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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.


No matter who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.


No Matter Who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

RIP GOP book by Stanley Greenberg

R.I.P. G.O.P.

You can find out more about the return to progressive politics from our founder Stanley Greenberg in his new book!

Pre-Order Now.

The Daily Strategist

September 22, 2019

Teixeira: The White Working Class – Why Writing Them Off Is Political Insanity

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

The excellent David Wasserman had some astute comments on Twitter about the white working class and how nuts it is for Democrats to write them off. He is correct in all respects and his data is spot on!

“The bottom line: Dems don’t need to win a higher % of the WWC than in ’16 b/c 1) it’s declining as a % of voters and 2) Dems have made robust gains among college whites.

But Dems *can’t* afford to backslide much further & hope to win MI/PA/WI etc. And avoiding that isn’t simple.

Not about winning the demog. It’s about Dems not getting absolutely annihilated.

Moreover, the notion that voting behavior is polarized to the point that there aren’t any swing/persuadable voters left isn’t based in reality.

Not only did we see above-average swings from ’12 to ’16, Dems wouldn’t have gone +40 in ’18 without converting lots of ’16 R voters.

Much of the analysis I’m seeing on this site assumes there’s no more room for Dems to fall w/ white non-college voters, who are simply a “lost cause.”

In fact, Dems have an awful lot more room to fall w/ them, and that’s especially true in many of the most critical EC states.

Dems’ path to beating Trump absolutely depends on retaining the gains they made in diverse, college-educated burbs – the kinds we saw in 2018 & #NC09.

But even a slight drop among white non-college voters could negate all of it, given the demog’s size & geographic distribution.

Dems’ backslide w/ these voters is the main reason IA (66%) and OH (60%) have already exited stage right off the EC battleground, and why a Dem nominee who performs even worse w/ them could risk losses in ME (66%), NH (61%) or MN (56%).

Here’s why the “let’s win without working-class whites” mentality doesn’t hold water for Dems. That demog comprises 45% of all eligible U.S. voters, but:

61% in Wisconsin
61% in New Hampshire
56% in Michigan
56% in Minnesota
56% in Pennsylvania
47% in North Carolina

Good luck.”

The Case for Court-Packing–Or At Least a Credible Threat

During a week in which there was a lot of talk about the Supreme Court, Jamelle Bouie wrote an interesting column that I decided to build on for a bit of history and strategy at New York.

American history classes often treat FDR’s 1937 “court-packing” scheme — a proposal to expand the size of the Supreme Court by adding as many as six justices — as a classic example of presidential overreach, which led to a widespread backlash even among Democrats and represented a high-water mark for New Deal audacity, subsequently curtailed. It’s not as well remembered that the Lochner-era conservative majority on the Court, in the habit of holding that virtually all economic regulation by Congress violated the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment, was posing an existential threat not only to the New Deal but to democratic governance. It’s also sometimes forgotten that while FDR’s court-packing threats failed to secure congressional support, they did help frighten Justice Owen Roberts into quietly switching sides and ensuring validation of key New Deal legislation by the Supreme Court (the legendary “switch in time that saved nine”).

In other words, the legitimacy and independence of the Court were called into question not by FDR but by his opponents, and he found a way, however indirect and noisy, to restore the balance. As Jamelle Bouie notes in a New York Times column, a future Democratic president may find herself in similar straits:

“Trump’s Supreme Court appointments are mired in controversy. Justice Neil Gorsuch occupies a stolen seat, held open during Obama’s tenure by a blockade conducted for nearly a year by McConnell, who cited a previously nonexistent “tradition” of tabling nominations made in an election year. (In the 20th century alone, the Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominees in five different presidential election years — 1912, 1916, 1932, 1940 and 1988). And of course Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed last September under clouds of suspicion that stemmed from accusations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct to a bevy of ethics complaints.

“Democrats are left in an unenviable position. Should they win a federal ‘trifecta’ — the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives — they’ll still have to deal with a Trump-branded judiciary. It’s entirely possible that a future Democratic agenda would be circumscribed and unraveled by a Supreme Court whose slim conservative majority owes itself to minority government and constitutional hardball.”

You could add to Bouie’s case that the traditional norms of judicial politics have already been shattered. There’s the fact that Donald Trump broke every taboo by explicitly promising conservative Evangelicals a SCOTUS that would abolish a federal constitutional right to choose abortion, and then set up an outsourced and fiercely ideological judicial-selection process that is radically reshaping all federal courts. But he’s fundamentally and critically correct that what’s at stake in the immediate future isn’t just this or that constitutional precedent, but the ability of a popular majority to enact an agenda, at a time when one of the two major parties has committed itself to minority rule. So if Democrats gain power in 2020 or 2024, they could find themselves in the same position as their New Deal predecessors — or perhaps an even more dire situation, since today’s reactionaries are deliberately entrenching their allies throughout the federal judiciary, not just the Supreme Court.

So is it time for Democrats to openly talk about court-packing or something similarly radical-sounding? Bouie thinks so, and seven Democratic presidential candidates (Cory Booker, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Wayne Messam, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang) have told the Washington Post they are “open” to the idea. Only Buttigieg has released a specific proposal (an expansion of the court to 15 members, with five nominated by each party and five more with short-term appointments chosen by SCOTUS consensus). Perhaps the alarming head count of Trump judges, and/or fresh allegations against sitting SCOTUS justices like Brett Kavanaugh, will make judicial appointments and their number and duration a 2020 primary issue among Democrats.

But it’s even more likely that any such talk will provide new fodder for the Trump/GOP message that today’s Democrats are dangerously radical and contemptuous of constitutional norms (not that court-packing is the least bit unconstitutional if it’s done by Congress). At a minimum, conservatives will spend a lot of time telling Christian-right audiences that Democrats are now fighting fire with fire and plan to thwart their own government-by-judiciary schemes aimed at a constitutional counterrevolution. And let’s face it: All the threats to democracy that Bouie and others are warning of will get a lot worse right away if Republicans hang on to the White House and the Senate in 2020. If discussion of judicial reform makes that even infinitesimally more likely, it’s probably a topic that should be placed on a back burner until after the election.

And if things do turn out well for Democrats and they enjoy a governing trifecta in 2021, they could emulate FDR in utilizing court-packing or similar reforms as a way to get the attention of conservatives and perhaps secure their agreement to de-escalate their politicization of the courts. There’s quite a bit of evidence that FDR really wanted to change the pattern of ancient justices hanging on to Court seats forever (their retirement incomes had recently been slashed by Congress, which didn’t help) while awaiting a president of their party to appoint a successor. If moral suasion doesn’t work, term limits for judges could have a much larger and more permanent impact than court-packing schemes (especially if expanded beyond SCOTUS), and just as importantly, it’s a popular idea. A 2018 Ipsos/UVA poll showed 70 percent of Americans — and big majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — favoring term limits for SCOTUS.

In any event, whether or not they embrace specific reforms, Democratic presidential candidates and the progressives whose votes they are currently seeking need to make the shape of the federal judiciary a big-time campaign issue for 2020 — much as Trump’s conservative Evangelical backers did in 2016.

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall flags an ominous trend for Democrats: “First: Heading into the 2020 election, President Trump is on track to far surpass President Barack Obama’s record in collecting small donor contributions — those under $200 — lending weight to his claim of populist legitimacy…Second: Democratic candidates and their party committees are making inroads in gathering contributions from the wealthiest of the wealthy, the Forbes 400, a once solid Republican constituency. Democrats are also pulling ahead in contributions from highly educated professionals — doctors, lawyers, tech executives, software engineers, architects, scientists, teachers and so on…These knowledge class donors, deeply hostile to Trump, propelled the fund-raising success of Democratic House candidates in 2018 — $1 billion to the Republicans’ $661 million…While there are advantages for Democrats in gaining support from previously Republican-leaning donors, this success carries costs. In winning over the high-tech industry, the party has acquired a constituency at odds with competing Democratic interest groups, especially organized labor and consumer protection proponents. Picking up rich backers also reinforces the image of a party dominated by elites.”

A chart to ponder from Philip Bump’s “A central 2020 question for Democrats: How critical are working-class white voters?” at The Washington Post:

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

Bonnie Chiu reports at Forbes, “The 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. saw an unprecedented number of women of color being elected to office–bringing their total number at the Congress (both House and Senate) to an all-time high, at 47. A new reporthelps us to understand how this was achieved, suggests that this was not an accident and will likely define 2020 elections…2018 marks the watershed moment in political mobilization of women of color in U.S. history. A new report, published by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Civic Engagement Fund and Groundswell Fund, examines the unprecedented and often ignored role of women of color in the 2018 Midterm elections. The report highlights that the increase of non-white congresswomen correlates with a rising turnout of non-white female voters…“When you look at turnout as a percentage of the citizen voting age population in previous midterms, the numbers for 2006, 2010, 2014 were 39%, 39%, and 35%, respectively. In 2018, the figure was 48%,” says Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of California, Berkeley and principal researcher for this report. This represents a 37% increase among women of color voters compared to 2016. This huge uptick has not been found among other groups…The report finds that turnout was fuelled by women of color talking to and encouraging their friends and family to vote. Black women led the way with 84% mobilizing friends and family, followed by 76% of AAPI women, 72% of Native American women, 70% of Latinas, and 66% of white women.”

At Salon.com, Igor Derysh writes, “Republicans are expected to win 65 percent of close presidential races in which they lose the popular vote as a result of the Electoral College and the blue-state concentration of Democrats, according to a new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research…Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin looked at the probability of “inversions” in presidential elections, where the popular-vote winner loses the electoral vote. These inversions happened in 2000 and 2016 and twice in the 1800s, meaning that the candidate with the most votes has lost 8 percent of the time in the last 200 years…Using statistical models that predicted an inversion in the 2000 and 2016 races, the researchers found that the probability of the popular vote winner losing the electoral vote is about 40 percent in races decided by 1 percent (about 1.3 million votes) and roughly 30 percent in races decided by 2 percent (2.6 million votes) or less…But these probabilities are “not symmetric across political parties,” the researchers say. Over the past 30 to 60 years, this asymmetry has favored Republicans. The statistical models used in the research predict that in the event of an inversion, “the probability that it will be won by a Republican ranges from 69 percent to 93 percent.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr”s “Striking workers are the ones who saved GM” at The Washington Post: “Unions get knocked for being unconcerned about the health of the companies they organize. The UAW showed how untrue this is. It made sweeping concessions to management to persuade federal officials to undertake the investment of public money — and to keep the companies alive…The bottom line is that the strikers are fighting not only for greater fairness and a larger share of the company’s success but also for work itself. Too late to avert the strike, GM finally put an offer on the table to begin addressing some of these issues. But the rank and file are restive for more, and for good reason. Those of us who supported keeping GM alive a decade ago — and put our wallets where our mouths, pens and votes were — didn’t do so to make it easier for management to outsource jobs or hold down pay and benefits forever. Every Democratic candidate for president should be joining the UAW’s picket lines to drive that point home.”

From Kyle Kondik’s “The Electoral College: Expanding the Map” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:
Map 1: Crystal Ball Electoral College ratings

Stanley Greenberg writes in his memo, “Sharp anti-Trump reaction consolidates and grows Democratic bloc” at Democracy Corps: “The public push back against President Trump has produced a level of political engagement the country has never seen before, an elevated anti-Trump Democratic Party consolidated to support the Democratic nominee, whether it is Vice President Biden or Senator Elizabeth Warren. They are defeating Trump by 9 and 7 points respectively, with the president stuck at 41 percent, his approval rating. Democrats are poised to push up the 8.6 percent Democratic margin in the 2018 mid-terms – a shattering result if achieved…The percent who say they are “extremely interested” in the election (the percent choosing 10, the top point on a 10-rung ladder) has reached 80 percent, the highest point in the history of our polling. That is what is actually most interesting about the finding. In all prior cycles, interest in politics drops sharply and grows over the election cycle, put political engagement has jumped 10 points since the mid-terms…Virtually, every registered voter now meets our criteria as “likely,” meaning this election will bring inmillions of new voters…With President Trump nationalizing the election around himself, he has gotten the result you would expect. Fully 85 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance as president, 20 points higher than the proportion of Republicans who strongly approve of the president. That drives the Democratic vote to 87 percent with the two leading candidates, with just 2 percent voting for Trump. Republicans are not as consolidated, with 11 percent voting Democratic if Biden and 6 percent, if Warren.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the televised September Democratic debate. But she proved once again that she knows how to skewer an opponent, this time with her comment on Trump’s embarrassingly obsequious tweet that his white house is “waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Gabbard’s reply: “Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First…”It’s a huge disgrace to hear our commander-in-chief basically put us in a position… where we are servants of the Saudi Kingdom,” she said.”

“It should be easy for Democrats to make sure that whenever Americans hear Trump’s name, “crook” is the first word that comes to mind,” Amanda marcotte writes in “Fighting Trump on corruption is a winning strategy — but Democrats must lean into it” at Salon.com. “But Democrats lack message discipline, so much so that they can’t even decide if this is a real impeachment inquiry or just some vague exercise in impeachment-curiosity. Meanwhile, Trump — with his stupid aptitude for blunt repetition as a rhetorical strategy — has turned “no collusion, no obstruction” into a literal catchphrase, even though there was both collusion and obstruction. Lewandowski spouted that motto like a robot on Tuesday, even though he literally testified to the obstruction under oath…Trump’s popularity is stuck around 42% in most polls, while his disapproval rarely dips below 52%. His only pathway to victory in 2020 lies in confusing voters about his corruption and likely criminality just enough so they momentarily forget how much they dislike him. Democrats can fight back, but only if they’re willing to organize around a strategy to keep Trump’s corruption front and center. So far they have failed. If they don’t catch up soon, there’s a real risk Trump wins another term — and stays away from indictment, prosecution and prison time.”

Josh Hawley No Fit Defender of the Constitution

In the back-and-forth over Kavanaugh and other SCOTUS-related talk this week, I saw the name of a senator weighing in that make the bile rise, so I wrote about it at New York:

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the lurch toward impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh that some Democrats made over the weekend. And I’m at least ambivalent about the court-packing schemes that Pete Buttigieg and others have embraced. But in both cases we don’t need any lectures from Republican officeholders about respect for precedents involving the judicial branch — not unless they are willing to admit their party denied President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland the hearings and confirmation vote he deserved.

And of all the Republicans who need to keep a low profile on this issue, I’d put Missouri’s young semi-theocratic Senator Josh Hawley near the top of my list. Yet here he is telling The Hill he’s terrified for the Constitution:

“’You know, they want to impeach Justice Kavanaugh, they want to pack the Supreme Court, I mean talk about destroying any institution they can’t control. It’s really unbelievable. This is a Democrat party that increasingly is at war with the American constitution,’ Hawley said.”

Last time I looked, both impeachment of judges and Congress’ power to regulate the size of the federal courts were right there in the constitution. I’m sure Hawley, a Yale Law School grad and a very bright boy, knows that. So maybe he is referring to that hazy concept, the spirit of the constitution?

“'[Democrats are] willing to destroy an entire branch of government, the independent judiciary; they want to destroy it why? Because it won’t rule the way they want it too. I mean is there anything more dangerous to constitutional government than that way of thinking.'”

I dunno, senator. I’d say this way of thinking is pretty inimical to constitutional government, too:

“Scripture teaches that political government is mandated by God for his service and is one means by which the enthroned Christ carries out his rule….

“These things together tell us something quite important about what government is for, and what Christians should be trying to do with it and with politics. Government serves Christ’s kingdom rule; this is its purpose. And Christians’ purpose in politics should be to advance the kingdom of God — to make it more real, more tangible, more present.”

That was Hawley in 2012. If that’s too long ago to be considered relevant (I don’t think it is, at all), there’s this reflection on constitutional liberty from a speech he made earlier this year:

“Perhaps the most eloquent contemporary statement of Pelagian freedom appears in an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, in a passage written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 1992, in a case called Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, he wrote this: ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.’

“It’s the Pelagian vision. Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self. Indeed, this notion of freedom says you can emancipate yourself not just from God but from society, family, and tradition.”

I’d say treating the idea of individual liberty as the devilish reflection of an ancient heresy professing the perfectibility of human nature is more than a little hostile to the spirit of the constitution.

Perhaps a clue to Hawley’s strange attitude on this subject is that he likes to use the self-identifying label of “constitutional conservative.” This particular code-term, which was briefly in fashion at the height of the Tea Party Movement, is actually pretty radical, as I explained in 2014:

“It basically holds that a governing model of strictly limited (domestic) government that is at the same time devoted to the preservation of ‘traditional culture’ is the only legitimate governing model for this country, now and forever, via the divinely inspired agency of the Founders. That means democratic elections, the will of the majority, the need to take collective action to meet big national challenges, the rights of women and minorities, the empirical data on what works and what doesn’t–all of those considerations and more are so much satanic or ‘foreign’ delusions that can and must be swept aside in the pursuit of a Righteous and Exceptional America.”

That sounds like Josh Hawley, all right, who in 2018 had this to say about his wicked country:

“Excerpts of an audio tape have leaked of Hawley speaking to a conclave of Christian-right activists in December that’s more than a little out there, blaming the scourge of human trafficking on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. Sexual freedom leads to sexual slavery, he explained.

“’It ends in the slavery and exploitation of young women. It will destroy our families,’ he said, per the Kansas City Star. ‘You know what I’m talking about, the 1960s, 1970s, it became commonplace in our culture among our cultural elites, Hollywood, and the media, to talk about, to denigrate the biblical truth about husband and wife, man and woman.'”

Yes, that’s the sort of thinking that has made Hawley the poster boy for a sinister sort of post-Trumpian conservatism that tends to pursue authoritarian means to achieving its godly ends.

Assessing 2020 Senate Majority Targets for Dems

Charlie Cook writes in The National Journal, via The Cook Political Report, “while the odds are better that Republicans hold onto, rather than lose, the Senate, there is at least a 30 percent chance the Senate flips.” Noting that “Democrats need a three-seat gain to win a Senate majority if a Democrat wins the White House—four seats if they don’t,” Cook explains “if Trump loses, the GOP chances of retaining control drops to just 55 or 60 percent, or maybe even less.” Further,

…In this new hyper-partisan political climate, with very little ticket-splitting taking place, more people than ever before are voting straight-line Republican or Democrat. The 2016 election was the first in American history in which every single Senate race was won by the same party as that state voted for President. In fact, 88 out of 100 Senators are now from the same party as their state’s most recent presidential victor.

However, Cook asks, “do Democrats really need only three or four seats based on the presidential outcome, or do they need to gross four or five seats in order to net three or four?” The latter scenario makes sense, because:

It’s hard to see how Democratic Sen. Doug Jones wins reelection in a presidential year with presidential-level turnout, even if Republicans nominate their worst possible candidate, former judge Roy Moore. The accusations about Moore and young women were fresh at the time of the December 2017 special election, but it’s old news now and likely to have less saliency.

If Democrats need to win at least four seats, where do they get them? Most would put GOP incumbents Martha McSally in Arizona and Cory Gardner in Colorado at the top of the Democrats’ target. My guess is that both have about a 50-50 chance, at best, particularly if a Democrat is prevailing at the top of the ticket.

My National Journal colleagues Drew Gerber and Kyle Trygstad presented their latest Hotline’s Senate Power Rankings, sequencing the top 10 seats in order of vulnerability. More or less, I agree with their rankings and analysis, but where I most disagree is Maine, where Susan Collins is seeking reelection. Drew and Kyle put Maine behind North Carolina; I would put it ahead in vulnerability.

My view is that Collins’s chances put her just barely behind McSally and Gardner. Yes, Collins was last reelected with a very impressive 67 percent of the vote, normally a sign of great strength even six years later. But, consider first that the 67 percent was in 2014, a fabulous year for Republicans up and down the ballot. Second, Collins did extremely well among groups with whom she is unlikely to do even remotely as well this time, particularly given her support of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and vote for President Trump’s tax cuts.

The 2014 exit polls showed that Collins carried 37 percent of the vote among self-described liberals and 39 percent from Democrats. Anybody think she will remotely do that again? What about winning 69 percent of independents and 72 percent of moderates. This is not to predict that she will lose, just that this is likely to be an extremely difficult race and that it has a higher chance of going Democratic than several others.

Cook argues further,

After Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, Democrats are likely to need at least one more, and that would require a fairly substantial wave. Democrats need the suburbs to move in their direction, particularly among college-educated women, as strongly next November as last November. They need to pick up one or both of the Georgia seats—incumbent David Perdue and a seat expected to be vacated by Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down for health reasons—and/or beating Thom Tillis of North Carolina. That means suburban voters outside of Atlanta, Charlotte and the Research Triangle being as angry at Republicans as we saw in so many Southern Congressional races last year.

Or, they could pick up Iowa or an open seat in Kansas, but the latter is likely possible only if controversial former Secretary of State Kris Kobach wins the GOP nomination. Beyond that, beating John Cornyn in Texas and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky seem a bit too far for Democrats to win this time.

Here’s a 2020 Senate Race Ratings map from Sabato’s Crystal Ball, updated August 28th.


Teixeira: The Key Demographic in 2020: White Noncollege Women (and How to Reach Them)

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

Good advice from David Axelrod on the centrality of white noncollege women to the 2020 election and how to reach them. I estimate they’ll be 22-23 percent of voters in 2020. It won’t take a very large shift among these voters to fatally undercut Trump’s chances of re-election. And the signs of weakening support for the President among these voters is already there. But to take advantage of this, the Democrats have to play it smart.

“Mr. Trump’s serial assaults on the decency and the decorum upon which civil society depends are enraging — and meant to be. It is only natural to respond to his every provocation with righteous indignation.

My advice to the Democratic nominee next year is: Donʼt play….

Mr. Trump was elected to shake things up and challenge the political establishment. And to many of his core supporters, his incendiary dog whistles, bullhorn attacks and nonstop flouting of “political correctness” remain energizing symbols of authenticity.

But polling and focus groups reflect a growing unease among a small but potentially decisive group of voters who sided with Mr. Trump in 2016 but are increasingly turned off by the unremitting nastiness, the gratuitous squabbles and the endless chaos he sows.

Plenty of attention has been paid to the historic shift in suburban areas Mr. Trump narrowly carried in 2016 but that broke decisively with his party last fall. That revolt was led by college-educated white women, who overwhelmingly turned against Republican candidates.

But what should be of even greater concern to Mr. Trump is the potential erosion among the non-college-educated white women he is counting on as a core constituency. Those women gave Mr. Trump a 27-point margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Yet in a recent Fox News poll, Mr. Trump was beating former Vice President Joe Biden by just four points in that group.

If I were sitting in the Trump war room, this number, more than any other, would alarm me. He won the presidency by the slimmest of margins in three battleground states. With little place to grow, even a small erosion of support among these women could prove fatal to Mr. Trump’s chances. While they are inclined to many of his positions, the thing that is driving these voters away is Mr. Trump himself…..

Mr. Trump’s impulse is always to create a binary choice, forcing Americans to retreat to tribe. He wants to define the battle around divisive cultural issues that will hem in his supporters, and it would be seductive for Democrats to chase every tweeted rabbit down the hole. The president would welcome a pitched battle over lines of race, ideology and culture.

But while Mr. Trump’s thermonuclear politics may rally both his base and Democrats who slumbered in 2016, it is the paralyzing disorder and anxiety his bilious behavior creates that is a distressing turnoff to voters at the margins who will make the difference.

To win, the Democrats will have to turn Mr. Trump’s negative energy against him without embodying it themselves.”

Teixeira: What Do You Mean “We”, Woke Person?

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

Today’s woke white liberals see themselves as committed allies of nonwhite voters, seeking to advance their well-being in a white supremacist society. Given this, one would assume that the views of these white liberals on various social and economic issues would be closely aligned with those of the nonwhites they seek to support.

One would think that but one would be wrong. The views of white liberals certainly represent their own preferences and perhaps those of some activist groups and intellectuals they use as reference points. But they do not, in fact, very closely match the expressed preferences of nonwhite voters.

Nowhere is this clearer than with black voters who are simply not as woke as the white liberals who aspire to advance their cause. In the simplest terms, black voters are more conservative on many social issues and more liberal, or at least more focused, on everyday economic issues. Tom Edsall goes a good job rounding up some of the relevant research and data in his most recent Times column. Some of the key parts:

“The African-American electorate has been undergoing a quiet, long-term transformation, moving from the left toward the center on several social and cultural issues, while remaining decisively liberal, even radical, on economic issues, according to a series of studies by prominent African-American scholars.

“There has been a shift in the attitudes of black masses about the extent to which systematic discrimination and prejudice are the primary reasons blacks continue to lag behind whites,” Candis Watts Smith, a political scientist at Penn State, wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Black Studies in 2014, “Shifting From Structural to Individual Attributions of Black Disadvantage: Age, Period and Cohort Effects on Black Explanations of Racial Disparities.”….

Contemporary polling provides evidence of moderation among black Democrats compared with the views of white Democrats. The poll data suggests a reversal of traditional roles. More conservative and more centrist Democratic whites were once the tempering force within party ranks. Now, on some of the most controversial issues currently under debate, African-Americans — who make up an estimated 25 percent of Democratic primary voters — have emerged as a force for more moderate stands as white Democrats have moved sharply left….

While less committed to many of the broad social and cultural issues important to white liberals, black Democrats remain more committed than their white counterparts to progressive stands on economic issues of the type that characterized the New Deal coalition of the last century that also established the Great Society programs of the 1960s like Medicare and Medicaid.”

The following data strike me as especially key and underscore how white liberals and blacks tend to have different priorities, despite the claims of white liberals that they struggling mightily against their “privilege”.

“Asked to rate the importance to them of jobs and wages, 84 percent of black Democrats said both are “very important,” 20 points more than the 64 percent of white Democrats who said so….

Asked if they “must hear” from candidates about their policies on creating jobs, 39 percent of whites agreed compared with 68 percent of African-Americans. Conversely, 76 percent of white Democrats and 48 percent of black Democrats said they must hear candidates’ proposals to combat climate change.”

This suggests that woke white liberals, if they truly want to help the people whose side they say they’re on, should listen more to the views of actually-existing nonwhite voters and less to trendy takes on the intrinsic perfidy of the country and all white people.

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Dixie Is (Still) Done: The author revisits his 2006 argument that the Democrats should forget the South—and finds that the non-Southern strategy still holds” at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Tom Schaller doubles down on his ‘skip the South’ strategy for Democrats. Schaller writes that “Democrats in “new South” states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida with liberal “ideopolises”—as John Judis and Ruy Teixeira termed them in their book, The Emerging Democratic Majority—can cobble together winning statewide coalitions comprised of black voters, the Latino community, and white liberals clustered around major cities and university towns. Sometimes that’s enough to deliver Democratic presidential electors.” Yet, Schaller notes, “Setting aside the difference between the states Obama and Clinton won, the important and oft-ignored parallel between their two winning coalitions matters more: Both won some Southern states, yet both amassed more than 270 non-Southern electors. Dixie was vital to none of their four combined victories.” Schaller also provides data on southern office holders to support his contention.

However, Schaller explains, “Virginia excepted, the South is even more Republican than when my book first published. In the past decade, an increasingly progressive Democratic Party has proven that it could win both congressional majorities and the presidency with a non-Southern strategy. Although the party has by now likely reached its electoral rock-bottom in the former Confederacy, Democratic revival in post-Donald Trump America necessarily begins outside Dixie.” Schaller concludes, “Thirteen years after publication of Whistling Past Dixie, white Southerners’ partisan reversal continues to have vast and seismic implications for both parties, and for state and national policy. Long before Donald Trump glided down that escalator in June 2015 to announce his candidacy, the South’s partisan and policy legacy was evident for all to see. In that sense, the South continues to serve as the vanguard for the preservation of white power in the United States. Whether they whistle or shout, Democrats invested in the political-electoral potency of an inclusive coalition derived from an increasingly mixed-race American populace have little reason to invest precious resources in Dixie.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares his take on the Democratic presidential  candidate debate: “After spending the first half-hour of Thursday’s debate tearing each other apart over health care — which happens to be their party’s strongest issue — the Democratic presidential candidates realized that their opponent is President Trump and acted accordingly…As a result, despite jabs and disagreements throughout a three-hour marathon, they offered a far less divisive performance than they (and an additional 10 contenders) turned in during the first two debates…And they underscored the degree to which they broadly agree on issues ranging from gun control, climate change, immigration — and even, despite their fierce disputes on Medicare-for-all, on the need to guarantee health insurance to all Americans…It was the best debate so far, partly because the ABC News moderators did not focus quite as much as earlier questioners did on inspiring conflict…”

At Vox, Dylan Scott and Tara Golshan focus on the differences between the trade policies of the Democratic presidential candidates revealed in the Houston debate: “On Thursday, the divide was roughly exemplified by Sanders targeting Biden’s record of voting for free-trade agreements over the years in the Senate. Biden, meanwhile, sought a middle ground, dismissing concerns about a trade deficit with China while trying to focus on alleged IP abuses instead. Warren largely sidestepped the Sanders-Biden fray while signaling her intention to implement a much more muscular trade agenda than the free-trade-friendly centrist consensus of the last few decades. Meanwhile, Harris, who has occupied fourth place in the polls, cautioned that she’s not some “protectionist Democrat.” “We’ve got to sell our stuff,” she said, seemingly defending Obama’s approach to free trade…In the 2020 field, Warren and Sanders make up the vocal trade skeptics. There are the trade-friendly Democrats like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden who stake out more of a Clinton/Obama-esque free-trade position. Going into Thursday night’s debate, candidates like Harris and Buttigieg were kind of stuck in between.”

A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted Sept. 6-10 finds that “Nearly 6 in 10 Americans…believe immediate action is necessary on climate change, while over two-thirds said humans are capable of taking action against it,” Zack Budryk reports at The Hill. The poll, which has a 2.2 percent margin of error, “found 56 percent of respondents in favor of immediate action, with 7 in 10 saying human activity contributes to climate change and 67 saying we can do something about it. More respondents — 48 percent — said humans can slow climate change than the 19 percent who said they can stop it entirely…Ninety-one percent of respondents acknowledged climate change is occurring. About 80 percent said they trust scientists a lot or somewhat on climate…The poll also found a partisan split on belief in the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity. A majority of self-identified Democrats agreed with the scientific consensus while a majority of Republicans said they believed there is disagreement among scientists.”

“Hispanic Democrats and independents who had lost homes or home equity were less likely to vote in 2016, compared with Hispanic Democrats and independents who did not experience such losses, according to the study, “Vanishing Wealth, Vanishing Votes? Latino Homeownership and the 2016 Election in Florida.” Hispanic Republicans, on the other hand, showed up at the polls, regardless of any lost wealth…“The housing crisis made Latino Democrats and independents stay home,” explains [the study’s author, Jacob] Rugh…The share of Hispanics who voted Republican was larger in 2016 than it had been in 2012 while the share of Hispanics who voted as Democrats or independents fell — helping shift Florida from a blue state in 2012 to a red one in 2016…“Results from 2016 and 2018 strongly suggest that a more entrenched pattern of partisanship has taken hold among Florida voters, including Latinos,” Rugh writes. “In Florida, there are relatively few Mexican origin Latinos, yet a disproportionately higher share of Puerto Ricans (more Democratic yet less active), and Cubans and South Americans (more Republican and more active). This mix of Latino nationalities, partisanship, and voter activity … informs the future of elections elsewhere because the century-long wave of Mexican immigration is over and the U.S. Latino population is becoming more native born and less Mexican with each passing year.” – from “Drop in voter turnout among Hispanic Democrats linked to home foreclosures” by Denise-Marie Ordway at Journalist’s Resource.

“Regarding presidential elections, voter turnout for the U.S. population has stayed relatively stable since 1980 (with the exception of a slightly higher turnout in 1992 and a dip in 1996 and 2000),” Rashawn Ray and Mark Whitlock write at Brookings. “While whites traditionally have the highest voter turnout relative to other racial groups, Blacks have higher voter turnout than Hispanics and Asians. In fact, Black voter turnout was within 1 percentage point of whites in 2008 (65.2% compared to 66.1%) and was actually higher than whites in 2012 (66.6% compared to 64.1%). In 2016, voter turnout for Blacks dipped to 59.6%. While that number was lower than whites (65.3%), it was still higher than Asians (49.3%) and Hispanics (47.6%)…Some city and state elections further debunk the stereotype that Blacks don’t vote. Cities electing their first Black mayors, such as Little Rock’s Frank Scott and Birmingham’s Randall Woodfin, had high voter turnouts, particularly among Blacks. In fact, Brookings’s Andre Perry reported that the high turnout of Black voters, especially Black women, in Birmingham actually propelled Doug Jones to the Senate. In the governor races in Georgia and Florida, involving candidates Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, respectively, voter turnout among Blacks was also high. Noting this in Florida is particularly relevant since an amendment restored voting rights to over 1 million state residents. Nearly one-quarter of Blacks in Florida could not vote before the November 2018 midterm elections. Research notes that incarceration for Blacks has also been used as a form of voter disenfranchisement.”

Ray and Whitlock note that “Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp put over 50,000 voter registrations on hold, 70% of which were from Black residents. (Considering that Kemp was running for governor, this seemed like a clear conflict of interest.) Regarding voter disenfranchisement, several states with large and growing Black and Hispanic populations closed polling places: Texas closed over 400 polling places, Arizona closed over 200, and the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina collectively have closed over 250 polling places. These closings are a direct result of the Supreme Court choosing not to hold the Voting Rights Act intact. The stripping of the Voting Rights Act has led to more discrimination regarding voter identification, poll closures, and gerrymandering at state and local levels.”

Writing at The Washington Monthly, Suzanne Gordon and Jasper Craven  explain how “The Trump Administration Is Sabotaging Veterans’ Access to Health Care,” and note: “The VA Mission Act is widely considered the most significant—and ideologically motivated—veterans’ law in a generation. Passed by a GOP-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, it established a sweeping new private sector healthcare program, the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) and granted the Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie, with wide latitude to set eligibility criteria that determines when veterans can use private-sector care…The law garnered significant support from powerful healthcare interests, and savvy conservative veterans’ groups who have a great deal of influence in Trump’s Washington. But it was also supported by traditional veterans’ service organizations and some Democrats. This is largely because it expanded services to disabled veterans, but also because the final text contained stringent requirements that veterans could only be moved into private facilities for legitimate clinical needs, or if they faced burdensome wait or drive times at their nearest VHA clinic, assuaging the concerns about VA privatization. (Care inside the VHA, while often maligned in the media, is generally cheaper and better, with shorter wait times than what’s offered in the private sector.)”

2020 Swing Voters May Have To Be Mobilized As Well As Persuaded

It’s never too late to do some fresh thinking about old political assumptions, and that’s what I tried to do this week at New York:

There are two bits of conventional wisdom about “swing voters” in this day and age that are often accepted without discussion. The first is that these critters have been all but hunted to extinction, or more specifically, have fled into one of the two partisan trenches from the “middle ground” poisoned by polarization. The second is that swing voters are discerning and sensitive souls who equally disdain the fanatics in the donkey and elephant herds, and long for sweetly reasonable compromise “solutions” between left and right. You know, people who nod their heads at newspaper editorials and think Howard Schultz makes sense.

With the benefit of a robust data set of registered voters provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Charlie Cook does a pretty good job of blowing up both of those preconceptions.

First off, there are a lot more swing voters than you might think — as long as you understand how they are defined:

“Thirty percent of the respondents, a total of 603, can be called swing voters, who were either undecided or only ‘probably’ going to vote for either Trump or the Democrat. Of the 9 percent who said they would probably vote for Trump, just over half (5 percent of all voters) said there was a chance they would vote for the Democrat, while 4 percent said no chance. Of the 13 percent who would probably vote for the Democrat, just a quarter (3 percent of all voters) said that there was a chance they would vote for Trump, while the others said there was no chance. Those who only probably would vote for one candidate but definitely would not vote for the other have a good chance of either not voting or throwing a vote to a third-party candidate.”

There’s a lot to unpack here. The genuine “undecided” vote is only 8 percent — a number which, historically, is likely to go down as we near the general election. And of the 22 percent who are leaners, 14 percent are not “swinging” between the two major parties, but swinging between voting for one of those parties, voting for a minor party, or staying home. So nearly half of “swing voters” are really more like base voters who need to be convinced to show up at the polls without straying into the ranks of the Greens or the Libertarians. And of the other half, roughly equal shares are truly undecided or are predisposed toward one party or the other (with Democrats holding a significant advantage in that respect).

“When asked, ‘How much attention do you normally pay to what is going on in national government and politics?’ 57 percent of voters and 68 percent of decided voters said they pay a lot of attention, but only 39 percent of swing voters said so. Twice as many swing voters said they pay only a little attention or none at all—17 percent, compared with just 8 percent of those who are decided.

“Not surprisingly, fewer swing voters believe it is important who wins. When asked whether it really matters who wins, somewhat matters, or doesn’t really matter, 82 percent of all voters and 92 percent of decided voters said they believe it matters, but just 66 percent of swing voters said they believe it really matters.”

So these are on average less informed, less discerning voters who often can’t tell the difference between two parties that offer wildly different visions for America’s future and the rights our citizens should possess. They tend to be younger, which means higher personal mobility, fewer connections to civic life, and a significantly lower probability to vote. I strongly suspect their relatively high level of self-identification as “moderates” has little or nothing to do with some “centrist” policy agenda, and more to do with a disinclination (or incapacity) to think ideologically at all.

This goes to a third misconception about swing voters that Cook doesn’t explicitly address, but that follows from his analysis. Traditionally, it is assumed that parties and candidates must choose between “mobilization” strategies aimed at base voters and “persuasion” strategies aimed at swing voters. Ideally, you want to do both, but there is an inevitable tension between beating on people with big sticks to go smite the partisan foe (one of the oldest and most important “mobilization” techniques is known as “knock and drag,” which means exactly what it sounds like), and convincing voters who are likely to vote to go your way rather than the other.

But if the most typical swing voters are, as Cook suggests, those who aren’t motivated to vote, and need convincing not that one candidate is better than the other but that the choice is consequential, then beating on them with big sticks makes a lot of sense, too — particularly for Democrats who lost a lot of crucial voters in 2016 because they figured Clinton had already won. Will such efforts sometimes fail? Yes, but again, the odds are that the turned-off swing voter won’t join the ranks of the opposition but will go to work or stay home on Election Day and make evening plans to watch washed-up pols compete on Dancing With the Stars.

As Cook concludes, we may not know how many “swing voters” are actually going to vote until the last minute:

“The key takeaway from this analysis is that while swing voters don’t look too different from the overall electorate in terms of demographics, they are very different temperamentally. Since they pay less attention than other voters and are less likely to believe that the outcome is important, you just have to wonder how many of these undecided will really vote. Further, we can expect those who do to check into the race very late.”

If the 2020 race goes down to the wire looking very close, swing voters “checking in” to politics at the last minute will be hit with an intense barrage of claims that this is the most important moment in American history since at least 1861. And that’s more likely to get them off the sofa than all the split-the-differences compromise policy proposals you can imagine.

Teixeira: OK, So Here’s the Plan: We’ll Run on the Popular Stuff!

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

The debate last night didn’t seem like much of a game-changer. But maybe Elizabeth Warren’s Social Security proposal, rolled out on the eve of the debate, will actually turn out to be important. It’s exactly the kind of idea a Democrat should be running on in the general election against Trump. Social Security: Popular! Taxing the rich: Popular! Increasing and expanding Social Security benefits: Popular! This one could provide just the contrast a Democrat wants with Trump and should be exceptionally appealing to persuadable working class voters.

Let’s hope if Warren is the nominee she runs on this and not decriminalizing the border and Medicare for All (whether they want it or not). And if Warren isn’t the nominee, whoever it is should take up this idea.

Jonathan Chait:

“Democrats have been racing haphazardly to the left, with Warren often in the lead. Some of their ideas, like moving everybody off employer-sponsored insurance and onto a public plan, are toxic to general-election voters. But some ideas have appeal to the left and to swing voters. This is one of them.

Of all the potential soft spots in the Republican party, Social Security is among the most underrated. George W. Bush’s failed pursuit of a privatization scheme in 2005 was a major cause of his political collapse. Conservatives, seeking to deflect blame from their own ideas onto external forces, preferred to blame his response to Hurricane Katrina for his poor polling. But Bush’s polling was dropping like a stone for months before Katrina struck. By July of that year, his plan to change the system was polling 29–62….

The trauma of the 2016 election has left many Trump critics so skeptical of political fundamentals they have failed to discern some basic political realities that allowed Trump to win in the first place. Trump was not a popular candidate, but his opponent was unpopular, too. He neutralized public distrust of his party’s economic agenda by positioning himself to the left on economics, both in substance and style, as an outsider who would threaten insiders and the rich. His failure to keep this promise is a major reason why his polling has stagnated in the low 40s…

Democrats don’t need to cheat to beat [Trump]. But they do need to stop dreaming up blue-sky notions catering to progressive activists and refocus on some ideas with gut-level appeal to persuadable working-class voters. An extra $200 a month in Social Security is just the stuff.”