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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Daily Strategist

April 20, 2019

Mueller Punts to Democrats and to Voters

All of us in the chattering classes had an immediate reaction to the release of the redacted Mueller Report. Here was mine at New York.

Mueller lets us know (directly contradicting Barr’s repeated assurances that it was lack of evidence, not the legal standard, that prevented criminal accusations) that he decided not to pursue a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on possible obstruction of justice in order to comply with the DOJ’s position against prosecution of sitting presidents:

“The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that ‘the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions’ in violation of ‘the constitutional separation of powers.’ Given the role of the Special Counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the Special Counsel regulations, see 28 U.S.C. § 515; 28 C.F.R. § 600.7 (a), this Office accepted OLC’s legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction.

In a sort of Catch-22, Mueller then concluded that it wouldn’t be fair to Trump to accuse him of criminal conduct if he wasn’t going to be hauled into court and given an opportunity to properly defend himself.

“Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought. The ordinary means for an individual to respond to an accusation is through a speedy and public trial, with all the procedural protections that surround a criminal case. An individual who believes he was wrongly accused can use that process to seek to clear his name. In contrast, a prosecutor’s judgment that crimes were committed, but that no charges will be brought, affords no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.”

And then there’s this tantalizing passage:

The footnote to the italicized portion reads: “See U.S. CONST. Art. I § 2, cl. 5; § 3, cl. 6; cf OLC Op. at 257-258 (discussing relationship between impeachment and criminal prosecution of a sitting President).”

So very carefully Mueller is suggesting: Here’s what the president did. I can’t do anything about it, so I will not call it criminal. Use my findings to impeach him if you wish, Congress.

As Nancy Pelosi could tell you, there are solid practical grounds for the U.S. House of Representatives to eschew impeachment proceedings, beginning with the fact that there is approximately zero chance the Republican-controlled Senate would vote to convict Trump, particularly now that we are in the active phase of a presidential election cycle. So it may well be that the best Democrats, and Trump’s other critics, can do is to take Mueller’s findings and whatever else other prosecutors or House investigators can uncover, and present it clearly as part of the case against the man’s reelection.

Should Mueller Report Change Democratic Strategy?

Is the Mueller Report a game-changer for Democratic strategy? Some responses:

Presidential candidate Rep. Tim Ryan, asked this morning about impeachment in a telephone interview on Morning Joe, said that the people he was talking with are more concerned about their kid’s future, than impeachment. “I’m not there, yet…If we go down that road, we’ll disconnect from working-class people,” Ryan said and urged letting Chairman Nadler and the other committees do their job first.

From Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on twitter: “Mueller’s report is clear in pointing to Congress’ responsibility in investigating obstruction of justice by the President. It is our job as outlined in Article 1, Sec 2, Clause 5 of the US Constitution. As such, I’ll be signing onto ’s impeachment resolution.”

From “Democrats See No Green Light for Impeachment in Mueller Report” by Billy House at Bloomberg: “Too early,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, whose panel would conduct an impeachment probe…House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff agreed. “The evidence would have to be quite overwhelming” to gain bipartisan support for a conviction, he told CNN. “I continue to think that a failed impeachment is not in the national interest.”

…”The report provides a conundrum for Congress by virtually inviting an impeachment probe around the obstruction issue,” tweeted David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama.”

…“It must fall to Congress to assess the president’s improper, corrupt and immoral conduct,” the leaders of six House Democratic committees said in a statement. Without mentioning possible impeachment, they said Mueller’s report “outlines efforts to destroy evidence, conceal evidence through encrypted apps, and otherwise interfere with the special counsel’s ability to conduct this investigation.”

“…Representative Al Green of Texas, who forced an unsuccessful House vote on impeachment in the last Congress, said Thursday it’s time for his fellow lawmakers to act.”…“I call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America,” Green said in a press conference streamed on Facebook. “This rests solely now on the shoulders of the Congress of the United States of America.”

From Chris Cillizza’s “Why Democrats Would Be Dumb to Pursue Impeachment” at CNN’s The Point: On Thursday, after the release of the Mueller report, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN’s Dana Bash this: “Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment.”…There’s no chance that Pelosi will OK impeachment proceedings. There’s plenty in the Mueller report to keep Republicans, who have stood behind Trump ever more solidly over the past two-plus years, in line. There will be no broad-scale abandonment of Trump by the GOP. In fact, there may well be a rallying behind him — and a call for Democrats to move beyond the Mueller report.

Update: “Elizabeth Warren became the first Democratic presidential candidate to call for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump Friday afternoon, citing the “severity” of “misconduct” detailed in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. — from “Elizabeth Warren calls on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump” by Grace Segers at cbsnews.com.

This is just a partial snapshot of the views of some leading Democrats at this political moment. New revelations could emerge at any time.

Political Strategy Notes

Geoffrey Skelley has a post, “Who Might Make The Democratic Debate Stage?” at FiveThirtyEight, which notes that “Democratic hopefuls have two ways of getting onto the debate stage, according to a February news release from the Democratic National Committee. They can earn at least 1 percent of the vote in three different national or early-state polls conducted by qualifying pollsters, or they can receive donations from at least 65,000 unique donors, with at least 200 individual donors in at least 20 different states.” Skelley goes on to explain that 15 candidates have qualified, with more expected — maybe over 20, even though the DNC caps the total at 20. The debate spots would then be allocated by the highest average scores. But, really what’s so great about having 20 candidates on a stage? Why not have randomly-drawn, one-on-one match-ups all over the country, even in small towns? It could be a fun thing to attend on a slow Thursday night.

At Vox, Li Zhou argues that “Democrats are prioritizing “electability” in 2020. That’s a coded term. It often means white and male.” Zhou writes that “the expectation of who can win is inextricably wrapped up in the knowledge of who has won…And in the case of the presidency, that mold consists overwhelmingly of older white men, a precedent that could hurt candidates who don’t fit those characteristics…“Metrics like authenticity and likability and electability are just code that we use against candidates who are not like what we are used to,” Christina Reynolds, a spokesperson for Emily’s List, a political organization that supports women candidates, previously told Vox…“Electability,” in other words, could be another term that actively excludes candidates who don’t fit whatever the historical profile of a political candidate looks like.” Zhou notes the experiences of President Obama, Democratic candidate for georgia Governor Stacy Abrams and Sen. Kamala Harris in confronting the “electability” argument. The article title overstates the reality, however, in that many Democrats have refused to be hustled by the electability argument. Certainly, Democrats can do better in running more diverse candidates. But the photo below of Dems elected in 2018 shows quite clearly which party’s candidates look more like America, and Obama and HRC did very well with Democratic voters.

David Frum’s “Democrats Are Falling Into the Ilhan Omar Trap: By rushing to stand with the controversial congresswoman, the 2020 contenders are allowing Trump to transform her into the face of their party” also seems overstated to me. Surely most persuadable voters understand that Democrats are a highly diverse party, which includes Sen. Joe Mancin, who recently endorsed a Republican Senator, as well as Rep. Omar. It’s not like Democrats are going to sit around and quietly take crap from Republicans who try to stereotype them. Nor will Democrats in competitive elections risk their re-election prospects by over-praising Rep. Omar. As for “the face of their party,” Republicans have a face, Democrats have faces. Most voters get that.

It’s probably a good thing that “Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe won’t run for president in 2020.” Not that McAuliffe wouldn’t make a good president — he was an excellent Governor of Virginia. As for reasons why, he cited the glut of presidential candidates and another urgent priority: McAuliffe is one of the strongest “team players” among Democratic leaders, and one who gets it that Democrats have a lot of work to do in order to become competitiive in states across the nation. CNN Politics reporters Caroline Kelly and Dan Merica quote McAuliffe’s instructive explanation: “I’ve listened to the Virginians and I’m going to help Virginia for the next six months. I could spend eight months traveling around the country running for president, or six months really making a difference,” the Virginia Democrat told CNN’s Chris Cuomo during an exclusive interview on “Cuomo Prime Time.”…McAuliffe said that, after being courted by state Democrats, he would be “going home” to help coordinate the campaigns of the state’s national and local Democrats. “I’m going to work the next six months every single day to make sure Virginia, we win the House and the Senate, and then next year I’m going to work like a dog to make sure that we are blue,” he said. “We were the only southern state that went for Hillary in 2016, very proud of that. We need to do it again in (20)20.” Dems could use a few more like him.

From “The Democracy Poll: Americans and the Economy” by the editors of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas: “Conducted in January exclusively for the journal by Change Research, the poll asked respondents a range of questions about their opinions on a host of economic matters and tested their knowledge of economic policy. The purpose was to try to learn what presumptions about economics—about growth and fairness, about government intervention, about the two parties—people carry around in their heads. We also wanted to learn how much people know about certain economic realities, in order to find out how much educating Democrats and progressives need to do….Results? There is some good news. People have pretty progressive attitudes on health care and on some aspects of government investment and intervention. They also reject some basic philosophical conservative arguments about wealth, poverty, and other matters. But here are the catches: They still have little faith in government; they still share a number of conservative assumptions about how the economy grows; and yes, they still seem to think the deficit trumps everything else.” A few highlights: “There was also majority support, 54 percent, for Medicare for All among respondents, even when they were told their taxes would “go up, perhaps by a lot.”…When asked how much of the wealth the top 1 percent should hold, a plurality of 26 percent of our sample said 20 percent. (The real number is 90 percent.)…Respondents still think the Republicans are better for the economy, by 49 to 40 percent…When we asked them whether the free market better provides for people’s needs or if the government should steer investment “in some cases,” they chose the free market 59 to 41.”

The Democracy editors continue: “The last four recessions in this country, going back nearly 40 years, have happened under Republican presidents. But still, Republicans are seen as slightly better at improving the economy (49-40)…When it comes to the government hiring out-of-work Americans, respondents also seem to be quite Keynesian. Overall, just under 60 percent said they would strongly support such a measure, with a majority from both parties either somewhat or strongly supporting it. Support for investing in infrastructure was also high and bipartisan…On the downside, respondents also support cutting government spending, reducing the national debt and deficit, and cutting personal taxes. Overall, most respondents were in favor, to some degree, of such tax cuts during a recession (75 percent). Respondents were supportive, to varying degrees, across the ideological spectrum…Those in favor of Keynesian economics must evidently do a better job of countering the longtime scaremongering, from both sides of the aisle, about the effects of government deficits and out-of-control spending…Finally, we asked respondents for their priorities in terms of major public investments and major social expenditures. A majority (over half) of all respondents chose “building and repairing roads, bridges, and mass transit systems” as their preferred investment out of a list of five.”

“For this more radical agenda to succeed among Democratic candidates, the party will have to resist describing its big tax proposals as merely a means to pay for priorities like a Green New Deal or Medicare for All,” argues Bryce Covert in his article “Why Democrats Like Taxes Again” in The New York Review of Books. He notes further, that “if Democrats fail to make the argument for higher taxes on the rich as a social good, a public benefit in itself, they will once more play into the Republican smear of “tax and spend Democrats.” Never mind the hypocrisy that Republicans spend their time out of power decrying the economy-killing, existential threat of soaring federal debt and then once back in power, spend where they please and rarely deign to pay for it…When Democrats propose taxes to pay for their policy priorities, they are simply playing by rules the other side never follows…The country urgently needs them to turn away from that tactic and toward a more radical approach to taxation that can reverse income inequality and America’s gradual drift toward plutocracy…Without the megaphones of a few ultra-rich people drowning out the healthy din of democracy, more voices could be heard in the halls of power—which, in turn, could boost a more progressive political agenda that actually commands broad support among the public, if not among Republicans, centrist Democrats, and the wealthy donors who keep them in power. But first, we have to properly soak the rich.”

Salon.com’s Lucian K. Truscott IV has some choice words for Democrats and supposedly liberal news commentators who are “forming circular firing squads around the glass-topped anchor tables on MSNBC and CNN. They’re sniping at each other on op-ed pages. They’re posting unhinged, granular takedowns of their opponents on Facebook. They’re tweeting out quotes from decade-old speeches targeting each other for departures from liberal orthodoxy. They’re catching fellow Democrats for slips of the tongue, or use of the hands, or backroom misbehavior like — gasp! — yelling at a staffer!…WFT, Democrats? WTF, liberal media? Did we learn nothing over the last three years?…Every day Democrats throw garbage at each other…You know what the real shame is? They’re nitpicking the Democrats while Trump puts a torch to the whole damn house…You want four more years of this shit? Four more years of Trump turning the White House into a criminal enterprise? Four more years of racism and gay-baiting and Muslim-hating, and demolition of democratic norms and government institutions and the rule of law? Go on another cable show, pen another op-ed, tweet out another rumor, trash another fellow Democrat. Keep it up.”

Truscott’s sober warning for Democrats merits consideration by all the presidential candidates. My beef with the TV media is a little different: Stop interrupting your interviewees with lengthy comments designed to make yourself look good. The point is to educate the public. Give candidates running for high office more room to explain their views. Viewers hate interviews which dissolve into two or three people all talking at the same time. If you need a role model for how to conduct a great interview, check out the now retired Brian Lamb’s more than 5,000 thousand interviews at C-SPAN. His thoughtful, but short, pointed questions served his viewers and his interview subjects extremely well. One of his interview subjects, the late Christopher Hitchens dedicated his bio of Thomas Jefferson to Lamb; “For Brian Lamb… a fine democrat as well as a good republican, who has striven for an educated electorate”.

Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi, and the Function of Safe Congressional Seats

Watching as the MSM had great sport with snippy-grams going back and forth between House Democratic leaders and their new super-star freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I tried to think through the deeper implications at New York:

Nancy Pelosi’s comments at the London School of Economics explaining the fruits of partisan gerrymandering made their way back across the pond with lightning speed, as reflected in the Washington Examiner:

“Pelosi explained to the London school audience that her district as well as the one represented by [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez vote Democrat no matter what.

“’This glass of water would win with a “D” next to it in those districts,’ Pelosi said. ‘But that’s not where we have to win elections.’”

Just to be clear, Pelosi’s right about the noncompetitive nature of her own San Francisco House district and AOC’s in New York: The former is the sixth-most Democratic district according to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index (PVI), and the latter is the 31st-most Democratic. Hillary Clinton won 77 percent of the vote in AOC’s district, and Obama won 81 percent in 2012.

Presumably Pelosi thinks that despite her own safe seat, she can understand the plight of Democrats representing swing districts, but apparently has doubts about aggressively progressive members like AOC:

“’This is about winning,’ Pelosi told the London School of Economics and Political Science. ‘When we have to go into the districts we have to win, we have to cull that to what we have in common with those people.'”

Now Pelosi also had words of praise for her preternaturally talented young colleague. But you have to figure she wishes AOC, who has replaced Pelosi as the principal target of sexist conservative agitprop, had a slightly lower profile.

It’s unclear how any of this threatens Pelosi’s majority, except insofar as conservatives have sought to identify the entire Democratic Party with this one democratic socialist member’s views — which of course they are going to do in any event. Unless the entire House Democratic Caucus is expected to repeat the party line like cicadas, then there will always be members from districts where a more progressive viewpoint is viable than is politically sustainable everywhere. Their job is precisely to keep pressure on the leadership and the party to represent their constituents, too — not just the swing voters who have very nearly been hunted to extinction. And it doesn’t mean Democrats cannot accommodate candidates and members in more competitive districts with views more appropriate to local conditions. The big-tent principle should, however, work both ways.

If AOC begins threatening primary challenges to loyal Democrats from swing districts who happen to disagree with her ideology or policies, or suggesting Democrats take a dive in national elections if their candidates are too “centrist,” then that’s a clear violation of party discipline and Pelosi would be justified in rebuking her. That hasn’t happened, though. So long as gerrymandering and simple concentration of partisan voters produces safe House seats, however, their valuable function is to produce restless insurgents who stretch the imaginations of their elders rather than time-serving perpetual incumbents who go along to get along. In truth, both Pelosi, the precedent-shattering Speaker, and Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive comet, represent the silver lining of the generally rotten system of partisan gerrymandering: It gives leaders the opportunity to emerge from the crowd of election-fearing pols.

Teixeira: The Generational Hammer Coming Down on the GOP

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

I don’t want to be a broken record on this but I continue to believe people are underestimating the potential effects of generational change on American politics. The data on generational cleavages in attitudes and voting behavior continues to accumulate and, if anything, is getting stronger as Millennials have fully entered the electorate and as the oldest part of the Gen Z cohort has reached voting age.

The New York Times recently had an interesting article along these lines. Leaving aside the interviews with actual teenagers in the article, which are intriguing but not exactly hard data, they do cite some real data which makes the point.

“Election data suggests that the youngest voters are supporting Democrats, and surveys of teenagers not yet old enough to vote reveal them to be anxious about the current state of the country and likely to embrace liberal views.

Over all, 59 percent of people 18 to 24 say they’re Democrats, compared with 33 percent who say they’re Republicans, according to an Upshot analysis of Pew Research Center data over the last year. Even young people who self-identify as Republicans, another Pew survey found, say they hold more liberal views than older Republicans on a wide range of issues — including race relations, the causes of climate change and the involvement of government in people’s lives. The youngest Republican voters who supported Mitt Romney in 2012 were the most likely to abandon Mr. Trump in 2016.

The youngest white voters are more evenly split between parties. About half of whites ages 18 to 24 say they’re Republicans. They favored Mr. Trump in the presidential election, but those who turned out in the midterm elections very narrowly backed Democrats, according to preliminary data from Catalist, a Democratic data firm. And only 39 percent of 18-to-24-year-old whites approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance, the Pew data shows.

Also, this next generation (those born after the mid-1990s, the so-called Generation Z) will be the first in which nearly half of the electorate is nonwhite — a group that overwhelmingly votes Democratic.

“Republicans are in trouble,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster who has written a book on millennial voters. Election results show millennials holding onto their Democratic views as they age, she said. “It would not surprise me if the problem is worse, not better, with Gen Z, given the moment we’re in.”

I have no quibble with these data except I believe white 18-24 year olds in 2018 were probably strongly not narrowly Democratic, My reading of the Catalist final data is that white 18-24 year olds were probably around +20 nationally for the House. So that’s not “narrowly”.

Anyway, these data are a big deal. A really big deal. States of Change estimates are that in 2016, GOP voters were 19 percent Millennials and Gen Z and 56 percent from the Baby Boomer and Silent generations. Flash forward to 2036, holding voting and turnout patterns constant, and we would expect the Republican coalition to be 47 percent Millennials and Gen Z and just 22 percent Boomers and Silent. For the Democrats, the analogous figures are 30/44 in 2016 and 59/15 in 2036. These are massive changes, especially given the significantly more liberal cast of the Millennial and Gen Z generations when compared to the oldest cohorts. And that will deeply effect both parties and the politics of the country as a whole.

You can count on it.

Political Strategy Notes

Some stats on the age of Democratic voters from Harry Enten’s post, “The Democratic electorate is older, more moderate and less educated than you think” at CNN Politics: “There’s a case to be made that Democrats are younger than they were at the beginning of the decade. Those younger than the age of 40, for example, made up 6 more points of the Democratic vote in the 2018 midterm than they did in the 2010 midterm, according to a Catalist (a Democratic firm) estimate of the national voter file. The exit polls illustrate a similar trend…But even if Democrats are younger than they once were, Millennials and Generation Z voters (roughly those younger than 40) are still very much the minority of Democrats. They made up just about 29% of all Democratic voters in the 2018 midterm, per Catalist. In fact even when you add in those 40 to 49 years old, you still only account for about 44% of Democratic voters in 2018. In other words, the AARP demographic (age 50 and older) were the majority (56%) of 2018 Democratic voters, per Catalist. And in case you were wondering, those ages 65 and older (27%) made up about double the percentage of Democrats who were younger than 30 (14%)…The exit polls can differ slightly on the exact level each age group makes up of the electorate, though all sources agree that a majority of Democratic voters are age 45 and older. That’s a big deal when age was the No. 1 predictor of vote choice in the 2016 primary and continues to be a primary driver of vote choice in early 2020 polling.”

Enten continues, “Whether it be the exit polls, Gallup or the Pew Research Center, there’s no doubt Democrats are more liberal than they once were. In the exit polls, for example, the percentage of Democratic voters who identify as liberal rose by double-digits between the Democratic midterm blowouts of 2006 and 2018…Still, moderates and conservatives make up about 50% of all Democrats. In the 2018 midterms, the exit polls found that moderates and conservatives made up 54% of those who voted Democratic. Pew similarly put moderate and conservative Democrats as 54% of all self-identified Democrats and independents who lean Democratic voters in 2018. Gallup’s 2018 figures had moderates as 47% of all adults who self-identified as Democrats…And while liberals make up about 50% of Democrats, many of them are only “somewhat liberal.” In a Quinnipiac University poll taken last month, people who identified as “very liberal” were only 19% of all Democrats and independents who leaned Democratic. Very liberals made up the same 19% of those who said they were voting Democratic in Suffolk University’s final 2018 pre-election poll. The 2016 primary exit polls discovered that about 25% of Democratic primary voters called themselves very liberal…Put another way: the moderate/conservative wing of the Democratic Party likely still makes up at least 2 times as much of the party’s voters than the very liberal flank.”

And, if you were wondering what percentage of Democratic voters lack a college degree, Enten writes, “Democratic voters are still more likely to lack a college degree. According to Catalist, about 59% of voters [all races] who cast a ballot for the Democrats in 2018 didn’t have a college degree. Gallup and Pew have the percentage of self-identified without a college degree well into the 60s. The exit polls, which historically have painted a better educated electorate than other sources, found about 55% of 2018 Democratic voters lacking a college degree…Even among white Democrats, there are still many voters who have no college degree. Among whites, Catalist calculates the percentage of 2018 Democratic voters without a college degree at about 54%, compared to 46% who had a college degree. Gallup and Pew have the percentage of self-identified Democrats without a college degree in the high 50s among whites. The exit poll had them as a slight minority at 48% of voters who went for the Democrats in 2018…When you broaden it out to look at all Democratic voters, all the sources I could find have whites with a college degree as less than a third of all Democrats. Most have them at less than 30%…As the Washington Post’s David Byler put it, “Democrats should stop chasing Trump’s base. They have their own white working-class voters.”

Every political junkie should take a look at Stephen Wolf’s “Check out our maps and extensive guide on the demographics of every congressional district at Daily Kos. Here’s just one of his impressive graphics:

Democratic candidates and campaign workers should read German Lopez’s “Marijuana legalization is very popular: In the three major national surveys, support for legalization is at an all-time high” at vox.com. An excerpt: “The three major national polls in America are increasingly converging on one point: Marijuana legalization is very popular in the US…The latest finding, from the recently released General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago, shows that 61 percent of people supported marijuana legalization in 2018. That’s up from 57 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2000 — a rapid shift in public opinion in less than two decades…The other two big national surveys on the topic have found similar results. Gallup put support for marijuana legalization at 66 percent in 2018, up from from 60 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2000. Pew put it at 62 percent in 2018, up from 57 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2000.”

“To coincide with Tax Day, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is rolling out digital ads on Monday attacking 12 Republicans for the GOP tax plan that passed during the 115th Congress,”  Simone Pathe writes in “Democrats launch Tax Day ad attack aimed at GOP overhaul” at Roll Call. “The new Facebook ads, obtained first by Roll Call, signal Democrats will continue to use the 2017 tax overhaul, which passed with only Republican votes, as a key part of their economic message heading into 2020, when the party will be trying to protect their midterm gains and expand the map by investing heavily in such places as Texas…Democrats made the Republican tax overhaul — especially the new $10,000 cap on the federal deduction for state and local taxes — a key part of the party’s messaging in 2018, when Democrats gained a net of 40 seats in the House. That surge was fueled by gains in New Jersey, New York, Illinois and California, where residents rely more heavily on the deduction.”

Laila Lalami writes at The Nation: “Whatever happens in 2020, expecting transformative change from the top is a recipe for disappointment. If Democrats want to deliver on their big promises, they have to work on the small ones first. Last month, for example, I attended a fund-raiser for the Virginia House of Delegates’ Danica Roem. As far as political events go, this one wasn’t huge or loud or flashy. It was simply an opportunity to hear from Roem, who made history in 2017 as the first trans woman to be seated in a statehouse—and who did so by defeating a 26-year GOP incumbent who has called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Her winning strategy? Focusing on the needs of her district, specifically traffic issues on State Route 28. It’s this unglamorous work that we need to be doing if we want to have any chance of making serious change…Let’s leave salvation to the prophets and work on saving ourselves. And that begins by treating our candidates like the public servants we expect them to be.”

At Roll Call, Lindsey McPhereson notes some Democratic ideas for financing a major infrastructure program, which can create needed jobs at a living wage: “The difficulty of avoiding a “stimulus,” or a federal investment that’s not offset, becomes greater the more Democrats want to spend. Pelosi said she wants the government to invest at least $1 trillion in infrastructure, preferably $2 trillion…Democrats are committed to finding ways to pay for an infrastructure package but have yet to coalesce around any one proposal…Members at the retreat mentioned at least four different ideas: Hoyer favors a gas tax increase; Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman David Cicilline wants to roll back the GOP tax law for revenue; CPC Co-chair Mark Pocan floated a high speed financial transaction fee; and Kildee, a tax writer, suggested investment bonds.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik explains that “the [Democraticocra] voting calendar is so frontloaded that a nominee may emerge relatively early in the process…Based on the tentative early primary and caucus calendar, nearly two-thirds of the pledged delegates will be awarded from early February to mid-March.” Kondik provides the following chart to illustrate:

Table 1: Tentative schedule of Democratic nominating contests, early February through mid-March 2020


Matt Morrison: Dems Must Connect Fair Taxes and Needed Investments

The following article by Matt Morrison, executive director of Working America is cross-posted from a Working America e-blast:

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on field interviews showing Virginia voters’ overwhelming support for increasing teacher pay. These voters — even Republicans — were willing to pay an average of $19-$25 more per month in taxes to give teachers raises.

There are many proposals under debate to address income inequality through taxation on the wealthy, an indicator of the political importance of tax policy.

We took a long view of the importance of tax policy to voters, including different economic and demographic segments. Overall, while there was some uptick in interest in 2016, the share of voters focused on taxation has been relatively modest over the last seven years.

Unsurprisingly, Republican-leaning and higher-income voters are consistently the most focused on taxes, while people of color and Democratic-leaning voters are consistently the least likely to focus on these issues. Swing voters and white voters have had the greatest fluctuation in focus. Interestingly, following the 2017 Trump tax cuts, comparatively fewer voters are concerned about tax policy, an indication that the biggest GOP accomplishment has limited political appeal.

What if we could shift the debate to make fair and adequate taxation a strength for progressives?

We know from experience and experimentation that Working America canvassers alter the frame through which voters consider the issue of taxes. Instead of focusing on limited government, they shift the focus to equitable investment in society.

1. Unexpected support. We know that we can find support, sometimes in many of the most unexpected places. A 47-year-old woman in Gainesville, Virginia, recently told our canvasser that she felt we have “the right person in the White House” and supported vouchers. Yet, she was willing to pay $30 more each month in taxes to improve public schools.

2. Make it local. Connecting taxes to local investment priorities instead of distant politicians can build dramatic support. In a clinical test targeting conservative voters in California’s Central Valley, we increased support for Proposition 6, the state’s infamous gas tax that funds infrastructure, by a whopping 14 percentage points in one conversation. By centering the conversation on local bridges and roads rather than statewide politics, voter opinion moved dramatically.

3. Tax fairness matters to working-class voters. In the Chicago suburbs — an area filled with tax-sensitive voters — we engaged voters on the issue of worker misclassification. Most of the voters, who were employed in traditional, full-time jobs with benefits, could not relate to the importance of workers being wrongly treated as independent contractors. But when we presented the issue as businesses shifting the tax burden to the voters because they skipped paying millions in employment taxes, that message resonated. As a result, hundreds of voters signed a digital petition to the state attorney general demanding enforcement.

Conservatives have strategically pushed austerity, disinvestment and public subsidies for the wealthy.

Rather than fighting for scraps under austerity, we go door-to-door and shift the framework entirely to investment in matters that affect people in their day-to-day lives.

Our experience says that we have a critical window to shift to a tax equity and investment paradigm if we can connect the dots for enough people in key battlegrounds. The more voters understand, the more they demand justice.

McConnell Calls for New Red Scare

Democrats should get ready for the intensive campaign of demonization Republicans are planning for them. I wrote about this again at New York this week.

Perhaps he was just stating the obvious, but it did have the ring of an official announcement when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested a GOP-wide message for 2020, as the Hill reports:

“We need to have a referendum on socialism,’ McConnell told a group of reporters when asked for his assessment of next year’s elections, when Senate Republicans will have to defend 22 seats, compared with 12 for Democrats.”

In case reporters somehow didn’t get it, McConnell restated the proposition:

“’I’m going to be arguing, and I’m encouraging my colleagues to argue, that we are the firewall against socialism in this country,’ McConnell added …

“’We’ve got five credible candidates for president in the Senate signed up for the Green New Deal and Medicare for none. If we can’t make that case, we ought to go into another line of work,’ he said.

“McConnell argues that will be the key to reversing the drop in support among women and college graduates that hurt Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats won back the House and captured GOP-held Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada.”

So there you have it: Red Scare 2020 is going to be a big and abiding thing. This clearly syncs Senate Republicans with the Trump reelection bid. It’s long been clear that his 2020 strategy will be what you’d expect from an abidingly unpopular president leading an unpopular party with unpopular policy positions: a relentlessly negative attack on his Democratic opponent using every weapon available. There’s some irony involved in a Trump-led party accusing its opponents of “extremism,” but it’s an age-old tactic: When you cannot credibly occupy the “political center,” you can always try to push your opponents even further from the center than you are.

And “socialism” is a time-tested epithet for left-of-center politicians and parties. With older voters, of course, it connotes not just big government but the “scientific socialism” of Marxism-Leninism, along with the Soviet imperialism that formed so large a part of the experience of Americans in and before the baby boom. But it’s a big target generally, as David Graham has explained:

“Though it feels like a Cold War throwback, the socialism epithet might be effective. It could resonate with a wider swath of the public than some of Trump’s other signature lines. The border wall, for example, is unpopular with Americans overall, though very popular with the president’s core supporters. By contrast, voter antipathy toward socialism is much broader: In a February Fox News poll, 59 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view. As of 2015, half of Americans said they wouldn’t vote for a socialist (though only 38 percent of Democrats held that view).”

The “socialism” label for Democratic policy proposals could also help expose divisions in the Donkey Party’s ranks over significant variations in how to define the Green New Deal and how to implement Medicare for All, as candidates not named Bernie Sanders (the only self-identified “socialist” in the presidential field, so far at least) try to distinguish their approaches from his.

On the other hand, conservatives have been calling liberals “socialists” for eons, and it’s no automatic magic bullet. Most notoriously, Barack Obama was relentlessly (if ridiculously) called a “socialist” by Republican-aligned media types going into the 2012 election, and it didn’t appear to work. For that matter, Trump himself deployed the “socialist” epithet toward Democrats going into the 2018 midterms, to no discernible effect.

But when you can’t say much about your own party’s record other than pointing at economic indicators and hooting “Mine! Mine!” then creating and burnishing negative associations for the other side may be the only available strategy.

Political Strategy Notes

Elaine Kamarck shares some numbers to help explain “Why there will be a woman on the 2020 Democratic ticket” at Brookings: “Women have led the opposition to Trump from Election Day 2016 on54 percent of women voted for Hillary and 53 percent of men voted for Trump. The day after he was inaugurated, thousands of women assembled in Washington and in cities around the country in protest. Things haven’t gotten better as the Trump presidency has matured. Trump’s approval/disapproval rating among men is equal as of this spring, with 47 percent approving of the job he’s doing and 47 percent disapproving. But among women only 32 percent approve of Trump’s performance while 63 percent disapprove…From 1980 (when turnout for men and women was about equal) to 2000, the gap was around 2 percent. It gradually widened to 3 percent and grew to 4 percent in 2016, contributing, no doubt, to Hillary’s large popular vote victory…Nowhere did women’s general antipathy to Trump show up more clearly than in the 2018 midterm elections. In that election women maintained their edge in turnout, voting at a 4 percent higher rate than men. But they also skewed even more Democratic than they did in 2016, voting for Democratic candidates at a rate of 59 percent, while men skewed Republican at a rate of 51 percent.”

At New York magazine, Ed Kilgore provides some nuanced analysis on the electability of a Democratic woman presidential nominee: “The reality is that Clinton comfortably won the popular vote and lost the election due to an improbable Electoral College inside straight that Trump likely cannot pull off twice. And her loss was certainly close enough that factors other than her gender — her failure to invest resources in key states she lost, the Comey letter, a general lassitude among liberal voters who had no idea Trump could win — may have been decisive…At a minimum progressive activists and media observers should fight the sexist assumptions afflicting candidates like Elizabeth Warren instead of promoting or surrendering to them…With a less defeatist attitude, progressives and particularly feminists might invest in building a frontlash — pride among women about Warren’s brains and accomplishments — that can outweigh any sexist backlash. The “nevertheless, she persisted” tagline that followed Warren around in 2017 after Mitch McConnell tried to silence her on the Senate floor might become relevant again as she and other women in the presidential field refuse to give up on the proposition that they are electable as they actually happen to be…Until such time as voters cast their ballots in caucuses and primaries, it’s premature to decide Democrats can’t “risk” running a woman again. See how they run, and maybe the myth of an incorrigibly sexist electorate will shatter, too.”

This Gallup Poll data is from 2015 (chart via FiveThirtyEight). More recent polls indicate the public is not quite so alienated by the “sociailist” brand or so opposed to a candidate based on sexual orientation. Since Democrats now have 2020 presidential candidates that fit into several of these categories, now would be a good time for pollsters to ask the question again.

Who would Americans NOT vote for?

Share of people in 2015 survey who would not vote for a “generally well-qualified” person nominated from their own party if they had each of the following characteristics

Socialist 38% 73% 50%
Atheist 35 55 40
Muslim 27 54 38
Evangelical Christian 33 14 25
Gay or lesbian 14 38 24
Mormon 21 16 18
Hispanic 6 9 8
Woman 3 9 8
Black 4 9 7
Jewish 6 5 7
Catholic 5 7 6

“Clearly concerned that more insurgents like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could unseat established House members in party primaries (as AOC did last year to Speaker-in-Waiting Joe Crowley), the DCCC has announced it will not give work to any consultant or pollster who dares to work for candidates challenging congressional incumbents in Democratic primaries…Democrats should remember that it’s not just Obama who once had the chutzpah to challenge a Democratic incumbent. In many ways, the Democratic Party of the last 50 years emerged from Democrats’ challenges to an incumbent Democratic president. The campaigns that Sens. Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy waged against President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 redefined the Democrats for decades going forward, and produced a generation of political operatives who subsequently steered numerous Democratic leaders to electoral victory. Those challenges, of course, grew out of the deep divisions over Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War. Today, the Democrats are redefining themselves again, and, now as then, not always to the party establishment’s liking…In 1968, however, while the party establishment strongly opposed those challenges, it didn’t enact any new rules — much less blacklists — to suppress them. That was the right decision then. It would be the right decision now. — From Harold Meyerson’s “Democrats are playing dirty to shut out progressive new voices. They should rethink that strategy” in the Los Angeles Times.

Activists interested in exploring direct democracy possibilities in the states will find a useful resource in Wikipedia’s entry on “Initiatives and Refenda in the United States,” which notes “Between 1904 and 2007, some 2231 statewide referendums initiated by citizens were held in the USA. 909 of these initiatives have been approved. Perhaps even greater is the number of such referendums that have been called by state legislatures or mandatory—600 compared to 311 civic initiatives in 2000-2007.” Ballotpedia adds, “In 2018, Ballotpedia tracked 203 proposals in 34 states. Of those, 34 were approved, 140 were rejected or abandoned, and nine were carried over to the next session.” Vox’s Stavros Agorakis has a  round-up of ballot measures that passed in 2018, addressing Medicaid expansion, liberalization of pot laws, ex-felon enfranchisement, minimuim wage increase, same-day and automatic voter registration and redistricting and others. This map shows each state’s current rules for initiative, referenda and recall, color-coded key right here.

In “House Democrats’ net neutrality win likely DOA in Senate but poised to become 2020 issue,” John Hendel notes at Politico that “The House voted 232-190 Wednesday to revive Obama-era net neutrality regulations in what likely amounts to a short-lived legislative victory — but one that may give Democrats fresh momentum on an issue they hope will feature prominently in the 2020 presidential election…A united Democratic front getting it passed represents a rebuke of the Trump-era FCC’s 2017 repeal of the open internet rules. But the near-total absence of bipartisan buy-in also means it’s likely a non-starter in the Senate…Still, House passage alone could help Democrats keep net neutrality a high-profile messaging and fundraising issue on the 2020 campaign trail. Democrats argue net neutrality sways voters, especially tech-savvy younger voters, and tried to make it a centerpiece going into the 2018 congressional elections…”It polls in the 90s amongst millennials. It’s a top-of-the-mind issue for them. So I just feel that people who vote against it vote so at their own political peril,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), lead sponsor on the Senate version of Save the Internet, told Politico Tuesday.”

Also at Politico, Nancy Scola reports on the growing influence of digital wizards in Democratic campaigns: “Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke are among the White House hopefuls replicating Trump’s approach by giving senior campaign leadership roles to data and social media mavens. It’s a recognition of how central the online space — from raising breathtaking gobs of money via email to winning the minute-by-minute messaging wars on social media — has become to any candidate for the White House…Sanders in February named Faiz Shakir, the onetime director of new media for Nancy Pelosi, to run his campaign. Booker hired Jenna Lowenstein, the digital director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House run, as deputy campaign manager. And O’Rourke picked political data expert Jen O’Malley Dillon as campaign manager and is relying on Becky Bond, a long-time digital organizer, for strategy advice…Warren, meanwhile, tapped Joe Rospars, chief digital strategist for Obama’s successful 2008 presidential bid, to serve as a senior strategist…“One of the underlying frustrations was…feeling that digital wasn’t allowed to sit at the adults’ table,” said Catherine Algeri, former digital director for both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and three Senate campaigns. For many years, Algeri said, the sense was, “‘You guys just sit over there and raise money.’”…“Now it’s just so clear that if you don’t have a senior leadership team that really understands how to dominate social media and the ways that news travels around the web, you’re just at a huge disadvantage,” said Laura Olin, a Democratic digital strategist who led social media strategy for Obama’s 2012 reelection.”

“The Democratic Party should offer a vision of citizenship that contrasts with Trump’s celebration of hedonistic consumerism,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel writes in his article, “The Need That Democrats Aren’t Addressing” at The Atlantic. “We should call on the nation’s sense of deep-seated patriotism to rebut his ugly nationalism. We must champion a spirit of unity and purpose that counteracts his self-serving schemes to pit one community against the next…We can begin by issuing a simple but powerful call: a policy that requires all 18-year-olds to give at least six months of their life to national service. People from different walks of life, with different backgrounds, would serve with one another as a rite of passage. Once young adults graduate high school or reach college age, they would join the military, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or some other service-oriented organization…a universal national-service program will tap into younger Americans’ desire to serve the greater good…against the backdrop of Trump’s call to consumerism, nationalism, and divisiveness, the third and potentially most powerful leg of the Democratic message should tap into America’s deep-seated patriotism and selfless citizenship. Nothing would stir that underlying sense of common purpose more powerfully than a call to universal national service. Nothing else would so fundamentally challenge Trump’s divisiveness.”

Lake Research Battleground Analysis Points Way for Dems

An important new study of “The Battleground: Democratic Perspective,” featuring strategic analysis by Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff and Corey Teter, reveals key vulnerabilities and opportunities for Dems as the 2020 campaign begins.

The Lake Research Partners study finds widespread “economic anxiety” and an “ever-deepening sense of frustration toward the status quo in Washington,” along with a “sense of alienation among voters,” which “appears unlikely to improve without serious and bold economic initiatives from the Democrats.” Further,

Democrats’ strong showing in the 2018 midterms was a solid step toward rehabilitation from the disastrous 2016 elections, though it would be a mistake to treat those results as a necessary predictor of success moving forward. In fact, despite the President’s historic levels of unpopularity, voters continue to profess favorable opinions of his stewardship over the economy and job creation (a qualified assessment, to be sure, given their expectations of yet another significant downturn); moreover, they tend to side with Republicans over Democrats on these issues,as well. Overall, this data continues to illustrate Democrats’ inherent weakness to respond on the economy, and if the Party does not rectify this soon,it will find itself in serious jeopardy for the 2020 election.

Indeed, Democrats still face the challenge of articulating a bold, compelling economic vision that rises above the safety of platitudes, or that seeks to convince voters that a reprise of the economy of the 1990s or the early 2010s is sufficient to address the scale of the economy’s persistent failings—a perilous gambit that cedes the dimension of change to the opposition and ignores voters’ fears and their aspirations for the future. Democrats have major advantages on healthcare and education which contributed largely to their success in 2018. The challenge facing the Party ahead is to translate those advantages into a bigger economic frame…Democrats stand to profit immensely by capitalizing on the President’s and his Party’s glaring vulnerabilities regarding their ties to the same powerful special interests that dominate American politics and government and are at the root of voters’ desire to chart a decidedly new course. Pursuing these strategies will require more than just highlighting the President’s flaws ;they will require some measure of risk from Democrats as they offer a bold new trajectory and true security – economically, domestically, and internationally – for the American people.

In addition, “fully 59% of voters say they are either “very” or “somewhat” worried about the country suffering an economic downturn in the near future.” Also, “majorities of voters who identify as middle class (58% very/somewhat worried) and as working class (63% very/somewhat worried) are more fearful than not about the prospects of an impending recession.”

Although 54 percent of voters have a positive view of their members of congress, “Overall, 24% of voters say their member of Congress is not supportive enough of Trump compared to 18% who say they are too supportive.” But Trump’s popularity numbers are highly problematic for Republicans:

Only four-in-ten(40%) voters currently have a favorable opinion of the Presiden tcompared to 55% who view him unfavorably. The intensity of the animosity towards Trump is also quite stunning, as 48% of voters have a “strongly” unfavorable opinion of the President compared to only 27% who have a“strongly” favorable opinion of Trump. The President’s personal profile is also heavily underwater amongindependents, with 57% viewing him unfavorably, including 43% who feel that way “strongly.”

The President’s job approval ratings largely mirror those of his personal image, with 43% of voters currently approving the job he is doing as President, compared to 52% who disapprove. And while the President continuesto enjoy near-universal levels of approval among his Republican base (92% approve), his support among independents is solidly net-negative (32% approve, 51% disapprove), with independent women (30% approve, 57% disapprove) in particular holding very negative views about his tenure to date. Trump’s low ratings among these voters represents a significant obstacle for his administration moving forward as he tries to broaden his base of support. To no one’s surprise, Democrats display almost universal displeasure with the President (93% disapprov e), including a staggering 85% who say they disapprove “strongly.”

As has been the trend since he was elected, African Americans (83% disapprove, incl. 69% “strongly”disapprove) and Latinx voters (69% disapprove, incl. 59% “strongly” disapprove) continue to be amongthe President’s strongest detractors. There is also a very large gender gap with men —of whom 50% approve and 46% disapprove—and women—of whom 37% approve and 60% disapprove. And while thePresident’s rating among seniors is somewhat mixed (45% approve, 50% disapprove) his ratings amongmillennials (34% approve, 58% disapprove) is an ominous sign for the Republican Party’s future, and highlights the complexity of the GOP’s challenge, which continues to be not just racial , ethnic, and along gender lines, but generational too.

With respect to leading issues, the study notes that “a majority of voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of health care(33% approve, 58% disapprove), immigration (41% approve, 56% disapprove), and foreign affairs (41% approve, 54% disapprove).” There appears to be a split verdict on his “handling of taxes,” with 45 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.

The study finds that Trump’s “trust-deficit” on health care provides “one of the Democrats’ strongest advantages going forward—though Democrats will need to offer a strong alternative in order to leverage this advantage in the context of a presidential election, which is much more a choice between two competing visions than a referendum on a president’s first term.” The study also finds a 9-point edge for Democrats on immigration, which the authors call “quite remarkable,” considering Trump’s incessant flogging of the issue.

However, Trump has a significant advantage at present on one of the most most important issues — the economy. As the Lake study observes, “Since the last Battleground Poll, the President has increased his economic job performance numbers by 6-points (51% approve in previous battleground poll), with a 57% majority of voters now saying they approve of his economic stewardship compared to 38% who disapprove. Equally as important, a similar majority (57%) also says it approves of his work on job creation, a 5-point increase from the previous poll (52% approve in the previous Battleground Poll).” Also, 72 percent of white blue-collar workers expressed approval of his job on the economy, a big red flag for Dems in key swing states. Also,

As a result of his strong numbers, voters also currently trust the President more than Democrats on moving the economy forward (52% trust Trump vs. 40% trust Democrats) and future job creation (50% trust Trump vs. 39% trust Democrats). In a troubling sign for Democrats, Trump is trusted more on these two vital issues by a number of important swing constituencies, including independents (+35oneconomy, +37 on jobs), white women (+8 on economy, +8 on jobs), and self -described moderate voters (+19 on economy, +20 on jobs). Voters place more modest levels of trust in Trump over Democrats on the issue of National Security(47%to43%), but it is his advantage on the economy and jobs that poses the greatest challenge for Democrats, particularly as Democrats have never won the White House when trailing on this central front.

As for the image of the Democratic Party, “Currently, more voters have a negative view…(43% favorable, 46% unfavorable), including pluralities of independents (21% favorable, 44% unfavorable) and self-described moderate voters (29% favorable, 41% unfavorable).” In terms of the generic congressional ballot,

Currently, the Democrats hold a five-point advantage in a 2020 generic congressional ballot (Dem 42%, GOP 37%), which is down slightly from the eight-point lead they held before the 2018 midterms. The gender gap seen in previous Battleground Polls also remains alive and well, with women supporting the Democrats by an 18-point margin (Dem 48%, GOP 30%), and men the Republicans by a 9-point margin (Dem 35%, GOP 44%). The marital gap is perhaps even more stunning: marriedmen are voting Republican by a 16-point margin (Dem 34%, GOP 50%), while married women are split (Dem 39%, GOP 38%). Single women are voting Democratic by an enormous 54-point margin (Dem 65%, GOP 11%), and single men by 10 points (Dem 43%, GOP 33%). Independents, meanwhile, appear completely up for grabs, with a whopping 68% of these voters fully undecided. And while self-described moderate voters currentlyprefer Democrats by a 13-point margin (Dem 30%, GOP 17%), a 52% majority of these voters are also uncommitted.

Democrats continue to lead among their traditional base targets such as millennials (Dem 45%, GOP 32%), African Americans (Dem 67%, GOP 7%) and Latinx voters (Dem 58% to GOP 27%). Continuing the trend from recent Battleground Polls, Democrats also remain the preferred choice of voters with a college education (Dem 46%, GOP 30%), including a staggering 23-point lead among college-educated women (Dem 50%, GOP 27%). Democrats also hold a 9-point advantage among college-educated whites (Dem 44%, GOP 35%), the same margin we saw in the previous Battleground Poll…

Regarding the white working-class, “Republicans continue to hold a double-digit advantage among non-college educated whites (Dem 26%, GOP 54%), with this group showing no signs of a shift since the last Battleground Poll (Dem 32%, GOP 54% in March 2018).”

Going forward, Lake, Gotoff and Teter recommend that Democrats can improve their position on the economy and jobs by “exposing how Republicans’ economic policies have focused more on appeasing wealthy special interests at the expense of most American people—a point bolstered by the findings that voters trust Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to dealing with special interests (42% trust Dems vs. 28% trust GOP)…it is imperative that Democrats develop a strong economic platform that employs a clear anti-special interest frame, contrasts with Republicans, and appeals to and energizes voters to show up in record numbers next November.” They conclude:

Given the high levels of dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and the country’s political leaders, the American electorate remains fundamentally change-oriented. And while the President’s unpopularity certainly continues to present opportunities for the Democratic Party moving forward, attacking Trump will not be enough, particularly with a significant number of voters seemingly able to reconcile their misgivings about Trump with positive ratings of his handling of the economy. As 2020 continues to come closer into focus, Democrats will be best served by advancing an audacious, forward-thinking agenda that takes on the powerful special interests and delivers real change for the American people, exploiting the dimensions where the Party already enjoys advantages (though has failed to capitalize with proposals that tinker around the edge of real reform) and advancing on terrain where they continue to trail (i.e. the economy).

Although the economy and jobs remains a potentialy-pivotal wild card leading up to the 2020 elections, Democrats would be well-served to focus on the Lake Research recommendations, which can strengthen the Party’s “brand” in any case.