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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At NPR Linda Wertheimer interviews Nick Rathod, executive director of the State Innovation Exchange (SIX), which fights for progressive causes and candidates in state houses across America. Rathod notes that”one of the things that progressives have done…is that we try to pass big pieces of legislation here in D.C. and then educate everyone on the back end where conservatives have developed policies that are tailored to local communities and then have the conversation and build narratives around what that means for people. I mean, I grew up in Nebraska, and when I talk with my conservative friends there, we’re pretty close on a lot of the issues. But the thing is that we just haven’t ever really sat down and talked to people about what it – what equal pay actually means. You know, do you care whether your daughter gets paid the same as your son? I think most people would say yeah. Do you care that people have a living wage, that people who are playing by the rules, working hard, I think people would say yes to that. Let’s have those conversations locally, and let’s shake out who is actually fighting for those things.”

Here is some good post-election news for progressives, as reported by Joanna Walters at The Guardian:  “From smaller local organizations to household names such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, nonprofit organizations across the US reported fundraising tallies many magnitudes higher than in previous years as they approached their end-of-year donation drives…Progressive causes in the US saw a spike in donations immediately after the election on 8 November from voters dismayed, outraged or even frightened by the outcome. In the weeks since, this wave of strategic giving has compounded. Planned Parenthood has received more than 300,000 donations in the six weeks since the election, 40 times its normal rate. Around half the donors were millennials and 70% had never given to the family planning organization before, a spokesman told the Guardian.”

Gene B. Sperling, director of the National Economic Council from 1996 to 2001 and from 2011 until 2014, has a New York Times op-ed, “The Quiet War on Medicaid,” focusing on a looming crisis Ed Kilgore flagged at New York Magazone back on December 1st. As Sperling writes, “if Democrats focus too much of their attention on Medicare, they may inadvertently assist the quieter war on Medicaid — one that could deny health benefits to millions of children, seniors, working families and people with disabilities…Of the two battles, the Republican effort to dismantle Medicaid is more certain. Neither Mr. Trump nor Senate Republicans may have the stomach to fully own the political risks of Medicare privatization. But not only have Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s choice for secretary of health and human services, made proposals to deeply cut Medicaid through arbitrary block grants or “per capita caps,” during the campaign, Mr. Trump has also proposed block grants.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich discusses Donad Trump’s “7 Techniques to Control the Media” in a ‘Democracy Now’ interview with Amy Goodman. Discussing one of the points, Reich observes, “Donald Trump has, almost from the beginning of his campaign, and certainly in the—and he’s continued it—in the post-election period, to denigrate and berate the media. He holds rallies, and he talks about the dishonest media. He uses adjectives like “scum” and “scoundrel” to describe the media. He picks out individual members of the press who have criticized him, and talks about them in very critical terms or mocks them. This is not the habit of a democratic—democratically elected president…We’ve never before had a president or president-elect who has taken the media on so directly and so negatively and tried to plant in the public’s mind—and I think this is the real danger, Amy—trying to plant in the public’s mind the notion that the press is the enemy itself.” Video of entire interview here.

The debate about the substance of the best Democratic message will continue on through the next few elections. As for the best message vehicle, here’s a clue: “So what medium really is a primary news source for the largest number of Americans? We can find an answer to that in a different Pew Research report, this one from June, titled, “The Modern News Consumer.” It compares the percentage of U.S. adults who “often” get news from various platforms. By this metric, television remains the dominant medium by a significant margin, at 57 percent. A distant second is “online,” at 38 percent. This combines the 18 percent who get news often from social media with an overlapping 28 percent who get it often from “news websites/apps.” Third on the list is radio at 25 percent, followed by print newspapers at 20 percent.” from “How Many People Really Get Their News From Facebook?” by Will Oremus at slate.com.

Michael Moore’s assertion that Trump was going to “get us all killed” seems a little less of an overstatement in the wake of Trump’s tweet last week that that the U.S. should “greatly strengthen and expand” its nuclear capability.” In their syndicated column on “The chaos theory of Donald Trump: Washington Post analysis,” John Wagnern and Abby Phillip share a chilling quote about it by a foreign policy expert: “We’re just operating in this world where you cannot believe the things he says,” said Eliot Cohen, a foreign policy expert and former George W. Bush administration official at the State Department. “It will have large consequences for our allies and our adversaries, and it’s going to greatly magnify the danger of miscalculation by all kinds of people.” It’s one thing for Trump to be a ‘bomb-thrower’ in his domestic policy tweets, without regard for the consequences. But loose talk about escalating the nuclear arms race is a much more dangerous kind of foolishness. The top foreign policy pros should ask for a meeting with Trump at the earliest opportunity, to at least try to get him to stop tweeting about the arms race.

Greg Sargent adds to this concern in his Plum Line post, “Could Trump help unleash nuclear catastrophe with a single tweet?,” noting “Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, points out that in peacetime, any belligerent Trump Tweet about nuclear weapons might not appear as alarming, simply because “confirmation bias” might lead key actors not to interpret it in its most frightening light at that moment. Amid rising international tensions, though, that confirmation bias might work in the other direction, he says…“Imagine we’re in a crisis — if he recklessly Tweets, people could read these things in the worst possible light,” Lewis tells me. “The North Koreans have a plan to use nuclear weapons very early in a conflict. They’re not going to wait around. If they think we are going, they’re going to use nuclear weapons against South Korea and Japan.””

Nate Cohn shares some revealing data at The Upshot: “The exit polls also show all of the signs that Mr. Trump was winning over Obama voters. Perhaps most strikingly, Mr. Trump won 19 percent of white voters without a degree who approved of Mr. Obama’s performance, including 8 percent of those who “strongly” approved of Mr. Obama’s performance and 10 percent of white working-class voters who wanted to continue Mr. Obama’s policies…Mr. Trump won 20 percent of self-identified liberal white working-class voters, according to the exit polls, and 38 percent of those who wanted policies that were more liberal than Mr. Obama’s…Taken together, Mr. Trump’s views on immigration, trade, China, crime, guns and Islam all had considerable appeal to white working-class Democratic voters, according to Pew Research data. It was a far more appealing message than old Republican messages about abortion, same-sex marriage and the social safety net.”

At The Jacobin Seth Ackerman’s “A Blueprint for a New Party” includes a critique of the Democratic Party, arguing in essence that it is neither Democratic, nor a Party. Ackerman is not interested in improving the Democratic Party. But he offers several interesting observations, among them: “It’s true that a number of sincere, committed leftists, or at least progressives, run for office on the Democratic ballot line at all levels of American politics. Sometimes they even win. And all else equal, we’re better off with such politicians in office than without them…But electing individual progressives does little to change the broad dynamics of American politics or American capitalism. In fact, it can create a kind of placebo effect: sustaining the illusion of forward motion while obscuring the fact that neither party is structurally built to reflect working-class interests. “Working within the Democratic Party” has been the prevailing model of progressive political action for decades now, and it suffers from a fundamental limitation: it cedes all real agency to professional politicians. The liberal office-seeker becomes the indispensable actor to whom all others, including progressives, must respond…In this “party-less” model of politics, it’s the Democratic politician who goes about trying to recruit a base, rather than the other way around. The politician’s platform and message are devised by her and her alone…Start with the most fundamental fact about the Democratic Party: it has no members…fundraising letters aside, there are no real members of the Democratic Party: “Unlike these [British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand] democracies, where members join a political party through a process of application to the party itself, party membership in the United States has been described as ‘a fiction created by primary registration laws.”

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