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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Some insights from Frank Bruni’s NYT column, “Are Democrats Falling Into Trump’s Trap?“: “..The party has problems, underscored by its general inability to be as succinct and blunt as Trump is…Yelling has an impact, but it takes you only so far if you don’t choose your battles, marshal your fiercest energy for ones that can yield concrete results, and buckle down to the nitty-gritty of electing legislators who can actually vote against Trump’s worst initiatives in numbers that exceed those of his abettors…Practicality is crucial. Proportionality, too. When you treat every last tweet of Trump’s as if it’s the botched operation in Yemen, voters lose sight of the botched operation in Yemen. Trump provokes ire by the minute, but the response needs to be fashioned by the day or even week, lest everything blur. Resistance is a dish best served with discernment. Too much salt and you can’t taste the food itself…Opposition to him crowded out support for anything else. Every negative moment came at the expense of a positive one.”

“The outlines of a meaningful blueprint for resisting Trump are now taking shape,” writes Greg Sargent at The Plum Line.” Sargent offer five components of the blueprint. Here is #3: “Fight hard in the Senate with all available procedural weapons. Congressional scholar Sarah Binder has a good piece Friday that details all the procedural tools that Senate Democrats can use to “focus attention on controversial parts of the president’s agenda and force Republicans to cast potentially unpopular votes.” They can also “offer unrelated amendments to bills under debate, affording Democrats the chance to create discord among Republicans and between Republican senators and the White House.” Democrats will lose a lot of legislative battles, but they have all kinds of means at their disposal to try to throw the actual GOP agenda into sharper relief in the eyes of the public.”

“If there is one silver bullet that could fix American democracy, it’s getting rid of gerrymandering – the now commonplace practice of drawing electoral districts in a distorted way for partisan gain. It’s also one of a dwindling number of issues that principled citizens – Democrat and Republican – should be able to agree on. Indeed, polls confirm that an overwhelming majority of Americans of all stripes oppose gerrymandering…Last year, only 17 seats out of 435 races were decided by a margin of 5 percent or less. Just 33 seats in total were decided by a margin of 10 percent or less. In other words, more than 9 out of 10 House races were landslides where the campaign was a foregone conclusion before ballots were even cast. In 2016, there were no truly competitive Congressional races in 42 of the 50 states…While no party is innocent when it comes to gerrymandering, a Washington Post analysis in 2014 found that eight of the ten most gerrymandered districts in the United States were drawn by Republicans.” — from “Gerrymandering is the biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the United States. So why is no one protesting?”  by Brian Klaas, author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding & Abetting the Decline of Democracy.

E. J. Dionne, Jr. previews “The Next GOP Assasault on Voting Rights.” Dionne writes, ““Justice [John] Roberts, then-Judge Roberts, assured us he would call balls and strikes,” Schumer said. “He gets in office, and his court does Citizens United, a huge break with precedent that ruins, ruins the politics of America. He repeals, basically, the Voting Rights Act by eliminating Section 5 . . . and I am very worried that Judge Gorsuch is similar…The court’s action on voting rights made it far harder to police abuses, while Citizens United undercut the regulation of big money in politics. So if you wonder why there is skepticism among liberals about Gorsuch, consider what conservative Supreme Court justices have already done. Think also about what it would mean to have a Supreme Court, an attorney general and a Congress all prepared to gut what had long been the basic rules of democracy. Bill Keating is not alone in his nightmares.”

In his Daily Beast post, “To Bork or Not to Bork? The Old Fight That Shows Democrats Why, and How, to Stop Gorsuch,” Julian Zelizer argues that Democrats who want to defeat the Gorsuch nomination have a real chance — if they study the leadership and tactics Sen. Edward Kennedy leveraged in the successful 1987 battle against the Bord nomination(which Coretta Scotrt King also supported).

In his AFL-CIO Now post, “Did Someone Just Say ‘Industrial Policy’?,” Stan Sorscher presents a range of interesting measures, which could give Democrats soem needed credibility. A couple of examples: “Large companies can entice states into bidding wars for a new facility. Instead of bidding wars, states could establish economic development funds. Washington State and California have billion-dollar initiatives targeted at biotech. Washington’s fund solicits bids from all companies for a portion of the development fund. Each bid is scored according to measures of public good, such as the number of family-wage jobs with benefits, or investment in plant and equipment. We could also require a commitment (subject to clawbacks) to maintain employment for a minimum period of time. This industrial policy reverses the power relationship between states and companies. Now, states have a scarce resource—access to the fund—and companies bid against each other for the scarce public resource…Companies should state in their annual tax filings how many workers they employ in the U.S. and how many in other countries.”

At a Northampton, Massachusetts town hall, Rep. Jim McGovern, who has earned the respect of progressives, urges his fellow Democrats to embrace the ‘big tent’ philosophy that gives the party its diversity and the cedibility that comes with it, reports Mary Serreze at masslive.com. “A young woman stepped to the microphone to say that Washington Democrats are not doing enough. She called for Trump to be impeached, and criticized Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her vote in support of Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development secretary…McGovern defended his Democratic colleague. “I don’t know anybody who has fought harder for justice and for holding this administration accountable than Elizabeth Warren,” he said…If we are all fractured, and we have all these tests — like, ‘Oh, if you vote the wrong way once on a nominee, then we’re not going to be with you’ — then eventually, you’re not going to have anybody.”

At The Fix Aaron Blake explains “Why Democrats can’t just obstruct their way back into power,”and notes “there is a difference between doing what feels good and what is strategically sound. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said it well this week: “You’ve got to pick which ones you’re going to fight about; not every pitch has to be swung at…53 percent of House districts are Republican and 60 out of 100 senators hail from red states, according to the 2016 election results (in which the GOP, again, lost the popular vote)…Republicans also have more districts “in the bag,” so to speak. Trump won 186 districts by double digits, compared with 171 for Clinton. And he won 211 districts by five or more points, compared with just 185 for Clinton…If we consider every district decided by less than 10 points in 2016 to be a battleground, Democrats need to win more than 60 percent of them to win the House majority back. And if you define the battleground more narrowly as every district decided by five points or fewer, Democrats need to win 85 percent of them…for Democrats, being completely partisan and playing to their base without expanding the party’s appeal has less upside when it comes to winning House and Senate majorities. That’s not to say they can’t do it — just that the strategic road map Republicans used doesn’t necessarily apply to Democrats.”

Benjamin Ross makes an interesting point about the problem with using education only as a metric for defining the ‘working-class’ in his Dissent article “The Lemming Democrats.” As Ross writes, “The working class is defined by education: Lumping voters together by education is a convenient way to interpret polls, which measure income imperfectly or not at all. But it loses meaning as college attendance rates rise while low pay, high rents, and student loan debt put recent graduates in a financial squeeze. As the Clinton-Sanders primaries showed, college grads are sharply divided along lines of age and income. Issues that appeal to rising Ivy-League professionals may leave the less affluent cold…To create a governing majority, the party must rebuild its coalition around a common program. It must—without lessening its commitment to racial justice and gender equality—make economic inequity its core message, and it must be seen to do so…No current voting constituencies need be written off. The same kitchen-table economic concerns motivate less affluent voters of all races and ethnicities–often more so than appeals to separate group identities. Educated professionals, too, see their retirement savings skimmed by Wall Street predators and their health endangered by for-profit medicine.”

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