But it’s really up to other Democratic leaders to distinguish themselves, regardless of what Clinton says or does.

Joshua Zeitz explores the phenomenon of Hillary-hatred in his Politico post, “Why Do They Hate Her? Hillary Clinton is the most maligned presidential loser in history. What’s going on?,” Again, she won the national popular vote, which is more important in measuring attitudes toward her than are the polls. It’s likely that far more people detest Trump. Among many other factors, Trump’s narrow margin of victory in key battleground states could be explained in terms of his votes from those who felt more that it’s time to try an outsider, rather than being driven by intense dislike of Clinton. The media’s Clinton-bashing is not necessarily an accurate reflection of public opinion. But Zeitz is right that conservative media subjected her to an unprecedented campaign of villification, and it would be amazing if it didn’t have an effect — even though she has never been charged with anything.

The New York Times has a report, “First Rule of Far-Right Fight Clubs: Be White and Proud” by Alan Feuer and Jeremy W. Peters, which exposes violent hate groups supporting Trump. The article notes the proliferation of right-wing groups with names like ‘Alt-Knights,’ ‘Proud Boys’ and ‘Oath-Keepers,’ who “recruit battalions of mainly young white men for one-off confrontations with their ideological enemies — the black-clad left-wing militants who disrupted President Trump’s inauguration and have protested against the appearances of conservative speakers on college campuses.” The authors note that “Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime associate of Mr. Trump’s, has taken the Proud Boy oath.” His website, “The Stone Zone,” notes “In 2000 Stone is credited with the hard-ball tactics which resulted in closing down the Miami-Dade Presidential recount. Stone is credited in HBO’s recent movie, “Recount 2000” with fomenting the so-called “Brooks Brothers Riot” in which a Republican mob swarmed the recount demanding a shutdown while thousands of Cuban-Americans marched outside the Courthouse demanding the same thing.” One common denominator of right-wing physical attacks, from the Brooks Brothers Riot, to counter-protests at rallies protesting against Trump on thru the Gianforte meltdown, is their targeting of the elderly, women or vulnerable males.

The Jon Ossoff campaign for the GA-6 House seat is sparring with their adversaries about debates. The Ossoff campaign wants debates to be hosted by “the metro Atlanta press corps” to help keep the focus on district-wide concerns, and it has turned down a debate format hosted by CNN’s national anchors for a national audience. “Ossoff’s campaign pointed to a May 31 statement in which he repeated his support for six local debates and “expressed disappointment” that [Karen] Handel declined to participate in a showdown hosted by CBS 46.,” notes Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Also re the GA-6 election, Mike DeBonis and David Weigel explain at PowerPost why “Amid Trump’s unpopularity, Democrats face rising criticism for failing to invest more in special elections,” and note: “Republican-aligned outside groups funded mainly by large donors have swamped their Democratic counterparts, led by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Paul D. Ryan-aligned super PAC that has announced plans to pump $7 million into the race. The main Democratic super PAC aimed at House races, in comparison, has announced only $700,000 in spending ahead of a June 20 runoff…The disparity in outside funding has raised alarms among Democrats who fear that the party is squandering clear opportunities in its quest to win the House majority in 2018…“Democrats make it as hard as possible to be successful in the outside money game,” said Bill Burton, who co-founded the first major Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA. “The roadblocks preventing donors from wanting to engage are far more abundant. Our activists want our values to be reflected in everything we do, and that’s great — but on the GOP side they’re not as adherent to principles.””

“…The media are just totally unable to grasp the idea that some people are turned away from the polls by voter suppression efforts. They’re constantly pouring cold water on the idea that people could be turned away. They spent so much time interviewing Trump voters and trying to figure out, why did people vote for Donald Trump, what was their motivation—as opposed to spending even any time trying to interview people who were turned away from the polls or who weren’t registered to vote, and asking them, what happened to you, why were you disenfranchised, why did you decide not to participate, why did you try to participate and you couldn’t? So to me, I still have a lot of issues with how the media is covering this issue.” –From Janine Jackson’s FAIR interview with The Nation’s Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.

Even in GA-06, Post-Obama African-American Voter Drop-off Is A Problem

In all the coverage of revived Democratic enthusiasm in 2017, Democrats are beginning to realize there is a problem in the party’s most loyal demographic group, African-Americans. I wrote about it this week at New York.

As Ron Brownstein observes after looking at now-available census- and voter-file-based evidence — which is more accurate than the initial exit polls — African-American turnout took a big hit in 2016:

“In 2012, African Americans holding at least a four-year college degree voted at a slightly higher rate than whites with advanced education, and African Americans without degrees turned out at notably higher rates than blue-collar whites. But in 2016, turnout in both categories dropped so sharply that it fell below the levels of college-educated and working-class whites…. In 2016, turnout sagged to about 73 percent among college-educated African Americans (down from nearly 80 percent in 2012) and to about 56 percent among those without degrees (down from over 63 percent in 2016). Overall, the Census data showed turnout among eligible African Americans dropped fully 7 percentage points from 2012 to 2016, the biggest drop over a single election for the group since at least 1980. In the battlegrounds that tipped the election to Trump, state-level Census data show black turnout plummeting in Wisconsin; skidding in North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio; and declining more modestly in Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

The big question is whether this drop-off in African-American voting is the “new normal” — at least until such time, if ever, that a figure as magnetic as Barack Obama is heading up a party ticket. Or was it a temporary phenomenon attributable in part to Hillary Clinton’s alleged problems in connecting to voters?

Writing at FiveThirtyEight, conservative analyst Patrick Ruffini offers some evidence that the black voter drop-off could be with us for a while, as shown by turnout patterns in the very hot special election in Georgia’s sixth district:

“[O]n April 18th in Georgia, black voters did not necessarily join their white counterparts in a surge of Democratic enthusiasm against Trump. Compared to turnout levels in the 2014 midterms — which, like this special election, was an off-year election where Democratic enthusiasm was low and Obama was not on the ballot — black Democratic turnout in Georgia’s 6th lagged around 10 points behind that of white Democrats, though black voters still turned out at a higher rate than Republicans as a whole did.”

This did not matter all that much, and may not matter in the June 20 runoff in Georgia’s sixth, because of the suburban district’s demographics: The African-American share of the vote is about the same as the Hispanic share, and barely above the Asian-American share. And as Ruffini noted, even the depressed African-American turnout in the primary was higher than that among self-identified Republicans.

Down the road, in 2018, these trends could matter a great deal, particularly in elections where Democrats are more heavily dependent on African-American voters. Perhaps Republicans will help the donkey party with this problem by aggressively pursuing the kind of voter suppression and mass-incarceration policies to which the GOP is already prone. But it won’t be automatic. Democrats will have to earn the kind of black turnout that seemed to come so easily when Barack Obama was running for president.

The Challenge for Dems: Becoming the Party of Working People — of All Races

Public relations pros talk a lot about the power of “branding,” which is really another term for clarifying identity. Since the days of FDR, the Democratic Party has provided the better candidates for advocating reforms that benefit working people, in stark contrast to their Republican adversaries. In recent decades, however, Dems have failed to get credit for it. In PR terms, the ‘brand’ has dissolved in the chaos of modern politics.

It’s a built-in problem for the ‘big tent’ party. By welcoming a broad range of demographic and cultural groups with their myriad and quite legitimate grievances and agendas, the central, unifying message often gets garbled, buried or lost, and some demographic groups are bound to feel neglected and disrespected. In the case of the Democratic Party, the largest of these alienated  constituencies is the white working-class, currently estimated to be about 45 percent of the eligible electorate, down from about 70 percent in 1980.

The Trump campaign deftly exploited white working-class discontent and narrowly flipped key Rust Belt states in the 2016 election for an Electoral College upset, despite Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s substantial popular vote plurality. Political analysts have offered a host of plausible explainations for the 2016 outcome, including voter suppression, Clinton’s ads, travel, email and  Wall St. conections and F.B.I. Director James Comey’s ‘October surprise’ and others, all of which have merit. But most observers agree that Democrats badly underperformed with white working-class voters, a constituency that has little to gain from Republican policies and priorities.

The question arises, how can Democrats repair the broken bonds with white working-class voters, while strengthening their support from working people of all races? There is no short answer, but Robert Griffin, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira open up the dialogue with their article, “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” in The American Prospect. Their article, which includes some fascinating maps and graphics, helps to kick off a series of forthcomming essays and forums presented in partnership with The Democratic Strategist, addressing “The White Working-Class and the Democrats.”

The challenge, as the authors emphasize, is not to win a majority of the white working-class in time for the 2018 and 2020 elections — securing that majority will likely take longer — but to win a bigger portion of this large constituency. “Democrats do not need to win FDR-level support among white working-class voters,” the authors write, “but they cannot afford to lose them by margins as high as 30 to 40 points in some key states—as they have in recent elections…The party needs to rediscover its roots as a working-class party, one that was initially exclusionary of people of color but that today can and must represent the interests and values of working people of all races.”

With that, we’ll encourage TDS readers to check out the entire article and the series, and to respond with their best insights and ideas.

Political Strategy Notes

If President Trump is spiteful/dumb enough to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement combating climate change, he will be providing Democrats a powerful cudgel to further damage his support among young people, who polls indicate care more about the environment than older voters. “Even among people who voted for President Trump, only 28 percent want the U.S. to leave the agreement,” Carter Roberts notes at The Hill.

The news from GA-6 is getting better, as indicated by Pema Levy’s “Nearly 8,000 New Voters Registered Ahead of Georgia Special Election: It’s enough to make the difference in a close race—and potentially put Democrat Jon Ossoff on top.” at Mother Jones.” Meanwhile the Marietta Daily Journal Reports that “Turnout Tuesday [first day of early voting] was more than four times greater than the first day of early voting for the original race on April 18, which only saw 160 Cobb voters vote in person.” But Levy cautions, “The district has more than 521,000 registered voters, so it’s unclear whether another 7,942—or about 1.5 percent of that total—will make a difference.” And there is also the problem of Republican control of the Secretary of State’s office, so Dems must remain vigilant in monitoring late GOP voter suppression efforts. In addition, Republicans are very worried about this race, because and Ossoff win will encourage Democratic challengers in similar districts across the country.  Those who want to help Ossoff can visit his ActBlue page right here.

At Politico, Edward-Isaac Dovere reports that former Veep Joe Biden has launched “a new PAC, American Possibilities, giving him a way to support Democratic political candidates while keeping his own options open for a potential 2020 presidential run…the former vice president, who has harbored presidential ambitions for decades, said he wants Americans to “dream big” again…Officially, the group will be “dedicated to electing people who believe that this country is about dreaming big, and supporting groups and causes that embody that spirit,” according to the PAC’s launch materials. “Thinking big is stamped into the DNA of the American soul,” Biden wrote… “The negativity, the pettiness, the small-mindedness of our politics today drives me crazy. It’s not who we are.”

Jeff Stein writes at Vox: “At least three House Democrats are backing a new political organization that aims to give progressive candidates in the Midwest and Appalachia a new form of support that isn’t dependent on the Democratic Party’s coastal financial elite…The People’s House Project, founded by former MSNBC host and 2010 Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball, has begun interviewing candidates and recruiting donors for the new political action committee. The organization, which will go public on Tuesday, will provide money, guidance, and political connections for the candidates it chooses to run under its banner…They’ll try to fundraise for the PAC’s candidates, recruit candidates that fit the bill, and give them a slogan to use to try to distinguish themselves from the national party. “It will allow them to say, ‘I’m a different kind of Democrat,’” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), one of the House Democrats backing the project, in an interview. “It’s hard to convince people around here sometimes how toxic our brand is. But, clearly the brand is damaged, and we need to see if something else can work.” A couple of Democratic officials interviewed by Stein “view the project as complementary, rather than in conflict with, the existing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Similarly, and “don’t intend for the new organization to serve as a rebuke to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi…This has to be a movement with a lot of hands rolling in the same direction,” [MI Rep. Dan] Kildee said…”

Moderate and liberal Democrats who participate in Pelosi-bashing may be getting suckered by Republicans, who have repeatedly attacked her and linked Democratic candidates to her (“the Pelosi Factor“). She was re-elected House Minority Leader by a large margin, and will likely continue to serve as speaker, should Democrats win back a House majority. And let’s not forget that she did an outstanding job of rallying the House votes needed to enact Obamacare, and later protected it from GOP “replacement” scams. Internal criticism of Democratic leaders should be made welcome, but it should also be made in a constructive spirit.  As MLK once put it, referring to internecine bickering in the Civil Rights Movement, “Our enemies will adequately deflate our accomplishments. We need not serve them as eager volunteers.”

“Republicans are getting a jump on Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign,” writes Eric Levitz at New York Magazine. “The Massachusetts Democrat is preparing to run for re-election to the Senate in 2018 and hasn’t said yet whether she’ll challenge President Donald Trump for the White House. But in-state and national Republican officials have decided to target the liberal icon anyway, saying they will try to inflict enough damage during the Senate race to harm any future presidential effort — and perhaps dissuade her from running altogether.” Republicans are going to attack any Democratic presidential candidate with everything they have. But they also fear Warren for her impressive ability to explain their economic injustice and  corruption in simple language.

WaPo’s Laurie McGinley and Scott Clement report “Most Americans hold an unfavorable view of the House-passed health-care bill and want the Senate to change it substantially or block it entirely, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll…A 55 percent majority of Americans view the Republican-backed American Health Care Act negatively, the same proportion who want the Senate to make major changes to the legislation or reject it, the survey finds. Only 8 percent want the legislation, which would repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, approved as it now stands…Almost half of the public, 49 percent, holds favorable views of the ACA, while 42 percent have negative views, which are among the law’s most positive ratings tracked in polls by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation in the years since the law’s passage.”

From Geoffrey Skelley’s “Just How Many Obama 2012-Trump 2016 Voters Were There? Using different surveys to try to answer an oft-asked question” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “…Estimates of the raw number of such Obama-Trump voters range from about 6.7 million to 9.2 million. That’s a wide range, and considering the caveats regarding voter recall of past votes, it is important to be clear about the relative uncertainty of these figures….Nonetheless, these surveys offer additional evidence about a critical part of the 2016 equation: the millions of voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Given the extremely close margins in some states, particularly the Rust Belt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, these voters played a crucial role in handing over the White House to the GOP.”

Thomas B. Edsall explores a question on the minds of many in his NYT column, “Has the Democratic Party Gotten Too Rich for Its Own Good?,” and notes: “As the Democratic elite and the Democratic electorate as a whole become increasingly well educated and affluent, the party faces a crucial question. Can it maintain its crucial role as the representative of the least powerful, the marginalized, the most oppressed, many of whom belong to disadvantaged racial and ethnic minority groups — those on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder?…This will be no easy task. In 2016, for the first time in the party’s history, a majority of voters (54.2 percent) who cast Democratic ballots for president had college degrees. Clinton won all 15 of the states with the highest percentage of college graduates.” Even today, however, Democratic office-holders, coast to coast, are far more supportive of economic reforms benefitting working people than are their Republican adversaries. The perception problem has more to do with the way many Democrats raise money and cozy up to Wall St.