washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Daily Strategist

October 22, 2018

Public Concerns About Health Care Provide Edge for Dems

In her article, “How Democrats could win back the House on health care, in 4 polls,” at The Fix, Amber Philips reports some good polling news for Democrats:

We have three polls out this week that tell that story.

In an Oct. 14 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 82 percent of voters said health care is one of the most important issues in their votes for Congress — precisely matching the king of top issues in elections, the economy. That poll finds voters trust Democrats over Republicans to improve their health-care situation.


(Washington Post graphics)

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll out Thursday also finds that voters say health care is the top issue, over the economy. That goes for the all-important independent vote. And it holds true for voters in swing states like Florida and Nevada, both states with competitive governor’s and Senate races.

Perhaps the most devastating find for Republicans comes from a new Fox News poll. Voters who say health care is their most important issue prefer Democrats by 24 percentage points.

Republicans, of course, are fighting back, trying to cover up their assault against Obamacare’s key provision protecting Americans with previous health conditions, but it looks like the damage is done.

Meanwhile, Democrats can gain further ground with high-turnout senior voters by calling attention to a major rip-off in the GOP’s health care bill. “Under the GOP’s health-care bill, insurers would be allowed to charge older adults up to five times more than younger people. Under Obamacare, rates were capped at three times more,” reports Michelle Fox in “Older Americans slapped with ‘age tax’ in GOP health-care bill: AARP” at cnbc.com. Fox adds,

“Right now, health care is barely affordable for those people who are over age 50. Raising it any more is just what we call an ‘age tax’ and would just make it unaffordable for them,” David Certner, legislative counsel and legislative policy director for government affairs at AARP, said in an interview with “Power Lunch.”

And while there are currently tax credits in place to help offset costs, the current bill reduces those tax credits, he noted. “There’s a double whammy here.”

Fox notes that conservative supporter of the GOP bill Jeff Miron, director of economic studies at the Cato Institute, “believes it’s the right policy to make the system work efficiently…It is only current near elderly who are going get particularly penalized by this transitional effect.”

Scant comfort for senior voters. It will be interesting to see how many of the “near elderly” are paying attention at the ballot box on November 6th.


Political Strategy Notes

“Trump ‘s provocations alone show few signs of improving the subpar turnout patterns among Latinos and millennials, two core Democratic constituencies,” notes Ronald Brownstein in “Here’s what should excite and depress Democrats so far in 2018“at CNN Politics: However, “Democrats received encouraging news from Sunday’s ABC/Washington Post poll, which found much higher levels of youth engagement than almost any other recent survey. But that result looks like an outlier compared to most other polls. And even if young people participate in somewhat higher numbers, their share of the vote could fall if they don’t keep pace with the greater-than-usual midterm interest evident among other voter groups. By 2020, millennials will significantly exceed baby boomers as a share of eligible voters, but based on their turnout trajectory they will continue to lag them among actual voters. That would be a huge opportunity cost for Democrats given Trump’s consistently low marks with the generation (apart from younger non-college whites).”

Geoffrey Skelley presents the case that “Young Voters Might Actually Show Up At The Polls This Year: At least, more of them than usual might” at FiveThirtyEight: “Looking at the historical trends, there’s no question that youth voter turnout is consistently low in midterms, but exit poll data from competitive statewide elections in 2017 suggests that 2018 could set a record high for young voter participation….Polling from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics also gives us reason to believe we may see high turnout from young voters. The institute conducts a long-running, large-sample poll of young Americans…[I]n the IOP’s spring 2018 poll, 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds answered they would “definitely” vote, which was a new record high.”

From Jennifer Rubin’s column, “Democrats should thank McConnell for the last-minute assist” in the Washington Post: “Minority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pounced. “Senator Mitch McConnell, President Trump, and their fellow Republicans blew a 2 trillion dollar hole in the federal deficit to fund a tax cut for the rich, he said in a written statement. “To now suggest cutting earned middle-class programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid as the only fiscally responsible solution to solve the debt problem is nothing short of gaslighting.” He added with relish, “As November approaches, it’s clear Democrats stand for expanding affordable health care and growing the middle class, while Republicans are for stripping away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid to fund their giveaways to corporate executives and the wealthiest few.” He might have sent flowers as well in thanks for delivering a closing message to Democrats who have already been focusing on health care.”

Rubin adds, “The main GOP policy goals — cutting entitlements, cutting taxes for the rich and repealing protection for preexisting conditions — are extremely unpopular. (Republicans’ positions on climate change, “dreamers,” the wall and plenty else are also out of sync with voters.) In the final stretch before Election Day, Democrats are likely to remind voters of the GOP’s ambitions should they retain control of both houses. With many voters already saying they want a check on Trump, McConnell reiterated the policy stances that voters fear most. Schumer and his party couldn’t have asked for a better “October surprise.”

in “People are searching for voter registration info at presidential-year levels,” Philip Bump writes at The Washington Post, “Searching for “register to vote”…is probably a good measure of how much interest new voters have in the election…People are searching “register to vote” at near-presidential-election levels — suggesting a surge in interest among less frequent voters…Averaging the data across all states, the pattern is obvious. 2018 does not look like 2010 or 2014 in terms of searches for voter registration information…As with most other election-related metrics, it’s not clear how much significance this has. But the prospect of a wave election powered by newly motivated voters seems as though it would look much more like this than like the search pattern from, say, 2010.”

“Over just two weeks in September a limited-liability company calling itself News for Democracy spent almost $400,000 on more than 16 million impressions for a network of 14 Facebook pages that hadn’t existed until August,” reports Alexis C.Madrigal in his post “The Secretive Organization Quietly Spending Millions on Facebook Political Ads: Meet the liberal group that’s running a new breed of digital campaign” at The Atlantic. “From May 7 to October 16—the period that Facebook’s newly created archive of political advertising covers—News for Democracy paid from $1.2 million $4.6 million to create, at a minimum, 45 million impressions through more than 2,600 ads. (Facebook’s data offer ranges, rather than precise amounts, of dollars spent or impressions generated…the number of people who saw these ads is certainly higher, and possibly much higher.)…The biggest of News for Democracy’s ad buys went to pages with names like Women for Civility (8 million impressions), Better With Age (7.2 million), Our Flag Our Country (5.7 million), Living Free (5.4 million), and The Holy Tribune (4.2 million). Most of the ads consisted of one-minute videos, done in that Facebook style with text sliding around over footage making a single point. The ads were shown to two very specific groups of people: women ages 55 to 64 in Arkansas and mostly male Kansans under the age of 44…Despite the God-and-country nature of the page names, the actual content was left-leaning…Their message is the same: Republicans want to take away protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, and that would hurt the nice, relatable people in the videos.”

“In terms of our ratings, this week’s changes leave 212 seats at least leaning to the Democrats, 201 at least leaning to the Republicans, and 22 Toss-ups. Democrats need to win six of the Toss-ups to win the House, and all the other seats that currently lean to them (some of which are still very much in play), to win the House.” — From Kyle Kondik’s post “The Drive for 25: An updated seat-by-seat analysis of the House: Democrats closing in on majority but it’s not a sure thing” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Some of the Democratic women veterans running for congress, from a video by Serve America PAC:


A great video, although one commenter, ‘pixxer1’ notes a couple of flaws that could be corrected easily enough: “You could be helpful to these women by writing their names and district numbers below the video. My only complaint about this otherwise excellent video is that they go by so fast at the end that someone in their district who was unaware of them would not have time to notice the information.” Maybe also emphasize that these are Democratic women.

The next time you hear/read a Trump supporter arguing that “at least he keeps his promises,” you can refer him to Matthew Yglesias’s article, “The biggest lie Trump tells is that he’s kept his promises: A raft of populist pledges have been left on the cutting room floor” at vox.com. In addition to ditching his promises about Obamacare, releasing his taxes and no big tax breaks for the rich, Yglesias adds “Trump promised to break up America’s largest banks by reinstated old Glass-Steagall regulations that prevented financial conglomerates from operating in multiple lines of business…Trump promised price controls on prescription drugs…Trump promised to “take the oil” from Iraq to reduce the financial burden of US military policy…Trump promised many times that he would release his tax returns and promised to put his wealth into a blind trust…Trump vowed rollback of climate change regulations but said he was committed to upholding clean air and clean water goals…Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure package.”


Don’t Believe the Polling Hype

I read an awful lot of stuff about polls, and know just enough about polling to know (most of the time) when I’m being spun. Having seen one clear example, I decided to slice and dice it at New York.

Polling averages like those published by RealClearPolitics and the highly masticated poll-based analysisat FiveThirtyEight are a good corrective to the tendency to see only the results that confirm the reader’s biases, hopes, and dreams. But the announcement of polls is often accompanied by the blare of partisan trumpets, and the results laundered by a partisan spin cycle. This is very evident with respect to a piece at CNBC today. Here’s the lede:

“With economic optimism soaring in the country, will Democrats be able to sweep to power in either house of Congress or will buoyant sentiment help Republicans keep hold of their Congressional majorities?

“The latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey offers mixed signals, but leans against a wave Democratic election like that those that swept Republicans to power in 2010 and 2014.

“The poll of 800 Americans across the country, with a margin of error of 3.5 percent, found a six-point Democratic lead on the question of who voters will choose in the November congressional elections. The 42 percent to 36 percent margin is not far from what pollsters would expect given the greater percentage of Democratic registered voters.

“‘A six point differential is not something that’s going to cause a big electoral wave,’ said Micah Roberts, the Republican pollster on the CNBC poll, a partner Public Opinion Strategies. ‘Economic confidence that people have among a lot of groups is providing a buffer’ for Republicans.”

1) So the findings “lean against a wave election like those that swept Republicans to power in 2010 and 2014.” It’s hard to understand exactly what this means. Republicans picked up 63 net House seats in 2010; nobody’s predicting Democrats will do that well, and they need just 23 seats to win control of the House. Republicans netted 13 House seats in 2014. That isn’t “like” 2010. If this is supposed to be a reference to the Republican conquest of the Senate in 2014, we’re really mixing apples and oranges since a national poll of partisan preferences has little or nothing to do with a Senate landscape that exists in one-third of the states.

2) This is a poll of 800 adults — not registered voters, much less likely voters. That’s a very imprecise sample. And the Margin of Error of 3.5 percent could be pretty significant when it comes to a generic ballot difference — the key statistic in the poll — of 6 percent.

3) The suggestion that the Democrats’ margin in party preferences (the so-called generic congressional ballot) is meaningless because it’s “not far from what pollsters would expect given the greater percentage of Democratic registered voters” is very misleading. The generic ballot includes Democrats, Republicans, and independents; if the plurality of Democratic registration determined it, Democrats would always have an advantage, which they don’t.

4) All the economic data in this poll is interesting, but isn’t terribly predictive when it comes to midterm elections, which are pretty highly correlated to overall presidential approval ratings (which have been underwater almost the entirety of the Trump presidency) and to the generic congressional ballot. Economic perceptions can help explain why voters feel the way they do, but if “economic optimism is soaring,” that will show up in the more predictive poll findings.

5) At varying points CNBC suggests the poll shows there probably won’t be a “wave Democratic election” or a “big electoral wave” or a “massive wave election.” Nowhere is there any definition of the phantom phenomenon the data are supposed to rebut. Presumably a Democratic takeover of the House would be considered a “wave,” if not a “massive wave,” whatever that means. CNN’s Harry Enten thinks a Democratic generic ballot advantage of six to eight points will be sufficient to accomplish that; Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz thinks four points could be enough. Others think it will require a bigger margin. But this particular poll doesn’t provide any decisive guidance on the subject.

At the moment, the RealClearPolitics polling average on the generic ballotquestion gives Democrats a 7.2 percent advantage. FiveThirtyEight’s gives Democrats an 8.6 percent lead. Both these averages include the CNBC poll, though not very high in their listings, because it was conducted from October 4–7, which not exactly super-fresh in the world of public opinion.

I went through the analysis above not because this particular poll used a questionable methodology (it didn’t) or is somehow useless (it’s not). But it’s important to know when the presenter of polling data is selling you a bill of goods for her or his own reasons. There will be a lot more of that as November 6 approaches.


Judis: Why The Left Must Rethink Economic Nationalism

In his New York Times op-ed, “What the Left Misses About Nationalism: The perception of a common national identity is essential to democracies and to the modern welfare state,” John B. Judis warns, “In the United States, Mr. Trump’s nationalist policies have not been without merit. Where his predecessors have feared alienating China, he has boldly challenged its transfer of technology, cybertheft and hidden trade subsidies and barriers.”

However, Judis, author of “The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization,” adds, “But much of what Mr. Trump has done to make America great may eventually make it poorer”:

His corporate tax cut accelerates globalization’s race to the bottom. Much of the savings have already gone to corporate buybacks rather than new investment, and the resulting loss of tax revenues will threaten social spending for the people he claims to represent…His Hobbesian take-no-prisoners approach to trade and foreign policy — sowing conflict with allies as well as rivals and foes — will threaten the underpinnings of global peace and prosperity, which still depends on a grudging acceptance of American economic and military power. There are already foreshadowings of future financial disorder — in discussions by the European Union, Russia and China to defy American sanctions against Iran by creating a new funding authority that would evade the dollar and by Russia and China’s decision to use their own currencies rather than the dollar as the medium of exchange. Mr. Trump’s immigration initiatives, too, have merely reinforced cultural resentments and done little to stem the oversupply of unskilled and easy-to-exploit unauthorized immigrants.

“In all of these areas,” Judis writes, “Mr. Trump has harmed, not strengthened, our nation.” However, Judis adds,

Yet in the United States, the liberal opposition has generally failed to acknowledge what is valid in the today’s nationalist backlash. Many liberal pundits and political scientists continue to echo Hillary Clinton in characterizing Mr. Trump’s supporters in 2016 as deplorables. They denounce Mr. Trump’s tariffs without proposing any plausible means of counterbalancing the huge surpluses from China and Germany. They dismiss as a lost cause the attempt to revive the towns of the Midwest and South by reviving manufacturing. They rightly insist that the United States find a way to integrate and assimilate the country’s 12 million or more unauthorized immigrants, but they ignore the continuing flood of people without papers crossing the border or overstaying their visas and they dismiss attempts to change national priorities toward skilled immigrants.

Here is the simple truth: As long as corporations are free to roam the globe in search of lower wages and taxes, and as long as the United States opens its borders to millions of unskilled immigrants, liberals will not be able to create bountiful, equitable societies, where people are free from basic anxieties about obtaining health care, education and housing…To achieve their historic objectives, liberals and social democrats will have to respond constructively to, rather than dismiss, the nationalist reaction to globalization.

Somewhere in between Trump’s reckless trade policies and the Clinton era’s unbridled globalism there is a sound trade and immigration strategy that can benefit American workers. If the Democrats don’t find it, explain it and own it soon, others will — and win the loyalty of working-class voters needed for an enduring political majority.


Teixeira: Dems Have Rising Momentum in Rust Belt

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

Something Is Happening Here But You Don’t Know What It Is–Do You, Mr. Trump?

The news from the Rustbelt continues to be very poor for the GOP–yet this is the region that sent Donald Trump to the White House. What’s going on?

Here’s a snippet from Thomas Edsall’s Times’ column on the Rustbelt:

“Nate Silver, the founder of the political website 538, tweeted:

‘By far the Democrats’ strongest region in Senate + Gov + House polling has been the Midwest, and I don’t think you’d really gather that from the tonality of the reporting, which tends to fixate on demographic change and therefore finds races in the South & the West a lot sexier.’

According to both Democratic and Republican operatives, Republican difficulties in the region stem in part from the trend among many Obama 2012-to-Trump-2016 voters to switch back to the Democrats.

Nick Gourevitch, whose Democratic firm, Global Strategy Group, is polling in the Midwest, wrote in an email: “In general, we are seeing Obama-Trump districts returning to the fold as competitive seats.” He went on:

“Our postelection research on Obama-Trump voters showed that many of them were conflicted voters who had mixed feelings about supporting the president and that not all of them were the die-hard Trump supporters some in the media like to report them to be.”

Huh. So maybe all those Obama-Trump voters aren’t hopeless racists the Democrats are better off ignoring.

Martin Longman adds on the Washington Monthly blog:

“Trump’s victory came about because he surprisingly won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin which were all considered part of an impenetrable blue wall for the Democrats, but the Democrats look extremely strong in both the senate and governor’s races in all three of those states.

This can’t be explained by demographic change and it isn’t based solely on turnout models and assumptions. A lot of Democrats who voted for Trump in the industrial Midwest just have no intention of voting for a Republican in the upcoming midterms…..

It’s the formerly blue element that distinguishes the Midwest from other Trump strongholds. Many midwestern lifelong Democrats were attracted to Trump precisely because he was taking a battle-ax to the Republican establishment and so it’s unsurprising that these voters won’t transfer their loyalty from Trump to down-ticket conservatives. Because of union membership and socioeconomic status and tradition, these voters having been voting against Republicans all their lives. They made an exception for Trump and many still support him. Some will even vote for candidates that promise to help the president or that Trump has explicitly endorsed. But the snapback comes from the fact that most longtime Democrats supported Trump but not the party he leads.”

And a new Politico/AARP poll of Pennsylvania finds:

“Pennsylvania was the linchpin of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, but it could be ground zero of Democrats’ 2018 comeback. Not only are the incumbent Democratic senator and governor prohibitive favorites to win reelection, but Democrats could also pick up as many as a half-dozen congressional seats — roughly a quarter of the seats the party needs nationwide to win back the House.

Fewer than two years after Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Pennsylvania since 1988, a new POLITICO/AARP poll shows both Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf with double-digit leads over their GOP challengers. And Democrats have a slight edge on the generic congressional ballot — which, combined with a new, court-imposed congressional-district map unwinding GOP gerrymandering, portends major gains in next month‘s elections.”

This is a trend to keep an eye on. Not only will it be key to Democrats’ results in 2018 but sustaining it will be central to defeating Trump in 2020. In fact, you could reasonably say if the Democrats can sustain this momentum in the Midwest/Rustbelt through 2020 their chances of defeating Trump will be very good indeed. Of course, Trump will pull out all the stops to reach voters in this area of the country in the next two years and he will by no means be easy to defeat. But developments this year could make for a very promising beginning for Project Trump One Term President.


Political Strategy Notes

In her Washington Post column, “The corruption of the GOP is complete: So what’s Plan B?,” Jennifer Rubin writes: “Four weeks from this Wednesday (the day after the midterm elections), sorry, will commence the lead-up to the 2020 presidential race. Any Republicans thinking of challenging President Trump because they recoil from the party of Trump is, I hate to break it to them, out of luck. The party wants the mocking cruelty, the attacks on the press and on women, the protectionism and the white nationalism. These things define it…Respectful and clean government, values-based leadership of the free world, responsible stewardship of the environment and a commitment to reform are no longer on the GOP agenda. The Trump sycophants, every bit as incoherent and bullying as the president, run the place.

“A number of Republicans running for governor or senator in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including several who hitched their wagon to Trump’s political movement, are behind in polls by double digits, a remarkable turnabout in swing states that were key to the president’s 2016 victory,” Michael Scherer and Robert Costa write in “In Trump country, Republican candidates this year fall flat” in The Washington Post. “If current polling averages hold, Democrats will maintain all their Senate seats in those states, pick up a handful of House seats and, in some cases, retake the governors’ mansions. In nearby Iowa, a state Trump won by nearly 10 points, the Democratic candidate for governor was running about even with the Republican governor in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Polling this week found Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) trailing his Democratic opponent, Tony Evers…The dramatic shift has forced political strategists to reevaluate their post-mortem lessons from the 2016 election, while raising new questions about Trump’s staying power in 2020. Democratic strategists, who worried that Iowa and Ohio were slipping away from them in presidential years, are now heartened and have begun to return their attention to the traditional bellwethers.”

Scherer and Costa add further that, “We have lost millions of members of our party in the last year,” said John Weaver, a Republican adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a Trump critic, reflecting on how Trump’s bid split the party. “A MAGA candidate who runs as a junior member of the walking dead and wins the primary is going to find themselves shot in the general election…Trump’s decision to renegotiate trade agreements with Mexico and Canada, and to start an escalating tariff war with China, have muddled the political fallout in the Midwest, even though the economic effects have been relatively pronounced. Rising steel and aluminum prices, falling soybean prices, and new restrictions on car imports have sparked a wave of headlines in the region about layoffs and struggling farmers.”

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent writes that “it is necessary to say that, yes, some leftist protesters have gone too far. Yes, generally speaking, it’s bad to chase people out of restaurants, and it’s bad to menace people, and it’s bad to bust up property. Yes, there is a real distinction between legitimate if angry and raucous political dissent and true mob action. But as Brian Beutler says, Republicans are elevating isolated examples of the latter in bad faith — to distract from the true source of the illiberal and authoritarian forces that have been loosed upon the land…Those “lock her up” chants aren’t taking place in some sealed-off TV universe that has no connection to Trump’s ongoing degradation of the rule of law and efforts to stoke civil discord. They are high-profile manifestations of the illiberal and authoritarian forces that constitute the real danger to civil peace and democracy right now.”

“Democrats’ position in the contest for the House of Representatives is the best it’s been since June, but they remain dependent on turnout of less frequent voters, as well as winning over Trump voters from 2016…If the elections were held today, Democrats would stand to win 226 seats (more than the 218 needed for a majority) with Republicans winning the remaining 209,” write Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto at cbsnews.com. “The margin of error on each of these estimates is plus or minus 14 seats, which means that there’s still the prospect of Republicans retaining control. This range of possible outcomes in the model is wider than it was this summer. Many key races are extremely close, and it wouldn’t take much movement from where things stand now to swing many seats in either direction…Our Democratic seats estimate has slowly but steadily ticked up since we launchedthe CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker this summer. Our current estimate is four seats higher than it was in August, by which time candidates had been nominated to the general election in most districts. This uptick can be explained by a higher share of Trump voters crossing over to the Democrats. While this group is small in absolute terms (it’s 8 percent of Trump voters nationally), it is larger than the share of Clinton voters supporting Republicans this year (about 3 percent) and has grown since August.”

Ronald Brownstein explains in “The Epicenter of Republican Vulnerability in the House” at The Atlantic that “the trade-off Trump is imposing—is measured in the danger gathering for House Republicans in swing districts, primarily in white-collar suburbs, where the party can’t win just by increasing GOP turnout and instead must appeal to a broader range of voters. That risk extends beyond just the Clinton-Republican districts: Democrats are seriously contesting more than two dozen House seats that narrowly voted for Trump in 2016, though the increased GOP energy evident after Kavanaugh could push some of those seats out of reach. The epicenter, then, of the GOP’s House vulnerability remains the 25 Republican-held districts that rejected Trump for Clinton from the outset.”

“The Democrats’ map in the House is fairly robust,” notes Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, “because they aren’t overly reliant on any one type of district. (This stands in contrast to the Senate, where most of the battlegrounds fit into a certain typology: red and rural). While House battlegrounds are somewhat whiter, more suburban and more educated than the country overall, there are quite a few exceptions — enough so that Democrats could underperform in certain types of districts but still have reasonably good chances to win the House. This differs from Hillary Clinton’s position in the Electoral College in 2016, in which underperformance among just one group of voters in one region — white working-class voters in the Midwest — was enough to cost her the election.”

“A 2016 Survey of the Performance of American Elections found that 30 percent of registered youth did not vote because they said they couldn’t get to the polls,” notes Gabrielle Gurley at The Amerian Prospect. “Inadequate transportation was the third most-cited reason for not showing up, placing just behind disliking the candidates and issues and being too busy or having a conflict like work or school…Some urban and suburban voters can experience polling place access challenges that affect turnout if they live in areas underserved by transit or are plagued by traffic congestion. Rural voters often have higher turnout rates, since traffic is not a factor in getting to a polling place—provided they own a vehicle…Twelve states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, use vote centers, designated locations where any registered voter can go and vote even if they don’t live in the area. Vote centers, for instance, can make life easier for registered voters by enabling them to vote near their worksite when they can’t make it home. They are also cheaper for states and localities to operate. California (where nearly half the electorate votes by mail) will adopt vote centers this year in Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo counties.”

David Atkins writes at The Washington Monthly: “The conventional wisdom just under a month from election day is that Republicans are poised to hold or even expand their Senate majority, even as they likely give up the House majority. Conventional wisdom is often wrong, but all available evidence based on the polling seems to suggest it’s on target at the moment. It’s possible, of course, that there is a massive wave of Democratic votes that is being undercounted by traditional polling methods, but it would be unwise to stake serious predictions on it…It seems incontrovertible at this point that the battle of Judge Kavanaugh has both helped and hurt Republicans. On the downside for them, the majority of Americans are upset by Kavanaugh’s confirmation and want to see continued investigations into allegations of assault and other misbehavior. On a broader level, resistance to conservative policies and tactics has never been fiercer and more adamant than it is today, mostly due to the extremism and cruelty that is now so obviously inherent to movement conservatism. Millennials, women and people of color are overwhelmingly determined in their opposition to the Republican Party, nor is that likely to change in the near future.”


Teixeira: Time for the Fourth Way?

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

Remember the Third Way, that crazy nineties thing? Or maybe you’re trying to forget it. Spearheaded by fearless leaders Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroder, it was supposedly a reinvention of the left to adapt to a new stage of capitalism and channel the benefits of that dynamic system to the middle class and poor. That meant jettisoning many traditional programs of the left and concentrating on unleashing capitalism, rather that criticizing it. The resulting cornucopia of growth would be good for everybody. That was, the Third Wayers said, the only road forward.

That didn’t work out so well. Turns out capitalism, left to its own devices, is still capable of great damage and dramatic underperformance for most of the population. It is therefore of interest to see former proponents of the Third Way admitting it’s time for a rethink–a big rethink. One such is William Galston, who was Deputy Assistant to President Clinton for Domestic Policy and one of leading theorists of the whole Third Way movement, especially in its US “New Democrat” form. Galston’s article at the British site, Unherd, “How the Third Way Lost Its Way“, is quite critical of his former movement and says:

“The Third Way’s programme of incremental adjustments to social democracy within a framework of optimism about globalisation, democratisation, and demographic diversity can do little to address today’s much deeper structural problems…

To stem rising economic inequality and geographical divergence, we will need more government intervention and regulation than the creators of the Third Way contemplated, along with much greater investment in the fundamentals of equal opportunity. To sustain a rules-based international order, the rules must pay less attention to economic aggregates – and more to sectors, regions, and economic classes – than the proponents of the WTO imagined. To be sustainable, immigration regimes will have to pay more attention to the economic and cultural effects of entrenched practices. What works in San Francisco will not necessary work in Scranton; the Midlands may reject what London cherishes.

In the international domain, the decision to allow China to enter the World Trade Organisation without committing to the practices of a market economy has produced distortions that the West must address – but from a far weaker position than it enjoyed two decades ago.”

No argument with any of this but I do think the article lets the Third Way off a bit easy in its original incarnation. Galston’s view seem to be that it was right on in the nineties, just times changed so it’s not so good any more. My critique is sterner.

The Third Way, as Galston notes, posited that the structure of capitalist societies was changing and that the traditional working class was becoming less important. But that analysis went little beyond observations on the white collarization of work and the assertion that the left was best-served by leaving capitalism alone to generate riches that could be redistributed and repurposed . The former view showed only a crude understanding of the depth of the social transformation affecting Western industrial societies, while the latter was simply wrong as an assessment of contemporary capitalism’s ability to function well without proper guidance and regulation.

It was not, and is not, unreasonable to argue that fast and equally distributed economic growth is critical to providing adequate levels of economic mobility for the middle class and poor. Third Way advocates, with their starry-eyed view of contemporary capitalism, thought they had found the right approach to producing such growth. They had not.

The left can and must do better. Time for a Fourth Way that deals with actually-existing capitalism instead of the benign version favored by the Third Way movement.


Republicans May Mobilize Against Feinstein–And For Her Progressive Opponent

A very strange byproduct of the Kavanaugh saga is beginning to emerge out here in California. I wrote about it at New York:

Going into the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking minority member Dianne Feinstein had some things to think about related to her re-election bid this year. Her opponent (fellow-Democrat Kevin de León, who won a general election slot under California’s Top Two primary system by finishing a distant second to the incumbent on June 5) has criticized her explicitly for insufficient partisanship in the Senate, and implicitly for sticking around too long (she is 85 years old and has held her seat for 27 years). To combat this narrative, she needed to look like an alert and articulate leader of committee Democrats in the hearings, not a wobbly bridge to Republicans.

During the regular Kavanaugh hearings from September 4-7, Feinstein probably cleared both hurdles. She wasn’t as aggressive in questioning Kavanaugh as her California colleague Kamala Harris, or Cory Booker, or Mazie Hirono. But she wasn’t reticent in challenging Kavanaugh, either. And while Feinstein occasionally showed her age, she looked pretty sharp in the geriatrics ward occupied by senior Judiciary members like Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Pat Leahy.

Still, a PPIC survey of California taken just after the hearings (from September 9-18) showed her lead against de León shrinking to eleven points (40/29); she led him 44/12 in the primary (with 30 — that’s right, 30 — other candidates dividing up the rest of the vote). So it was at best a mixed blessing for her that she became a far more central figure in the subsequent hearing involving Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, whose letter alleging a sexual assault by the judge had been withheld by Feinstein out of concern for Ford’s privacy (it was ultimately leaked by an as-yet-unknown source after rumors had spread of its existence). She again handled herself well in questioning Ford, but then was subjected to an extended pummeling by Kavanaugh himself and most of her Republican colleagues for “sitting on”the Ford letter until so late in the confirmation process — with broad hints that she was the leaker.

Most Democrats in California and elsewhere defended Feinstein from the attacks over her handling of Ford. But not Kevin de León, who began criticizing his opponent from practically the moment the story about Ford started trickling out. CalMatters reported his arguments:

“De León — who last week called Feinstein’s approach a ‘failure of leadership’ — said that if he were in Feinstein’s situation, he would have shared a redacted version of the letter with fellow Judiciary Committee members.

“’I believe that Christine Ford’s confidentiality could have been kept and at the same time this issue could have been dealt with,’ he said. ‘But it was neither. And it wasn’t until the pressure mounted, because of the press, because of the leaks, that (Feinstein) started acting.’”

It’s unclear how many voters heard or agreed with de León’s critique; given the intense polarization surrounding the Ford and Kavanaugh testimony, it’s possible some Democrats will decide Feinstein was too hesitant in the whole affair. But de León also may have erred by opening himself up to counter-criticism concerning his own handling of sexual-harassment allegations in the state senate, for which he is responsible as Majority Leader. On the other hand, the Ford/Kavanaugh hearing and the fallout from it may have given help to his candidacy from an unexpected direction: Republican voters.

Powerline’s Steven Hayward made the case for what he called a “delicious possibility”:

“California Republicans have it in their power to punish Feinstein for her role in the Kavanaugh nomination process by voting en masse for de León. Since the Democrats are heading fast to the far left, why not help them out on this self-destructive course …

“There has been speculation that Feinstein launched the late stunt on Kavanaugh because she was worried about losing to de León. It would be the height of irony if it was Republicans delivered a humiliating blow and ignominious end to her long career as a result of that bad faith act.”

Would Republican voters actually want to “punish” Feinstein so badly that they’d vote for the progressive de León? It might seem counterintuitive, but then again, attendees at Donald Trump’s latest rally in Iowa seemed to be in a genuine hate-rage towards Feinstein, as The Hill reported:

“Attendees at President Trump’s campaign rally in Iowa on Tuesday night chanted ‘lock her up’ after the president questioned whether Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) leaked allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”

The PPIC poll that showed Feinstein’s lead over de León shrinking showed self-identified Republicans preferring the latter to the former, despite her centrist reputation. But here’s the more important thing: 52 percent of Republicans told PPIC they did not plan to vote for either Democrat. If they stampeded to de León out of anger at Feinstein, the race could get very interesting between now and November 6.


Is the GOP’s ‘Kavanaugh Bump’ for Real?

In his Washington Post article, “This is not what a pro-Kavanaugh electoral backlash looks like,” Philip Bump writes,

There are certainly signs that the partisan fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court goosed Republican enthusiasm for the midterm elections.

“This has actually produced an incredible surge of interest among these Republican voters going into the fall election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said to USA Today after the final vote to confirm Kavanaugh. “We’ve all been perplexed about how to get our people as interested as we know the other side is — well, this has done it.”

A survey by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist released last week indicated that McConnell’s excitement might be warranted: After trailing Democrats in enthusiasm during the summer, Republican enthusiasm for voting has caught up.

However, Bump adds that “a new CNN-SSRS poll suggests that the most enthusiastic voters are not those Americans most interested in rising to Kavanaugh’s defense…Those most enthusiastic about voting are much more negative on Kavanaugh than those not very enthusiastic about voting next month.”

Also, Bump notes, “CNN also asked voters which party’s congressional candidates they preferred. Among all voters, the Democrats had a nine-point advantage…Among those voters most likely to vote, the advantage was 13 points, up from 10 points before the Kavanaugh fight.”

Moreover, in his post at The Optimistic Leftist, “Is the Generic House Ballot Going Back Up?” Ruy Teixeira notes:

Some of us thought that once Kavanaugh was confirmed, the Democrats might start actually doing better on the House level, as Democratic anger crystallized and Republican hyper-engagement subsided. Recent results suggest that may be happening–emphasis on the “may” because it’s still too early to know for sure. But Ipsos’ new release reports a +12 Democratic lead on the generic and CNN’s has a +13 Democratic lead; these new releases have sent the Democrats’ lead in the 538 rolling aggregate back over 8 points.

So Mitch and Trump can keep on beating the Kavanaugh-as-victim drum. But it appears that it doesn’t provide much value added for the GOP in terms of the midterm elections. Indeed, it may be quite the opposite, as more conservative voters decide that the Kavanaugh confirmation is old news and move on to more immediate concerns.


The Democrats’ Latino Turnout Problem Returns

Since this is a subject I’ve written about on and off for years, I decided to address it at New York as we approach the midterms:

In a midterm election that is essentially a referendum on the presidency of Donald J. Trump, you might figure one demographic group would be a reliable source of strong Democratic support: Latinos. Trump’s signature political message, after all, is the demonization of Latino immigrants as presumed violent criminals preying on innocent citizens and turning our cities into hellscapes; so menacing that a physical wall must be built to defend the country against them. Aside from his general contempt for Latinos, Trump’s specific policies, particularly the separation of refugee families at the border and the deployment of ICE as an aggressive deportation squad far from the border, seem designed to repel Latino voters as much as they attract voters who fear them. With Republican resistance to anti-immigrant measures melting into insignificance, a strong Latino backlash against the GOP might be expected.

Instead, less than a month before the midterms, Democrats are fretting about the Latino vote — both the percentages they will receive, and more importantly, turnout levels — as a variable that could minimize or maximize their national gains. There is plenty of evidence that Trump’s rhetoric and policies have indeed angered a lot of Latino voters. But there is counter-evidence suggesting that a durable minority of Latinos will continue to support Trump and his party, as Leon Krauze notes this week:

“While Trump was enacting his anti-immigrant agenda, Latino voters seemed to have slowly warmed up to the president. In last week’s NPR/PBS/Marist poll, 41 percent of Hispanics approved of Trump’s performance (black Americans? 12 percent). This is no outlier. Another recent poll put Trump’s approval among Latinos at 35 percent. An average of both would put Trump—again, an overtly nativist president—within about 10 points of Barack Obama’s 49 percent approval among Hispanic at roughly the same time in his presidency.”

Having said all that, Latinos remain what they have been since at least 2008: a growing and solidly (if not monolithically) pro-Democratic demographic group. But they also participate in elections at a relatively low rate. And it’s not at all certain that anger at Trump will solve the Latino turnout problem for Democrats.

The specter of Trump himself did not frighten Latinos into turning out in big numbers in 2016: according to the Pew Hispanic Center, turnout in that demographic basically stayed the same in 2016 (47.6 percent) as in 2012 (48.0 percent). More to the point, Latino turnout in midterm elections has been miserable and steadily declining (as measured by percentages, not raw numbers; rapid population growth has guaranteed rising numbers). According to Pew, the percentage of eligible Latinos voting in midterms dropped from 38 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2010, and then to 27 percent in 2014. In that last midterm, turnout among whites was 46 percent, and among African-Americans was 41 percent.

Why is Latino turnout so low in midterms? There are various theories, ranging from general civic disengagement and mistrust of political institutions, to the high percentage of Latinos who are millennials — another group prone to underrepresentation in non-presidential contests. Some Latino activists blame the Democratic Party for a low level of investment in Latino turnout, contrasting that with opportunistic Republican outreach efforts.

The Latino vote could be crucial on November 6, as Al Hunt recently noted:

“Of the 10 states with the most competitive Senate races, four — Florida, Texas, Arizona and Nevada — have sizable but quite different Hispanic populations. There’s a large Cuban-American community in Florida that has tended to favor Republicans, while Democratic-leaning unions play a bigger role with Nevada’s Latino voters, who are mostly of Mexican descent.

“There also are up to a dozen competitive races in those four states for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In a few tightly contested ones, for example in Dallas and Houston, Latino voters could provide the margin to unseat veteran Republican legislators.

I”n California, a half-dozen Republican House seats are under challenge. In three of these districts — in the Central Valley, San Fernando Valley and Fullerton — Latinos comprise about a quarter of the voting-age population, a concern to Republicans. Around the country there are a few other districts — such as one around Aurora, Colorado, and another in the suburbs of Chicago — where a smaller Latino vote could nonetheless be decisive. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried all these Republican-held districts.”

The “midterm dropoff” problem for Democrats among minority and youth voters is not a new thing, or a minor thing; these voting categories have been under-represented in non-presidential elections for eons, but are now large enough and central enough to the Democratic coalition that the problem can be debilitating for the Donkey Party. The much greater proclivity to vote among older and whiter voters who are increasingly aligned with the GOP was a major factor in the Republican victories in 2010 and 2014. It’s entirely possible that Trump-related Republican losses among white voters —particularly college-educated women — will be so large this year that a relatively poor showing among Latinos will be of marginal concern. But in the long run, it’s a problem Democrats need to solve, particularly if Republicans decide nativism is a net electoral plus for them.