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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

American Business Has the Power to Stop the GOP Assault on Democracy – Here’s a Strategy to Make Them Do It.

America is now well on its way to creating an electoral system that functions like Mexico’s during its era of one-party rule.

5 Practical Strategies for Moderate Candidates

Trump loyalists are not just completely committed to a Fox News’ right-wing political perspective but to an extreme alternative ideology that requires the denial of even patently evident facts

Strategies based on Democracy Corps new study.

Democratic Candidates: The Whole Debate about “Critical Race Theory” is a Cynical GOP propaganda trap – Here’s What you Should Say Instead

The latest example of this extremely effective GOP exploitation of language is the current debate over “Critical Race Theory” – a perspective about race that is supposedly being foisted on children in classrooms around the country.

Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

Democratic officeholders and candidates who plan to run in 2022 and 2024 need to face a simple, brutal fact – many will lose their next elections and will return control of government to the GOP if they do not offer a more plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border

Democrats in 2022 and 2024 will lose elections without a strategy.

Let’s Face It: The Democratic Party is Not a “Big Tent” Political Coalition – But it Desperately Needs to Become One.

Democrats routinely describe the Democratic Party as a “coalition” or even a “big tent coalition.” But in reality Dems know that this is not the case.

The Daily Strategist

September 17, 2021

Political Strategy Notes

“The coronavirus pandemic was the most important issue among California voters in Tuesday’s failed recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), according to exit polling,” Mychael Schnell reports at The Hill. “Roughly one-third of California voters, who overwhelmingly rejected the recall effort, said COVID-19 is the biggest issue for the state, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research cited by CNN….A little more than one-fifth of voters polled said they were most concerned about homelessness, followed by 1 in 6 for both the economy and wildfires and just under a tenth pointing to crime….More than 4 in 10 Democrats said the coronavirus was the most important issue to them, while only about one-fifth of Republicans agreed….Republicans were more than three times as likely as Democrats to cite the economy as their chief concern….When reflecting on the current state of California, roughly 4 in 10 respondents said the situation is improving; 3 in 10 said it remains about the same and just under one-fourth said matters are getting worse….The exit polls also looked at voters’ outlook on the policies Newsom implemented amid the pandemic, which a number of pro-recall individuals pointed to as reasons why they wanted to oust him….Roughly 45 percent of voters polled said the governor’s COVID-19 policies have been about right, while one-third said the regulations were too strict. The rest of the electorate said the rules are not strict enough….Overall, more than 6 in 10 voters said getting inoculated is more of a public health responsibility than a personal choice.”

Amy Walter and Jessica Taylor saw it a little differently at The Cook Political Report: “What helped get Democrats motivated? Elder is likely the biggest reason as his controversial and conservative views on several issues already put him out of step with this deep blue state. But, it was his opposition to vaccine and masking mandates that allowed Newsom to change the narrative — focus more on what Elder was doing wrong than on the terrible Delta summer and the French Laundry incident. Plus, Edler gave Newsom huge gifts in showing exactly how he’d govern differently from the Democratic incumbent — and out of step with the vast majority of the state. None such incident seemed worse than just over a week ago when Elder said on Mark Levin’s radio show that the state’s 88-year-old senior Senator Dianne Feinsten was in “even worse mental condition than Joe Biden and that “they’re afraid I’m going to replace her with a Republican — which I most certainly would do. And that would be an earthquake in Washington, D.C.”….It wouldn’t just be an earthquake if something happened to Feinstein and Elder replaced her with a Republican — it would quite literally tip the balance of power back to the GOP in the Senate. Elder’s also suggested he’d seek to limit legal abortion in the state, which has also ginned up once complacent voters on the heels of the Texas law. Elder has also faced allegations of past sexual harassment (which he denied but then said one woman was not attractive enough to have been harassed).”

Nathaniel Rakich brings the mostly good news at FiveThirtyEight: “As it is every two years, control of the House and Senate will once again be at stake in the November 2022 midterm elections, and one of the best tools we have for predicting those election results is polling of the generic congressional ballot. The generic congressional ballot question typically asks respondents which party they intend to vote for in the upcoming congressional election, without naming specific candidates1 — allowing the question to be asked nationally to gauge the overall political environment. And for several years now, we at FiveThirtyEight have been collecting these polls and calculating a weighted average for them, and we’re excited today to publish our generic ballot average for the 2022 election cycle….As of Thursday, Sept. 16, Democrats lead Republicans in our polling average by 2.7 percentage points (43.8 percent to 41.1 percent). This average is calculated much the same way as our presidential approval-rating average, with a couple of differences. First, the lines we draw for the generic-ballot averages are more aggressively smoothed;2 in other words, they are slower to respond to new data. (Because generic-ballot polls are less common than presidential-approval polls, we’ve found that, to filter out noise, the generic-ballot average needs to incorporate a larger sample of polls stretching further back in time than the presidential-approval average.) Second, while our presidential-approval average prefers the versions of polls that survey the widest universe (i.e., all adults over registered voters, and registered voters over likely voters), our generic-ballot average does the opposite. This is because, while we’re interested in knowing what all Americans think about the president, generic-ballot polls are fundamentally election polls — and we’re interested only in how actual voters are going to vote in the midterms.”

Tomasky: Why Democratic Moderates Should Support the Reconciliation Bill

In his article, “Why Moderate House Democrats Torture Their Colleagues—and Why They’re Wrong: They’re Going to be smeared as socialists no matter what size the reconciliation bill is. The only option here is to pass the bill and play offense,” Michael Tomasky, the new editor of The New Republic makes the case for a bold strategy for Democratic moderates in the weeks ahead:

I have more sympathy than most coastal liberals for the plight of the swing-district Democratic House member. I guess that comes from being from West Virginia. I know what those places are like, and I understand the pressures that moderate Democrats can face. As I’ve written many times, it’s exactly those purple districts that Democrats have to win to get to 218 seats. Nancy Pelosi is right to keep them top of mind, because without Democrats representing districts like Iowa’s 3rd and Wisconsin’s 3rd and Arizona’s 1st and Virginia’s 7th, the Democrats are in the minority. And then the debate isn’t between $3.5 trillion and $1.5 trillion. It’s between zero and zero.

Tomasky reasons, “Swing-district moderates worry that if they vote for $3.5 trillion, they’re going to spend all of next year getting tagged as socialists in grossly distorted 30-second attack ads. They’re not wrong. But guess what? They’re going to spend all of next year getting tagged as socialists in grossly distorted 30-second attack ads if they vote for $1.5 trillion, too. No one should be surprised if they get attacked as socialists even if they block every dollar from being spent. That’s the nature of politics these days.” Further,

“And so midterm elections now are just like presidential elections: The same issues are at stake. Turnout may be lower, but not by much. Turnout in 2018 was almost 50 percent—the highest in a midterm since 1914. We’ll see next year if that was a one-off. I’d wager not.

What this means for moderates, I believe, is two things. First, like it or not, it’s a lot harder now to distance oneself from the national party. The whole country watches the same cable news shows. Voters know more than ever about what the parties stand for. Whatever the national party does, the local member of Congress is going to be tagged with it, for good or ill.

Second, I’d argue that there is far less benefit to distancing from the party than there used to be. There are fewer true swing voters. But there are a lot of potential base voters out there to be registered and urged to the polls. And the best way to get those people to register and vote is, without question, to be able to go to them next year and say: Look, I got you paid family leave! Dental coverage in Medicare! Free community college! Child tax credit! I voted for these things. My opponent would have opposed them.

I understand that moderates want to negotiate the number down a little, just so they can go home and say, “Hey, I negotiated it down a little.” But they have to commit to a yes vote, and then they have to go back to their states and districts and spike the damn football. They need to boast about what they voted for, show some pride, and play offense. This applies even to Manchin. He’s a special case because he’s not just in a swing state; he’s in the Trumpiest state in the country. But the people of West Virginia can make great use of the things in these bills as much as people from anywhere else. Perhaps even more so.”

Tomasky concludes, “Hopefully, moderates will cotton on to these new political realities and join a unified Democratic team. Otherwise, this is going to be four or however many weeks of torture, inflicted on the party by moderates who are operating according to a model that I believe no longer applies. Keeping the Republicans from winning the House may be a long shot. But we’ve entered a new era of hypernationalization, when distancing from one’s party is impossible and even inadvisable. The things in that bill are very popular, so pass it, and own it. It’s the Democrats’ only shot at keeping their majorities.”

Teixeira: Let’s Make a Deal!

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Here are some interesting new data from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation gauging the popularity of 28 different aspects on the proposed reconciliation budget. All are at least somewhat popular but some are a lot more popular than others. Not all will make it into the final bill of course. Time to make a deal based on some combination of popularity and importance. And that will involve some tough choices. From Politico Playbook:

“They started off with a jaw-dropping $6 trillion price tag, then lowered it to $3.5 trillion.

Now, there’s reporting suggesting Sen. JOE MANCHIN wants the total for Democrats’ reconciliation plan to drop as low as $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion (though some people close to him say his comfort zone is probably closer to $2 trillion).

So what exactly will Democrats’ topline number be?

Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and Speaker NANCY PELOSI are both proceeding as if $3.5 trillion is the magic number, at least for now. Then there’s Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.), who says progressives have given enough ground already: “That $3.5 trillion is already the result of a major, major compromise,”

But talk to senior Democratic congressional aides and you get a more realpolitik answer — one that’s closer to Manchin than Sanders. Some predict the bill will end up at about $2 trillion, which is significantly less than even President JOE BIDEN wants.

If those aides are right — and there’s reason to think they might be, given how much leverage Manchin has — that means a whole host of items on the party’s wish list will have to be scaled back dramatically or dropped.

The posturing over the price tag is a reminder of how much work the party has to do as it seeks to craft their behemoth bill by the end of September. The process will kick off in earnest today as the House Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees begin marking up their proposals.

Already, there are tensions over the issues being voted on in committee today. For example, we’re told the $762 billion envisioned for education — which includes more than $450 billion for child care and universal pre-K, and hundreds of billions more for school infrastructure and free community college — won’t likely make it to the White House intact. (Our higher ed reporter Michael Stratford has more on Education and Labor Chair BOBBY SCOTT’s bill.)

Likewise, a battle for limited resources is driving the fight over which health care proposals to include, pitting the House against the Senate and White House. (Read Heather Caygle and Alice Miranda Ollstein here for the latest.)

Of course, the dollar total will be dictated by how much Democrats can generate with tax hikes and other revenue raisers — a huge area of contention itself. Democrats could find themselves with between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in revenue depending on how much they scale back the Trump tax cuts. They’ll also net a large chunk of change from the prescription drug overhaul, though they’re sparring over details of that plan as well.

After that, the real fight will commence: How to spend the money . Pelosi acknowledged the coming battles over limited dollars: “Where would you cut? Child care? Family medical leave paid for? Universal pre-K? Home health care?”

As two senior Democratic sources put it to us recently, the more Manchin talks, the better. Right now, most negotiations are taking place between House and Senate leadership and the White House. But the real veto power lies with Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.). So the more they communicate about what they will or won’t accept, the better, per these aides: It will force Democrats to come to grips with reality of having too few dollars to do what they want — and start having the tough conversations they’ve only begun to broach.”

Trying to think this through in a productive manner would be more useful than incessant denunciations of Joe Manchin, over whom the left has zero leverage. $3.5 trillion is a pipe dream. Time to get real.

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post column, “A make-or-break moment for our democracy,” E. J. Dionne writes:“Virtually all Democrats in both houses of Congress understand it would be politically ruinous and historically irresponsible to kick away this opportunity to establish a more equitable social contract. That’s especially true since their initiatives — on child care, paid leave, elder care, health care, education and the pro-family child tax credit — are broadly popular….Two points are often lost. One is about the size of what’s being considered. Yes, the much-discussed $3.5 trillion price tag is a lot of money. But that number is based on 10 years of spending. Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, points out that the $3.5 trillion should be placed in the context of an anticipated gross domestic product of $288 trillion over the same period — meaning that this debate is over roughly 1.2 percent of the economy….That’s hardly a gargantuan investment in social equity and economic stability for tens of millions of our fellow citizens….Moreover, as both Parrott and my Post colleague Catherine Rampell have noted, backers of these programs are not proposing to throw the whole thing onto the national debt. On the contrary, as Rampell reminded us recently, lawmakers voted last month for a maximum deficit increase of about $1.75 trillion, with all or most of the package to be paid for with new revenue and budget savings elsewhere.”

Dionne continues, “The horror of what so many Republican-dominated state governments have done — most recently in Texas — to restrict access to the ballot and undercut the honest and nonpartisan counting of ballots presents Democrats with only two options: Act uncompromisingly at the national level to ensure democracy everywhere, or accept that many states in our union will, in important ways, cease to be democratic….Killing a strong voting rights bill means accepting, to evoke Abraham Lincoln’s declaration on slavery, a nation half-democratic and half undemocratic….Here again, the clarity of the hazard is pushing even reluctant Democrats to action. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said repeatedly that they would not overturn current filibuster rules to enact a voting rights bill….So Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued Manchin a friendly challenge: Offer a proposal that you could vote for and find 10 Republicans to support it….Manchin accepted the challenge, and as soon as this week, a group of Democrats including Manchin and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Raphael G. Warnock (Ga.) could introduce a bill rooted in his ideas….If Manchin can find 10 Republicans to support it, he will deserve canonization for having performed a miracle. If he can’t, will he and Sinema stick with their refusal to alter the filibuster and thus make themselves complicit in the death of a bill as important to democracy in our times as the original Voting Rights Act was in 1965?….Call me naive, but I do not believe that Manchin, Sinema and Biden want to be associated in history with those who failed to stand up for democracy at the hour of maximum danger. In a little over a month, we’ll know where they stand.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein argues that “The California Recall Could Be a Road Map for Democrats: Gavin Newsom’s strategy has momentum, and it provides a crucial template for his fellow Dems in 2022,” and observes that “the large number of mail ballots already returned by Democratic voters, as well as the latest poll results, signal that Newsom has mostly closed that enthusiasm gap, placing himself in a strong position to defeat the recall when balloting concludes next Tuesday. And he has done so in a manner that could provide a crucial template for Democrats nationwide in 2022: Newsom has focused less on selling his accomplishments than on raising alarms that his Republican opponents will exacerbate the coronavirus pandemic by repealing the public-health protections, such as vaccine and mask mandates, that he has imposed to fight it. He’s linked the GOP candidates running to replace him not only to Donald Trump but also to Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas, who have blocked mandates and other measures to combat the disease….“People are rightfully freaked out at the Delta variant. They are angry at people who refuse to get vaccinated, and extremely angry at leaders who enable anti-vaxxers to endanger everyone else,” says Nathan Click, the spokesperson for the anti-recall campaign. “They see what’s going on in Texas, they see what’s going on in Florida, and they don’t want that happening here.”….These strategies show that Democratic candidates—albeit in blue-leaning states that all rank near the top in vaccination rates—are moving more forcefully than President Joe Biden to pressure the remaining roughly one-fourth of American adults who have refused to get vaccinated. The emphatic embrace of mask and vaccine mandates by Newsom, McAuliffe, and Murphy reflects a growing consensus in the party that the majority of Americans who have received at least one shot are receptive to tougher measures on those who have not.”

From “The Texas county that explains why Republicans are terrified: Demographic shifts in places like Fort Bend mean the GOP is desperate to pass its extreme agenda while it can” by Sam Levine at The Guardian: “Since 2010, the population in Fort Bend county has just exploded. Last year, the census counted 822,779 people living here, a staggering 40% increasefrom a decade ago. It’s part of the metro and suburban growth that helped Texas’s population grow by 16% over the last decade, making it one of the fastest-growing places in the US….The county is also now extremely diverse; it is nearly 32% white, 25% Hispanic or Latino, 21% Asian and 21.3% Black….“​​Fort Bend county is probably the most ethnically diverse county in the United States,” Stephen L Klineberg, the founding director of Kinder Institute for Urban Research, who closely studies the demographics of the Houston area, told me. “And so it’s a perfect model for what the American future [will look like].”….The population isn’t the only thing that’s changing – the politics are too. In 2012, Mitt Romney handily won the county over Barack Obama by about 10 points. But in 2016, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by six points. In 2018, Beto O’Rourke won the county in his US Senate campaign against Ted Cruz. Biden carried the county in 2020….“​​There’s been explosive growth in the suburbs of Texas and that is driving through the change in politics that is creating this kind of last hurrah kind of thing for people like [Texas Lieutenant Governor] Dan Patrick, and Governor Abbott and others that are trying to get as many conservative things as they can possibly get done. Because it’s not a reflection of the population and where the population is headed,” Tameez said….Klineberg, the demographer, added that there was no way for Republicans to stop the kind of demographic change happening in Fort Bend county. “The Republicans see the handwriting on the wall,” he said.”

Galston: In Marking 9/11, the U.S. Must Refocus on Protecting Our Domestic and Global Interests

As the nation prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attack on America, most of the media coverage will address the tremendous human costs of the 9/11 atrocity and the U.S. response to it. In one section of his Brookings article, “How America’s response to 9/11 contributed to our national decline,” William A. Galston also summarized the economic and political costs of America’s longest war:

The opportunity costs of our post-9/11 policy choices have been enormous. Since 2001, the United States has spent about $2 trillion in direct warfighting costs in Iraq and Afghanistan. One estimate places the total cost at $4 trillion, not counting the “long tail” outlays for treating the physical and mental damage these wars have inflicted on thousands of the best men and women our country has to offer.

It would be naïve to suggest that all this money would otherwise have been put to productive use in domestic public policy or the private sector. But one thing is clear: During years of fiscal restraints on discretionary spending during the past decade, our wars in the Middle East received funding from accounts to which the official budget limits did not apply.

Because domestic policy had no such safety valve, important government functions suffered, including the emergency health stockpile that was all but empty when we needed it the most in the early months of the pandemic.  At the same time, our failure to raise taxes to fund our post-9/11 military engagements wars guaranteed steady upward pressure on the national debt. A more measured response to the attack on our homeland would have made us stronger at home, with no loss of security. This alternative course, moreover, would have given the Department of Defense more bandwidth to focus on the military modernization needed to counter the great-power threats we now face.

Galston is critical of “manner of our withdrawal from Afghanistan,” but concludes that “we cannot afford to squander our energy in endless “Who lost Kabul?” debates. We should close the book on the 9/11 era, confine our policies in the Middle East to defending our friends and our essential interests, and focus instead on the task before us—doing what is necessary at home and abroad to arrest our decline and remain fully competitive in the struggle to define world order in the 21st century.”

Anti-Abortion Movement Won’t Be Satisfied With Reversing Roe

As the specter of a Supreme Court repudiation of a constitutional right to choose an abortion becomes very tangible, I offered some thoughts at New York about where the fight over reproductive rights might ultimately go:

These are high times for the movement to abolish the constitutional right to an abortion. It has long since conquered one of our two major national political parties. Via that partnership, three justices strongly supported by the movement ascended to the Supreme Court when Donald Trump was president. Last week, all three joined justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in a shocking decision to green-light, at least temporarily, a Texas law banning all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. And now the odds are high that the Court will reverse or significantly modify its precedents on abortion in a case on the immediate horizon involving a Mississippi law that directly challenges the Court’s protections for pre-viability abortions laid down in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).

If that’s how the deal goes down, anti-abortion activists, after they finish celebrating, will focus on spreading abortion bans into contested territory beyond the red states where they have routinely been enacted in recent years, right? Having spent 48 years arguing that states, not courts, should control abortion policy, they’ll be happy to slug it out with their pro-choice opponents in state capitols where neither side has a prohibitive advantage, right?

Not necessarily. Truth is, hardly anyone has ever joined the anti-abortion movement out of passionate support for states’ rights. Sure, in the immediate shock of Roe v. Wade, the idea that a policy matter controlled by state laws since time immemorial would instead be dictated by the federal courts seemed alien. But 48 years later, that shock has surely faded. There are no state legislators pining for the power they lost in 1973 when many of them weren’t yet born or were children playing with toys rather than the lives of women. And the official position of the anti-abortion movement has been clear from the beginning: As early as 1973, it had backed various versions of the Human Life Amendment, a device to place fetal rights into the U.S. Constitution and ban abortion nationwide, not simply reversing but displacing the privacy-based right to abortion identified in Roe.

While the movement suffered from a strategic split between those supporting both an amendment and a return to state-controlled election law and those for whom only the former would do, there was never any question that banning abortion everywhere by the most efficient means available was the common goal. The Human Life Amendment made its way into the national Republican platform as early as 1980.

But securing a constitutional amendment these days isn’t just problematic. The process — with its requirement of a proposal by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress (or a much less likely state-called constitutional convention) and ratification by three-fourths of the states — has made the prospect all but extinct for anything remotely controversial. So unsurprisingly, support has grown steadily among anti-abortion advocates for securing protections for “human life” by the same means once used to strip them away: the Supreme Court. As Garrett Epps notes, a recent amicus brief filed by two highly distinguished conservative legal thinkers, John Finnis and Robert George, makes the argument explicit:

“The prohibition of abortion, they told the [Supreme] Court in their brief, is ‘constitutionally obligatory because unborn children are persons within the original public meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.’ No state can permit it, they say.”

The idea that the congressional devisers of the 14th Amendment thought the term persons included zygotes is preposterous, says Epps. But as a strategic matter, getting an increasingly conservative Court with members closely associated with the anti-abortion movement to adopt the Human Life Amendment by judicial fiat makes excellent sense, at least as a goal.

Even if that outcome presently looks distant, its logic is powerful to those accustomed to arguing that “the unborn,” from conception, are people who are metaphysically and morally indistinguishable from those we see walking around. As Harvard professor Jeannie Suk Gerson observed in 2019, the growing tendency of Republican legislators to discard the exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, which used to be standard fare in legislation restricting abortion, reflects a “personhood” point of view. It’s significant that neither of the state abortion laws adopted in Mississippi and Texas that are creating such a stir right now has a rape or incest exception. That’s not because the lawmakers drafting them are simply stupid or cruel (though Texas governor Greg Abbott was arguably both in his ridiculous claim that he would eradicate rape in his state so pregnancies resulting from it would no longer exist). They simply reflect a different concept of personhood. And though efforts to put this radical concept into state constitutions have fared poorly in ballot tests over the years, it’s clearly gaining momentum in the anti-abortion movement and conservative legal circles.

Short of that long shot, if Roe is knocked down, you can expect conservatives to do the same thing progressives are talking about doing: promoting legislation in Congress to establish a preemptive national policy on abortion. It would be a statute, not a constitutional provision, and thus could quickly be reversed after one adverse election; but as long as it was in effect, it would ban abortions in New York, California, and Vermont just as surely as in Alabama, West Virginia, or Utah. It’s not a practical immediate possibility for Republicans because they control neither Congress nor the White House (a Democratic president would obviously veto such a law). But if Republicans regain the trifecta they lost in 2018 at a time when Roe has already been overturned, of course they would try to enact a preemptive statue, and, in fact, given the power of the anti-abortion movement in the GOP, they might well sweep aside or change the rules allowing filibusters to make it possible without a supermajority.

The bottom line is that happiness over a potential Supreme Court counterrevolution on the right to choose isn’t going to make anti-abortion activists complacent or even willing to play by a new set of rules in the traditional sandbox of state legislation. Give ’em an inch and they will want to take control of the reproductive systems of every woman in America. And let’s not concede any false equivalence between the two “teams”: Nobody is talking about forcing anyone to have an abortion. But the anti-abortion movement is very definitely talking about, and planning toward, a system in which every pregnant woman will be forced to carry pregnancies to term. And that would be true from sea to shining sea.

Political Strategy Notes

For an understanding of the effects of the current round of congressional redistricting, which is still underway, it would be hard to do better than the extensive analysis by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman, who write in “Redistricting in America, Part Eight: A Quick Summation of a Long Series” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Dear Readers: This is the eighth part of our multi-part series on congressional redistricting. Part One provided a national overview, Part Two covered several small-to-medium-sized states in the Greater South, Part Three looked at four larger states in the South, Part Four considered the West Coast and the Southwest, Part Five swept through a sampling of Great Plains and Heartland states, Part Six surveyed the electorally-critical Great Lakes region, and Part Seven finishedthe national tour in the Northeast. This week, we’ll conclude with some broader thoughts, though with several states already releasing draft maps, look for more redistricting-related content in the coming months….There are six states — Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming — that have only one member of the House, and thus won’t need to redistrict. These states are all safe for the incumbent party for the foreseeable future, with the possible exception of Alaska, where Rep. Don Young (R, AK-AL), the Dean of the House, has had some close-ish races in recent years.” Kondik and Coleman provide capsule takes for the other 44 states, based on available data and conclude in “an overall, general assessment” that: “We’ve said before that the Republicans were favored to win the House majority next year, both because of redistricting and also because of the usual midterm trend that breaks against the party in the White House, among other factors. Following the completion of this redistricting preview, we have not changed our view on that….We did our own back-of-the-envelope projections of the House and anticipated some aggressive (but not maximally aggressive) gerrymandering by both Republicans and Democrats, where applicable. We also assumed a somewhat neutral political environment, which very well may not end up being the case – in all likelihood, Joe Biden’s currently net-negative approval rating needs to rebound for there to be even a neutral environment next year as opposed to a Republican-leaning one….Anyway, we got a GOP net gain of roughly a dozen seats, more than the five-seat improvement they need from the 2020 results to win the House majority. This is a deliberately modest outlook, and Republicans could easily blow past it next year, while there are also scenarios under which Democrats are able to minimize those GOP gains and perhaps even save their majority. But our default expectation has been, and remains, a Republican House takeover next year.”

From Amy Walter’s “Intensity of Opposition to Biden Rises, Solid Support Drops in August” at The Cook Political Report: “There’s been a lot of focus lately on President Biden’s sagging approval ratings. After a pretty steady (and positive) six months, Biden’s overall job approval ratings slid over the summer — especially August. At the beginning of May, Biden’s job approval rating in the FiveThirtyEight average was 54 percent to 41.1 percent disapproval (+12.9). By early July, his net job approval was down 4 points to +9.8. By early August, the net approval was down another 2 points to +8. Today, Biden is barely above water at 48.3 percent to 46.1 percent (+2.2)….But, what should be more worrisome for Biden (and Democrats overall), is that the intensity of opposition to the president is also on the rise, while strong approval has dropped. In fact, for the first time, recent polling shows net strong disapproval of Biden at a nearly equal level to that of former president Trump at this point in his tenure…..Why does this matter?….Elections, especially midterms, are driven by enthusiasm. And, the party out of power is almost always much more motivated to vote than the party in power. Most recently, we saw this mismatch in voter intensity in 2018 when Democrats turned out in force to send a message to a president they deeply disliked.”

Re those approval rate declines, check out Laura Clawson’s post, “Majority say Biden’s policies haven’t helped them. $1,400 stimulus checks are surprised to hear it at Daily Kos for some good Democratic talking points. As Clawson writes, “President Joe Biden’s declining approval ratings come despite the popularity of his signature policies, a new report from Civiqs shows. In fact, seven of 12 Biden policies surveyed by Civiqs have majority support and another three have plurality support from the public. But “Although item by item, Biden’s agenda is popular, most Americans (57%) do not feel that they have personally benefited from Biden’s policies. Indeed, many voters (45%) feel that they have been personally harmed by the Biden administration. Just 37% of Americans say that the Biden administration has done anything to help them personally.” Clawson shares some bullet points, including: “Around 159 million households got checks, most of them for $1,400, from the American Rescue Plan, which Biden ran on and pushed hard to get through Congress….The households of more than 65 million children got the American Rescue Plan’s expanded child tax credit, which sent $250 a month to children 6 and over and $300 a month to younger children. Millions of households also got expanded child care assistance….The American Rescue Plan increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits until September … and then, the Biden administration made changes to the overall program that will increase assistance for all 42 million beneficiaries on a continuing basis….Those are extremely direct benefits flowing to tens of millions of U.S. households. But let’s say you personally did not get a direct payment from a plan advanced by President Biden. What about you? (Is it all about you?) Well, it turns out there’s a damn good chance you, too, benefited from something he did.”

Clawson continues: “Schools received $122 billion in funding. Maybe that money is going to educating your kids. Maybe you don’t have kids in school. You know what? Even so, it’s helping protect your community from the pandemic by keeping kids and teachers safe in the schools. It’s helping your local economy by preventing job losses in education….The Restaurant Revitalization Fund provided $28.6 billion to 101,000 restaurants. Even if that didn’t save your job, it might have saved your favorite restaurant….The Biden administration invested tens of billions of dollars in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and other mitigation strategies, helping to control the pandemic for all of us….Biden brought the U.S. back into the Paris climate agreement, the first step in fighting the climate change that will threaten millions of lives in the coming years….Biden withdrew U.S. troops from Afghanistan, doing the right thing and ending a massive ongoing expense for a nation in which politicians always claim that there’s no money to help people while always finding the money to pay for wars….Biden has cancelled $9.5 billion in student debt. There’s much, much more to be done, and he should be doing it. But what he has done affects hundreds of thousands of people….Oh, and then there was that little, small, minor vaccination effort. Maybe you’re not on SNAP. Maybe you weren’t unemployed at any point since March. Maybe your income is too high for you to have gotten a relief check or the expanded child tax credit, and maybe you don’t care that your local schools and economy and restaurants benefited. But hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated, which is not only keeping those people safe from serious illness or death but also keeping hospitals from being even more overwhelmed than they already are….So, me? I don’t think Joe Biden is perfect. Far from it. But I know damn well that I’ve benefited from his presidency in direct, personal ways.” All of which leads to the conclusion that it’s great to have popular policies, but you really do have to remind voters.

Schor: Why Dems Must Rebrand to Include Working-Class

Freddie Sayers interviews political analyst David Schor at unherd.com. Schor shares several insights about what is keeping the Democratic Party from achieving a working majority, including:

College educated people have taken over the branding and issue prioritisation of the Democratic Party, at the expense of working class white people who were in the party and working class non-white people who are in the party, and that’s driving people away. That’s really dangerous. Because in the Democratic Party, if you don’t have non-white conservatives, and you’re just a party of educated, white liberals, that gets you to 25%-30% of the vote….White people with a college degree who are under the age of 34 are less than 5% of the electorate, but they are literally a majority of people who work in politics…so I think it’s very easy for us to develop an inflated sense of how progressive the electorate is or how much people share our values.

Shor has more to say about what Democrats should do to win a stable majority. Here is the rest of the interview:

Abortion Politics Could Help Democrats in the 2022 Midterms

As I continue to mull the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conduct in its review of Texas’s new abortion law, I offered these thoughts at New York:

The growing brouhaha over Texas’ new law banning all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to declare it unconstitutional by hiding behind its weird private-citizen enforcement mechanism, are competing for attention with other crises at this late-summer juncture. But the new controversies over abortion law are likely to remain at the center of public attention — to the point that abortion could even be a bipartisan voting issue of unprecedented significance in the 2022 midterms.

The legal calendar makes it entirely possible. Whatever the murky trajectory of legal maneuvering over Whole Women’s Health v. Jackson — the case that triggered last week’s Supreme Court order at least temporarily green-lighting a pre-viability abortion ban — compliance (so far) of abortion providers is giving pro-choice Americans a taste of what life was like before Roe v. Wade struck down state abortion bans in 1973. And perhaps more importantly, the same Court that provided five votes to smile upon Texas’ mischief will soon hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involving Mississippi’s direct challenge to Roe. The decision in that case will probably (given the usual big-case timetable for SCOTUS) come down in June or even July of 2022, just as the midterm election campaign is gearing up. And if, as is widely expected, the Court reverses or significantly modifies the federal constitutional right to abortion that has been in place for 48 years, it could become a major campaign issue for supporters of both parties and rare groups of swing voters in both federal and state elections. Below is a primer on how the legal fight over abortion could impact the vote next November.

Why would congressional elections be affected by a Court decision that has already been handed down?

If SCOTUS reverses Roe next year, and particularly if it’s a close and not entirely definitive decision, the salience of Supreme Court decisions (and Senate confirmations) in the immediate future could go up rather than down. Should, for example, Stephen Breyer still be on the Court when voters vote in November 2022, control of the Senate could be critically important to the confirmation of a successor — even one appointed by Joe Biden — and to the shape of the Court going forward. After the Merrick Garland saga, there is no doubt that a Senate controlled by Mitch McConnell would sit on a Biden nomination as long as it took to preserve the SCOTUS seat for a Republican presidential successor.

Beyond that contingency, the return of a pre-Roe state of affairs on abortion law would open up the possibility of a federal statute preempting state abortion laws and establishing a national standard. This kind of action would be on the table if Democrats continue to control both Houses of Congress and the presidency after the midterms. It wouldn’t actually come to pass, of course, so long as the Senate minority can block legislation via the filibuster; abortion policy is not one of those topics that can move forward via the budget reconciliation process, since it’s not budget-germane under the Senate rules. But as my colleague Eric Levitz has suggested, it’s possible the subject could add critical pressure on Senate Democrats to reform the filibuster rules, perhaps via a “carve-out” for legislation involving individual rights like the right to choose and the right to vote.

Would local elections be affected in states other than Texas?

While SB 8 will likely make Texas ground zero for abortion politics in 2022 (it will already be competitive generally thanks to the separate red-hot controversy over the GOP-sponsored voter suppression law), a reversal of Roe could make nearly every state a battleground. Yes, the immediate focus might be on Republican-controlled states where legislators and governors will come under hellish pressure to abolish reproductive rights as quickly and thoroughly as possible. But Democrats in states they control will be just as eager to consolidate a right to abortion via new or newly implemented state laws.

Most obviously, in states where the governorship or control of legislative chambers is in play, abortion laws will have a fresh urgency as a campaign platform. And it will be an issue that is difficult to ignore, even in hard-core red states where anti-abortion activists may want to push for ever-more-draconian laws, and in hard-core blue states where issues like abortion funding and provider regulation could divide some pro-choice Democrats while giving Republicans traction.

After nearly five decades of abortion politics being mostly rhetorical, and mostly dealing with marginal issues like rare late-term abortions, a Wild West period will arrive. There will be plenty of gun-fights and saloon brawls as well: As with so many other issues, the two major parties have been totally polarized on abortion policy, with pro-choice Republicans and anti-abortion Democrats being almost hunted to extinction at the level of elected officials.

Which side of the abortion fight will have the most energy in 2022?

Since Roe at least, anti-abortion activists and their aligned voters have been thought to be more focused on elections and motivated to turn out for them than their pro-choice counterparts. The reason is obvious if you think about it: The status quo has been largely pro-choice thanks to Roe, so all the energy associated with any movement for change has been associated with the anti-abortion cause. Pro-choice folk could rely (or so they thought) on the Supreme Court to protect their rights. Their opponents knew they’d have to move mountains to move the relevant Court precedents.

SB 8 has changed those dynamics overnight, which is one important reason (others are fear that SCOTUS’s favor will be temporary, and a tactical interest in playing down the immediate impact) the reaction to the law taking effect has been much less intense in anti-abortion than in pro-choice circles.

If SCOTUS goes the whole hog and kills or seriously wounds federal abortion rights next year, the topic could become a central focus of national Democratic messaging, in part because the perceived status quo would switch sides, and in part because rank-and-file Democrats are more unified than Republicans on abortion policy. According to a Pew survey earlier this year, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor keeping abortion “legal in all or most cases” by an 80-19 margin, while Republicans and Republican-leaning independents want to make abortion “illegal in all or most cases” by a smaller 63-35 margin. In the past, Republicans have occasionally succeeded in creating splits among Democrats by focusing on side-issues like rare late-term abortions or abortion funding, but with the basic legality or illegality of abortion now front-and-center, the shoe may be on the other foot.

Will abortion swing voters?

While base mobilization will likely be the principal focus of those on both sides exploiting concerns over abortion policy, it’s possible the topic could help flip a slice of the small and shrinking but sometimes crucial portion of the electorate that is truly independent. All in all, self-identified indies stand pretty much where the electorate as a whole stands on abortion, with a significant but not overwhelming lean towards the pro-choice position. But again, a focus on the basic availability of legal abortion rather than poll-driven proposals to restrict when and why abortions will be permitted should help Democrats on average. And abortion politics could be especially helpful to Democrats defending the suburban congressional districts they won in 2018 and then held onto in 2020.

Certainly the salience of abortion politics in 2022 will depend on what else is in the news and on the minds of voters, and on the strategic thinking of partisan decision-makers and sometimes individual candidates. But with Democrats looking down the barrel of historical data suggesting likely midterm losses at both the congressional and the state level, any issue that could break the mold will be welcome.


Teixeira: Coronavirus + Economic Sputtering = Big Trouble

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Afghanistan is in the news and may indeed contribute to Biden and the Democrats’ current poor showing in the polls. But the story that the country has veered off track was already there and in all likelihood Afghanistan-related troubles are simply building on that rather than creating a new story.

Check out the chart below from Morning Consult showing coronavirus case trends vs. consumer confidence. That’s what I call a clear relationship. The coronavirus surge has take a huge toll on what Democrats’ were hoping, not unreasonably, would be a “morning in America” situation with a roaring return to social and economic normality. No more, at least not now.

And there’s this from a very useful recent Times report on the uneven nature of current economic performance:

“[T]he recovery remains uneven and rattled by a rare set of economic crosswinds. In some sectors, consumer demand remains depressed. In others, spending is high but supply constraints — whether for materials or workers or both — are pushing up prices.

For instance, the construction sector has regained most of the jobs lost early in the pandemic, and other industries, such as warehousing, have actually grown. But restaurants and hotels still employ millions fewer people than they did in February 2020. The result: There are more college graduates working in the United States today than when the pandemic began, but five million fewer workers without a college degree.

Compounding the problem, employment in the biggest cities fell further than in smaller cities and rural areas, and it has rebounded more slowly. Employment among workers without a college degree living in the biggest cities is down more than 5 percent since February 2020, compared with about 2 percent for workers without a college degree in other parts of the country.”

As I have repeatedly noted, the Democrats have very serious ongoing problems with working class voters. This is not going to help.