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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s column on “The Tainted Election“: “Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?…And it wouldn’t have been seen as a marginal victory, either. Even as it was, Mrs. Clinton received almost three million more votes than her opponent, giving her a popular margin close to that of George W. Bush in 2004…And when, as you know will happen, the administration begins treating criticism as unpatriotic, the answer should be: You have to be kidding. Mr. Trump is, by all indications, the Siberian candidate, installed with the help of and remarkably deferential to a hostile foreign power. And his critics are the people who lack patriotism?…Everything we’ve seen so far says that Mr. Trump is going to utterly betray the interests of the white working-class voters who were his most enthusiastic supporters, stripping them of health care and retirement security, and this betrayal should be highlighted.”

The New York Times editorial “Russia’s Hand in America’s Election” puts it this way: “Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, made it clear her administration would redouble efforts to punish and isolate Moscow for war crimes in Syria’s civil war and its aggression toward Ukraine and other neighbors. “I’ve stood up to Russia,” Ms. Clinton said during a debate in the fall. “I’ve taken Putin on and I would do that as president…New disclosures by American officials now reveal that intelligence agencies concluded with “high confidence” that a desire to undermine American faith in the electoral system morphed into an effort to hurt Mrs. Clinton’s chances…Revelations about Russian involvement will loom over many of Mr. Trump’s decisions, including his likely choice to lead the State Department, Rex Tillerson. Mr. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has cultivated a close and profitable relationship with Mr. Putin and has criticized American sanctions against Russia.”

He don’t need no stinkin’ “Daily Brief.” NYT’s David E. Sanger quotes Trump: “You know, I’m, like, a smart person,” he said. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.” I can’t decide whether it’s my more paranoid or lucid moments that lead to the conclusion that the GOP is now scheming to give us 11 plus years of President Pence.

We’ve gotten used to Trump reversing his stated positions, often witin hours. But E.J. Dionne, Jr.’s syndicated column, “Trump can’t wait to sell out his base” flags the astonishing speed with which Trump has begun selling out the constituency that gave him the largest share of his Electoral College victory. “Donald Trump cast himself as the champion of a besieged American working class and a defender of its interests. His early decisions tell us something very different: This could be the most anti-worker, anti-union crowd to run our government since the Gilded Age…In Trump’s case, we’re learning that rhetoric out of labor songbooks meant less than nothing. He was covering up an agenda focused on undercutting legal protections for workers and weakening their already-beleaguered organizations.”

Interesting title choice for The New York Times article, “Democrats Hone a New Message: It’s the Economy, Everyone” by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin. The subtextual message is “yes, the economy is still the key issue for Democrats who want to win elections, but let’s lose the “stupid” part and try to appeal to everyone.” Forget for a minute that the ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ was addressed more to the 1992 Democratic presidential campaign workers. Tweak the slogan to refocus Democratic messaging on reminding all voters of the central importance of economic justice and reform. That’s what got lost in the 2016 presidential campaign. The rest of the article deals more with centrist and liberal Democratic leaders re-emphasizing the importance of the economy. That’s the strategy that must be firmly in place by the 2018 mid terms and beyond.

WaPo’s Chris Cillizza makes a painful, though salient point in his article “Trump has completely upended the political game. We need to adjust accordingly.” As Cillizza writes, “Trump, to his immense credit, understood that a) flouting the rules actually endeared him to a big swath of voters and b) there just might not be any real rules at all…Trump took every rule of the game and not just broke it but smashed it.” We may be entering a new era of guerilla politics, or at least political jiu jitsu. While the conditions that facilitated Trump’s Electoral College win can’t be replicated, Dems should at least take note of Cillizza’s point that “…everything that we — the collective political horde — thought was conclusive about how you win an election (outspend your opponent, build a better organization, lead in polling, run more TV ads) was disproved in one fell swoop on Nov. 8.”

At Daily Kos “Trump is laying the path for Democrats to reconsolidate the Blue Wall” by Egberto Willies provides a succinct summation of the present predicament facing Dems: “Democrats lost a big chunk of the blue wall because they took many of the reliably Democratic states for granted. They did not do so by having policies inferior to those of the Republicans: they did so by allowing Donald Trump to define the policies he purported to support, letting him highlight past Democratic policies anathema to the working class, and by giving him the win in the domains of social media and electronic media…He won the presidency because of a constitutional aberration intended to ensure a corrupt power structure the ability to override the will of the people. The Bill of Rights protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority. The Electoral College is the the constitutional device of the powerful minority to usurp the will of the majority…With his cabinet selections, Donald Trump is providing tremendous opportunities to show that he conned those who placed their faith in him. His thin skin, including his Twitter feuds with some who helped elect him, creates a metastasis of buyer’s remorse that we must capitalize on immediately.”

Looking toward the 2018 mid-term elections ad strategy, it may be instructive to look at the last mid-terms (2014) to see where Democrats and Republicans placed their TV ads. Jeremy Scott Diamond’s Bloomberg post,  “TV’s Most Republican and Democratic Shows” provides an eyebrow-raiser in that regard. Hover your mouse over each of the TV programs to compare the numbers, and you may be surprised that the most popular Democratic choice by far, was “Judge Judy” with 19,425 ads, followed by “The Peoples’ Court” with 6,092, a distant second. For Republicans, the “Local News” blew everything else away, with 24,252 spots, followed by “The Price is Right” with 9,874 ads. You would have to study viewer demographics of each show to be sure. But, overall, it looks like Dems were focused on turning out the base in their ad choices, while Republicans were more interested in reaching out a bit wider.

Viet Than Nguyen’s NYT op-ed “Trump Is a Great Storyteller. We Need to Be Better,” provides a worthy messaging challenge for Democrats. Nguyen explains: “…The contest for our American identity wasn’t strictly a political affair. It is also a matter of storytelling. Those who seek to lead our country must persuade the people through their ability to tell a story about who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. The struggle over the direction of our country is also a fight over whose words will win and whose images will ignite the collective imagination…Donald J. Trump won barely, and by the grace of the Electoral College. His voters responded to his call to “Make America Great Again,” referring to a past when jobs were more plentiful, incomes more stable and politicians more bold…That kind of nostalgia is powerful and visceral, but it’s hard to ignore the subtext.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. R on

    I resent reading on TDS a reference to Cillizza. He does not write in good faith. During the election he was excited that fake news relating to Clinton’s health status was gaining traction, which he helped accelerate.


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