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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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December 19, 2018

Teixeira: The Only Way to Beat Bad Populism Is With Good Populism

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

David Leonhardt makes this argument–correctly in my view–in his column in the New York Times. And check out the chart below for some of the evidence for his argument.

“There is only one quality — beyond, of course, charisma — that Democrats should demand in their nominee. The Democrats need a candidate who can and will run as an economic populist.

They need a candidate who will organize the 2020 campaign around fighting for the little guy and gal. (And most of the potential Democratic nominees could do so.) It would be a campaign about Republican politicians and corporate lobbyists who are rigging the game, a campaign that promised good jobs, rising wages, decent health care, affordable education and an end to Trumpian corruption.

The country doesn’t only need this agenda. It wants this agenda. A mountain of evidence shows that populism — the real kind, not the faux Trump version — is the Democrats’ most effective political strategy. Yet that evidence often gets obscured by less important issues, like a candidate’s race, sex or precise spot on a traditional liberal-conservative spectrum……

Populism takes very different forms — from odious racism to sensible economics — but there is no other political style consistently succeeding in the Western world right now.

There is more than one form that a Democratic populist can take. Franklin Roosevelt, the most successful populist of the past century, was an aristocrat. Bill Clinton and Lyndon Johnson were hardscrabble Southerners. Barack Obama managed to do quite well with much of the white working class despite having one big obvious difference from them.

So the need to run a populist campaign in 2020 doesn’t point to any specific candidate….

[A]lmost every single one of the potential Democratic candidates could run a smart populist campaign. Take Beto O’Rourke. His record in the House was not especially populist. He cast a procedural vote for a trans-Pacific trade deal, for example. Yet his Texas Senate campaign captured the energy of the moment. In campaign ads, his top issues included: “Get big money out of politics” and “Jobs for Texans.”

We’re living in a populist era. The question is who figures out how to thrive in it. In 2016, it was Trump. It doesn’t need to be in 2020.”

Exactly. And I would add that the approach Leonhardt recommends could put into play the basic components of the “equitable growth” agenda this country so desperately needs to move forward and leave reactionary populism behind for good.

As I conceive of it, the equitable growth approach has three broad components: (1) measures to directly improve economic outcomes for the working and middle classes; (2) measures to directly reduce the flow of excessive benefits to the wealthy; and (3) measures to increase societal investment in the jobs of the future.

Measures to directly improve economic outcomes should include the following. First, there is the provision of more and more widely-distributed educational opportunity. This provision is absolutely central to the life-chances and economic mobility of the working and middle classes. Making early childhood education available for all is part of this, as is more effective elementary and secondary education and much easier access to a college education.

Raising the quality and quantity of educational attainment helps individual workers but it does much more. Broad diffusion of knowledge and skills is a powerful countervailing force on rising inequality. And the role of rising societal skill levels in promoting economic growth is well-documented.

Policies to directly support wages are also important. A relatively high minimum wage, indexed to prices, fits in here, as do pro-work tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and employee profit-sharing, share-ownership and representation. And, critically, the attainment and maintenance of full employment, including government as employer of last resort, will do a great deal to push wages up over the long-term.

Then there is the role of robust social insurance and social benefits. Besides the familiar old age programs of Social Security and Medicare, this includes the universal provision of health care, affordable child care, retirement savings accounts, paid sick and parental leave and paid vacation.

There is no question these measures would go a long way toward improving the lot of the working and middle classes in today’s America. But an equitable growth approach entails going beyond directly helping the great middle to cutting the flow of excessive benefits to the wealthy.

One part of this is increasing taxes on the wealthy and on wealth. As Thomas Piketty argues, low marginal income tax rates on the wealthy encourage the pursuit of extreme incomes, while much higher marginal rates can be implemented without adverse effects on work effort and entrepreneurship.

Curtailing wealth through tax increases on the wealthy would, by definition, make a contribution toward reducing inequality by pushing down excess at the top of the income distribution. These measures would also have the highly desirable side effect of helping raise revenue for needed social programs and government investments to lift up the great middle of society (even if such taxes, by themselves, would not be sufficient to provide all the revenue needed).

There is also the issue of laws and incentives that encourage excessive and destabilizing wealth accumulation. A host of changes are needed here. Measures to combat these tendencies include ending “too big to fail” in the financial sector, enacting a financial transactions tax to discourage short-term, speculative investments and eliminating tax loopholes on performance pay and other forms of compensation that have allowed CEO pay to skyrocket.

Direct measures to lift up the middle and push down the top are clearly necessary and important parts of an equitable growth program. But they are not sufficient. Sustained healthy economic growth also depends on increased long-term societal investment in the infrastructure, research and sectoral innovation that will underpin the jobs of the future.

There are obviously a lot of moving parts here. But several things are clear. There has been a systematic tendency to underinvest in infrastructure, both its maintenance and expansion to suit the needs of modern postindustrial economies. This tendency has been particularly acute in the United States, where investment in infrastructure is now at historical lows, despite an immense backlog of deferred maintenance and mostly unfilled needs for new infrastructure.

This underinvestment reflects in large part unwarranted faith in the ability of the private sector to “go it alone” and drive growth purely on the basis of entrepreneurship and profit-seeking. This ignores, of course, the well-known economic problem of “public goods” that are useful and necessary for many economic actors but are available to all regardless of whether they have contributed anything to the availability of the public good (“free-riding”) and cannot be appropriated for the exclusive use of any profit-making firm. Infrastructure is a classic example of such a public good, as is some basic research.

In the absence of a robust supply of public goods, some firms will still make healthy profits and economic growth will still continue. But growth will be less than it otherwise would be and it will be tilted toward areas where large profits do not depend on public goods (think finance). Good for those firms that do make large profits, bad for the working and middle classes.

Worse, the problem goes beyond that indicated by the public goods framework. As economist Mariana Mazzucato points out, the role of the state is not just to supply public goods the private sector ignores but needs (though this is very important) but also to be an entrepreneurial agent investing in areas that are far off the private sector’s radar screen because of extreme uncertainty in economic returns. This is particularly the case with fundamental knowledge generation and very early investments in new technological sectors. Current theories of economic growth assign such innovation a key role in economic growth and it is the “entrepreneurial state” in Mazzucato’s phrase who can afford—and is willing–to bear the inherently immeasurable risks of such innovation.

This has been the case in the United States where pretty much all research underlying the internet and modern computing was funded and initially capitalized by the US state. For example, the immensely profitable Apple corporation’s signature products, like the iPhone and iPad, rest on fundamental innovations developed by government funding . This includes everything from the internet to GPS to touch screens to Siri voice recognition. In other words, no entrepreneurial state, no Apple.

More generally, a Brookings Institution study found that 18 of the 25 most important breakthroughs in computer technology in the seminal 1946-65 period were underwritten by the federal government . And it’s not just information technology where the role of the state has been critical: between 1971 and 2006, 77 out of the 88 most important innovations outside of computing/communications, as rated by R&D Magazine, were heavily dependent on government support, especially in their earliest developmental stages.

The role of the entrepreneurial state has been critical to growth in the past and there is no reason to think it will not be critical in the future. Progress in such emerging fields as biotechnology, nanotechnology and, of paramount importance, green technology will continue to depend on the entrepreneurial state being willing to provide support in areas where the private sector sees only unknowable risks. And without such progress economic growth–and the consequent ability to raise living standards–will fall well short of potential.

It’s a big program and getting rid of Trump is just the first step. But it’s what we need.

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “As Trump Comes Apart, Can Democrats Come Together?,” at The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner notes, “Democratic candidates found a winning formula on the issues—call it kitchen-table economics. Even candidates who considered themselves fairly centrist ran on such issues as defending and expanding Social Security; offering a buy-in to Medicare; cracking down on drug company pricing; dealing with the student debt crisis; and launching a large-scale public infrastructure program. The supposed ideological distance between the party left and center narrowed. Progressive became the new moderate…There is a principled family quarrel here between the Clinton/Obama center-left and the progressive left. It often gets conflated with two other discussions about moderation and centrism that are the subject of ongoing spin wars. It’s true that voters tend to describe themselves as moderates, but on all the key issues—Social Security, Medicare, education, drug prices, infrastructure—their opinions align with progressives. The genius of the midterm theme was presenting kitchen-table progressive issues not as radical but as common-sense.”

Matthew Yglesias explains why “The latest Obamacare ruling is part of a larger conservative attack on democracy” — and how Democrats should address it at Vox: “The case will, of course, wend its way up to higher courts where hopefully cooler, more humane heads will prevail. But whether they do depends not just on the law but on the political context. The rhetoric and practice of actual majoritarian populism — rather than simply assuming Chief Justice Roberts will do the right thing — is critical in moments like this. Judicial conservatives will be restrained in their activism if and only if they believe that defying the will of the people on such consequential matters will lead to their delegitimization. It’s a fear they ought to have. But one which will only develop if progressive leaders are able to move beyond excessive fear of populism and learn to speak the language of popular majoritarianism and democratic self-rule.”

Are Republicans Crazy Enough to Kill Obamacare Like This?,” asks Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. If the appeal of the Obamacare ruling gets to the Supreme Court, as now seems likely, Tomasky believes that there are three options “One, they can decide not to hear it and let the Fifth Circuit’s decision stand. Two, they can uphold the Obamacare repeal. Three, they can overturn the Fifth Circuit and save Obamacare…For now, I bet—and obviously, I hope—that the court will choose option three. John Roberts, I think, will join the four liberals in striking down this decision. The legal basis is simple and has to do with the judge not acknowledging Congress’ intent in treating separate sections of the law separately (“severability,” in the parlance)…He’s shown awareness in the past (indeed in the first Obamacare case) about the court’s standing and the real-world ramifications of its decisions…And even if he doesn’t care about millions of people with cancer, he cares about his court’s reputation, which will be destroyed if a majority follows this judge’s reasoning and produces an obvious political decision. Destroyed. Right now it’s polling about 50-40, approve over disapprove. I have no doubt those numbers would flip and stay flipped for a long time. Roberts cares about this.”

Some conservatives who oppose Obamacare also believe the ruling is dubious. “Ted Frank, a lawyer at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who is critical of the ACA, called the decision “embarrassingly bad” because “you’re twisting yourself into knots” to reach a particular conclusion,” notes Devlin Barrett in “Legal experts rip judge’s rationale for declaring Obamacare law invalid“, at The Chicago Tribune. “Over the past two years, Frank said, conservative lawyers such as he have complained when district court judges did similar intellectual gymnastics to attack Trump administration initiatives. “It’s not appropriate in the other direction, either,” he said.”

And there is plenty of anxiety about health care brewing in the public. In “Other Polling Nuggets,” at FiveThirtyEight Dhrumil Mehta cites findings indicating that “61 percent of Americans say they are concerned that they or a member of their immediate family will have to pay higher health-insurance premiums in the next few years, according to a Gallup poll. Forty-two percent said they were worried about themselves or someone in their family having to go without health insurance.”

Those who think Trump’s threat to “shut down the government” will somehow hurt Democrats should read Mehta’s “Americans Don’t Want A Government Shutdown Because Of The Border Wall,” which notes “According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 57 percent of Americans think Trump should “compromise on the border wall to prevent gridlock,” while only 36 percent think he shouldn’t compromise even if that means a government shutdown. And that reflects a larger trend — in CBS News polls that have been conducted since July 2016,1 Trump’s border wall proposal has generally been unpopular, except among Republicans…In the new NPR/PBS News/Marist poll, 30 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Trump supporters said they thought he should compromise on the wall. And a CBS News poll from November found that 28 percent of those who favored Trump’s border wall did not believe that it was worth risking a partial government shutdown over.”

Can Democrats win a Senate majority in 2020. Here’s some of Kyle Kondik’s take at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Of the 34 Senate races on the ballot in 2020, Republicans already control 22 of them while Democrats hold only 12. That represents something of a role reversal from 2018, when Democrats had to defend 26 of 35 seats being contested…Overall, in order to win the Senate, Democrats probably will need to win Arizona and Colorado as well as at least a couple of the Leans Republican states: Georgia, Iowa, Maine, or North Carolina. That these crucial states begin with Republicans as small favorites points to a larger overall assessment: the GOP starts this cycle favored to hold the Senate. However, there is a plausible path for Democrats, particularly if a Democrat wins the presidency and provides some down-ballot coattails.”

The Secret to Winning in 2020: It’s the populism, stupid,” says David Leonhardt in his New York Times column. “There is only one quality — beyond, of course, charisma — that Democrats should demand in their nominee. The Democrats need a candidate who can and will run as an economic populist…They need a candidate who will organize the 2020 campaign around fighting for the little guy and gal. (And most of the potential Democratic nominees could do so.) It would be a campaign about Republican politicians and corporate lobbyists who are rigging the game, a campaign that promised good jobs, rising wages, decent health care, affordable education and an end to Trumpian corruption…More than 60 percent think taxes on upper-income people are too low, according to Gallup. Almost 70 percent say the same about corporations. A clear majority also favors expanded government health care, more college financial aid, a higher minimum wage and tougher anticorruption laws.

Minimum-wage increases often pass in a landslide, including in red states like Arkansas, Montana and Nebraska. Expansions of Medicaid also keep passing,” Leonhardt continues. “In Missouri last month, 62 percent of voters approved a law to rein in the influence of lobbyists (a law that the state’s Republican leaders are now trying to undermine)…These issues are politically potent because they unite the Democratic coalition and divide the Republican coalition…The Democratic base — including Africans-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, young college graduates and middle-class women — leans populist, polling shows. But so do the white-working class voters who often swing 21st-century elections…Democrats still aren’t going to win a majority of the white working class. But they don’t need to. They just need to avoid getting crushed. When they do that, they win elections.”

Seniors Are Trending Democratic, Too

After some more messing around with exit poll data (no, it’s not perfect, but it’s got value for sure), something that few observers have noted struck me, and I wrote it up at New York:

Democrats made big gains among college-educated suburbanites in the 2018 midterms. Higher Latino turnout helped in certain parts of the country. Young people voted in numbers better than some expected, and remained solidly Democratic. And even in that famously pro-MAGA demographic, white working-class voters, there were signs of Donkey progress.

But let’s don’t ignore the fact that another recently conservative demographic group became bluer than in the last two elections: seniors. According to exit polls, over-65 voters went Republican by a spare two points (50/48). Republicans carried them 58/42 in 201056/44 in 201257/41 in 2014 and 52/45 in 2016. Even in 2008, the year of the Obama landslide, Republicans won seniors 53/45. This improvement by Democrats was particularly significant in that seniors are a steadily increasing percentage of the electorate; growing from 20 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2014 and 26 percent this year. It also suggests that some polarization scenarios that pit old conservatives against young progressives are a bit over-sold.

Even in what we think of as the heartland of Trumpism, among old white people, Democrats made similar progress. They won 36 percent of white seniors in 2014, 39 percent in 2016 and then 43 percent in 2018. A rising percentage of a rising portion of the electorate is a very good sign.

There are, of course, possible avenues for a renewed Republican trend among seniors, particularly if they stay away from proposing major benefit reductions for Medicare and Social Security (as they largely have since Trump became their leader). All other things being equal, senior, and particularly white seniors, are relatively conservative on cultural issues, including immigration. And even on “their” entitlement programs, it’s possible that Democrats will offer too much of a good thing, as Frederick Lynch recently warned:

“Older Americans probably suspect (as was the case with the Affordable Care Act) that Medicare for All might produce ‘socialized medicine’ that could shift Medicare resources from seniors to younger populations. In addition, these fears and resentments would be compounded if the resources were stretched to include millions of unauthorized immigrants who would become eligible for universal health care through citizenship.

“Mr. Trump has already articulated such fears and previewed a likely Republican strategy to attack Medicare for All as a ‘socialist’ scheme that will bankrupt Medicare: At a September rally in Montana, he said that Democrats want to turn the country into (socialist) Venezuela, destroying Social Security, and that they say ‘Medicare for All’ until they run out of money, which will be the third day, and it will be Medicare for nobody.”

Rebutting such myths will be essential for Democrats advocating a universal single-payer program. But most of all, Democrats need to avoid the temptation of mentally writing off old folks–especially old white folks–as they pursue what some have called a “coalition of the ascendant.” In the end, a vote’s a vote, and there are too many seniors voting to make them anything other than a constant target, even if Democrats don’t “win” them.

A Guide to Democratic Health Care Reform Proposals

At Vox, Sarah Kliff and Dylan Scott provide an invaluabe guide to current health care reform proposals, “We read Democrats’ 8 plans for universal health care. Here’s how they work.” As Kliff and Scott write in their introduction to the various bills,

This year, dozens of Democratic candidates ran — and won — on a promise to fight to give all Americans access to government-run health care. A new Medicare-for-all Caucus in the House already has 77 members. All the likely 2020 Democratic nominees support the idea, too.

“Medicare-for-all” has become a rallying cry on the left, but the term doesn’t capture the full scope of options Democrats are considering to insure all (or at least a lot more) Americans. Case in point: There are half a dozen proposals in Congress that envision very different health care systems.

…The eight plans fall into two categories. There are three that would eliminate private insurance and cover all Americans through the government. Then there are five that would allow all Americans to buy into government insurance (like Medicare or Medicaid) if they wanted to, or continue to buy private insurance.

Scott and Kliff provide detailed summaries of each of the proposals. No doubt some of them will eventually be consolidated, reducing the number of bills under consideration. Unlike the GOP health care ‘reform’ plan, all of these bills protect individuals with prior health conditions from being denied coverage.

All would improve on the Affordable Care Act in significant ways, as Kliff and Scott note: “If you’re really sick and have high drug costs, it would be hard not to benefit from these bills,” says Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation who recently co-authored a report comparing the different Democratic plans to expand public coverage.”

The article provides an excellent overview of major health care reform proposals, highly-reccomended for TDS readers. Here’s one of Vox’s comparison charts to encourage you to read on:

Although it is unlikely that the Republican-controlled Senate will pass any of these bills during the next two years, they set the stage for a vigorous — and informative — national debate on health care reform, leading up to the 2020 elections. This debate will help Democrats win popular support as the only political party with a credible vision for national health security.

Trump’s 2020 Strategy–If He Has One

Now that the 2020 presidential election cycle has begun, there’s a big question hanging over the contest that I decided to explore at New York:

Assuming he is running for a second term, as he has consistently said he is, and assuming he hasn’t been removed from office or forced into a premature retirement by prosecutors and Congress, Donald Trump will need a reelection strategy. He has already announced a slogan (“Keep America Great”) that echoes his aspirational/nostalgic MAGA motto of 2016. And he has a nascent reelection campaign apparatus that looks a lot like his wild-and-woolly 2016 operation, as Gabriel Sherman reported in September:

“His re-election effort is typically Trumpian: sprawling, disjointed, and bursting with confidence. In February, Trump announced that Brad Parscale, the digital guru with the Billy Gibbons beard who led his 2016 online strategy, would be his 2020 campaign manager. Meanwhile, Trump has been crisscrossing the country holding fund-raisers, building up a war chest of $88 million in his first 18 months. Many cast members from the original campaign are expected to reprise their starring roles, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, as well as Corey Lewandowski, David Bossie, and Kellyanne Conway. Even [Stephen] Bannon is starting to find his way back into Trump’s orbit after a bitter falling-out.”

Sherman suggests that Trump 2020 will be roiled by rivalries involving its different GOP Establishment, Trump family, and right-wing “populist” spheres of influence. But whoever is in charge, and even if no one is in charge, the reelection effort needs a strategy. The weird thing is that it’s not clear there is one.

So it’s pretty obvious Trump needs to either expand his base of support, or somehow get his existing base to the polls in greater numbers without mobilizing voters who really dislike him. As the team at FiveThirtyEight observed today, nothing Trump has ever done seems designed to expand his base. And this week’s bizarre Oval Office confrontation with Democratic congressional leaders, in which he promised to shut down the federal government if he doesn’t get his border wall money shows the midterms didn’t change Trump at all, at least so far:

“[T]his is a complete play to the base, which Trump arguably already has locked up. If he’s looking to improve his fortunes, pursuing a government shutdown for something that the majority of Americans oppose doesn’t seem wise.”

If Trump is incapable of executing a “pivot to the center,” or just doesn’t want to, then what are his other options? He sometimes seems to believe that conditions in the country (and the world) will, under his stewardship, become so wonderful that voters will keep him around almost against their own will. But after two years in which steadily improving economic indicators and the absence of any fresh international crises haven’t done him much good in the court of public opinion, it seems unlikely that good times will suddenly lift him into popularity. And it’s far more likely that he’ll be dealing with an economic downturn by 2020, while his approach to world affairs isn’t exactly designed to keep things calm, either.

The other distinctively Trumpian strategy might be simply to gamble that he can solidify and rev up his base to previously unimagined levels. He did, after all, win non-college-educated white voters by a record margin in 2016, as Ruy Teixeira noted:

“In 2012, Obama lost whites without a college degree nationally by 25 points. Four years later, Clinton did 6 points worse, losing these voters by 31 points, with shifts against her in Rust Belt states generally double or more the national average.

“Had Clinton hit the thresholds of support within this group that Obama did, she would have carried, with robust margins, the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa, as well as (with narrower margins) Florida and Ohio. In fact, if Clinton could simply have reduced the shift toward Donald Trump among these voters by one-quarter, she would have won.”

Can Trump go higher with this base demographic? Nobody knows for sure, but the GOP margin among non-college-educated white voters dropped to a Romney-like 24 points in 2018. And the other, overlapping group of intense GOP supporters, white Evangelicals, probably can’t get much Trumpier than they already are.

Trump’s own midterm strategy focused on base turnout, with some limited success. But in the end, the percentage of the 2018 electorate that stronglyapproved of Trump was outgunned by the percentage that strongly disapproved of him by a not-so-close 31/46 margin. It’s not going to be easy for the president to get his fans fired up and marching to the polls in a hate frenzy without helping Democrats do the same.

The silver lining for the Trump reelection campaign is that he faced most of these problems in 2016 and won anyway. And that example may indicate the real 2020 strategy for the president: fire up the base just enough to get within striking distance and hope for luck and a Democratic opponent with popularity problems as large as his own.

The luck part may be difficult to reduplicate. Is there some equivalent to the Comey letter that could benefit Trump at the last minute once again? Will Democrats again misjudge and underinvest in key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which in effect let Trump draw an inside straight for an Electoral College win? And will Democrats be so overconfident that many of them won’t bother to vote while many others waste their votes on third and fourth parties?

The more you think it through, the likely Trump strategy will be to do everything imaginable to drive down the positive sentiments associated with their Democratic opponent, perhaps enlisting those hated godless liberal news media assets who are driven by “fairness” to reinforce negative narratives about the candidate they are presumed to favor. The virtual certainty of a Trump campaign that exceeds in sheer savagery anything this country has ever seen before should serve as a warning to Democrats about how they think about their own nominating process. I argued earlier this year that Democrats should look for an unbreakable nominee — one with no obvious vulnerabilities in age, background, ideology or character that an absolutely unprincipled Trump campaign might exploit to drag her or him down to his level of unpopularity. Breaking his opponent by any means necessary looks to be Trump’s only avenue for extending his unlikely and heinous hold on the presidency.

Political Strategy Notes

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is on a roll. In addition to her impressive stand at the White House meeting to avert a government shutdown, “Pelosi has very likely sewn up the support she needs to become speaker of the House next year when the new Congress is sworn in, reports Scott Detrow at NPR. “In a deal struck with a group of House Democrats who had vowed to vote against the longtime Democratic leader in next month’s House speaker election, the California lawmaker agreed to term limits that would see her hold the post through 2022 at the latest. The agreement ensures Pelosi will easily have the 218 votes she needs to win the speakership on the House’s first ballot…”Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders,” Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday evening announcing the agreement, “a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new Members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus.” Detrow adds, “The term limits agreement, which still needs to be formalized by a vote of House Democrats, would limit caucus leaders to three terms, and a fourth term if two-thirds of the caucus agrees to it. The new limits would apply retroactively to Pelosi as well as incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and incoming Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.”

The Washington Post Editorial Board explores a possible bipartisan solution regarding Trump’s Wall for both Trump and Democrats. Here’s a compromise they pitch to Democrats: “The wall as Mr. Trump imagines it may be wasteful overkill, but it’s a stretch to frame it as a moral issue, as Ms. Pelosi does. The initial funding the president seeks, $5 billion, is hardly a break-the-bank sum by Washington standards — especially given that Democrats are already prepared to offer $1.6 billion for border security. And even if funds for a wall were appropriated, construction would immediately be challenged by ranchers and other property owners along the border, who could tie it up in court…If there is a moral imperative in any trade-off involving immigration and security, it’s the urgent necessity of finding a way to ensure a future in this country for dreamers, who are Americans by upbringing, education, loyalty and inclination — by every metric but a strictly legal one. Striking a deal that achieves that outcome should be a no-brainer for both sides. If it means a few billion dollars to construct segments of Mr. Trump’s wall, Democrats should be able to swallow that with the knowledge that it also will have paid to safeguard so many young lives, careers and hopes. That’s not a tough sell even in a Democratic primary.”

But Greg Sargent isn’t having it. As he writes in his column, “After Trump’s meltdown over his wall, Democrats cannot give any ground” at The Plum Line: “Tuesday’s events really underscore that Democrats must not give any ground in this showdown. Everyone knows Trump’s call for a wall has zero in the way of real policy justification. As I’ve argued, Democrats must use their new House majority to get back into the fight against Trump’s war on facts, and mount a stand on behalf of empiricism and good faith governing. Trump’s display of lies, bad faith and destructive threats cannot be rewarded. Especially coming after a midterm that Republicans themselves say demonstrated the bone deep toxicity of Trump’s xenophobic nationalism, it must be unambiguously repudiated.”

And Post columnist Jennifer Rubin also sees Trump’s Oval Office meltdown as an unambiguous victory for Democrats: “It is not clear how Trump could have appeared any more irrational and unhinged. (If he thinks the military can build the wall, why shut down the government?) The video of him declaring his desire to shut down the government will be played over and over again should he get his wish. Good luck convincing the American people that the Democrats, who control nothing and advocated keeping the government open, are at fault…In some ways, a shutdown at the end of 2018 would put an exclamation point on one of the worst years in memory for Republicans. The president is under investigation in multiple venues. Republicans lost 40 seats and with them the House majority. Indeed that number might be 41 thanks to substantial evidence of election fraud by Republicans in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Legislatively, Republicans have accomplished next to nothing this year. If they shut down the government, they’ll wind up confirming that the party of Trump is not only unethical but also incompetent and dysfunctional. Christmas sure came early for Democrats.”

Tallahassee’s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum lost his bid to win the governorship of Florida by 0.39 percent out of over 8 million votes cast — the smallest margin in the history of Florida’s gubernatorial elections. But it now turns out that he was unjustly smeared by his GOP opponent Ron DeSantis. As Marc Caputo reports at Politico, “Federal authorities unveiled a 44-count, 66-page indictment Wednesday of a Tallahassee politician and a city official that involved six companies, five other players and a bank in a wide-ranging bribery, extortion, fraud and racketeering scheme…But amid all the detail and alleged corruption in the indictment, one name is conspicuously absent: Andrew Gillum, who was Tallahassee’s mayor at the time and who was accused repeatedly on the gubernatorial campaign trail this year by Republican opponent Ron DeSantis — and even President Donald Trump — of being tied to the suspected wrongdoing the FBI was investigating…Republicans spent at least $7 million on TV ads — 27 percent of the total $26 million dropped on air in the general election — attacking Gillum in connection with the FBI probe. But the investigation, records indicate, ultimately had little to do with the former mayor.”

At FiveThirtyEight, “White Voters Without A Degree Remained Staunchly Republican In 2018” by Nathaniel Rakich and Julia Wolfe shares some data and insights about the role of the white working-class in the 2018 midterm elections, including: “We found a clear negative relationship (R = -0.72) between the Democratic margin of victory in a district and the share of the district’s population age 25 or older who are non-Hispanic white and lack a bachelor’s degree — a group that pundits often call the “white working class.”…Indeed, a district’s share of non-Hispanic whites without a bachelor’s degree was slightly more predictive of how it voted in the 2016 presidential election than in the 2018 U.S. House election: The correlation coefficient between Hillary Clinton’s vote margin and the percentage of the district that was white people without a bachelor’s degree was -0.79 in 2016, compared with -0.72 in 2018…In terms of white voters’ educational attainment predicting election outcomes, 2018 represented a middle ground between 2016 and 2012.” The authors conclude “Would Democrats be able to build on their 2016 gains in diverse, upper-class suburbs to make states like Texas competitive? Based on the 2018 election results, it looks as if the answer might be yes.”

Don’t Discount Older Voters. They Could Decide the White House: Senior power is the sleeping giant of American politics,” writes Frederick R. Lynch in The New York Times. “Senior power is the sleeping giant of American politics. In the midterm elections, according to CNN exit polls, 56 percent of voters were over age 50, and about a quarter (26 percent) were 65 or over. By comparison, voters under age 30 accounted for just 13 percent — and it was a good year for youth turnout…Those age 50-plus voters split their votes evenly between Democrats and Republicans. The party that maximizes its share of those high-turnout voters wins an emerging swing constituency, and especially in key battleground states…In 2018, 59 percent of whites 45 to 64 years old voted Republican, as did 56 percent of whites over 65. (In the past two presidential contests, about 60 percent of white baby boomers and a slightly higher percentage of voters over 65 voted for Mitt Romney and Mr. Trump.)…Democrats must reclaim those voters, especially the economically anxious working- and middle-class whites who were once a core constituency. And doing so does not mean narrowing the party’s coalition: It can be done in a way that would also appeal to younger voters, minorities and women. It is a positive national message that worked well for several 2018 congressional candidates…To do this, Democrats must remind voters of the party’s heritage and re-emphasize the wildly popular landmark New Deal and Great Society programs: Medicare and Social Security.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein considers the political repercussions of how Democrats respond to Trump’s gowing liabilities resulting from the Mueller probe: “Democratic audiences are sure to press the 2020 candidates, once they start announcing early next year, to indicate whether they would prosecute Trump if they beat him. It won’t be too long until a crowd in Iowa or New Hampshire flips the gender in Trump’s derisive chant about Hillary Clinton: “Lock her up…At that point, Democrats will face a choice that some strategists believe could provide one of the campaign’s first defining moments. Do they suppress the chant? Join in? Find a middle ground? One top strategist for a potential top-tier Democratic candidate, who asked not to be identified to discuss internal strategy, said in such a crowded field it’s inevitable some candidates will target the progressive base by promising to pursue Trump. “Someone looking for attention is going to set a bar on this,” the strategist said.” But there is a wiser course for Democratic candidates, as Brownstein notes that “Neil Sroka, communications director for the grassroots liberal group Democracy for America, predicts that progressives won’t pressure Democrats to echo Trump’s belligerent threats against Clinton (which have continued in office). “I could see a really powerful moment…when a chant of ‘lock him up’ emerges from the audience, a candidate stepping back and saying ‘No, this is what makes us different from the other side,’” Sroka said.”

Can Dems Leverage Self-Discipline in 2020?

In his Washington Post op-ed, “A crowded road to 2020 will yield the best Democrat,” Ronald A. Klain writes,

Since the midterm elections, the biggest thrust has been against some of the older potential candidates: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Reporters for the Wall Street Journal said they “called all 99 Iowa Democratic county chairs” and were told “the party must nominate a 2020 candidate who is young.” (Never mind that this was, in fact, the view of only 43 of the chairs). Vanity Fair piled on, suggesting that Democrats face a “generational reckoning” in 2020. Is the Democratic Party “done” with its most visible presidential prospects?

If so, no one has bothered to tell Democratic voters that. At least one of the latest polls of the people who will actually pick the 2020 nominee shows that Biden and Sanders are overwhelmingly preferred by millennials, jointly taking a larger share of these younger voters (53 percent) than of the electorate as a whole (45 percent). Other polls have found similar results.

As for the pundits bashing 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Klain notes that “Clinton won more votes than Trump and nearly won the electoral college (even with Russian interference and James B. Comey’s infamous letter); while no Democrat should repeat her 2016 campaign, her path to nearly 66 million votes should not be fully discarded, either.” And while there are legitimate concerns that Clinton did not learn the lesson from the reaction to her “deplorables” comment, “experienced leadership could be precisely what voters are looking for after four years of Trumpian chaos.”

Klain’s take on Warren-bashing:

The attacks on Warren are similarly absurd. Her hometown paper, the Boston Globe, called on her to stay out of the presidential race because she is “divisive” — a bizarre position from a paper that ran a report describing her as “popular at home and beyond” six months ago and urged her to run for president in the last campaign. Even the Trump-loving Rasmussen poll shows that Warren would beat Trump head-to-head.

Klain, a former Biden aide, goes on to note the ability of both Biden and Sanders to connect with younger voters and Warren’s impressive capacity for discussing fresh ideas. Further,

The idea that Democrats must find a certain type of candidate — young and charismatic, more potential than experience — in order to run “the next Obama” ignores the reality of the 2008 campaign. For while Obama’s youth and oratorical skill were critical early, he won that race in the wake of the financial collapse of late September 2008: when John McCain seemed unsteady and political in responding to the crash, and Obama was stable, somber and sagacious. Thus, it was ultimately Obama’s preternatural calm-in-a-crisis and wisdom beyond his years that were his key qualities by Election Day…

Klain concedes that ” “New face” candidates have something important to bring to the contest, and one of them may ultimately emerge as victorious — perhaps one might even be the best candidate.”

Klain’s colleague, Jonathan Capehart earlier brought some clarity to the discussion about Democratic prospects in 2020:

Democrats have this annoying habit of always looking for “The One.” The one who will sweep them off their feet in a fit of electoral ecstasy. Only their “one” should make a go of it. All others are deemed inadequate or somehow all wrong for the party or the times. Then there’s this other annoying habit. If their “one” doesn’t win the nomination, then the person who actually does win is dead to them…I hear way too many nail-biting Democrats complain that the party doesn’t have a leader, that there are too many people thinking of running, that so-and-so is the best and the others should stand down. And don’t get me started on the political teenage crush du jour. One minute it’s all about Oprah Winfrey. Then there are dreams of Michelle Obama. Don’t forget the boomlet over Michael Avenatti. Today, it’s all about Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.). That’s not to say that O’Rourke or even Avenatti aren’t serious. But, c’mon, people.

Capehart complements the GOP’s very different approach:

Sure, folks have their favorite candidate and talk smack about the others. Their allegiances shift as the field winnows. But once the party faithful settle on a standard-bearer, that person is “The One.” The wagons are circled, and an all-out effort is made to get that person the keys to the White House.

The ‘big tent’ party should take that lesson more seriously, argues Capehart, who asks, “who cares if the eventual nominee isn’t your “one.” Who cares if the eventual nominee only meets 80 percent — heck, 50.1 percent — of your checklist? Evicting Trump should be the most important item on that checklist.”

Capehart dismisses the bogus critique that Democrats don’t have a message, and concludes that “evicting Trump from 1600 in 2020 will be a heavy lift. Democrats need not make it harder by hobbling their nominee with needless infighting that distracts them from what must be their No. 1 goal.”

Democrats did an excellent job of avoiding the circular firing squad in 2017 and 2018, which provides reason to hope that they can still provide adult leadership in 2020. The primary season will be ferociously contentious, as it should be. But once the nominee is set, the challenge is to show America which party is unified — and ready to govern.

Teixeira: 10 Things We Now Know About the 2018 Election

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

It’s taken awhile for the picture to come into focus, but with generally finalized election returns, more data availability and accumulated analysis, we can now delineate the main features of the 2018 blue wave with some confidence. Here are 10 things we now know about the election..

1. Besides netting an impressive 40 seat gain in the House, the Democrats had an extraordinarily high margin in the House popular vote. The latest figure is almost 9 points–8.6 to be precise. Amazing. This is the greatest margin on record for a minority party contesting a Congressional election. As Harry Enten of CNN put it, this wasn’t a blue wave–it was a blue tsunami.

2. Overall turnout was through the roof. The latest figure is 50.1 percent, the highest midterm turnout since 1914. That means turnout was up a mind-blowing 13 points over the last midterm in 2014.

3. The Catalist data make it clear that this historic turnout increase was driven heavily by younger voters, those under 40. These voters are predominantly members of the Millennial generation, with smaller groups of post-Millennials and the younger segment of Generation X. Precise figures are not yet available but we can be confident the turnout of these younger voters went up significantly more than 13 points.

4. Younger voters also drove improved Democratic performance in this election, relative to the 2016 Presidential election. Whether looking at 18-24 year olds, 25-29 year olds or 30-39 year olds, their margins for Democratic House candidates were all well over 30 points. These margins were improvements of 15-19 points over the 2016 Presidential.

5. The greatest margin increases for the Democrats among young voters occurred among white voters. This includes a massive 25 point swing toward the Democrats among white 18-29 year olds. In a development of great potential significance, Democrats appear to have carried all white voters under 45 in this election.

6. Both unmarried women and unmarried men played key roles in this high turnout election, much more so than their married counterparts. Unmarried voters were also primarily responsible for the Democrats’ improved margins over the 2016 Presidential election.

7. Nonwhite turnout was way up in this election–significantly more than 13 points–including among blacks, Hispanics and Asian/other race voters. The same was true of white college voters. White noncollege turnout apparently lagged far behind.

8. Relative to 2016, the greatest shifts in margin toward the Democrats were among white college graduates, especially women, and Asian/other race voters. White noncollege voters had a smaller, but still significant, shift toward the Democrats.

9. Overall, the Democrats’ gains among white voters.in 2018 can account for essentially all of their improved performance over the 2016 Presidential election.

10. While Democrats did not win rural areas, or even come close, it is still the case that the largest swings toward the Democrats over 2016 took place in rural, not suburban, areas.

What Can House Democrats Actually Get Done?

Now that House Democrats are focusing on what they will try to achieve when they take control in January, I offered some serious if unsolicited advice at New York:

After a good election result, the conventions of American politics dictates that the winners boast of a popular mandate to do whatever it is they want to do. And if said election delivers less than total power, it’s customary to pledge a robust effort to reach across the aisle to the other party and get things done in the national interest.

You can see both of these conventions reflected in a letter that 46 of the 66 newly elected House Democrats sent to their leadership this week. They claim “a responsibility and mandate for change in the U.S. Congress,” and profess “the importance of addressing concerns that cross party lines.” In reality, of course, bipartisan legislation has become an endangered species, and the remaining Republican minority in the House is more obdurately conservative and partisan than ever. And there isn’t going to be a lot of “change” legislated in partnership with Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate.

Still, these politicians fresh from the campaign trail are on fire to keep talking about “the cost of health care and prescription drugs, our crumbling infrastructure, immigration, gun safety, the environment, and criminal justice reform,” as the letter says. But given partisan realities, the question remains: to what purpose, exactly?

Roll Call’s veteran observer Walter Shapiro raises this question bluntly in terms of the agenda of House Democrats this next year:

“In truth, the only legislative power the House Democrats will have in 2019 is the ability to say ‘no.’

“With a comfortable House majority, the Democrats can veto the further dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, the construction of Donald Trump’s cherished border wall and the new trade treaty to replace NAFTA. But unless Mitch McConnell has a conversion experience rivaling St. Augustine’s, no House-initiated legislation will ever make it to the Senate floor.

“Yet it is easy to envision the House Democrats, goaded by their newer members, spending months arguing over the nuances of a single-payer health plan and wrestling with legislation to overhaul immigration enforcement. Against the backdrop of dire warnings about the acceleration of global warming, far-reaching environmental legislation is likely to be approved by the new House.”

So any progressive legislating the House does will be essentially a matter of “messaging,” or to put it less charitably, agitating the air while awaiting the power to do anything about it. Shapiro acknowledges that this isn’t necessarily a waste of time; policy debates Democrats have now in the wilderness may bear fruit if their party recaptures the White House (and particularly if it gains a trifecta) in 2020. But it’s still a bit of a shadow show. And ultimately, what will likely define the Democratic Party more than anything that happens in Congress will be the policy positions, agenda, and message of the person Democrats nominate for president in 2020. If there’s some “struggle for the soul of the party” on tap, it will take place in Iowa or South Carolina or California, not in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Complicating the picture is that the House will have the power to investigate Donald Trump and his satraps. Yet a lot of Democrats ran campaigns that underplayed or even ignored the Trump circus, and many of the younger members won’t be on the committees where investigations of the president and his administration play out.

So how should the House Democratic leadership deal with the pent-up Democratic desire to do something now that at least one venue is within their control?

Maybe they should take a long look at how Republicans managed their time in purgatory, from the reconquest of the House in 2010 until their achievement of the trifecta in 2016. Unlike today’s Democrats, they did have some opportunities for bipartisanship; President Obama negotiated with the opposition on items big and small far more often than President Trump has done. They did pass a lot of “messaging” legislation they knew the Senate (before 2014) or Obama would kill, but they certainly had no inhibitions about investigating every real and imaginary sparrow that fell to the ground as a result of Obama’s policies.

Most notably, beginning in 2011 Republicans in both Houses signed onto a series of budget proposals — collectively known as the Ryan Budget, in honor of their principal designer, the House Budget Committee chairman and then Speaker — that purported to represent the domestic policy agenda the party would pursue when it gained real power. And in late 2015, holding power in both chambers, they even passed what they advertised as a “trial run” for a huge budget-reconciliation bill that would repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, block-grant Medicaid, and begin reshaping the federal government along lines conservative ideologues had promoted for decades. This was the ultimate use of legislation for “messaging:” Here’s exactly what we’ll do as soon as we have the power.

There’s no particular evidence that this sort of exercise helped Republicans win elections from 2012 through 2016, though it probably pleased a lot of conservative advocacy groups and donors. And whatever his ultimate intentions, when Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, given the GOP the long-awaited trifecta, it was not the result of a campaign waged on behalf of the Ryan Budget.

Given Trump’s indifference to conservative ideology, it’s a small miracle that something like the Ryan Budget emerged in 2017 as the united GOP’s first legislative priority. But as we now know, not everyone who voted for the trial run in 2015 voted for the big package of legislation known as Obamacare repeal when push came to shove, and Trump caused constant problems as well with his varying whims on the bill. Now Republicans have lost their trifecta, with Obamacare, Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood funding (among other GOP targets) still intact. And to the extent that they have an agenda going forward, it is lashed to the wavering mast of Trumpism, and whatever follows it. All that show-and-tell about their agenda was mostly a waste of time.

House Democrats should probably learn from their opponents’ experience, and spend less time rehearsing the tasks they will inherit with power, and more time making sure they arrive there in 2020 with the right kind of presidential leadership.


Political Strategy Notes

Democratic consumers should take a look at David Leonhardt’s NYT column “The Corporate Donors Behind a Republican Power Grab,” which notes that Walgreens “has allied itself with Wisconsin’s brutally partisan Republican Party. That party is now in the midst of a power grab, stripping authority from Wisconsin’s governor and attorney general solely because Republicans lost those offices last month. The power grab comes after years of extreme gerrymandering, which lets Republicans dominate the legislature despite Wisconsin being a closely divided state…A few weeks later, Walgreens donated $1,000 to Vos. Over the summer, it donated another $6,000 to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate. A couple of weeks before Election Day, the company gave $1,000 to Fitzgerald. These donations weren’t simply a matter of spreading money around. Walgreens did not donate to state-level Democrats this year, as it has in the past…The sums here may not be enormous. But neither are the budgets for local campaigns. Even more important is the message that Walgreens is sending to politicians: We don’t care if you undermine democracy, so long as we get to keep our tax break.'”

“Are these political shenanigans norm shattering?,” asks The New York Times Editorial Board, concerning the GOP post-election power grabs in WI, MI and NC. “Absolutely. They’re obnoxious and cynical, too. And it is regrettable that one political party in particular is so insecure about the merits of its ideas — and the concept of representative democracy — that it feels the need to push a political system under strain even further toward extremism…Part of what makes the moves in Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina unusual is that all three states can have lame duck sessions of their legislatures in the first place. Most state legislatures don’t meet throughout the year and so don’t have the chance to thwart the will of voters after an election. If they did, this sort of thing might be more common.”

Are Republicans abandoning democracy?” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. in his syndicated Washington Post column. Dionne explains, “Especially after last week’s court filings in the ongoing investigations of President Trump, his critics have good reason to focus on the threats he poses to democracy and the rule of law. But the president is not alone in his party…In case after case, Republicans have demonstrated an eagerness to undercut democracy and tilt the rules of the game if doing so serves their ideological interests. The quiet coup by the GOP-controlled legislature in Wisconsin is designed to defy the voters’ wishes. It reflects an abandonment of the disciplines that self-government requires.” Dionne adds that “The Democrats won the popular vote in State Assembly contests by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent but emerged with only 36 seats to the GOP’s 63…The party’s efforts to lock in power regardless of election outcomes also eerily echo some of the behaviors of anti-democratic politicians abroad.”

In his Washington Monthly article, “How Will a Recession Affect the 2020 Election?,” David Atkins writes that “for potentially the first time in American history at least since the Civil War, it is possible that underlying economic conditions may not be quite the predictive factor they once were…The problem for Trump and the Republicans is that they already didn’t have much margin to begin with. Winning the electoral college without the popular vote is a fairly difficult feat, and it requires no small amount of luck. Republicans have done it twice in the last six cycles, but doing it again will be difficult. The 2018 midterms demonstrated that Trump has alienated large groups of voters who may have supported him previously, especially upscale suburban voters, those with college degrees, and a large number of Obama-Trump switchers who seem to be coming back home to the Democratic Party. Trump will have the advantage of incumbency, but as we have seen that advantage has shrunk. The economy may not be quite the factor it used to be, but even a small effect would be devastating given the headwinds faced by the GOP.”

WaPo’s David Weigel has an impressive statistical update on the Midterms elections. Among his findings: “Here’s the scorecard, starting with the state of the parties as compared with their status after the 2016 elections…House popular vote margin: Democrats by 8.6 points, as calculated by the Cook Political Report. That’s the largest popular vote margin for any party since 1974. Not since 1930 have Republicans lost control of the House — not just lost seats, but handed the gavels to Democrats — by as wide a margin as they lost it this year.” Weigel’s tally: Senate: 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats and independents (R 1);  House: 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans (D 41); Governors: 27 Republicans, 23 Democrats (D 7); Attorneys general: 26 Democrats, 24 Republicans (D 4); State legislative chambers: 61; Republican, 38 Democratic (D 8); State “trifectas”: 23 Republican, 14 Democratic (D 7).

Democratic office-holders and candidates who want to win support from those high-turnout senior voters should read United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard’s “Workers Petition Congress: Protect Our Pensions” at Blog for Our Future. As Gerard writes, “The total number of workers at risk is 1.2 million. In my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), 100,000 are threatened…Now, they’re vulnerable because 8 percent of multiemployer pensions are collapsing. This is not the workers’ fault. Often, it’s not even the employers’ fault. It’s because of economic forces that couldn’t be predicted and Congressional decisions to deregulate Wall Street and ignore trade violations…Loss of a pension strikes fear in the hearts of workers who shaped their lives around the covenant between them and their employer that they would receive in retirement compensation they deferred while working for decades.”

“Across the country, women who mobilized around the 2018 midterms are now mobilizing to make sure that the so-called Year of the Woman is not just that — one year,” writes Kate Zernike in The New York Times. “They want the energy that surged with the women’s marches after President Trump’s inauguration and powered a Democratic wave in November to continue not only through the 2020 presidential campaign, but until women make up at least the same proportion among lawmakers that they do in the general population…And for all the victories this year, women will occupy just 24 percent of seats in Congress come January — nowhere close to their proportion among voters or in the population, which is just over 50 percent…polls have shown women shifting their party identification to the Democrats by wide margins, and at least one analysis of exit polls showed that women of all education levels moved toward the Democrats on Election Day — even working-class white women who helped elect Mr. Trump.”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin explains why “Senate Republicans are responsible for the most unethical and incompetent administration ever.” Rubin presents a devastating litany of Trump’s appointments disasters to date, and observes: “We shouldn’t be surprised that the least qualified president in history — with a long record of bankruptcies, refusal to pay his bills and schemes such as Trump University — should select unqualified and ethically challenged advisers and/or retain those whose ethical misdeeds and incompetence become apparent once in office. However, we cannot blame Trump alone for lousy appointments and staffing the government with unfit characters. The Constitution provides a check on the president’s ability to put shady characters in positions of power. It’s the current Republican Party that rejects that role and decides its job description is to enable Trump’s worst instincts. Just as House Republicans proved themselves incapable of fulfilling their oversight responsibilities, Senate Republicans prove themselves incapable of fulfilling their advice-and-consent duties.”

“Looking at voter turnout in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and throughout the Midwest and South, what we have learned is that, yes, there are real progressives in rural communities. And Democratic voters, too. We also learned that for statewide candidates, attempts to become more conservative in order to reach Republican voters who might vote for them are largely fools gold—you might attract a few, but the number of progressive voters you lose ends up nullifying those gains…In the primary, I worked to stay as neutral as possible. However, I could see the polling data and had a pretty good idea where the race was heading. In talking to communities, I received the same message…We risk creating a divide in this party for absolutely no reason. It’s a divide that insists that rural Democratic registered voters are vastly different than any other kind of Democratic faithful, anywhere in the country. It’s rubbish. — From Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in rural America by Chris Reeves at Daily Kos.