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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Sen. Sherrod Brown’s NYT op-ed “When Work Loses Its Dignity” should be a handout for Dems concerned about rebuilding the party in the wake of the 2016 election. Sen. Brown, frequently mentioned as a future Democratic presidential candidate, writes, “Ohio families will watch to see if the new president follows the billionaire agenda of the Republican leadership in Washington, which has called for overturning a new rule that increases overtime pay for many workers — an action that would strip thousands of dollars in wages from 130,000 of Ohio’s moderate-income workers. They will measure this president to see if he continues to oppose increasing the minimum wage, which is worth nearly 20 percent less than in 1980. Workers will expect the president to keep his promise of a trade agenda that puts their jobs above corporate profits. And they will scrutinize whether he will throw in with Washington’s moneyed interests at the expense of middle-class and working-class families…If President Trump takes the likely path that almost all Washington Republicans hope — tax cuts for the rich, an easing up on Wall Street, more voter suppression — Ohio workers will feel betrayed. Again. And they will respond.”

At Roll Call Nathan L. Gonzales takes a look at the next midterm elections in “Senate Landscape: Never Too Early to Look at 2018.” Democrats have some rerason to be optimistic, since the party out of the white house usually makes gains in  int he midterm election. Gonzales cautions, “Not only are Democrats defending more seats in 2018 (25, including two held by independents who caucus with the Democrats), compared to just eight by the Republicans, but 17 of those Democrats were initially elected in 2006 or 2012, which were good or great Democratic years.

“In 1964, 37 percent of Ohio workers belonged to a union; that number fell to 12 percent by 2016, and incomes for the working class tumbled in tandem. It’s a similar story in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Republican policies are largely responsible, but Democrats have done little to address the precipitous decline of the working class…Trump, despite being very short on specifics, spoke directly to people who have felt overlooked for decades. “Today is our Independence Day. Today the American working class is going to strike back, finally,” he said as he ended his campaign in the hard-luck state of Michigan. Trump stepped directly into a vacuum left by the fall of unions and the Democratic Party’s abandonment of the white working class.” — From Sean T. Posey’s “How Democrats lost the Rust Belt in 2016: The party of the working class is reaping the harvest of decades of neglect” at salon.com.

Burgess Everett writes at Politico: “Though incoming leader Chuck Schumer has yet to show his hand, the outline of a Democratic strategy for dealing with Donald Trump is beginning to take shape, based on interviews with several senators and aides. Their thinking: Exploit the inevitable divisions between Trump and the increasingly conservative GOP leadership over tax policy, infrastructure spending and possibly social issues. And Senate Democrats hope to use the filibuster — the only real leverage they have to stymie Trump and congressional Republicans — sparingly…While it might seem like wishful thinking for Democrats to think they can do an end run around a Congress firmly under Republican control, Democrats say they could envision cutting deals with Trump on passing a public works package, killing the “carried interest” loophole, and cracking down on currency manipulation by China. Many conservatives oppose all those proposals.”

But The Plum Line’s Paul Waldman isn’t having any of the ‘Dems should make nice’ talk towards the incoming Trump Administration. As Waldman writes, “Trump ran one of most vile presidential campaigns in American history, one based on racial and religious hatred, resentment and fear. He sought to normalize toxic misogyny. He celebrated violence. He mainstreamed white supremacy. His election has spurred a wave of racist intimidation and hate crimes, as bigots across the country have become emboldened by his victory to act out their most despicable impulses. He’s a demagogue and a dangerous fool, and while Democrats aren’t going to question the legitimacy of his presidency the way Republicans did with Obama, he shouldn’t ever be treated like an ordinary president with whom Democrats just have some substantive disagreements…So, absent an incredibly powerful reason to cooperate with him on any particular bill, the last thing Trump should get from Democrats is a clean slate and a hand extended in cooperation.”

Time magazine’s Sam Frizell has an update on “Democrats’ First Big Decision Since the Election: Choosing a New Leader.” Thus far the competitors for DNC chair include: Rep. Keith Ellison; former VT Gov. and former DNC Chair Howard Dean; and possibly former MD Gov. Martin O’Malley; DNC Vice Chair Ray Buckley; Labor Secretary Tom Perez; and SC Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison. The new chair will be elected in March.

Pro-choice voters can find a source of qualified encouragement in Amelia Thomson Deveaux’s Vox post, “Trump Probably Can’t Get Roe v. Wade Overturned: But expect more abortion restrictions under the new administration.” As Deveaux explains, “As the states continue to grapple with abortion restrictions, President Obama will leave behind one potential barrier to additional limits on the procedure: a federal judiciary full of Democratic appointees. “After the Supreme Court’s decision in June, the lower courts will be the ones deciding how that ruling is interpreted,” Hill said…But for abortion-rights advocates who were hoping to gain momentum after the Supreme Court decision in June, Trump’s win is a definite loss. “It’s more and more difficult for women to access abortion services, especially rural women and low-income women,” Nash said, “and we certainly don’t have reason to believe it will get easier under this new administration.”

Just a thought for progressives, especially writers and commentators. Instead of using the term “Clinton’s defeat,” say “Clinton’s Electoral College defeat,” a reminder that she won the popular vote, and quite substantially. This is not just sour grapes or a pointless consolation prize; it is more accurate; it serves the purpose of building awareness and discussion about a festering injustice that has frustrated the will of a majority of voters about the direction of our country twice in 16 years; and it also challenges the myth that Trump has a genuine popular mandate to eradicate needed reforms. “Nationally, just 3 in 10 Americans — 29 percent — say he has a mandate to carry out the agenda he presented during the campaign, while 59 percent say he should compromise with Democrats when they strongly disagree with the specifics of his policy proposals,” note Scott Clement and Dan Balz at the Washington Post, reporting on a Washington Post-Schar School national poll.

Speaking of “mandates,” Julia Azari probes the concept in her Vox post, “Every president claims to have a mandate. Does Trump actually have one?” Azari notes, “In my research on presidential mandate claims, drawing on an analysis of more than 1,500 presidential communications from 1929 through 2009, including press conferences and major and minor speeches, I found a distinct pattern. Although election margins have tended to be tighter since the 1970s, presidents have talked more about how those election results justify what they’re doing…Research suggests that mandate claims, despite their tenuous connection to reality, can be effective in affecting legislative behavior. Research also shows that these perceptions can be influenced by how politicians and the media frame elections. But these effects are short-lived. Political science studies show that legislators will change their behavior in response to the perception of a mandate election — but only for so long.”


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