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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE.

No matter who.

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Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

RIP GOP book by Stanley Greenberg

R.I.P. G.O.P.

You can find out more about the return to progressive politics from our founder Stanley Greenberg in his new book!

Pre-Order Now.

The Daily Strategist

November 17, 2019

A Quarter Century Later, Prop 187 Still a Warning to Republicans

An anniversary creeped up on me that I decided to mark at New York:

In November of 1994, California voters approved Proposition 187, a Republican-backed ballot measure restricting rights and benefits available to undocumented immigrants. Originally sponsored by GOP assemblyman Richard Mountjoy, the initiative was quickly adopted by GOP governor (and former U.S. senator) Pete Wilson, who was running for reelection. Prop 187 passed by a comfortable 59/41 margin, and Wilson, who had been running well behind Democrat Kathleen Brown (sister of once and future governor Jerry Brown) in early polls, won by an equally comfortable 55/41 margin. It was arguably the high tide of Republican strength in California.

But it was also the beginning of the end of GOP hegemony in California as well, as Libby Denkmann recalls at LAist:

“It was the fall of 1994. On TV, popping up between episodes of Murphy Brown and The X-Files, ads for Governor Pete Wilson’s reelection showed grainy video of people running into the U.S. from Mexico.

“’They keep coming,’ a narrator intoned. ‘Two million illegal immigrants in California. The federal government won’t stop them at the border, yet requires us to pay billions to take care of them …’

“[W]ith 25 years’ worth of hindsight, many argue the short-term ballot victories came at a massive long-term cost for the GOP.

“Prop 187 awakened the political power of Latinos in the Golden state …

“Pete Wilson is remembered by some as the Republican governor who launched a thousand California Democrats’ careers.”

The initiative was never really implemented:

“Several anti-Prop 187 groups challenged the measure with lawsuits immediately, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. On Nov. 16, U.S. District Court Judge W. Mathew Byrne issued a temporary restraining order against the initiative’s implementation.

“Altogether, five lawsuits would be filed challenging the measure. On Dec. 14, 1994, U.S. District Court Judge Mariana Pfaelzer issued a preliminary injunction, blocking implementation on a majority of the measure’s provisions.”

When Democrat Gray Davis succeeded Wilson in 1999, the state stopped appealing adverse judicial rulings against Prop 187, and it became a dead letter — except for the fact that it positioned the Republican Party as hostile to immigrants in a state rapidly being reshaped by immigration.

Veteran Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton suggests that Prop 187 was just one of the factors in the decline and fall of the Golden State GOP, but it was a very important one:

“Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant who has been highly critical of the GOP for several years, notes that when the Cold War ended, the aerospace industry collapsed in California. The manufacturing base also deteriorated. That sent Republican middle-class engineers and blue-collar workers fleeing to other states looking for jobs.

“Meanwhile, he says, the burgeoning tech industry attracted many left-leaning ‘progressives’ into California.

“’All three of them’ — 187, loss of middle-class jobs and the tech explosion — ‘happened at the same time,’ Madrid says. ‘Any one of them would have upset the Republican Party.'”

You could say the same thing, of course, about the national Republican Party that has bent the knee to the demagogic leadership of Donald J. Trump. One of its most notable features is an updated version of the anti-immigrant revolt first exemplified by Prop 187. But you could argue that the MAGA movement generally reflects a refusal to adjust to irreversible demographic, cultural, and economic trends (Ron Brownstein calls the Trump base the Coalition of Restoration as opposed to the anti-Trump Coalition of Transformation). Like the 1994 Republican campaign in California, it worked temporarily. But it’s not a good prescription for long-term success:

“Dan Schnur, who was Wilson’s spokesman in 1994 and is now a political communications professor at USC and UC Berkeley, says: ‘What killed the Republican Party in California wasn’t Prop. 187. It was their refusal to adjust. California changed. And California Republicans refused to change with it.'”

They’re still trying to dig out of the rubble.

 


Teixeira: Paging Elizabeth Warren – Yet More Evidence That Medicare for All Is a Loser

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

Paging Elizabeth Warren: Yet More Evidence That Medicare for All Is a Loser

Reminding folks of earlier poll data:

The latest CBS News poll finds that a 66-30 majority would like to see a Medicare-type health insurance plan available to all Americans. But among that two-thirds who want to see Medicare availability for all, it’s 2:1 against having all private insurance replaced by the Medicare-type plan. That leaves the hardcore Medicare for All/the hell with private insurance crowd down to a little over 20 percent.

Typical result; there’s lots more. Medicare for All is a loser with the general voting public.

And now we have additional evidence from Alan Abramowitz’ analysis of 2018 election results. The very short summary:

“A regression analysis comparing the performance of 2018 Democratic House candidates shows that those who supported Medicare for All performed worse than those who did not, even when controlling for other factors.”

He concludes with these words of wisdom:

“It is possible that the estimated effect of Medicare for All was a byproduct of other differences between supporters and non-supporters. For example, supporters might have taken more liberal positions on a variety of other issues as well as Medicare for All. Even if that is the case, however, these findings are not encouraging to supporters of Medicare for All. They indicate that candidates in competitive races who take positions to the left of the median voter could get punished at the polls. Democratic presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results, particularly as the eventual nominee determines what he or she wishes to emphasize in the general election.”

Table 1: Support for Medicare for All among Democratic House candidates by district partisanship

Notes: District Partisanship based on 2016 presidential vote margin. A handful of districts were not included because there either was no Democratic nominee or the Democratic nominee had not yet been determined at time of survey release.

Source: Survey of Democratic House candidates by National Nurses United and data compiled by author.


Political Strategy Notes

At Mother Jones, David Corn has a perceptive take on why “The Democrats’ Impeachment Strategy Is Simple—and Risky.” As Corn writes, “Less is more. ..That’s the mantra for the House Democrats, as they take their impeachment inquiry into a new phase: public hearings. For weeks, the House committees leading this effort—the intelligence, foreign affairs, and oversight committees—have narrowly focused on one matter: the Trump-Ukraine scandal and the tale of Donald Trump apparently abusing the office of the president to obtain political dirt that could influence the 2020 election. Sure, there are a lot of other issues that Democrats have previously raised as possible grounds for impeachment—Trump allegedly obstructing justice (per the Robert Mueller report), Trump regularly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump separating children from their parents at the border, and more—but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team determined that their best bet was to zero in on one episode of wrongdoing and leave the rest alone. “It’s the KISS strategy,” one senior House Democratic staffer says. “Keep it simple, stupid.” And as one House Democrat puts it, the goal is a “medium-sized impeachment.” Nothing too elaborate, nothing too hard to follow. After the somewhat complicated Trump-Russia scandal fizzled politically, Pelosi and her crew want to base impeachment on a straightforward and comprehensible narrative. Avoid tangential plots and the need for timelines, flowcharts, and complex explanations. Don’t get hung up on the past and the 2016 election. Skip all the Russia stuff—and don’t mention Mueller ever again. Trump tried to extort a foreign government to screw with the upcoming election—and that’s impeachable enough…a medium-sized impeachment—one that ducks the totality of Trump’s misconduct—could provide the Republicans greater opportunity to fast-track a trial, quickly dismiss the entire mess, and offer what Trump will embrace as a clean bill of health. Still, if that’s the scenario that plays out, Trump will be stained—and perhaps so will some Republican senators who stick with him (depending on how the case is presented). Yet at this stage, there is no telling what the ramifications will be for the 2020 election. You can now game out it assorted ways—it helps Trump, it hurts Trump, it makes no difference. This election is likely to be shaken, rocked, and rolled by a variety of factors that no one, no matter how strong a sense of imagination they possess, can predict at this point.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reflects on the differences between the Nixon and Trump impeachments and the strategic implications: “Gallup recently contrasted its surveys on removing Trump from office with comparable polls about Nixon in August 1974. Gallup found that while 92 percent of Republicans rejected removing Trump last month, only 59 percent felt that way about Nixon…Other polls have found somewhat more Republican support for driving Trump from office, and it’s also true that by August 1974, the country had gone through more than a year of highly public Watergate inquiries…Nonetheless, no one can deny how much partisan polarization has deepened since Nixon. Moreover, with the 2020 election looming, Democrats have much less time than their forebears did 45 years ago. And they are operating in an information environment that is not conducive to sober reflection…Democrats hope that piling up evidence offered almost entirely by people with no political axes to grind will shift public opinion against Trump. Republicans hope to obscure the facts by arguing that there is no such thing as objective truth anymore because anyone who says anything critical of Trump must have a partisan motive…”

Malachi Barrett reports at mlive.com that “A new Democratic advertising campaign launched to win back rural Midwest voters highlights a Michigan woman who expressed embarrassment for supporting President Donald Trump…American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research group and political action committee, dropped $3 million on commercials that began airing Wednesday, Nov. 13, in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The ads, which feature first-person testimonials from former Trump supporters, as part of a larger effort to flip white, working-class voters in battleground states…The organization is aiming to cut into Trump’s margins in traditionally Republican parts of Michigan, according to a strategy memo shared with MLive…Trump won the state by a slim margin of 0.3%, less than 11,000 votes. American Bridge believes rural white voters could make the difference in 2020…The group doesn’t expect to win a majority of those voters, just enough to tip the scales. A smaller margin of victory among white working-class voters was critical to Democrats’ historic wins in the 2018 Congressional elections, American Bridge said in a statement.”

Here’s one of the ads from the campaign:

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides that Trump can hide his tax returns from congressional scrutiny, it looks like they will publicly revealed. As Alex Johnson reports at nbcnews: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday let stand a ruling allowing lawmakers to subpoena President Donald Trump’s accountants for years of his financial records. A lawyer for the president promised to appeal to the Supreme Court…On an 8-3 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to grant a hearing before the full court, upholding a ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the court to allow the subpoena…The decision means that unless Trump appeals to the Supreme Court and wins, the House Oversight and Reform Committee can enforce its subpoena ordering the accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, to hand over any documents in its possession related to accounts of the Trump Organization dating to January 2009.” There is no word as yet regarding how long it will take for congress to get the returns, pending high court review.

“Priorities USA is focusing on Latinos early,” reports Laura Barron-Lopez at Politico. “The Democratic super PAC is launching a sustained digital effort to woo Latinos in the run up to the 2020 presidential election, according to details of the plan provided to POLITICO…This time they are starting before 2020 and in a state that is at the heart of President Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. The digital ads which will run on Facebook and YouTube, cover pocketbook issues that Florida Latinos care about, according to the super PAC. The group didn’t specify the amount of money being spent on the Latino outreach program…The digital program includes digital banners, audio and pre-roll ads. The program also includes promoting news articles across Facebook focused on the impact of Trump’s policies on Latinos in Florida…Priorities USA said the ads will be about rising health care costs, wages, and Trump’s racist rhetoric and immigration policies.”

At The Daily Princetonian, Zachary Shevin conducts an interview with Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Florida. Gillum shares the following insights about how Democrats can win in Florida in 2020: “If you’re serious about winning this state, we’ve got to make the investment now. It boggles the mind how I hear and see and read people saying that Florida is now lost for Democrats. We got closer in the race for governor than any Democrat had in 24 years — 0.4 percent difference, 30,000 votes, at eight-and-a-half million votes cast. How in the world do you conclude that the biggest swing state in the country, the one state that could deny Donald Trump the presidency, is a state you give up on? That doesn’t make sense…The truth is, is that Florida does a terrible job on the Democratic side organizing outside of major election cycles. Republicans, however, organize inside and outside of election cycles…So what our strategy … is that, you know, we want to invest early on in registration, or reengagement. And when I say reengagement, I mean people who were registered to vote in ’16 and did not show up at the polls — right —  nationally, six million people. In Florida, there are four million eligible, registered people in my state who we got to go out there and get registered, not to mention reengage.”

As for pivotal issues, Gillum said, “Well, climate change is a real deal in Florida, so that’s going to be important for voters in my state. I also believe that health care is going to be important for voters that are sick. Whether you have it or not, in the state of Florida, and frankly around the country, when your premiums are increasing year over year over year, where Republicans are attempting to usher in the ability for insurance companies to yet again deny you coverage based off of preexisting conditions … We need a candidate who is going to speak to what can be done, if they were to be elected President, to help alleviate the unfair burden that saddles far too many families who are terrified of getting sick.”

From “Medicare for All a Vote Loser in 2018 U.S. House Elections” by Alan Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “An analysis of the impact of Medicare for All on the 2018 House elections indicates that Democratic challengers and open seat candidates in competitive districts who endorsed a version of Medicare for All similar to that proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did significantly worse than those who did not. This negative effect, close to five points of margin after controlling for a variety of other factors, was clearly large enough to affect the outcomes of some House contests…It is possible that the estimated effect of Medicare for All was a byproduct of other differences between supporters and non-supporters. For example, supporters might have taken more liberal positions on a variety of other issues as well as Medicare for All. Even if that is the case, however, these findings are not encouraging to supporters of Medicare for All. They indicate that candidates in competitive races who take positions to the left of the median voter could get punished at the polls. Democratic presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results, particularly as the eventual nominee determines what he or she wishes to emphasize in the general election.”


Impeachment Trial Could Seriously Constrain Senators Running for President

My efforts to understand and explain the murky process for impeachment trials led me to this realization which I shared at New York:

[F]or six particular Democratic presidential candidates and their campaigns (Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren), the possibility of a Senate impeachment trial occurring during the early stages of the caucus/primary season represents a potential calamity. And as the Washington Post reports, that’s a real possibility, particularly if the House drags its feet for reasons ranging from administration obstruction to the desire not to spoil the festive holiday spirit:

“House Democrats increasingly expect their impeachment effort against President Trump to stretch well past Thanksgiving, possibly forcing a Senate trial into January or later — a timeline that could disrupt the final weeks of campaigning before the party starts to choose its nominee.

“House leaders had initially hoped to hold a floor vote before the Nov. 28 holiday so the Senate could hold trial before Christmas. But the surprising number of witnesses agreeing to testify behind closed doors in the Capitol over the past few weeks has extended the timeline and sparked a debate over whether prolonged impeachment proceedings are politically prudent.”

More recently House Democrats have been talking about Xmas as a practical deadline for concluding their part of the impeachment process, which means the beginning of any Senate trial will extend well into 2020.

The standing Senate rules do require a fairly expeditious beginning for impeachment trials after the House has passed articles of impeachment, so it’s not like Mitch McConnell can deviously get it rolling the night of the Iowa Caucuses (February 3). But if the House really doesn’t get its part done until near the end of the year, you could easily see a trial running through the critical pre-Iowa stretch of frenzied activity. The Clinton trial, which was about as cut-and-dried as any presidential impeachment trial could be, lasted from January 7 until February 12, 1999. Let’s say for the sake of argument a Trump trial begins and ends precisely on those dates in 2020. It would encompass both the Iowa caucuses (February 3) and the New Hampshire primary (February 11). If it started later or ran longer, it could directly interfere with the Nevada caucuses (February 22), the South Carolina primary (February 29), or — worst-case scenario — the 12 states (including California and Texas) holding primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday (March 3).

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who is presumably privy to Mitch McConnell’s thinking, said on November 12 that he anticipated a six-to-eight week trial. That would be longer than the Clinton trial.

An impeachment trial doesn’t allow for time off to do campaign events: The Senate rules require that once the trial begins, it must stay in session six days a week (Burr suggested a daily schedule running from 12:30 to 6:30). Perhaps some senators think they could make more hay at an impeachment trial than they could hitting the potluck circuit in Iowa or working street corners in New Hampshire, as the Post suggests:

“Several senators running for president, including Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a former state prosecutor, are likely to try to use a trial of Trump as a showcase for their candidacy.”

Unfortunately, the current Senate rules compel virtual silence from senators during the trial itself, though they are free to run their mouths before it begins and after it ends. During the trial, unless precedents are ignored, all senators get to do is to send written questions to be posed by the House managers or the president’s attorneys, and then stand up and vote “guilty” or “not guilty” when the deal goes down. Not much room for showboating there.

Now I suppose it’s possible the rules could be interpreted in a way that would allow Kamala Harris and her senatorial rivals to leave the Capitol building each night of the trial, go two blocks away, and make brilliant presentations on the case against Trump or anything else that popped into their heads. But that’s likely going to be subject to ad hoc impeachment trial rules that a majority of the Senate — e.g., the Republican majority — will impose. It’s doubtful GOP senators will feel inclined to accommodate the political needs of their Democratic colleagues. In talking about the precedents dictating silence, McConnell said earlier this month:

“McConnell … warned that senators won’t be allowed to speak because they are jurors. McConnell said such silence ‘would be good therapy for a number of them.’”

If an impeachment trial is a headache for those six senators (or however many of them are still in the race, if any, when this all happens), it could be a boon to non-senators — particularly Joe Biden, who can bloviate to his heart’s desire about the lessons he learned on impeachment and all the issues involving Trump during his 44 years as a member or presiding officer of the Upper Chamber.

For candidates and their staff, all these contingencies make the already difficult task of planning and executing a campaign in the hothouse atmosphere of this cycle impossibly tricky. And for senators who want to be president, knowing that Mitch McConnell and his troops will get the final say on some of the most crucial questions of timing and procedure is like knowing that Satan gets one final shot at your soul right there at the Pearly Gates.


Public Support for Impeachment Holds Steady, But Dems Could Benefit by Keeping Focused on Constitutional Violations

From “What The Polls Say About Impeachment Before The First Public Hearing” by Laura Bronner and Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight:

Support for impeachment first shot up in late September and early October, as news was piling up about Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate his political rival, but public opinion has leveled off. As of around noon Monday, according to our impeachment polling tracker, on average, 48.0 percent of Americans said they supported impeachment in one form or another, while 44.4 percent said they didn’t support it. That’s not too different from the 49.3 percent who supported impeachment and 43.5 percent who opposed it a month earlier.

In fact, even when you break impeachment polls into categories based on question wording — specifically, those that asked if people supported beginning the impeachment process, those that asked if people supported actual impeachment, and those that asked if people supported impeachment and removal — a similar picture emerges: Support for each “flavor” of impeachment has been pretty steady since early October. That said, support for beginning the process has consistently been noticeably higher than support for impeachment or support for impeachment and removal, the latter two of which have been very similar. As of Monday morning, 51.0 percent of Americans supported beginning the impeachment process, while 46.6 percent supported impeachment and 47.4 percent supported impeachment and removal.

Bronner and Rakich add, “Since Nov. 3, however, independents have been a bit more likely to support impeachment and removal than simple impeachment, and the numbers were 44.3 percent to 41.1 percent as of Monday. We’re not sure why this might be (again, it could just be noise), but it will be interesting to see whether that trend continues into the public hearing phase of the inquiry.”

Will the outcome of Impeachment help Democrats in 2020?  Matthew Yglesias and Andre Prokop write that Trump is “plausibly down just a point or two in approval ratings — in part because most Americans already disapproved of him before the story broke, so the people he’s left with are relatively hard-core supporters. Looking at Trump’s approval as a whole, his two worst moments were the unpopular 2018 tax law and the government shutdown in early 2019. Nothing that’s come out about Ukraine has been nearly that bad for his approval numbers.”

Prokop and Yglesias add, however, “to the extent that Trump’s goal was to hurt Joe Biden’s presidential prospects, his strategy is arguably working.” However, “Biden himself is, like Trump, only down slightly since the story broke, but Warren is up quite a bit.”

In his article, “Impeachment Legalism Is a Trap Democrats Must Avoid” at Bloomberg Opinion, Noah Feldman cautions, “The single most dangerous pitfall” Democrats face “is allowing too much legal talk to obfuscate the fundamental wrongness of Trump’s conduct: using the might of his office to pressure a foreign country to destroy the candidate he thought most likely to threaten his re-election.”

Feldman warns further that “laws passed by Congress — statutes — are very detailed descriptions of specific acts that count as crimes. House Republicans will likely use statutory law to come up with legal-sounding arguments to maintain that Trump has done nothing wrong. Democrats could then fall into an abyss of prattling on about “quid pro quo” and the statutory definition of extortion. What Democrats need to do instead is name Trump’s impeachable conduct for what it is: a constitutional violation and an abuse of power…Using the presidency to get Ukraine to investigate Biden was – obviously  — a brazen attempt to gain unfair advantage in the 2020 election. That abuse of power is a high crime and misdemeanor. It merits impeachment. And legalism shouldn’t be allowed to distract the public from it.”


Teixeira: The Fight for the Suburbs

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

Here is a representative take on the 2019 election from Ron Brownstein, highlighting the movement of the suburbs away from Trump and the GOP.

“When Trump was elected, there was an initial rejection of him in the suburbs,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Virginia-based Democratic strategist. “We are now seeing a full-on realignment.”

In that way, the GOP’s losses again raised the stakes for Republicans heading into 2020. In both message and agenda, Trump has reoriented the Republican Party toward the priorities and grievances of non-college-educated, evangelical, and nonurban white voters. His campaign has already signaled that it will focus its 2020 efforts primarily on turning out more working-class and rural white voters who did not participate in 2016.

But yesterday’s results again suggested that the costs of that intensely polarizing strategy may exceed the benefits. Republicans again suffered resounding repudiations in urban centers and inner suburbs, which contain many of the nonwhite, young-adult, and white-collar white voters who polls show are most resistant to Trump. If the metropolitan movement away from the Trump-era GOP “is permanent, there’s not much of a path for Republican victories nationally,” former Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee about two decades ago, told me.”

This is fine as far as it goes but it’s important to stress that the battle for the suburbs is not over. The battle will continue into 2020 and is likely to be decisive to the outcome. That’s because the suburbs where the Democrats have been cleaning up tend to be suburbs that are fairly close to the city–“inner-ring” suburbs. But beyond the inner ring suburbs lies a vast amount of suburbia–“outer ring” suburbs, where the Democrats are not doing so well.

Robert Gebeloff explains in an excellent piece in the New York Times, where he analyzes all census tracts in the US and categorizes them on a 1-10 scale based on population and development density.

“We categorized the tracts that scored 1 or 2 as rural, and those that scored 9 or 10 as urban.

Everything in between was suburbia, although we eventually divided the suburbs into two groups as well. The reason? When we started running the numbers for demographics and 2016 election results, we realized that the more-dense suburban tracts were, as a group, far different from the less-dense tracts.

We called less-dense suburbs “outer ring,” and denser suburbs “inner ring.”…

There is a distinction within the suburbs. All of suburbia has grown more diverse, but inner-ring neighborhoods have a much higher share of nonwhite residents than outer-ring neighborhoods do.

And the inner ring is more likely to support Democratic candidates; the outer more likely to vote Republican. Our analysis jibes with what some others have pointed out, there is a relationship between density and political preference.

“Majorities tend to flip from blue to red roughly where commuter suburbs give way to ‘exurban’ sprawl,” wrote Will Wilkinson, a researcher at the libertarian Niskanen Center, in a recent report. “That’s where the political boundary of the density divide is drawn.”
If 2016 is an indication, the battle lines are clear for 2020. Hillary Clinton dominated the inner-ring suburbs, and Donald J. Trump was dominant in the outer ring.”

Where exactly the line in suburbia is drawn between Democratic and Republican strength will probably determine the outcome in 2020.


Teixeira: Reading the Tea Leaves from 2018 and 2019

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

My friend and frequent co-author, demographer Bill Frey has a good, data-packed article up on the Brookings sifting through data from 2018 and 2019 and assessing what signals there may be there for the 2020 election. He’s pretty bullish on the Democrats.

“In 2018, 83% of voters resided in counties that increased their D-R margins since 2016, including 26% that increased their D-R margins by more than 10, and 57% that increased their margins by 0 to 9. Increased D-R margins were prominent among voters in counties that voted both Democratic and Republican in 2018.

Counties with sharply increased D-R margins tend to have “Republican-leaning” attributes, when compared with all counties: greater shares of noncollege whites and persons over age 45, and smaller shares of minorities and foreign-born persons. This occurs among both Democratic-voting and Republican-voting counties, suggesting there was a shift toward Democratic support for groups in counties that helped to elect Donald Trump in 2016….

Clearly, this week’s results for Kentucky governor and Virginia statehouse seats are positive signs for Democrats, especially when viewed on top of the heft and breadth of Democratic-leaning voting trends from the 2018 midterms. The latter strongly suggest movement toward increased Democratic or reduced Republican margins for large swaths of the country, across regions and especially in the suburbs. There appears to be reduced Republican support among white voters without college degrees—especially males—along with increased Democratic support among white, college-educated women. Moreover, both the 2018 midterms and this week’s off-year elections underscore the fact that turnout in 2020 is likely to be higher than in recent elections, rising especially among Democratic-leaning groups such as the young, minorities, and highly educated.

Of course, a lot can happen in the next year, especially with a still-undecided Democratic candidate and the potential impeachment and trial of President Trump. However, several underlying forces revealed in the 2018 and 2019 November elections suggest a swing toward Democrats is possible—assuming they are able to capitalize on it.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “The ultimate guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga,” Matthew Yglesias and Andrew Prokop address the question, “What’s Going on in the Polls? Is any of this hurting Trump?”: “The potential impeachment of Donald Trump has been a hot topic of political discussion for a long time, and it’s mostly been unpopular. According to FiveThirtyEight’s comprehensive tracker of impeachment polls, in the period between the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the storm of Ukraine news, support for impeaching Trump ranged between 35 and 40 percent, with opposition consistently above 50 percent…That has changed since the Ukraine story became public knowledge, with support for impeaching Trump now hovering around 50 percent and opposition a bit below 45 percent. Note, however, that while impeachment has gotten a lot more popular, it lags behind overall approval of Trump’s job performance. A somewhat larger share of the public say they disapprove of Trump than those who say they want to see him impeached.”

Will Impeachment Matter in 2020?” Elaine Kamarck addresses the question at Brookings and observes, “Impeachment has taken on enormous importance to the political class because it is an issue of constitutional and historical import. But in the end it may not matter to voters very much at all. Opinion about Trump has been fairly stable since he was elected—he is probably the most polarizing American president since the Civil War—so impeachment may simply play into people’s already hardened attitudes. In addition, other things might end up being more important in 2020. Demographic trends like the maturation of a generation of Latino voters, for instance, may start to have electoral consequences in 2020…The fact that public opinion on impeachment and opinion on Trump appears to be stuck in a holding pattern may simply be a reflection of a firmly polarized electorate. If, as appears to be the case, a trial in the Senate is wrapped up by early 2020, impeachment may be a distant memory by November.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Democrats have put their differences above beating Trump. Bloomberg is a symptom not a cure,” merits a thoughtful read by Democrats. As Dionne, writes, “Democratic presidential candidates are doing a bang-up job of suggesting that their differences matter more than defeating Trump. And former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preparations to enter the contest won’t help…Let it be said that despite serious blind spots, Bloomberg was a very good and, on many fronts, broadly progressive mayor. He deserves our thanks for using his wealth to finance an increasingly powerful gun-control movement…But it’s hard to see his winning a lot of Democratic primaries, and not just because he turned himself into a temporary Republican to get to City Hall. From the moment word went out that he was pondering a campaign for president, he sharpened the class and ideological divisions within the Democratic electorate…Somewhere on the seventh tee, the phony populist Trump is laughing. One side of the Democratic Party is denouncing its foes as class enemies and apologists of the rich. The other argues that champions of the left will destroy the American economy. Is this how Democrats want to spend the next few months?”

Regarding the highest policy priority of the Dems, Dionne ads, “Democrats have the high ground on health care now. In Kentucky’s race for governor, Democrat Andy Beshear demonstrated that even Trump voters want to save and build on the Affordable Care Act. Why throw away this advantage? All Democrats should support universal coverage, but we can get there, as other countries have, through mixed public-private systems. Arguments over Medicare-for-all would make sense after we finish the initial work of covering everyone…But here’s the larger issue: Democrats need a leader who can remind progressives and moderates that they have far more in common than their current strife would suggest. These competing camps agree on the urgency of ousting Trump, but also on getting health insurance to everyone, moving forcefully on climate change, acting humanely on immigration, defending civil and voting rights, and pushing back against growing inequality…The person who rises to the task of pulling these sides together will deserve the nomination. Will one of these candidates even audition for the part?”

It turns out that 2019 has been a very good year for Democratic women. As Julia Manchester explains at The Hill: “Democratic women candidates backed by groups such as Emerge America continued to make gains in the 2019 elections, closing the gender gap in a number of state and local governments…In Virginia, a record 65 Democratic women won their races in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, giving Democrats majorities in both legislatures…Tuesday’s elections also saw women win mayoral races for the first time in Scranton and Tucson, and make up a majority for the first time on Boston’s City Council…Officials at Emerge, an organization devoted to electing Democratic women, emphasized the adoption of a strategy that targeted GOP-controlled districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 in Virginia…The group reported having backed over 230 candidates on the ballot in the 2019 election, with 125 of those women winning their races as of Wednesday.”

Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight: “There’s one last lesson that the 2019 results suggest about 2020, but it’s one that we already knew: Turnout is likely to be through the roof. In Kentucky, we estimate based on preliminary data that 43 percent of the voting-eligible population cast a ballot for governor; not only is that much, much higher than the 30 percent of the voting-eligible population that we estimate turned out in 2015, but it’s also higher than the 42 percent who voted in the Senate race in the regular 2010 midterm election. In Virginia, we already know that more people voted than in any state-legislative-only election since at least 1976 — and The Washington Post estimates that there could be thousands of votes left to count. If we see a corresponding spike in turnout between 2016 (already a pretty high-turnout election by recent standards) and 2020, polling places could be overwhelmed with voters. Americans are telling pollsters that their levels of interest in the upcoming election are at unprecedented highs — and according to one recent poll, they are already more excited about voting than they were on the eve of the 2016 and 2012 elections!”

In his article, “A Dem for All Seasons” at The New York Review of Books, Michael Tomasky concludes, “So it might turn out that all this hand-wringing about the Democrats is misplaced. On the other hand, if they should have learned one lesson from 2016, it would be about the perils of overconfidence. They need to put the Obama coalition back together. And they mustn’t choose between Obama-to-Trump white working-class voters and younger, more multiracial and “woke” voters. They need both. It’s the nature of the Democratic coalition, which is far more diverse—racially and ideologically—than the Republican one. Right now, the two current front-runners are speaking to only part of the coalition. The nominee will be the one—Biden, Warren, or in this still-fluid contest perhaps someone else entirely—who can best reassure the other part.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall focuses on whether “deepening animosity between Democrats and Republicans based on genuine differences over policy and ideology or is it a form of tribal warfare rooted in an atavistic us-versus-them mentality?” Edsall presents arguments for both alternatives, and quotes “an astute Democratic strategist,” who says there are more voters who “have a very negative opinion of just one party (87 percent) than identify with one of the parties (67 percent). So, negative partisanship explains the behavior of many more voters…negative partisans vote more consistently against the opposite party than partisans vote for their party.” Edsall adds that “The remaining “persuadables” — an estimated 13 percent of voters, with little or no partisan commitment — will play a central role in determining the outcome in 2020.”

Further, Edsall notes, “My source cited polling data from a “consortium of Democratic groups” showing that in 2016 the small fraction of the electorate made up of persuadables voted for Trump 41-36, but in 2018 they voted for Democratic House candidates 57-41. At the moment, he said, polling shows that these swing voters currently prefer a generic Democrat to Trump 54-28, with 19 percent undecided.” Edssall’s source adds that ““no one — including political commentators — has evidence-based answers to your question of what will move this group (or any other definition of ‘swing’ voters).”


That Perfect Xmas Present for Democrats: Impeaching Trump

As the timetable for the impeachment process becomes clearer, I’m trying to keep a close eye on it at New York:

[I]mpeaching a president is a job with a lot of moving parts and vast elements of uncertainty. It’s even more complicated when it could overlap with an extremely intense election in which the president being impeached is seeking another term. But there’s a new sense of purpose among House Democrats about getting their part of the process done by Christmas, as CNN reports:

“[I]n a series of moves this week, Democrats have shown they are rapidly moving to complete the proceedings by Christmas, something that could result in Trump being just the third president to be impeached in history.

“The schedule became apparent in recent days after House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, announced that public hearings would begin next week and also suggested Thursday there’s a limit to the witnesses they would call for the public hearings.

“Plus Democrats also withdrew a subpoena of a former White House official to ensure their proceedings were not delayed by a court battle. Schiff also decided Thursday not to subpoena someone who could have been a star witness – former national security adviser John Bolton, who privately raised concerns about the Ukraine scandal at the heart of the impeachment probe. Schiff’s decision came after the former Trump aide’s counsel warned they would sue over any subpoena.”

In other words, House leaders, convinced they have enough to impeach Trump already, will take what they can get within the next few weeks but aren’t going to slow things down to cross any t’s or dot any i’s.

“Schiff has announced that three witnesses would testify next week, and Democratic lawmakers expect at least one more week of public hearings before his panel likely to follow on the week of November 18.

“The House is then scheduled to take a recess for Thanksgiving week, giving time for Schiff’s committee — along with House Oversight and House Foreign Affairs — to finish a report detailing their findings and recommendations of their investigation.

“At that point, the House Judiciary Committee would take the lead on the impeachment push — potentially in the first week of December. Democratic sources expect that committee to have a public hearing, possibly in that week, before it votes on articles of impeachment. That vote could occur in committee in the first or second week of December, the sources said.”

Presumably this timetable would accommodate a non-Ukraine-related article of impeachment or two if House Democrats decide it’s wise to include one. After all, other committees were instructed by Pelosi back in September to consider such possible articles. If, say, the obstruction of justice suggested in the Mueller Report seems actionable, most of the evidentiary work has already been done. One possible complication involves unresolved differences over federal spending that could in theory lead to another holiday partial government shutdown like the one that occurred last year just before Christmas. But it’s now looking like a stopgap spending bill will likely extend through December.

Clearly House members in both parties would like to get the impeachment monkey off their backs by year’s end, and onto the agenda of the Senate, which is contemplating a January trial of the president. Beyond that, Nancy Pelosi and her troops would love to give the vast majority of Democrats who want to see Trump removed from office the Christmas gift of getting halfway there via articles of impeachment.


Teixeira: Propositions for Common-Sense Democrats

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

Can the Democrats Walk Down the Street and Chew Gum at the Same Time?

We shall see. John Cassidy, in a recent New Yorker column, partly based on my research, makes the case that they must do so.

“The Democratic candidate, whoever it is, needs a convincing strategy for winning at least some of the battleground states that Trump carried last time. Failing to focus on this goal relentlessly would be inviting a repeat of 2016.

At least mathematically, the elements of a successful battleground-state strategy are clear. The Democratic candidate needs to excite voters in the Democratic base, particularly minorities and highly educated whites, while also trying to appeal to as many people as possible in Trump’s core demographic, which consists of whites who don’t have a four-year college degree. Contrary to some analyses, both of these things are necessary: it isn’t an either-or choice. The Democrats need a dual strategy….

In 2016, about a third of Hispanics and Asians voted for Trump, according to Teixeira and Halpin’s figures, and so did more than four in ten college-educated whites. Conversely, even as Trump racked up a huge margin among white non-college-educated voters—thirty-two percentage points—almost a third of the people in this category voted for Hillary Clinton.

Regional differences also complicate things. In much of the Midwest, which has long been a key electoral region, non-college-educated whites still constitute a majority of the voters, or close to it. Teixeira and Halpin project that in 2020 this group will make up roughly fifty-six per cent of the eligible electorate in Wisconsin, fifty-two per cent in Michigan, roughly forty-nine per cent in Pennsylvania, and fifty-two per cent in Minnesota, which Trump lost narrowly in 2016 and is targeting again.

Because candidates can’t rely on monolithic voting patterns, they can’t rely on monolithic electoral strategies either. Successful Presidential candidates, even as they target their core supporters, somehow manage to limit their losses among groups that aren’t inherently favorable to them. That is what Barack Obama did in 2012, when he held Mitt Romney’s victory margin among white non-college-educated voters to twenty-two per cent, while racking up big victory margins among minorities and highly educated whites. This two-step garnered him three hundred and thirty-two votes in the Electoral College.

Given Trump’s popularity among working-class whites, and the emphasis that he and his campaign are placing on their vote, it would be very difficult for any Democrat in 2020 to match what Obama did in 2012. But this doesn’t mean that the Democrats should give up on this demographic. Even just preventing Trump from expanding his 2016 margin among non-college-educated whites could be sufficient to deny him a victory in key battleground states, and in the election over all, Teixeira and Halpin argue….

None of this means that the Democrats should limit efforts to mobilize minorities, college graduates, and other Democratic-leaning groups. To the contrary, it is absolutely imperative that they continue, for example, launching enrollment drives in black neighborhoods in Milwaukee and taking steps to cement their 2018 gains in affluent districts north and west of Philadelphia. That is what it means to follow a dual strategy of attacking Trump’s weaknesses and trying to neutralize his strengths.

And paying attention to working-class white voters doesn’t necessarily mean tempering progressive policy proposals like raising taxes on the rich, tackling political corruption, providing universal day care, and guaranteeing health care to everyone….

The fundamental point is that the Democrats need to lay out a policy platform that appeals to a wide range of Americans, regardless of their race, location, and educational background, while also hammering home the message that Trump is divisive, fraudulent, self-dealing, and dangerously erratic. Among white non-college-educated women, if not their male counterparts, there is already some evidence of a willing audience for this narrative….

Even if the Party’s 2020 candidate falls short of drawing even with working-class women, significantly reducing Trump’s advantage among these voters would go a long way toward assuring his defeat. Above anything else, that has to be the goal.”

Yes indeed, that does have to be the goal–which calls for the chewing gum and walking down the street trick. Put more broadly, let me reintroduce my concept of Common Sense Democrats, which I motivate and explain as follows.

Looking forward to 2020, Democrats have a lot of very important questions that can reasonably be debated, from the specific candidate to nominate to which issues to emphasize to the best campaign tactics. But there is a need for political common sense to undergird these debates. If polling, trend data, campaign history and/or electoral arithmetic make clear that certain approaches are minimum requirements for success, they should be front-loaded into the discussion. That way discussion can focus on what is truly important instead of endlessly relitigating questions that are essentially settled.

In other words, start with common sense and then build from there. There will still be plenty of room for debates between left and right in the party, but matters of common sense should be neither left nor right. They are simply what is and what anyone’s strategy, whatever their political leanings, must take into account.

Let’s call practitioners of this approach “Common Sense Democrats”. Here are 7 propositions Common Sense Democrats should agree on.

1. Of course, Democrats need to reach persuadable white working class voters. There is abundant evidence that such voters exist, that they were particularly important in the 2018 elections, that such voters have serious reservations about Trump and that they are central to a winning electoral coalition in Rustbelt states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Shifts among such voters do not have to be large to be effective.

2. Of course, Democrats need to target the Rustbelt. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were the closest states in 2016, gave the Democrats big bounceback victories in 2018 and, of states Clinton did not win in 2016, currently give Trump the lowest approval ratings.

3. Of course, Democrats need to promote as high turnout as possible among supportive constituencies like nonwhites and younger voters. But evidence indicates that high turnout is not a panacea and cannot be substituted for persuasion efforts.

4. Of course, Democrats need to compete strongly in southern and southwestern swing states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Recent election results, trend data and Trump approval ratings all indicate that these states are accessible to Democrats though less so than the key Rustbelt states. As such, they form a necessary complement to Rustbelt efforts but not a substitute.

5. Of course, Democrats need to run on more than denouncing Trump and Trump’s racism. One lesson of the 2016 campaign is that it is not enough to “call out’ Trump for having detestable views. That did not work then and it is not likely to work now. Democrats’ 2018 successes were based on far more than that, effectively employing issue contrasts that disadvantaged the GOP. Trump will be happy to have an unending conversation about those he loves to denounce—criminal immigrants, radical Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, etc–and those who denounce his denunciations. Don’t let him.

6. Of course, Democrats should not run against Trump with positions that are unambiguously unpopular. These include, but are not limited to, abolishing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency), reparations for the descendants of slaves, abolishing private health insurance and decriminalizing the border with Mexico. Whatever merits such ideas may have as policy–and these are generally debatable–there is strong evidence that they are quite unpopular with most voters and therefore will operate as a drag on the Democratic nominee.

7. Of course, Democrats should focus on what will maximize their probability of beating Trump. By this I mean there are plenty of strategies that have some chance of beating Trump–if such and such happens, if such and such goes right (cutting-edge progressive positions produce high turnout among Democratic voters but not among Republicans). You can always tell a story. But the important thing is: what maximizes your chance of victory, given what we know about political trends and the current state of public opinion. In this election, Democrats can afford nothing less.