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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.

 

The Daily Strategist

May 30, 2024

Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein shares some insights in his article “The unusual turnout dynamic that could decide the 2024 election” at CNN Politics: “For decades, Democrats have built their electoral strategies on a common assumption: the higher the turnout, the better their chances of winning. But that familiar equation may no longer apply for President Joe Biden in 2024….A wide array of polls this year shows Biden running best among Americans with the most consistent history of voting, while former President Donald Trump often displays the most strength among people who have been the least likely to vote….These new patterns are creating challenges for each party. Trump’s potential appeal to more irregular voters, particularly younger Black and Latino men, is compelling Democrats to rethink longstanding strategies that focused on mobilizing as many younger and non-White voters as possible without worrying about their partisan allegiance….“What all this means is this election has volatility,” says Daniel Hopkins, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist who has studied the widening partisan divergence between voters with and without a consistent history of turning out. “We used to expect that the marginal non-voter, the next voter who turned out if an election was very engaging, didn’t look different from people who did vote. In this case, the crowd that hasn’t gotten engaged looks very, very different.”

Brownstein explains further, “Merged results from the three most recent national NBC polls, conducted by a bipartisan team of prominent Democratic and Republican pollsters, for instance, found that Biden leads Trump by 4 percentage points among people who voted in both 2020 and 2022. But among those who voted in 2020 but not 2022, Trump led Biden by 12 percentage points. Trump’s lead swelled to 20 percentage points among those who did not vote in either 2020 or 2022. Fully 65% of those who did not vote in either of the past two elections said they disapproved of Biden’s performance in office….Combined results from recent national New York Times/Siena College polls likewise have found Biden narrowly leading among potential 2024 voters who turned out in 2020 while trailing Trump by double digits among those who did not vote in their previous contest….Hopkins has conducted perhaps the most ambitious attempt to quantify the divergence between Americans with and without a history of voting. Earlier this year, he and a colleague worked with NORC at the University of Chicago to survey over 2,400 adults about their preferences in the 2024 race. The poll only surveyed people who were old enough to vote in each of the past three elections — the midterms of 2018 and 2022 and the 2020 presidential race….The results were striking. Among adults who had voted in each of the past three federal elections, Biden led Trump by 11 points, and Biden eked out a narrow advantage among voters who participated in two of the past three races. But, the poll found, Trump led Biden by 12 percentage points among those who voted in just one of the past three elections and by a crushing margin of 18 percentage points among those who came out for none of them….As important, the pattern held across racial lines. In the poll, Trump ran even with Biden among Latinos who voted in two, one or none of the past three elections, while Biden held a nearly 20-point advantage among those who voted in all three. With Black voters, Biden’s lead was just 10 points among those who did not show up for any of the past three elections, but over 80 points among those who participated in all three.”

Brownstein adds, “Using data from Catalist, a leading Democratic voter targeting firm, Michael Podhorzer, the former political director of the AFL-CIO, reached similar conclusions. He found that in 2020 Biden’s margins over Trump were higher among people who voted in the three previous elections of 2018, 2016 and 2014 than those who voted in some or none of them — and that the relationship held across racial lines….Hopkins said the gap between habitual and irregular voters in his latest survey was far greater than the difference he found when he conducted a similar poll early in the 2016 race between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Key to this widening chasm, he believes, may be another dynamic: Adults who are less likely to vote are also less likely to follow political news….“For more infrequent voters, these are often people who pay less attention to politics and whose political barometer is more the question of how is my family doing economically, how does the country seem to be doing,” Hopkins said. “For those voters, Donald Trump…is not especially unusual.” By contrast, Hopkins said, a “sizable sliver” of habitual voters “have a sense that Trump may be qualitatively different than other political candidates with respect to norm violations and January 6.” For less frequent voters, he added, the equation may be as simple as “they don’t love what they see with Joe Biden, and if Donald Trump is the person running against Joe Biden, they want change.”….The NBC polling results buttress that conclusion: It found that among the roughly one-sixth of voters who say they do not follow political news, Trump led Biden by fully 2-to-1….Several analysts caution that while this divergence between high- and low-frequency voters is appearing consistently in polls now, it’s too early to say for certain whether it will persist through Election Day.”

Further, notes Brownstein, “Through the 21st century, as first Millennials and now Generation Z have entered the electorate in large numbers, Democrats have unwaveringly operated on the belief that turning out as many young voters as possible would benefit the party….But that’s a much more uncertain proposition in 2024, as demonstrated by the latest youth poll from the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, probably the most in-depth look at attitudes among young people. In the IOP poll this spring, Biden led Trump by nearly 20 points among young adults (aged 18-29) who said they definitely plan to vote in November; that lead was comparable to Biden’s advantage among all young adults in 2020….But Republicans point out that even if Trump doesn’t win as many of these irregularly voting non-White men as polls show today, he will still benefit if they drift toward third-party candidates or simply choose not to vote. Looking at the Black community, “even if you don’t buy the potential for Trump to flip lots of votes there, it seems there’s considerable risk of a turnout drop-off that will hit Biden’s raw margins out of big cities in the battlegrounds that Democrats usually depend on,” said GOP pollster Patrick Ruffini…. But Trump’s position steadily improved as the likelihood of voting diminished, with the former president leading Biden by 2-to-1 among those who said they probably would not vote….Those who indicated they were less likely to vote tended to be young people without a college degree, non-Whites and the very youngest cohort aged 18-24. John Della Volpe, the Institute of Politics’ polling director, pointed out that those youngest adults probably don’t remember much about Trump’s presidency.” Brownstein concludes, “Democrats can feel confident that at least as many habitual voters are hostile to Trump as committed to him, particularly in most of the battleground states that will decide the election. The decisive variable for 2024 may be how many people beyond that inner core of the most reliable voters show up and whether they break for the former president as decisively as most polls now suggest.”


Will Improved Conditions on the Border Help Biden in November?

Sometimes objective reality really does matter in politics, so at New York I raised a question about its impact on perceptions of Biden and Democrats on immigration issues:

There are two big 2024 campaign issues relating to Joe Biden’s job performance that are really hurting his prospects for reelection: the economy, and more specifically inflation; and the surge in migrants crossing the border during his presidency. Polls consistently show Biden getting low marks on handling inflation (34.8 percent approval according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages) and immigration (33.5 percent per RCP). Unfortunately for the president, these two concerns seem to be especially salient in 2024.

Gallup routinely asks Americans what they consider the “most important problem facing the country.” In its most recent report at the end of April, 30 percent said either “Economy in general” or “High Cost of Living/Inflation” were the single biggest problem, and another 27 percent named “Immigration.” This latter number has more than doubled since last fall. That’s not surprising given the drumbeat of news about high levels of border crossings by migrants since Biden took office, and incessant Republican complaints on the subject, particularly from Donald Trump, for whom immigration has long been his signature issue.

So the most recent statistics on border crossings, as reported by CBS News, represent some really good news for the 46th president:

“Illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border in May are down by more than 50% compared to the record highs reported in December, giving the Biden administration an unexpected reprieve during a time when migration has historically surged, according to internal government data obtained by CBS News. … May is also on track to see the third consecutive month-over-month drop in unlawful border crossings, the preliminary U.S. Department of Homeland Security statistics show. In March and April, illegal crossings along the southern border dropped to 137,000 and 129,000, respectively, according to public government data. If the trend continues, Border Patrol is on pace to record between 110,000 and 120,000 apprehensions in May.”

Biden administration officials concede that a lot of this improvement is attributable to much tougher enforcement efforts by the Mexican government. But the drop in crossings is happening at the same time — coincidentally or not — that the administration is toughening its own rhetoric on illegal immigration, a trend that really began in February after congressional Republicans (reportedly at Trump’s insistence) rejected bipartisan border control legislation.

The major political question is whether this is happening too late to change perceptions of Biden’s job performance on immigration and migration, which Republicans tend to combine with complaints about (largely imaginary) spikes in crime into a law-and-order pitch that treats Democrats as weak and feckless, or perhaps even consciously lawless (that’s the heart of the “Great Replacement Theory” which no less a personage than House Speaker Mike Johnson has echoed, arguing that Biden plans to undocumented immigrants into illegal voters). After all, inflation has significantly abated in 2024, but voters don’t seem inclined to give Biden much credit for it, or even to tamp down their unhappiness with him over the high prices of food, housing and gasoline. It’s also possible that immigration has simply become an issue (much like abortion for Republicans) where Democrats have lost public trust and may not regain it for a good while. It hasn’t been that long since immigration policy divided Republicans and benefited Democrats, but those days seem to be gone for the immediate future.

Team Biden may not be able to hope for a big improvement in job performance assessments on immigration. But a reduction in its salience is feasible, making it an issue that decides voting preferences for a far smaller segment of the electorate. If border crossings continue to drop until election day, hyperbolic Republican claims that Biden has “opened the border” will begin to ring hollow, and Trump’s second-term plans to undertake a massive armed deportation drive will begin to sound as cruel as the former president himself.

 


Rakich: Senate Democrats are polling well – That could help Biden.

In “Senate Democrats are polling well. That could help Biden,” Nathaniel Rakich writes at 538:

As Democrats wring their hands over their poor polling numbers in the presidential race, there is one spot of good news for them: U.S. Senate races. Democratic candidates have led in most recent polls of key Senate races like Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin* even as President Joe Biden trails former President Donald Trump in the very same polls.

I went back and looked at every state-level poll that has asked about both the presidential race and a U.S. Senate race over the past six weeks. The table below shows a simple average of these polls by state; as you can see, Senate Democrats are outrunning Biden’s margin by an average of 5 percentage points:

Table with 5 columns and 11 rows.
AVERAGE MARGIN FOR…  
Arizona 5 R+4 D+6 +10
Pennsylvania 5 R+3 D+4 +7
Wisconsin 4 R+2 D+7 +10
Florida 3 R+10 R+13 −3
Nevada 3 R+8 D+6 +15
Maryland 2 D+23 D+10 −13
Michigan 1 R+1 D+2 +3
Minnesota 1 D+2 D+14 +12
Texas 1 R+9 R+13 −4
Virginia 1 D+1 D+12 +11
Average R+1 D+4 +5
It isn’t hard to figure out why this is the case. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Biden is unpopular; meanwhile, most Democratic candidates for Senate are popular incumbents, like Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, and/or have a track record of outperforming the top of the ticket, like Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Lo and behold, the only three states where Republican Senate candidates are polling better than Trump are the two states where they are incumbents (Florida and Texas) and Maryland, where the GOP’s candidate is popular former Gov. Larry Hogan, who had an astounding 81 percent approval rating among Democrats at the time he left office.

So it’s not exactly a mystery why there’s a presidential-downballot gap. The more interesting question is what, if anything, that gap means for November. There are basically three theories to answer that:

1. Biden’s support right now is artificially low; there are plenty of traditionally Democratic voters who are telling pollsters they support Senate Democrats but, for whatever reason, aren’t ready to get behind Biden yet. So Biden’s support will rise as we get closer to the election and those voters get on board, leaving both Biden and Senate Democrats in good shape.

2. Senate Republicans’ support right now is artificially low. Since most of them aren’t incumbents, they aren’t as well known as their opponents, but their support will rise as Trump voters learn that they are on the “right team” in these Senate races. Therefore, both Trump and Senate Republicans will do well in November.

3. Senate Democrats are just more popular than Biden, and this gap will persist through the election: Many states will vote for both Trump and a Democratic Senate candidate.

Right off the bat, I’m skeptical of No. 3. If the current polls end up being exactly correct, Democrats would win at least five Senate races in states Trump carries. That wouldn’t have been unusual 20 years ago — in 2004, seven states voted for different parties for president and for Senate. But today, split-ticket voting is quite rare. In 2016, every state voted for the same party for Senate that it did for president, and in 2020, every state but one (Maine) did.

The median difference between the presidential and Senate margins in a state has also shrunk drastically over that time — from 20 points in 2004 to just 3 points in 2020.

Read the rest of Rakich’s article here.


Teixeira: The Right Stuff for the Left

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

It’s a strange political world we live in now. Back in 2010, there was a raging controversy controversy around “epistemic closure” on the right, where many on the left and some dissenting conservatives characterized fierce advocacy in GOP ranks for even the most dubious right-wing takes on the perfidy of the Obama administration as the product of an intellectual ecosystem that was sealed off from the real world—existing in a bubble through which reasonable criticisms could not penetrate. Indeed, such criticisms were summarily dismissed by the faithful as left-wing disinformation and prevarications whose acceptance in any form would undermine the GOP and its righteous drive to save the country.

That was then. This is now. The Trumpified sectors of the GOP still have plenty of epistemic closure going on—but now the left itself and even the White House has joined the party as Nate Silver recently pointed out.

This directly connects to a concept I have popularized called the “Fox News Fallacy.” As I originally described it in the summer of 2021:

This is the idea that if Fox News (substitute here the conservative bête noire of your choice if you prefer) criticizes the Democrats for X then there must be absolutely nothing to X and the job of Democrats is to assert that loudly and often. The problem is that an issue is not necessarily completely invalid just because Fox News mentions it. That depends on the issue. If there is something to the issue and persuadable voters have real concerns, you will not allay those concerns by embracing the Fox News Fallacy. In fact, you’ll probably intensify them by giving such voters the impression that Democrats simply don’t care about their concerns and will do nothing to address them. That will undermine the Democrats’ ability to respond to predictable attacks against their candidates….

We might think of epistemic closure as the logical result of a cascading series of Fox News Fallacies that render Democrats’ theory of the case bulletproof to criticism—and therefore incapable of real change. It becomes more an ideology that a guide to successful electoral action and effective policy-making.

Nowhere is this epistemic closure stronger than on the progressive left which has had extraordinary success making its views “That Which Cannot Be Questioned” within the Democratic Party mainstream. The progressive left thoroughly dominates what John Judis and I call the Democrats’ “shadow party”—the activist groups, think tanks, foundations, publications and websites, and big donors and prestigious intellectuals who are not official parts of the Democratic Party, but who influence and are identified with it.

And they do not like criticism. There is no better exemplar of their determination to enforce epistemic closure within Democratic ranks than the new book, Solidarity, by Astra Taylor and that noted Fighter for the People, Leah Hunt-Hendrix, an heir to the Hunt oil fortune. Jonathan Chait observes:

…[A]s the left has gotten stronger, it has become less socially acceptable to critique it. That people disagree with my [Chait’s] opinions is to be expected. What is notable is that disagreement per se has become controversial. There is a growing, if not yet universal, norm of movement discipline often summarized as “Don’t punch left.”

“Don’t punch left” is the core tenet of Solidarity, a new book by Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix. In a laudatory interview with the Washington Post, Hunt-Hendrix said the book was aimed not only at progressives in general but also specifically at liberals who criticize the left, naming me [Chait] and newsletter author Matthew Yglesias as “falling into the right’s divide-and-conquer strategy.”….

The progressive movement emerged over the past two decades out of a series of component groups representing causes like civil rights, environmentalism, abortion rights, and labor. Over the past two decades, these groups, sometimes called “The Groups,” have evolved from a patchwork of atomized single-issue organizations into a relatively unified movement. Each component part now habitually supports the projects of the others: Abortion-rights groups endorse defunding the police….

Since their goals are both to move the Democratic Party leftward and to hold together the progressive coalition, it follows that criticism from liberals poses a significant strategic threat. “Too often, liberals seek to legitimize their positions by punching left, distancing themselves from social movements to make themselves appear reasonable by comparison, which only strengthens the hands of conservatives and pulls the political center to the right,” they write, urging liberals to instead accept “the necessity of working in coalition with progressive social movements.”

Which presumably means accepting whatever these self-appointed tribunes of the people in The Groups have to say about any given issue, no matter how absurd. Can’t punch left after all!

Madness. Underneath this power play to silence critics is a noxious ideology that fits epistemic closure like a glove. This ideology—call it “intersectionalism”—judges actions or arguments not by their content but rather by the identity of those involved in said actions or arguments. Those identities in turn are defined by an intersectional web of oppressed and oppressors, of the powerful and powerless, of the dominant and marginalized. With this approach, one judges an action not by whether it’s effective or an argument by whether it’s true but rather by whether the people involved in the action or argument are in the oppressed/powerless/marginalized bucket or not. If they are, the actions or arguments should be supported; if not, they should be opposed.

This approach was always a terrible idea, in obvious contradiction to logic and common sense. It has not improved with age. It has led much of the left and large sectors of the Democratic Party to take positions that have little purchase in social or political reality and are offensive to the basic values most people hold—and to be impervious to criticism about them. Hence, epistemic closure.

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That helps explain, but does not excuse, the vogue for “anti-racist” posturing. This dates back to the mid-teens and gathered overwhelming force in 2020 with the George Floyd police killing and subsequent nationwide protests. It became de rigueur on the left and in most of the Democratic Party to solemnly pronounce American society structurally racist and shot through with white supremacy from top to bottom. No argument along these lines was too outrageous if it came from or on behalf of “people of color,” who must be deferred to given their place in the intersectional hierarchy.

Nothing exemplifies this better than the lionization of Ibram X. Kendi, whose thoroughly ridiculous claims were treated as revealed truth by tens of millions of good Democrats. This was a man who called for the passage of an “anti-racist Constitutional amendment” that would:

…establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

It is truly shocking that this kind of totalitarian thinking was tolerated for even a micro-second in respectable Democratic circles. But it was. Intersectionalism begat epistemic closure. Only racists would criticize “anti-racist” ideas, no matter how ridiculous. So the train rolled on. And it rolls on to this day, preventing Democrats from confronting the many ways they are alienating ordinary working-class voters whose complicated views of the world cannot be contained within the progressive bubble.

It is time for Democrats to bust out of the epistemic closure that imprisons so much of their thinking. A good beginning would be to discard the fundamental belief that conservatives are always wrong about everything and can never be right. In reality, the right is not always wrong and the left is not always correct. The blanket condemnation of conservatives is a tribal belief that always bothered me in my years at the Center for American Progress, leading as it did to disregarding all criticisms, no matter how reasonable, that came from the right and treating allconservatives as little better than tools of Satan. This did not make sense to me and seemed dubious empirically. Some of the criticisms from the right werecorrect and many conservatives were good and interesting people whose views simply differed from my own.

Indeed, some conservatives, by virtue of being conservatives, make good points and provide useful analysis that the left, reflecting its traditional commitments and current epistemic closure, has difficulty producing on its own. Matt Yglesias makes this case in an excellent recent essay, “What the right gets right.” Some excerpts from the article:

[O]ne thing the right gets right is a patriotic attitude toward The United States of America…[M]ost people on the contemporary American left are skeptical of, if not outright hostile to, the idea of patriotism. If you picture someone with an American flag bumper sticker on their vehicle, you’re probably picturing a conservative guy and his truck. Personally, I’m glad that Joe Biden tries to avoid ceding patriotism to the right, but I do think the reality of the situation is closer to “Joe Biden agrees with conservatives about patriotism” than “the left is into patriotism, too.”… I don’t really want to do a whole “patriotism is good” take here (try Noah Smith or read One Billion Americans), but I think American conservatives come out better on this score in part because I think conservatives have a generally clearer sense of history….

Progressives typically characterize their stance on this as being that it’s important to tell people about the darker aspects of history. And they’re right—it is a good idea for people to learn about those things. But I think the standard progressive read of this gets the figure and the ground backwards. The implication of a lot of these takes on episodes of violence, bigotry, displacement, and cruelty in American history is that these episodes are what’s distinctive about the United States of America.

But if you read the history of anywhere, you’ll see that it’s not like there’s some other country where you wouldn’t say “it’s important for people to learn about the darker aspects of our history.” History is dark!…

Conservatives have their own flawed tendency to lapse into nostalgia for the recent past, but I do think they typically have a more clear-eyed view of the reality that the whole of human history is littered with atrocity and cruelty. It’s naive to view our sociocultural antecedents here in the United States as flawless, shining heroes, but it’s also naive to think the violence and brutality of American history is what’s unique about it, rather than the fact that we’ve settled into a prosperous and liberal status quo…

The related thing that conservatives get right is a sense that good things are vulnerable and it’s worth worrying about wrecking everything.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s mantra, paraphrasing Theodore Parker, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” is a nice bit of motivational speaking. But this often leads progressives to the view that there is a strong and inherent directionality to history, and thus that any noisy movement for reform with adequate progressive branding must be good. You hear a lot with regard to the Gaza protests that the people complaining are just the same as the people who complained about every good and virtuous social movement of the past. Implicit is the sense that there is no such thing as a social movement that was bad….

The view here is that the important thing is to position yourself on the side of reform, rather than to ask too many questions about the precise contents of the reform.

But while I do think it’s true that you shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees, it’s actually very important for a reform plan to be based on true facts and workable ideas. The fact that Black lives do matter makes it more, rather than less important, to propose criminal justice reforms that save rather than cost lives. The fact that burning fossil fuels has harmful externalities makes it more, rather than less important, to accurately understand energy economics. Conservatives often err by being excessively skeptical of reform efforts, but they are correct to say that one should be somewhat skeptical, and I think correct that center-left circles sometimes get too squeamish about saying no.

In the present-day American context, I think this relates to both patriotism and history—conservatives are right to think that, in the context of history, we have things pretty good and that we should be cautious about overturning the apple cart without being quite rigorous in our thinking….

All kinds of people, both liberal and conservative, have incorrect anti-market intuitions that lead not only to bad policy choices, but to bad anti-pricing norms.

One important virtue of conservative politics, though, is that official doctrine on the right is that markets are good. So when some right-wing suburban NIMBYs are pounding the table about how they hate apartment buildings, you can come at them with some points about property rights and economic growth….There’s much more to building a prosperous economy than saying nice things about successful business people, but if you are in the business of saying nice things about successful business people—as conservatives generally are—then “these successful businesses help power economic growth” is a pretty obvious argument….

[A]t a certain point, people [on the left] started suggesting that degrowth could be a virtue…Or that the real solution to our ecological problems is for everyone to be poor.

This is dumb, and plenty of people on the left (even the far left) know that degrowth is dumb, but the fact is, it’s a live controversy on the left in a way that it is not on the right. There is, of course, more to life than the monolithic pursuit of economic growth, but it’s a genuinely massive conceptual error to see growth as undesirable or to be indifferent toward it….[A] growing and vibrant economy is genuinely very important. Conservatives have this right, while progressives are mired in disagreement about it. And the correct progressive faction is the one that can appreciate these conservative insights.

You get the idea. Conservatives, by virtue of their world outlook, are inclined to consider some important factors and see some critical problems that people on the left are not. This means that for the left to succeed at scale, both in electoral and governance terms, it needs, paradoxically, some of the right stuff. And that means ditching intersectional politics and epistemic closure once and for all.


Political Strategy Notes

At Deseret News, Hanna Seariac probes for answers to a question of much political interest: “Is either political party the home of working-class voters?” As Seariac writes, “according to a new poll from Gallup. Forty-six percent of Republicans consider themselves working or lower class and 35% of Democrats do. Sixty-two percent of Democrats identify themselves as upper-middle or middle class and 53% of Republicans say the same.” Class identification does not necessarily tell you how people are going to vote in a crazy political year like 2024. But, in this case, it does shed some light on political leanings. As Seariac explains, “The survey data comes from self-identification, not factors like education level or profession or income. Economic experts differ on the specifics of what qualifies as working class, but generally, it refers to people who do not have college educations (around 62% of the country) and/or those who receive an hourly wage rather than a salary….Gallup survey data started showing this shift in 2022. When the same survey was done in 2019, 46% of Democrats identified as working or lower class while only 34% of Republicans did. In contrast, 65% of Republicans called themselves upper-middle or middle class and 54% of Republicans did. Self-identification has fluctuated along those lines, but from 2002 to 2019, Republicans generally identified more as upper-middle and middle class more than Democrats did — the reverse was true for Democrats calling themselves working and lower class at a higher rate than Republicans.” Nor does class self i.d. tell us why working-class voters feel an affinity for one party of. the other. Seariac notes further, “Left-of-center think tank Progressive Policy Institute did a survey with YouGov about the politics of the working-class voters (defined in the report as those without four-year college degrees). The report found that the working class trusts Republicans more on the economy, natural security, immigration and crime while they trust Democrats more on climate change, clean energy, abortion access and respecting elections.”

Seariac adds, “Forty-seven percent of the working class said they want a federal government involved in the economy mostly via protecting free markets while 34% said they want a small federal government with less taxation and spending. Nineteen percent responded in favor of a large federal government involved in wealth distribution….As far as which party the working class trusts to put the interests of the working class people first, respondents were almost evenly divided — 38% said Democrats and 37% said Republicans. Twenty-two percent of respondents said neither….A plurality of respondents to the survey also said they would prefer if the Democratic Party would spend tax dollars more efficiently rather than grow government programs. As for what they want the Republican Party to do, they said they’d like if the GOP would cut spending and increase taxes on the wealthy….Among those surveyed, 50% said their household income was less than $50,000 annually and 27% said it was between $50,000 and $100,000 with the remainder either not marking prefer not to say or reporting a household income above $100,000….“In the short term, the political preferences of working-class voters are likely to be shaped by urgent issues such as high prices and illegal immigration,” wrote William A. Galston for Brookings Institute about the survey. “In the longer term, however, a party that combines moderation on cultural issues with support for government programs that would improve the prospects of upward mobility for the working class would likely improve its performance in this key part of the electorate.”….Galston also pointed toward specific policies that some members of the working class have taken issues with such as student loan forgiveness. Fifty-six percent of working-class voters said they oppose student loan debt relief because they think it’s unfair to those who don’t get a college degree….“I think the claim that says the Republican Party is the party of the working class is at best, insincere, and more likely, political misdirection and rebranding exercises,” John Russo, visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, told NPR in 2021. He pointed toward Biden winning the majority of voters earning less than $50,000 a year in 2020 and Trump winning the majority of voters who made more than $100,000 annually….Others point toward areas where the working class may poll differently than what the messaging from Democratic politicians sounds like. Ruy Teixeira, fellow at American Enterprise Institute, wrote for The Liberal Patriot that working-class voters are less ideological, have economic struggles and in his words are “more focused on material concerns.”

Some useful talking points for Dems regarding “Here’s What Trump and the GOP Really Think About the Working Class: Trump polls very well with voters without college degrees. But organized labor polls well with even more voters. Make a move, Democrats” by Timothy Noah at The New Republic: “….Democrats need to get word out that the GOP is bent on destroying unions, which today enjoy more popular support (67 percent approval) than they have for six decades. Even more than one-third of Republicans agree that labor unions are a net positive for the country.” Trump “appointed anti-union members to the National Labor Relations Board who made it easier for employers to manipulate the size of a bargaining unit to defeat a union bid; lengthened and complicated union elections to make it harder for unions to win; made it easier for corporations to avoid responsibility for their subcontractors’ labor violations; and allowed employers to prevent labor unions, which already are barred from electioneering on company premises, from contacting workers via company email….Trump also changed overtime rules to exclude eligibility for eight million workers; failed to raise the $7.25 hourly minimum wage (after promising to do so during the 2016 election, though only in reaction to a backlash after he proposed eliminating it entirely); killed a regulation barring employers from requiring employees to agree never to sue the company as a condition of employment; reduced the number of manufacturing jobs by 75,000 (losing 43,000 the year before the Covid epidemic); and cut federal workplace safety inspections to their lowest level in history. This is very much a partial list. There’s more here and here….More representative of what “Trump’s economic circles” think is Trump’s own think tank. The America First Policy Institute is chaired by Linda McMahon, who ran the Small Business Administration under Trump and then a pro-Trump super PAC. She posted an op-ed last June at The Daily Caller that attacked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for signing into law a repeal of the state’s right-to-work law. This law had barred unions from collecting “fair share” fees from union nonmembers….The nonprofit group In Union and the political strategist Mike Lux this week released a reportnoting that among working-class voters, a “considerable” number are “double haters” (that is, they hate both Biden and Trump), third-party curious, or undecided. “Most of them voted Democratic in the recent past,” Lux wrote. “These are prime and winnable Democratic targets, and we should focus a great deal of firepower on winning them over.”

Some observations from “Will Trump Leaners Come Home to Biden? The weirdness of this year’s polling gives the President’s team hope.” by James Joyner at outsidethebeltwaay.com: “President Joe Biden trails Donald Trump by approximately one point in national polls, according to FiveThirtyEight. The gap is larger in most of the so-called swing states, including Pennsylvania (2.1 per cent), Arizona (4.3 per cent), Georgia (6.1 per cent), and Nevada (seven per cent). Moreover, in both 2016 and 2020, most polls ended up understating Trump’s support. This year, the head-to-head polls and Biden’s unpopularity have made many Democrats anxious about the coming election, but that feeling does not appear to have pervaded the White House. Axios reported last week that, “in public and private, Biden has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s gaining ground—and is probably up—on Donald Trump in their rematch from 2020.” (The Axios story says this sense of optimism is also shared by his “team.”)….even aside from the possibility of cataclysmic events shaking up the landscape, it’s almost impossible to project a race where both candidates are so universally unpopular. There are more truly enthusiastic Trump voters than truly enthusiastic Biden voters. But there are also more people who intensely dislike Trump than intensely dislike Biden….Think about those with little if any partisan or ideological predisposition. They may have real doubts and concerns about Trump’s character, behavior, values, and perhaps whether he has much respect for institutions and the rule of law. Substantively, only the abortion issue really rises to the surface for many of these people….Conversely, doubts and concerns about Biden are more about his abilities and his judgment, his priorities and objectives. Most don’t doubt Biden’s morals, values, and intentions, but do wonder whether this has been the cruise they signed up for. Just as abortion is the substantive chink in the armor for Trump, it is age and health for Biden, who looks and acts even older than he is….We have a group of voters who are not enthusiastic about either candidate, and many may well end up deciding not to decide. In some minds, not casting a ballot is becoming a very real and deliberate option, a way to show their displeasure with their choices and the nominees that the two parties have offered up. They look at the field of independent or third-party candidates and do not see a political knight in shining armor worthy of their support.”


Filibuster Reform On Deck for Dems

The following article, “Senate Democrats are finally looking to fix their biggest mistake” by Hayes Brown, is cross-posted from msnbc.com:

If Democrats retain control of the Senate after this fall’s elections — and as of today that’s still a big “if” — the filibuster as we know it may finally be toast next year. Despite the 60-vote threshold’s being antidemocratic, extraconstitutional and antithetical to the founders’ vision, it has taken years of hemming and hawing for Democrats to reach this point. With its potential demise, the country can finally start to get back on track — or at the very least force our lawmakers to be honest about their vision for the future.

In the last Congress, two Democratic senators stood in the way of filibuster reform: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the latter of whom later switched to be an independent. They argued that the filibuster is a method of forcing bipartisanshipon issues and that it encourages more debate between senators, neither of which holds water when you look at the history of the filibuster. Thanks to Sinema and Manchin, Democrats had to leave many wins on the table, including subsidized child care for struggling parents, codifying Roe v. Wade and much-needed protections for voting rights. Those big-ticket items wouldn’t have just made millions of Americans’ lives better, but they also might have helped Democrats this November.

Any Democratic plan for reform would require majority support: either 51 senators or, should Vice President Kamala Harris be re-elected this fall, 50 votes plus the vice president’s tiebreaking vote. As things stand, the Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate aren’t ideal; the party is defending nearly twice as many seats as Republicans are, including three in states Donald Trump has won twice. But both Manchin and Sinema are retiring this term, and, as NBC News has reported, Democratic candidates looking to join the Senate’s ranks are all in on reform:

The likely Democratic nominee to replace Sinema in Arizona, Rep. Ruben Gallego, promises that if he is elected he would support “waiving the filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade.”

Democratic candidates for open seats in California (Rep. Adam Schiff), Michigan (Rep. Elissa Slotkin), Delaware (Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester) and Maryland (county executive Angela Alsobrooks) have all called for eliminating the filibuster.…

And the Democrats running in the red-leaning states of Texas (Rep. Colin Allred) and Florida (former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell) have also championed exceptions to the filibuster to establish federal abortion rights. The GOP is favored in those states, but Democrats can hold the majority without them.

The timing of filibuster reform might seem risky: Not only is control of the Senate a toss-up, but so is control of the White House and the House of Representatives. But it’s still worth pushing filibuster reform — even if the GOP keeps the House and Trump returns to the presidency.

It’s a task that will be made slightly easier as Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., one the filibuster’s foremost defenders, steps down as the leader of the GOP caucus. In contrast, Trump has pushed repeatedly to have the GOP end the filibuster when it held a trifecta in the first half of his term. While the main candidates to replace McConnell also seem dead set on continuing his legacy on that front, not all Republicans are 100% noes. “The filibuster has meant different things over time,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told NBC News. “And there are different ways to implement it. So we could talk about how the filibuster is structured. Do you have to hold the floor or not, etc. We could probably have a conversation on that.”

Hawley was referring to one option short of totally abolishing the filibuster: forcing senators to go back to the “talking filibuster” as seen in the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” That’s how the filibuster worked for most of its existence and how many Americans still assume it works. Senators would once again have to hold the floor to prevent legislation from moving forward with a majority of votes, rather than the current method, which requires only that a senator’s staffer send an email. Shifting to a talking filibuster would at least show effort from the senators and willingness to stand up and argue for or against whatever bill is being voted on before allowing the majority’s will to carry the day.

Also, as I argued back in 2021, the current version of the filibuster rule helps only Republicans. Democrats are far likelier to push for programs and policies that require new structures and funding. Meanwhile, the GOP, by and large, has abandoned legislating as the primary means of governing. Instead, Republicans rely on stacking the federal courts and otherwise handing over the reins to the White House.

You don’t have to take it from me. Here’s what Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told NBC News in explaining his support for the filibuster:

“We’re united in that. We realize the tables will turn, and if they had ultimate control, this country would be over,” Johnson said, calling it a bulwark against “socialist and radical left policies.” He said that if Donald Trump wins the presidency, he could use executive power to secure the border if Democrats filibuster immigration bills.

The filibuster, in his own words, is a roadblock against Democratic policies and tyranny, but GOP priorities can just go through the presidency. In this way, filibuster reform, even during Republican control, would help remove an argument in favor of Trump’s governing solely through executive action. Republicans opposed to broadly unpopular policies — like, say, a nationwide abortion ban — wouldn’t be able to hide behind the filibuster, as Manchin and Sinema did across the aisle, when only a simple majority would be required to pass legislation.

The legislative gridlock we’ve seen has been a major reason the last three presidents have worked to find whatever loopholes possible to act without Congress, especially on immigration. The filibuster is thus a win-win for autocratically minded Republicans. When they’re in the minority, it allows them to block major legislation; when they’re in the majority, it serves as an excuse to have the White House move unilaterally. It’s in Democrats’ — and the country’s — best interests, then, to support changes to the filibuster, no matter who wins this fall.


Political Strategy Notes

Here’s a clue from “Most Americans falsely think the U.S. is in recession, poll shows” by Rebecca Picciotto at cnbc.com as to why President Biden can’t get much traction: “More than half of Americans think the United States is in an economic recession, although gross domestic product has been increasing for the past several years….According to a new Guardian/Harris poll, 56% of respondents said they believe the U.S. is in a recession and 58% say that President Joe Biden is responsible for what they see as an economic downturn….A recession is an extended period of economic decline, usually designated when GDP has declined for two or more consecutive fiscal quarters….Under those terms, the U.S. is definitively not in a recession….GDP grew by 1.6% in the first quarter of 2024. Granted, that is a decelerated rate from the 3.3% growth of the fourth quarter of 2023, but it is not recessionary. U.S. GDP growth has been outpacing that of other developed nations….Despite some positive signals that the economy is recovering from the pandemic chaos that disrupted supply chains and sent inflation skyrocketing, consumer attitudes have lagged, often driven by the high costs of daily living caused by stubbornly high inflation.” No doubt the argument about individual financial situations being more influential in poll outcomes than aggregate economic data has some relevance here. All the Biden campaign can do about this is keep plugging away at every opportunity and make some ads showing individual families testifying about how much better off they are today than they were under Trump. Aggregate economic data just doesn’t pack the same punch as real people testifying about their lives.

If you know anyone who believes the Trump campaign’s recent reference to a “unified Reich” was just a stray brain fart of an unruly staffer, not a recurring symptom of the candidate’s sympathy for vicious dictators, refer them to “Trump removes video referencing ‘unified Reich. but his Nazi allusions are long-standing” by Stephen Collimnson at CNN Politics. As Collinson writes, “Donald Trump dabbles in Nazi allusions too often for it to be a coincidence….The latest example is a video posted on the ex-president’s social media account that features a fake headline implying the US could become a “unified Reich” if he wins a second term in November. The video replicates what appears to be World War I-era newspapers. But the term “Reich,” which means a kind of empire, is also synonymous with the later Third Reich of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign insisted the sharing of the third-party video on Monday was the work of a staffer and not Trump, who was in court. It was eventually taken down hours later on Tuesday….Trump may not have not been responsible for the post. But campaigns reflect the character of the candidate. And Trump has been flirting with Nazi imagery and giving comfort to far-right extremists for years. He recently accused President Joe Biden of running a “Gestapo” administration. Trump has several times warned immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the United States, echoing language used by Hitler in his manifesto “Mein Kampf,” which the ex-president claims he hasn’t read. Back in 2017, Trump equivocated about condemning a White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us.”….Trump also allegedly praised Hitler, according to former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who was quoted by CNN’s Jim Sciutto in his new book “The Return of Great Powers.” Kelly commented: “He said, ‘Well, but Hitler did some good things.’ I said, ‘Well, what?’ And he said, ‘Well, [Hitler] rebuilt the economy.’”….Sciutto also cited Kelly as saying that Trump believed that Hitler’s hold on senior Nazi officers displayed a loyalty he did not enjoy from his senior subordinates….He’s promising the biggest deportation operation in history to expel undocumented migrants. And his echoing of Nazi rhetoric on immigration has the same consequence as Hitler’s — to demonize outsiders supposedly threatening the ‘native’ purity of the homeland….Trump has already tried to avoid leaving power after a democratic election he lost, whipping up his supporters ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. And over the weekend, he spitballed about potentially serving more than the two terms to which the Constitution says he can be elected.” Collinson co includes, “Anyone who admires Hitler and his murderous cult would do well to walk through the preserved death camps, gas chambers and mass crematoria in Eastern Europe where Nazis exterminated the continent’s Jews. And those who carelessly peddle Nazi-themed rhetoric should visit the cliffs of Normandy, where Biden is expected next month to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day amid rows of buried US and Allied soldiers who perished as part of the cost of eradicating fascism.”

In his Salon article, “How Trump’s hidden Nazi messages help conceal his open antisemitism: Now that Trump is finally facing legal consequences for his actions he’s amplifying his Hitlerian language,” Chauncey DeVega shares some thoughts on Trump’s Nazi musings: “One of the most important rules for surviving and triumphing over an authoritarian regime is to always take seriously what the dictator says. They are not kidding. This rule most certainly applies to Donald Trump, who has promised that he is going to be a dictator on “day one” if he defeats President Biden in the 2024 election….Trump’s Nazi projections are part of a much larger dynamic where today’s right openly embraces antisemitism, white supremacy, and racism….Dr. Sharon Nazarian, who is a board member of the Anti-Defamation League and a noted expert on global antisemitism, issued the following statement in response to the Trump campaign’s “unified Reich” video:

Words like Reich don’t just accidentally end up in campaign videos. This is a message to antisemites and anti-democratic extremists everywhere about what to expect should Trump return to the White House. Donald Trump knows exactly what he is doing. This is part of a long pattern of behavior where he normalizes antisemitic language and behavior and then later claims that he ‘didn’t know’ or it was ‘fake news’, but the extremists know full well where he stands, and we need acknowledge that these aren’t mistakes, he is telling us exactly what he would do in a second term. Donald Trump no longer should be given the benefit of the doubt. He sees antisemitism as a powerful tool to be used towards his own political goals, and those goals are to reshape American democracy and society in ways that will make the lives of Jews unsafe.

….Trump has repeatedly shared antisemitic images and memes on social media and has met personally with antisemites and white supremacists….Trump has continued to channel Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, with his threats and promises to purify the blood of the nation by getting rid of human “vermin” and other “pollution” as part of final battle and campaign of retribution and revenge when/if he takes power in 2025. These are eliminationist and genocidal threats of violence against those individuals and groups targeted as other or who dare to resist the regime and its attempt to end multiracial pluralistic democracy. Trump has also threatened, on numerous occasions, while president and afterwards, to have his political and personal “enemies” killed.” In his conclusion, DeVega warns, “The water in the pot is boiling more rapidly and too many Americans have gotten far too comfortable in it.”

The ever-optimistic Simon Rosenberg opines at his “Hopium Chronicles”: “Let’s talk the Electoral College today. Here are the results of new Bloomberg/Morning Consult polling of the battleground states, Biden-Trump:

  • AZ 44-49 Biden gains 2 since last poll
  • GA 44-47 Biden gains 3, within margin of error
  • MI 46-45 Biden gains 1
  • NV 46-46 Biden gains 8
  • NC 42-49 Biden gains 2
  • PA 46-48 Trump gains 1, within margin of error
  • WI 46-47 Biden gains 3, within margin of error

These are good polls for us. For Trump to win he needs to win AZ, GA, NV, keep NC, and win one of MI, PA, WI. He lost all these states except NC in 2020. So he has to go get a lot of stuff he didn’t have in 2020. In this poll, and in the three other recent battleground state polls (NYT Likely Voters, Not Registered Voters) he is not ahead, outside of the margin of error, in MI, PA or WI, or any combination of states getting to 270. The map is hard for him, and today, simply and plainly, he is not leading or ahead in the 2024 election. He is not where he wants to be right now….Our path to 270 is much clearer. Assuming we win the single Nebraska Electoral College vote we just need to win MI, PA, WI – all states we won last time, and all states where we have strong Dem governors who won in 2022. There are polls now with Biden ahead in AZ, MI, WI and tied in NV (yes this NV result is embarrassing for the New York Times). All four of these battleground polls have PA within margin of error, and a new poll about to be released in North Carolina has the Biden-Trump race there within margin of error, 43-45 Biden-Trump. This is the third poll taken in NC in recent weeks showing the election a toss up in North Carolina. Also note for those worried about Michigan that there are more polls showing us ahead in there than any other battleground state….My big point here is that not all the data in front of us is pointing in the same direction – thus folks need to be cautious about jumping to conclusions or letting a single influential poll dictate our understandings….The blue wall states – MI, PA, WI – are clearly within margin of error, tied now. We have recent polls showing AZ, GA, NC, NV also within margin of error, tied. Given all this it is simply impossible, wrong and inaccurate to argue that Trump leads or is favored. The election is close and competitive. Our path to 270 is easier. We have enormous financial and organizational advantages now, a better candidate and far, far better arguments. Senate and House polling remains encouraging, and we’ve made meaningful gains in the Congressional Generic. We’ve been winning elections of all kinds across the country since Dobbs and they keep struggling, a dynamic we’ve seen show up in voting in 2024 too…We are not where we want to be, and have a lot of work to do. But in every way imaginable, four months before voting begins, I would much rather be us than them.”


Democrats Must Deal With Trump Fatigue

A 2024 dilemma for Democrats occurred to me this week so I wrote about how to deal with it at New York:

Joe Biden’s campaign is facing a strategic dilemma. Since the president’s job-approval ratings have been consistently low, his path to reelection depends on making 2024 a comparative choice between himself and Donald Trump, his scary, extremist predecessor. That task is becoming more urgent as evidence emerges that a sizable number of voters either don’t remember or misremember the four turbulent years of the Trump administration. But paradoxically, educating voters about the potential consequences of a Biden defeat could annoy and alienate them by pushing Trump fatigue to new heights.

This is clearly a risk Team Biden will have to take to some degree. A host of data shows that a crucial slice of the electorate has relatively sunny memories of the Trump years and a vague understanding of the extremist agenda his allies are putting together for a second term. And worse yet, as Russell Berman explains in The Atlantic, the youngest voters, on whom Democrats are relying for a big 2024 advantage, know little about Trump at all and view him mostly as an entertainer:

“In polling conducted by Blueprint, a Democratic data firm, fewer than half of registered voters under 30 said they had heard some of Trump’s most incendiary quotes, such as when he said there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ demonstrating in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, or when he told members of the Proud Boys, the far-right militia group, to ‘stand back and stand by’ during a 2020 debate. Just 42 percent of respondents were aware that, during his 2016 campaign, Trump called for ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’

“The youngest voters know Trump more as a ribald commentator than as a political leader. Santiago Mayer, the 22-year-old founder of the Gen Z group Voters of Tomorrow, which has endorsed Biden, told me that his 18-year-old brother and his friends see Trump as more funny than threatening. ‘They don’t know much about Donald Trump’s agenda, and Donald Trump is an entertaining character,’ Mayer said. ‘They are gravitating toward him not because of their political beliefs but out of sheer curiosity.’”

It is urgently important that Democrats find ways to depict this cartoon villain as more villainous than comic. But that will necessarily mean reciting the countless things Trump has said and done that other voters are abundantly tired of hearing about for the umpteenth time. Biden attacking Trump and then Trump hitting back over and over will feed Americans’ universal unhappiness with the 2024 rematch. Pervasive voter discontent inherently favors the challenger against the incumbent in any election.

Perhaps the way for Democrats to thread the needle is to make Trump appear not just scary but also predictably wedded to the worst aspects of his party. That includes hostility to cherished safety-net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; a deep-seated attachment to the interests of the wealthiest Americans; an unsavory affection for uniformed violence at home and abroad; and a grim, relentless, half-century-long crusade to take away women’s rights, including the right to choose abortion and contraception. The basic idea is to change perceptions of Trump the amusing and irreverent outsider to Trump the salesman for deeply unpopular policies and practices. More subtly, the message to both persuadable undecideds and unenthusiastic Democrats would be that the only way to end the long-playing saga of Trump-dominated politics is to forcefully retire the former president and warn his party that they must move in a different direction. Conversely, putting him back in the White House will perpetuate Trump Fatigue indefinitely.

It’s counterintuitive, to be sure, for the party of a presidential incumbent to implicitly ask voters, Had enough? But in an election Biden can win only by making it about his opponent, he’s lucky that in Trump he faces a challenger who is so eager to become the center of attention.


Meyerson: Is Reversing Biden’s Working-Class Slump Even Possible?

From “Is Reversing Biden’s Working-Class Slump Even Possible? A new survey of key swing states shows how it could be done, but—granting its necessity—it sure sounds difficult” by Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect:

A New York Times/Siena national poll from last month shows Biden’s level of support among non-college voters of all races is down to 39 percent, which is nine percentage points beneath his level of support from those voters in the 2020 election. If he can’t make up that gap or get close to it between now and November, his goose, not to mention civilization’s, is cooked.

One reason why that decline looms so large is that working-class voters constitute a disproportionately large share of the electorate in three must-win swing states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This week, two groups that have long been surveying the Midwest working class—In Union, and the Factory Towns Project of American Family Voices—are releasing a study of those voters, focusing on the issues that can move them back into the Democrats’ column, and even more on the means by which Democrats can and must make their case.

Donald Trump carried Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but lost those states to Biden in 2020. By itself, the shift in union household voting between 2016 and 2020 more than accounted for Biden’s narrow margins of victory in those three states. As the study documents, the swing among working-class voters in Michigan came to approximately 104,000; in Pennsylvania, 137,000; and in Wisconsin, 28,000. Recent polling in those states, however, shows that Biden’s levels of support among working-class voters have subsided to Clinton’s insufficient levels of 2016.

The polls undertaken by the study’s two sponsors make clear that the issues that could bring Biden’s totals up among these voters, not surprisingly, involve progressive populism. Both polling and focus groups made clear that these voters “are very inclined to believe Democrats who tell a story about price gouging and outrageous corporate profits. They are angry that wealthy corporate CEOs and billionaires aren’t paying what they should in taxes and that the top 1 percent (yes, they still use that phrase) are gaming the system.”

The other issue to which these voters responded most positively is the hardy perennial of retirement security and access to affordable health care. They give greater credence to the Democratic record on Social Security and Medicare, and the party’s pledges to defend them, than they do to the Republican position. The study also shows that Democratic support for abortion rights, affordable child care, and even forgiving student loans is widely popular among these working-class voters, and that Democrats should not skimp on defending those positions. But the primary message must center on attacking corporate greed and defending the right to a secure retirement.

Meyerson explains further, “One of the key strategic elements to moving these voters,” the study claims, “is tapping into trusted sources to communicate with them. Simply airing a bunch of TV ads and knocking on doors late in the campaign is not going to break through with these voters—they are too convinced that most people like them are voting Republican and too cynical about politics as it is commonly practiced to be moved much by traditional ads and campaign tactics right before Election Day.” Also,

This assessment echoes that in perhaps the best book that’s come out on the political shift in much of the working class: Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol’s Rust Belt Union Blues, which was published last year. The book, which I reviewed for the Prospect in January, takes a granular look at the onetime mine and mill towns of Western Pennsylvania. In 1960, those towns (also including the cities of Pittsburgh and Erie) were home to 143 locals of the United Steelworkers; today, only 16 of those locals still exist. In 1960, those locals were not just venues for union meetings. They were also union social halls, where members and their families came to unwind after work, and hold weddings and other family celebrations. The unions were a social center of those towns’ collective life (something the movie The Deer Hunter depicted quite well), creating peer groups and communities enmeshed in the union’s values and, more often than not, its politics.

Today, not only are those union locals long gone, but the only real remaining social centers in most of those towns are gun clubs, most of them affiliated with the National Rifle Association as a way to get discounted guns for their members. Today, the peer groups and communities for most working-class residents of the once-industrial Midwest have become Republican, a transition that the In Union/Factory Towns survey completely corroborates.

So who are “the trusted sources,” as the survey puts it, the neighbors and friends who still retain credibility, who can convey the Democrats’ populist messaging to working-class voters? The study calls on unions to activate their members to be the precinct walkers who can actually talk to working-class voters, but acknowledges that due to unions’ declining numbers, they must be joined by Democratic and other movement activists. In Union has identified 3.3 million voters in those three swing states who have pro-union attitudes; 14 percent of them say they’re undecided in the upcoming presidential and senatorial elections.

But building a community where progressive populist politics is the norm rather than the exception is the work of years, and the study acknowledges that Democrats are flat out of years to do that work. “We aren’t going to transform the landscape and reverse all the problematic trends in six months in terms of working-class voters,” it says, adding, “right now this is a game of inches. But given how close battleground elections are going to be, inches are the difference between winning and losing.”

It was not in the purview of this study to review how the Democrats got themselves into this fix with the American working class. But it’s clear that the Democrats’ decades of indifference to unions’ decline was a primary reason, and in many parts of the country, the disappearance of unions was perhaps the primary reason. Unions have rebounded in the popularity polls and have recently won some important organizing victories (though not at the Mercedes plant in Alabama), but that doesn’t mean they have enough activists in working-class communities to prod their politically undecided neighbors to cast their votes for Joe Biden this fall.

Meyerson concludes, “For that reason, the study chiefly reads as a plea to the rest of us: Do what you can to help our guys out!”


Political Strategy Notes

Icymi, here are some choice nuggets from E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s gem of a column at The Washington Post: “We’re letting Trump distract us from his corrupt, anti-climate agenda.” Dionne writes: “Donald Trump sat down with oil executives and told them that if he wins, he’ll scrap a slew of President Biden’s clean energy and other environmental regulations they don’t like — as long as they raise $1 billion for him. The response? Crickets. Trump’s pay-for-play move was frequently described as “transactional.” The right word is “corrupt….Last weekend, at a rally in Wildwood, N.J., he pledged to halt offshore wind farms. All of them. Right away. “We are going to make sure that that ends on day one,” Trump said. “I’m going to write it out in an executive order.” It was consistent with a remarkable statement he was reported to have made to the energy execs: “I hate wind.”….There could hardly be a clearer contrast between Trump and Biden, or their parties. You might think that the environment, and climate in particular, would be playing a large role in the 2024 debate. Yet for all the good work reporters are doing on these issues, there is a strange, substantive vacuum in this campaign….Citizens are getting plenty of information concerning Trump’s latest polling numbers and, yes, lots of news on his hush money trial. About what he’d do if he wins again: not so much.” Dionne also provides the most believable reason yet written to explain why Trump get away with so much BS: “By violating so many norms simultaneously while throwing out so much chaff in any given week, he dodges accountability. He is the only public figure in memory who dodges one scandal by getting enmeshed in a new one. Before the first scandal sinks in, the second sucks up all the oxygen, and then along comes a third. His $1 billion ask of super-rich oil guys was barely a blip.”

Further, Dionne notes: “Trump’s party has been complicit in helping him obliterate ethical standards. Republicans, from House Speaker Mike Johnson on down, raced to New York to create a carnival of deflection. These advocates of “law and order,” “traditional values” and local control ignored the charges against Trump — rooted in sordid personal conduct joined with public corruption — by attacking the idea that a prosecutor might dare try to bring a former president to justice….The routinization of lying has a dulling effect of its own. It no longer matters that responsible journalists of every political stripe report that Trump lost the election he falsely continues to claim he won. Here again, Republican elites play his game by either hedging on what happened in 2020 (“Well, there really were problems, you know …”) or supporting his lie outright. [Why on earth the relatively few sane Republicans remaining don’t start a new conservative Party remains a mystery. The Whigs had their day, and then it was over. Every political party has a shelf life.] Dionne continues, “The politics of spectacle that Trump excels at is the enemy of a politics of substance. Take that New Jersey rally where he pledged to block offshore wind farms (he also promised to go after electric cars). This didn’t get much attention because of Trump’s praise for “Hollywood’s most famous cannibal,” as a Post headline writer succinctly put it. “The late, great Hannibal Lecter is a wonderful man,” Trump declared. Try arguing that climate change should have been the lead of the story that day….The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is real and poses a grave danger to humanity. Those trying to evade tough measures to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels dismiss technical expertise and invent hidden motives. The climate movement, they say, wants to enhance the power of big government. It hates cars, doesn’t care about people working the oil fields and despises the “American way of life.” Case closed….Trump is thus both a cause and a symptom of the distemper in our national life. On the climate and so many other questions, the nation has about five months to realize that very big things are at stake in November’s choice. If we fail, Hannibal Lecter would be a fitting symbol for what happened to our democracy.”

Shame on you for ignoring the Supreme Court elections that are being held in 33 states this year. Ok, shame on me too. Louis Jacobson explains why they are important at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “As it happens, 2024 is a very big year for such elections. They will be held in 33 states, and in several, ideological control of the court could shift depending on the results. While I am generally looking ahead to November here, one notable state supreme court election is actually coming up next week in Georgia, as former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow is seeking to unseat a justice appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Andrew Pinson….In 2024, some of the most hotly contested supreme court contests will be held in a pair of big Midwestern states, Michigan and Ohio, where partisan control of the court is at least mathematically at stake. In both states, abortion has been a big issue, with voters approving pro-abortion-rights ballot measures in the past two years….Several other states that have experienced battles over abortion will be home to notable supreme court races this fall, including Arizona, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Kentucky, although it remains to be seen how much of an energizing factor abortion will be for Democrats, either overall or for judicial races specifically….According to Ballotpedia’s indispensable index of state supreme court races, 2024 has 83 state supreme court races on tap (plus 222 races for lower appeals courts, which I will not cover in this article)….Five states (Michigan, Ohio, Montana, North Carolina and Kentucky) have competitive supreme court elections this year with results that could shift the court’s ideological balance, at least to a degree.” Jacobson goes on to provide inside skinny for each off these states and “other contested states.” Yes, there is only so much time in the day and there is too much political stuff out there already to read even more about down-ballot contests. But if you are tired of the insanity of the “big” races, you may find some of these state Supreme Court races refreshing in their quaint focus on issues that actually affect our lives.

If Democrats have any realistic hopes for prevailing in the 2024 elections, we have to take the downer data and analysis seriously and, yknow, maybe try and correct some loser notions and behavior. Somebody has to bring the reality check, and Ruy Teixeira does it well in his Washington Post column, “Young voters aren’t as liberal as you think.” Some excerpts: “The romance between President Biden and young voters, never particularly torrid, remains no better than lukewarm as his administration whipsaws between its support for Israel, its desire to placate young demonstrators and the need to keep a lid on social unrest in an election year….The ongoing demonstrations on campuses are really only the latest complicating factor in an already blurry picture of young voter support for Biden and the Democrats. Young voter discontent has been gathering throughout Biden’s term and might no longer give Democrats the margins they need to hold the White House and the Senate….According to Gallup, 18-to-29-year-olds today (most of whom are considered Gen Z) are plurality, but not majority, Democratic….That plus-8 advantage is the narrowest Democratic tilt among this age group since 2005 and continues a downward trend since 2019, when the Democratic advantage among this age group was 23 points….The next age group for which Gallup makes data available is 30-to-49-year-olds. This age range is larger than desirable but does include the entirety of the millennial generation — except for those 28 and 29 years old. In 2018, when this age group had fewer millennials in it than it does today, Democrats had a 12-point advantage. Now, Republicans are ahead by two percentage points among voters between 30 and 49 years old.” Double Yikes. Teixeira continues, “….Another venerable polling outfit, Pew Research Center, has released data suggesting the Democratic advantage in party ID among 18-to-29-year-olds is much larger, possibly because Pew restricted the sample to registered voters and pushed respondents quite hard on whether they are really “independent.” This further clouds the picture of young voters’ political leanings….The most recent data indicates that only about one-third of those ages 18 to 29 identify as liberal. That liberal share is indeed higher among this age group than other age groups, but obviously it is not the dominant ideology even for this cohort….Among Gallup’s 30-to-49-year-olds — again, this age group now includes the overwhelming majority of millennials — there is even less evidence of liberal domination. They are just 25 percent liberal, 40 percent moderate and 33 percent conservative….On immigration, 48 percent of under-30 voters consider Biden more liberal than they are on the issue, compared with 29 percent who think he’s more conservative than they are. Similarly, 46 percent consider Biden more liberal on the border and 44 percent think he’s more liberal on asylum seekers than they are compared to 30 percent and 25 percent, respectively, who think he’s more conservative….On transgender issues, 48 percent of these under-30 voters (remember, these are essentially Gen Z voters we’re talking about!) consider Biden more liberal than they are on these issues, compared with 28 percent who think the president is more conservative. And by 10 points, voters under age 30 oppose the idea that transgender individuals should be allowed to play on sports teams that do not match their birth gender….On crime, 40 percent of 18-to-29-year-old voters think Biden is more liberal than they are on the issue, compared with 30 percent who think he’s more conservative. By 12 points, they think criminals are not punished harshly enough in this country rather than too harshly.” And perhaps more importantly, “Gallup data finds 62 percent of those under 35 (Gen Z and the younger millennials) describe themselves as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life” (32 percent). And a staggering 81 percent say abortion should be generally legal during the first three months of pregnancy. But when queried about the second three months of pregnancy, just under half (48 percent) think abortion should be legal in this period. And for the last three months of pregnancy, only one-third support legal abortions.” Now for the kickers: “Big data firm Catalist estimated the Democratic margin among these voters at a stable 22 or 23 points in the last three presidential contests. But polls this year have repeatedly shown Biden only narrowly ahead of former president Donald Trump among this age group — and sometimes losing….For example, the data analytics site Split Ticket maintains an average of demographic cross tabs from public polls. Thus, for 18-to-29-year-olds, Split Ticket found that Biden led Trump by an average of just 12 points in April polls. Interestingly, they also collected data on cross tabs among 18-to-34-year-olds (different polls use different age breaks) and this slightly older age group — which contains more millennials — only averaged a two-point advantage for Biden that month….Similarly, the latest New York Times-Siena poll — ranked No. 1 among all U.S. pollsters by the website FiveThirtyEight — has Biden ahead by just one point among 18-to-29-year-olds and behind by one point among 30-to-44-year-olds. Among likely voters, a smaller subset, Biden is ahead by two points among 18-to-29-year-olds and by an identical margin among 30-to-44-year-olds. But no matter how you screen, this a sharp falloff for Biden from 2020.”