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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At New York Magazine Jonathan Chait’s “Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi Have a Plan to Make President Trump Popular” makes a strong case against Democrats cooperating much with Trump’s infrastructure “plan,” such as it is: “How and where to cooperate with Trump presents many dilemmas for the opposition, pitting the Democrats’ self-interest against the need to safeguard the welfare of the country’s political institutions. There are certainly venues where Americans alarmed by the incoming president ought to consider working with him for the sake of preserving the welfare of the country. But infrastructure is not one of those dilemmas. Supporting a Trumpian infrastructure bill would be to cooperate with the subversion of American government and an act of political self-sabotage. It is an idea so insanely bad it disturbingly suggests the party utterly fails to grasp the challenge before it, or the way out…For Democrats to cooperate unconditionally with this strategy is to institutionalize a political order in which Democratic presidents must be punished with contractionary policy while Republicans are rewarded with expansionary policy. Reasonable people can disagree about what level of national debt can be sustained, but the figure is finite. The political system seems to passively accept that America’s long-term debt should be allocated toward the goal of maximizing growth exclusively during Republican administrations. Why Democrats would find this system good for their country, let alone their party, is difficult to understand…Trump is actually proposing to invite unprecedented levels of corruption into government. Trump’s high potential for corruption involves the interplay of two different rejections of political norms. First, unlike every other presidential candidate in modern history, he has refused to disclose his tax returns, so his financial interests remain opaque. Second, he will continue to hold his interests in office rather than retreat into passive investment.”

In “Should Democrats Work With Donald Trump? Only under the following extremely stringent conditions,” Jim Newell writes at slate.com, “Since Election Day, Democrats of all stripes have signaled a willingness to work with the president-elect on issues of common concern. Specifically, they’ve broadcast their interest in helping Donald Trump follow through on his vow to fix the nation’s ailing roads, bridges, and grids….Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat representing Phoenix, said that Trump’s “infrastructure plan is really a privatization scheme, rife with graft and corruption, whose real purpose is to enrich the Trump family and his supporters.”…To whatever extent Democratic senators work with Trump on these proposals, they should work extra hard to block the rest of his agenda. They should fight mass deportations, hard. They should fight appointments, like Jeff Sessions’ for attorney general, hard. They should walk out of Congress if Trump moves forward with a “Muslim registry.” They should use all the leverage they can possibly muster in the appropriations process to block rollbacks of the social safety net. If they do it right, they can show that they’ll work with Trump on areas where he meets their interests, on their terms, while also making it known that they’re not, in any way, interested in seeing this president serve a second term.”

Here’s how political commentator Julian Zelizer addresses the question “Should Democrats cooperate with Trump?” at CNN Politics: “Right now there is no reason for Democrats to believe that Donald Trump will refrain from pursuing a fairly radical political agenda. With united government and a rightward GOP, he will be under intense pressure to move forward with the most radical elements of his agenda: a draconian immigration crackdown, rolling back regulations on climate change, regressive tax cuts, deregulating the financial sector, harsh national security measures targeting Muslims and more. As Politico reported, bankers are pretty optimistic from what they are seeing in the transition that this White House will be extremely friendly to them. House Speaker Paul Ryan is planning to move forward with plans to privatize Medicare…The obstructionist and confrontational approach might be less palatable; it certainly does not sound as good in public and will put Democrats in the uncomfortable position of doing exactly what they didn’t think Republicans should do…M ore importantly, the party needs to make a decision about entering into any kind of an alliance with a politician whose ideas and arguments were so antithetical to every ideal that the party has been fighting for over the past few decades. While some Democrats might worry about how this would “look” to the public, they should remember that it didn’t look good for Republicans to be obstructionists and they now have control of the White House, Congress, and 34 state legislative bodies.”

“…For the past generation, the Democratic Party has been dominated by leaders and funders who supported shipping jobs overseas. And those same leaders largely supported the monopolization that has jacked up prices and driven down wages at the jobs that remain here. That must now end…Democrats should stand for roads and bridges, for broadband and clean water infrastructure, for the Erie Canal spirit that we can and must build a future together. Democrats must also stand against all unfair or dangerous concentrations of private power, in every sector of our political economy.” – Zephyr Teachout, “The Price of Failed Thinking” in the Washington Post

“We need first to acknowledge the root of this election’s pain — on Election Day, economic fears trumped social values. And while a clear majority of Americans agree with us on social values — that government should stay out of our bedrooms and marriages, that there is no place in America for racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia — these messages get lost if we aren’t helping Americans reduce their debt, buy a house and grow our economy for everybody.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, “The Root of the Pain” in the Washington Post.

From Robert Reich’s “The Democratic Party Lost Its Soul. It’s Time to Win it Back” at HufPo: “…What we now have is a Democratic party that has been repudiated at the polls, headed by a Democratic National Committee that has become irrelevant at best, run part-time by a series of insider politicians. It has no deep or broad-based grass-roots, no capacity for mobilizing vast numbers of people to take any action other than donate money, no visibility between elections, no ongoing activism…If it is to be relevant to the future, the Democratic party must be capable of organizing and mobilizing Americans in opposition to Donald Trump’s Republican party – turning millions of people into an activist army to peacefully resist what is about to happen by providing them with daily explanations of what is occurring in Trump’s administration, along with tasks that individuals and groups can do to stop or mitigate their harmful effects.”

Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley observe at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “the Democratic bench has taken an unprecedented hit during President Obama’s time in office. The numbers have worsened slightly following Obama’s final election as a part of the political environment. With most 2016 results in (adding projections for some uncalled races based on who is ahead at this point), the damage is as follows: a net loss of 13 governorships, nine Senate seats, 63 House seats, 949 seats in state legislatures, and 29 state legislative chambers. Some other modern presidents lost more governorships, Senate seats, and state legislative chambers, but none has lost more net House seats and — especially — state legislative seats.” This is not to blame President Obama, who has faced an unprecedented level of GOP obstruction and an extremely well-organized, corporate-financed effort to defeat Democrats in state electoral politics. Clearly it’s time for the state Democratic parties to step up their game or go under.

In his RealClear Politics post, “The God that Failed,” Sean Trende notes “…Trump received more votes from white evangelicals than Clinton received from African-Americans and Hispanics combined.  This single group very nearly cancels the Democrats’ advantage among non-whites completely.  This isn’t a one-off; it was true in 2012, 2008 and 2004…You may wonder why this group voted in historic numbers for a man like Trump.  Perhaps, as some have suggested, they are hypocrites. Perhaps they are merely partisans.  But I will make a further suggestion: They are scared…the sneering condescension of the Samantha Bees and John Olivers of the world may be warranted, but it also probably cost liberals their best chance in a generation to take control of the Supreme Court.”

Here’s some salient points to put Trump’s “mandate” in perspective, from “The voters gave Democrats a mandate to fight Trump’s extremist agenda” by Laurence Lewis at Daily Kos” “In last week’s election, Hillary Clinton received more votes for president than any candidate not named Obama ever. Hillary Clinton received more votes for president than any Republican candidate ever. Hillary Clinton received more votes for president than any white male candidate ever. Hillary Clinton received over 1.5 million more votes than Donald Trump, and that number continues to rise. She lost the election because of the arcane and undemocratic Electoral College—and while the rules are the rules, her margin of defeat under those arcane and undemocratic rules was miniscule…This was no mandate for Trump. Mandate winners have coattails, sweeping their parties to gains in both the House and Senate. Not only did Trump fail to have coattails, but it was Clinton, the national popular vote winner, whose party picked up seats in both the House and Senate.”

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