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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Daily Strategist

October 15, 2018

Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Teixeira: Time for the Fourth Way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Republicans May Mobilize Against Feinstein–And For Her Progressive Opponent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Democrats’ Latino Turnout Problem Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post syndicated column, “Here’s where Democrats are really picking up Trump voters,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “One bottom-line truth of American politics is that given the way the electoral college operates, Democrats need to reverse the flight of the white working class to President Trump’s GOP. Ohio is ground zero this year in testing the durability of Trump’s coalition…In [Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod] Brown’s quest for reelection, the appeal to workers is working. While Ohio swung from a three-point victory for Barack Obama in 2012 to an eight-point Trump win, Brown has enjoyed leads from 13 to 18 points over Republican Rep. James B. Renacci in three polls over the past month…Brown has a political advantage in the state’s once-thriving manufacturing regions because he has been a consistent critic of free-trade pacts such as NAFTA, an area of common ground with Trump.” Dionne also flags a key pro-worker appeal of Democratic nominee for Ohio Governor Richard Cordray’s ad campaign: “You shouldn’t need a college degree,” Cordray says, “to be part of the middle class.” Count on this to become a new national Democratic theme.”

“In an academic study of competitive U.S. House primaries from 2006 to 2014, we found that extremist nominees do considerably worse in the general election, on average, than moderates,” report Stanford political scientists Andrew B. Hall Daniel M. Thompson in their article, “Should Democrats rally the base or target swing voters?” at PostEverything. “The reason, however, may come as a surprise: It’s not that extremists turn off moderates in their own party. It’s that they fire up the other party’s base…In other words, when Democrats nominate more-extreme candidates, they can expect more Republicans to show up to vote against their nominee in the general election.” Analysing vote tallies fomr the 2006 and 2014 midterm elections, the authors found that “more-extreme nominees tend to win a substantially lower average of vote shares in the general election, tend to win the general election less often, and tend to increase turnout among voters in the opposing party.”

John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politic, argues in his article “Can Taylor Swift inspire young nonvoters to vote? You bet,” also at PostEverything: “The October surprise of 2018 might well be a perfectly timed Instagram post from Taylor Swift. Is it possible that she can do for Democrats what so many of her peers failed to do in 2016?..Her Instagram post Sunday referred to specific issues that millennials like her care about and connected them to Democratic congressional candidates in her home state of Tennessee, citing a voter registration website and a Tuesday deadline. Vote.org, the website she linked to, reported nearly as many new Tennessee registrants in the 36 hours after the singer’s post as in the entire month of September, and more than double the number from August…Candidates seeking to take maximum advantage of what is a quantifiable increase of interest among young voters in the final weeks of the campaign would be wise to follow Swift’s framework. Voting is not the habit for young Americans that it is for others, so it’s critical to remind them that in every congressional district and state on Nov. 6, guns will be on the ballot — as will jobs, health care, gender equity and empowerment, education, student loans and the kind of capitalism they want to see practiced in the United States…Swift already stands out from her peers as having the most politically diverse fan base among young Americans, and I would not bet against her helping register, empower and activate just enough of them to make a difference in November, for them and the country.”

“…You must build supermajority participation, because, as the election approaches, the opposition will succeed at stripping support from a key percentage of previous yes voters. All effort must be focused on what successful union organizers call “going to the biggest-worst”: spending all our time with workers who are undecided or leaning anti-union. The biggest mistake inexperienced union organizers make is spending precious time preaching to the choir, i.e., talking to pro-union activists…These conversations are hard, so people avoid the urgent and instead do the easy (and lose). In hotly contested districts, building a supermajority means identifying the neighbor, congregant or family member who can help hold or move undecided or shaky voters (strangers simply can’t do this) and making sure the conversations are happening. To win, forget wishful thinking and build to the number needed to win assuming you lose 10 points the days before the election.” – From Jane McAlevey’s New York Times op-ed, “Three Lessons for Winning in November and Beyond: What union organizers can teach Democrats.”

NYT editorial board member Michelle Cottle writes, “With Justice Kavanaugh now safely tucked into his lifetime appointment, there’s much less cause for conservatives to stay angry. And even if they’re stewing today, or next weekend, three-plus weeks is an eternity in politics — all the more in a political climate dominated by this endlessly dramatic White House. Thus, we see prominent Republicans, including the Senate majority leader and the head of the Republican National Committee, peddling the idea that if Democrats gain power in Congress, one of their top priorities will be to impeach Justice Kavanaugh. No matter that this claim has no factual basis — it plays perfectly to the Republican base’s enduring sense of victimhood…Which is why Democrats must resist the urge to follow Republicans down this spider hole, or that of any radioactive topic designed to inflame partisan passions…Thankfully, Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress seem to recognize this and are encouraging their members to pivot toward issues aimed at bringing more people into the fold.”

Every Democratic candidate should have a a solid talking point about climate change, because their Republican opponent probably won’t and it’s a growing concern that many voters share across the political spectrum. Toward that end “10 ways to accelerate progress against climate change: From pricing carbon to shifting diets, here’s what we need to prioritize now” by Eliza Barclay and Umair Irfan at vox.com provides a useful resource for crafting soundbites and short, coherent responses. Not all ten suggestions will work for every candidate and constituency, but several will, including: “2) Subsidize clean energy, and end subsidies for dirty energy…Renewable energy sources like wind and solar power have already become dramatically more affordable. In the United States, renewables are cost-competitive with fossil fuels in some markets…if your goal is to fight climate change, it makes more sense to keep giving cleaner energy sources a boost…The fossil fuel industry is meanwhile still getting a number of direct and indirect subsidies. In the US, these subsidies can amount to $20 billion a year. Globally, it’s about $260 billion per year. Getting rid of government support for these fuels seems like a no-brainer.”

Some “key points” from “The State Legislatures: More than 6,000 down-ballot races to determine control of states: Democrats poised to pick up seats and chambers but huge existing GOP majorities may help the Republicans maintain power in many places” by Tim Storey and Wendy Underhill at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “More than four of every five of the nation’s state legislative seats will be on the ballot this year…The usual midterm presidential penalty extends to state legislative seats, where the presidential party loses an average of more than 400 state legislative seats each midterm…On average, 12 chambers flip party control each cycle. Democrats should net chambers but may fall short of that average…One possible outcome in November is that Democrats pick up hundreds of seats but manage to wrest control in just a few legislative chambers because the GOP holds such big majorities in many states…The nation is likely to elect a historically high number of women state legislators. About one in four state legislators are women currently.”

In her ThinkProgress article, “Senate Republicans show their true colors on pre-existing conditions: Only one Republican voted to block Trump’s junk insurance plan,” Amanda Michelle Gomez notes, “Protecting people with pre-existing conditions isn’t a priority for Republicans — lowering insurance premiums is. Senate Republicans said as much when they voted Wednesday against blocking the Trump administration’s expansion of health plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions….All but one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), voted in favor of these bare-bones health plans. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who voted against Obamacare repeal last summer, and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) — perhaps the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election this November, who has been campaigning on protecting people with pre-existing conditions — declined to vote in favor of the resolution.”

We close today’s edition of PSN on a hopeful note from “The Kids Are Alright — And They’re Voting in the Midterms, Study Finds: Report shows young people planning to vote in historic numbers in 2018” by Stephanie Akin at Roll Call: “Young people, who typically sit out midterm elections, are planning to vote in potentially historic numbers in 2018, according to a report released Tuesday from Tufts University. People ages 18 to 24 are also receiving more campaign outreach and paying closer attention this year, potentially matching the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, according to a report from the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University…The survey of 2,087 people ages 18 to 24 found 34 percent were extremely likely to vote. Forty-five percent of those voters said they would vote for Democrats, versus 26 percent for Republicans.”


Help Improve the DNC’s ‘We Are Democrats’ Ad

When you go to dnc.org welcome page, you have to scroll down to the bottom to find the 2+ minute video clip the DNC uses to introduce the Democratic Party to the public. Here it is:

It may be too late to improve the video ad a month out from election day. But perhaps the DNC’s video-makers could benefit from some feedback from Democratic rank and file and activists. What’s your take?

Some questions to consider: How important are political ads? Does the Democratic Party need an ad that introduces what the party is all about, or should it just present ads from individual candidates?

Does this ad help Dems present an appealing ‘brand’? Does it speak to all American persuadable voters, or preach to the choir?

Does it reach out to neglected constituencies?  Does it say enough about the pivotal issues? What would be the optimum mix of positive, self-branding videos vs. negative ads attacking opponents?

Should the ad be longer than 2 minutes, or should there also be some longer videos? Is it adequately focused on the midterm elections? Should there be just one intro video on the welcome page, or some more robust, targeted ads on different topics and addressing different constituencies?


Teixeira: How Far Left Is the Democratic Party Moving?

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

How Far Left Is the Democratic Party Moving?

I address this question in a new article for the British site, Unherd. I argue that the Democratic party is indeed moving left but not in the fashion envisioned by self-conscious radicals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“The Left in America is on the rise…But how far Left is this surge? And what does it stand for? Can it really be compared with the hard Left radicalism seen elsewhere across the globe?

Rhetorically, this new Leftism rejects ‘business as usual’ and involves a sweeping indictment of the economic and political system for generating inequality and doing little to help ordinary people in the wake of the great financial crisis. Substantively, Democrats today – in particular aspirants for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination – are far more willing to entertain and endorse ‘big ideas’, such as going beyond the ACA, aka Obamacare (which is now vigorously defended) to ‘Medicare for all’, free college education, universal pre-kindergarten provision, vastly expanded infrastructure spending and even a guaranteed jobs programme. Taxing the rich is ‘in’ and worrying about the deficit is ‘out’.

Democrats are also highly unified on core social issues such as opposing racism, defending immigrants, promoting LGBT and gender equality and criminal justice reform. In short, the centre of gravity of the Democratic party has decisively shifted from trying to assure voters of fiscal and social moderation, to forthrightly promising active government in a wide range of areas.

But this hardly means the Democrats are in any danger of becoming a radical party. Far from it. As Leftism goes, the current Democratic iteration is of a fairly modest variety, approaching, at most, mild European social democracy. Those who call themselves ‘socialist’ (as Ocasio-Cortez does) are few and far between.

Nor is it the case that incumbents and moderates are being thrown out wholesale and replaced with candidates much farther to their Left. Across the country, only two Democratic incumbents in the House lost primaries, and none in the Senate did. A Brookings study found that self-described “progressive Democrats” did well in primaries this election season but establishment Democrats actually did somewhat better. Thus, the change in the party is less a Leftward surge featuring new politicians (though this is happening to some extent) and more a steady party-wide movement to the Left.”

That’s my take. Read the whole article for more detail.


Teixeira: Understanding the House Battleground

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

The Washington Post is out with a large poll of the House battleground–the 69 most competitive House districts. The poll covered the period when the Kavanaugh controversy was coming to a head so should capture political movement from those events pretty well.

The topline is quite favorable for the Democrats:

“The survey of 2,672 likely voters by The Post and the Schar School at George Mason University shows that likely voters in these districts favor Democrats by a slight margin: 50 percent prefer the Democratic nominee and 46 percent prefer the Republican. By way of comparison, in 2016 these same districts favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones by 15 percentage points, 56 percent to 41 percent.”

If accurate, that’s quite a sea change in sentiment in these districts.

But I want to draw special attention to a couple of graphics in the story. The first shows some basic demographics of the likely voters in those districts. Note that despite all the talk about educated suburbanites, there are still far more white noncollege than white college voters in these districts (47 percent to 31 percent).

The second shows vote intention by some key demographics. Unsurprisingly, the Democratic advantage among white college women is large (62-37). But also of great significance is that white noncollege women–a more numerous demographic than white college women–are close to even between the parties (a mere 4 point Democratic deficit). If white noncollege women were polling more like their white noncollege male counterparts (a 20 point Democratic deficit), the Democrats’ chances of taking the House would be poor.

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Understanding these facts about the House battleground is key to understanding what is going on in 2018 and lessons Democrats should learn for 2020.


Political Strategy Notes

From “Liberals, This is War” by NYT columnist Chafrles M.Blow: Liberals can get so high-minded that they lose sight of the ground war. Yes, next month it is important to prove to the rest of Americans, and indeed the world, that Trump and the Republicans who promote and protect him are at odds with American values and with the American majority…But, catharsis is an emotional response and an emotional remedy…Liberals have to look beyond emotions, beyond reactionary electoral enthusiasm, beyond needing to fall in love with candidates in order to vote for them, beyond the coming election and toward the coming showdown…Folks, Kavanaugh is only one soldier, albeit an important one, in a larger battle. Stop thinking you’re in a skirmish, when you’re at war.”

Regarding the proposals to impeach Kavanaugh or pack the Supreme Court to restore ideological blaance, Charliie Savage writes in his aticle, “On the Left, Eyeing More Radical Ways to Fight Kavanaugh” in The New York Times that “Either step would be an extraordinary violation of constitutional and political norms. No justice has been removed through impeachment. And a previous attempt at court packing, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after a conservative-dominated Supreme Court rejected important parts of his New Deal initiatives during the Great Depression, is broadly seen as having been misguided…Either step would also face steep odds. Some Republicans would have to go along for them to work: a court-expansion bill would need the support of 60 senators to overcome a filibuster, and while a simple majority of the House could vote to impeach, removal would require two-thirds of the Senate…Still, even the political pressure of the threat might make some of the conservative justices more cautious. While Congress rejected Roosevelt’s court-reform bill, the court changed course while lawmakers were considering it and started upholding New Deal laws — a move called “the switch in time that saved nine.”

At The American Prospect, Paul Starr notes another way-down-the-road potential Supreme Court reform: “Democrats should also seek to negotiate long-term constitutional reforms of the Court, though these would not address the immediate challenge they face. One such reform is to limit Supreme Court justices to a single, 18-year term, with those terms staggered so that an appointment comes up every other year. Winning the presidency would then mean getting two Court nominations per term. Fixed terms for the Court would reduce the tendency toward self-perpetuating majorities that results from justices deciding to retire only when a president of their own party is in office.

You gotta like the title of the David Atkins post, “Bipartisanship is Dead. Time for Democrats to Embrace Their Inner McConnell” at The Washington Monthly. Atkins writes, “McConnell more than any other person is responsible for the destruction of bipartisan norms. He exerted unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s legislation and nominees, crucially including Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland who never even received a hearing from McConnell’s Senate. McConnell enabled Russian interference in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump by threatening to deny it and call it a presidential abuse of power if Obama-era law enforcement agencies exposed the plot. And now, of course, McConnell has made himself responsible for a mockery of a Supreme Court confirmation process, abusing his power to hide and limit evidence and testimony about Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual abuses and blatant perjury…Instead, Democrats will need to embrace their own inner Mitch McConnell…it will be just as important to secure structural initiatives that will make it difficult for Republicans to continue thwarting the will of an increasingly progressive majority. That is precisely what McConnell would do if a man of his instincts and temperament were serving the public welfare and society’s marginalized, rather than corporations, the wealthy and the privileged….Among these fixes would include but not be limited to:

1) Making election day a federal holiday, and perhaps moving it from Tuesday to a weekend.

2) Pushing a majority of states to sign onto the National Popular Vote compact.

2) Securing statehood for Washington DC and Puerto Rico, thereby securing representation for those citizens while limiting the overrepresentation of rural white conservative states in the Senate.

3) Limiting gerrymandering and voter suppression by states in whatever ways are constitutionally possible, including by pressing for non-partisan districting commissions, automatic voter registration, full vote by mail systems, paper ballots with paper trails and more.

4) Securing responsible immigration reform and a rapid pathway to citizenship.

5) Adding more justices to both the appellate courts and Supreme Court.”

And David Leonhardt writes in his NYT column, “Get Angry, and Get Involved: The midterm elections are the smart way to make your influence felt” that “The only good solution to this mess involves fighting for democratic principles. In concrete terms, this means turning your attention away from the Supreme Court, for now, and toward the midterm elections. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is over. The midterms are not, and, one way or the other, they will change Washington. Either President Trump will be emboldened — to fire Robert Mueller, take away health insurance and so on — or he will be constrained. There is no election outcome that preserves the status quo.”

Some statistics for Democrats to ponder, from Hunter Schwarz’s “How millennials could kill politics as we know it if they cared to” at CNN Politics: “Defined by Pew as those born between 1981 to 1996, millennials make up about 22% of the US population, and at some point between November’s midterms and the 2020 election, they’re expected to surpass baby boomers as America’s largest living generation. They’re a massive voting bloc, capable of setting policy priorities and swinging elections…In Congress, there are currently only eight millennials in the House and none in the Senate, according to Quorum, a public affairs software company. And millennials’ vote at lower rates than older generations. In 2016, just more than half of eligible millennials voted. In 2014, less than a quarter voted…Today, the average American is 20 years younger than their representative in Congress, Quorum data found…Politically, millennials are the most independent generation. They’re the least likely to see big differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, and a March Pew poll found 44% of millennials identify as independent, while 35% identify as Democrats and 17% as Republican.”

“The size of the Democratic advantage in the fight for control of the House is unclear with a month until the midterm elections,” warns Nate Cohn at The Upshot, “and there are recent signs Republicans might have improved their position, possibly because of the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court…The sheer number of highly competitive districts means a wide range of possible outcomes. Democrats could win in a landslide, or Republicans could run the table and narrowly retain a majority. Both possibilities are evident in data collected from The New York Times Upshot/Siena College surveys in battleground districts…With so many opportunities to win just a few more seats, it’s easy to see why the Democrats are considered favorites. And with so many opportunities over all, it’s easy to imagine how the Democrats could gain 40 or more seats. Even modest late movement toward the Democrats would topple many additional Republicans and potentially put an entire additional tier of seats into play…On the other hand, modest late movement toward the Republicans could give the party a chance to sweep a pretty long list of tossup districts. Any number of factors could push the race one way or another.”

Anna Maria Barry-Jester writes in her article, “Even People Insured By Their Employer Are Worried About Rising Health Care Costs” at FiveThirtyEight: “Polls show that once again, health care is weighing heavily on the minds of voters this election season. And that’s largely because voters think it costs too much. In August, nearly six in 10 Americans said they are very concerned about the rise in individuals’ health care costs. And just over a quarter of registered voters said that health care was the “most important” thing for candidates to talk about this election season (only corruption in Washington, with 30 percent, was cited as the most important issue more often). And the biggest concern under that giant health care umbrella? For a plurality, it was cost…That concern isn’t coming just from people who buy insurance on the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, even though that’s the group we hear about most often. People with employer-sponsored insurance are also paying more for health insurance and facing serious concerns about how they will pay their medical bills in the event they need care. A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation helps explain why: Employees are picking up more of the cost, even when they are covered through their employer…In 2000, the average family with an employer-provided plan paid 25 percent of the total cost of an annual insurance premium. By 2018, it was 28 percent (down from 30 percent in 2017), according to the annual KFF survey.”

In his article, “Democrats’ Burgeoning Chances in the Rust Belt” in The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “For Democrats looking ahead to 2020, the most encouraging trend in 2018 may be the party’s renewed competitiveness in key races across all five Rust Belt states that keyed Donald Trump’s unexpected victory two years ago. Yet even that potential recovery can’t erase the magnitude of the challenge Democrats will face reclaiming those states from Trump in 2020—a trial that likely became even tougher after he announced a new North American trade deal this week…But perhaps even more encouraging for Democrats are the sprouts of recovery among working-class white voters—or at least working-class white women. In general, midwestern blue-collar white men still overwhelmingly favor Republicans in this fall’s contests. But in Ohio, the NBC/Marist poll showed Brown leading among non-college-educated white women by double digits, and Cordray trailing only slightly. In Wisconsin, those women prefer Evers narrowly and Baldwin by a 17-point margin. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne, who are forcefully challenging Republican incumbents in two Iowa districts, posted stronger results among non-college-educated whites than almost any other Democrats in the recent House polls conducted by Siena College and The New York Times.