washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Democratic Strategists Are Asking the Wrong Question About the White Working Class

If you were a Democratic political strategist with a multi-million dollar budget for opinion research about the white working class, which question would you want to investigate?

Read the Memo.

Democrats: Let’s Face Reality – The Term “People of Color” Doesn’t Describe a Political Coalition That Actually Exists.

The term “People of Color” is now playing a central role in the Democratic discussion of political strategy.

Read the memo.

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

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

Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Strategist

January 19, 2022

Teixeira: We Need a Politics of Abundance!

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

I quite liked this piece by Derek Thompson on the Atlantic site. He’s singing my song!

“Zoom out, and you can see that scarcity has been the story of the whole pandemic response. In early 2020, Americans were told to not wear masks, because we apparently didn’t have enough to go around. Last year, Americans were told to not get booster shots, because we apparently didn’t have enough to go around. Today, we’re worried about people using too many COVID tests as cases scream past 700,000 per day, because we apparently don’t have enough to go around….

Zoom out yet more, and the truly big picture comes into focus. Manufactured scarcity isn’t just the story of COVID tests, or the pandemic, or the economy: It’s the story of America today. The revolution in communications technology has made it easier than ever for ordinary people to loudly identify the problems that they see in the world. But this age of bits-enabled protest has coincided with a slowdown in atoms-related progress.

Altogether, America has too much venting and not enough inventing. We say that we want to save the planet from climate change—but in practice, many Americans are basically dead set against the clean-energy revolution, with even liberal states shutting down zero-carbon nuclear plants and protesting solar-power projects. We say that housing is a human right—but our richest cities have made it excruciatingly difficult to build new houses, infrastructure, or megaprojects. Politicians say that they want better health care—but they tolerate a catastrophically slow-footed FDA‪ that withholds promising tools, and a federal policy that deliberately limits the supply of physicians.

In the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with a policy agenda that is focused on solving our national problem of scarcity. This agenda would try to take the best from several ideologies. It would harness the left’s emphasis on human welfare, but it would encourage the progressive movement to “take innovation as seriously as it takes affordability,” as Ezra Klein wrote. It would tap into libertarians’ obsession with regulation to identify places where bad rules are getting in the way of the common good. It would channel the right’s fixation with national greatness to grow the things that actually make a nation great—such as clean and safe spaces, excellent government services, fantastic living conditions, and broadly shared wealth.”

This reminds me of some of the themes in my recent essay on The Five Deadly Sins of the American Left:

“The final deadly sin I discussed in my essay was technopessimism. I observed that:

[M]any on the left tend to regard technological change with dread rather than hope. They see technology as a force facilitating inequality rather than growth, destroying jobs rather than leading to skilled-job creation, turning consumers into corporate pawns rather than information-savvy citizens, and destroying the planet in the process. We are far, far away from the left’s traditional attitude, which welcomed technological change as the handmaiden of abundance and increased leisure, or, for that matter, from the liberal optimism that permeated the culture of the 1950s and ‘60s with tantalizing visions of flying cars and obedient robots.

The passage of a year and a change in presidential administration does not seem to have altered this attitude much. There remains a distinct lack of optimism on the left that a rapid advance and application of technology can produce an abundant future. But there is an endless supply of discussion about a dystopian future that may await us thanks to AI and other technologies. This is odd, given that almost everything ordinary people like about the modern world, including relatively high living standards, is traceable to technological advances and the knowledge embedded in those advances. From smart phones, flat-screen TVs, and the internet, to air and auto travel, to central heating and air conditioning, to the medical devices and drugs that cure disease and extend life, to electric lights and the mundane flush toilet, technology has dramatically transformed people’s lives for the better. It is difficult to argue that the average person today is not far, far better off than her counterpart in the past. As the Northwestern University economic historian Joel Mokyr puts it, “The good old days were old but not good.”

Doesn’t the left want to make people happy? One has to wonder. There seems to be more interest in figuring out what people should stop doing and consuming than in figuring out how people can have more to do and consume. The very idea of abundance is rarely discussed, except to disparage it.

These attitudes help explain why the left does not tend to feature technological advance prominently in its policy portfolio. The Biden administration did manage to get the U.S. Competiveness and Innovation Act through the Senate (it has yet to pass the House) but with far less funding and far less probable impact on scientific innovation than it had when it was the Endless Frontier Act. But nobody on the left seemed to mind very much since it just wasn’t very high on their priority list.

You can also see this in the rather modest amount of attention and resources devoted to technological advance in the Democrats’ other bills. The bipartisan infrastructure bill did contain some money for developing next generation energy technologies like clean hydrogen, carbon capture, and advanced nuclear, but the amount was comparatively modest. The clean energy money in the last version of the Build Back Better bill, now shelved, was mostly focused on speeding up deployment of wind, solar, and electric vehicles.

It is hard to avoid the feeling that the left thinks about the clean energy future in a dreamy, fuzzy way as entirely driven by all-natural wind and solar power. But if there is to be a clean energy future, especially on the rapid timetables envisioned by most on the left, it will depend on our ability to develop the requisite technologies—not all wind and solar—quickly. Here is an area, perhaps more than any other, where the left’s technopessimism does not serve it well.

In the end, most of what the left says it wants to accomplish depends on rapid technological advances. That would seem to call for techno-optimism rather than the current jaundiced attitude toward the potential of technology.”

Political Strategy Notes

“He was a militant civil rights leader and a preacher of the Christian Gospel,” E. J. Dionne, J. writes in his Washington Post column. “He was a believer in racial concord and an agitator — in the best sense of that word — against the racism that permeated our institutions. He believed in the conversion of adversaries, but getting there often required confrontation and discomfort. King was far more a “both/and” figure than an either/or, yet the capaciousness of his worldview did not stop him from drawing clear moral lines.” And at Time, William J. Barber II writes at Newsweek, “As the nation honors Dr. King and the civil rights movement’s legacy, Democrats are hoping against the longest odds that they can unite to push back against an assault on democracy that the President calls “Jim Crow 2.0….The Beloved Community that Dr. King preached and organized toward wasn’t just an America where Black, white and brown could sit down in a restaurant together. It was the hope of a political system where the Black, white and brown masses could vote together for leaders who serve the common good….Jim Crow always had a purpose: preventing the multiethnic voting coalition that could create a more equal society….No one would put this much energy into suppressing our votes if a multiethnic coalition did not have the potential to change this nation. This MLK weekend, we must resolve to do what Dr. King noted our foreparents did during Reconstruction: unite and build a great society.”

From “Chuck Schumer’s Last Chance on Voting Rights: The talking filibuster is something the majority leader can produce—and it just might help democracy” by Bill Scher at Washington Monthly: “Democrats can’t pass their voting rights bills without bending or breaking the filibuster, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says they will try to do by next week. Exactly how is not clear. According to Politico, “Democrats are oscillating between voting on a talking filibuster or a carveout for elections reform.” Why are they torn? “Some Democrats want to preserve significant sway for the minority and prefer a talking filibuster. That would still allow the minority to gum up the Senate for weeks, but senators would have to hold the floor to do so to stop a vote at a majority threshold. Others prefer the carveout, which would allow a quicker majority vote but pare back minority rights too much for some.”….This is an easy choice if you know two things. One, Democrats don’t have the votes to change the Senate’s rules by majority vote. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose such parliamentary hardball, with Sinema on Thursday forcefully declaring her support for keeping “the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation.” Two, Schumer can bring back the talking filibuster without any vote at all….I’m not arguing that the talking filibuster is going to fix all the Democrats’ problems. I’ve shared my concerns about the potential unintended consequences of the talking filibuster, which are illustrated by the 1988 example. Just because you make the minority talk doesn’t mean the minority will budge. And when the minority can clog the floor, no other Senate business can be accomplished—no legislation, no executive branch appointments, no judicial confirmations….But right now, what is on the Democrats’ to-do list that’s so pressing? Build Back Better is stuck. Biden has 26 pending judicial nominations, but they can wait until the end of the year (so long as no Democratic senator dies from one of the nine states where the replacement could be a Republican). What better time to have a knock-down, drag-out?”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “With the Republican-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court showing little inclination to restrain state actions—and in fact encouraging them through landmark decisions in 2013 and 2021 that weakened the federal Voting Rights Act—the failure to pass new national standards this year could clear the path for years of escalating GOP restrictions….Advocates also identify a second essential front: accountability for the efforts to overturn the 2020 election that culminated in the assault on the Capitol….frustration is growing at the failure of state and federal law enforcement to prosecute the Trump supporters behind a rising tide of physical threats against state and local election officials. (Reuters has documented more than 800 such threats in 12 states.)….with polls showing Trump’s continued appeal to the party rank and file, leaders such as Graham and Representative Kevin McCarthy quickly pivoted to stress the importance of making peace with the former president. Business groups quietly resumed contributions to the objecting legislators. (One study released this morning found that corporations have now donated more than $18 million to congressional Republicans who voted to reject the election results last January.)….Business leaders in states such as Arizona and Texas helped block some of the most extreme voter-suppression measures, and a nationwide coalition called Business for Voting Rights, which includes prominent companies such as Target, Google, and Dell, has endorsed federal voting-rights legislation. But none of the biggest national umbrella trade-business associations closely allied with the GOP, such as the Business Roundtable or the National Association of Manufacturers, has joined that effort; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a statement opposing H.R. 1 and instead called for a national bipartisan commission to study voting rules. As Kristol notes, “All the notions there would be a solid front, the business community, the Wall Street Journaleditorial page, the national-security people, saying ‘This is it,’ this is the moment when they step up,” have failed to materialize.”

In his New York times column, “The Gender Gap Is Taking Us to Unexpected Places,” Thomas B. Edsall shares some statistics and analysis that may have important implications for Democratic political strategy: “In one of the most revealing studies in recent years, a 2016 surveyof 137,456 full-time, first-year students at 184 colleges and universities in the United States, the U.C.L.A. Higher Education Research Institute found “the largest-ever gender gap in terms of political leanings: 41.1 percent of women, an all-time high, identified themselves as liberal or far left, compared to 28.9 percent of men.”….The data on college students reflects trends in the electorate at large. The Pew Research Center provided The Times with survey data showing that among all voters, Democrats are 56 percent female and 42 percent male, while Republicans are 52 percent male and 48 percent female, for a combined gender gap of 18 points. Pew found identical gender splits among voters who identify as liberal and those who identify as conservative….“Significant gender differences in party identification have been evident since the early 1980s,” according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics, which provides data on the partisanship of men and women from 1952 to the present day….It’s clear from all this that the political engagement of women is having a major impact on the social order, often in ways that are not fully understood.” The data would be more useful if it included race and education. But it’s not too big of a stretch to infer that Democrats could benefit from having more women candidates, particularly those who can connect with working-class voters.

A Biden-Cheney Ticket For 2024 Is a Really Bad Idea

I read a Thomas Friedman column this week that really required a smackdown. So I supplied one at New York:

How much political capital should Democrats invest in a probably doomed effort to save the political career of Liz Cheney? Earlier this week, Never Trump Republican Linda Chavez penned a column urging Wyoming Democrats to take a dive this November in order to give the incumbent a chance to survive as an independent, assuming (as it safe) that Cheney will be purged in her own party’s primary. And now, in an apparent coincidence, in comes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggesting a far more radical step by Democrats to align themselves with the small slice of Republicans who follow Cheney’s example in repudiating Donald Trump. He wrote:

“Is that what America needs in 2024 — a ticket of Joe Biden and Liz Cheney? Or Joe Biden and Lisa Murkowski, or Kamala Harris and Mitt Romney, or Stacey Abrams and Liz Cheney, or Amy Klobuchar and Liz Cheney? Or any other such combination.”

Friedman phrases this as a question, but clearly he thinks it’s a good idea given the “existential moment” America would face if Trump is allowed to regain the presidency in 2024. It’s a bit of a loaded question, too, since it postulates that nothing short of a previously unimaginable “sacrifice” by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans alike can stop Trump — and that it would, in fact, succeed in stopping Trump.

I certainly agree that Democrats dumping Kamala Harris to give their vice-presidential nomination to a conservative Republican who opposes legalized abortion and is a militarist by conviction and heredity would be a “sacrifice,” to put it very mildly. It would also be very, very weird. Friedman cites the recent establishment of a mind-bending coalition government in Israel to thwart Bibi Netanyahu as a development comparable to what he is suggesting. But as he acknowledges, Israel has a parliamentary system in which multiparty coalitions are the rule rather than the exception. A presidential system in which parties invariably run separate tickets for the top job is another thing altogether.

The U.S. has had exactly one example of multiparty fusionism in a presidential election. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Republicans nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee — then serving as U.S. military governor of Tennessee — to run with Lincoln on a “Union” ticket. The experiment did not turn out well, beginning with Johnson’s drunken inaugural address in 1865 and continuing with the racist solidarity he exhibited toward ex-Confederates after Lincoln’s assassination, culminating in his impeachment and near removal from office. There are important reasons politicians sort themselves out into major parties, which should be apparent in an era of polarization over issues other than the scofflaw behavior of Donald Trump.

Is the threat of Trump’s return to the White House the equivalent of the U.S. Civil War? Not in itself, I would contend, though that horrific development could lead eventually to grave conditions comparable if not equal to a civil war. The premise that a Biden-Cheney fusion ticket would uniquely doom Trump to failure is even more dubious. There has never been much evidence of a mass following for Never Trump Republicans, and such as it is, it is mostly composed of people who would (and did in 2020) gladly vote for Biden and Harris. The baleful effect that replacing Harris with Cheney on the ticket would have on Democratic turnout could easily offset or exceed the alleged benefits of bipartisan and trans-ideological fusion.

So Democrats should say thanks, but no thanks, to Friedman for the idea of submitting their party to some sort of unwieldy and unnatural coalition of national salvation, so long as there is the slightest possibility of beating Trump the old-fashioned way. Liz Cheney deserves great respect for the courage she has shown in defying Trump at the expense of her own career, and if Biden is reelected with her support, perhaps she deserves an ambassadorship, a minor Cabinet post, or a major sub-Cabinet position. But she has no business being at the top of the line of succession to a Democratic president.

New Poll Shows Voters Narrowly Favor Filibuster Carve-Out for Voter Protection

Kaia Hubbard writes at usnews.com:

“Voters are split on their attitudes toward the filibuster, which has in recent months been at the center of a debate over stalled voting rights efforts in the Senate….The rule, which allows the minority party to block the majority party’s legislative priorities by effectively requiring a supermajority of senators to agree to allow a final vote, is supported by about 42% of voters, according to a Politico-Morning Consult poll conducted Jan. 8-9. Another 30% of voters disagree with the rule, the survey says. And a similar share of voters, 28%, said they do not know enough about or have no opinion on the filibuster at all.”  However, “When asked about changing the filibuster rule in order to pass voting rights legislation, respondents were even more split than on the filibuster generally, with 37% supporting the move, while 36% opposed a change to the rule and 27% took no position.”

Some other findings from the Morning Consult Poll:

Asked, “If the election for U.S. Congress in your district was held today, which one of the following candidates are you most likely to vote for?,” 44 percent of the respondents said they would support the Democratic congressional candidate, compared to 41 percent for Republicans and 15 percent said they had no opinion or didn’t know.

Asked, “Which of the following would you say was a greater violation of the U.S. Constitution?,” 47 percent cited “The January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol”; 22 percent cited “The 2020 U.S. presidential election”; 15 percent said “Both equally violated the U.S. Constitution”; and 8 percent said they “don’t know” or had “no opinion.”

In adition, 61 percent of respondents supported “making Election Day a federal holiday,” while 56 percent supported “same-day voter regostration,” 55 percent supported expanding access to both “early voting” and “voting by mail.” (provisions of the Freedom to Vote Act).

As for “Favorability for Republicans in Congress,” 39 percent responded ‘favorable,’ while 53 percent said ‘unfavorable.’ For Democrats, the figures were 40 percent ‘favorable,’ with 53 percent ‘unfavorable.’

Political Strategy Notes

Democrats should not be disapointed by the African American activists who refused to attend President Biden’s voting rights speech in Atlanta. Many civil rights leaders did attend and praise the President’s remarks and his strong criticism of Republican opponents of voting rights reform. But some of Georgia’s core activist leaders declined to attend. As they put it, their job is not to participate in photo ops, but to serve as the cutting edge force for voting rights. Some of them felt the President should have spoken out more forcefuly earlier and should bring more pressure on Sens. Manchin and Sinema to support the filibuster reform needed to pass the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights legislation. As former NAACP president Ben Jealous put it, “History makes it clear that, while [President Lyndon B.] Johnson was a supporter of civil rights, it took some effort to move him to make voting rights a top priority. He was lobbied by King and other civil rights leaders. And a few days before Johnson addressed Congress, voting rights activists engaged in a sit-in inside the White House. To his credit, Johnson acknowledged those who engaged in direct action. “The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro,” he told Congress. “His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this nation.” Of course, Biden doesn’t have the leverage LBJ had to get the legislation passed. But today’s Georgia voting rights activist leaders, most of whom were trained by MLK’s lieutenants, mobilized the voter education and turnout campaigns that helped elect Sens. Warnock and Ossoff. Without their tireless efforts, Biden wouldn’t be able to pass anything.

At FiveThirtyEight, Kaleigh Rogers underscores the severity of the threat to American democracy posed by the wave of state legislation to suppress voting rights and politicize the counting of votes: “This is probably the most widespread and sustained wave of voter restriction legislation since the Voting Rights Act,” said Alexander Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at Harvard University….But what’s troubling to Keyssar is not the number of bills, but the type of legislation being proposed and passed. In particular, he is concerned about bills that strip authority from election officials and grant it to partisan legislative bodies….“This is something different,” he said. “If your completely partisan state legislature is going to end up counting the votes, that’s a lot more efficient than voter suppression….The possibility of election subversion — where one party overrules the results of an election through these newly created legal levers — is of particular concern to several experts. Last September, Richard Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, wrote a paper outlining the risk of election subversion. In it, Hasen makes the case that the Big Lie itself is a powerful enough force to open the door for election subversion, even without new laws in place….It has already led to the harassment of election officials, who are quitting their positions around the country. In their place, Big Lie-believing Trump loyalists are running for their jobs, and some have already won. It opened the door for multiple partisan “audits,” which stoke the fires of distrust while putting election infrastructure at risk. It creates an appetite and acceptance among the public and politicians to use existing means to overturn election results, just as Trump attempted to do following the 2020 election. When combined with the new laws passed to give greater partisan influence over election administration, Hasen says it creates a dangerous environment. (Hasen also outlined what he believes to be guardrails against this kind of subversion, including the universal use of paper ballots and federal rules limiting the over-politicization of election administration.)…“I never thought I’d be writing a paper like this about the United States,” Hasen told me. “I’m very worried. It’s like being an epidemiologist right as a pandemic is starting to emerge.”

In “Bernie Sanders has a plan to boost the Democrats before the midterm elections: Sanders thinks Democrats can win working-class voters by forcing Republicans to vote against progressive policies,” Zeeshan Aleem writes at msnbc.com that “The Vermont independent appears to be growing impatient, and is thinking about how Democrats are better off trying and failing to pass a bunch of popular and virtuous policies, regardless of how remote their chances of passing them are, to showcase who the Democrats and Republicans really are. While he “called for reviving a robust version of Build Back Better,” which could circumvent a filibuster, he also wants to try to get Democrats voting on individual components of the bill that progressives have tried to get into that legislation.” Sanders believes that Democrats taking a stand in support of the child tax credit, cutting prescription drug prices and a $15 federal hourly minimum wage, for example, would help Dems in the midterm elections. Aleem quotes Sanders, who explained “People can understand that you sometimes don’t have the votes. But they can’t understand why we haven’t brought up important legislation that 70 or 80% of the American people support.” Aleem quotes political analysts who see believe the idea is too risky, and concludes that “Sanders’ agenda might have its merits, but it might be better to pursue it after other options to pull in Manchin and Sinema on big-ticket items are exhausted.”

At Bloomberg Businesweek, Joshua Green writes in “How Democrats Could Hold On to the House and Defy the Pundits” that “The most common prediction among political pundits for 2022 is that Democrats will lose control of the House of Representatives in November….Any upset would be predicated on one thing: a return to normalcy. Insiders agree that inflation would have to fall and Covid subside to the point where schools stay open and masks are an afterthought. “It needs to feel like 2019, not 2021,” says Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist….Since midterm performance is closely tied to the president’s approval rating, Biden would also have to lift himself out of his slump in the low 40s—particularly with independent voters. Gallup polls show his approval dropped sharply among independents from February to September, then ticked up slightly to 40% in December. Independents, unlike hardened partisans, are apt to change their minds in response to changing conditions….Indeed, even as polls show broad dissatisfaction, there are hints that better days may lie ahead. A November YouGov poll found that 74% of Americans said their lives had returned to “normal” almost two years into the Covid pandemic. If omicron and future variants don’t plunge the U.S. back to the dark days of 2020, Democrats think more people will come to share that feeling and vote accordingly….The good news, says AFL-CIO strategist Mike Podhorzer, is that the surge in Democratic votes during the Trump era was so large that the party doesn’t have to rely on persuading Republicans to defect….“The Democrats’ way out of this is to get people who didn’t show up to vote for Hillary, but did vote for Biden, to show up in November,” says Podhorzer.”

Stopping a 2024 Electoral Coup Is Essential, But May Not Be Easy

I have been very involved in warning Democrats about the strong possibility of another attempted Trump election coup In 2024, and wrote up my latest advice on the subject at New York:

As someone who spent months before the 2020 election warning that Trump was planning an election coup, then had to watch and write about his efforts that were finally foiled on January 6, 2021, I felt the anniversary of that day brought back in sharp relief bad memories that had never really faded. I realized that the fire we avoided last time might in future require more than a beefed-up Capitol police corps or resolute judges or a smattering of responsible Republicans. Like my colleague Errol Louis, I accepted that we might each need more of a personal commitment to democracy than just a willingness to vote and hope for the best.

But the most galvanizing January 6 meditation yet came in a New York Times op-ed by election-law expert Rick Hasen. This sober analyst of developments threatening the right to vote and subverting impartial election administration is clearly convinced that one of our two major political parties has sufficiently abandoned the causes he holds dear that they have gained a veto power over any remedial action in Washington and many crucial states. This leaves Democrats and the remaining responsible Republicans with few options going forward, particularly since the power they do hold in Washington and in the states may soon be significantly diminished.

Paradoxically, that means Democrats cannot afford to spurn any Republican efforts to help them prevent a 2024 coup. Hasen writes:

“A coalition with the minority of Republicans willing to stand up for the rule of law is the best way to try to erect barriers to a stolen election in 2024, even if those Republicans do not stand with Democrats on voting rights or other issues. Remember it took Republican election officials, elected officials, and judges to stand up against an attempted coup in 2020.”

It’s understandable that Democrats distrust the feelers some Republicans are putting out for cooperation on legislation to fix the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the hazy and confusing law that Team Trump tried to exploit to overturn Biden’s victory with the help of a mob. If the offer comes with the precondition of Democratic abandonment of voting-rights legislation, it may rightly be rejected. But at some point, accepting just enough Senate Republican help to close off one avenue to a stolen 2024 presidential election may be vital for Democrats, unfair is it may seem from a partisan point of view.

A more vexing problem, however, is what happens if the stolen election attempt occurs not in Washington but in the states. That’s where Trump is busily working to install loyalists in key election offices and where he may expect better and quicker complicity from Republican state legislators who could be in a position to control the certification of presidential electors. Hasen offers a specific scenario:

“What happens if a Democratic presidential candidate wins in, say, Wisconsin in 2024, according to a fair count of the vote, but the Wisconsin legislature stands ready to send in an alternative slate of electors for Mr. Trump or another Republican based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud or other irregularities?”

In that contingency, he argues, “widespread public protests made up of people of good faith from across the political spectrum” may be the only effective recourse. Indeed, says Hasen: “If the officially announced vote totals do not reflect the results of a fair election process, that should lead to nationwide peaceful protests and even general strikes.”

That last resort of labor protests, the general strike (a work stoppage not confined to any one industry or segment of the population), is not something that has ever been successfully deployed as a political weapon in the United States. The potential need to attempt one — even if it’s confined to a single locale like a state capital where a legislature is engaged in subverting a democratic election result — shows the gravity of the situation we may face in 2024 based not on paranoid fears but on what we witnessed this time last year and what we can see happening in MAGA-land right now.


President Biden: Voting Rights Bills Needed to Protect Democracy

This is the text of President Biden’s speech on protecting the right to vote yesterday in Atlanta at a  consortium of four historically Black colleges and universities:

THE PRESIDENT:  In our lives and the lives of our nation — the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before from everything that followed.  They stop time.  They rip away the trivial from the essential.  And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy.

In the words of Scripture, they remind us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.”

Last week, [Vice] President Harris and I stood in the United States Capitol to observe one of those “before and after” moments in American history: January 6th insurrection on the citadel of our democracy.

Today, we come to Atlanta — the cradle of civil rights — to make clear what must come after that dreadful day when a dagger was literally held at the throat of American democracy.

We stand on the grounds that connect Clark Atlanta — Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and near Spelman College — the home of generations of advocates, activists, educators and preachers; young people, just like the students here, who have done so much to build a better America.  (Applause.)

We visited the sacred Ebenezer Baptist Church and paused to prayed at the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, and spent time with their family.  And here in the district — as was pointed out — represented and reflected the life of beloved friend, John Lewis.

In their lifetimes, time stopped when a bomb blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and murdered four little girls.

They [Time] stopped when John and many others seeking justice were beaten and bloodied while crossing the bridge at Selma named after the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

They stopped — time stopped, and they forced the country to confront the hard truths and to act — to act to keep the promise of America alive: the promise that holds that we’re all created equal but, more importantly, deserve to be treated equally.  And from those moments of darkness and despair came light and hope.

Democrats, Republicans, and independents worked to pass the historic Civil Rights Act and the voting rights legislation.  And each successive generation continued that ongoing work.

But then the violent mob of January 6th, 2021, empowered and encouraged by a defeated former president, sought to win through violence what he had lost at the ballot box, to impose the will of the mob, to overturn a free and fair election, and, for the first time — the first time in American history, they — to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

They failed.  They failed.  (Applause.)  But democracy’s — but democracy’s visi- — victory was not certain, nor is democracy’s future.

That’s why we’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup — a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people — by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud, and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.

Teixeira: Oddly Enough, If You Want to Win, Nobody Has To Be Thrown Under the Bus

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

But you may have to change what you talk about and how you talk about it. That’s the message of Sheri Berman’s excellent new article on the Social Europe site. I would go so far as to say Democrats will either absorb this message or their future does not look particularly bright. Berman:

“Over the past months in the United States, something resembling panic has overtaken the Democratic Party. The popularity of the president, Joe Biden, is extremely low, major policy initiatives have stalled, a governorship election in supposedly solidly Democratic Virginia was lost and significant setbacks are likely in the upcoming Congressional midterms.

For many Democrat ‘progressives’, the blame lies in the stars rather than in themselves. Republican success, in this view, is due to a combination of ‘anti-black white supremacy’ and structural features of the US political system, such as the presidential electoral college and the Senate, which favour regions and populations that do not support the party. For ‘centrist’ Democrats, on the other hand, the real problem lies in the party itself—or, rather, in its progressive wing insisting on championing issues of racial or social justice with ‘views and values not shared’ by a majority of voters.

There is much that is distinctively American about this debate but echoes can be found in left parties across Europe. In particular, the challenge of reconciling a progressive social and racial agenda with the need to attract a majority coalition, which includes non-urban and working-class voters, is one faced on both sides of the Atlantic today.

Centrists and progressives often portray these goals as irreconcilable: either left parties champion progressive social and racial agendas or they attract more non-urban and working-class voters. Yet they need not be.

As the political scientist William Riker famously argued, to borrow his book titles, political outcomes depend on The Art of Political Manipulation and Agenda Formation. ‘Successful politicians structure the world so they can win,’ he wrote. Concretely, how issues are framed plays a critical role in determining how attractive and salient they are to voters.

A recent study of working-class voters sponsored by YouGov, the Center for Working Class Politics and the left-wing magazine Jacobin confirms what many previous studies have found: when policies are framed as benefiting one group over, or at the expense of, another, they are less popular. For example, when white voters are told that redistributive policies require taking money from them to fund programmes primarily benefiting minorities, support for such policies plummets. When precisely the same policies are presented as taking money from the rich and redistributing it to working people or the less fortunate, support goes up.

This is often portrayed as the result of racism—and, of course, some white voters harbour racist sentiments. But minority voters prefer colour-blind or class-based issue framing as well. As two well-known scholars put it, ‘the strongest arguments’ for redistributive policies are those that ‘reach beyond race to the moral principles to which both black and white Americans are committed, not as blacks or whites, but as Americans … Reaching beyond race has a power to it, not because it evades the reach of prejudice but because it calls into play the principle of fairness—that all who need help should be helped, regardless of their race.’”

Read the whole article. It’s worth your time.

Political Strategy Notes

Charlie Cook takes a gander at the upcoming midterm elections and makes the case that “Idiosyncrasies of Senate Races Could Play to Dems’ Advantage.”  As Cook writes, “With only a third of the chamber’s seats up in any election, the Senate is a different ball game, its dynamics far more idiosyncratic than those in the House….Fewer races overall (and fewer still of the competitive variety) also means that unique circumstances and events in a single state can have a huge effect on which party is gaining or losing Senate seats, or for that matter, capturing, losing, or holding a majority. That is how Presidents Nixon and Reagan could win 49-state reelection victories while their party had a net loss of two Senate seats the same night, and how Democrats could score a net gain of 40 seats in the House in 2018 while suffering a net loss of one Senate seat that same night. A year ago, Democrats lost 11 seats in the House while gaining three Senate seats….With the likely matchups determined in only three of those nine states at the moment, neither side has a natural advantage. Who will face whom in those other six, which party will nominate strong candidates or more-problematic ones, matters a huge amount….So Democrats’ hopes in the Senate remain alive, but they could use some help from former President Trump and his party faithful. Trump could split the party badly in his efforts to purge the GOP of any elected officials who have not pledged and exhibited sufficient fealty to him. GOP primary voters could also nominate exotic candidates who can’t win swing districts and states, much as they did during the tea-party movement in 2010 and 2012.”

Although Democrats certainly need a project to rebuild their ‘brand,’ there is probably not enough time to do much of it for the midterm elections. That may be more of a two, or three-cycle project. It is a hell of a lot harder to ‘rebuild’ a brand than it is to trash one, and Republicans got the jump on Democrats in mining that insight. But that doesn’t mean the Democrats can’t return the favor with an all-out campaign to discredit the GOP, as well as their candidates. It’s not like the Republican brand is all that beloved among the white working-class (non-college) voters who are about 44 percent of the national electorate (and more in key swing states and districts); it’s that a great many of these voters see Democrats as condescending elitists who talk big, but rarely deliver. Part of that perception comes from the Democratic failure to persuasively claim very real legislative accomplishments. But a lot of it comes from snobbery by some Democrats who still think of their political adversaries as “deplorables,” and it shows. Nonetheles, many Republican office-holders have serious weaknesses, including corruption (insider trading, financial mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism etc.), extremely weak track records as sponsors of enacted legislation, and few Republican senators or House members are endowed with impressive personal appeal. Their party’s image is ripe for a well-executed takedown — regardless of the President’s approval ratings or public attitudes towards the Democrats.

But the data thus far suggests that Democrats may not get much traction from increased anger toward Trump and his supporters because of their involvement in the January 6th failed coup attempt. As Kyle Kondik esplains at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “What the numbers suggest to us is that….the political effect appears to be fleeting….Trump’s overall standing with the public, though not strong, is roughly the same now as it was right before Jan. 6, 2021. Trump remains a force within the Republican Party, probably the favorite for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination if he decides to seek it, and the Republican members of Congress who backed his impeachment are vulnerable within their own party. Retaking the House and the Senate are very much on the table for Republicans later this year, and indicators such as 2021’s election results and voter registration trends are broadly positive for them….Now, it may be that the electoral environment for Republicans would be even better had Jan. 6 not happened — although it is also possible that the outrage over the 2020 election that Trump has manufactured is actually helping Republican motivation. We also do not know what new revelations about Trump, either through the House’s investigation of Jan. 6 or otherwise, may emerge, and whether those revelations will be the thing that fatally undermines Trump’s position in a way that previous revelations have not….But as of now, it does not appear as though there have been lasting, negative political consequences for Trump and Republicans because of Jan. 6.” By all means, Dems should leverage public anger about January 6th. But the other Republican failures may provide a better target for Democratic ads and messaging.

If anyone needs a fact-studded refresher briefing esplaining “How we know the 2020 election results were legitimate, not ‘rigged’ as Donald Trump claims” for your crazy uncle, Daniel Funke has a good one at USA Today. Some excerpts: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its partners said in a November 2020 statement. “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”….Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said in early December 2020 that the Justice Department had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Biden won the presidency with 306 electoral votes, which Congress certified in January 2021 after the Capitol riot….”Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election – nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence,”  Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican said in his address to the chamberbefore it was evacuated during the Jan. 6 insurrection….Dozens of lawsuits by Trump and his allies aimed at overturning the election, some of which inspired misinformation about results in contested states like Nevada, failed. The Supreme Court refused to take up several cases challenging results in battleground states that played a key role in the outcome of the election….In those battleground states, numerous audits and recounts have affirmed Biden’s win:

Funke provides detailed sources for all of the bebuttal points.


Pelosi’s Successor Will Have New and Different Challenges

One of the more important expected developments of 2022 caught my eye, and I wrote about it at New York:

Assuming Nancy Pelosi keeps her earlier pledge to step down as Democratic House leader after the 2022 midterms, there will be a jockeying for party-leadership positions that already has aficionados of the “Democrats in Disarray” meme excited. The Washington Post is positively salivating:

“House Democrats are bracing for a turnover in leadership next year that would amount to a seismic event for the party — one that could empower a new, diverse generation of members while also exacerbating tensions over the direction of the caucus and the policies it should pursue.”

To be fair, it isn’t just the usual progressives-versus-moderates battle fueling this “seismic event”; there’s also generational change. Word is that Pelosi may be heading to the exits with company from her other octogenarian leadership colleagues, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip James Clyburn, and even if they don’t retire from the leadership or from Congress, they could be bypassed by a Democratic Caucus wanting some fresh blood. The front-runner to succeed Pelosi is the fourth-leading member of the leadership, Brooklyn’s Hakeem Jeffries, a mere lad, at the age of 51, who would represent both continuity and change.

As the change of command grows nigh, we will hear a lot from the chattering classes about Jeffries’s ties to House Democratic moderates and how he can mend fences with progressives, including his Gotham frenemy, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But the bigger issue for House Democrats in and out of leadership is the context in which they will serve after the midterms, when many of today’s much-discussed factional conflicts could change or even fade. Let’s look at a few likely upcoming scenarios:

Life in the minority

The enormous pressure Pelosi dealt with every day last year as she discharged the responsibility of shepherding Joe Biden’s agenda through the House may not be a problem for her 2023 successor. Odds are very high (per both history and such leading indicators as Biden’s job-approval ratings) that the party controlling the White House will lose House seats in the midterms. This will likely flip control of the House given Democrats’ very narrow margin of control along with other discouraging factors like retirements and redistricting. If so, then Jeffries (assuming he is the Pelosi successor) won’t have to worry about how to wield the Speaker’s gavel, and Democratic divisions will probably fade in significance (just as the House Freedom Caucus lost its leverage among Republicans when they lost the chamber in 2018, becoming simply a noisy auxiliary to the MAGA movement).

Given the gulf between the two parties and the lack of interest Republicans have in bipartisanship these days, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep moderates and progressives in harness in opposing Republican-sponsored legislation. They will lose the headaches associated with the need to coordinate and reconcile legislation with Senate Democrats. It really won’t matter much if Republicans enjoy a veto via control of the House (and the GOP could, of course, control the upper chamber as well if 2022 trends go south).

Life without a trifecta

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Democrats lose the House in 2022 but regain it in 2024 along with a Biden reelection victory, an entirely plausible scenario. Trouble is, the 2024 Senate landscape is bad for the Donkey Party, so even if Democrats reflip the House and maintain the presidency, they could easily fall short of what they’d need to reconstruct a trifecta. If so, House Democrats will be in the position of having to regularly advance the president’s legislative initiatives with little or no hope that they will actually become law.

This sort of legislating without consequences has its own challenges but shouldn’t strain party unity all that much and is certainly easier than preconferencing every bill with the other chamber.

Life without an iron hand

Pelosi is regarded as one of recent history’s most effective Speakers and congressional party leaders in part because of her exceptional legislative and vote-counting skills. But her effectiveness is also owed a lot to the respect and — yes — fear she was able to rely on in dealing with fractious members of her caucus. This is a form of political capital it takes time to build, and no Pelosi successor will have it from the get-go. Indeed, if Jeffries or any rival for the House leadership tries to play badass prematurely, it could backfire. There won’t be an iron hand at the controls for a good while.

Life with a broad party coalition

One thing that won’t soon change for House Democratic leaders is the simple fact that their party remains a broad coalition as compared to the more ideologically rigid GOP (reflecting a more ideologically rigid activist base in the electorate). In historic terms, of course, the House Democratic Caucus is far more united than it has been, well, maybe ever (certainly more than it was when a significant number of self-described conservatives were around). But there are still factions and individual members willing to take advantage of whatever leverage they can muster without much fear of primary challenges or grassroots fury.

Congressional Democrats in both chambers also typically experience more tensions over the influence of moneyed interests than do Republicans. At some point, Democrats may need to unilaterally implement long-stalled initiatives aimed at reducing the power of lobbyists and the shadowy forces they represent, who have all along constituted a faction as powerful as moderates or progressives.

But in any event, the distinctive problems and opportunities that House Democrats are experiencing in the final two years of the Pelosi era will simply not be extended beyond 2022. However new or old, and left or center, the party’s future leadership turns out to be, the outlook for House Democrats will change significantly from cycle to cycle. It would be nice if House-watchers also adjust accordingly.