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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?

Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party continues to shape America’s politics, even as the Democrats have taken control of the federal government and Congress.

Read the Report

From Democracy Corps

 

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.

Most Profoundly Sinister Provision in the New GOP Voter Suppression Laws

All of the GOP measures are designed to make voting harder and reduce the turnout of minorities and other pro-Democratic groups but one key strategy is quite literally designed to turn American elections into meaningless, completely empty rituals like they are in police state dictatorships like Russia.

Read the Article

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.

Strategy for Separating Extremist from Non-extremist White Workers

The grotesque events since the election finally forced a limited section of the Republican coalition to take a stand against the extremists who gained essentially complete domination over the GOP after the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Prevent the Triumph of GOP Extremism.

The Daily Strategist

July 27, 2021

Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. applauds the very few Republican leaders who are finally urging the public to get vaccinated – and also has some message points for Democratic candidates and campaigns: “Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of July 23, the 20 states with the highest vaccination rates (counting the District of Columbia as a state) all voted for President Biden….A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of CDC data found that as of July 6, the average vaccination rate in counties that voted for Biden was 46.7 percent. In counties that voted for Donald Trump, the vaccination rate was 35 percent….This, sadly, should be no surprise. An Associated Press-NORC poll released Friday found that among Democrats, only 18 percent were “not very” or “not at all” confident in the effectiveness of vaccines; among Republicans, 42 percent expressed such doubts….Three states — Florida, Texas and Missouri — accounted for 40 percent of new covid cases last week….It’s the new political geography of sickness and death….Democratic pollster Guy Molyneux pointed to the unpopularity of the anti-vaccine position generally, and especially among “red state business communities” who fear new lockdowns….“I wouldn’t be surprised if GOP pols are hearing from business leaders: Knock it off with the anti-vax nonsense,” Molyneux said. The National Football League’s tough stand on vaccination is a high-profile example of a business alarmed about the impact of a resurgent virus on its operations….So please, Republican politicians, keep shouting from the rooftops about the imperative of getting vaccinated. But you also need to take another virus seriously. The spread of extremism in your party is deadly — to our health and to our democracy.

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter explains why President Biden’s bipartisan outreach may have a very short shelf life: “No matter what happens with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it’s pretty clear that this is the last chance for any significant and meaningful bipartisan legislation for the foreseeable future. And, that’s not just because control of the Senate is on the line in 2022. Two of the three Republicans most heavily involved in the bipartisan deal-making on infrastructure won’t be in Congress in 2023, while the third could lose a primary. Ohio’s Rob Portman and North Carolina’s Richard Burr are retiring, while Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has earned former President Trump’s wrath by voting to impeach him, has a serious intra-party challenge. As important, the Republicans running to replace them are more interested in fighting than in fixing, more invested in widening the partisan chasm than in narrowing it. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate candidates in key swing seat Senate races don’t share President Biden’s optimism about GOP cooperation. Many of them have pledged to nix the filibuster, something Biden recently said would “throw the entire Congress into chaos.”….in the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, every major candidate takes a different view than Biden. All have said they would vote to eliminate the parliamentary procedure. Many of the top Democratic candidates in North Carolina and Wisconsin are also committed to ending the procedure. Even if the filibuster stays intact, the fact that Democrats — even those in swing states — are willing to throw out the parliamentary procedure suggests that members of Biden’s party are much more pessimistic than he is about the comity and bipartisanship.,,,President Biden may believe that there’s still a chance for the Senate to work in a bipartisan way. But, there will be fewer members in that body come 2023 that believe that.”

Will the Florida Democratic Party ever get it together? As Matt Dixon writes in “Florida Democrats anxious over stalled Miami congressional races” at Politico, “Two Miami-area congressional races are likely to be some of the nation’s most expensive and competitive midterm contests. But Democrats so far are missing one thing: candidates….Then-Democratic Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell lost the seats in surprise upsets in 2020. Democrats now see both races as winnable — Hillary Clinton won both districts in 2016 by double digits, and the seats tend to sway between Republican and Democratic control. But some Florida Democrats are blaming the poor recruitment drive on the party, which they say isn’t doing enough to recruit and assist strong candidates — a sign of larger problems in the nation’s biggest swing state….At the same time, Shalala is watching how the state’s redistricting process plays out before deciding whether to run again. The former Clinton administration cabinet official would be the initial favorite in the primary if she enters the race but could leave Democrats scrambling well into the 2022 election cycle if she delays her decision much longer….The unsettled field has left Florida Democrats anxious that two potential opportunities are slipping away from them, especially after Republicans and former President Donald Trump galvanized Miami’s Cuban exile community during the 2020 elections….“Without question it is definitely frustrating,” said Ben Pollara, a Miami-based Democratic consultant. “These are going to be ultra-competitive seats that you will need to raise a lot of money for. I’ve been telling people to get in as soon as you can.”….The growing unease underscores the weak position Democrats are in in Florida as the national party attempts to protect its slim margin in the House. Florida Democrats have struggled this year to recruit A-list candidates for statewide offices like attorney general and even governor, a sign that Democrats see their chances of toppling Republicans dimming….Democrats contend that they have a strong chance of winning back Salazar’s seat, which includes tony Miami Beach. The lines will be redrawn, but the previous two presidential elections show how it raced away from Democrats: President Joe Biden won Salazar’s current district by roughly 3 points in 2020, just four years after Hillary Clinton carried it by almost 20 points.”

Jeet Heer observes in “The Fate of the New Popular Front” at Dissent: “Is Joe Biden the reincarnation of Lyndon B. Johnson or even Franklin D. Roosevelt? Biden will have to rack up many more legislative victories before he can make any such boast, but based on the first few months of his presidency, it is safe to say that Washington is now more amenable to left-wing ideas than at any time since the peak of the Great Society….Many have been taken by surprise by this development. Biden’s political identity has been resolutely centrist for decades. And he was the second-most moderate of the Democrats who vied for the presidential nomination in 2020, to the left only of former Republican Michael Bloomberg. Yet Biden’s centrism has always been tempered by a healthy opportunism. He is a party man, with an uncanny gift for locating himself wherever the median Democratic Party voter is. And thanks to Bernie Sanders’s two bids for the presidential nomination and the rise of a young cohort of openly leftist lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other members of the Squad, the center of gravity of the Democratic Party is well to the left of where it has been for the last half-century….One sign of Biden’s political acumen is the effort he has made to integrate the left into the Democratic Party—something that Hillary Clinton failed to do in her ill-starred 2016 run. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has been especially diligent in making sure that the progressive wing is involved in policymaking. Bernie Sanders’s elevation to chair of the Senate Committee on the Budget, an influential perch, ensures a pressure point for keeping alive social democratic proposals even if the White House backslides. In April, Sanders’s advocacy ensured that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signed on for pushing for cheaper drug prices and a lowering of the Medicare eligibility age, both areas where the White House needs prodding….The dilemma for the left is sometimes presented as a judgement between a Popular Front strategy pursued by Sanders and the Squad—working within the Democratic Party—versus an oppositional left strategy—seeing the Democratic Party establishment as an institutional foe that needs to be delegitimized for progress to occur. The advocates of the Popular Front are willing to praise Joe Biden and mobilize for the party in order to get concessions. For the oppositional left, this transactional alliance is a dead end that will inevitably involve a watering down of radical demands….Between these two poles, there is a spectrum of concern about the left’s place in the Democratic alliance.”


A Progressive Wish List for Biden’s 2nd Term Coming Into View

A report card for progressive Democrats six months into President Biden’s first term would merit  an overall “B.” The Democratic left has done a pretty good job of meeting their primary responsibility, which is to press the case for progressive policy options as much as possible, without forming a circular firing squad leading up to the midterm elections. So far, so good.

They don’t deserve an “A,” because of the tepid response to the GOP campaign to brand Democrats as supporting unpopular policies like “defunding the police,” “open borders” and unbridled socialism. Some of this is the fault of easily-distracted media. But there is considerable room for improvement in the way left Dems push back against such ridiculous stereotypes. A little more message discipline and repetition wouldn’t hurt.

Progressive Democrats are not supposed to provide uncritical support of their party’s leader on all occasions But they need to be there for the big battles, the way they showed up for Georgia’s U.S. senate candidates in the January run-offs. True that Georgia flipped in large part because of the blueing of the suburbs and Trump’s mismanagement of his party’s campaign. But it was the fire lit by energetic Black activism and progressives that helped persuade Georgia’s voters. A repeat perfomance for Warnock is needed in 2022, if Dems are going to secure a working senate majority.

Progressive Democrats should run and win where they can in 2022. But when they lose primaries, support the Democratic nominee wholeheartedly. Unity for all Democratic candidates in November, 2022 is required for winning a functional Democratic majority that can actually govern. Without unity, we don’t really have a viable political party.

Above all, left Dems should think and plan long-term. Three leading progressive Democratic goals, Medicare for All,  filibuster reform and increasing the size of the Supreme Court belong on Biden’s 2nd term wish list (unless he wins enough senate seats next year), even though he has expressed skepticism about these reforms. But one of Biden’s political virtues is that he is open to change – when the circumstances are right. Securing these reforms depends on holding the House majority and a net pick-up of a couple of U.S. senate seats next year. These are not extravagant goals, despite historical patterns, particularly if Biden’s approval ratings stay high.

President Biden is certainly doing his part. His strategy of competent management of the Covid pandemic, a major economic stimulus, plus steady progress in winning incremental reforms to improve the lives of struggling Americans is paying off. As he hits the campaign trail for 2022 Democratic candidates this week, progressive Democrats should see it as part of their cause.


Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “The Tool That Joe Biden Refuses to Use: The president’s speech about the sanctity of the vote did not go far enough” at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein explains, “That relative emphasis on infrastructure over voting rights may reflect several calculations in the White House. One is the belief, as officials have described to me, that the best way for Biden to prevent Republicans from stealing future elections is for Democrats to maintain control of the House and Senate in 2022—and the best way to ensure that is for him to pass the bread-and-butter agenda he ran on (which includes, in their view, working with Republicans)….Others see in Biden’s approach an implicit acknowledgment that he is highly unlikely to persuade the Democratic holdouts—led by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—to change the Senate filibuster, the necessary precondition to passing any new federal voting-rights legislation. By that analysis, the White House is modulating Biden’s engagement in a fight that he is very unlikely to win. “I believe they have decided that Manchin, and maybe others, are unmovable on the filibuster, and if they are unmovable, let’s focus on what we can do and not beat our heads against a wall that is simply never going to crack,” Matt Bennett, the executive vice president for public affairs at the centrist Democratic group Third Way, told me….A third possible factor in the White House ranking may be the most confounding to voting-rights groups. In his speech yesterday, Biden, like Vice President Kamala Harris in an address last week, seemed to suggest that Democrats could overcome the recent red-state moves with sufficient on-the-ground organizing. A top White House official had first made that argument to me in May in response to the initial wave of criticism from civil- and voting-rights groups that the administration was not adequately engaged in this fight.” Further, ” The late-June ruling by the six GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices further weakening the Voting Rights Act diminished the odds that the Justice Department or civil-rights groups can block these new state laws in court….With the Democratic options narrowing, the one lever the party possesses is federal legislation establishing a nationwide floor of voting rights, including guaranteed access to early and mail voting, as well as automatic and same-day voter registration. After a Republican filibuster blocked Senate debate on such a bill last month, Democrats have been attempting to negotiate a scaled-down version of the legislation based on the principles that Manchin indicated last month he could support.”

Also at the Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere writes that President Biden “gripes privately about the filibuster, aware that the parliamentary procedure is, in many minds, what’s standing between him and the FDR-size agenda he now aspires to accomplish. He looks at next year’s midterms and sees that historical trends, supercharged by gerrymandering and new red-state voting restrictions, threaten not just whatever legacy he hopes to build for his own presidency, but democracy itself….Still, the president doesn’t want to throw all his energy into a fight with Trump, or a fight over an initiative like the For the People Act, the Democrats’ favored election-reform bill. Many top White House aides (as well as more Democratic senators than have said so publicly, despite voting for it) see the legislation as full of problems that wouldn’t hold up to a Supreme Court challenge. Plus, the votes aren’t there for it to pass in the Senate. As for the filibuster, Biden believes that not only would coming out against the bill publicly be counterproductive, but that doing so would end all hope of getting any other legislation through the Senate….Biden believes that this is precisely the kind of elitist trap Democrats fall into time and again, to their own detriment. The more energy and airtime Democrats devote to eliminating the filibuster, the less energy they’re putting into talking up the expanded child tax credit or working toward the passage of a historic infrastructure bill. He believes voters are going to care much more about the money in their pockets than the less tangible issues of government reform….“What I’ve learned in my entire career in politics, you can do anything with somebody and get them to move as long as you don’t change their standard of living downward,” he told me….Scrapping the filibuster won’t matter if nothing else can pass the Senate and Biden has a failed presidency; protecting small margins in elections won’t matter if Democrats don’t deliver on other priorities and lose House races next year by 5 or 10 percent.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik notes in the first part of his new series on redistricting that “there are 10 states that use a commission to draw the lines: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington. If those commissions did not exist, and redistricting power was instead given to the state legislature with the possibility of a gubernatorial veto, Democrats would have the power to draw the maps in six of these 10 states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington), Republicans would have the power in three (Arizona, Idaho, and Montana), and there would be divided government control in Michigan (Democrats hold the governorship, Republicans hold the state legislature). Instead of Republicans holding a 187-75 edge, their advantage would be a more modest 200-170 under this scenario, with the remaining 65 districts either in one-district states or in ones with divided government….So in some states, Democrats may be, or are, kicking themselves for backing redistricting commissions. Both parties supported a 2018 Colorado ballot issue that created an independent redistricting commission for congressional maps. Had it not passed, Democrats now would have gerrymandering power in the Centennial State and drawn themselves a better map than a draft the commission released a few weeks ago, which likely will result in a 5-3 Democratic delegation but could split 4-4 in a strong Republican year. “We’re (expletive) idiots,” said one anonymous state lawmaker, as quoted by the Colorado Sun.”

The Nation’s Elie Mystal makes a compelling argument that pretty much all voting rights reform legislation is doomed because the current U.S. Supreme Court majority is already in the pocket of the GOP, when it comes to voting rights. Further, argues Mystal, “There is something the Democrats could do to restore the Voting Rights Act. Expand the Supreme Court. It’s actually the only reasonable thing Democrats can do. The Supreme Court has made it clear that there are not five votes to support the notion that nonwhites should have equal access to the ballot box. If Democrats do not expand the court, then they accept that premise and leave Black people—their actual base of electoral support—to fend for themselves against whatever ideas Republican governors can come up with to discourage them from voting….But to expand the court, you first need to break the filibuster….Even if the filibuster is somehow defeated, it’s pretty clear that Biden would want to use that power to pass an infrastructure bill as well as these well-intentioned voting rights protections that will be easily overturned by the Supreme Court in a few years time. The will to do what is necessary to protect Black people from Republicans simply doesn’t exist in the current Democratic Party….So they feed us this lie, this falsehood that a carefully tailored voting rights restoration bill will be above constitutional reproach, even though the conservatives on the Supreme Court have literally already told us precisely how they will strike down any new voter protection bill should they have to. Democrats are trying to wish a better Supreme Court into existence, because they don’t have the political strength to use their constitutional powers to make one….I know this isn’t what most liberals want to hear, but it is the truth. Bills promising federal oversight of state elections are dead on arrival at the conservative Supreme Court. The only way to fix that problem is to fix that court. Everything else is a pointless show, a cacophony of sound meant to distract people from the cold reality that democracy is sinking.” All of which underscores the importance of Democrats breaking the historical pattern of the president’s party losing seats in the House and Senate in its first midterm elections, and even more challenging — picking up two or three Senate seats needed to shred the filibuster and increase the size of the Supreme Court.


Don’t Dismiss the Power of Inflation Politics

All the talk of renewed inflation brought back some terrible memories for me, and I wrote about them at New York:

When I was a freshman college debater at Emory University in the fall of 1970, the national debate topic was not Vietnam, but the desirability of wage and price controls. Little did we know that just months ahead a Republican president would impose a wage-price freeze, long the anti-inflationary prescription of the left wing of the Democratic Party. But the surprise known in financial circles as the “Nixon shock,” nearly a half-century ago (on August 15, 1971) showed how pervasive the fear of inflation — running at just over 5 percent in 1970 — had become.

That’s ancient history now, even to those of us who remember the double-digit inflation of the late 1970s, and the particularly horrid scourge of “stagflation” (high inflation and unemployment simultaneously). Inflation seems to have been tamed by wise monetary policies. The periodic warnings from 21st-century conservatives that low interest rates and federal budget deficits would create inflation didn’t much bother me. It was like hearing an old priest chant a forgotten litany in a lost language — just one among many ritualistic arguments for the tight credit and reactionary social policies these people favored instinctively as a sort of class self-defense posture.

Like Tim Noah, I suspect there may be a generational lapse in understanding the politics of inflation:

“I don’t care to be condescended to by a bunch of Gen Xers and Millennials about my ’70s-bred fear of inflation. It feels too much like the condescension we Boomers directed toward Depression babies whenever they warned us that we were playing with fire in deregulating the financial markets. Poor dears, we thought, traumatized for life by the 1929 crash and one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

“The Depression babies turned out to be right, of course.”

Noah makes it clear he’s not arguing inflation per se is bad for the economy. It is, however, bad for progressive politics, and not just because “stagflation” probably killed the Carter presidency and ushered in the Reagan era far more than the Iranian hostage crisis or other better-remembered Democratic foibles. The deflationary economic strategies of the 1980s weren’t called “austerity,” but rather a corrective for undisciplined policies that fed wage and price spirals which in turned hammered the value of savings, the living standards of those on fixed incomes, and the political case for federal domestic spending.

Most lethally for progressivism, the conservative supply-side tax-cutting when combined with inflationary fears can create enormous pressure for public disinvestment and the shredding of safety nets (which is why reactionaries happily labeled the intended result “starving the beast”). We are still living with some of the long-term consequences of anti-inflationary backlash. As Noah points out, California’s Proposition 13 ballot initiative in 1978 and similar “tax revolts” were a by-product of price spirals that boosted tax assessments on property and income alike.

But sometimes lost in an examination of the right’s exploitation of inflation fears is the abiding fact that the left has no clear prescription for dealing with it, either, other than by denying its existence or significance (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly). Ironically, that was made most evident by the supposedly illiberal Richard Nixon’s surprising use of the great liberal instrument for taming inflation.

The veteran ex-conservative economic and political analyst Bruce Bartlett has penned an exceptional explainer on the background and consequences of the “Nixon shock,” particularly its international dimensions, and the role played by Treasury Secretary John Connally, who like his boss and ally Nixon was more focused on short-term politics than on long-term economic realities. What’s clear is that Nixon was convinced a recession induced by the Eisenhower administration and its Federal Reserve Board appointees designed to kill inflationary pressures also killed his 1960 presidential candidacy. As prices spiked in 1970, he was terrified the same thing could happen in 1972.

Nixon had inherited (and temporarily extended) an income-tax surcharge from LBJ that was designed to pay for the skyrocketing costs of the Vietnam War, but its effects were limited. So with his signature televised bombshell reveal (the one he deployed a month earlier to announce his trip to China), amid great secrecy, Nixon rolled out a combo platter of initiatives to fight inflation and international economic instability. They included a suspension of fixed currency exchange rates and the convertibility of the dollar to gold (to head off a raid on gold supplies triggered by a British demand for a major conversion); an import surcharge (to prevent a worsening of the trade balance); and most significantly for most Americans, a 90-day freeze on wages and prices to be followed by an indefinite period of controls by federal panels.

As political theater, Nixon’s speech announcing a “new economic policy” was, well, Nixonian. He began with dessert: an assortment of tax breaks and job-creation incentives balanced by mostly unspecified spending cuts; only then did he mention the wage-price freeze. After promising to “break the vicious circle of spiraling prices and costs,” Nixon moved on to his international proposals, which he downplayed as “very technical,” while assuring viewers that “if you are among the overwhelming majority of Americans who buy American-made products in America, your dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today.”

Nixon’s wage and price controls were initially very popular (as polls had told the White House they would be) and did indeed hold down inflation through the reelection year of 1972, when Nixon won his famous landslide reelection over poor George McGovern, in part by goosing federal appropriations to create a mini-boom. By then the administration had moved on to a more discretionary system for regulating wage and price increases, which generated rumors of employers currying favor with generous donations to CREEP (the Committee to Reelect the President), the notoriously corrupt operation heavily complicit in the Watergate scandals that brought down the Nixon presidency. Between the suppressed and eventually unleashed inflationary pressures and the oil-price shock Nixon’s international economic policies helped create, the country paid a very high economic price for the brief respite from inflation the wage-price freeze earned him. He sowed the wind with even greater inflation, and his successors Gerald Ford (whose feckless “Whip Inflation Now” campaign was widely mocked) and Jimmy Carter reaped the whirlwind.

Before you dismiss these events from 50 years ago as irrelevant, consider how much Nixon’s short-sighted approach sounds like something President Donald Trump might have done if inflation had became a political problem during his tenure (or in, God help us, a future term). Indeed, any president mulling Nixon’s choice of recession-inducing fiscal or monetary policies might be tempted to resort to the easy-to-understand, if dangerous, strategy of wage and price controls in which the pain is mostly back-loaded, particularly in or near an election year. Old folks remember how it preceded Nixon’s landslide 1972 win, followed by a decade of economic pain and multiple decades of political misery for progressives.


Meyerson: 2022 Will Be About Democratic Accomplishments vs. GOP Culture War

Harold Meyerson writes at The American Prospect:

It’s only the midpoint of 2021, but the outlines of both parties’ 2022 campaigns are already clear. Consequently, it’s also clear that the two parties’ electoral pitches will deal with entirely separate universes.

The Democrats will campaign on the real benefits they’ve delivered to the American public, more particularly the American working class (assuming, of course, that Sens. Manchin, Sinema, and their ilk don’t deep-six the entire Democratic program). Those benefits will include their largely successful effort to diminish the pandemic, their funding for infrastructure, the establishment of an expanded Child Tax Credit and affordable child care, universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, paid family and medical leave; the expansion of Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing care; more affordable housing; and numerous advances in clean energy. It will also include some of the executive orders that Joe Biden issued last Friday, including a ban on the noncompete agreements currently imposed on tens of millions of workers, and a “right to repair” rule that will enable Americans or their mechanics to fix their own cars or tractors instead of having to take them back to the manufacturer whose proprietary software has blocked anyone else’s attempts to fix the damn things.

All to be funded by Medicare savings derived from negotiating down drug prices, by higher taxes on the wealthiest one percent, and higher taxes on corporations.

In short, a lot of very real and very helpful stuff. As Biden himself once observed, “a big fucking deal.”

Republicans will not address any of these issues with substantial alternatives, Meyerson believes.

Instead, Republicans will run on culture war issues, attacking critical race theory, defunding the police, the influx of immigrants, the threat posed by minorities voting (which will be dog-whistled under the heading of voter fraud)—in short, the threat that Democrats presumably pose to white people. Which, they have to hope, will persuade a sufficient number of those white people to disregard the Medicare expansions, Child Tax Credit, and other actual benefits with which Democrats, and Democrats alone, have provided them.

Put another way, “Democrats will run against Republicans because they opposed all those benefits. And Republicans will run against Democrats for supporting all those culture war threats, a number of which, like defunding the police, the vast majority of Democrats don’t actually support.”

In addition to the effectiveness of each party’s messaging, Meyerson believes the outcome will be determined by “who will vote,” and it will come down to Republican voter suppression versus Democratic turnout mobilization. “On this issue alone, they’ll directly engage.”


Teixeira: Social Democratic Moment, Working Class Optional?

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

EJ Dionne argues in the Post that social democracy is back. I am not so sure. His basic argument is that neoliberal economics has been discredited by the pandemic crisis and the consequent need for large scale government activism. Combined with other recent failures of the neoliberal paradigm the result is:

“a resurgence of social democracy’s core idea: that market economies can thrive only when governments underwrite them with strong systems of social insurance, new paths to opportunity for those cast aside by capitalism’s “creative destruction,” and updated rules to advance social goods that include family life, education, public health — and the planet itself.”

He goes on to cite the relative unity of the Democrats around social democratic-ish legislation and the words of German Social Democratic finance minister Olaf Scholz about progressives’ “common political project”.

Leaving aside how seriously one should take the pronouncements of Scholz, whose party has been on a steadily declining trajectory, I would describe all this as necessary but not sufficient conditions for a truly social democratic moment. This includes the discrediting of neoliberal economics. The difficult task here is *replacing* neoliberal economics with a different economic model and that will take considerable effort and time.

For example, even with generous assumptions about what Democrats are actually able to pass in the current Congress, it is safe to say that even that will not achieve the transformation of the American political economy that is necessary to provide a good life for American citizens across region, race and class. That is a longer-term project that will require more reforms, more successful elections and broader majorities than the Democrats currently command.

To put a finer point on it, if the Democrats lose control of Congress in 2022, their ability to accomplish big or even medium size things after that date drops toward zero. This is not a recipe for a transformative period in American society; transformations need some time and a period of true political dominance to succeed.

This brings up something Dionne does not mention at all–working class support. I find it implausible that Democrats can retain and exert power long enough for such a “social democratic moment” when their working class support is so shaky. The 2020 election is just the latest evidence of that shaky support. And that election was, in turn, consistent with a deep trend that has greatly undermined the center-left.

As I have previously noted, a realignment to the left has seemed to be in the offing even since the Great Recession and it hasn’t happened. That potential realignment has been in stall mode.

This is because the stalled realignment has been driven by the shift of working class voters out of left parties and the increasing reliance of such parties on highly-educated voters. That has created the stall situation where the left, even when it wins elections, is continually undermined by the bleeding of working class voters. The result is unstable governance that has fallen far short of realignment.

The proximate reason for the bleeding has been laid out in rich descriptive detail in a various papers by Thomas Piketty and his colleagues, available on the World Inequality Database website. They finger the emergence of a new “sociocultural” axis of political conflict that has been embraced by right and left parties alike and that has drawn working class voters out of the left and into right and right populist parties

Those working class defections have crippled the left for many years now. I am not convinced that, even with effects of the pandemic, we are now in a fundamentally different situation. That will take an accommodation of the left to working class values that reduces sociocultural conflict and brings enough working class voters back to the left that a dominant electoral coalition can actually be sustained.
Then and only then are we likely to see a true social democratic moment.


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “Unprecedented, redistributive government spending across the wealthy countries prevented the pandemic downturn from becoming another Great Depression. At the same time, the seething social resentments that right-wing populists brought to the fore forced even the complacent to recognize the dislocations and injustices bred by rising inequality over the last half-century….This shift toward interventionism has been reinforced by a climate crisis whose dangers are increasingly obvious to large majorities across the democratic world….All this has led to a resurgence of social democracy’s core idea: that market economies can thrive only when governments underwrite them with strong systems of social insurance, new paths to opportunity for those cast aside by capitalism’s “creative destruction,” and updated rules to advance social goods that include family life, education, public health — and the planet itself….This explains why there is more unity among Democrats than skeptics expected around Biden’s big investment program. Its emphasis on shared social needs reflects how broad the new consensus is. It encompasses pro-capitalist moderates such as Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) no less than democratic socialists such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).”

From postfun.com: There are more people in the red areas than the grey, which may help explain political ad buys.

In an article orginally published in The National Journal, Charlie Cook writes at the Cook Political Report: “One Washington Post column cited a recent Navigator survey conducted for a group of liberal labor groups and individuals involved in Democratic politics and policy. Three in five registered voters in its national sample said they believe that the country is in crisis—72 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Democrats. When respondents were given a list of 14 different possibilities and asked which ones they considered a major crisis, the top issue was violent crime, with 54 percent. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans said so, as did 52 percent of independents and Democrats. This was 3 points higher than the coronavirus pandemic and well above a whole host of Democratic priorities, including China, climate change, voting, joblessness, and infrastructure, as well as “cancel culture.”….As Biden tries to navigate rising crime, he and his team are clearly mindful of how toxic his party’s most extreme voices are to swing voters. Despite his efforts to create a lot of distance from that movement, there is a certain guilt by association that’s amplified very effectively by his GOP and conservative critics….Many Democrats—including Biden at his press conference on crime last month—point to their efforts to enact tougher gun laws. But voters are savvy enough to know that new regulations on guns aren’t likely to get through Congress. Until then, they want to know: What happens? What else can you do to keep me safe? Democrats’ majority may depend on their answer.”

At Politco, Steven Shepard notes: “A new, highly anticipated report from the leading association of pollsters confirms just how wrong the 2020 election polls were. But nine months after that closer-than-expected contest, the people asking why are still looking for answers….National surveys of the 2020 presidential contest were the least accurate in 40 years, while the state polls were the worst in at least two decades, according to the new, comprehensive report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research….The most likely — if far from certain — culprit for off-kilter polling results is that key groups of people don’t answer polls in the first place….Comparing the final election results to the poll numbers for each candidate, Trump’s support was understated by a whopping 3.3 points on average, while Biden’s was overstated by a point — turning what looked like a solid Biden lead into a closer, if still decisive, race….It wasn’t just a Trump effect, either. The polls of Senate and governor’s races were off by an even greater margin: 6 points on average….Without definitive answers about the causes of the 2020 miss, however, pollsters aren’t sure they’ll be able to get it right in 2022, 2024 or beyond.”


Scher: White House Strategy to Work Around State Voter Suppression Laws Has Merit, But Could Also Hurt Dems in Midterm Elections

Bill Scher writes at Real Clear Politics:

Last week Vice President Kamala Harris announced that, to counter the spate of restrictive voting measures which have been enacted in several Republican-controlled states, the Democratic National Committee would spend $25 million on “tools and technology to register voters, to educate voters, to turn out voters, to protect voters.”

In  remarks at Howard University, Harris said, “People say, ‘What’s the strategy?’” to which she answered, “We are going to assemble the largest voter protection team we have ever had sure to ensure that all Americans can vote and have your vote counted in a fair and transparent process.”

Few Democrats would argue against the mobilization of the largest ‘voter protection team’ ever, given the all-out GOP voter suppression campaign, which has produced dozens of vote-smothering laws in state legislatures across the U.S. However, many Democrats strongly believe a successful strategy must include putting more muscle in the campaign to pass voting rights reforms at the national level. As Scher writes,

Strikingly, Harris did not mention as part of the strategy enactment of the For the People Act, the voting rights legislation Democrats passed in the House but cannot get around the filibuster in the Senate. After Harris’ Howard speech and a West Wing meeting with President Biden, voting rights advocates were not soothed. “There is no substitute for federal legislative action,” said Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice. Several demanded Biden use his bully pulpit more aggressively. Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said, “I told the president: We will not be able to litigate our way out of this threat to black citizenship. We must have the president use his voice.”

Democratic members of Congress are also pressuring Biden to not only push for the voting rights bill, but also a weakening of the filibuster in order to pass the bill. In an interview with Politico, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Biden should “pick up the phone and tell [Sen.] Joe Manchin, ‘Hey, we should do a carve-out’’” of the filibuster, which means forbidding the tactic when legislation is on the Senate floor related to constitutional rights.

Scher notes, “according to reporting by The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein, the Biden administration doesn’t have the same sense of impending doom. “Although White House officials consider the laws offensive from a civil-rights perspective,” he wrote, “they do not think most of those laws will advantage Republicans in the 2022 and 2024 elections as much as many liberal activists fear….Brownstein interviewed one anonymous White House official, who noted Biden’s ability to navigate the voting laws in 2020.  “Show us what the rules are and we will figure out a way to educate our voters and make sure they understand how they can vote and we will get them out to vote,” said this Biden aide.”

Scher write further in support of the ‘work-around’ strategy, “Democrats can and have overcome Republican-backed restrictive voting laws. In particular, academic research shows that strict laws requiring ID to vote have outright backfired on Republicans by firing up the Democratic base…The Republican intent behind restrictive election laws may be nefarious, but the impact to date has been negligible.”

However, Scher concludes, “If Democrats are to make history and keep their congressional majorities, their ranks cannot be demoralized. It’s time for the Biden administration to talk straight to the Democratic base.”

Dems have no choice, but to plan and fund an exensive ‘work-around’ strategy. But major Democratic constituencies are also demanding a more energetic full-court Biden Administration press on key senators for national voting rights reforms, along with a voting rights ‘carve-out’ for filibuster reform needed to enact both bills. Such a double-pronged strategy could shore up Democratic unity, leading up to 2022.


Political Strategy Notes

Hugo Lowell reports at The Guardian: “Top Democrats in the House are spearheading a new effort to convince the Senate to carve out a historic exception to the filibuster that would allow them to push through their marquee voting rights and election reform legislation over unanimous Republican opposition….The sweeping measure to expand voting rights known as S1 fell victim to a Republican filibuster last month after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his leadership team unified the conference to sink the bill in a party-line vote….Now, furious at Republicans for weaponizing the filibuster against Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, the House majority whip, James Clyburn, is pushing Senate Democrats to end its use for constitutional measures, according to sources familiar with the matter…Ending the use of the filibuster for constitutional measures – and lowering the threshold to pass legislation to a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate – is significant as it would almost certainly pave the way for Democrats to expand voting across the US….Democrats open to making the change have previously indicated that their argument that the minority party should not have the power to repeatedly block legislation with widespread support resonates with the wider American public….“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,” the Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley wrote on Twitter after Republicans blocked S1, illustrating the sentiment. “Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.””

From Simone Pathe’s “The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022” at CNN Politcs: “The fight for control of the evenly divided Senate will be the most dramatic showdown of 2022, and based on the candidates who have jumped in so far — and those who are expected to — there are a few changes to this month’s ranking of the Senate seats most likely to flip partisan control….Pennsylvania — an open-seat race in a state that President Joe Biden carried in 2020 — remains the most likely to flip. But four other states have moved around slightly….Two other Biden states are trading places, with New Hampshire leapfrogging above Nevada. It’s true that Biden carried the Granite State by a wider margin, but the potential GOP candidate options there are enough to move it above the Silver State for now. Of course, that could change if two big name Republicans in New Hampshire pass on the race….Two Trump states are also switching spots. Florida is now above Ohio in terms of likelihood of flipping. Democrats have done better recently at the presidential level in Florida than they have in Ohio, and that’s all the more relevant now that Democratic Rep. Val Demings is running against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Democrats already had a candidate in Ohio — Rep. Tim Ryan — but the increasingly red state is tougher terrain for the party. However, this is fluid — it’s still possible that the messy GOP primary in the Buckeye State will be just the opening Democrats need.” Pathe provides a detailed run-down for each of the states.

In his New York Times Column, “Lean in to it. Lean into the Culture War,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Should responsibility for the rampant polarization that characterizes American politics today be laid at the feet of liberals or conservatives? I posed that question to my friend Bill Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and a columnist at The Wall Street Journal….He emailed me his reply:

It is fair to say that the proponents of cultural change have been mostly on offense since Brown v. the Board of Education, while the defenders of the status quo have been on defense.

Once the conflict enters the political arena, though, other factors come into play, Galston argues:

Intensity makes a huge difference, and on many of the cultural issues, including guns and immigration, the right is more intense than the left.

Galston put it like this:

When being “right” on a cultural controversy becomes a threshold issue for an intense minority, it can drive the party much farther to the left or right than its median voter.

Along with intensity, another driving force in escalating polarization, in Galston’s view, is elite behavior:

Newt Gingrich believed that the brand of politics Bob Michel practiced had contributed to House Republicans’ 40-year sojourn in the political desert. Gingrich decided to change this, starting with Republicans’ vocabulary and tactics. This proved effective, but at the cost of rising incivility and declining cooperation between the political parties. Once the use of terms such as “corruption,” “disgrace” and “traitor” becomes routine in Congress, the intense personal antipathy these words express is bound to trickle down to rank-and-file party identifiers.

The race and gender issues that have come to play such a central role in American politics are rooted in the enormous changes in society from the 1950s to the 1970s, Galston wrote:

The United States in the early 1950s resembled the country as it had been for decades. By the early 1970s, everything had changed, stunning Americans who had grown up in what seemed to them to be a stable, traditional society and setting the stage for a conservative reaction. Half a century after the Scopes trial, evangelical Protestantism re-entered the public square and soon became an important build-block of the coalition that brought Ronald Reagan to power.

Edsall also quotes Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker: “It strains credulity to argue that Democrats have been pushing culture-war issues more than Republicans. It’s mostly Republican elites who have accentuated these issues to attract more and more working-class white voters even as they pursue a plutocratic economic agenda that’s unpopular among those voters. Certainly, Biden has not focused much on cultural issues since entering office — his key agenda items are all bread-and-butter economic policies. Meanwhile, we have Republicans making critical race theory and transgender sports into big political issues (neither of which, so far as I can tell, hardly mattered to voters at all before they were elevated by right-wing media and the G.O.P.).” Edsall adds, “There is substantial evidence in support of Hacker’s argument that Republican politicians and strategists have led the charge in raising hot-button issues….If right-wing manipulation of cultural and racial issues does end up backfiring, that will defy the long history of the Republican Party’s successful deployment of divisive wedge issues — from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush to Donald Trump. Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated that the half-life of these radioactive topics is longer than expected, and Democrats, if they want to protect their fragile majority, must be doubly careful not to hand their adversaries ever more powerful weapons.”


Trump Aides Spin Revisionist Tale of Election Night 2020

When I read the Election Night excerpt of a major new book on Trump, I nearly fell out of my chair, and wrote a challenge to it at New York:

Donald J. Trump’s victory claim in the wee hours of November 4, 2020, was a pretty big moment in American political history. It launched a challenge of the election results that hasn’t ended even eight months later, and shows signs of becoming a “bloody shirt” that could dominate Republican rhetoric for years to come.

So like many political observers, I read the Election Night account given by Trump White House insiders to Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker for their book I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year with interest, and then with astonishment. To hear these sources tell it, everyone in the White House other than a possibly inebriated Rudy Giuliani was tensely awaiting the full returns — understanding they would take days or weeks to come in — when Trump shocked everyone by taking Giuliani’s advice and saying he had already won, and would go all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary to stop the voting he claimed was still underway. According to this account, Trump’s speechwriters had prepared remarks cautioning patience in assessing the results, but instead the 45th president, smarting from the “betrayal” he experienced when Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden, tossed it away and began the “stop the steal” crusade that culminated in an attempted coup the following January and convinced many millions of Republican voters they had indeed been robbed.

This tale of a sudden lurch into Election Night madness is as implausible as Trump’s attempt to preemptively declare victory that same night was unsurprising — and horrifying.

Since the spring of 2020, I and many other journalists had been predicting that Trump’s near-hourly attacks on voting by mail were intended to produce exactly this sort of scenario: The in-person votes first counted would tilt red, enabling him and his supporters to claim victory and then challenge the validity of the blue-leaning mail ballots that would be counted later. There was even a name for this scenario, the “Red Mirage,” based on which votes would be tabulated and reported first. It produced widespread discussion in early September. But Trump’s apparent plans were clear much earlier.

So is it really likely that the thought of doing exactly that only occurred to Trump just before he walked out to inform the nation of his thoughts? That’s what Trump’s insiders clearly want us to believe via the Post reporters’ book:

“After a while, Rudy Giuliani started to cause a commotion. He was telling other guests that he had come up with a strategy for Trump and was trying to get into the president’s private quarters to tell him about it. Some people thought Giuliani may have been drinking too much and suggested to Stepien that he go talk to the former New York mayor. Stepien, Meadows and Jason Miller took Giuliani down to a room just off the Map Room to hear him out … Giuliani’s grand plan was to just say Trump won, state after state, based on nothing. Stepien, Miller and Meadows thought his argument was both incoherent and irresponsible.

“’We can’t do that,’ Meadows said, raising his voice. ‘We can’t.’”

Hmmm. Rudy has this brilliant idea that the chattering classes had been discussing for months and months and Trump’s staffers were shocked to hear of it, off the top of Giuliani’s possibly fogged head?

Now, it’s possible that Trump and his advisers were hesitating in implementing a victory-claim plan because there was a better chance that anyone expected he could win without skulduggery. But was the claim spontaneous?

It seems more likely that Trump’s staff is doing a little retroactive gaslighting and ass-covering to cleanse themselves of responsibility for the nightmare that later ensued. It’s absolutely true that Trump himself bears responsibility for the attempted election coup, whenever it was that the election-victory-claim scheme began to become strategy. It’s why he was ultimately impeached a second time. But it did not come as a bolt from the blue; it wasn’t just a coincidence that what we all thought Trump might do he just happened to do, on a whim. And if, as one should fear, Trump’s refusal to accept defeat becomes permanent for his supporters, everyone in on the plot should accept their share of the blame.