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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: March 2013

New ‘Culture War’ Addresses Fairness of Wealth Allocation

Jonathan Haidt has an interesting post, “Of Freedom and Fairness: The new culture war is about economic issues, and the side that better sells its idea of fairness will have the upper hand” up at Democracy Journal. With the old culture war moving off center stage, Haidt argues that,

…Economic issues such as taxation are moral issues–no less so than social issues like gay marriage–and neither side has full control of the key moral foundations that underlie economic morality: fairness and liberty. Both sides are vulnerable to being outflanked and outgunned. Both sides could use a detailed map of the moral ground on which economic battles are waged.
In this essay I offer such a map, showing the territory currently controlled by Democrats (equality and positive liberty) and by Republicans (proportionality and negative liberty). What remains up for grabs is “procedural fairness”: the integrity of the process by which we decide who gets what. Both parties are open to charges that they don’t want everyone to “play by the same rules.” Both parties have ways of answering this charge and persuading the broader public that its concept of fairness is the better one. The party that wins that point will have the upper hand in this new culture war.

Haidt sets out to probe the moral foundations of political choice with respect to economic policy-making, noting the “taste buds of the moral mind: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Liberty/Oppression, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation…I wanted to find out if left and right in the United States were in some sense different nations, each with its own set of beliefs, facts, and values.” He adds,

To find out, my colleagues and I created a website at www.YourMorals.org, where we posted more than 60 psychological surveys and experiments. More than 300,000 people have completed one or more of those surveys. When people register at the site, they indicate their political orientation on a seven-point scale running from “very liberal/left” to “very conservative/right,” with additional options for “don’t know” and “libertarian.” The results on our most basic survey, the “Moral Foundations Questionnaire,” support our basic prediction that liberals rely primarily on the first three foundations, whereas social conservatives use all six. People who identify as libertarian, or who say that they are liberal on social issues but conservative on economic issues, tend to look more like liberals–they have little use for the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations. Where these “economic conservatives” differ from liberals is in having much lower scores on the Care/Harm foundation–they dislike the “bleeding heart” attitude often seen on the left.

It’s a long post and Haidt has a lot more to say on the topic, and pinpoints some potential trouble spots for Dems down the road, such as perceptions about Dems protecting trial lawyers and affirmative action. He concludes,

Andrew Jackson’s campaign slogan from 1820 seems apt for our time: “Equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.” If Democrats can manage the pivot from race to class in the coming years, and can make the argument for how and why government programs should be used to create positive liberty for the poor, in ways that violate neither proportionality nor the negative liberty of others, they’ll be able to reclaim Jackson’s slogan. It will be an inspiring banner for them to wave in the new culture war over fairness and liberty.

Indeed, effective messaging rooted in shared morally-sound values about economic fairness will be critical for Dems in the near future — as will economic performance.

Dems: think about this – “The Bible” casts an actor who looks stunningly like Obama as the Devil and then blames people for complaining. HBO uses a prop head of George W. Bush whose face the audience can’t even see, apologizes abjectly and cuts the scene.

There’s a funny thing about the way TV feels about respect for the President: when it’s George W. Bush, it’s important, when it’s Obama, it’s not.
Consider the contrast between the History Channel’s “The Bible” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” To start, here’s the story on Obama as the spitting image of Satan:

NEW YORK (AP) — The producers of the cable TV miniseries on the Bible say Internet chatter that their Satan character resembles President Barack Obama is “utter nonsense.” Mark Burnett and Roma Burnett said Monday the Moroccan actor who played Satan in the History channel series, Mehdi Ouzaani, has played Satanic characters in other Biblical programs long before Obama was elected president. The connection got widespread attention after talk show host Glenn Beck last week tweeted: “Does Satan look EXACTLY like Obama? Yes!”

You can take a look for yourself HERE and see just how close you think is the resemblance, but the producers deny any ulterior motive and accuse critics of trying to “discredit” the bible:

History said in a statement that the network has “the highest respect” for Obama, and that “it’s unfortunate that anyone made this false connection.” “Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love our president, who is a fellow Christian,” said Downey, the “Touched By an Angel” actress who is married to Burnett. “False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of the Bible.”

Well, maybe they are just kind of naïve and it simply didn’t occur to them that their audience might make such a connection.
Well, um, no. Here’s what Businessweek says:

…the miniseries appears to have been conceived primarily for religious audiences–or at least those knowledgeable of scripture. It’s also packaged with enough bloodlust to capture channel surfers. In that regard, the series resembles Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, a movie bloggers called The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre–and which raked in more than $600 million at the box office.
Burnett hasn’t just re-created Gibson’s righteous bloodshed, he’s also adopted The Passion’s marketing methods. The producers linked up with faith-based groups, distributed study guides, and previewed the series at churches. They courted big-name evangelical figures. Discussing The Bible with his congregation in March, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren declared, “God is about to do something really great.”

Now the possibility that all these devout people saw previews without happening to notice the resemblance kind of makes zero look like a big number. But, maybe that’s just the way TV always deals with situations like this.
Well, um, no. Here’s what happened over at HBO last year.

HBO apologizes for fake George W. Bush head on ‘Game of Thrones’
The creators of HBO’s” Game of Thrones” found themselves in a bit of hot water on Wednesday when word spun around the Internet that former President George W. Bush’s likeness made a very unflattering cameo in the first season of the epic fantasy series. More specifically: a prop severed head bearing the former president’s likeness appeared mounted on a stick. Though the head was given a wig of long hair, spattered in mud and turned mostly away from the camera, the distinctive upper lip was a giveaway….
On Wednesday, HBO and Benioff and Weiss issued statements of apology…”We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch, especially in scenes where we need a lot of them, so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush…We meant no disrespect to the former president and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise.”
HBO added, “We were deeply dismayed to see this and find it unacceptable, disrespectful and in very bad taste. We made this clear to the executive producers of the series who apologized immediately for this inadvertent careless mistake. We are sorry this happened and will have it removed from any future DVD production.”

Wow, what would HBO have done if one of their producers had actually made a mini-series based on the Bible that depicted George W. Bush as Lucifer himself? One somehow doubts that they would say it was “utter nonsense” and blamed their critics for trying to “discredit the beauty of the story.”

Karen Nussbaum: a Working America Message from the Field. “Tax Fairness Is the Best Answer in budget Fights”

Across the country, we’re looking at state and local budget fights, and finding strong support for fair taxes. People want to see corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share, rather than seeing the tax burden shifted towards working people or having their services cut.
• In Philadelphia, our most effective strategy has been to use a message that combines the increase in property taxes with the decrease in city services. For example, our organizers are saying, “We pay more to the city and get less from it while Mayor Michael Nutter hands out huge tax breaks to major corporations like Comcast. It’s just not fair.”
• In North Carolina, our organizers are having success talking about how the proposed tax reform will adversely affect unemployed folks. For example, our organizers will say something like, “This reform will greatly increase taxes for the unemployed–those who can afford it least of all.” Our organizers are using a similar approach when talking to folks who identify secure retirement as their top issue, by talking about how the proposed tax reform will adversely affect seniors.
• In Ohio, we’ve been successfully using a chart from Policy Matters that shows taxes being raised on a majority of Ohioans through Gov. John Kasich’s proposals.
• We’re seeing that these tax shifts and service cuts are negatively affecting how people feel about Gov. Kasich and Mayor Nutter.

PPI’s Arkedis: Five Challenges Dems Should Address

At The Atlantic, Jim Arkedis, senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, has a post “Memo to Democrats: Never Mind the GOP, Here’s What *We* Need to Fix: The left is crowing over Republican disarray. But the progressive advantage isn’t as entrenched as many of them seem to believe.” Arkedis describes the upbeat mood of many Democrats in the wake of the RNC’s self-flagellating “Autopsy”:

“After notching a victory last November against weak competition, it’s tempting to be content with our advantages in organizing, data analysis, and candidate quality, and to kick back and enjoy the Republican civil war…While much of the country wishes a pox on both parties these days, President Obama’s major policy positions — on handling the economy, budget negotiations, social issues, or national security — are at least less toxic to voters than the GOP’s.

However, cautions Arkedis, “Not so fast. That attitude guarantees the next defeat will come much sooner than Republican disarray suggests. Now is the time for Democrats to engage in some serious introspection of our own.” He posits “five issues Democrats must consider to ensure the 2012 victory isn’t squandered,” including:

First, progressives need to make serious investments in intellectual firepower…The army of analysts employed by the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and Cato Institute. According to the most recent data available at Guidestar.com, these conservative research and advocacy organizations raise over $140 million a year. Their left-leaning and much younger counterparts at the Center for American Progress, Third Way, and the Progressive Policy Institute (where I am a senior fellow) together lag behind with a meager $40 million annual haul combined.
Closing the gap is possible but requires buy-in from on high…concerted efforts to steer donors toward allied think tanks.
Second, the Democratic Party must avoid an impending woman problem — not to mention a Latino problem, a gay problem, and a youth problem…All these groups could waver if Democrats continue to exploit them as coalition building blocks and pocketbooks, rather than integrating them as full partners.
Should immigration reform fail — a high risk in any Congress, let alone this one — many Latino groups will sour on President Obama no matter where fault lies. Witness Hispanics’ disgruntlement with the administration until it backed off on forced deportations. That’s why Democrats must broaden their focus to other issues Latinos care about beyond immigration — such as small-business empowerment, leadership development, and increasing personal wealth.
Third, Democrats need to expand their coalition, particularly among faith voters and lower-income whites. As I’ve written elsewhere, polling shows that religious voters, particularly Catholics, are more open than ever to progressive faith-based messaging. And it’s maddening to watch lower-income whites vote for Republican social positions and against their own economic interests. Targeted messaging to make a distinctly progressive pitch to these two often-overlapping communities on faith and social welfare will fray the conservative coalition even further.
Fourth, the party has to push digital and organizing innovations down-ballot…State legislatures are the key to controlling redistricting, and that’s the key to controlling Congress. National Democrats’ massive digital and organizing edge will be wasted if they are not shared with and adopted by candidates running for state legislatures.
Finally, the party needs to avoid the intramural fistfight brewing over “Organizing for Action,” the president’s campaign apparatus that has morphed into a voter mobilization and advocacy organization — in other words, sort of but not exactly what the Democratic National Committee already does…OFA and the DNC need to come to an understanding of their responsibilities, and share those decisions with party operatives.

Arkedis concludes on a hopeful note, saying Dems are in a “healthier place” than their adversaries, but adds “…Remember who won that race between the tortoise and the hare — and make sure it’s not repeated with the elephant and the donkey.”

A Good Time for Democratic Reflection

Democrats are pounded on a daily basis by Republicans, who are eager to point out our failings and shortcomings. That’s the way it should be, and vice versa. Yet, attacks by a political adversary have limited value. They can be helpful in terms of identifying policies and ideas which need to be modified or corrected. But there is always a lot of partisan axe-grinding that comes with it and doesn’t merit much consideration.
For a political party to stay honest and keep faith with its principles, however, it should undergo periods of rigorous self-criticism from time to time, and the year after a presidential election is a much better time for it than the year or two just before one. Toward that end, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has a provocative HuffPo post that can serve as a good starting point for Democrats to assess where they are and where they need to go. Here’s some of Reich’s assessment regarding what Democrats should be about on two of the most critical issues, Social Security and Medicare:

Prominent Democrats — including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation.
This is even before they’ve started budget negotiations with Republicans — who still refuse to raise taxes on the rich, close tax loopholes the rich depend on (such as hedge-fund and private-equity managers’ “carried interest”), increase capital gains taxes on the wealthy, cap their tax deductions, or tax financial transactions.
It’s not the first time Democrats have led with a compromise, but these particular pre-concessions are especially unwise.
For over thirty years Republicans have pitted the middle class against the poor, preying on the frustrations and racial biases of average working people who can’t get ahead no matter how hard they try. In the Republican narrative, government takes from the hard-working middle and gives to the undeserving and dependent needy.
In reality, average working people have been stymied because almost all the economic gains of the last three decades have gone to the very top. The middle has lost bargaining power as unions have shriveled. American politics has been flooded with campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy, which have used their clout to reduce marginal tax rates, widen loopholes, loosen regulations, gain subsidies, and obtain government bailouts when their bets turn sour.
Now five years after the worst downturn since the Great Depression and the biggest bailout in history, the stock market has recouped its losses and corporate profits constitute the largest share of the economy since 1929. Yet the real median wage continues to fall — wages now claim the lowest share of the economy on record — and inequality is still widening. All the economic gains since the trough of the recession have gone to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans; the bottom 90 percent continue to lose ground.
What looks like the start of a more buoyant recovery is a sham because the vast majority of Americans have neither the pay nor access to credit that allows them to buy enough to boost the economy…If there was ever a time for the Democratic Party to champion working Americans and reverse these troubling trends, it is now — forging an alliance between the frustrated middle and the working poor. This need not be “class warfare” because a healthy economy is in everyone’s interest…
But the modern Democratic Party can’t bring itself to do this. It’s too dependent on the short-term, insular demands of Wall Street, corporate executives, and the wealthy.
It was Bill Clinton, after all, who pushed for repeal of Glass-Steagall, championed the North American Free Trade Act and the World Trade Organization without adequate safeguards for American jobs, and rented out the Lincoln Bedroom to a steady stream of rich executives.
And it was Barack Obama who continued George W. Bush’s Wall Street bailout with no strings attached; pushed a watered-down “Volcker Rule” (still delayed) rather than renew Glass-Steagall; failed to prosecute a single Wall Street executive or bank because, according to his Attorney General, Wall Street is just too big to jail; and permanently enshrined the Bush tax cuts for all but the top 2 percent.

This not a blanket critique of Presidents Clinton and Obama. Clinton deserves great credit for having the wisdom to stay out of stupid, costly wars, which we have learned is not to be taken for granted. Obama has achieved a lot with unprecedented obstruction from Republicans, including the most significant health care reform since the 1960s. Former Speaker Pelosi is arguably one of the best House leaders ever.
But Reich is quite right that weakening Social Security and Medicare is not what America’s progressive party should be about. He points out that Dem leaders have been complicit in allowing the Social Security fund to be raided, chickened out on supporting reforms to help unions thrive and are now opening the door to “pre-concessions” weakening Medicare and Social Security. Reich believes Dems must stand firm in protecting these two key programs:

…Social Security and Medicare are the most popular programs ever devised by the federal government, which is why Republicans hate them so much. If average Americans have trusted the Democratic Party to do one thing it has been to guard these programs from the depredations of the GOP.
Putting these two programs “on the table” is also tantamount to accepting the most insidious and dishonest of all Republican claims: That for too long most Americans have been living beyond their means; that we are rapidly approaching a day of reckoning when we can no longer afford these generous “entitlements;” and that prudence and responsibility dictate that we must now begin to live within our means and cut back these projected expenditures, particularly if we are to have any money left to invest in the young and the disadvantaged.
The truth is the opposite: That for three decades the means of most Americans have been stagnant even though the overall economy has more than doubled in size; that because almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top, most Americans haven’t been able to save enough for retirement or the rising costs of healthcare; and that because of this, Social Security and Medicare are barely adequate as is.

Despite significant reforms, like the Affordable Care Act, the Democratic Party has folded on too many critical issues in recent years. If we allow Social Security and Medicare to be further undermined in return for puny concessions by Republican leaders, we can’t blame working people for wondering what, if anything we are willing to fight for.
Noting record wealth concentration in the U.S., Reich concludes,

…An increasing share of that wealth is held by a smaller and smaller share of the population, who have, in effect, bribed legislators to reduce their taxes and provide loopholes so they pay even less…The budget deficit “crisis” has been manufactured by them to distract our attention from this overriding fact, and to pit the rest of us against each other for a smaller and smaller share of what remains. Democrats should not conspire.

Democrats have benefited substantially in recent elections by growing extremism in the Republican Party. But we can’t count on ever-increasing tea party lunacy contaminating the GOP brand forever. That’s not much of a foundation on which to build a viable party going forward. If Democrats now cave on two programs as fundamental to the security of working families as Social Security and Medicare, we shouldn’t be surprised if they begin to look elsewhere for leaders who will serve their interests.

Political Strategy Notes

At The Atlantic Molly Ball asks “Has Obama Turned a Generation of Voters Into Lifelong Democrats?,” — and answers in the affirmative.
CAP’s President/CEO Neera Tanden and CAP senior fellows Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin have a WaPo op-ed “On government spending, GOP faces a reckoning,” which observes that Latinos, African and Asian Americans, as well as yougn voters, have little use for GOP government bashing and they provide the numbers to prove it. They add, “To conservatives’ discomfort, changes in attitudes about government cannot be finessed by softer words on immigration and same-sex marriage. Likewise, new leaders or better outreach and technology will not solve their problems with these rising voters. Perhaps that is why conservatives are being so adamant and extreme about cutting government: Tomorrow’s political terrain is likely to be less congenial to their anti-government fervor, and they want to accomplish what they can before the tide turns.”
It’s early for 2016 horse race heats, but Hillary beats Floridians Jeb and Marco by double digits in FL Quinnipiac University Poll conducted March 13-18.
Same poll shows 56 percent of Floridians, who have more concealed gun permits than any other state, support a nation-wide ban on the sale of assault weapons, with 41 percent opposed, reports the Miami Herald.
As yet another Bush prepares to run for president, The Nation’s Phyliss Bennis does a good job of succinctly relating the costs, human and financial of the Iraq war started by his brother: “…There was the lie that the US could send hundreds of thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons across the world to wage war on the cheap. We didn’t have to raise taxes to pay the almost one trillion dollars the Iraq war has cost so far, we could go shopping instead…But behind these myths the costs were huge–human, economic and more. More than a million US troops were deployed to Iraq; 4,483 were killed; 33,183 were wounded and more than 200,000 came home with PTSD. The number of Iraqi civilians killed is still unknown; at least 121,754 are known to have been killed directly during the US war…More died from crippling sanctions, diseases caused by dirty water when the US destroyed the water treatment system and the inability to get medical help because of exploding violence.”
David Sirota has an interesting read up at Salon.com, “How to turn a state liberal: Colorado’s progressive miracle is a road map to a much brighter America. Here are 9 steps behind the transformation.” Sirota quotes Dean Singleton, “Denver Post publisher and longtime Republican power broker in Colorado”: “I think (the GOP) is dead in Colorado … It really doesn’t matter whom the Republicans put up. Republicans, in my view, won’t win another presidency in our lifetime …They pick candidates that aren’t in the mainstream … I think Colorado is probably a Democratic state from now on. It is a Democratic state today, and I don’t think it’s going back.”
It’s a little late, but support for filibuster reform is apparently growing to the point where Majority Leader Reid is making noises about bringing it back up…somehow. Greg Sargent, however, is unimpressed and says “Empty threats make Dems look weak and do nothing to discourage continued GOP obstructionism.”
TNR’s Nate Cohn explains why the Libertarian Lightweight is not going to mobilize young voters for the GOP.
At the NYT Opinionator Thomas B. Edsall’s take on “The Republican Autopsy Report” sheds light on the dicey future of the GOP. Calling the report “a remarkably hard-headed diagnosis of the party’s many liabilities,” Edsall succinctly enumerates the Republicans internal maladies as “ideological rigidity, its preference for the rich over workers, its alienation of minorities, its reactionary social policies and its institutionalized repression of dissent and innovation.” Edsall concludes that “What has yet to be determined is whether they are fighting over a patient who can be quickly resuscitated or a patient with a chronic but not fatal illness — or a corpse.”
Scalia is apparently campaigning for lead shill in the GOP echo chamber, an oddly undignified role for a self-described ‘textualist.”

Creamer: End of Culture War Dims GOP’s Future

This article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:
There is a real, looming danger for the Republican Party — and it goes well beyond the Party’s failure to use the latest digital or analytic tools.
The dilemma facing the Republican Party today can be traced to the massive social changes that erupted in the 1960’s. The civil rights movement, women’s rights, and ultimately the gay rights struggle all spawned a backlash among many traditional elements of society. Sometimes it was called the “culture war.”
The GOP used the “Southern Strategy” to harness the fears of many white southern voters and to transform the Democratic “solid South” into a sea of red.
The “Moral Majority,” anti-abortion movement and religious right all tapped into that backlash. Anti-immigrant groups were born and some pastors railed against homosexuals. Even groups like the NRA used the sense that traditional values were under attack as a means of mobilizing voters to oppose efforts to curb gun violence. Appeals for “smaller government” often had their real roots in attacks on the Federal Government’s enforcement of civil rights laws, and “welfare” for African Americans.
For a number of decades the GOP establishment successfully used these social issues to attract voters whose economic interests were really aligned with the progressive policies of Democrats. Social issues became “wedge issues” that split apart the potential Democratic base.
Author Tom Frank, in his classic book What’s the Matter with Kansas, explored in detail how that process worked in one Midwestern state.
In fact, back in the 1980’s someone said that the Democratic Party was a coalition of rich people who hated the Moral Majority and poor people who hated Mutual of Omaha, and the Republican Party was a coalition of rich people who hated the AFL-CIO and poor people who hated the ACLU.
Here’s the problem for the Republican Party — from the standpoint of national public opinion the culture war is over — and they lost, particularly among young people.

Honor Role of Assault Weapons Ban Co-Sponsors

It’s regrettable that the U.S. Senate could not muster the requisite 60 votes to insure passage of an assault weapons ban, even after the spate of horrific shootings, including the mass murder of children in Sandy Hook Elementary school. It is sadder still that Majority Leader Harry Reid could not even get 40 Democrats on board. But Democratic senators who had the courage and vision to serve as co-sponsors of the bill, which is sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein merit a tip of the hat. If your senator isn’t on the list, you can call him/her and ask why at (202) 224-3121.
Current Senate cosponsors
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.)
Senator Mo Cowan (D-Mass.)
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
Senator John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
The bill would have banned specific semi-automatic weapons and ammo clips, including those used in recent massacres.
But a version of the assault weapons ban may get a vote. As Ed O’Keefe and Phillip Rucker report in the Washington Post:

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) is working with other Democrats to find potential GOP co-sponsors for a revised bill with exceptions for firearm exchanges between family members or close friends. But talks have been hampered by disagreements about whether to establish a record-keeping system for non-commercial gun transactions.

“I think we have growing momentum on our side,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Newtown was a call to action and I think we’ve made tremendous progress. Three-plus months ago, this issue was politically untouchable. This time is different.”

A Path to a Democratic House Majority

Yeah, yeah, we know that history strongly suggests Dems have little chance of winning back control of the House of Representatives next year, as Larry J. Sabato and Kyle Kondik argue quite persuasively in this Wall St. Journal op-ed. But maybe, just maybe there is a new form of ‘political jujutsu,’ based on Democrats’ edge with new GOTV technology, perhaps in combination with record-level public disgust with Republicans, that could turn the tide and provide the net gain of 17 seats that could put Nancy Pelosi back in charge.
Toward that end, we refer you to Stuart Rothenberg’s “Is the House in Play? A District-by-District Assessment” at Roll Call, in which he acknowledges that “the Democrats’ task is a challenging one,” but adds that “rules are made to be broken.”
Rothenberg explains that “Democratic operatives identify 30 House Republicans who won by less than 10 points last year and assert that the margin makes them vulnerable in 2014,” and then he gets down to cases:

After looking over the list of 30 Republicans who won by less than 10 points, I see no more than 11 who deserve to be on a list of initially vulnerable GOPers. But let’s be generous and add Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (who is likely to again win a narrow victory) to the list, bringing it to an even dozen.
To that dozen, add two California districts held by Republicans that voted for Obama — currently represented by David Valadao and Gary G. Miller — that the GOP won either because of a Democratic recruiting problem or the state’s runoff process. Given the fundamentals of Miller’s district, his seat is a Democratic takeover waiting to happen.
Now, add districts where Obama almost won and Democrats had relatively weak House candidates. That would include two districts in Pennsylvania — now held by GOP incumbents Patrick Meehan and Michael G. Fitzpatrick — and one in Ohio (held by freshman Rep. David Joyce).
That makes 17 districts where Democrats start with realistic opportunities to make gains. The list could grow, of course, with GOP retirements, unusually strong Democratic recruits or redrawn districts in Florida and Texas…

Rothenberg sees a few more possible pick-up opportunities. But the problem is that a number of Democratic seats — 11 or so, according to Rothenberg — are also vulnerable. He concludes that Dems need to put another two dozen seats in play, “a tall order” at this juncture admittedly. The equally-dim ray of hope would be that the GOP brand death-spiral will continue, or at least wear very thin by November, 2014. At least the CPAC clown show has done nothing to dispel that hope.

How the GOP Teed Up ‘Operation Redmap’

Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux has a post “Republicans Win Congress as Democrats Get Most Votes,” which provides some interesting behind-the-scenes detail about ‘Operation Redmap,’ the GOP’s successful plan to hold majority control of the House of through aggressive gerrymandering. Giroux explains:

The party began preparing two years in advance of the 2010 elections by concentrating on candidate recruitment and fundraising. The Republican State Leadership Committee, which focuses on state legislative races, called its effort the Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP.
In the 2010 campaign, the Republican Governors Association outspent the Democratic Governors Association, $132 million to $65 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign giving. The Republican State Leadership Committee outspent the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, $21 million to $5 million.
…The spending and timing paid off for the Republicans, as they won control of 57 legislative chambers, up from 36 before the 2010 elections, and increased their governorships to 29 from 23, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the wake of the 2012 elections, Republicans control 56 state legislative chambers and 30 governorships.

Giroux quotes Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee: “You can spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting over a couple dozen congressional districts over 10 years, or you can spend significantly less and impact the shape of those congressional elections over 10 years via state legislative elections…It was a cost-effective analysis that truly bore out in reality.” Giroux continues:

Map-making software is cheaper, more powerful and widely available, compared to a decade ago. State lawmakers can build databases with detailed voter registration figures, election results and population data to project campaign outcomes and demographic trends.
It may also be easier to predict voter preferences. Party- line voting is increasing: fewer than 30 districts backed the presidential candidate of one party and a House candidate of the opposite party in 2012, the lowest total in at least 90 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“If you’re a map-maker drawing lines, that’s just gold for you, because you can very reliably use partisan voting patterns in one election to predict what it might be in another, or much more so than you could before,” said Rob Richie, the executive director of FairVote, a Takoma Park, Maryland-based nonprofit that wants to change the redistricting process to reduce partisanship in Washington.

Democrats have been quick to note our edge in voter turnout technology, as displayed in the 2012 elections. But it appears that the Republicans out-maneuvered our strategists with respect to redistricting leading up to 2010, and they made effective use of the necessary technology to gain leverage, as well. Democratic leaders need a project to make sure it doesn’t happen again.