Yesterday, the Progressive Policy Institute (the DLC-affliliated think tank) released With All Our Might, a collection of essays on how Democrats would fight and win the war with jihadism, at a National Press Club event featuring Evan Bayh and Mark Warner. It’s an important book, at a time when Democrats are trying to put together a credible vision for what we can offer if we take back Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. Sure, it’s very helpful that House Dems are promising they will implement the 9/11 commission report during the first 100 days of the next congressional session, but that’s hardly a comprehensive natonal security platform. And with Republicans almost certain to try to fan persistent fears that Democrats aren’t tough enough to keep Americans safe, we need something clear, positive, and sharply distinguishable from Bush policies, to say about the battle our country has been in since 9/11. Check out Monday’s New Dem Dispatch for a quick summary of the book. And please don’t be misled by news reports (which I fear may get echoed in the blogosphere) that frame the book, largely based on questions posed to speakers at the event, as part of some intra-party “fight” on national security, or on Iraq. The 19 national security wonks who contributed to With All Our Might are from all parts of the progressive spectrum, several of whom opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. The book does not have a chapter on Iraq, because the whole idea is to explain what Democrats would do on the broader issue of fighting jihadism, which the American people still care about deeply even if many of them have given up on the administration’s Iraq adventure. And nobody who reads the book could think it represents a criticism of Democrats: the central thrust is to analyze the administration’s and the Republican Party’s failures of leadership–not just their incompetence, but their flawed ideology–and lay out an alternative agenda rooted in the progressive internationalist tradition. So check it out with an open mind, and remember the price that Democrats, and Americans, have paid for past Republican advantages on national security.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
Watching an intra-Democratic argument on voting rights strategy intensify in Washington, I offered some advice to both sides at New York:
There has been an underlying disagreement within the mostly Democratic coalition favoring voting rights that was nicely captured in this New York Times report on Friday:
“A quiet divide between President Biden and the leaders of the voting rights movement burst into the open on Thursday, as 150 organizations urged him to use his political mettle to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions … In private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to ‘out-organize voter suppression,’ according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”
Both sides in this argument are partly wrong. Those who expect Joe Biden to force the For the People Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act through the Senate via some major revision in the ability to filibuster are probably expecting the impossible. Yes, perhaps if Biden personally and insistently and abrasively lobbied Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to abandon her very consistent defense of the filibuster, up to and including encouragement of a primary challenge to her when she is up for reelection in 2024, she might decide her current and very insistent independent-maverick “branding” isn’t going to keep working for her. But Joe Manchin? He would be thrilled to get attacked by a Democratic president or Democratic advocacy groups for insisting that he won’t support voting-rights measures unless at least some Republicans support them. His state is so very red that the threat of a primary challenge to the sole remaining successful West Virginia Democrat is a laugher.
Short of a nuclear attack on West Virginia, it’s hard to identify anything Biden might do to Manchin that wouldn’t run a high risk of backfiring. And he does need Manchin on the reconciliation bills Democrats are using to get around the filibuster to enact Biden’s social and economic agenda. It’s just too bad voting-rights bills don’t qualify for reconciliation.
Yes, it is intensely frustrating that Biden cannot bring himself to come out forthrightly for filibuster reform, but it probably doesn’t matter since it is not happening unless the Democratic Senate Conference gets bigger, making senators like Manchin and Sinema irrelevant on the subject. So at some point voting-rights advocates need to focus on that goal.
At the same time, White House claims that Democrats can “out-organize voter suppression” are partially wrong as well. Yes, restrictive provisions like voter-ID requirements, limits on voting by mail, and even voter-roll purges can be countered and perhaps overcome by intensive efforts to educate and energize the voters Republicans are trying to keep from the polls. But you cannot out-organize a partisan gerrymander, or a law that lets election officials or state legislators overturn the outcome of an election after votes are cast.
Voting-rights advocates will eventually have to play the cards dealt to them by the system as it currently exists. That means refraining from too much anger aimed at Democratic pols who have little choice but to concede defeat on some legislation and concentrate on legislation (i.e., those reconciliation bills with many items vital to the people whose voting rights are also under attack) they can enact with no margin for error in the Senate and little in the House. At the same time, Biden and his staff and Democratic “pragmatists” in Congress should never for a moment be cavalier about the legislative obstacles they face in defending democracy itself. They may have to accept a tactical defeat on voting rights in this Congress. But they should never, ever, give up on making it happen later if not sooner.