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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article “Data Firm Says ‘Secret Sauce’ Aided Trump; Many Scoff,” Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim report on the effectiveness of the GOP’s favorite microtargeting firm, Cambridge Analytics and the political uses of psychographic profiles in general. Among their observations: “Cambridge Analytica’s rise has rattled some of President Trump’s critics and privacy advocates, who warn of a blizzard of high-tech, Facebook-optimized propaganda aimed at the American public, controlled by the people behind the alt-right hub Breitbart News…But a dozen Republican consultants and former Trump campaign aides, along with current and former Cambridge employees, say the company’s ability to exploit personality profiles — “our secret sauce,” Mr. Nix once called it — is exaggerated…Trump aides, though, said Cambridge had played a relatively modest role, providing personnel who worked alongside other analytics vendors on some early digital advertising and using conventional microtargeting techniques. Later in the campaign, Cambridge also helped set up Mr. Trump’s polling operation and build turnout models used to guide the candidate’s spending and travel schedule. None of those efforts involved psychographics.”

As part of her ongoing series, “Interviews for Resistance,” Sarah Jaffe of The Nation Institute interviews Stephen Lerner, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor on the topic “Organizing to Hit Trump’s Corporate Cabinet and Allies Where it Hurts” at Moyers & Company. One excerpt: “What we have been looking at is, how do you identify the corporate collaborators with Trump, and then look at ways to start putting pressure on them so that they pay a price…Trump’s job czar [Stephen Schwarzman, who chairs President Donald Trump‘s Strategic and Policy Forum] is actually involved in cutting wages, benefits and outsourcing work. This is one of the pieces that I think is the most critical, which is showing that the people that Trump has put in charge, like [Secretary of Commerce] Wilbur Ross, are job destroyers…We want to completely change the story by putting the spotlight on them by saying, “These are the people that got rich destroying good jobs. It is not evil foreigners or immigrants. It is these guys.” That lets you raise a whole set of issues in terms of showing who they are and then, all the different ways that they gamed the system to enrich themselves at the expense of workers.”

A new study by the Wesleyan Media Project concludes that “Clinton’s unexpected losses came in states in which she failed to air ads until the last week” and “Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests.” Further, notes an abstract of the study, “The 2016 presidential campaign broke the mold when it comes to patterns of political advertising. Using data from the Wesleyan Media Project, we show the race featured far less advertising than the previous cycle, a huge imbalance in the number of ads across candidates and one candidate who almost ignored discussions of policy. This departure from past patterns, however, was not replicated at the congressional level…Team Clinton’s message that Trump was unfit for the office of presidency may not have been enough.”

At The National Memo, however, Steven Rosenfeld explains “How James Comey’s ‘October Surprise’ Doomed Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy,” and notes, “Do you remember how you felt last October after you heard that FBI Director James Comey was reopening the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s possible illegal handling of classified communiqués while Secretary of State — just 11 days before the presidential election? That news, which left me with a sinking feeling that all but erased the confidence I had in Clinton’s prospects after the three presidential debates, was the moment that Donald Trump won the election, according to an analysis released this week by a data firm that tracks the psychological elements below patterns of consumer behavior, moods, and sentiment…According to Brad Fay, an executive with Engagement Labs, “Comey’s “October surprise” was the tipping point that turned voter sentiment away from Clinton—because people inclined to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt lost their enthusiasm, just as Comey’s announcement buoyed Trump voters…Immediately afterward, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump,” he said. “At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth ‘standings.’ The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.”

It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that the latest job figures make Trump “look good,” since he has only been president for a few weeks, but Christopher Ingraham’s “19 times Trump called jobs numbers ‘fake’ before they made him look good” in the Washingtron Post does reveal, once again, Trump’s detachment from anything he said in the past. Despite Trump’s confidence that he will not be held accountable for any of his reversals, Democrats should call him out on it every time, so his remaining supporters will reap the collateral damage in the 2018 midterms.

Marketwatch is running an excerpt of Ruy Teixeira’s new book, “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think.” Teixeira presents several reasons why progressives shouldn’t over-worry about right-wing populism emerging in the U.S. and Europe, including “the right populist movement is riding on demographic borrowed time. Typically, the greatest strength of these parties comes from the votes of less- educated aging whites. But to a greater or lesser degree, the population weight of these voters is declining across countries. In the United States, the white non-college-educated share of voters declined by 19 percentage points just between the 1988 and 2012 presidential elections. Projections indicate that this group’s share of voters should continue to decline by 2–3 points every presidential election for decades…The flip side is that the left’s burgeoning postindustrial coalition is composed of groups for whom right populist cultural attitudes are anathema. As these groups continue to grow, their values too will be in the ascendancy, crowding out the space for right populism. This is not to say that right populism will not continue to be a problem for some time but rather that over the medium to long term the movement has intrinsically limited growth potential.”

This headline says it all. But if that doesn’t quite do it for you, the subhead “In 2013, 20.4% of Kentuckians were uninsured. In 2016, 7.8% were” ought to be enough to convince any sentient being that the Veep needs to just put a sock in it.

John Judis interviews noted union organizer Marshall Ganz at TPM Cafe and elicits an insightful distinction from Ganz: “Many Democrats confuse messaging with educating, marketing with organizing. They think it is all about branding when it is really about relational work. You engage people with each other, creating collective capacity. That’s how you sustain and grow and get leadership. That’s how you make things happen. Organizers have known this for years. But then Green and Gerber at Yale showed that face to face contact with a voter, especially if relationally embedded, increases voter turnout. Broockman and others at Stanford showed interpersonal conversation— what they call “deep canvassing”—can change deep gender attitudes.”

At Vox Matthew Yglesias explains why “The Republican health plan is a huge betrayal of Trump’s campaign promises” and observes, “Trump’s embrace of more centrist positions on health care and retirement security was a crucial aspect of his campaign, and there was enough campaign-season tension between Trump and the GOP leadership that a voter could be forgiven for assuming Trump meant what he was saying…He did not. Trump ran and won promising to cover everyone, avoid Medicaid cuts, and boost funding for opioid abuse treatment. He is now lobbying Congress to pass a bill that does none of those things. Instead, millions will lose insurance and Medicaid spending will be sacrificed on the altar of tax cuts for the rich… “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump told the conservative Daily Signal way back in May 2015. “Every other Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn’t, they don’t know what to do because they don’t know where the money is. I do.”..In an early January interview with the Washington Post, he said that Trumpcare would feature “insurance for everybody,” in contrast to an ACA that, while bringing the uninsurance rate to a historic low, has still left 25 million people without coverage. The plans, he said, would have “much lower deductibles.” And ability to pay, he said, wouldn’t be an issue. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”…it’s hard to know for sure exactly how many people with go with how much less. But Standard & Poor’s thinks 6 million to 10 million people will lose insurance, while Brookings analysts think the number may be 15 million or higher.

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