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

July 22, 2017

Creamer: Democrats and Disillusioned Trump Supporters

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of  Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo.

One hundred days in, why do most of his voters still love Trump? It might not be what you think.

A recent poll showed 96% of Trump supporters have no regrets about their votes. As always, it is still a minority of Americans. But after all of the miss-steps, and outright lies of the first 100 days, that leaves many other Americans mystified. Is there anything progressives can do to chip away at his seemingly solid base?

Politics is more like a love affair with the voters than an exercise in convincing some economic theorist’s “rational decision maker” to make calculations about the benefits and negatives of a candidate or leader. People don’t tote up all of the ways a candidate will benefit them or hurt them on lists and weigh the calculation, any more than a lover makes a list of the pros and cons of the subject of his or her affection.

There are some very biological reasons why people fall into “lust.” But falling in love is different.

You don’t fall in love with someone because you have such a high opinion of all his or her personal qualities, or their skills or their brilliant mind or their body. When you fall in love, it is more than anything else because you feel good about yourself in the presence of the other person. It is because your lover makes you feel special, empowered – because he or she pays attention – to you.

The same is true in politics. People become committed to leaders who make them feel good about themselves – who make them feel strong and respected – empowered and cared about.

It’s not about their policy agenda, or their great abilities, or their political skill. All of these might contribute to the feeling we have about our relationship with them, but the feeling itself is the central matter at issue.

People become committed to leaders who make them feel good about themselves – who make them feel strong and respected…

Just like in a love affair, we want to feel that the leader is unconditionally on our side; that he or she really likes us for who we are; that the leader respects us – believes that we’re important, that we matter. We want to feel that the other person empowers us to be more than we would otherwise be.

Competence matters, but it matters in exactly the same way it does in a personal relationship. We want to believe not only that the leader is unconditionally on our side, but that we can trust him or her to have the competency to take care of us – to keep us safe – to actually find a way to be there for us when we need her.

Inspiration functions exactly the same way.

When we say that a leader inspires us, we mean something very specific. The feeling of inspiration has two components. First, the leader makes us feel that we are part of a cause that is bigger than ourselves. But second, he or she also makes us believe that each of us, personally, can play a significant role in achieving that larger goal or mission. In other words, we are not inspired by someone because of his or her qualities. We are inspired because of how he or she makes us feel about ourselves. We are not inspired because we think that the leader is “important,” but because the leader gives us a sense that we are important. The inspirational leader gives us meaning.

Donald Trump courted his base. Before Donald Trump, many of his base voters felt they had been left behind by the global economy – ignored and cast aside by political leaders. Some felt they had been ridiculed as bumpkins or rednecks.

Donald Trump didn’t just make them feel that he cared. He made them feel that they mattered. He gave them a sense of empowerment. Some of it was good old fashion racism. But it was more than that. At his rallies he made his base voters feel good about themselves. He gave them a sense of agency.

Of course, Donald Trump was a great con man. He didn’t really love ordinary working people. He was not unconditionally on their side. He could not be trusted to keep them safe. It’s not too big a stretch to say that he showered his attentions on them, he seduced them, he married them – for their money.

He may come home at night with flowers. He may look them in their eyes and whisper sweet nothings into their ears. But every day he goes out and gallivants around with his true lovers: the billionaires who – like himself – want to con them out of their already shrinking assets.

Donald Trump didn’t just make them feel that he cared. He made them feel that they mattered.

His base voters should have remembered what all of their mothers had told them: don’t marry someone you want to reform. He cheated on them from the first day – the same way he cheated years earlier on the students he defrauded at Trump University.

He proposes eliminating health insurance coverage from 24 million Americans – many of whom voted to support him – so he can give $600 billion in tax breaks to himself and the billionaire elite.

He proposes cutting taxes for big corporations and the wealthy – because he says, it will create jobs for you, “my love.” Of course there is no empirical evidence whatsoever that cutting taxes for the rich creates new jobs, or new tax revenue. In fact, we tried trickle-down economics during the Bush years and it ended producing stagnation and ultimately the Great Recession that cost 8 million jobs. Tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy have always had only one result: they make the rich, richer – every time.

Trump rails about companies that outsource jobs abroad. But all the while his firm has outsourced the production of clothing and furniture and even steel.

When Donald Trump wants to socialize, he doesn’t go to a VFW hall or the corner tavern – he goes to his exclusive private club at Mar-a-Lago.

When Donald Trump selects decision-makers for his cabinet or to staff his White House, he doesn’t turn to those who work to advance the interests of workers or organizes unions that allow ordinary people to bargain together with the boss for better wages and working conditions. He turns to his true loves – millionaires and billionaires.

So why are all of those ordinary voters who fell in love with Trump sticking with him?

For the same reason lovers of all stripes ignore the fatal flaws in the subject of their affections for a long time before they decide to break it off. They are invested. He still comes home and tells them – with enormous sincerity – just how much he loves them – how much they matter.

You can’t really tell someone that his or her spouse is a complete jerk. People have to find out for themselves.

And before long, many Trump supporters – especially those who supported Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012 – will inevitably begin to have second thoughts.

Their ardor will cool. And even if they don’t completely abandon him, they’ll become disillusioned. In fact, many won’t be chomping at the bit to go out to vote for GOP members of Congress who supported his program in 2018.

And in 2018, Democrats and progressives will have something else going for them. All of the vast majority of Americans who never fell in love with Trump will be fired up like never before.

But what about those working-class Trump supporters? What can we do to speed the process of disillusionment along? How can we help them see Trump’s true colors sooner rather than later?

Three things are key:

  • We can continuously point out the contradictions between his ardent testimony about how much he cares about ordinary people and his actual actions and policies.
  • We can offer bold, compelling initiatives that actually do address the interests of ordinary people: more taxes on the rich, not less; a public option that guarantees an affordable health care alternative to all Americans who need it; stronger unions to negotiate higher wages and better working conditions for ordinary workers; breaking up the biggest banks – rather than eliminating the restrictions that are intended to prevent their excesses from once again sinking the economy; a real bold public infrastructure program to create jobs and create value for us all, rather than subsidies for companies who build private infrastructure for themselves.
  • Most importantly, we must respect and pay attention to the needs and interests of all ordinary Americans – not just the big campaign donors and the coastal elites. Respect is the key. We have to show them everyday that we will do battle for miners’ pensions; that we insist that our society spends as much educating the kids of rural and urban parents as we do educating the kids of families in upscale suburbs; that we are completely devoted to the idea that everyone should have a job that allows them to really contribute to our society and to build an economically secure future for their family – everyone.

If we do those things, we can be confident that by 2018 a portion of those Trump supporters will be “former” Trump supporters – and for many others, the heat of Trump passion will have faded into the cold morning light.

And for some – hell hath no fury like a voter scorned.

No Love in the Senate For Zombie Trumpcare

As Republicans battled to get enough votes to bring the revised American Health Care Act to the House floor, I took a look ahead and the prospects for this legislation in the Senate. It was not a pretty sight, as I explained at New York.

Normally in a situation like this, where a party’s president is 100 percent invested in a piece of legislation, you would look for scattered signs of internal opposition among that party’s senators and speculate as to whether the White House could wear it down. But there is nothing scattered about Senate Republican misgivings over Trumpcare: It appears to be endemic, as Politico reports:

“The hurdles in the upper chamber were on vivid display Wednesday as House Republicans celebrated their breakthrough on the stalled repeal effort. The compromise cut with House Freedom Caucus members won over the right flank, but the changes will almost surely make it harder to pick up votes in the more moderate-minded Senate.

“Not to mention that some Senate conservatives still seem opposed to the emerging House deal.”

They sure are. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who helped derail the original “replace and delay” strategy that might have at least temporarily papered over GOP differences of opinion over health-care policy, are making discouraging noises about Zombie Trumpcare. Paul in particular seems determined to quash any happy-talk about consensus:

“The Freedom Caucus has done a good job of trying to make the bill less bad,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the lead Senate agitators against the House health care push, said Wednesday. “For me, it’s a big stumbling block still that there’s taxpayer money that’s being given to insurance companies, and I am just not in favor of taxpayer money going to insurance companies.”

The more any eventual bill has to shift in the direction of Senate conservatives, of course, the less support there will be from moderates. And lest we forget, the GOP can only lose two senators to pass health-care legislation, barring any support from Democrats — and there are zero signs of any Democrats even considering a defection so long as the bill is being pushed on a party-line basis via budget-reconciliation rules that prohibit filibusters.

The rules governing the reconciliation procedure present another potentially big problem for Senate Republicans. The House bill, and particularly the new version with its authorization of state waivers of existing Obamacare regulations, is very likely to run afoul of the Senate parliamentarian’s enforcement of the Byrd Rule prohibiting non-budget-germane provisions in budget bills. If such provisions have to be struck, the compromises that have made it possible for the House to revive Trumpcare could quickly unravel.

And then there is the strong possibility that the Congressional Budget Office will “score” the House bill in a manner that makes its negative impact on health-care coverage vivid. The House itself may be able to avoid terrible publicity on the “score” by racing to a vote before CBO’s analysis comes down. But that evasion will not be possible for senators.

Political Strategy Notes

“In the outpouring of commentary on President Trump’s first 100 days in office, his greatest single achievement is almost never mentioned, which is itself a sign of what a major triumph it is: We are not talking much about whether Russia colluded with Trump’s campaign to help elect him…Our distraction was not inevitable. Recall that just a little over a month ago, FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the bureau was investigating possible cooperation between Trump’s team and Russia’s hacking and disinformation campaign to undercut Hillary Clinton. As the New York Times wrote, Comey’s testimony “created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump…Given the substantive emptiness of Trump’s presidency so far, his greatest achievement is that he is still standing there, making pronouncements as if he means them and moving noisily but without any clear plan from one thing to the next. Every day he can postpone his reckoning with Russia is a victory.” Yet the president slipped by.” — from “Trump’s greatest single achievement almost never gets mentioned” by E. J. Dionne, Jr.

Slate’s Michelle Goldberg has a slight vaiation on Dionne’s take: “The president’s main 100-day accomplishment—besides sticking a reactionary on the Supreme Court—has been to make previously inconceivable levels of corruption and staggering breaches of national security appear normal…One could list 100 things that Trump has done—one for each debased day of his wretched presidency—that would be enough to impeach a Democrat. (Not all of Trump’s violations involve Russia, of course, though a bizarre number of them do.)…Trump’s presidency, like his campaign, is a lowlife carnival; there are so many macabre sideshows and freakish violations of normal political behavior that we’re left stunned and dazed. Much of the mainstream media, and almost all elected Republicans, act as if the horror of this presidency were less than the sum of its parts. The outrages cancel each other out rather than accumulating. This massive inflation in what constitutes a scandal has the potential to be permanently corrupting…Already, because of Trump, America is a more cynical, corrupt, lawless place than it was 100 days ago. There is only one way back from this, and that is to make sure that someday, when Democrats retake at least one chamber of Congress, they investigate every shady thing that Trump, his cronies, and his relatives have done either in achieving or using public power, even if it takes decades. ”

In their Washington Post op-ed, “Trump’s FCC chairman wants to hand the Internet over to big corporations,” Sens. Al Franken and Ron Wyden and former Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler writwe: “For as long as the Internet has existed, it has been grounded on the principle of net neutrality — that what you read, see or watch online shouldn’t be favored, blocked or slowed down based on where that content is coming from. Net neutrality means that cable companies can’t reserve the fastest Internet speeds for the biggest companies and leave everyone else in the slow lane. That’s what ensures a website for a local pizza place in rural Oregon or Minnesota loads as quickly as the website for Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Or why a social network built in a garage is available to the same people as Instagram or Twitter…That’s why it’s so alarming to see that the Federal Communications Commission, a federal agency that’s expected to help protect the Internet, is planning to roll back net neutrality rules…So with powerful forces pushing to get rid of net neutrality — Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other multibillion-dollar companies — it’s going to take Americans speaking up to protect the Internet that we depend on. In 2014, nearly 4 million Americans contacted the FCC, with an overwhelming majority sending a very simple message: protect net neutrality. And as a result of those efforts, we got policies put in place to do just that. But now those very policies are on the chopping block. Unless people fight back, these deep-pocketed corporations will upend how we get our news, watch our favorite shows, use social media or run our businesses…Small businesses shouldn’t have to outbid massive conglomerates just to get their product in front of consumers’ eyes.”

From Ed Kilgore’s “Here’s Another Good Omen for Democrats in 2018” at New York: “To the gradually but steadily increasing body of evidence that Democrats are likely to have a solid performance in the 2018 midterm elections comes another factor: the so-called “generic congressional ballot,” which means polling of which party voters are likely to prefer in upcoming U.S. House elections….FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten notes that in generic congressional balloting Democrats are in the best position at this early stage of the midterm election cycle of any opposition party dating all the way back to 1942. They currently lead the GOP by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin in the polling averages…Midterms are almost always about the president. Voting for Congress in midterm years is essentially just a mechanism for passing judgment on the White House. In 2018, unlike 2014, the House and presidency will be controlled by the same party.”

Trump’s walkback vs. “My first 100 days” promise, as nailed by CNN:

David Siders notes an innovative strategy against Trump’s border wall idea in his post, “Democrats turn the screws on border wall builders: The idea is to punish businesses that work on Donald Trump’s project” at Politico: “Democrats in cities and statehouses across the country are pressing forward with a calculated, long-range effort designed to undermine Trump’s plan by turning the screws on the businesses that work on the project….In California, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a measure to bar the state from awarding contracts to any company involved in the wall’s construction, while a bill to prevent the state’s massive pension funds from investing in those companies stands pending. Lawmakers introduced similar measures in New York and Rhode Island. The city of San Francisco is considering a blacklist, and Berkeley adopted one last month.”

Talking Points Memo’s Alice Ollstein presents a couple of insightful quotes about Trump’s trickle-down tax cut proposals: “I want a tax reform proposal that works for working families, not just for the people who can hire a lot of accountants and lawyers,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sits on the Senate’s Taxation and Budget committees, told TPM. “Today, if you’re a cop or a nurse, your taxes are compulsory. They come out of your paycheck once or twice a month. No Cayman Islands thing for you. But if you’re someone who can afford lots of lawyers and accountants, you can pretty much decide what you’re going to pay, when you’re going to pay, and maybe if you’re going to pay any at all.” As for the outcome of Trump’s tax plan, Ollstein notes, “Blumenthal predicted, as have former lawmakers, staffers, and tax experts, that Republicans will find it difficult—potentially impossible—to pass any tax reform this year as they have promised. “I have a feeling this proposal will meet the same fate as their Trumpcare plan: imploding in divisions among themselves.”

The Atlantic has a good video on the hottest congressional race of the moment, Jon Ossoff’s quest to win the GA-6 Runoff:

At Maddowblog, Steve Benen highlights what will likely be the howler of the week by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. In his post, “Laughable White House claim: Trump has ‘rebuilt’ US global standing,” Benen quotes Spicer: “The world is responding to the leadership that the president is bringing under this – bringing to Washington. In all, during his first 100 days, the president has made 68 calls with 38 different world leaders, and hosted a total of 16 bilateral meetings. The president has rebuilt America’s standing in the world.” I mean, he’s only pissed off Mexico, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Sweden, Australia, China and the U.K. in his first 100 days.

He’s Ba-a-a-ack: Wolfowitz, Trump-Whisperer

Now that former isolationist Trump has flipp-flopped into budding neo-con Trump, he is starting to attract the counsel of some of the political wizards who brought us the six-trillion dollar debacle interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports Heather Digby Parton at salon.com. As Parton writes:

It was entirely predictable that as soon as President Donald Trump decided to drop some bombs on a Middle Eastern country, the neoconservative claque that had rejected him during the election would slither back into the GOP orbit…Despite the obvious fact that Donald Trump is a torture-loving, “bomb the shit out of ’em” and “take the oil” kind of guy, his opportunistic distancing of himself from the Iraq War (despite evidence that he actually supported it) gave many people the impression that he wouldn’t support military intervention. That included members of the neocon establishment, who were leery of him. But now they’re back in the public eye, and one of the main architects of the Iraq War is once again making his presence known. According to Susan Glasser of Politico, Wolfowitz can take some credit for the action. In an interview with him she said:

Paul, you’ve jumped back into the fray as it were with what appears in hindsight to be an extremely well-timed intervention in the Wall Street Journal, saying Donald Trump should go ahead and do something in Syria, should intervene militarily in some way to respond to the chemical weapons strike. Miraculously enough, perhaps, he surprised much of the world by going ahead and taking your advice and doing so.

Parton adds that “Wolfowitz modestly replied that he’s not sure Trump took his advice but he’s awfully glad he did bomb Syria because the U.S. is back in business…” However, notes Parton, “The scariest part of the interview…involved Wolfowitz’s views on Iraq. He seems eager to get right back into the quagmire and stay there… Wolfowitz recalled the period after the Iraq “surge” with great nostalgia as a sort of golden era:

[W]e do have a model there. I think it’s a model that worked dramatically…the alternative is to let a very important, critical part of the world go to hell literally and lose American influence.”

Given Trump’s tendency to reverse policies with no qualms whatsover about appearing dangerously inconsistent, poorly-informed and trigger-happy, there is no way for Democrats to anticipate his next move, particularly as he surrounds himself with right-wing extremists of al sorts. The only constants in Trump’s foreign policy appear to be chaos, confusion and disarray, and Democrats have to be ever-ready to respond with reason, prudence and consistency.

As if Trump’s Mid East polcies weren’t chaotic and dangerous enough, he has attacked and confused many of our strongest allies, and added nuclear weapons brinksmanship with North Korea into the mix. There are good reasons for moderates, as well as progressives, to be concerned when two world “leaders” with the emotional maturity of nine year-olds are threatening each other with real weapons of mass destruction.

What Democrats must do as Trump’s foreign policy follies roll on, is provide a clear demonstration that they are the adults in the room, the ones who can actually resolve crises without making a horrific global mess. The hope is that enough moderate Republicans will eventually realize that America — and the world — have too much to lose by allowing this confusion to continue, and join in taking action to help restore a some sobriety to our foreign policy.

Women Candidates Do Better as Democrats, But Party Still Lags Badly

The Center for American Women in Politics of Rutgers University provides the most up-to-date information about the gender of elected officials at the federal, state and local levels. Exploring their data yields this profile:

Women are 21 percent of the current U.S. Senate, with 21 senators, 16 of whom are Democrats and 5 are Republicans.

83 women are members of the House of Representatives, comprising 19.1% of the 435 members in 2017.  62 of them are Democrats and 21 are Republicans.

Five women, or 10 percent of the governors of the 50 states, including 2 Democrats and 3 Republicans serve as governors in 2017.

443 women serve as state senators, 22.5 percent of all state senators, incuding 253 Democrats and 176 Republicans

1399 women serve as state House/Assembly members, 25.9 percent of all House/Assembly members, including 859 Democrats and 532 Republicans.

292 women serve as Mayors of cities with over 30,000 population, or 20.7 percent of all mayors of cities this size. Party data for this subset is not avsailable. But a hefty majority of Mayors, especially in larger cities, are Democrats.

These statistics lead to the inescapable conclusion that Democrats have failed to recruit and elect enough women candidates, and the  track record of Republicans is an even greater embarrassment (with the exception of governorships and Lieutenant Governors). When the women’s rights movement began to catch fire in the 1970s, few thought that parity for women in politics would still be so far away, more than four decades later.

The top ten states in terms of the highest percentage of state legislators who are women includes:

Vermont (40.0%)
Nevada (39.7%)
Colorado (39.0%)
Arizona (38.9%)
Washington (36.7%)
Illinois (36.2%)
Maine (34.4%)
Oregon (33.3%)
Minnesota (32.3%)
Maryland (31.9%)

The worst include:

Wyoming (11.1%)
Oklahoma (12.8%)
West Virginia (13.4%)
South Carolina (13.5)
Mississippi (13.8%)
Alabama (14.3%)
Louisiana (15.3%)
Kentucky (16.7%)
Tennessee (16.7%)
North Dakota (18.4%)

Notice a blue state/red state pattern here? But Democrats clearly have a lot of work to do before they can lay claim to being the party that empowers women.

Among the organizations working to rectify the gender imbalance of America’s office-holders, Emerge America has set up state-wide affiliates in 18 states, which have had some impressive success in advancing the role of Democratic women as elected officials. The organization provides “in-depth, seven-month, 70-hour, training program providing aspiring female leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system.” and, “Since the first Emerge state was launched in 2002, the Emerge network has trained over 2,000 Democratic women to run for office to date…In the 2016 election, 70% of our 213 alumnae on the November ballot won their elections.”

Democratic women who are thinking of running for office can check out Emerge America’s resources right here.

Political Strategy Notes

Ed O’Keefe reports “Here’s how congressional Democrats plan to mark Trump’s first 100 days” at PowerPost, and notes “While negotiating this week with the White House on a plan to avoid a government shutdown and strongly opposed to any new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are planning to lead a series of events designed to call out Trump’s work and words on the economy, trade, health-care reform and his vows to “drain the swamp” in Washington. The offensive begins Monday with a conference call hosted by Schumer, Pelosi and Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and will continue with other events hosted by lawmakers throughout the week…Democrats are planning for events on Capitol Hill headlined by rank-and-file lawmakers who will release scorecards designed to criticize the new administration’s work on the economy, trade, health care and ethics. Schumer and Pelosi will cap the week on Friday with another event designed to draw attention to the looming shutdown. Their offices will be circulating talking points and social media guidance to House and Senate offices each day — the kind of material likely to end up in floor speeches and members’ Twitter feeds.”

Politico’s Heather Caygle writes about the rising spirit of optimism among Democratic leaders and activists: “House Democrats are heading toward the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency with the kind of feel-good unity they haven’t experienced since the election. Coming off a rowdy recess where Republicans continued to be skewered by constituents on everything from health care to Russia to Trump’s tax returns, Democrats say walking through the political wilderness isn’t so bad — at least for now…It’s a stunning reversal from the despair dominating the caucus just a few months ago when Trump entered the White House and Republicans seemed poised to wreak havoc on Democratic priorities…Now, some members are even talking openly about the possibility of taking back the House in 2018. They would need to pick up two dozen seats, an uphill battle to say the least. But the chatter speaks to the optimism the caucus is feeling.”

Dominique Mosbergen’s HuffPo article, “Happy Earth Day! Here Are All The Terrible Things Donald Trump Has Done So Far,” provides a pretty comprehensive list of “some of the major ways President Trump has changed climate and environmental policy in his first 100 days.” Mosbergen quotes Rhea Suh, the president of the National Resources Defense Council, who called Trumps first three months “100 Days of Harm.”  Suh continues, Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president’s term normally tells us only so much about what’s to come. In the case of President Trump’s all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we’ve already seen more than enough…Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air, and lands. He’s moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he’s betrayed the covenant we’ve forged with our children to leave them a livable world.” Mosbergen adds, “More than 60 percent of Americans said they disapproved of how Trump is handling the environment in an April Quinnipiac University poll. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they “are embarrassed to have Trump as president.”…Activists have said it’s not too late to stop Trump’s anti-climate and anti-environment agenda. While his executive orders have garnered a lot of hype, a majority of them have not yet had a substantive impact on actual policy.”

In her article, “The first brick hasn’t been set, and Trump’s border wall is already going south on him,” at The Fix, Amber Phillips explains why his Wall obsession is a disaster for Republicans. “Democrats have their own divisions to deal with. But opposing Trump’s wall is a near-perfect rallying cry nearly everyone in their party can get behind. It’s just too good of an opportunity to whack Trump and Republicans in Congress. If Congress funds Trump’s wall, Democrats can argue Trump has broken yet another campaign promise by building a wall without getting Mexico to pay for it.” Trump now says he eventually will force Mexico’s to pay for it, but his many vacillations on policies have tainted his credibilty. “They can also argue Republicans are raising the deficit and that they’re teetering on a shutdown when they control Washington because of this wall,” notes Phillips. “Fifty-four percent of Americans oppose building a wall along the entire Mexican border, according to CNN exit pollingfrom the 2016 election…A recent KVUE Austin poll found that in Texas (Trump country), 61 percent oppose his wall.”

Audrey Carlson and Jugal K. Patel present a quartet of Trump’s most important flip-flops in their post, “Trump’s Policy Reversals, in His Own Words,” at The New York Times. Many others could be cited, but these four flip-flops illustrate the utter unreliability of his policy pronouncements well enough. In just one example, on Sept. 5, 2013, he tweeted “Do NOT attack Syria, fix U.S.A.” On April 6, 2017, he goes on television and says “Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. … I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”

Historian Bruce W. Dearstyne shares “Six Strategies To Revitalize the Democratic Party” at historynewsnetwork.org. Dearstyne focuses on the lessons of the 1950s, leading up to JFK’s victory in 1960, and noptes, “Democrats are still reeling from Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss last November. Democratic leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer are leading the opposition to President Trump’s proposals to overturn reforms such as the Affordable Healthcare Act. But history suggests that opposition to the president and vows of action to reconnect with alienated voters will not suffice. The Democrats will need new ideas, better alignment with the spirit of the times, and fresh new candidates to make a comeback and recapture the presidency.” Dearstyne flags JFK’s candidacy as offering a model for Democrats going forward: “Unlike the other Democratic contenders for the presidency that year, Kennedy had youth, charisma and he was vigorous and dashing. He drew on his party’s momentum – the ideas of the Finletter Group, Stevenson’s elevation of a sense of national purpose, the track record of Johnson and others in showing the party cared about popular issues, and a sense of freshness and progressivism. But his campaign themes – we need to do more, we need to get the country moving – took the party to a new level and gave it new energy. The themes resonated with the changing public mood, which was becoming more attentive to the need for dedication and sacrifice and for new ways of using American power in the world…Democrats can return to national power again. To accomplish that, they need to learn from their own history, particularly the long comeback in the 1950’s.”

“A new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll finds 57 percent of the public saying that the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of Americans, versus 39 percent who said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals,” reports Carrie Dann at nbcnews.com. “That’s the highest share yearning for a more active government since the poll began asking voters about the role of government in 1995. And it’s a significant shift even since 2015, when 50 percent said that the government should do more while 46 percent complained that it was too active.” Dann notes a particularly bstrong shift among self-identified Independents: “In 2010, independents favored a less active government by 22 percentage points. This year? They favor a more active government by the same share.”

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent shares some thoughts on the future of the Democratic Party, including: “Clinton rolled out a detailed political reform agenda, but it’s not clear whether she conveyed a gut sense that she really wanted to shake things up. As one Democrat sighed to me in August: I wish Clinton would show more discomfort with our political system and with how business is done in Washington…This possibility — that Clinton did not show a gut level of discomfort with our current arrangements — is worth mulling. Trump’s numbers were even worse than Clinton’s on honesty, and his promises to bust up the system were crude and laughably absurd — he actually argued that he was well qualified to reform our corrupt system because he had milked it himself from the inside to great effect. But it’s worth asking whether he somehow conveyed a visceral disdain for the way business is done in Washington that Clinton simply did not… The polling evidence is mixed on whether Clinton’s economic message even failed — exit polls showed she won among voters most concerned about the economy in many swing states. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and her extremely close losses in multiple states might not have happened if turnout had shaped up differently even on the margins.”

Although a lot of conservative commentators tried to spin Jon Ossoff’s 48.1 percent plurality in the GA-6 ‘jungle primary’ as a loss for Democrats, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway argues that,”Yes, Georgia Democrats believe they can take the Sixth District. And Republicans should, too.” Galloway quotes Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz: “It would be different if [Ossoff] had 40 percent. Forty-eight? That’s putting him very close. The margin between him and Karen Handel is quite large. It’s 28 points.” Galloway emailed Charles Bullock, Abramowitz’ counterpart at the University of Georgia and noted that “one of Bullock’s many specialties is the study of runoffs in Georgia elections. He’s written one book on the topic, and his research continues…“The research in the book found that the larger the margin of the primary leader, the more likely the leader would win the second round,” Bullock wrote in reply. “Research I am currently doing, which includes Georgia elections through 2016, continues to find primary margin the most powerful predictor. “In 54 congressional runoffs since 1966, the primary leader won 79.6 percent.”

Zombie Trumpcare Refuses To Die, But Looks Doomed

What’s that gurgling, snarling sound in the distance? Must be Zombie Trumpcare, which as I explained at New York, refuses to die.

Despite near-universal predictions of doom — either now or later, on the House floor or in the Senate — the Trump administration is pushing House Republicans hard to schedule a vote next week on the latest version of Trumpcare, a.k.a. the American Health Care Act. The president’s claim that the the plan had “gotten really, really good … and a lot of people are liking it a lot,” appears to be pure happy talk. They don’t have the votes now to move the legislation forward, and may never have the votes to get this unfortunate legislation to Trump’s desk.

The much-bruited MacArthur Amendment to the earlier bill, with its provision for state waivers to sidestep comprehensive insurance-plan requirements and protections for people with preexisting conditions, may or may not attract some additional House Freedom Caucus votes. But it is very, very unlikely to sway those among MacArthur’s fellow moderates who refused to vote for the original bill. Yes, it would allow blue states to keep something like the original Obamacare individual-health-insurance markets in place, assuming insurers were willing to go along. But it keeps in place AHCA’s quick phaseout of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, hammering those same states.

Prospects in the Senate, where Republican moderates have much more leverage due to the GOP’s narrow two-vote majority, are much worse. On top of the substantive health care policy concerns House moderates have articulated (particularly over Medicaid), there are now three GOP senators who are not necessarily onboard for the defunding of Planned Parenthood that is part of the package. And there remain real problems with the Senate rules, since the state waiver provisions that are central to the MacArthur Amendment could easily be ruled non-germane to the budget process by the Senate parliamentarian, exposing the whole bill to a Senate filibuster.

So why the rush toward an apparent abyss? From the White House point of view, it’s apparently all about Trump’s panic over not having big accomplishments to boast of when the 100-day mark of his presidency arrives, on April 29. That factor is also reportedly driving a sudden hard line in the White House position in the appropriations negotiations aimed at avoiding a government shutdown on April 29. Since a renewed furor over health care could not possibly help the atmosphere surrounding the delicate appropriations talks, Trump is in danger of a dual disaster next week.

Perhaps the best thing about racing ahead is that it might not allow the Congressional Budget Office the time to score this new version of AHCA, a process that would undoubtedly produce a terrible number in terms of the impact on health-care coverage.

You might expect Paul Ryan to tell Trump the votes aren’t there for Zombie Trumpcare, and to ask him to call off the dogs. But Ryan is undoubtedly under pressure from some members who would prefer to get the monkey off their backs and blame the Senate or Democrats for the failure to enact health-care legislation, and others who figure a second failed vote in the House would convince everyone to give up and move on to the more congenial territory of tax legislation.

It’s a horror-show for Republicans, all right.

Trump Could Yet Provoke a Government Shutdown

In what was a relatively peaceful Easter Recess for Congress, Donald Trump’s fatal pride is again causing trouble, as I explained at New York:

While everyone enjoys (and tries to exploit) the drama of an impending government shutdown, and the events of 2013 showed shutdowns can indeed happen, the deadline itself is disposable, since it is all too easy for negotiators to agree to short-term extensions of existing appropriations while talks continue. A one- or two-week extension remains the most likely scenario for next week, given the number of issues that must be resolved and the short time available after Congress returns from its Easter recess.

But there is an additional dynamic that could upset these expectations and create a higher risk of a shutdown: Donald Trump’s ego.

Like a howling feral dog on the edge of a peaceful town, Trump’s potential for havoc has haunted any and all sensitive congressional negotiations this year. CNN noted it as the “X factor” in the funding talks:

“So far the President has not issued any major controversial ultimatums – insisting on money for certain programs or barring it from others. If that changes, it could blow up the bipartisan talks.”

The reason that might happen is simple: April 29 marks the 100-day mark of the Trump presidency, and the image-conscious POTUS rather obviously hasn’t been on a winning streak.

Sure enough, Politico suggests today that the desire to show some results for the first 100 days is driving the White House toward a “harder line” in appropriations talks.

While the funding deadline can be pushed off temporarily, the 100-day milestone and the negative media assessments of the Trump presidency’s beginnings that are sure to dominate the airwaves can’t just be postponed. Thus the president’s underlings are under pressure to get some highly visible concessions in a hurry:

“The White House, under internal pressure to show legislative achievements ahead of the 100-day mark, is gearing up for a government shutdown fight to secure money for a border wall, more immigration enforcement officers and a bigger military, according to White House and congressional sources familiar with the plan.

“It is a risky gambit. With almost uniform Democratic opposition to nearly all of the Trump administration’s spending proposals, the fight could lead to a government shutdown next Friday — the day government spending expires, and right before the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“People familiar with the negotiations say Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, and Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, are pushing congressional appropriators to include “billions” for their agenda in private conversations. The White House, one person familiar with the conversations said, has pushed for $3 billion for the border wall, and discussions have been ongoing.
Border-wall funding is one of several “poison pills” congressional Democrats have signaled might justify a Senate filibuster, gridlock, and a government shutdown. Another that involves a positive demand Democrats are making also touches on Trump’s ego: an appropriation for those Obamacare “cost sharing reduction” subsidies for insurers that the president has threatened to withhold unless Democrats help Republicans enact Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation.”

Given the amount of time Trump spends claiming that undocumented immigrants are running wild in our cities and producing a hellish crime wave, you also have to figure budget director Mick Mulvaney’s recent demand that the funding bill include a cutoff of grants to “sanctuary cities” — still more shutdown bait — may have had its origins in the Oval Office.

All in all, if negotiators reach a tentative deal next week — or more likely, decide to kick the can down the road for a week or two — they will probably be checking their phones nervously for Twitter explosions from the man just down Pennsylvania Avenue. The president is certainly capable of pretending, as he’s already done, that his first 100 days were one long triumphal march toward unprecedented accomplishments. But if he decides he needs more trophies because his evil media enemies don’t see it, look out!

Political Strategy Notes

Some talking points about the latest GOP Obamacare repeal proposal, from Margaret Sanger-Katz at The Upshot:” “In the days before Obamacare, applying for health insurance meant filling out dozens of pages of forms and submitting medical records. It was almost impossible to compare prices. Your premium might be set higher for a large number of reasons, including if your child was overweight. This could be the future in some states under the latest Republican proposal to overhaul the health law…The proposal, offered by leaders of libertarian and centrist groups within the House Republican caucus, would allow states to waive key insurance rules imposed by the Affordable Care Act if they believe the changes could lower premiums or advance other state goals. The proposal retains the health law’s promise that people with pre-existing health conditions can still buy insurance. But the protection would be largely technical.”

I like the way Eugene Robinson puts it in his WaPo column: “House Republicans are apparently ready for yet another attempt to snatch health insurance away from constituents who need it. Someone should remind Speaker Paul Ryan of a saying often attributed to his legendary predecessor Sam Rayburn: “There’s no education in the second kick of the mule.”…Having failed miserably to win passage of an abomination of a bill — the American Health Care Act — Ryan (R-Wis.) and his minions are back with something even worse. A draft framework being circulated this week would pretend to keep the parts of Obamacare that people like, but allow states to take these benefits away. We see what you’re doing, folks…This is getting silly. What part of “forget it” do Republicans not understand?…I’m sure the crowds at GOP town halls will be understanding. Just be sure to check attendees at the door for tar and feathers.”

Regarding recent public attitudes toward single-payer health care, Catherine Rampell, writes at The Post: “A recent survey from the Economist/YouGov found that a majority of Americans support “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.” Similarly, a poll from Morning Consult/Politico showed that a plurality of voters support “a single payer health care system, where all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan.”Divining the longer-term trend in attitudes toward this idea is difficult, as the way survey questions on the topic are asked has changed over time. Views of a health-care system in which all Americans get their insurance from the government single payer vary a lot depending on how you frame the question. Calling it “Medicare for all,” for example, generally elicits much stronger approval, while emphasizing the word “government” tends to depress support…But at the very least, some survey questions that have remained consistent in recent years show support has been rising back up over the past few years for the broader idea that the federal government bears responsibility for making sure all Americans have health-care coverage.”

I enjoy political snarkage as much as most. But former Bush speechwriter and now Wapo columnist Michael Gerson has a couple of sentences in his op-ed worth pondering: “On the whole, people can better tolerate being shouted at than being sneered at. And the sneer of the knowledge class was clearly a motivating factor for many Trump voters. They felt condescension from the commanding heights of the culture and set out to storm its highest point. The pose of late-night television — duplicated by many on the left — is a continuing provocation…A sneering, dismissive, dehumanizing, conspiratorial, hard-left-leaning response to Trump is his fondest hope.” Ridicule can occasionally influence political attitudes (remember Tina Fey as Sarah Palin) in a favorable direction for progressives, but nowadays it’s often overdone and counter-productive from a progressive point of view (see direct insults to Trump voters on your Facebook pages).

At In These Times, Chris Maissano and Jesse Mannisto, both members of The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), dialogue on a question of interest to many progressives: “Should Democratic Socialists Be Democrats?” At one point in their discusion Mannisto comments, “Let’s frame the question carefully: Should we work within the Democratic Party? I’d say yes. Is it enough to work within the Democratic Party? Definitely not. I’m energized by the possibilities of this political moment, but I still see electoral work as one component of broader movement building. It seems our main difference is our degree of optimism…Electoral work isn’t necessarily the best way to spread our message, but it’s a way that’s proven powerful of late…I’ve felt frustrated to the point of contemplating canceling my Democratic Party registration for the second time (I signed back up to vote for Bernie), but then I reminded myself how much easier my giving up would make it for all those corporate super-delegates. They’d love it if we sat at home and let them run their primaries with no alternative vision to stir things up… we all joined DSA because we believe it’s possible for avowedly socialist ideas to resonate with the American people. For that reason, I hope we don’t exit the Democratic Party; I hope we infiltrate it…”

Geoffrey Skelley and Kyle Kondik have an update at The Crystal Ball concerning “Initial 2018 Gubernatorial Ratings: Competitive races abound as GOP plays defense in many open seats,” and the outlook is not bad. “Before we move on to the 2018 races, we want to set some expectations for 2017: Democrats need to sweep both New Jersey and Virginia in order to consider the year a success. Both states are more Democratic than the national average — the Old Dominion by a little, and the Garden State by a lot — and these are two states the party should be able to carry with a Republican in the White House who, at least for now, is not popular. Obviously, holding Virginia seems like a heavier lift for Democrats at the moment than flipping New Jersey. This year represents a golden opportunity for Democrats to make a dent, albeit a small one, in the GOP’s mighty roster of state governorships before turning the page to the packed 2018 gubernatorial calendar…Republicans will be defending nine governorships in states Clinton won — Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and Vermont — while Democrats will be defending just one governorship in a Trump-won state (Pennsylvania)…Democrats are hoping that they can win a substantial number of governorships over the next two years, given how many open seats the GOP is defending and the general tendency for the party that does not hold the White House to make gains down the ticket in a midterm year. The president’s party has netted governorships only once (1986) in 18 postwar midterms. As of now, we favor the Democrats in two Republican-held seats — New Jersey and New Mexico. Overall, the Democrats should start 2019 with more governorships than they hold now, but the high number of Toss-ups and otherwise potentially very competitive races combined with the unsettled national environment next year creates a high degree of uncertainty.”

In bad news for A.G. Sessions, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto report thatA recent CBS News poll shows support for legalizing marijuana is higher than ever. Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll. Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use…Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Sixty-five percent think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. And only 23 percent think legalizing marijuana leads to an increase violent crime.”…Back in 1979, this poll found just 27 percent saying it should be legal…Those over 65 are the most opposed to legalization, but most under age 65 support it. And women are now as much in favor of legal marijuana as men are; in previous years they were less so.” What happened to the Hippies?

Heads up, Dems. Dave Johnson warns at ourfuture.org that “People Don’t Know Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Is a Scam.” As Johnson explains, “Polls show that the public likes President Trump’s plan to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. That’s because they think he actually plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He doesn’t. Not hardly…Trump knows the public wants infrastructure, so he promises it. Just like all the other things he promised and went back on after the election. Jut like all the contractors he stiffed, and the students at Trump University. It’s just another Trump con.” Johnson cites gallup and CNN/ORC polls indicating the public likes the idea of spending $1 trillion on infrastructure improvement. In reality, however, Trump has already cut spemnding for infrastructure, and his so-called plan is just a privatization scheme to benefit his wealthy supporters.

At ThinkProgress.com Ian Millhiser has put together a dossier on Republican candidate for GA-6 congressional district, former GA Secretary of State Karen Handel, entitled, “The GOP candidate in that Georgia special election is a pioneering vote suppressor.” As Millhiser writes, “Handel was one of her state’s leading champions of voter ID during her time as Georgia’s top elections official…Seven years ago, Handel was Georgia’s Secretary of State — its chief elections officer. In that role, she was a top advocate for a then-innovative method of voter suppression. She spearheaded an illegal purge of Georgia’s voting rolls. And she even tried to prevent Democratic candidates from appearing on the state’s ballots.”

Next Up: Montana’s At-Large House Seat

Montana’s at-large congressional district is actually a pretty big electoral prize. It is the most populous district in the nation with more than one million constituents, and it is second only to Alaska’s at-large district in square mileage.

The last time a Democrat held the seat was from 1993-97, when Pat Williams repped the at-large district, which is the same thing as serving the entire state. Since then Republicans have held the seat, including Ryan Zinke, who was re-elected in November, but who has now been appointed Trump’s Secretary of the Interior. A special election to fill the seat is slated for May 25th.

Democrats have nominated a candidate to fill the seat who is generating a lot of excitement, singer-songwriter Rob Quist, a single-payer, pro-choice progressive who suppported Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. Quist has solid Montana bonafides, having been born and raised in a ranching family in the state, and he has traveled and worked all across Montana.

If GA-6 is emblematic of southern suburban congressional districts, Montana’s at-large seat could serve as a pretty good example of a Mountain West district Democrats can realistically hope to win back from Republicans. And like Ossoff in Georgia, Quist is an appealing candidate, perhaps even more so for progressives.

But Quist may not have the same fund-raising draw as Ossoff, even though he is going to need dough, lots of it, to take his progressive message all across Montana and compete with his software billionaire Republican opponent. Democrats and progressives who want to help Quist should check out his ActBlue web page.

Although Montana elected both Trump and Zinke in November, it does have a venerable tradition of electing Democrats, including America’s longest-serving Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, who ran the U.S. Senate from 1961 to 1977, as well as the current Governor Steve Bullock and U.S. Senator Jon Tester.

In his New York Times article, “After Georgia’s Close Race, Montana Democrats Demand Party’s Attention,” Jonathan Martin writes about concerns that Democrats could blow an opportunity for a needed pick-up:

“National folks should be coming in here,” Governor Bullock said. “It is a winnable race.”

Mr. Bullock should know. His re-election last year, by four percentage points against the Republican Greg Gianforte, was the fourth consecutive gubernatorial race that Democrats have won in Big Sky country. The state has also not sent two Republican senators to Washington at the same time since the Constitution was amended to require the popular election of senators.

…He’s running against Mr. Gianforte, who was just beaten statewide. Mr. Gianforte and three Washington-based conservative organizations have spent more than $1.4 million on television and radio since February, much of it attacking Mr. Quist.

Democratic officials, contributors and activists in Montana, which Mr. Sanders carried in the presidential primary, are clearly agitated over their Washington-based party. They say the top-down leadership never misses an opportunity to play it safe…Echoing the demands that progressives made just over a decade ago when another Republican president ignited the liberal rank-and-file, Montana Democrats express irritation that they must persuade their party to contest red-tinged seats.

…Some Democrats here complain that no money has been spent focusing attention on the same issues that sank Mr. Gianforte’s run for governor last year, like his lawsuit to stop access to a river near his Bozeman home. Access to public lands is a perennial hot-button issue in vast Western states, particularly in pristine Montana.

There is also a Libertarian candidate on the ballott, which could help Quist — if Democratic strategists do what they can to drive  a wedge in between Montana’s conservative voters.

The Montana at-large congressional race may not get the media coverage of the GA-6 contest. But for Democrats, every House seat pick-up is equal when they are tallied to determine majority control and elect leaders. This is one of the best bets Democrats have for a pick-up, and it would be a shame to blow it.