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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What Will Trump Loyalists’ Sensed Powerlessness Mean For Politics?

Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party continues to shape America’s politics, even as the Democrats have taken control of the federal government and Congress.

Read the Report

From Democracy Corps

 

5 Practical Strategies for Moderate Candidates

Trump loyalists are not just completely committed to a Fox News’ right-wing political perspective but to an extreme alternative ideology that requires the denial of even patently evident facts

Strategies based on Democracy Corps new study.

Most Profoundly Sinister Provision in the New GOP Voter Suppression Laws

All of the GOP measures are designed to make voting harder and reduce the turnout of minorities and other pro-Democratic groups but one key strategy is quite literally designed to turn American elections into meaningless, completely empty rituals like they are in police state dictatorships like Russia.

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Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

Democratic officeholders and candidates who plan to run in 2022 and 2024 need to face a simple, brutal fact – many will lose their next elections and will return control of government to the GOP if they do not offer a more plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border

Democrats in 2022 and 2024 will lose elections without a strategy.

Strategy for Separating Extremist from Non-extremist White Workers

The grotesque events since the election finally forced a limited section of the Republican coalition to take a stand against the extremists who gained essentially complete domination over the GOP after the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Prevent the Triumph of GOP Extremism.

The Daily Strategist

June 25, 2021

Is the Democratic Plague of Midterm Fall-Off Ending?

A very old topic (to me) has arisen in connection with 2022 previews, and I wrote about it at New York:

As political observers know, the party not in control of the White House usually does well in midterm U.S. House and state elections. (The Senate is a bit iffier because the landscape can vary enormously based on which “class” of one-third of the chamber is up for reelection in any one year.) There have, however, been two aberrations in the recent past, in 1998 and 2002, wherein the White House party gained House seats. As I discussed in a recent post, Democrats hope 2022 could be an aberration as well, thanks to positive feelings about the subsiding pandemic and a strong economy, and perhaps the continued presence in the public eye of Donald J. Trump — the man nearly all Democratic and many swing voters love to hate.

But there’s another midterm variable that should be considered: a traditional “midterm fall-off” in voting by demographic groups that have recently become Democratic bastions. This was exhibited most forcefully in the very bad (for Democrats) midterm elections of 2010 and 2014.

Even after Trump’s election in 2016 gave Democratic-leaning demographic groups plenty of reasons to turn out disproportionately, there were fears the falloff would reduce or even wipe out Democratic gains in 2018. That didn’t happen, of course, as Ron Brownstein recalls:

“In 2018, more than 118 million Americans voted, exactly half of the eligible population, according to [Michael] McDonald’s calculations. That was the highest midterm turnout, as a share of eligible voters, since 1914, before women won the right to vote.

“And while the 2018 electorate was still somewhat older than in 2016, the gray shift wasn’t nearly as powerful as in the past, because young adults turned out at twice the level they did in the last midterm, of 2014. Turnout among Blacks and Hispanics also declined much less than in previous midterms, with the result that the White share of the vote actually fell from 2016 to 2018, according to McDonald’s calculations, an unprecedented pattern in recent years … The turnout wave continued into 2020, with nearly 160 million people voting and turnout among young people and people of color again rising dramatically.”

One key question for 2022 is whether the fall-off will resemble what we saw in 2010 or 2014 or instead the smaller version that appeared in 2018. The experts Brownstein consulted expect something in between, which, if combined with the kind of gains Democrats made in 2018 and 2020 among college-educated white suburbanites and older voters, could make a midterm upset possible under the right circumstances.

Democrats aren’t the only ones trying to get new or marginal voters to turn out again in 2022: Trump managed to turn out a surprising number of them in 2020 himself. Keeping them energized is job one for the GOP in 2022, and Republicans may have the advantage of the kind of enraged opposition to a “socialist” president that was so visible in the tea-party movement of 2010 — though thus far, Biden is not inspiring the same levels of hostility.

That leads to the 2022 variable that no one can entirely foresee: How visible will Donald Trump be in the midterm campaign? The threat of a Trump comeback is the easiest way for Democrats to mobilize their new 2018 and 2020 voters and for Republicans to mobilize their own. Trump could help Democrats turn the midterm from a referendum on the incumbent president (a referendum incumbent presidents typically lose) to at least partially a referendum on the once and possibly future President Trump.

All of this seems far in the future to those who are focused on Democratic efforts to deliver popular legislation in a closely divided Congress. But if we know anything about the current political environment, it’s that partisan polarization will make big swings in public opinion difficult or even impossible barring equally big changes in the quality of real life. So it may well be the small underlying currents in electoral politics, including the demographics of midterm turnout, that will determine whether Biden has at least four years or just two to implement his agenda.

With or without some help from Trump, though, Democrats really need to find ways to keep young and minority voters engaged.


Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall provides a data-driven analysis of the role of education in reducing and widening inequality, and addresses crititical questions for national and local education policy and political debate, “Is education no longer “a great equalizer of the conditions of men,” as Horace Mann declared in 1848, but instead a great divider? Can the Biden administration’s efforts to distribute cash benefits to the working class and the poor produce sustained improvements in the lives of those on the bottom tiers of income and wealth — or would a substantial investment in children’s training and enrichment programs at a very early age produce more consistent and permanent results? Edsall givs the data a rigorous workout and concludes, “Education, training in cognitive and noncognitive skills, nutrition, health care and parenting are all among the building blocks of human capital, and evidence suggests that continuing investments that combat economic hardship among whites and minorities — and which help defuse debilitating conflicts over values, culture and race — stand the best chance of reversing the disarray and inequality that plague our political system and our social order.”

Benjamin Swasey reports at npr.com that “A bipartisan group of senators is “very, very close” to an agreement on a deal for an infrastructure package, Ohio Republican Rob Portman told Capitol Hill reporters Wednesday, and President Biden has invited the group to the White House Thursday….The invitation follows meetings between White House advisers and the group of senators Wednesday….on June 10, a group of five Republicans and five Democrats announced they had agreed on the contours of a package: some $1.2 trillion in spending over eight years, but less than half that in new spending.” As always the key disagreements center around financing infrastructure improvements. As Swasey notes, “A key sticking point has been how to pay for the measure, with Republicans opposed to undoing any of their 2017 tax cuts, and Biden against raising the gas tax….Portman told reporters the group has “a balanced group of pay-fors,” but did not go into more detail.” However, “The bipartisan infrastructure talks are on one track. Meanwhile, Democrats are eyeing a second, much larger package that would include spending on climate and education and pass along party lines, via the Senate’s budget reconciliation process….Senate Democrats have begun the budget process that would allow such a measure to move through the chamber.”

“So what is the way forward? Both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will have to come up with a new understanding of what their pledgesto save the filibuster mean,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column. “They’re not being asked to abandon the filibuster altogether. They are being called upon to accept that if the current rule is left unchanged, partisan majorities in Republican states will be able to make it harder to vote while Democrats in Washington render themselves powerless to do anything about it…Manchin got an object lesson in the futility of seeking GOP votes when Schumer invited him to slim down the For the People Act. Manchin proposed jettisoning many parts of the bill that Republicans don’t like and even endorsed voter-ID requirements, which Republicans have championed….McConnell’s response to Manchin’s efforts? He said the compromise bill had a “rotten core.” How many GOP slaps in the face will Manchin accept?….Memo to Democrats: Curbing the power of big money in politics is very popular.” Also, Dionne notes, “There are many ways to reform the filibuster without getting rid of it, including one proposed a decade ago by … Joe Manchin. Both Norm Ornstein, the congressional scholar, and former senator Tom Harkin have suggested approaches that would place a heavier burden on the minority trying to block action.”

Zachary B. Wolf explains why “Crime is becoming one of America’s biggest political issues” at CNN Politics: “The post-reopening murder wave is about to become a major subject of conversation. Murders have gone up in 2021, and the summer — high season for homicide — is just getting started….This new societal crisis is already turning political….Republicans are likely to carry the perception of the nation’s cities overrun by crime into the 2022 midterm elections….The political divide on crime will grow as Biden and Democrats focus on guns, which are involved in most murders, as the root of the problem, and Republicans blame liberal mayors and governors and lax attitudes toward policing. “We will make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets,” Biden said on Wednesday….Wolf adds, “Violent crime is up. Violent crime and murder rates are certainly up around the country compared to recent years (crime, more generally, is often down)….Murder rates, already creeping up from a low of 4.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2014, certainly increased during and now after the pandemic….The national murder rate of around five murders per 100,000 people in 2019 — is about half its all time recorded high in 1980, when more than 10 Americans for every 100,000 were murdered. Covid, by comparison, has killed more than 183 Americans per 100,000 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.” In terms of the Democratic response, Wolf writes that Biden “plans to sign executive actions with a particular focus on tamping down gun crimes, according to officials who spoke with reporters Tuesday night, and again called on Congress to take steps to enact new gun control laws. Senior administration officials also told reporters Tuesday evening that Biden’s plan will rely on using American Rescue Plan dollars for more flexible applications, including hiring law enforcement above pre-pandemic levels or using the funds toward community violence intervention programs.”


Why Many Can’t See the White-Black Wealth Gap

Neil Lewis, Jr. explains why “Why Many Americans Can’t See The Wealth Gap Between White And Black America” at FiveThirtyEight:

The reality is that our nation is still racially segregated. And it’s segregated in ways that limit our opportunities to learn about each other’s life experiences, even if our laws do not formally segregate our nation as they once did. This means that some live in a world in which they rarely encounter the conditions that bring harm to others everyday; others can’t escape those very conditions.

….The places where we live affect not only our access to resources, but also who we meet, interact with and become friends with. And because our neighborhoods are so segregated, our social networks are also siloed — about three-quarters of white Americans don’t have any nonwhite friends, according to a 2014 survey from PRRI. The nature of segregation in the U.S. means that we only end up seeing and learning about what our own groups experience, making it hard to understand the lives of people outside of our own group.

This explains, in part, why Americans have such a hard time understanding just how unequal our nation is, and moreover, the racialized nature of that inequality. For example, if you ask Americans about racial wealth gaps, you’ll find that they severely underestimate those gaps; according to a 2019 paper from a team of psychologists, Americans think the Black-white wealth gap is 40 to 80 percent smaller than it actually is.

Regarding racial inequality in the U.S., Lewis notes that “There is a mountain of evidence documenting its manifestation in education, health, criminal justice, employment and many other domains. And there are experts who have devoted their careers to studying how the structure, culture and politics of American society (re)produce inequality, as well as pathways for disrupting those cycles.” Further, Lewis argues, “if we want to disrupt long-standing patterns of racial inequality, our best course of action as a country might be to rely on that evidence and expertise instead of trying to convince people that the disparities exist, as it will always be hard for people to see inequality if it doesn’t bring harm to their own lives.”


Teixeira: Manchin Voting Rights Compromise, Popularity of Key Reforms

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

Stephen Wolf at Daily Kos Elections has a good summary (fair and balanced!) of Manchin’s proposed voting rights compromise. Well worth reading.

“While Manchin’s latest demands are likely to disappoint Democrats and democracy reformers who have called for as wide-ranging a bill as possible, Democrats hold little leverage over the West Virginia senator, whose vote is essential to overcome both GOP procedural obstruction and opposition to reform on the underlying merits. Manchin’s move to detail changes that could win his vote is a key first step toward reaching some sort of compromise that could one day pass Congress…”

In a related blog post, Teixeira cites new Monmouth poll data that clarifies the popularity of key voting rights reforms:

Voter Consensus: Make Early Voting Easier, Establish National Guidelines for Mail Voting and Early Voting, Require Photo ID to Vote

New Monmouth Poll data:

Make Early Voting Easier:
71 percent white/73 percent nonwhite/69 percent white noncollege (WNC)/73 percent white college graduate (WCG)

Establish National Guidelines for Mail and Early Voting:
65 white/67 nonwhite/66 WNC/65 WCG

Require Photo ID to Vote:
77 white/84 nonwhite/83 WNC/65 WCG

Interesting, especially the nonwhite figure on photo ID for voting.


Political Strategy Notes

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall shares this insight about American political attitudes shaped by trade-caused job insecurity: “Looking at the United States as a micro case study with global implications, David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., found that among white voters, those who lost jobs because of trade with China moved toward the political right….“Trade-exposed districts with an initial majority white population or initially in Republican hands became substantially more likely to elect a conservative Republican,” Autor and three colleagues wrote in a 2020 paper, “Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure.” The results support “a political economy literature that connects adverse economic conditions to support for nativist or extreme politicians.”

From Charlie Cook’s post on the “Democrats’ Double Standard” at The Cook Political Report: “In a provocative piece for The Democratic Strategist newsletter, political analyst Andrew Levison asks his fellow Democrats whether they agree with these three statements:

  1. “It is entirely reasonable for progressives to insist on candidates who do not just agree to support certain progressive policies because they are required as part of participation in a political alliance but who fully and sincerely embrace basic progressive values.
  2. “It is entirely reasonable for progressives to be suspicious of candidates who come from backgrounds and reflect the cultural outlook of communities that are culturally distant from the progressive world and culture.
  3. “It is entirely reasonable for progressives to feel that non-progressive voters ought to be willing to support a progressive candidate if they agree with his or her economic platform even if they disagree with other aspects of his or her agenda.”

According to Levison, for most progressives, “these three statements seem entirely reasonable, indeed obvious. After all, why shouldn’t progressives have the right to demand candidates who sincerely support progressive views and reflect a progressive cultural outlook …?”….Levison then turns the question on its head, with a second set of three statements:

  1. “It is entirely reasonable for culturally traditional rural and white working class people to insist on candidates who do not just agree to support certain culturally traditional policies because they are required as part of participation in a political alliance but who fully and sincerely embrace certain traditional cultural values.
  2. “It is entirely reasonable for culturally traditional rural and white working class people to be suspicious of candidates who come from backgrounds and reflect the cultural outlook of communities that are culturally distant from the rural and white working class world and culture.
  3. “It is entirely reasonable for rural and white working class people to feel that voters who are not rural or white working class ought to be willing to support a culturally traditional rural or white working class candidate if they agree with his or her economic agenda even if they may disagree with some of his or her other views and proposals.”

As Levison puts it, “the underlying logic is identical in the two cases. Yet many progressives will agree with the first set of propositions but then reject the second.”….Just as many Republican members of the House and Senate representing mostly rural- and small-town-oriented states and districts cannot seem to understand the pressures and considerations of their colleagues in highly suburban districts, many Democrats seem blissfully unaware that some of their colleagues represent (or more accurately, used to represent) constituents who see life, politics, and policy somewhat differently….Arguably, that is one of the things largely missing in American politics and conversations about politics: a hesitancy to judge others before you have walked a mile in their shoes, as the old admonition goes.”

In “Democrats Lost Ground With Non-College Voters of Color In 2020,” also at The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter reports on a disturbing trend for Democrats: “In digging through the 2020 voter data provided by the Democratic data firm Catalist, Third Way’s Aliza Astrow found that even as Biden was able to slightly improve on Clinton’s showing with white, non-college voters, “Democrats endured a sharp drop-off in support” from non-college voters of color. In 2016, according to the data from Catalist, Clinton took 81 percent of the vote from non-college voters of color. In 2020, Biden took 75 percent among this group, a 6-point drop. …While it’s hard to characterize a 75 percent showing as ‘weak,’ Democrats’ heavy reliance on voters of color means the party can’t afford to see more slippage among this demographic group in upcoming elections. Democrats’ long-term viability in Sun Belt states like Arizona, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina require more than just winning over white suburbanites and not losing any more ground with white, non-college voters. They have to continue to run up the score with voters of color….As with white voters, there is a decent gender gap among voters of color, both among non-college and college-educated voters. But, the drop in support among women (both college and non-college-educated) for Democrats between 2016 and 2020 was significant. For example, while Biden did 5 points worse among non-college men of color and 2 points worse among college-educated men of color than Clinton, he performed five points worse among college-educated women and seven points worse among non-college women. While many suspected that Trump’s appeal was unique to male voters of color (some attributed it to Trump’s direct appeal to ‘machismo’)  Astrow’s analysis shows that he gained among women voters of color too.”

“The deeper problem for Democrats in congressional elections is structural, due to the concentration of their voters in cities—and as Jonathan Rodden shows in Why Cities Lose, the Democratic vote is more concentrated in cities now than it has ever been,” Paul Starr writes in The American Prospect. “The Senate overrepresents the more rural and white states; in House elections, Democrats “waste” votes in urban districts where they run up lopsided victories. To win a majority of legislative seats, Democrats don’t just need a majority of votes nationally; they need to win by a majority-plus—by several extra percentage points—to compensate for their inefficient geographic distribution….That underlying problem, however, doesn’t wholly explain why Democrats met so many disappointments in down-ballot races in 2020. They initially seemed in a good position to win Senate races in Maine, North Carolina, Iowa, and Montana that they ultimately lost. They expected to gain House seats and instead lost 15, leaving them with a margin of only seven. Some voters who chose Biden apparently did not trust Democrats enough to vote for Democrats for Congress and give the party an unqualified mandate….This is where Democrats could be in a stronger position in 2022. The pandemic-related fear that Democrats would lock down the economy at the cost of jobs may have been responsible for some voters’ ambivalence in 2020. If the pandemic is behind us next year, the economy is booming, and Biden continues to provide steady leadership, Democrats may be able to offer a politics of hope and reassurance as a convincing alternative to the Republican politics of fear….It’s not clear that a democracy with a two-party system can survive when one of the parties no longer agrees to be bound by the rules of fair elections. We may have just been lucky in 2020 that the institutional checks held; they may not next time….Under these circumstances, Democrats have to be bold and careful simultaneously. They have to be bold in fighting the battles they are fighting, and they have to be careful in choosing which battles to fight and how they fight them. Not every cause is ripe; not every cause is equally urgent. Right now, they need to prove government works for ordinary people, and just as important, they need to pass federal election reforms to give American democracy the strongest possible defense against right-wing assault. If they are unable to do so because of the Senate filibuster, it will be the kind of colossal failure that later generations never forgive.”


Why Border Crisis Solution Requires More Than Reversing Trump’s Policies

A good ABC Examined News documentary on the border crisis, via FiveThirtyEight:

“After immigration at the southern border dipped during the coronavirus pandemic, the surge of migrants in 2021 has already surpassed recent records. Some have critiqued the Biden administration for quickly rolling back Trump administration policies without providing additional shelter capacity for arriving children. This episode of ABC’s Examined explores how the situation at the border is changing, and what the Biden administration could do to address the crisis.”


The False Equivalence of Omar and Greene

After a week of efforts to equate the controversial remarks of two particular members of Congress, I pushed back a bit at New York:

It looks like House Republicans are going to deal with outrage over their perennial problem child Marjorie Taylor Greene by finding a Democrat to punish. That would be Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, according to Politico’s Huddle:

“’I think that Ilan should receive the same type of punishment as Marjorie because if it’s good for one, it is good for another,’ Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), who voted to remove Greene from her committees, told me. ‘Anti-semitism is the same thing as anti-semitism. It’s just that Nancy is afraid …'”

There are others who want to push for Omar’s removal as well as those looking to censure her over her war crimes remarks — and a few Dems may join them.

The idea of equating Omar’s complaints about unequal treatment of countries in investigating military misconduct with Greene’s comparisons of mask and vaccine requirements to the Holocaust is deeply satisfying to a lot of people. Republicans can continue their now-ancient habit of waving away extremism in their ranks by claiming it’s more prevalent on the other side of the aisle. Nervous centrist Democrats can document their nervous centrism by firing thunderbolts left and right. And most of all, accusing both parties of harboring those prone to “false equivalence” appeals to the false equivalence many Beltway media folks want to draw between Democrats and Republicans, who are engaged in the mutually assured destruction of partisan polarization.

There’s only one problem: Treating what MTG and Omar have said as equal expressions of false equivalence actually is false, as any honest evaluation of their words quickly shows. Greene bluntly compared COVID-19 precautions to the Holocaust, analogized vaccine documentation mandates to the Nazi practice of making Jews wear yellow stars, and, for good measure, said Democrats are like Nazis because they are “socialists.” Omar said this in the midst of a virtual exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken over investigations of the brief but intense war between Israel and Hamas:

“’We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,’ she wrote. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’”

Her point wasn’t to say the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban were equally culpable in their commission of atrocities, but that all should be equally subject to international investigation. I suppose there are superpatriots who would dispute the idea that America has ever committed “unthinkable atrocities,” though the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks, and of countless genocidal assaults on Native Americans, among many examples, suggest otherwise. But in any event, when challenged by Republicans and Democrats alike to make it clear she was not imputing equivalent culpability to these various nations and coalitions of fighters, Omar complied instantly:

“U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Thursday that she was ‘in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems … ‘

“’To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.’”

MTG, meanwhile, kept doubling down on her comparisons of public-health measures with the slaughter of many millions by Nazi Germany, and finally, after more than three weeks and a tour of the Holocaust Museum, she issued an apology that betrayed little understanding of the full scope of the Holocaust, and then refused to apologize for the Democrat-Nazi analogy.

Looking more broadly at the two women and their records of controversial utterances, Ilhan made an unfortunate and erroneous reference to “the Benjamins,” in a gratuitous comment about support for Israel in the United States, for which she “unequivocally” apologized:

“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be able to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Greene lost her committee assignments earlier this year after media focus on an almost incredible blizzard of incendiary statements she made on social media before coming to Congress (barely anyone even noticed her practice of brandishing an AR-15 when discussing her enemies in campaign ads). In February, she apologized for claiming that school shootings were fake and for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories. She never apologized for happily contemplating violence against congressional Democrats (including, very specifically, Ilhan Omar) and the Speaker of the House, or for her unusually aggressive support of Trump’s electoral big lie and the effort in January to overturn the presidential election results, or for her own subscription to very weird anti-Semitic claims.

If you cannot discern a qualitative difference between Omar’s “outrages” and Greene’s, and between the speed and coherence of their clarifications and apologies, it may be time for some remedial work in logic and rhetoric. These two members of Congress aren’t alike at all, and as much as I sometimes disagree with Ilhan Omar, treating her as a left-wing MTG is lazy and just plain wrong.


Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Democrats Should Leap at the Chance to Take Joe Manchin’s Deal” at Slate, Richald L. Hasen writes: “With new pressure on Manchin since he again backed the filibuster and stated his explicit opposition to the initial version of the For the People Act earlier this month, he finally released his counteroffer on Wednesday. It includes a number of the most important voting rights and campaign finance priorities of the original bill, including a requirement of 15 days of early voting in federal elections, automatic voter registration, limits on partisan gerrymandering, and improved campaign finance disclosure. He’s also on board with extending campaign finance provisions to communications on the internet and to currently nondisclosing “dark money” groups, prohibiting false information about when, where, and how people vote, and an updated preclearance process….Democrats should jump at the opportunity to pass such a bill, but it is also fair to acknowledge it is far from perfect. Many of the darlings in the For the People Act are not on Manchin’s list, such as felon reenfranchisement, public financing of congressional elections, restructuring the often-deadlocked Federal Election Commission, and limiting state voter purges. Not only would the Manchin proposal continue to allow states to engage in voter purges, it also will require some form of voter identification for voting in federal elections, though in a more relaxed form than some of the strict rules some states have enacted. It also would weaken some of the standards for restoring preclearance under the John Lewis bill, making it harder to get a jurisdiction covered by the requirement and easier for a jurisdiction to get out from under its coverage….Again, this is a good deal being offered to Democrats, and Democrats should grab it. Voter identification is not necessarily bad, if it is implemented fairly, has ways for people lacking ID to still vote, and is funded fully by the government. Many of the items on the Democratic wish list not here are much less urgent than what is being offered and can be pursued another time.”

“His movements come as Senate Democrats prepare for a vote next week on the elections bill. The legislation is a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but has little chance of becoming law given opposition from Manchin and the GOP,” Laura Barron-Lopez, Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett write at Politico. “The West Virginia senator organized his Monday meeting after a similar conversation with leaders of national civil rights organizations one week earlier. With no change to the filibuster on the horizon, Manchin and the groups know that 10 Republican senators will be needed to support legislation that would achieve two major Democratic goals: reauthorizing key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and approving changes to American elections that lie at the heart of the party’s massive but stalled elections bill….Manchin is making clear he’s not against everything in the elections bill: He supports expanded early voting and a ban on partisan gerrymandering, according to a copy of his memo obtained by POLITICO. But he also wants new voter ID requirements and is pushing for more flexibility for state officials to remove voters from voter rolls, both of which run counter to the design of the elections bill that already passed the House….Manchin also proposes making Election Day a public holiday, mandating 15 consecutive days of early voting and allowing for automatic registration through the DMV with the ability to opt out.”

Newsweek’s Katherine Fung reports that “Joe Manchin Signals He’s Open to Filibuster Reform, Offering Hope to Democrats,” and notes, “Sen. Joe Manchin is signaling he may be open to reforming the filibuster, offering hope to Democrats who are eager to push their legislative agenda through Congress without the 60 votes currently required by the Senate rule….On Monday, Manchin joined a private Zoom call hosted by No Labels, an operation that combats partisan dysfunction and funnels donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, to discuss the filibuster, infrastructure negotiations and the failed efforts to create a January 6 commission….In remarks obtained by The Intercept, Manchin said he would consider lowering the threshold to beat the filibuster or forcing the minority to show up on the Senate floor in large enough numbers to maintain a filibutser….”That’s one of many good, good suggestions I’ve had,” the senator said about lowering the cloture total from 60 to 55….I looked back…when it went from 67 votes to 60 votes, and also what was happening, what made them think that it needed to change. So I’m open to looking at it, I’m just not open to getting rid of the filibuster, that’s all,” he added.”

Wasdhington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares this asessment of the Biden-Putin summit: “Watching Putin play defense underscored the good news from Geneva: The Biden-Putin encounter could hardly have been more different from the bizarre get-togethers between the Russian leader and former president Donald Trump. Biden denied the Russian leader a shared podium, and there was, thankfully, no fawning over Putin, no taking Putin’s word over the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies….On the contrary, when Biden met later with reporters, he derided any link between the jailing of Navalny and the Jan. 6 events as “ridiculous,” and he used his opening remarks to reaffirm the democracy-strengthening purpose of his European journey….Biden said he told Putin that “no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view. That’s just part of the DNA of our country….Biden’s final thought before he headed home: “As long as I’m president, we’re going to stick to the notion that we’re open, accountable and transparent.” Perhaps that was a parting shot at Vladimir Putin.”


Should Dems Plug Their Party More?

Alex Pareene’s article, “Here’s an Idea for Liberals: Propaganda: After every election, Democrats seem to talk about how they failed to craft a clear message. So how about bombarding people with a new kind of campaign ad?” at The New Republic suggests a new messaging strategy for Democrats. As Pareene writes,

The Democratic Party, by and large, relies on corporate mainstream media to do its messaging work and is then constantly furious when this strategy fails or backfires. Especially in Congress, leadership designs its strategy around trying to get a certain kind of coverage in the mainstream press; Democrats schedule votes intended to fail in order to create news stories about Republican intransigence, for example, and perform oversight hearings primarily in order to get particular members on television news. Given the average age of Democratic leadership, many of them probably learned or honed this strategy back when Americans watched one of three evening news broadcasts and read their municipality’s largest paper daily.

And this messaging strategy still does have some effect on non-Fox cable news coverage (in many congressional offices, as in many bad airport bars, cable news is on all day), but the limitations of the approach reveal themselves in every Media Matters bulletin, every complaint about how The New York Times has “framed” some issue, every frustrated tweet about Sunday talk shows featuring panels made up of Republicans on the one side and nonpartisan pundits on the other. The corporate media is not as implacably hostile to mainstream liberalism as it is to the left, but neither is it liberalism’s reliable ally.

Conservatives, on the other hand, simply tell their supporters whatever message they wish to convey through their expansive and organized propaganda networks. It is important to note that the official Republican Party does not lead this process. In fact, the party at this point is led by the propaganda network (parts of which are in turn captured by their increasingly rabid audiences). Conservatives can argue about whether this development has been “good” for those in the party actually interested in conservative policy goals. But no one can really deny the political success of the operation. It has kept the GOP relevant—and kept conservatives solidly in control of the party—even when actual conservative governance has regularly led to catastrophe, scandal, and failure.

Pareene conceeds “Liberals shouldn’t (and couldn’t) recreate the right-wing messaging operation, not least because their voters, and the voters they need to reach, consume media very differently from the conservative base.” However, notes Pareene, “liberals—normal, mainstream, Pod Save America–listening, Barack Obama–voting liberals—need to learn to get their message directly to people instead of trying to wrangle NPR and The New York Times into covering the news in a way favorable to Democrats.” In addition, Pareene adds:

Some political science professors summarized a recent research experiment in Politico Magazine earlier this month. Alexander Coppock, Donald P. Green, and Ethan Porter “conducted a series of randomized experiments to test whether parties can win over new loyalists” with ads that promoted a party rather than a particular candidate. What they found was that, with repeat exposure, “people changed their partisan identification ever so slightly after seeing the ads,” and that “higher doses of party-promoting ads” could influence people’s voting decisions and feelings about Donald Trump. “Partisan identity is usually understood as a root cause of political behavior,” the political scientists wrote. “By moving it, we also appear to have moved real-world political decisions.”

In the world of American political communications, ads promoting a party are a novelty. The researchers concluded that “both parties could benefit from producing the kinds of ads we tested,” and it’s true that neither party currently does this with conventional TV advertising. But while these political scientists framed their experiments as part of a novel ad strategy, what they were really doing was directly exposing people to particular political messages that had been designed to influence their political affinities—and even their identities. There is already language to describe what that kind of messaging is. These political scientists independently invented party propaganda, exposed Americans to it, and discovered that it can be effective, especially with constant exposure. Conservatives don’t need to learn to do this: It’s how their movement sustains itself.

Pareene notes further, “Amusingly, the top-shelf political ad professionals the political scientists hired to make the ads were “flummoxed by the request,” because no one had ever before asked them to create messaging designed to promote the Democratic Party or to convince people to associate themselves with it. Despite how familiar American liberals are with the power of propaganda when yielded by the right, it has seemingly never occurred to the most powerful of them to do any propagandizing on behalf of their own causes and party!”

Put another way, should Democrats put more effort into promoting their party? They could hardly do less. Perhaps experimenting with the concept in a few swing districts could shed some light on the potential of the approach as a grand strategy.


Teixeira: Joe Manchin, The People’s Hero

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

Joe Manchin is taking a lot of flack these days and I get why. If only he was not the actually-existing Joe Manchin from the actually-existing conservative state of West Virginia but instead some other Joe Manchin from some other, much more liberal, West Virginia! The Democrats’ job would certainly be a lot easier.

But this is all a bit silly isn’t it? In reality, the Democrats are damn lucky to have Manchin. They and any chance of large-scale progressive legislation would be dead without him. As political scientist Hans Noel noted in the Post:

“[I]t should be possible for Democrats to hold two thoughts at once about the West Virginia politician: First, what he is doing is lamentable, damaging to the party’s goals. But second, his presence in the Senate is a gift to the Democratic Party. Having a Democratic senator in 2021 in a state like West Virginia — where neither Hillary Clinton nor Biden could crack 30 percent of the vote — is a remarkable bit of good fortune.

Had Manchin not won reelection in 2018, his seat would be held by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R). This is the Morrisey who joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in four states where Trump lost; so probably not, to put it mildly, someone whom Democrats could persuade to back the For the People Act. More importantly, all else remaining the same, had Morrisey won, Democrats would be in the minority in the Senate, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) would be setting the body’s agenda, as majority leader.

But perhaps West Virginia needn’t have chosen between Manchin and someone like Morrisey in the first place. What if Democrats ran and nominated someone more liberal, or at least more likely to vote with Democrats, in Manchin’s next primary?

Consider, however, that Manchin beat Morrisey with 49.6 percent of the vote to Morrisey’s 46.3. This in a state where Biden got 29.7 percent of the presidential vote in 2020 and the Democratic challenger to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) that same year got 27 percent. There’s no evidence that another Democrat could come anywhere close to Manchin’s electoral performance.”

Them’s the facts. You might not like ’em, but them’s the facts.

And it’s not like they’re getting nothing from Manchin. David Leonhardt spells out his utility on economic issues, if not on things like the voting rights bill:

“The issues that tend to unite the Democratic Party are economic issues, and Manchin is a good case study. When he breaks with his party, it is typically on issues other than economic policy.

He effectively killed the voting rights bill this week, and he voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation in 2018. Manchin is also well to the right of most congressional Democrats on abortion and gun policy.

Yet he has often stuck with his party on taxes, health insurance, labor unions and other pocketbook issues. Like every other Democrat in the Senate, Manchin voted against both Donald Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and the 2017 Trump tax cut that was skewed heavily toward the rich. Earlier this year, Manchin voted for Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus rescue bill. Without his vote, that bill would not be law.

On all these issues — economic and otherwise — Manchin’s votes tend to reflect the majority opinion of his constituents. West Virginia is a working-class state, and American working-class voters tend to be culturally conservative and economically progressive. Polls show that most favor abortion restrictions, tight border security and well-funded police departments — as well as expanded Medicare and pre-K, a higher minimum wage, federal spending to create jobs and tax increases on the rich.

“Manchin is a pocketbook Democrat, not a social warrior,” Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, told me.

This pattern suggests that Manchin may be willing to support versions of the next two major items on Biden’s agenda: an infrastructure bill and an “American Families Plan” to expand child care, education and other areas….

If Manchin had provided the deciding vote for the voting rights bill, it arguably would have been unlike any other vote he had cast in his career. The same would not be true of a vote for the infrastructure bill or the families plan.”

Leonhardt goes on to draw the crucial lessons for the Democrats going forward:

“What about the longer term for the Democratic Party? Some Democrats are worried that the lack of a voting rights bill will doom the party to election losses starting in 2022. But that seems like an overstatement.

The voting restrictions being passed by Republican state legislators are worrisomely antidemocratic and partisan in their intent, many election experts say. And they may give Republicans an unfair advantage in very close elections. But it seems likely they will have only a modest impact, as Nate Cohn, who analyzes elections for The Times, has explained. Democrats can still win elections.

Manchin happens to be a useful guide on that topic, too. He has kept winning even as West Virginia has become deeply Republican, by appealing to the state’s culturally conservative, economically progressive majority. To varying degrees, some other Democrats from red or purple states, like Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, offer similar lessons. So did Obama, who fared better with working-class voters than many other Democrats.

This approach is the only evident way for Democrats to stem their losses in recent years among working-class voters — and not only among the white working class. A recent analysis of the 2020 election by three Democratic groups argued that the party lost Black, Latino and Asian American support because it did not have a sharp enough economic message. A recent poll by a Republican group found that most Latinos supported both tight border security and “traditional values centered on faith, family and freedom….

The Democrats’ problem isn’t so much Joe Manchin as it is the dearth of other senators who are as good at winning tough elections as he is.”

That’s right. You don’t like Joe Manchin? Fine. Go elect a bunch of other Senators in tough states so Democrats aren’t so dependent on him. The continuous rending of garments about his conservatism is truly pointless.

Finally, it’s not clear that Machin did such a bad thing by finally marking clear the For the People Act wasn’t going to pass. It was a quixotic and doomed approach to the problems it purported to solve. John Judis notes the profound problems with the bill and how a narrower approach to voting rights problems would be more realistic and effective:

“The Democrats — and freedom-loving Republicans and independents — should primarily be concerned with the laws that discourage normal non-pandemic era voting; and a bill that directly targeted those measures would enjoy wide popular support and could even garner some Republican support in Congress. But the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which was passed by House of Representatives in March, is not such a bill. Instead, it is an 886-page Christmas tree of progressive election measures. I am not saying Manchin is right to oppose it. I would probably favor 90 percent of the provisions. But it’s very understandable that he does and that other Democrats, in addition to every Republican, would.

These measures include, as I have described before, wide-ranging campaign finance reform, including public funding of elections, the institution of non-partisan redistricting, support for Congress being able to declare the District of Columbia a state, and a panoply of regulations that would govern state elections — elections that are supposed to be the purview of states. Many of these provisions are controversial. In West Virginia, the Association of County Clerks sent Manchin and his fellow senator, Shelley Moore Capito, a letter opposing the bill on the grounds that West Virginia was not prepared to implement many of the new regulations. Of the 54 of 55 clerks who signed the letter, 37 were Democrats….

Democrats would be better off paring down their initiative to several measures that would be readily understandable and popular — making election-day a federal holiday, for instance. And they would be even better off, as Manchin suggested, putting their weight behind the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the provisions of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court, and permit the Justice Department to block measures intended to curb minority voting. These measures are readily understandable, and would earn some Republican support, and they do address the Republican efforts to rig forthcoming elections. If this bill failed, that defeat could be used against Republican candidates in 2022 and 2024. It would portray the Republicans as captive of Trump’s bigotry and assault against democracy, and this measure’s defeat might also lead some Democrats to reconsider their opposition to filibuster reform.

As for the filibuster, the Democrats currently lack the popular support — as well as support in the Senate — for doing away entirely with the filibuster. To do that, Democrats would have to show that Republicans were using the filibuster to block measures that [are] wildly popular. The For the People Act doesn’t qualify. Nor do…most of [the] major bills that House Democrats have passed and are hoping to pass that cover gender, race, immigration, labor, and gun control.”

These are the political realities Democrats have to deal with until the situation changes. Until then though, you still have Joe Manchin–The People’s Hero!