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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

The Washington Post editorial “Republicans can’t pretend not to know what fuels the Trump campaign” offers some salient observations about Clinton’s speech to a community college in Reno, NV calling out the “alt-right,” especially: “In a major speech Thursday, Hillary Clinton linked Donald Trump to bigoted elements on the fringe of American politics. But she got it wrong when she said, “Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters.”…It’s not a “dog whistle” if everyone can hear the bigotry.” The only ‘pivot’ emerging in the Trump campaign is a stronger tilt toward neo-fascism.

Regarding the buzz about the pros and cons of  Clinton’s “alt-right” speech, my take is that it had to be done — at  least the part calling out the Trump campaign for advocating unprecedented bigotry for a major political party (the second video here defines ‘alt-right’). Once was OK for Clinton, but I think it’s a mistake keep on using the ‘alt-right’ term, which suggests something shiny and new, instead of the same old bullying racism, sexism, religious bigotry, homophobia that was more recently attributed to the tea party. What’s new is that they have taken over the GOP, and perhaps the escalated intensity with which they sneer at Republican conservatives who still believe in civility. Remember, the ‘tea party’ term got a long ride – a few years – before it was rendered counter-productive to their cause. This election is 9 weeks away. The media will continue to use ‘alt-right’ as their new rhetorical toy, but Dems need not help bigotry get all gussied up in fancy new clothes. Somewhere Frank Luntz is smiling, but George Lakoff is not.

At The Fix David Weigel explains, contrary to a recent New York Times article by Jennifer Steinhauer, that Democrats are in pretty good shape in terms of this year’s U.S. Senate races. Weigel notes, “Had the party failed at recruiting, it might be leaving races uncontested. It didn’t. There’s a credible Democratic candidate in every presidential swing state. The party is staring at a brutal 2018 midterm map, and it has no short-term solution to the gerrymandering-enabled wipeout of its suburban legislative bench. This year, remarkably, they’ve held off the crisis.” Check out all of the Democratic Senate candidates right here.

From Jessica Wehrman’s Dayton Daily News post “GOP worried Trump could bring down others on ballot: Since 1948, Ohio has split the president, Senate votes just three times“: “In 1984, for example, roughly half of the states holding U.S. Senate races chose a Senate candidate from one party and a president from another…But by 2012, only one in five states holding Senate races split tickets, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College…The last time Ohio voters backed a Senate candidate from one party and a presidential candidate from another was 1988, when Democrat Howard Metzenbaum won the Senate race while George H.W. Bush took Ohio on his romp to the presidency.” However, adds Wehrman, “As of June 30, the last reporting period, Portman had $13.2 million to Strickland’s $3.7 million. Portman has been airing ads since June, while Strickland began airing his first TV ad in August.” To help level the campaign finances playing field, check out Ted Strickland’s ActBlue contributions page.

Television still rules in terms of political ad revenues, but the picture looks a little different in terms of influence on voters. “Facebook, in the years leading up to this election, hasn’t just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way. According to the company, its site is used by more than 200 million people in the United States each month, out of a total population of 320 million. A 2016 Pew study found that 44 percent of Americans read or watch news on Facebook. These are approximate exterior dimensions and can tell us only so much. But we can know, based on these facts alone, that Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America.,” notes John Herrman’s New York Times Magazine article, “Inside Facebook’s(Totally Insane,Unintentionally Gigantic,Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine: How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds,”

Andy Schmookler, a former Democratic candidate for congress (VA-6) in 2012, has an interesting column, “Should Democrats use Trump as wedge or millstone against Republicans?” in the Augusta Free Press. Schmookler urges both, but with a strategic distinction: “Let the Democratic candidates for President and Vice-President use Trump as a wedge, differentiating Trump from the Republican Party whose face he’s become. And let other Democrats use him as a millstone, to sink the Republican Party in its current form. And perhaps together, these two approaches can loosen the stranglehold that today’s Republican Party has had over America’s ability to make progress as a nation.”

With respect to the Clinton campaign’s ‘wedge strategy,’ Rick Perlstein raises some perceptive concerns at The Washington Spectator about overdoing it, particularly if it throws Paul Ryan a life raft — instead of an anvil.

At The Hill, Niall Stanage discusses another strategic dilemma facing the Clinton campaign: how much to emphasize Trump’s flip-flopping on immigration, vs. focusing more strongly on his lack of qualifications and gravitas. Stanage quotes Joe Trippi, who was the campaign manager of Howard Dean’s 2004 bid for the White House: “Sixty percent of the population thinks he is not fit to be president…I would reinforce that and not do anything to take people off it. If the race is about who is fit to be president, Donald Trump is not likely to win.” Stanage reinforces Trippi’s argument: “In a Bloomberg poll released earlier this month, only 38 percent of likely voters said that Trump was ready to lead the nation “on day one in office.” Clinton’s rating on the same question was almost 20 points better, at 56 percent…A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found 66 percent of likely voters saying that, whether they planned to vote for her or not, Clinton was “qualified” to be president. Only 40 percent said the same about Trump.”

This should be the front-runner for “most unwanted endorsement of 2016.”

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