washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Politico Gabriel Debenedetti’s “Democrats wrestle with Rust Belt dilemma: Party leaders in fast-growing states warn against obsessing over Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin” cautions against overreacting to Trump’s electoral college win and notes a couple of bright spots for the future. “The Arizona and Georgia margins turned out to be closer than in Ohio and Iowa — two swing states Obama won twice,” notes Debenedetti. “…Reed, the Atlanta mayor, makes the point that Clinton lost North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes — where her team spent tens of millions of dollars — by just roughly one point less than she lost Georgia and its 16 votes…“It would be a mistake to not look at the gains that were made in Georgia,” said Rebecca DeHart, executive director of that state’s Democratic Party, nodding to the looming uncertainty about resources.”

Lynn Vavreck reported in the New York Times that “Only 9 percent of Mrs. Clinton’s appeals in her ads were about jobs or the economy. By contrast, 34 percent of Mr. Trump’s appeals focused on the economy, jobs, taxes and trade.”

In his Daily Beast post, “Dems Can’t Afford to Say Yes to Trump: The few last times Democrats were in the oppositional spotlight, they were excessively accommodating to Republican presidents. The party can’t risk that now,” Michael Tomasky makes a strong case against Dems taking an accommodationist tilt toward Trump. In one graph Tomasky shreds the myth that Dems outspent Republicans leading up to 2016, particularly at the state level: “…It’s the right that spends more. Rob Stein, the founder of the Democracy Alliance, the group of wealthy liberal donors that tries to coordinate investment in a progressive infrastructure, has studied this question for years. He told me: “The right has been building its infrastructure for more than 40 years. Whereas 10 years ago the right’s independent political apparatus was outspending progressives in electorally relevant state-based political mobilization by over two to one, in this cycle that margin appears to have been in excess of four to one.”

You’ve probably seen a fair number of posts disparaging “identity politics” in recent weeks. Most of these articles are talking about pro-liberal demographic groups. But Trump played the identity card with a much heavier hand than did Clinton, and more pundits than you can count attribute his electoral college victory and state upsets to his leveraging white working-class resentments. Laila Lalami’s “The Identity Politics of Whiteness” explores the phenomenon at The New York Times Magazine.

From “Vilsack’s tough message for fellow Democrats: Stop writing off rural America,” by Greg Jaffe at The Washington Post: “Democrats need to talk to rural voters,” Vilsack warned this summer. “They can’t write them off. They can’t ignore them. They actually have to spend a little time talking to them.” There is no question that Democrats do better in towns and counties where they put in the time, as Obama proved in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. For a strongly-stated opposing view, however, read this post.  A possible copromise might be for Dems to campaign more in rural areas in state and local races and during the presidential primary elections and caucuses, but for Democratic presidential candidates hold off on spending much time and resources in rural areas in the 2020 general election presidential race.

Although the 2018 election offers a scary landscape for Democrats campaigning for senate seats, at The Plum Line Greg Sargent points out that Democrats face more encouraging terrain in upcoming races for governorships. Sargent writes that “in 2017 and 2018, there will be a total of 38 gubernatorial contests…Of these races, those that will feature Republicans defending GOP-held seats…will vastly outnumber those that will feature Democrats defending Dem-held seats…The vast majority of these races take place in 2018 (only two, Virginia and New Jersey, take place next year), so we’re really talking about the 2018 map here. It has big transformative potential for Democrats, since many of the states in which Republicans are defending seats are ones Barack Obama (and to a lesser extent Hillary Clinton) won…There has been a great deal of chatter about how Democrats should retool their economic message to win back the working class and middle class whites that Trump overperformed among, but these races provide a chance to actually try to do this in the immediate future.”

Maybe 2016 really was the “facebook election,” though not in a good way, as Jenna Wortham observes, also in the New York Times Magazine: “Social media seemed to promise a way to better connect with people; instead it seems to have made it easier to tune out the people we don’t agree with. But if we can’t pay attention to one another, we might as well not live on the same planet at all.” Despite all of the educational promise of social media, it may be feeding polarization, instead of reducing it. Not only are left and right mostly preaching to their respective choirs on social media, the medium seems to encourage name-calling, insults and ostracism. What might help would be social media forums that  stimulate civil dialogue and consensus-building.

In The NYT Sunday Review Steven Greenhouse previews the tough times ahead for unions under Trump:  “Unions are expecting a series of stinging blows. Even as Mr. Trump talks of spending $1 trillion to improve infrastructure, many Republicans are eager to repeal an 85-year-old law requiring that contractors pay union-level wages on federal projects. Congressional Republicans are likely to take up nationwide “right-to-work” legislation, which would sap union treasuries by barring any requirement that workers pay union dues or fees. And even if Senate Democrats manage to block such a law, Republican gains in Kentucky and Missouri mean those states are likely to enact their own right-to-work laws…Mr. Trump will most likely scrap most of Mr. Obama’s executive orders on labor, including ones requiring federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, provide paid sick leave and pay a $10.10 minimum wage. He may also erase a regulation that lets four million additional workers qualify for overtime pay. (Last Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas suspended that regulation.) And the National Labor Relations Board under Mr. Trump will no doubt overturn numerous union-friendly moves by the Obama board, among them ones speeding up unionization elections and giving graduate research and teaching assistants at private universities the right to unionize.”

At HuffPo Robert Kuttner has an article that puts many of the Democratic-friendly post-mortems in perspective. Kuttner argues, “While posing as a populist, he [Trump] seems inclined to let the Republican establishment have its way, not just with welfare for the poor but with federal programs that Middle America actually values, such as social security and medicare…At some point, even the devout Trump backers may notice that the man is a fraud. And Democrats need to be there with a brand of constructive economic nationalism that actually serves working people…But in the meantime a great deal is at risk — not just the programs going back to Franklin Roosevelt and the civil rights victories going back to LBJ and Martin Luther King but constitutional democracy itself…Now, can the Democrats please suspend their usual ritual of the circular firing squad — and get on with the business of defending what’s decent in America?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.