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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From Cole Stangler’s report on a new NBC News/SurveyMonkey/Esquire Online Poll conducted 11/20-24: “Americans are mad as hell. Results of a survey sponsored by Esquire and NBC News and published Sunday indicated half of the U.S. is angrier than it was last year. And the rage appears to transcend class, gender, race and sexual orientation…Sixty-eight percent of those polled said they hear or read something in the news that makes them angry either “once a day” or “a few times a day.” That encompasses 73 percent of whites, 66 percent of Hispanics and 56 percent of blacks.”
At National Journal Karen Bruggeman notes in her post, “Hotline’s 2016 Governors Race Rankings” that “Com­ing off an up­set win in Louisi­ana in Novem­ber, Demo­crats will mostly be on de­fense, hop­ing to hold open seats in Mis­souri, New Hamp­shire, Ver­mont, and West Vir­gin­ia in 2016 and Vir­gin­ia in 2017. The only ob­vi­ous pickup over the next two years is in New Jer­sey in 2017 thanks to term-lim­ited Chris Christie’s tank­ing pop­ular­ity post-Bridgeg­ate. Oth­er­wise, the top tar­get for Demo­crats is North Car­o­lina, where they hope to pick off vul­ner­able Gov. Pat Mc­Crory.”
No surprise that Trump, or any Republican, would think that former President Bill Clinton’s personal mistakes in the 1990s are relevant to the 2016 presidential campaign — yet another example of the GOP’s desperate politics of distraction. But it’s amazing that Trump thinks he has the credibility to criticize anyone about disrespecting women. Rabid narcissism often comes with an astounding lack of self-awareness.
Although Trump symbolizes what is dysfunctional in American politics, Mark Schmitt has a New York Times op-ed reminding readers that “Trump Did Not Break Politics.” Schmitt explains, “…in recent years, Republican politicians especially have not only defied the rules, they have also protected themselves from the consequences. Restrictions on voting, along with aggressive redistricting, reduce the influence of the median voter. Campaign war chests (including “super PACs”) scare off opponents, from within their own party as well as the other. By crippling civil-society institutions such as unions and community groups, which organize middle- and lower-income voters, they sometimes avoid being held accountable. They can use ideological media to reach mostly like-minded voters…Long before Mr. Trump came along, the supposedly immutable laws of politics had begun to fall.”
Supporters of reducing income inequality take note: As Paul Krugman observes, as a direct consequence of the presidential 2012 election, the wealthy are now paying more taxes. Says Krugman, “…while the 2013 tax hike wasn’t gigantic, it was significant. Those higher rates on the 1 percent correspond to about $70 billion a year in revenue…If Mitt Romney had won, we can be sure that Republicans would have found a way to prevent these tax hikes. And we can now see what happened because he didn’t. According to the new tables, the average income tax rate for 99 percent of Americans barely changed from 2012 to 2013, but the tax rate for the top 1 percent rose by more than four percentage points. The tax rise was even bigger for very high incomes: 6.5 percentage points for the top 0.01 percent…for top incomes, Mr. Obama has effectively rolled back not just the Bush tax cuts but Ronald Reagan’s as well…The bottom line is that presidential elections matter, a lot, even if the people on the ballot aren’t as fiery as you might like.”
Perhaps the most striking thing about the chart in this National Journal article on minimum wage hikes now going into effect in 13 states is the small size of the increases — from 25 cents to a buck. Raising the wage floor to a level more commensurate with a decent living standards should be a potent message for Dems who want to increase turnout of low-income voters.
President Obama’s decision to hold town meetings on gun violence and take some executive actions to prevent more of it will drive wingnuts even battier than usual. But it will also make some Democrats down ballot more than a little nervous. However, a recent Quinnipiac University poll conducted 12/16-20 showed that 87 percent of respondents favored “requiring background checks on people buying guns at gun shows or online” and 58 percent supported “a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons,” while 83 percent favored “banning those on the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.” There is ample political room for meaningful reforms to curb gun violence, and Dems should not be intimidated from supporting such clear, common sense reforms to reduce gun violence.
At the Washington Post, “Here’s the secret to making people care about climate change: Make them think about their legacy.” by Ezra Markowitz and Lisa Zaval provides an instructive read for those who want to promote, not just awareness, but also action to heal and protect the environment. As the authors note, “Here’s a depressing statistic if you’re worried about climate change: 63 percent of Americans say they’re concerned about the issue, but only 47 percent think the government should do anything about it…That divide, known as the “attitude-behavior” gap, isn’t all that uncommon. And activists and politicians have tried all kinds of strategies to address it…In a series of psychological studies we conducted over the past two years with Americans from across the country, we found that simply asking people to reflect upon how they want to be remembered by future generations can lead them to engage in more “helping behavior” in the present, particularly when it comes to protecting the environment.”
I’ll conclude this first Strategy Notes posting of 2016 with an observation that facebook may be the most powerful forum for mass political education America has ever known. Nowhere else in American life are political ideas and information so thoroughly discussed or broadly-shared. Even newspapers at their peak power never matched the level of inter-active citizen participation we see on facebook. Television still reaches more people, but it’s all pretty much one-way communication. Twitter has its uses in terms of planting soundbites and memes, but the 140 character limitation makes it a poor instrument for education. Granted, there is a lot of misinformation being bandied about on facebook, and also a lot of preaching to the choir. But now at an astounding 1.5 billion average monthly users, facebook has become the most-visited town hall for tens of millions of Americans, the place to go for convenient, up-to-date, free-of-charge discussion about the political issues of our times. There is even some data indicating Facebook has boosted voter turnout. Political campaigns that fail to leverage it are doomed. Those which master it are going to do better.

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