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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Democratic Political Strategy for Reaching Working Class Voters That Starts from the Actual “Class Consciousness” of Modern Working Americans.

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

“Less Than College” Workers Are Not a Social Class. Democrats Need to Understand Who Persuadable Workers Really Are.

Read the Memo.

Democrats Can Win Non-MAGA Working Class GOP Voters. The First Step is Understanding What They Really Think.

Read the Memo.

The Non-Extremist Wing of the Working Class Needs a National Political Alliance That Champions its Distinct Values

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo.

Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if They do Not Offer a Plausible Strategy for Reducing the Surge of Immigrants at the Border.

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

June 10, 2023

Democrats Could Gain House Seats After Surprise Supreme Court Redistricting Decision

It’s been a while since the current Supreme Court has surprised us in a good way. So I was happy to write about it at New York:

In a welcome surprise to voting-rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Alabama congressional map on Thursday. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled in Allen v. Milligan that the Republican-controlled legislature violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by failing to draw a second majority-Black district in the state, though the state’s Black population is large enough and compact enough to do so.

The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who is notorious for his past work in eroding voting-rights protections; ten years ago, the Roberts-led Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA, which required federal “pre-clearance” of state voting and redistricting decisions in states with a history of racial discrimination. But the bigger surprise was a concurrence in the decision by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined four other conservative justices to set aside a lower-court decision that would have forced Alabama to create a new map before the 2022 midterms. Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion in this “shadow docket” decision emphasized the idea that the Court shouldn’t intervene in such cases close to elections. At the time it seemed that might have just been an excuse to disguise Kavanaugh’s malign attitude toward applying the VRA to redistricting cases. But now it appears he meant what he said, at least in this case.

Ultimately Roberts and Kavanaugh joined the three liberals on the Court in upholding a 1985 precedent (Thornburg v. Gingles) providing a test for determining Voting Rights Act violations in redistricting cases. In a bitter dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas accepted Alabama’s plea that the Court reverse Gingles and eliminate redistricting as an object of VRA enforcement. Thomas blasted the decision as “yet another installment in the ‘disastrous misadventure’ of this Court’s voting-rights jurisprudence” and argued for a “color-blind” approach to cases involving alleged discrimination.

The immediate effect of the decision in Allen v. Milligan will be to overturn an Alabama map that led to the election of six white Republicans and one Black Democrat to Congress. The state will be forced to create a second majority-Black (and very likely Democratic) district in the state’s Black Belt region in time for the 2024 elections. This is bad news for the Republican Party, which will be struggling to hold on to a narrow House majority. Even worse for the GOP, this decision may pave the way for fresh challenges to congressional maps in Georgia, Louisiana, and possibly other states. And there could be ripple effects in local politics and government, as the Brennan Center noted last year:

“[S]ince the Supreme Court laid out the Gingles test nearly four decades ago, Section 2 has played a far more transformative role in ensuring that voters of color have equal opportunities to participate in the political process and elect their candidates of choice at the local level than it has at the congressional or legislative levels. Just this past decade, for example, Section 2 litigation opened the door for the first time to Black representation on the city council and school board in sharply racially divided Ferguson, Missouri.”

More generally, by maintaining judicial scrutiny of racial gerrymandering, the fragile Court majority declined to give full rein to lawmakers determined to abuse their power in drawing maps for the U.S. House and for themselves. The Supreme Court has already taken the federal courts out of the business of policing partisan gerrymandering. So going forward, you can expect the Republicans who rely on marginalizing minority voters in order to hold on to power to work overtime to deny or hide racial calculations.

Is Trump at Long Last Toast, and How Should Dems Respond?

It’s too early to assess the political damage to Trump resulting from his recent and pending indictment(s), and more importantly for Dems to define a new 2024 strategy. But the damage looks substantial enough for Dems to begin thinking about it.

In “How Trump’s new indictment could affect 2024,” WaPo’s Aaron Blake limns the damage to Trump, as revealed by previous opinion polls: “

What seems clear is that more Americans, Republicans included, view these charges as serious. And while another indictment might not be enough to sink Trump in a GOP primary, this one for now appears more problematic, especially for his general-election hopes.

….The first thing to note: As with previous polls, people are less concerned about the charges Trump faces in Manhattan. While 52 percent of Americans regard it as a “serious crime” to falsify business records to conceal hush money payments to an adult-film star — the lowest percentage of five issues tested — 65 percent say the same about taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them….Among just Republicans, while 28 percent say the former is serious, 42 percent say the latter is.

Much also depends on how much people would regard a conviction as being disqualifying. And that’s where this poll is especially helpful.

The survey also asked whether people thought Trump should be allowed to serve as president if he’s convicted of a “serious crime.” Just 23 percent overall said he should be, while 62 percent said he shouldn’t be. Republicans were more evenly split, with 39 percent saying a serious crime would be disqualifying.

The overlap between these two questions — how many people view serious crimes as disqualifying and regard these particular things as serious crimes — is also crucial.

Blake goes on to cite a YouGov poll which “combined the data” and found:

Regarding the Manhattan indictment, 41 percent of independents and 44 percent overall view the alleged crime as serious and also say it would be disqualifying.

Those numbers go up to 49 percent and 50 percent, respectively, in the classified documents case.

That’s nearly half of voters who, to the extent the case is proved in their minds, say Trump would be disqualified.

Blake adds, “this is people saying he shouldn’t even be considered for office in that case — not just that he will have done something seriously wrong.”

Of course, the shelf life of public attitudes toward Trump this week could be ancient history in a few more weeks. Or, it could get a lot worse pretty quick.

The Biden Administration will respond intelligently. The short term strategy is to STFU and allow impartial justice take its course. Other Democratic leaders will make comments disparaging Trump. But they should also focus their scorn on the GOP’s culture of corruption, moral decay and utter disdain for democracy, a perfect petri dish for creating their Frankenstein. The anti-Trump rank and file progressives are already in gloatfest mode – part of what 8 years of Frankenstein’s rampage has accomplished. But every Democrat should repeat the “let impartial justice take it’s course” mantra.

It is more possible today that one of the other Republicans will win the GOP presidential nomination. But let’s not be shocked if that doesn’t happen. Regardless, Democrats should focus on building unity, affirming their commitment to democratic values and principles and mobilizing a record-level turnout to end the exhausting mayhem of the Republican fiasco.

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux writes that “the GOP’s push to tighten abortion laws is generally at odds with public sentiment overall. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that in areas where abortion was prohibited in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, the share of people who think it should be easier to get an abortion rose from 31 percent in 2019 to 43 percent in 2023. There was a similar uptick in states where abortion was restricted or the law was being disputed in the courts. The poll also found that a majority of Americans (62 percent) think that states are making it too hard to get an abortion, including a substantial minority (39 percent) of Republicans. A majority (53 percent) of Republicans also think it should either be easier (20 percent) or about as difficult as it is now (33 percent) to get an abortion in their area, while less than half (44 percent) think it should be harder. And a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that Americans overall are much more likely to say that the Democratic Party represents their view on abortion (42 percent) compared to the Republican Party (26 percent)….None of this polling points to much of an appetite for more abortion restrictions, even among a solid chunk of Republicans. And it’s especially difficult for presidential candidates to find a position that both pleases anti-abortion advocates and isn’t broadly unpopular. A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in April found that only 21 percent of Americans support a national ban on abortion without exceptions, and just over one-third (35 percent) are in favor of a national ban at six weeks’ gestation. The idea of banning abortion nationally — even at a later point in pregnancy, like 15 weeks — seems to be fairly politically toxic: A YouGov/Economist poll conducted last fall found that there was more support for establishing a national right to abortion (51 percent) than banning abortion at 15 weeks, while allowing states to enact stricter laws on their own (39 percent).”

In her article, “Moving Beyond the Good Ol’ Boys Club: Recent Trends in Women’s Representation in State Legislatures” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Carah Ong Whaley writes: “The percentage of women in state legislatures has increased in recent years. However, there is still a significant gender gap in most states as women have not reached parity in representation….The majority of women in state legislatures are Democrats. While more Republican women ran for office in 2022 than in previous years, that didn’t amount to closing the gender gap in representation….The percentage of women in state legislatures has increased more in Western and Northeastern states than in Midwestern and Southern states. This is likely due to a number of factors, including the political climate, the level of motivation and activism among women, and the availability of resources for women’s campaigns….Good politics and policy depend on diverse perspectives and lived experiences, but women remain underrepresented at all levels of government. As this analysis shows, the number of women in state legislatures is increasing, and this is a positive trend. However, as this analysis also demonstrates, progress is not a given and there are clearly states where more attention to closing the gender gap in representation is needed….For women to achieve parity in representation, there are structural challenges that states can address, including for example, by increasing salaries for legislators and providing stipends for childcare. There are also ways in which political parties and organizations can address the challenges women and other minoritized candidates face by expanding recruitment, encouragement, and training efforts, while increasing financial support for women to run for office. Openings and incumbency are also issues, and may require encouraging more women to challenge candidates from their own parties in primaries.”

In “As the Suburbs Go, So Goes America,” New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Over the past half century, the percentage of Black Americans living in the nation’s suburbs has doubled, a shift that is changing the balance of political power in key regions of the country….“Since 1970, the share of Black individuals living in suburbs of large cities has risen from 16 to 36 percent,” Alexander W. Bartik and Evan Mast, economists at the University of Illinois and Notre Dame, write in their 2021 paper “Black Suburbanization: Causes and Consequences of a Transformation of American Cities.”…“This shift,” they point out, “is as large as the post-World War II wave of the Great Migration.”….In 1990, 33.9 percent of Black Americans in what are known as metropolitan statistical areas lived in the suburbs. By 2020, that grew to 51.2 percent, a 17.3-point shift over the same period; the share of Asian Americans in metropolitan statistical areas living in suburbs grew by 13.2 percentage points; and the share of Hispanics by 13.8 percentage points.” Commentators used to talk about “white flight” to describe the phenomenon of large numbers of white families moving from the cities to the suburbs and exurbs, usually implying out-migration driven by racism. But the Black exodus from the cities described by Edsall raises the possibility of something new. Call it “green flight” — families of all races simply wanting more of the natural world to enjoy, the forests, clean air and reduced traffic that you can still find in many rural communities.” There are political reverberations.

Edsall continues, “A study of the shifting politics of suburbia from the 1950s to the present, “Not Just White Soccer Moms: Voting in Suburbia in the 2016 and 2020 Elections,” by Ankit Rastogi and Michael Jones-Correa, both at the University of Pennsylvania, found that from the 1950s to the start of the 1990s,

Residing in racially homogeneous, middle-class enclaves, White suburban voters embraced a set of policy positions that perpetuated their racial and class position. Since the 1990s, however, the demographics of suburbs have been changing, with consequent political shifts.

As a result, by 2020, “suburban voters were more likely to back Biden, the Democratic candidate, than his Republican counterpart Trump.”…Why, the authors ask?

White suburban precincts showed greater support for Biden in 2020 than for Clinton in 2016. Our analysis indicates, however, that if all suburban voters had voted like white suburbanite precincts, Trump would have carried metropolitan suburbs in 2020.

So what saved the day for Biden? “Democrats carried metropolitan suburbs in 2020 because of suburban voters of color.” Edsall concludes, “America is undergoing a racial and ethnic upheaval that will profoundly shape election outcomes. On first glance, the trends would appear to favor Democrats, but there is no guarantee.”

“Independent Charismatics” Becoming an Evangelical Firewall for Trump

Another religion and politics topic came up in my reading, so I discussed it at New York:

Everyone covering Republican presidential politics knows how important a force conservative Evangelical Christians are in that party, particularly in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. So it has become routine to examine GOP politicians for their adherence to various issue positions of presumed significance to these voters, and to their pulpit-based leaders.

That’s still well worth doing at a time when the culture-war issues so closely associated with religious conservatives are red-hot topics in American politics, and of great importance to many of the most likely voters in the Republican presidential primaries. Clearly, Ron DeSantisMike Pence, and Tim Scott are particularly focused on letting conservative Evangelicals know how committed they are to the battle against legalized abortion, LGBTQ rights, “woke” corporations, and government impingements on “religious liberty.” These candidates are intensely determined to prove they are more faithful to the agenda of the Christian right than their front-running rival Donald Trump.

But there are two major problems with any sort of by-the-numbers effort to flip conservative Evangelicals against Trump. First, these voters have an abiding sense of gratitude for what Trump has already done for them. Second, Trump himself is deeply tied to the religious views of a growing subset of Christian Evangelicals.

As the 45th president frequently reminds conservative Christian audiences, he was the first Republican president to redeem decades of promises to secure the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the abolition of federal constitutional abortion rights. And more generally, Trump discarded decades of embarrassed Republican efforts to downplay cultural issues in pursuit of upscale swing voters favoring moderation and compromise on topics that Evangelicals considered matters of eternal and immutable principle. He was firmly the enemy of the enemies of the people in the pews, and smote them hip and thigh unscrupulously. It will take more than a slightly higher rating on the latest set of litmus tests laid out by conservative religious leaders for mere politicians to match the founder of the MAGA movement in the esteem of voters who really do want to turn back the clock to a “greater” America.

The second element of Trump’s Evangelical primary firewall is the significant and rapidly growing subset of American Evangelicals whose view of politics and its relationship to religion cannot be captured by mere policy issues. Trump plays a larger-than-life role in a supernatural drama of good and evil that many of these believers embrace via the teachings of a new set of “prophetic” teachers and preachers, as religious scholar Matthew Taylor explains:

“Trump’s most ardent Christian advocates are nondenominational Charismatic evangelicals, a group sometimes referred to by academics as Independent Charismatics or Independent Network Charismatic Christians.

“Independent Charismatics emphasize a modern, supernaturally driven worldview where contemporary prophets speak directly for God; miracles are everyday experiences; menacing demonic forces must be pushed back through prayer; and immersive, ecstatic worship experiences bolster Christian believers’ confidence that they are at the center of God’s work in the world. These believers are country cousins to the more denominationally aligned Pentecostal evangelicals, though the lack of denominational oversight and the freewheeling nature of the independent Charismatic sector leaves them more vulnerable to radicalization.”

Many Independent Charismatics have been radicalized by the passions unleashed by Trump and the conflicts he has engendered. Cultural warfare is for them spiritual warfare in which Trump is literally an agent of the divine will. Independent Charismatics are notably active in Trump-adjacent groups like the ReAwaken America Tour, in which pardoned former Trump lieutenants Roger Stone and Michael Flynn have been conspicuous participants, and a newer group called Pastors for Trump. The 45th president is an irreplaceable and heroic figure in the apocalyptic cosmologies of such groups, who aren’t about to replace him with some other Republican politician, no matter what more orthodox Evangelicals say or think. Specific political “issues” are very small in their reckoning of God’s destiny for America.

So within the legions of conservative Evangelicals engaged in American politics, Trump has charismatic shock troops whom he can count on to stick with him as though their lives — indeed, their souls — depend on it. If you add in the Evangelicals who uniquely trust Trump for keeping his promises to them and are grateful for his reshaping of the U.S. Supreme Court to make it a powerful allied force, you can see why he’s not as vulnerable to raids on this base of support as you might imagine from the boasts of his rivals that they are nearer to God than he is.


Is Florida a “White Whale’ for Dems, or Do They Just Need Need a Makeover?

Democrats were understandably elated when Donna Deegan won the runoff election to become Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, which was America’s largest city with a Republican Mayor. But the overall picture was not an encouraging one for sunshine state Democrats., as Michael Baharaeen explains in “What’s the Matter with Florida?” at The Liberal Patriot:

Even as most other traditional battleground states gave Democrats plenty to cheer about in the 2022 midterm elections, Florida—long considered a swing state—broke heavily for Republicans. GOP success in the state wasn’t confined to just one or two races either: the party made gains up and down the ballot. Incumbent Governor (and recently announced 2024 presidential candidate) Ron DeSantis won re-election in a landslide as his party earned supermajorities in the state legislature, while Senator Marco Rubio also won re-election by a significant margin and Republicans picked up four U.S. House seats thanks in part to aggressive gerrymandering.

And as if that weren’t enough, Democrats were locked out of all statewide offices for the first time since the Reconstruction era.

These results didn’t necessarily represent a significant departure from the state’s recent history, however. Republicans have controlled the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state legislature since 1999.

Moreover, since 2000, they have won 32 of the 39 contests for statewide office, including 15 by double digits.

For their part, Democrats have won just one election for statewide office since 2012—the 2018 race for agriculture commissioner.

Even so, Democrats’ growing weakness in Florida has been somewhat hard to process. The state was a presidential bellwether for much of the past century, and candidates for the nation’s top office have averaged a winning margin here of just one point since 2000. In the three midterm elections that took place in the 2010s, all of which clearly broke for one party or the other at the national level, top-of-the-ticket contests in Florida continued to be very close. This included near wins for Democrats in both the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races in 2018, where they fell short in each by less than half a point.

“Though frustrating,” Baharaeen writes, ” these results were nonetheless a sign to many that the Democratic Party still had life and that Florida should not be written off moving forward.” After all, Democrats only lost Florida’s electoral votes by 3.3 percent in 2020. And Florida is top-heavy with senior voters, who may have more sympathy with President Biden’s age, his bipartisan outreach and are impressed with his recent string of victories.

Baharaeen notes further that “Florida’s population has boomed since the turn of the century, and it is among the top 10 most diverse states in the country. These factors have transformed states like Colorado and Virginia from red to blue during that time. Others like Arizona and Georgia look to be following suit as well. But not Florida.”

Is it possible that Florida is fast approaching a demographic ‘tipping point,’ which could spell bad news for Republicans? Maybe, but measure that against continued voter suppression, gerrymandering and a still weak Democratic Party. Baharaeen has lots more gloom and doom stats in his article, the worst of which has to be the Republicans achieving more registered Floridians in 2021, thanks in large part to a huge influx of conservative migrants.

Dems looking for further rays of hope, however,  can take some comfort from Baharaeen’s assertion that “recent polling has shown that some of the GOP’s new laws related to abortion, guns, and the culture war appear to be deeply unpopular—even a majority of Republicans oppose the state’s six-week abortion ban and permitless carry law. There is also some evidence that the previously demoralized Democratic base is starting to awaken.”

In any case, Dems have to keep investing in Florida, because: it has so many electoral votes, it is a state in demographic flux and it has enormous problems, which it’s Republican leaders are not addressing with credible policies. But Democrats still have to come up with more impressive candidates. A little more investment in candidate recruitment might prove to be a cost-effective strategy.

MN Dems Make Most of Narrow Edge

In “The ‘Minnesota Miracle’ should serve as a model for Democrats,” Washington Post columnist  E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “The avalanche of progressive legislation that the state’s two-vote Democratic majority in the Minnesota House and one-vote advantage in the state Senate have enacted this year is a wonder to behold.” Dionne explains:

Minn Post reporters Peter Callaghan and Walker Orenstein offered a bracing race through the list….“Democrats codified abortion rights, paid family and medical leave, sick leave, transgender rights protections, drivers licenses for undocumented residents, restoration of voting rights for people when they are released from prison or jail, wider voting access, one-time rebates, a tax credit aimed at low-income parents with kids, and a $1 billion investment in affordable housing including for rental assistance.”

Take a breath and move on: “Also adopted were background checks for private gun transfers and a red-flag warning system to take guns from people deemed by a judge to be a threat to themselves or others. [Democratic] lawmakers banned conversion therapy for LGBTQ people, legalized recreational marijuana, expanded education funding, required a carbon-free electric grid by 2040, adopted a new reading curricula based on phonics, passed a massive $2.58 billion capital construction package and, at the insistence of Republicans, a $300 million emergency infusion of money to nursing homes.” The mix of tax cuts and increases, by the way, will make the state’s revenue system more progressive.

There’s a lot more, including laws strengthening workers’ rights and unemployment insurance for hourly workers previously left out of the system; a refundable child credit for lower-income Minnesotans; and free breakfast and lunch for all Minnesota K-12 students.

“It’s no wonder,” Dionne writes, “former president Barack Obama tweeted recently: “If you need a reminder that elections have consequences, check out what’s happening in Minnesota.” Dionne adds,

One other lesson for states that want to emulate Minnesota: Keep in mind what Long called “the Wellstone Triangle,” a governing concept framed by U.S. Sen. Paul D. Wellstone.

Long explained: “You need good ideas. … You need elected politicians who are going to be supporting those ideas, and then you need outside organizing for elections and to support those votes.” All three are key to getting things done. In Minnesota, key players included unions, environmental groups and faith-based organizers in the appropriately named Isaiah organization. In the run-up to the session, the outside groups were brought into the task of crafting an agenda.

One of the things Minnesota Democrats do differently from Dems in many other states is more effectively court rural voters. “Democrats in the state are known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party from their merger with a third party in the 1940s,” Dionne explains. “True to the name, the party’s agenda combined social concerns such as abortion rights with what Long called “bread-and-butter, populist things that sell everywhere in the state.”

Minnesota has a unique political culture that can’t be replicated. But the legislative accomplishments MN Dems provide shows what Dems can do in the states —  even with narrow majorities.

Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein presents a case for “widening the pathways for legal immigration” at CNN Politics” and also writes: “Admitting more immigrants, many experts believe, is the most feasible way to expand America’s stagnating labor force after years of historically slow growth in the nation’s working-age population. And creating more opportunities for legal entry into the US – while maintaining strong penalties for illegal entry – may be the best long-term lever to reduce pressure on the border by encouraging more migrants to pursue legal means of entering the country and seeking work….With or without more legal immigration, experts agree, deteriorating economic and social conditions in multiple countries across Latin America guarantees difficulty in controlling the flow of migrants trying to cross the Southern border. But, to a degree that hasn’t been fully recognized, President Joe Biden and his administration are betting that creating more legal options will reduce the number of people looking to cross illegally and reduce pressure at the border, while also responding to the economy’s need for more workers. “That’s the theory of the case,” said Angela Kelley, chief policy adviser to the American Immigration Lawyers Association and former senior adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas….The Biden calculation is that more opportunity for legal entry creates more leverage for tougher enforcement. If potential migrants conclude they have no realistic chance to enter and work in America legally, the White House believes, they are less likely to be dissuaded by penalties under US law that can bar them from entry for years when they are caught trying to enter illegally. Migrants, after all, may not view such a prohibition on legal entry as much of a risk if there was virtually no chance of legal admission anyway. In the eyes of the administration, and like-minded immigration advocates, it takes a plausible carrot (the prospect of legal entry) to create an effective stick (with the entry ban of five years or more for illegal crossings that the administration announced when it ended the Trump administration’s pandemic-era Title 42 policy at the border.)”

Brownstein also notes, ““If you have legitimate consequences for unlawful entry combined … with easy to access legal pathways, these two things together reduce irregular migration,” said one administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “But one without the other has proven to be [ineffective].”….By itself, a more robust system of legal immigration “won’t solve the current crisis,” said Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the US Naturalization and Immigration Service under President Bill Clinton. But such a system, she believes, can contribute to stabilizing the border – and enhancing the credibility of enforcement efforts….“If there are realistic ways of coming to the country – a range of them – it makes the enforcement and something like a five-year ban, much more salient” to migrants, said Meissner, now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a center-left think tank….Conservatives, meanwhile, remain dubious of any steps to increase legal immigration – even in the name of reducing illegal migration….The backdrop for this immigration debate is that the US is living through one of its longest sustained periods of sluggish population growth. In fact, from 2010 to 2020, the population grew more slowlythan in any ten-year span in US history except during the Great Depression, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Metro think tank….The slowdown has been especially acute in the youth and working-age population. The size of the US labor force (essentially the population 16 and older available to work) grew by almost three-fifths from 1960-1980 and rose again by more than a third from 1980-2000. But from 2000 to 2020 it increased by only around one-sixth. The labor force has been growing even more slowly since 2020.”

Further, Brownstein adds, “Using executive authority, Biden has done more to pave those legal pathways than generally recognized. Biden has doubled the number of migrants admitted under permanent employment visas by using his statutory authority to reallocate unused family-based visas to the employment category. He’s significantly expanded the number of temporary guest workers admitted for both agriculture and seasonal employment in businesses like fisheries and hotels, and targeted some of those extra visas to Latin American countries, including Guatemala and El Salvador, where difficult domestic conditions heighten pressure for illegal migration. Biden has also substantially increased the number of people designated for “Temporary Protected Status” that allows them to stay and work (or study) in the US because of unsafe conditions in their home country….Most ambitiously, Biden has used the federal government’s so-called “parole” authority to legally admit large numbers of migrants from countries facing acute crises. Presidents of both parties previously have used the parole authority to admit, for instance, Vietnamese immigrants after the fall of South Vietnam or Cubans after the communist takeover of the island. After first applying the parole authority to people from Afghanistan and Ukraine, the Biden administration subsequently announced it would admit up to 30,000 migrants a month from four countries in this hemisphere experiencing high levels of chaos: Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba. Those using the program must be sponsored by someone legally present in the US and fly to America; they are then authorized to work for two years. (The administration is developing a similar parole system to speed entry for migrants from Haiti, Cuba and four Latin American countries who are eligible to reunite with family members already in the US.)….The administration and its allies point out that illegal border crossings by migrants from the four countries designated for parole have plummeted since the program went into effect. “The evidence is promising,” Kelley says, that the availability of parole “disrupts the smuggling operation” by encouraging more people instead to seek a legal pathway….Still, the parole power is limited as a tool, since it only authorizes those admitted under it to stay in the US for two years.”

Nicole Lafond shares some choice observations in her post, “Where Things Stand: Save This Clip For Next Time They Pretend They Don’t Wanna Cut Soc Security, Medicare” at Talking Points Memo.” Lafond reports that Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy is catching a lot of heat from his right flank, which is very disappointed that Biden protected Asocial Security and Medicare from cuts. As Lafond reports: “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is seemingly trying to get a handful of far-right members of the Freedom Caucus to chill out and stop threatening to redo the speakership election. They’re not likely to successfully depose him, but no one is eager for a redo of the January spectacle as a few loud members seek to reassert their authority. And, so, in what is seemingly a half-hearted effort to throw them a bone, McCarthy went on Fox News and promised to create some vague “commission” that’ll review further cuts to next year’s budget….The speaker then took it a step further. Instead of just promising that “this isn’t the end” and proposing some sort of additional amorphous cuts to quell a hardliner uprising, McCarthy doubled down, raising the possibility that this next step commission could look into gutting Social Security and Medicare. Music, in theory, to the ears of a salivating Freedom Caucus….Here’s the full exchange quickly:

McCarthy: “We only got to look at 11 percent of the budget to find these cuts. We have to look at the entire budget. The Congress has done this before after World War II –“

Harris Faulkner: “Why didn’t you see the whole budget?”

McCarthy: “The president walled off all the others. The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It’s Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt.”

Faulkner: “And he wouldn’t let you see? Wow.”

….Broadly speaking, Republicans have been trying to hollow out both Medicare and Social Security for decades, only to reverse course when the public catches on and paint their fixation with gutting the programs as innocent efforts to reform entitlements. In most recent memory, this about face played out live on television….This latest round of the GOP’s Medicare/Social Security-gutting fake out came to a head during this year’s State Of The Union address, when President Biden rather skillfullycornered Republicans into agreeing not to push for cuts to either program mid-speech.” What hasn’t changed is that the GOP is still the party that wants to reduce earned benefits for senior voters. Democrats should remind voters of this reality at every opportunity.

Rise of Religious “Nones” a Mixed Blessing for Democrats

Since I’m always standing at the intersection of politics and religion, I’m always interested in fresh data on the subject, and wrote some up at New York:

One of the big predictions in American politics lately, of infinite comfort to embattled progressives, is that the increasing number of religiously non-affiliated Americans, particularly among younger generations, will spur a steady leftward drift. Perhaps that will mean, we are told, that Democrats will be able to build their elusive permanent majority on the grounds of abandoned houses of worship. Or perhaps, some hope, the religious roots of today’s Republican extremism will begin to wither away, allowing American conservatives to resemble their less intemperate distant cousins in other advanced democracies, ending the culture wars.

Both propositions may be true. But it’s a mistake to treat so-called nones as an undifferentiated secularist mass, as Eastern Illinois University political scientist Ryan Burge explains with some fresh data. He notes that “in 2022, 6% of folks were atheists, 6% were agnostics, and another 23% were nothing in particular.” This large bloc of “nothing in particular” voters may lean left, all other things being equal, but they tend to be as uninterested in politics as in religion, making them a less than ideal party constituency. He explains:

“To put this in context, in 2020 there were nearly as many nothing in particulars who said that they voted for Trump as there were atheists who said that they voted for Biden.

“While atheists are the most politically active group in the United States in terms of things like donating money and working for a campaign, the nothing in particulars are on another planet entirely.

“They were half as likely to donate money to a candidate compared to atheists. They were half as likely to put up a political sign. They were less than half as likely to contact a public official.

“This all points to the same conclusion: they don’t vote in high numbers. So, while there may be a whole bunch of nothing in particulars, that may not translate to electoral victories.”

As Burge mentioned, however, there is a “none” constituency that leans much more strongly left and is very engaged politically — indeed, significantly more engaged than the white evangelicals we’re always hearing about. That would be atheists. In a separate piece, he gets into the numbers:

“The group that is most likely to contact a public official? Atheists.

“The group that puts up political signs at the highest rates? Atheists.

“HALF of atheists report giving to a candidate or campaign in the 2020 presidential election cycle.

“The average atheist is about 65% more politically engaged than the average American.”

And as Thomas Edsall points out in a broader New York Times column on demographic voting patterns, atheists really are a solid Democratic constituency, supporting Biden over Trump in 2020 by an incredible 87 to 9 percent margin. It’s worth noting that the less adamant siblings of the emphatically godless, agnostics, also went for Biden by an 80 to 17 percent margin and are more engaged than “nothing in particulars” as well.

So should Democrats target and identify with atheists? It’s risky. Despite the trends, there are still three times as many white evangelicals as atheists in the voting population. And there are a lot more religious folk of different varieties, some of whom have robust Democratic voting minorities or even majorities who probably wouldn’t be too happy with their party showing disdain for religion entirely. There’s also a hunt-where-the-ducks-fly factor: If atheists and agnostics already participate in politics and lean strongly toward Democrats, how much attention do they really need? There’s a reason that politicians, whatever their actual religious beliefs or practices, overwhelmingly report some religious identity. Congress lost its one professed atheist when California representative Pete Stark lost a Democratic primary in 2012; the only professed agnostic in Congress is Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, whose political future isn’t looking great.

It’s a complicated picture. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat argues that American liberalism’s increasing identification with secularism is keeping a lot of conservative Christians from politically expressing their reservations about Donald Trump. And religious people beyond the ranks of conservative faith communities may feel cross-pressured if Democratic politicians begin to reflect the liberal intelligentsia’s general assumption that religion is little more than a reactionary habit rooted in superstition and doomed to eventual extinction.

Perhaps it makes more sense for Democratic atheists and agnostics to spend time educating and mobilizing the “nothing in particular” Americans who already outnumber white evangelicals and ought to be concerned about how they’ll be treated if a Christian-nationalist Gilead arises. Only then can “nones” become the salvation for the Democratic Party.

Teixeira: Why Can’t the Democrats Be More Moderate?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, co-founder and politics editor of  The Liberal Patriot, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

What kind of voters do Democrats need more of?

David Leonhardt had the answer in a recent column. He calls them “Scaffles”—socially conservative and fiscally liberal voters. These are cross-pressured swing voters—and there are a lot of them. Socially liberal, fiscally liberal voters vote Democratic. Socially and fiscally conservative voters vote Republican. And there just aren’t very many socially liberal, fiscally conservative voters. So the Scaffles are where the action is. If the Democrats hope to vanquish the Republicans decisively, this is where the Democrats should be concentrating. As they say down South, you gotta go hunting where the ducks are.

So why don’t they? After all, as Leonhardt points out:

These socially conservative and fiscally liberal voters… have voted for progressive economic policies when they appear as ballot initiatives, even in red states. Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Nebraska, for instance, have passed minimum-wage increases. Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah have expanded Medicaid through Obamacare. Republicans without a college degree are often the ones who break with their party on these ballot initiatives.

On the other hand:

At the same time, Scaffles are the reason that a Times poll last year showed that most voters, including many Latinos, prefer the Republican Party’s stance on illegal immigration to the Democratic Party’s. Or consider a recent KFF/Washington Post poll on transgender issues, in which most Americans said they opposed puberty-blocking treatments for children.

There are many, many other examples along these lines. Echelon Insights tested a series of basic values statements on sociocultural issues including: Racism is built into our society, including into its policies and institutions vs. Racism comes from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions. The result: Hispanics endorsed the second, allegedly “conservative” statement that racism comes from individuals by 58-36, as did working-class (noncollege) voters by 57-33.

Or consider the findings from a recent USC Dornsife survey on “What Americans Really Think About Controversial Topics in Schools”. The survey, among other things, asked about what topics respondents thought elementary school students should learn about. Overwhelming majorities thought elementary school children should learn about slavery, the environment, critical thinking, patriotism, the contributions of women and persons of color, and the contributions of the Founding Fathers. But just 29 percent thought elementary school children should learn about gender identity. The figure was even lower among working-class respondents.

The survey also asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about race in America. One was a classic statement of colorblind equality: “Our goal as a society should be to treat all people the same without regard to the color of their skin”. This Martin Luther King-style statement elicited sky-high (92 percent) agreement from the public, despite the assaults on this idea from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and large sectorsof the Democratic left. In a fascinating related finding, the researchers found that most people who claim to have heard about CRT believe CRT includes this colorblind perspective, rather than directly contradicting it. Perhaps they just can’t believe any theory that has anything to do with race would reject this fundamental principle.

These and other findings fairly scream out for compromise on the part of Democrats to meet the Scaffles closer to where they live in cultural and value terms. So why aren’t they doing so?

To put it in the simplest possible terms: follow the money. The Democrats are a far different party than they were back in their heyday as the party of America’s working class. They are far more dependent in every way on more affluent and educated voters. Today Democrats control around two-thirds of the Congressional districts where median income exceeds the national average, while Republicans control around two-thirds of the districts where the median income is below the national average. That’s quite a change.

Political scientist Sam Zacher reports in “Polarization of the Rich: The New Democratic Allegiance of Affluent Americans and the Politics of Redistribution” that we are now seeing majority Democratic support among the top 5 percent, the top 1 percent, stock owners, and the highest income occupations. This is truly not your father’s Democratic Party.

Of course, the trend where Democrats do ever-better among college-educated voters and ever worse among working-class voters is well-documented. In 2022, Democratic performances among college-educated and working-class voters were perfect mirror images of each other. Democrats were +10 among college-educated voters in the national two-party House vote and -10 among working-class voters.

And what do these affluent, educated voters want? I think it’s fair to say that it’s quite different from what Scaffles have in mind. These affluent, educated voters are very socially liberal voters. Among white Democrats—who are increasingly affluent and educated—there has been an astonishing 37-point increase in professed liberalism between 1994 and today according to Gallup. White Democrats are now far more liberal than their black and Hispanic counterparts, who are overwhelmingly moderate to conservative. Indeed, white liberals are now more liberal on many racial issues than black and Hispanic voters.

Gallup data also indicate that two-thirds of white college Democrats are liberal while 70 percent of black working-class and two-thirds of Hispanic working-class Democrats are moderate or conservative. As one example among many, by 13 percentage points, white college liberals disagree that there are just two genders, male and female. But moderates and conservatives from the nonwhite working class agree by 31 points that there are in fact just two genders.

These affluent, educated voters contribute an enormous amount to the Democratic Party. That ranges from direct support through money and party activism to indirect support through nonprofits, advocacy organizations, foundations, academia and much of the media. To put it simply, these voters now have a lot of numerical weight in the party and punch far above that weight due to their outsize contributions to party support.

No wonder the Scaffles are given short shrift. Democrats are simply too dependent on the votes and support of voters for whom social liberalism is a top—and frequently the top—priority. As political scientist Zach Goldberg puts it:

[I]ndividuals of higher socioeconomic status are more socially progressive and are more likely to prioritize post-material or moral-value-related issues (e.g., abortion, climate change, LGBT rights) over kitchen-table issues… The result of this phenomenon is the selection of candidates who are—or who are pressured and incentivized to be—far more socially progressive than would [otherwise] be the case… There are also opportunity costs: the more time invested in debating and attempting to pass progressive legislative agendas, the less time that can be spent on “normal” economic and quality-of-life issues…

And more crassly: who’s writing the checks? Lakshya Jain at Split-Ticket.org has reported some powerful findings:

There is a very clear correlation between the amount of money spent by a party and its college educated vote share; the greater the share of college-educated voters that a party gets, the greater its share of spending in a cycle. As an example, from 1998 to 2014, the Republican Party was responsible for 51% of the (non-third party, inflation-adjusted) money spent in elections, and in 2014, they were getting 51% of the college-educated vote, as per Catalist. From 2016-2020, their spending percentage plummeted to 43%; perhaps not coincidentally, they were only netting 41% of the college-educated vote by 2020.

This correlation should come as little surprise, given the strong relationship between income and education levels. As the Democratic Party continues to pick up educated suburbanites, its coalition has proceeded to become wealthier than ever before, and it is reflected in the asymmetric spending spike the Democratic Party has seen of late. In fact, by 2020, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party received six times as much secret donor support (termed “dark money” by some) as Donald Trump and the GOP did.

And so while it was once taken as a given by many Democrats that the increase of money in politics might result in Republican hegemony at the ballot box, the picture is now no longer as clear; campaign finance reform measures might genuinely hurt the Democratic Party more than it would harm the Republican Party.

This gives a whole new meaning to the traditional leftist slogan of “get money out of politics!” And also perhaps a whole new perspective on why Democrats can’t seem to moderate their approach on cultural issues to appeal to Scaffles, despite the trove of votes that might be awaiting them there. Follow the money. It’s really that simple.

I have a new book with John Judis coming out this November, Where Have All the Democrats Gone?: The Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes. If you like what you read on The Liberal Patriot, you’ll love this book! Now available for pre-order on Amazon. Be the first one on your block, etc.

Political Strategy Notes

For a good lefty take on the debt ceiling deal, check out Harold Meyerson’s well-titled “You Go to War (or Not) With the President You Have” at the American Prospect. Among Meyerson’s observations: “Like the world according to T.S. Eliot, it ended with a whimper. Which is about the best progressives could have hoped for, given Republicans’ control of the House and the president’s limited ability to transcend that unfortunate state of affairs with some powerful messaging….This is not a president who does—who can do—powerful messaging….Joe Biden’s strengths and weaknesses are those of a workhorse senator. He can deal. He can keep lines of communication open to his fellow pols. He can’t use the powers of speech to reframe a debate or lift it to a higher level where his position becomes the obvious solution.Had he been so able, he might have gone on television to tell the nation why the very existence of the debt ceiling was an affront to both the Constitution and the nation’s standing. He would have laid out the reasons why he was inviting the Court to rule on it….But in his 50 years in the public eye, Biden has never delivered a speech with the power to alter the public’s understanding of a major issue. That wasn’t really a problem when he was a senator or even a vice president. It is, however, a genuinely limiting factor on his de facto powers as president….What he can enter into (a lot better than Donald Trump ever could) is the art of the deal. The concessions that Biden made are not only much less damaging than those of the 2011 arrangement—which ensured that the recovery from the 2008 crash would take a full decade—but might provide some political advantages in battles yet to come. Consider, for instance, one of the deal’s most egregious provisions, which my colleague David Dayen has termed the Pipeline Payoff. By ensuring that Joe Manchin’s pet pipeline is completed, now magically empowered to leap all remaining judicial and agency reviews in a single bound, Biden strengthens Manchin’s prospects for re-election next year, which the Democrats need if they’re to retain control of the Senate. He also lessens the prospect that Manchin will wage an independent presidential candidacy on the No Labels line, which would almost surely boost Republicans’ chances to win that election. For that matter, he makes it harder for No Labels to pretend that he’s a dangerous leftist who must be replaced. And, of course, he avoids the biggest obstacle to his own re-election, which was the economic implosion that would have followed a default, remote though the chance of an actual default actually was….This is not to say that Biden’s deal making didn’t come with a cost. From my perspective, its greatest cost was the omission of any permitting deal that would have sped the construction of electric transmission lines, absent which it could be a very long time before wind and solar power can light up distant cities and farms. That task now falls to a better Congress than the one we have now….He can’t speak but he can deal. As presidents go, we’ve done better, and we’ve done lots, LOTS worse.” You want more eloquence, find another Obama. You want a shrewd poker-player, Biden can deal.

Plenty has been said about the Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling deal, which just passed the House of Reps, and should sail through the senate. We’ll just add a snippet from “The good, the bad, and the ugly of the debt ceiling deal” by MSNBC Opinion Writer/Editor Hayes Brown: “…The final vote — 314 — 117, with Democrats providing the majority of the votes in favor — highlighted just how much the final agreement changed versus when the GOP passed its “Limit, Save, Grow Act” in April….Tellingly, the vote reflects the fact that the deal is bipartisan in the sense that it’s gotten votes from both parties, not that it is a win for both parties equally. Likewise, it is a compromise in that only some Americans will have their lives impacted for the worse. The alternative was either a massive hole Republicans tried to cut into the social safety net with their original bill, or widespread economic chaos a default would have caused….the bill could have been much worse. The Republican priorities it contains have been significantly pared back and there are a few Democratic priorities that were unexpectedly worked into the deal….Its budget provisions also get us through the next two fiscal years, which means the odds for a potential government shutdown have shrunk significantly. And, importantly, no matter what happens in 2024, the debt limit revision expires when Democrats will still control the Senate and White House….The bill is proof that Biden successfully defended the vast majority of his agenda passed by the last Congress. For example, there were only minor tweaks to the Inflation Reduction Act; the climate and health care provisions it contained were left intact. And a set of spending caps in the bill are pegged to the current year’s budget, not to fiscal year 2022’s budget as the GOP sought.”  Well-played, Mr. President.

One more mini-screed from Emily Brooks and Mike Willis at The Hill, who have one of those ‘Five takeaways’ posts. An excerpt from their subsection, “Jeffries, Dem leaders keep a tight ship“: “McCarthy was not the only untested congressional leader heading into the debt ceiling fight….Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the newly tapped Democratic leader, was also under heavy pressure to deliver for the party in his first major battle with a tight deadline and the economy in the balance…. That gave Jeffries and his leadership team the delicate task of protecting Biden, an unpopular president who’s running for reelection, from charges that he gave away too much, while also giving rank-and-file members of his caucus free rein to air their protests with the deal — and even vote against it when it hit the floor. There was no whip operation on final passage….“Members will make the decision that is best for them,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday morning….Jeffries also orchestrated several deft maneuvers throughout the debate….In January, Democratic leaders very quietly launched the process, known as a discharge petition, to force a vote on a clean debt ceiling bill as an emergency hatch if the talks went sideways. Behind Jeffries and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the Democratic whip, party leaders then secured unanimous support for that petition, which heightened the pressure on Republicans to cut a deal with Biden….And Wednesday, when McCarthy failed to secure the necessary Republican votes to pass the rule governing the bill, Jeffries mobilized Democrats to buck tradition and fill the void to ensure the measure could pass — but only after it was clear that Democrats would be needed to rescue the vote….Even McCarthy was impressed with that strategy….“I probably would have done the same [thing],” McCarthy said. “Good play.” And great teamwork, Dems.

Another good post at The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner’s “Biden, Student Debt, and the 2024 Election: Today on TAP: The president could make generational justice a big winner for basic decency—and for his re-election” provides some worthy insights, including: “Buried in the text of the debt deal is a provision codifying in law Biden’s plan to end serial student debt pauses as of September, pending a Supreme Court ruling on his partial debt cancellation. If the Court rules against him, the result will be a massive jolt to younger Americans (and not-so-young Americans) saddled with debt, as well as a big macroeconomic contraction to the economy….Thanks to the debt payment pause, which began in the bipartisan CARES Act of March 2020 and was extended indefinitely by executive order on Biden’s first day in office, some 48 million former students have had a three-year respite from this financial burden, which now totals over $1.7 trillion. By September, all could be paying the full tab….When Biden announced his plan for debt cancellation in August 2022, the decision was carefully poll-tested. Strategists weighed the benefit to those saddled with debt against the annoyance of those who either never attended college or who had already repaid their debts in full….Biden needs to embrace a broad agenda of generational justice for the young. A young adult today pursuing upward mobility is not only saddled with student debt. Many are unable to buy a house, or afford rent without multiple roommates. The young have difficulty finding a stable payroll job with benefits and career prospects that are more than a gig. The calculus is even worse for African Americans and for those who did not complete college and are still stuck with debt….My generation—and Biden’s—faced nothing like this. Student debt hadn’t even been invented; college and housing were affordable; and there were plenty of career-track jobs….Young people are precisely the segment of the electorate who are somewhat skeptical of Biden’s geezer-hood and who need to be motivated to vote, big-time. The youth vote turned out big and broke heavily for Democrats in 2018, allowing a takeback of the House….We need that in 2024, and more. The old guy needs to be a radical champion of the young….Go big again, Joe.”