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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

A New York Times op-ed by Stanley B. Greenberg and Anna Greenberg, “Was Barack Obama Bad for Democrats?” takes a nuanced look at the President’s political legacy: “President Obama will be remembered as a thoughtful and dignified president who led a scrupulously honest administration that achieved major changes…People argue over whether his impatience with politicians and Republican intransigence denied him bigger accomplishments, but that argument is beside the point: He rescued an economy in crisis and passed the recovery program, pulled America back from its military overreach, passed the Affordable Care Act and committed the nation to addressing climate change. To be truly transformative in the way he wanted, however, his success had to translate into electoral gains for those who shared his vision and wanted to reform government. On that count, Mr. Obama failed…His legacy regrettably includes the more than 1,000 Democrats who lost their elections during his two terms. Republicans now have total control in half of America’s states.”

Aropos of all of the discussion about whether or not Democrats should marshall resources to win back the white working-class, think on these stats from Guy Molyneux’s post, “Mapping the White Working Class: A deep dive into the beliefs and sentiments of the moderates among them“at The American Prospect: “Boosting white non-college moderates’ support for Clinton by just 5 percent or 6 percent would have delivered her the presidency. Democrats can lose the votes of every one of the 36 percent who are uneasy with America’s increasing diversity, and still make the progress required to win elections.”

Everybody is a quarterback on Monday morning, but it’s unlikely that all of Cenk Uygur’s points in the video below are wrong. Despite the cherry-picked unflattering photo on the cover, this video critique merits both serious consideration and a point-by-point rebuttal, where it’s needed:

From The Nation, here’s “Here’s an Organizing Strategy to Revive the Democratic Party That Doesn’t Depend on White Voters: Many Democrats assume it’s impossible to get more people of color to vote. That’s just not true” By Steve Phillips. “Clinton lost Michigan by 11,000 votes. Of those black folks in Michigan who did vote, 92 percent of them voted for Clinton, but 300,000 African Americans who were eligible to vote didn’t vote; 153,000 black voters in Michigan who came out for Obama in 2008 stayed home in 2016. Clinton lost Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes, and 400,000 African Americans who were eligible to vote didn’t cast ballots. In Arizona, the margin was 91,000 votes, and 600,000 Latinos who were eligible to vote were not mobilized to the polls…Lisa Garcia Bedolla, who literally wrote the book on Latino politics, has called for an affordable, effective, and sophisticated voter-engagement infrastructure she calls the Civic Web. The model is to use direct voter contact and long-term relationship building driven by neighborhood-based teams who work year-round in their communities with a universe of 100 people per team leader. The civic-web model would cost about $3 million to move 100,000 voters. By those metrics, margins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona could more than have been closed at a fraction of the cost of what was spent on television ads…In 2017, progressives can lay the foundation for the expansion of civic engagement of those voters who have shown the greatest propensity for supporting Democrats (74 percent of people of color supported Clinton; 80.5 percent for Obama). The way to do this is by targeting local races in strategic states whose demographics are trending in a progressive direction.”   These are good ideas, but the argument that Democrats can create a stable majority of the electorate without getting at least a healthier share of white working-class voters was largely discredited on November 8th.

Even though Hillary Clinton lost neartly all of the southern states, Georgia has emerged as the next likely major ‘purple’ state, where she lost by a smaller margin, 5 percent, than her defeat margins in both Ohio (8.6 percent) and Iowa (9.6 percent). Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  has the best update on Democratic prospects in the Peach State so far. Bluestein notes, “Minority voters make up about 40 percent of the state’s electorate, but they don’t pack the same punch at the polls. Case in point: Fewer than half of registered African-American men cast ballots this year. The voter registration group [House Minority Leader Stacey] Abrams started, the New Georgia Project, aims to persuade 800,000 unregistered minority Georgians to sign up to vote by 2024. She said the party will focus next year on boosting funding for schools in poverty-stricken areas and continue to push for the expansion of Medicaid – two issues popular with the party’s base.”

“A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday found Democratic and independent voters lukewarm on a handful of party leaders and most excited for “someone entirely new,” reports Eli Watkins at CNN: “Just over 22% of respondents said Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s failed candidate in the 2016 election, would excite them, while almost 15% said her running in 2020 would “make no difference” and about 62% said she should not run…Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both fared about twice as well as Clinton, but still failed to elicit excitement from a majority of respondents…After publicly toying with the idea of running in 2020, Biden said he had no intention to do so. If he were to run and win, the current vice president would be 78 years old at the time of taking office. Sanders would be 79, and Trump would be 74…Meanwhile, about a third of respondents said they would be excited by a 2020 bid from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren…”

“Governor’s races aren’t the sexiest in politics, but it’s hard to overstate how important the seven listed below are. They won’t just chart the future of their states; they also may determine whether Democrats can get back on their feet in Congress and in key state legislatures at any point in the next 15 years. Democrats estimate they could pick up as many as 10 or more seats in the House of Representatives if they can have a say in post-2020 redistricting, and they’ve launched a new redistricting effort aided by President Obama to try to make that happen…“I truly believe that if we don’t win these states races — particularly governors’ races — in 2018, we are going to have another decade of lost Democratic leaders,” said Elisabeth Pearson, the executive director of the Democratic Governors’ Association.” – From “The Democratic Party’s future could be on the line in 7 hugely important governor’s races” by Ambder Phillips and Aaron Blake at The Fix.

At Governing the States and Localities, Mike Maciag writes: “A study conducted by Portland State University tallied voter turnout in the most recent mayoral elections in the 30 largest cities. It found that residents 65 years and older were a median of seven times more likely to vote than those ages 18 to 34, who frequently registered turnout rates in the single digits. “There’s an enormous disconnect with younger citizens in understanding the impact that local governments have,” says Phil Keisling, director of the university’s Center for Public Service. “They’re ceding to their grandparents the political decisions.”

In her post “Why the white working class votes against itself,” WaPo’s Catherine Rampell outs the strong undercurrent of bigoted racial stereotypes that many Trump voters embraced: “...A recent YouGov/Huffington Post survey found that Trump voters are five times more likely to believe that “average Americans” have gotten less than they deserve in recent years than to believe that “blacks” have gotten less than they deserve. (African Americans don’t count as “average Americans,” apparently.)…We’ve known for a long time, through the work of Martin GilensSuzanne Mettler and other social scientists, that Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs.”

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