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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his nationally-syndicated column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides the best argument thus far for the Electoral College rejecting Trump’s victory claim: “Memo to the electoral college that votes next Monday: Our tradition — for good reason — tells you that your job is to ratify the state-by-state outcome of the election. The question is whether Trump, Vladimir Putin and, perhaps, Clinton’s popular-vote advantage give you sufficient reason to blow up the system…One passage from Federalist 68 seems eerily relevant to the present circumstance. Hamilton wrote that the electors could be a barrier against “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” Hamilton asked: “How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”…The CIA’s finding that Russia actively intervened in our election to make Trump president is an excellent reason for the electors to consider whether they should exercise their independent power. At the very least, they should be briefed on what the CIA knows, and in particular on whether there is any evidence that Trump or his lieutenants were engaged with Russia during the campaign….Trump himself said in July of Clinton’s emails: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” By publicly inviting a foreign power to intervene in our election, Trump put himself ahead of the nation’s interest in holding an election that would be untainted by foreign meddling. It is one of many reasons conscientious electors might decide that Trump is unfit to be president and may even be a danger to the country”

Conservative columnist Katheen Parker agrees that the Electoral College should dump Trump for a litany of good reasons. But she urges “Republican electors to defect — not to cede the election to Hillary Clinton but to join with Democrats in selecting a compromise candidate, such as Mitt Romney or John Kasich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.”

Democrats at Crossroads: Win Back Working-Class Whites, or Let Them Go?” by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns at The New York Times could have given more consideration to the non-binary strategic option. True, there are Democrats who argue for writing off the white working-class, and those who say, no, Dems must focus on winning them back. But other Democratic strategists don’t see it as an either-or choice, arguing instead that winning just a modest segment of this large demographic group could secure a stable Democratic majority in the years ahead. In addition to more inclusive messaging to get at least a larger cross-section of working-class whites, a follow-up article probing the possibilities of targeting a sub-segment of the white working class (e.g. seniors, rural voters or unionized workers) might be interesting.

Dahlia Lithwick and David S. Cohen have a NYT op-ed, “Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans,” which makes a compelling case that the Democratic Party has accepted Trump’s Electoral College victory claim way too easily. The op-ed includes several provocative observations, among them: “There’s no shortage of legal theories that could challenge Mr. Trump’s anointment, but they come from outsiders rather than the Democratic Party. Impassioned citizens have been pleading with electors to vote against Mr. Trump; law professors have argued that winner-take-all laws for electoral votes are unconstitutional; a small group, the Hamilton Electors, is attempting to free electors to vote their consciences; and a new theory has arisen that there is legal precedent for courts to give the election to Mrs. Clinton based on Russian interference. All of these efforts, along with the grass-roots protests, boycotts and petitions, have been happening without the Democratic Party. The most we’ve seen is a response to the C.I.A. revelations, but only with Republicans onboard to give Democrats bipartisan cover…Contrast the Democrats’ do-nothingness to what we know the Republicans would have done. If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials. The best of the Republican establishment would have been filing lawsuits and infusing every public statement with a clear pronouncement that Donald Trump was the real winner. And they would have started on the morning of Nov. 9, using the rhetoric of patriotism and courage.”

In her Washington Post column, “How to mount a progressive resistance,” Katrina vanden Heuval provides an inspiring account of reform campaigns across the nation at the state and local level, which offer hope to those who are discouraged by Trump’s Electoral College majority. Vanden Heuval concludes that “Trump, of course, still can wreak havoc, stripping millions of health care, trashing America’s leadership role in addressing climate change, unleashing a new lawless era of crony capitalism and sowing division rather than decency. But even with Republicans in control of Congress, neither he nor his Cabinet of bankers, billionaires and generals will have a free hand. Resistance will come, not only in the streets but also from leaders in states and cities who are intent on making America better.”

More rays of hope — and an excellent action agenda for Democrats — from “The voting rights manifesto: a state-by-state plan to defend democracy,” a Vox post by Daniel Nichanian: “As Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos Elections has documented, automatic voting proposals can be directly submitted to voters in at least 20 states. This process has already started in Nevada, where activists affiliated with the organization iVote collected enough signatures to force the Nevada legislature to consider AVR in the upcoming legislative session. (Either the legislature adopts the reform or else the issue is placed on the November 2018 ballot for voters to decide.)…At this moment, Democrats only fully control the governments of six states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, and Rhode Island). But plenty remains to be done even there. Some of these states allow no early voting, allow no weekend voting, and fail to automatically register citizens — and hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions are disenfranchised within them…Democrats are also well positioned to take control of many state governments in 2017 and 2018 (Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, and Washington, to name the most notable). Where and when they do, it is crucial that they be ready to act decisively and unflinchingly — not just to roll back recently introduced restrictions but also to increase access to the franchise and remove longstanding obstacles to electoral participation.” Read the whole thing. There’s more here worth doing.

From Democratic strategist Guy Cecil’s responses on the topic of “How Democrats can win again” in an interview byChris Cillizza at The Fix: “We can be a party that stands up — fiercely and strongly — against racism and still support expanding economic opportunities for all Americans.  We can be a party that supports my marriage to my husband, and one who supports the groundbreaking work being done by building trade unions who invest in worker training. We can support the DREAMers worried about their future in America and the dreams of poor whites who have been screwed by big business, big agriculture, and in many ways, their own government…Our party has become too focused on the presidential race, to the detriment on local and state races…We have competitive governor’s races across the country and many winnable majorities in state legislatures…The Democratic National Committee is part of the solution, but they are insufficient to turning around state parties, most of which are in disrepair…The way to win is not to become a liberal version of Trump, mired in division and hatred. More darkness in our political process will only lead to despair. It is time for activism, passion, protests, righteous anger and moral clarity. It is also time for more light.”

Eric Lipton and Scott Shane focus on some of the damage done down-ballot in their NYT article, “Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking.” The report includes a chilling description of the reaction of one Republican blogger to a Russian leak by “Guccifer 2.0” of thousands of pages of documents stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: “I don’t think you realize what you gave me,” the blogger said, looking at the costly internal D.C.C.C. political research that he had just been provided. “This is probably worth millions of dollars.”

Incumbency rules even more now, report Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley at Crystal Ball: “This election cycle, 393 of 435 House representatives, 29 of 34 senators, and five of 12 governors sought reelection (several of the governors were prohibited from seeking another term). Of those, 380 of 393 House members (97%), 27 of 29 senators (93%), and four of five governors (80%) won another term. These members of Congress and governors not only won renomination, but also won in November….Those reelection rates are all a little bit better than the already impressive post-World War II averages…”

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Robert Vogel on

    The two party duopoly produced two candidates with unfavorable ratings and strongly limited discussion. There was not one debate question about climate change, an existential threat.
    To recover democracy we need Election reform: universal voter registration, roll back of Citizens United, full disclosure of large campaign contributions, standards for security and software of voting machines, restoration of the Voting Rights Act, a national holiday for elections, a requirement that to appear on the ballot candidates release tax returns, and elimination of he Electoral College so that the popular vote matters.
    For all practical purposes, we are not allowed to have more than two parties. The most important single election change (just passed in Maine) would be range voting so that minor parties are not spoilers.
    Blocking fringe parties is what allows minorities to rule.

  2. John Burnett on

    “Let go” of 44% of eligible voters? Good luck with THAT. There are Democrats who would rather see “their” party LOSE than become a working-class party. This is why Hillary did not make ONE campaign stop in Wisconsin, and only one, panicked last-minute stop in Michigan Friday before Election Day. Read Listen Liberal, by Thomas Frank.

    • Jack Olson on

      If what you say is true, that “There are Democrats who would rather see their party lose than become a working-class party”, then why is that? Do the Democrats you speak of believe that a working-class party would either ignore their interest or work against it?


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