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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From Rev. Jesse Jackson’s op-ed “Voter Suppression Did Not End in Selma” in the Chicago Sun-Times: “In North Carolina’s tight Senate race in 2014, Republican Tom Tillis beat incumbent Kay Hagen by about 43,000 votes (1.7 percent of the vote). Tillis had ushered through the state legislature one of the harshest voter-suppression laws, eliminating seven days of early voting (and at least one Sunday of “get your souls to the polls” rallies at African-American churches), eliminating same-day registration, forcing voters to vote in their own precinct and more. 700,000 voters had voted in the now eliminated early seven-day window in 2012, 200,000 in the 2012 by-election. Some 100,000 voters, largely African-American, took advantage of same-day registration in 2012. The voters eliminated may well have exceeded the vote margin.”
In his post “How to Protect the Vote,” The Nation’s Ari Berman writes: “One reason it’s so easy to restrict voting rights is that, although there are constitutional amendments protecting the right to vote free of racial discrimination (Fifteenth), granting women suffrage (Nineteenth), banning the poll tax (Twenty-fourth) and raising the voting age to 18 (Twenty-sixth), there is no provision guaranteeing the basic right to cast a ballot. House Democrats Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison have proposed changing that with a simple amendment stating: “Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.” Yet, “With federal legislation unlikely, the best prospects for election reform are in the states, primarily blue states controlled by Democrats. According to the Brennan Center, twelve states quietly passed measures expanding voter access in 2014–including Illinois, which adopted election-day voter registration and expanded early voting.”
At ThinkProgress Ian Milhiser observes: “According to a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 27 percent of the public agrees with the Republican leaders’ strategy to take health care away from millions of Americans if they get an assist from the Supreme Court…The same poll determined that “[m]ost see lawmakers’ proposals to change the ACA as an attempt to gain political advantage (63%) rather than to improve the law itself (29%).”
Julian E. Zelizer has a retrospective article, “When Liberals Were Organized,” about the Democratic Study Group at The American Prospect, in which he notes, “Since 1994, congressional liberals have failed to replicate a powerful, independent organization like the Democratic Study Group. They have been dependent on a House leadership that is sometimes but not always sympathetic to their goals. The closest thing to a DSG, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has been a pale imitation of its predecessor, a fragile informal coalition that has lacked the same kind of leadership, money, publications, communications strategy, or clout…The history of the DSG demonstrates that their organizational prowess was hugely important in moving forward a liberal agenda and in making sure that liberal electoral gains were institutionalized in the operation of the House. Enthusiasts of the DSG believe Democrats, continuing in the minority after 2014, could use something like the DSG to gain momentum before the next elections.”
Can Moral Mondays Produce Victorious Tuesdays?” Barry Yeoman provides an update on the grass roots uprising that began — and continues — in NC, also at The American Prospect.
If the Koch brothers’ nearly $900 million in projected spending on the 2016 campaign wasn’t enough of a headache, read Shane Goldmacher’s National Journal post “Buying a Nominee: The secret fundraising scheme forming for this contest will make super PACs look quaint.”
Ed O’Keefe’s “House Democrats retake the House? It’s a long shot, but they’re getting ready to try” at The Washington Post offers some perceptive observations, including: “Getting the 30 they need will be a very steep climb,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. “If the president’s numbers continue to climb and people feel good about the economy, that’ll be good for Democrats, but they’ll still have to convince voters to throw out Republicans. A good economy usually benefits all incumbents, no matter their party.” Also, “There’s no conventional wisdom in politics anymore,” said Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.). “Would anyone have predicted that [Republican former House majority leader Eric Cantor] would lose his seat? We’re in an environment where anything can happen.”
At The Upshot Brendan Nyhan urges his readers to “Fight the Temptation to Pay Attention to Polls.” Nyhan has convincing data to back up his advice, and notes “For now, you should ignore surveys testing potential Democrat/Republican matchups for the 2016 presidential election…We know head-to-head polls won’t be useful for more than a year. Until then, your time is better spent following the direction of the economy — the most important predictor of presidential election outcomes…” The real value of such early polls is for campaigns to monitor how their candidate is doing with specific demographic groups.
Morris P. Fiorina’s “If I Could Hold a Seminar for Political Journalists…” at The Forum asserts that many political journalists conflate “polarization” with “party sorting.” As Fiorina explains, “Rather than polarization in the distribution of public opinion, what has happened in the US is that the parties have become better sorted since the 1970s…in common usage, polarization tends to connote a process of individual conversion – individuals move from moderate to more extreme positions as they listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Rachel Maddow, for example. In contrast, sorting is more often a compositional phenomenon – rather than change their views, the categories to which people belong change…While the two processes are not mutually exclusive, the evidence at the level of mass public opinion indicates that sorting is the dominant process in producing today’s historically high partisan conflict…”

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