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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.

The Daily Strategist

August 20, 2019

Teixeira: The Working Class Vs. The “Woke-eoisie” — Which Way Will Elizabeth Warren Go?

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

Elizabeth Warren could win the Democratic nomination and even win the general election. But to do so, she’s got to make some changes. As Jeff Greenfield notes in Politico,

“The strategic premises of her campaign are to claim the progressive mantle from Bernie Sanders, stake the “alternative to Biden” ground, and then engage in a one-on-one battle for the nomination….There are significant challenges to this strategy, not the least of which is winning over a reasonable share of the African American vote, where Biden dominates…..

In polls, Warren trails Biden in South Carolina by dozens of points. What’s more, about half of the state’s black Democrats say they support Biden, while Warren is practically tied for the lead among the state’s white Democrats.

And African American Democrats are, as Tom Edsall pointed out in a much-discussed column in the New York Times, on average, more centrist than white Democrats. The party’s “more moderate wing, which is pressing bread-and-butter concerns like jobs, taxes and a less totalizing vision of health care reform, is majority nonwhite, with almost half of its support coming from African-American and Hispanic voters,” he wrote.

So it would make sense for Warren to draw some distinctions between herself and her party’s most liberal voters, in order to make her candidacy more appealing—or at least acceptable—to the elements of her party that do not fully embrace the canon. And there’s a long history of winning presidential candidates doing this without alienating their most loyal supporters.”

This shouldn’t be so hard. Most of her economic positions are fine in the context of today’s Democratic party and can be sold to a wider electorate in a general election. Voters really do oppose crony capitalism and really do want a reformed system that isn’t dominated by the rich and Wall Street and is focused on the welfare of the middle class and poor. That plugs right into the concerns of the moderate voters, particularly nonwhite and working class voters, mentioned by Edsall.

But Warren has gone too far in some areas, competing to seem the most “woke” on issues like decriminalizing the border and reparations and endorsing Medicare for All instead of Medicare for All Who Want It. This is not necessary. Her strong economic program has great appeal but so far Warren’s support is heavily dominated by educated whites, with very little noncollege or nonwhite support, as shown by the graphic below.

No photo description available.

That needs to change and the way to do it is to take positions that appeal to the working class, not the “woke-eoisie”, and ditch the ones that don’t. My guess is she’d retain most of her educated white support anyway but start gaining in places where she’s currently weak. If she wants to win, that may be a bet she’ll have to make.

Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein explains Trump’s re-election strategy at The Atlantic: “The attempt by the president and his allies to invert the debate about his approach to race captures one of the pillars of his reelection message heading into 2020. They have signaled that, as in 2016, he intends to portray his overwhelmingly white, heavily blue-collar, and nonurban coalition as the real victims in American society. And no issue may offer him a more powerful way to gin up those emotions than insisting that the charges of racism against him—and, by extension, against his core supporters—are themselves a form of bigotry, despite the recent escalation of his rhetoric, most notably telling four Democratic congresswomen of color, all U.S. citizens, to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came…Strategists in both parties, along with independent analysts, largely agree that Trump can energize his supporters by insisting that they are the actual victims of bigotry. But by motivating his core voters in that manner, Trump is utterly dismissing the concerns of the majority of Americans who now consistently describe him in polls as racist or racially insensitive. Like so many of Trump’s choices, that means his response to these accusations is likely to energize his base at the price of limiting his capacity to reach beyond it.”

Brownstein adds, “For the Trump coalition, “an important part of their worldview is victimization and being aggrieved,” says the Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who has extensively studied attitudes on race relations. “This continues the victimization narrative…“I think the cost is, he doesn’t attract anybody new,” says Lynn Vavreck, a UCLA political scientist and a co-author of Identity Crisis, a book about the role of race in the 2016 presidential election. “And that could be a cost. The man won by 77,000 votes in three states. If African American turnout goes back to the Obama levels, he needs more voters. He could be fighting the last battle.”…In a study of the 2016 election published last year, the Tufts University political scientist Brian Schaffner and two of his colleagues found that the strongest predictor of support for Trump over Hillary Clinton was a belief that racism is no longer a systemic problem. Using results from a large-sample postelection survey called the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, they found that belief dwarfed economic concerns as a predictor of support for Trump. The conviction that discrimination against women is not a problem also proved a more powerful predictor of Trump support than economic concerns, though not as strong a factor as racial attitudes…The denial of racism “was also the strongest predictor of someone switching from an Obama voter in 2012 to a Trump voter in 2016,” Schaffner said.”

Erin Doherty writes at FiveThirtyEight: “ding to a July poll from Gallup, when asked an open-ended question about the most important problem facing the country, just 2 percent of Americans mentioned the “gap between rich and poor,” and this number hasn’t changed much in over a decade, hovering around 2 or 3 percent. (It’s worth noting that since respondents had to come up with their own answers, even 3 percent support means a sizable number of people mentioned this issue without any prompting.) By contrast, Americans’ views of the importance of the economy have tended to fluctuate with the economy’s performance, as you can see in the chart below — in November 2008, for instance, when the country was in the middle of a recession, 58 percent of Americans mentioned the economy as the most important issue facing the country, whereas today, in a relatively good economy, just 3 percent of Americans said the same…another Gallup poll from late June found that seven out of 10 Americans believed that if they work hard, they can still achieve the “American Dream.” That number is roughly unchanged from 2009. In that same poll, 60 percent of Americans also said it’s either “somewhat” or “very” likely that today’s young people will have better lives than their parents, which is close to the highest that number Gallup has recorded (it got as high as 61 percent in both 2008 and 2018).”

Doherty continues: “Although Americans say socioeconomic inequality isn’t their top priority, many of them support at least one measure that would help close the gap: taxing the wealthy. Many 2020 Democratic candidates have expressed some level of support for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, though the details of their plans vary. If candidates tie their messages of socioeconomic inequality to their plans to tax the rich, that approach could appeal to voters…According to Gallup, a majority of Americans — a bit over 60 percent — say that upper-income people pay too little in taxes, and that percentage has remained relatively unchanged over the last 25 years. And polling on specific proposals that hike the tax rate for the wealthy shows that these ideas get support from most Democrats and many Republicans. For instance, earlier this year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed a 70 percent tax rate on every dollar a person earned over $10 million, and a majority of registered voters supported the idea. The proposal got significant support across the political spectrum, with 71 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents and 45 percent of Republicans saying they were in favor.”

At Vox, German Lopez has the skinny on “Here’s where every 2020 candidate stands on guns,” and explains that “The candidates agree on universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. There’s less agreement on other proposals.” Lopez notes, further, “Democratic candidates, however, have taken more comprehensive stances on guns. For the most part, they’re sticking to common Democratic themes like universal background checks, an assault weapons ban (which is typically paired with a ban on high-capacity magazines), and federally funded research into gun violence. But the campaigns’ plans do include some new ideas here and there — including red flag laws, which campaigns ranging from Cory Booker’s to John Delaney’s back, and requiring a license to buy and own a gun, which Booker in particular brought to the presidential stage but others, like Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, also support…Several candidates, including Booker, Warren, Buttigieg, and Yang, support gun licensing. But others, including Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Michael Bennet, have been critical of it.” Read the article for specifics on each candidate.

In Harry Enten’s “Poll of the Week” at CNN Politics, he notes that, “A new national Fox News poll finds that among black Democratic primary voters, former Vice President Joe Biden is their first choice for the party’s presidential nomination at 37%. He is followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 18%, California Sen. Kamala Harris at 10% and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 8%…our last three CNN polls (April, May and June) aggregated together reveals that younger black voters aren’t as enthusiastic about Biden’s candidacy as older black voters are…Overall, our last three CNN polls have Biden at 44% among black voters. No one else is anywhere close; Harris is in second at 14%. Biden’s big league advantage in these polls is similar to the Fox News poll…However, Biden’s standing drops to 36% among black voters under the age of 50. This is lower than the 51% he has among black voters aged 50 and older.”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Dhrumil Mehta reports in is “Poll of the Week” that “Americans Are More Worried About White Nationalism After El Paso: But partisans remain far apart.” Mehta notes that “After the deadly mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, this month, more Americans now describe white nationalism as a serious threat to the United States, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. Compared to the last time the poll asked this question, in March, both Democrats and Republicans in the latest poll were more likely to say that the country was threatened by white nationalism…But the El Paso shooting, in which the gunman told police that he explicitly targeted Mexicans, has not narrowed the partisan gap on white nationalism. HuffPost/YouGov polls have asked about the threat of white nationalism four times in the two years since a neo-Nazi killed a woman by driving into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and each time there has been a huge partisan gap in perceptions. If anything, the gap has gotten bigger…”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Mehta provides some revealing stats regarding attitudes toward immigration: “According to a YouGov poll. …28 percent of Americans, including 11 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans, agreed that immigrants who use public benefits should not be able to receive green cards. Fifty-two percent of Americans think that immigrants who receive benefits should be able to get green cards, and 20 percent said they don’t know… According to a new Gallup poll, 57 percent of Americans (including 85 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans) support allowing refugees who are fleeing Central American countries to enter the U.S. That’s up 6 percentage points from December, including a 10 percentage point jump among Republicans…A poll from the Pew Research Center, however, found that public support for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria is down slightly, from 77 percent in March 2017 to 72 percent this summer. That’s mostly due to dipping support among Republicans.”

Teixeira: Can Dems Leverage Public’s Liberal Mood?

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

America the Liberal

Yes, yes, I know, Trump and all that. But facts, gentlemen and women, are stubborn things and the facts are that Americans are in a pretty liberal mood these days. How do I know?–because James Stimson’s public policy mood measure tells me so. Gregory Koger’s post on the Mischiefs of Faction site has the details:

“Stimson’s updated measure of public policy mood….revealed that Americans’ support for government action is at its highest point since the index began in 1952….

As explained in (among other places) Public Opinion In America and Tides of Consent, public policy mood combines polling responses across a wide range of policy issues to measure the American public’s collective appetite for more or less government, liberal or conservative policies. Even if we think citizens are not fully informed about stock market regulation, health care insurance, and the dozens of other specific policies pollsters ask them about, Stimson’s mood measures their underlying preference for government activism.

The mood index helps us understand previous shifts in American politics. Before 2018, the mood index peaked in the 1960s, coinciding with landmark civil rights laws, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society social welfare policies, and the expansion of civil liberties by Supreme Court decisions. During this period there was a dramatic increase in the number of issues addressed by government actors. Public appetite for more government reached a nadir around 1980, inspiring the Republican Party to embrace a starkly conservative presidential candidate and a range of policies that would have seemed unthinkable a decade earlier.

The updated mood index shows public policy mood is at its peak. This manifests itself in public support for more government action across a range of issues: gun control, health care (e.g. a public option), college tuition, paid parental leave, minimum wage policy, etc. NPR/Marist, for example, polled on a range of Democratic proposals (plus Obamacare repeal) last month. While there are some unpopular items, Democrats have broad support for many of the policies approved by the House or advocated by Democratic presidential candidates.”

Of course, this liberal mood won’t last forever and much depends on how well Democrats play offence and how well Republicans play defense in this pro-activism period. As Koger notes:

“The history of public mood and American politics suggests the stage is set for progressive policy change after the 2020 election, but this is not guaranteed. It is not clear how well parties will take advantage (Democrats) or deflect (Republicans) public support for more active government. Nor is it clear how well our electoral system—from its campaign financing system to the small-state bias of the Senate and Electoral College—will translate public opinion into government action…If the Democrats gain unified control of the federal government in 2021, the real question is how well they use their window of opportunity to create durable policy programs and systemic political change.”

Yes, that’s the real question. The public is clearly moving in a liberal direction–but can Democrats get their act together and take maximum advantage? I’d say that’s not yet clear.

C’mon, Enough With the McGovern 1972 Analogies of Democratic Doom!

Now and then I get so tired of a particularly threadbare historical analogy that I push back, as I did this week at New York:

We hear all the time that Democrats are heading “off the deep end” on a left-wing ideological bender that will mean disaster in the general election. The warning is very often associated with the specter of 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, who lost 49 states four years after Hubert Humphrey lost by an eyelash and four years before Jimmy Carter won the presidency. The obsession with the idea that 1972 may repeat itself is a bipartisan phenomenon. Some McGovern Redux takes are from conservatives who are simply promoting the perennial claim that Democrats have become an anti-American cabal of baby-killing hippie socialists with a fresh urgency given the current extremism of the GOP. And some of these takes are (and have been for many years) from self-styled moderate Democrats grinding axes against self-consciously progressive aspirants to the presidential nomination.

Sometimes the latter includes a separate grievance against McGovernism beyond ideological extremism: divisiveness. A good example of this argument was recently provided by former Clinton and Obama staffer, “moderate” congressman, and former mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel as quoted by Todd Purdum:

“Rahm Emanuel, the former Clinton adviser and Obama chief of staff, told me he likens the current environment to the period following 1968, when Lyndon B. Johnson was succeeded by Richard Nixon, in a right-wing victory that exploited and exacerbated deep internal divisions in the Democratic Party, just as Trump’s ascendance has. Emanuel acknowledged that Johnson’s war in Vietnam makes the analogy imperfect — ‘unless you think the surge in Afghanistan counts as that, and I don’t’ — but added, ‘We have seen this movie before.’

“’Here’s the thing,’ Emanuel told me. ‘Today’s progressives are more angry at Clinton and Obama than they are at Bush 43. Whether it’s Clinton’s “small ideas” and welfare reform, or Obama’s Affordable Care Act without a public option — those are the things where they feel like there were missed moments for big, bold ideas. Really? And that’s what drives the energy. Yes, they’re angry at Trump. Yes, they’re angry at Bush. But a lot of the energy is directed at the fact that they don’t love those two presidents — which I’d remind everybody are the only two Democrats to get reelected since Franklin Roosevelt.'”

Embedded in this complaint is the idea that McGovern represented a revolt against the long line of successful Democratic presidents from FDR through LBJ, dividing the Democratic electorate and handing victory to Nixon. Today’s progressives, the thinking goes, are McGovernesque because they, too, are more interested in a hostile takeover of the party than in winning the general election.

Here are a few relevant points:

1. McGovern Didn’t Bust Up the New Deal Coalition; It Was Already Broken, and Never Reformed

The real disaster for Democrats wasn’t in 1972 under the lefty McGovern; it was in 1968 under the consummate New Dealer Hubert Humphrey, when the Democratic share of the popular vote dropped from 61.1 percent (under LBJ in 1964) to 42.7 percent. What happened? The civil-rights revolution happened, and the southern (and southern-adjacent) wing of the party made its exit, only returning (briefly) for native son Jimmy Carter, as I noted in 2012 when McGovern died:

“McGovern took the blame for the first and most dramatic election in which the collapse of the New Deal Coalition became fully manifest. Humphrey’s near-win in 1968 distracted attention from the fact that he won the lowest percentage of the popular vote of any major-party candidate since Alf Landon. In 1976 Jimmy Carter disguised the structural trends by winning the South and southern-inflected voters in border states and the midwest–voters who, by and large (aside from the Deep South regional loyalists who stayed with Carter in 1980), weren’t going to vote Democratic in a presidential election again. When Fritz Mondale got blown out in 1984, it represented the fourth time in five cycles that the Democratic candidate won less than 43% of the popular vote nationally. Yet this era of defeat is very often associated with McGovern alone.”

Mondale, by the way, was no lefty, but rather the favorite candidate of the Democratic Establishment, as opposed to his primary rival, Gary Hart, who had been McGovern’s 1972 campaign manager. More importantly, it is often forgotten that Nixon’s big 1972 landslide was mostly accomplished by appropriating George Wallace’s southern-based 1968 third-party vote, which Carter largely flipped back to the Democrats in 1976 after being endorsed for the general election by Wallace and virtually every other southern racist (along, remarkably, with every civil-rights activist). As Carter’s regional religious appeal faded, Democrats fell back on the minority of the electorate that had regularly supported them after 1964.

2. McGovern Wasn’t All That Far to the Left

For the most part, George McGovern was a standard-brand Democrat of his era who understood that his narrow path to the 1972 Democratic nomination required becoming the favorite of antiwar activists (who knew him well as the placeholder for Bobby Kennedy delegates at the 1968 Democratic convention after RFK’s death). But by 1972, McGovern’s Democratic rivals (with the exception of Scoop Jackson) had mostly turned against the Vietnam War as well.

McGovern was no pacifist (he had, after all, been a World War II bomber pilot), and his tentative support for an amnesty for draft evaders just anticipated Jimmy Carter’s (and to some extent even Gerald Ford’s) actual policy by a few years. The closest he came to a “socialist” domestic policy proposal was a famous $1,000-a-person Universal Basic Income proposal, which he abandoned during the course of the general-election campaign. Aside from anticipating Andrew Yang by nearly a half-century, it was pretty close to the Family Assistance Plan that Richard Nixon himself had earlier endorsed.

3. McGovern Didn’t Divide the Party: His Opponents Did

The ex post facto mythology of the McGovern campaign represented it as a takeover by a wild-eyed bunch of radicals determined to purge the Democratic Party of the “Establishment” elements (including the labor movement) that had sustained it for so long. As noted above, the white southern wing of the party had already seceded (at the presidential level, anyway). Also as noted above, McGovern and his supporters weren’t repudiating LBJ’s War in Vietnam; by then it was definitely Nixon’s War.

What did happen was a widespread abandonment of the Democratic presidential nominee, led by a labor movement (or at least by the leadership of the AFL-CIO) that was still loyal to Johnson and Humphrey and didn’t feel its interests would be particularly compromised if Nixon won reelection. Political historian Rick Perlstein reminds us that McGovern wasn’t the aggressor in intraparty strife:

“Humphrey himself, backed by [AFL-CIO president George] Meany, ran a stupendously vicious primary campaign against McGovern in the late innings. Edmund Muskie, Scoop Jackson, and Humphrey even cast aspersions against McGovern on ‘Meet the Press’ segments during the convention. Others were more casual — like the Catholic Missouri senator, one of the few up and comers associated with the regulars’ old order, who gave a blind quote to Evans and Novak at the height of the primary season, when McGovern looked to be clinching the nomination: ‘The people don’t know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion, and legalization of pot. Once Middle America — Catholic Middle America, in particular — finds this out, he’s dead.'”

Part of the reason Democrats indulged themselves in dumping McGovern is that this was (in sharp contrast to today) an era of heavy, heavy ticket-splitting. Democrats actually made a net gain of two Senate seats in 1972. They won Senate races in Alabama (where McGovern won 26 percent of the presidential vote); Arkansas (McGovern: 31 percent); Georgia (McGovern: 25 percent); Louisiana (McGovern: 28 percent) and Mississippi (McGovern: 20 percent). In 2016, not a single state elected a senator who was not from the party of the candidate who carried it in the presidential election. If they can just stop calling each other unelectable (and again, that’s mostly centrists calling progressives that), 2020 Democrats should be — and better be — united.

4. McGovern Ran a Bad General-Election Campaign

The criticisms of McGovern that are most justified had little to do with his ideology: He ran an amateurish general-election campaign, punctuated and exemplified by his sloppy vice-presidential election process that led to the selection and then the dismissal of running mate Tom Eagleton (the Missouri senator, by the way, who dissed McGovern in Perlstein’s account). Another really bad sign was McGovern’s delivery of his nomination acceptance speech (perhaps his best speech of the entire campaign) at 2:48 a.m. Eastern Time. The contrast with Nixon’s highly regimented 1972 Republican convention was astonishing, which leads to perhaps the most important distinction of them all between 1972 and 2020.

5. The 1972 Richard Nixon Was No Donald Trump — Yet, Anyway

Perceptions of McGovern’s 1972 opponent have been heavily influenced by Nixon’s subsequent disgrace and resignation from office. But in 1972 itself, Nixon was brilliant, in a devious, unprincipled sort of way. He had already defied conservative orthodoxy by imposing wage and price controls (1971) and visiting the previously forbidden kingdom of the People’s Republic of China (a maneuver so audacious that Nixon-to-China became a general term for politicians going sharply against type).

Nixon’s campaign relentlessly appealed to Democratic constituencies, especially labor (the AFL-CIO was neutral in a presidential general election for the first time ever), southern white voters (a Democrats-for-Nixon organization was headed by LBJ crony John Connally), and Catholics. He falsely promised imminent peace in Vietnam and used fiscal stimulus to pump up the economy (helping to create later inflation that would bedevil his successors). He gave every appearance of being a very successful president, disguising the moral rot within his White House. His job-approval ratings in 1972 breached 60 percent in May and were at 62 percent on Election Day. Trump has never been within hailing distance of this sort of popularity, and has never shown any interest, much less ability, in appealing beyond his electoral base.

The more you look at him, the more George McGovern is an unfairly maligned figure of Democratic failure, whose actual failures are not relevant to any 2020 nominee of his party. Yes, many baby-boomer Democrats will always be haunted by Election Night 1972, when their ancient enemy Tricky Dick won New York, California, Michigan, and McGovern’s own South Dakota — just as millennial Democrats will never forget HRC’s shocking 2016 defeat. Neither defeat offers any clear guidance for 2020, truth be told. But 1972 is about as illustrative of what to do or not do as 1928 or maybe the Battle of Agincourt. The best evidence we have is that thanks to extreme partisan polarization exacerbated by the terrifying example of the 45th president, any competent Democrat, whether she or he is a centrist or a progressive — a moderate or a democratic socialist — can beat Trump and can probably lose to him as well if everything goes wrong. If there’s anything about McGovernism to be avoided, it’s simply this: The 2020 Democratic nominee needs a lot more practical campaigning skill and also a bit of the luck that relentlessly eluded the very decent and well-meaning 1972 candidate.


Political Strategy Notes

Your sobering thought for the week comes from “Third Party Spoilers Are the Whole Deal, People” by Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo, who writes, “For all the arguing and analyzing and prognosticating about the 2020 presidential race I am surprised how little attention has been given to what may or I think likely will play the biggest role in the outcome: third party candidates…One of the truths about the 2016 election is that Donald Trump didn’t do any better in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012 if you’re looking at the percentage of total votes cast. Indeed, he did significantly worse. Romney won 47.2% of the national vote while Trump won 46.1%. Electoral votes count, not popular votes. And that was Trump’s critical advantage. But it’s really the unusually high 5.7% of the vote going to three third party candidates — Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin — that made it possible for Trump to win as a minority candidate.” Marshall addds that Trump “really, really needs the presence of spoiler candidates to pull the contest down into the mid-40s where it was in 2016. I’d never say never. But I think there’s a good argument that a significant third party/spoiler candidacy — or ideally more than one — are the necessary predicate of Trump’s reelection.”

In his post, “The End of the Filibuster May Loom,” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Hunter Brown writes, “In 2017, when Republicans had full control of both Congress and the presidency, the party lacked any legislative priorities requiring a filibuster-proof majority. Their two main initiatives, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a tax cut package, both could be passed with 51 votes through the reconciliation process (the ACA repeal couldn’t win a majority in the Senate but the tax cuts passed). Thus, eliminating the legislative filibuster would not have advantaged them…Democrats, eager to pass, among other things, gun control measures, legislation expanding voting rights, and immigration reform, may practically need the elimination of the filibuster to accomplish these and other major goals. Thus, with an ambitious agenda and little chance at 60 seats, the next time Democrats enjoy full control, they very well may pull the trigger and put an end to the filibuster forever…Ironically, while it takes 60 votes to kill a filibuster, it would only take 51 to stop filibusters forever, as it could be changed as a part of the Senate rules, which only requires majority support, every two years.”

From Geoffrey Skelley’s “Who Will Make The Third Democratic Debate (And Who Could Miss It)” at FiveThirtyEight: Time is running out for Democratic candidates to make the third presidential primary debate in September. There are about two weeks left to qualify, and because of the debate’s higher thresholds, it’s likely that there won’t be 20 candidates — although the debate may still span two nights. Nine candidates have already qualified by our count, and a handful of others could also make it. (In previous debates, the Democratic National Committee capped the stage at 10 participants each night, but it hasn’t yet specified what it will do for the third debate.)..However, it is unlikely that the debate field will grow much beyond 12 or 13 candidates, as it’s much harder to qualify this time than it was for the previous two debates. Not only do candidates have to meet both the polling and donor requirements, but they also must meet higher thresholds. To qualify, candidates must attract at least 2 percent support in four qualifying national or early-state polls released between June 28 and Aug. 28, and they must also have 130,000 unique donors (including at least 400 individual donors in at least 20 states).”

Nine Democrats have made the third debate so far

Democratic presidential candidates* by whether and how they qualified for the third primary debate, as of Aug. 12

Joe Biden 13 >130k
Pete Buttigieg 13 >130
Kamala Harris 13 >130
Bernie Sanders 13 >130
Elizabeth Warren 13 >130
Cory Booker 10 >130
Beto O’Rourke 8 >130
Amy Klobuchar 6 >130
Andrew Yang 4 >130
Julián Castro 3 >130
Tulsi Gabbard 1 >130
Tom Steyer 3 65-130
Kirsten Gillibrand 1 65-130
Jay Inslee 0 65-130
Marianne Williamson 0 65-130
John Hickenlooper 1 <65
Michael Bennet 0 <65
Steve Bullock 0 <65
Bill de Blasio 0 <65
John Delaney 0 <65
Seth Moulton 0 <65
Tim Ryan 0 <65
Joe Sestak 0 <65

Meanwhile, at CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza explains how “How failed presidential candidates could hold the key to a Democratic Senate majority in 2020.” Cillizza writes that “candidates like former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock are not, well, prospering in their presidential bids at the moment…It seems unlikely that any of that trio — with the possible exception of O’Rourke, although even that looks like a long shot now — is going to have their desired arc to the top of the presidential field. BUT, all three of them would be absolutely top-tier Senate recruits for Democrats trying to build momentum for a push to the majority next fall. (Senate Democrats need to pick up four seats to retake the majority if they win back the White House and five seats if Trump gets reelected.)…Senate Democrats are content to wait — for now. The deadline for a candidate to file to run for the US Senate in Texas isn’t until December — and in Colorado and Montana it’s not until next year. So there’s time.”

At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait warns that “Russian Election Hacking in 2020 Could Easily Be Much Worse Than 2016,” and he reports, “The Senate report notes that while Russians did not breach voting machines in 2016, they scoped out the defenses in all 50 states. One expert told the committee that Russia was “conducting the reconnaissance to do the network mapping, to do the topology mapping, so that you could actually understand the network, establish a presence, so you could come back later and actually execute an operation…Even more alarming than the implied weaknesses in the voting system is the political context in which they exist. President Trump has frequently either minimized or outright denied Russia’s culpability in the 2016 email hacks (which Trump himself was exploiting at the time). The benign explanation is that the president is merely hypersensitive about the legitimacy of his election. But this fails to explain why Trump also refuses to accept intelligence about Russia’s plans to interfere in the next one…The vulnerabilities of the U.S. voting system certainly furnish Putin with an inviting target. The response, or nonresponse, to the Russian threat by both the administration and the Senate gives us two important pieces of information about a prospective Russian attack. The first is that a hack is more likely to succeed this time around. The insistent passivity of both the administration and the Senate has undermined responses at both the executive and legislative levels.

Chait adds, “What seems clear is that Russia has incentive to act and that such an operation stands at least some chance of succeeding, given that it can go after voting machines almost anywhere and needs to succeed with only a handful of them in order to change the outcome. Every swing state has one or more large cities with a massive concentration of Democratic votes. Tampering with or disabling the vote count in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee, for instance, could throw the election to Trump outright or create the conditions for a disputed result. Either outcome would dovetail with Moscow’s goals of discrediting the democratic process as a sham and keeping Trump in office. This is the dynamic that has preoccupied most coverage of and commentary about the issue.”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich reports that “The Movement To Skip The Electoral College May Take Its First Step Back.” As Rakich explains: “In March, the state of Colorado handed a historic win to opponents of the Electoral College by becoming the first purple state to sign on to the National Popular Vote interstate compact. Next November, however, it could make history yet again by becoming the first state to renege on the agreement…the compact only goes into effect once states worth 270 electoral votes (a majority in the Electoral College) have joined, thus ensuring that its signatories have enough electoral votes to guarantee that the national popular vote winner becomes president. Currently, 15 states plus the District of Columbia, together worth 196 electoral votes, have ratified the compact…Four of those states, including Colorado, joined the National Popular Vote movement just this year.” However, “opponents in Colorado were upset enough about its passage that they are now actively trying to repeal the law. Earlier this month, the organization Coloradans Vote said it submitted more than 227,198 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state in an effort to subject the law to voter referendum in the 2020 election. With that number of signatures, chances are very good it will make the ballot, making it the first time voters in any state will vote directly on the National Popular Vote compact.

Rakich continues, “The only poll about the National Popular Vote law I could find in Colorado was a March survey from Republican pollster Magellan Strategies that found 47 percent of likely 2020 voters would vote to affirm the National Popular Vote law and 47 percent would vote to repeal it. However, even if those numbers are too rosy for the repeal effort, I would still expect support for the law to decrease as opponents prosecute the case against the National Popular Vote, so even a lead of, say, 10 points (akin to the national breakdown) would not be secure. This could be one of the most closely watched ballot measures of the 2020 cycle…Nationally, 53 percent of Americans said the popular vote should determine the president, and 43 percent said the Electoral College should, according to an April/May NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Unsurprisingly, given that almost every state government to pass the National Popular Vote compact was completely controlled by Democrats, there is a wide partisan gap on the question: 79 percent of Democrats preferred the popular vote, while 74 percent of Republicans favored the Electoral College.”

State-by-State Job Approval Ratings Are Bad News for Trump

After 2016 Democrats constantly remind themselves that presidential contests are about the Electoral College, not the popular vote. That’s not necessarily good news for Trump, as I noted at New York earlier this week:

There has been a lot of discussion in political circles about Donald Trump’s job-approval ratings, what they portend, and Trump’s Electoral College strategy for 2020, which doesn’t necessarily require a popular-vote plurality. But in the end, of course, the conjunction of the Electoral College with Trump’s state-by-state popularity is where the deal will go down.

The online polling firm Civiqs has published a new set of state-by-state job-approval ratings for Trump as of August 11, and it shows how the president’s overall standing (a 43 percent approval rating nationally, which happens to match the current RealClearPolitics polling average) might translate into electorate votes. It’s not a pretty picture for the president, to put it mildly.

Civiqs shows the president’s net approval ratios being underwater (i.e., negative) in 10 states he carried in 2016: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. If that were to represent how the 2020 elections turn out, Trump would have a booming 119 electoral votes. And it’s not as though he’s on a knife’s edge between victory and defeat in all these Trump 2016 states where he’s doing poorly: He’s underwater by 12 points in Pennsylvania, 11 in Michigan, and nine in Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. And there’s virtually no indication that states that narrowly went for Clinton in 2016 are trending in Trump’s direction: His approval ratios are minus 18 in Colorado, minus 15 in Minnesota, minus 12 in Nevada, and minus 27 in New Hampshire. These are, by the way, polls of registered voters, not just “adults,” so they should be a relatively sound reflection of the views of the electorate.

If you credit these polls at all, Trump’s reelection will require (1) a big late improvement in his approval ratings, which is possible but unlikely based on long-standing patterns during his polarizing presidency; (2) a campaign that succeeds in making the election turn on theoretical fears about his opponent rather than actual fears about a second Trump term, which won’t be easy either; (3) a big Republican turnout advantage, which is less likely among the larger presidential electorate than it was in 2018; or (4) some diabolical ability to thread the needle despite every contrary indicator, which superstitious Democrats fear for obvious reasons.

If the fourth scenario — a win against all the evidence — is Trump’s best hope for reelection, he’s the one who needs to experience some fear and trembling heading toward 2020. If anything, there’s evidence that he is likely to undershoot rather than overshoot his approval ratings as the sitting president of a country whose direction lacks any kind of public confidence.

Medicare for all…with a Public Option?

You’ve read the arguments for Medicare for All, and you appreciate the inclusiveness of the proposal, note the success of it in many other countries and believe the economies of scale it would provide make it the most cost-effective system for the U.S. But you are also familiar with the reality that polls indicate millions of voters are happy with their private health insurance and a public option system is a much easier sell.

But if you are wondering if there is a range of policies in between these two choices, read “Here’s how we can have ‘Medicare for all‘ with a private option” by Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer, professor emeritus at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and co-author of “Understanding Health Policy.Bodenheimer shares some recent data points:

According to CNN 2018 exit polls 41 percent of voters named health care as their most important issue. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 56 percent of the public supports “Medicare for all,” but 74 percent wants to keep their existing insurance. Seventy-seven percent, including 69 percent of Republicans, favor allowing everyone to choose Medicare as their health insurance.

When asked which health-care legislation Congress should focus on, 52 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leading independents chose improving the Affordable Care Act versus 39 percent picking Medicare for all.

Of course most such polling data is profoundly influenced by the phrasing of questions. But Bodenheimer’s data does suggest that many Americans are ambivalent about picking one with wholesale rejection of the other option. As a political junkie, I favor the public option, politics being the art of the possible and all that. But do we really have to pick one and ditch the other? Like Peggy Lee asked, ‘Is that all there is?’

Bodenheimer says no, “These seemingly opposing stances can be reconciled with a united front for health care. A united front means that progressives and moderates put aside their differences for now.” I doubt it’s as simplistic as ‘progressive vs. moderates’ — lots of progressives favor the public option, and I’m sure there are some moderates who have eperienced economic ruin because of crappy private health insurance, and are way ready for Medicare for All.

Bodenheimer cites three principles of a middle way forward:

1) Providing immediate relief from the burden of health-care costs

2) Over time, offering an improved Medicare to all Americans

3) Allowing people to keep their private health insurance – the “private option.” Most urgent is health-care cost relief.

Bodenheimer cites compelling data illustrating the unacceptable costs of halth care policy paralysis – skyrocketing premiums, the heavy burden of deductables and endless out-of-pocket expenses. Then there is sdrug company price gouging, coverage shortfalls in Medicare etc. He acknowledges that “any Medicare for all plan must improve Medicare to reduce the bills that Medicare patients have to pay themselves.” Further,

If the Medicare age went down from 65 to 55, we would receive a Medicare card shortly after our 55th birthday. Or Medicare might automatically cover children under 18. Over time, everyone would receive a Medicare card in the mail. We would have the private option. But we would be insured from the moment we are born until the day we die.

The details of financing must be debated. A couple of things might be important. First, to keep taxes down, employers whose employees choose Medicare should pay into Medicare the same amount that they were paying for those employees’ private insurance. Otherwise, employers would save a lot of money at taxpayers’ expense

Second, the social security contributions employers and employees pay to support Medicare would rise, especially for higher-income people. When we are young and healthy, we pay so that when we become old and sick, we benefit.

It’s not hard to envision widespread support for all of those approaches. You could also chuck into the mix catastropic coverage for all, with a public option approach for preventative and maintenance care. It’s not an either/or choice, unless that’s all that makes it to floor votes in the House and Senate.

As Bodenheimer concludes, “If Democrats win the White House and Congress, a transition to Medicare for all with the private option becomes possible. In the meantime, Democrats need to come together in a united front that can defeat Donald Trump and relieve people’s suffering from health-care costs.”

Medicare for All advocates Sens. Sanders and Warren surely know this, as does former V.P. Biden and the improve Obamacare and public option supporters. But they also know they have to strongly argue one or the other to push the debate. So far it’s working well, with the side benefit of revealing how utterly bankrupt the Republicans are in terms of both morals and ideas for health care reform.

Teixeira: Summing Up the DSA Convention

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

Leaving aside some of the nutty resolutions like the Open Borders one, how should we assess the DSA convention as a whole? Harold Meyerson offers some thoughts, especially focusing on the Bernie or Bust resolution, which has fairly immediate implications. He also does a good job of discussing some of the disciplined caucuses like the Trotskyist-inflected Bread and Roses and the quasi-anarchist Build.

He concludes:

“Making plenty of errors along the way, like many of the youth organizations that DSA demographically resembles, I think the majority of DSA members will succeed in keeping the group from descending into the Scylla and Charybdis of sectarianism and anarchy. The electoral successes of DSA members running as Democrats—and there are now roughly 100 DSA members in elected office—will not just build the organization but help anchor it in the real world.

And the presidential runoff of 2020? I think DSA’s national political committee might take a leaf from the group’s Atlanta local during Stacey Abrams’s 2018 campaign for governor. At the time, the local wasn’t endorsing nonsocialists, and some of its members likely believed—rightly, I’d say—that a DSA endorsement would be one more cross Abrams would have to bear in her bid to carry Georgia. Nonetheless, every other progressive group inside and outside the state was enthusiastically backing her, and many DSA members were eagerly working on her campaign. Here’s what the local said:

“For many reasons, we cannot endorse Abrams ourselves, but neither can we stand aside while our friends and allies fight for something they know will make their lives better. We voted to encourage our members, if they feel so moved, to stand up and fight in this election cycle.”

In 2020, DSA’s friends and allies—in immigrant communities and communities of color, in groups seeking to combat the climate crisis and save the planet, in organizations of working people seeking a radically more equitable economy and society—will be fighting for their lives to replace Trump with a Democrat. It won’t be a battle between socialism and barbarism, but it will be a battle against barbarism, and the Atlanta statement offers a way that DSA can join it.”

Worthwhile reading and considerably better than the New York Times story. For a completely different perspective you might want to check out libertarian socialist Nathan Robinson’s take on the convention in Current Affairs. Robinson’s politics aren’t mine but it is an engaging piece with some vivid anecdotes.

This Jacobin piece is good on what actually happened at the convention–what passed. what didn’t and how organizational questions were dealt with (always more important than people think they are). The author. Andrew Sernatinger is from my old stomping grounds in Madison, WI, so I feel a certain kinship with him.

Sernatinger was, however, responsible for the Bernie or Bust resolution. which I am not too enthusiastic about. According to Sernatinger, the dominant strand on thinking in the DSA on electoral work is to build toward a “dirty break” with the Democrats and form their own independent party.

Good luck with that.

Dann and Jennings: Can the Working-Class Trust Democrats?

The following post, by consumer lawyer and former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann and Leo Jennings III, a leading Northeast Ohio political consultant and media specialist, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Two years ago, we compared the opioid epidemic to the mortgage crisis that nearly cratered the global economy, noting how both were caused by corporate greed. Recent reporting in the Washington Post and other media outlets reveals an important difference between the two: unlike the regulators who were blithely ignorant of what was happening in the financial markets, officials at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) knew exactly how many opioid pills were being distributed in the U.S. and where they were going. They simply chose to do nothing about it even though DEA investigators and line attorneys were pushing to hold at least one major drug manufacturer responsible for fueling the deadly epidemic.

The Obama administration’s decision to let drug company CEOs and managers off the hook runs parallel with its refusal to prosecute the big bank and brokerage officials who ignited the mortgage crisis. This eagerness to place Wall Street above Main Street is the key to solving the mystery that has confounded pundits, pollsters, and prognosticators since November 8, 2016: why did so many blue-collar and working class voters abandon the Democratic Party and vote for Trump?

Political Strategy Notes

Democratic candidates have been pretty passive about promoting their party, which may help explain  why the party underperforms in polls. The thinking of too many Democratic candidates at all levels seems to be something like “The party doesn’t do well in polls, so I won’t talk about it much. I’ll just emphasize my individual accomplishments and bash Republicans.” But it’s not enough to assume, for example, that everyone knows Democrats have spearheaded the charge for needed economic reforms, such as a minimum wage increase. Dems should say, again and again that they, almost alone, have passed minimum wage bills across America over strident GOP opposition. At U.S. News, Susan Milligan reports that “A recent economic journal paper – considered the most comprehensive modern look at the impact of state and local minimum wage increases – analyzes 138 minimum wage increases over the past five years. The result? Pretty much what the proponents intended, says Arindrajit Dube, a professor at the University of Massachusetts—Amherst and one of the study’s authors.“..What we found was these policies have the intended consequence of raises wages at the bottom” of the income scale and “have some degree of spillover beyond the minimum wage,” since other employers tend to hike their own wages when the minimum wage increases…“ Brag more, Dems, about your party’s leadership, not just your own. That’s one way we can improve the party’s image.

Mueller is done, but Democratic presidential candidates, and perhaps all Democratic candidates and political reporters should read “Here Are the Questions a Shrink Would Have Asked Mueller: Three psychiatrists analyzed the Mueller Report to assess the president’s soundness of mind. Their conclusion: This is a national emergency” by Bandy X. Lee, Edwin B. Fisher, And Leonard L. Glass at The Daily Beast. The shrinks are the authors of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” and their questions open up some critical concerns for further consideration. The last question, in particular, hits the core concern squarely: “5) As a prosecutor, do you see a nexus between the president’s hate speech and danger to others as targets of his rhetoric?” Read the questions and answers for some useful insights regarding how to discuss Trump’s mental health.

Next time somebody gives you the old “Congress is bought off by the NRA” false equivalence routine, just show them this list of 178 co-sponsors of H.R. 5087, the 2018 bill to ban assault-style weapons, 177 of whom are Democrats.

Also check out “Here’s where every 2020 candidate stands on guns: The candidates agree on universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. There’s less agreement on other proposals” by German Lopez at Vox. Lopez notes, “President Donald Trump, for his part, doesn’t seem interested in much. He has supported a federal red flag law, which would allow police to take away someone’s guns if there’s some proof of a risk of violence (a “red flag”). But on other measures, from universal background checks to an assault weapons ban, Trump and Republican lawmakers have resisted, instead talking up questionable connections between violence, mental illness, and violent media…Democratic candidates, however, have taken more comprehensive stances on guns. For the most part, they’re sticking to common Democratic themes like universal background checks, an assault weapons ban (which is typically paired with a ban on high-capacity magazines), and federally funded research into gun violence. But the campaigns’ plans do include some new ideas here and there — including red flag laws, which campaigns ranging from Cory Booker’s to John Delaney’s back, and requiring a license to buy and own a gun, which Booker in particular brought to the presidential stage but others, like Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, also support.” Lopez provides more details on the positions of each candidate.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans see felon disenfranchisement as the cruel, pointless and counterproductive punishment that it is. It serves no purpose other than to prevent millions of Americans from more fully participating in society. That’s why many states have loosened or gotten rid of their felon disenfranchisement laws in recent years. Vermont and Maine have gone even further, allowing people in prison to vote — as is the case in most European countries. Last time we checked, all are still functioning democracies. — A choice paragraph from the NYT editorial, “Why Are Florida Republicans So Afraid of People Voting?

In other voter suppression news, you may have missed “New Hampshire’s Republican governor just vetoed a bipartisan redistricting commission” by Danielle McLean at Think Progress. Among her observations: “New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bipartisan bill Friday that would have allowed an independent redistricting committee to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional district maps in 2021 and beyond…The veto is just the latest sign that Republican Party leaders want to control the map-making process and preserve a system that allowed them to racially and politically gerrymander at historic proportions in several GOP-controlled states the last time district lines were redrawn in 2011…While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled this year that federal courts do not have the power to decide partisan gerrymandering cases, a growing number of states have established independent commissions to draw district maps in a non-partisan manner. New Hampshire would have joined eight other states to have established such a commission…Under the current system, New Hampshire’s legislature, which is currently controlled by Democrats, is responsible for drawing up the state’s political lines. The governor has the ability to veto or approve any maps.”

McLean continues, “Heading into 2021, Republicans appear poised to once again gerrymander and leave the process up to the lawmakers themselves…Next week, the shadowy group that crafts far-right legislation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, at its annual meeting in Austin, Texas, will host a pair of closed-door workshops teaching state lawmakers the basics of ‘redistricting.’ Government watchdog groups warn those panels will in reality teach them how to gerrymander and pair them with the mapmakers that can help them draw partisan lines…Last year, ALEC created a model resolution that reaffirmed “the right of state legislatures to determine electoral districts” instead of the courts…And former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — who helped usher Wisconsin’s extreme gerrymandered districts in 2011 and is now leading the GOP’s redistricting efforts in 2021 as the finance chair of the National Republican Redistricting Trust — has also claimed that rural residents should be counted more than urban residents when the maps are drawn.”

Nate Silver shares a revealing chart in his post, “Forget ‘Lanes.’ The Democratic Primary Is A Whole Freaking Transit System” at FiveThirtyEight:

Who Sanders and Clinton voters from 2016 support now

Combined results from a July 6-8 and a July 27-29 national poll

Bernie Sanders 9% 31%
Joe Biden 43 19
Elizabeth Warren 15 13
Kamala Harris 18 10
Pete Buttigieg 4 6
Andrew Yang 0 5
Beto O’Rourke 2 4
Tulsi Gabbard 0 3
Cory Booker 1 1
Others 7 8


At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz deploys some regression analysis and scatterplotting to answer the question, “Did Russian Interference Affect the 2016 Election Results? and concludes, “I find no evidence that Russian attempts to target voters in key swing states had any effect on the election results in those states. Instead, the results were almost totally predictable based on the political and demographic characteristics of those states, especially their past voting tendencies, ideological leanings, and demographics. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Russians weren’t trying to influence the results or that they might not succeed in the future. Nor does it speak to Russian efforts to hack into U.S. voting systems and potentially alter voter registration data or even election results themselves…There are plenty of grounds for real concern here. Indeed, the Electoral College system used to choose the president almost invites efforts to interfere in the election. Whereas trying to affect the national popular vote results would probably be prohibitively expensive, efforts to target a few key swing states could be much more cost-effective and harder to detect. As a result, there is little doubt that these efforts will continue in 2020 and beyond, especially if we have a president who seems to be inviting them.”