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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Ed Kilgore, Eric Benson, Morgan Kinney, Jordan Larson, Amelia Schonbek, Isaac Shuband Matt Stieb collabrate on a major analysis at New York Magazine, “Will This Midterm Be Different From All Other Midterms? Will the race portend a sea change for 2018? The most up-for-grabs seats in an election year that could be epic.” The authors provide an in-depth preview of 30 key races for seats in the House of Representatives. In his introduction to the preview Ed Kilgore notes, “Thanks to a highly adverse Senate landscape in 2018 — Democrats must defend 25 seats, ten in states carried by Trump — the House offers the best opportunity to disrupt the GOP’s congressional stranglehold. Democrats will need 24 seats to win a majority there — 23 if Jon Ossoff wins his special election in Georgia later this month…“Tsunami” elections like those Democrats are hoping for in 2018 often build slowly. But across the country anti-Trump activists believe they can see big waves gathering. We may hear their distant thunder very soon.”

Adam Jentleson, senior strategic adviser at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, offers a rationale for Democratic filibuster against the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court in his New York Times op-ed, “Mitch McConnell’s Nuclear Trigger Finger.” Jentleson writes “Going nuclear, or changing Senate rules to make a Supreme Court confirmation possible with a simple majority, would be a hugely disproportionate response to reasonable Democratic opposition and will expose Mr. McConnell’s much-ballyhooed “institutionalism” as the fraud it has always been…Even though the word “institutionalist” is frequently uttered in the same breath as Senator McConnell’s name, nothing could be further from the truth. No institutionalist would abide so many filibusters or deny a qualified nominee like Judge Garland a hearing…If Senator McConnell blows up Senate rules to jam through President Trump’s nominee, he will be exposed as the radical that he truly is.” In other words, McConnell has to pay a price for his heavy-handed denial of even a fair hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, even if it makes an easier path to confirmation for the next Republican Supreme Court nominee. The argument has some merit, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others may have a more compelling case that, because Trump is under investigation for facilitating Putin’s interference in America’s 2016 election, Democrats should oppose all of his nominees, at least as long as the investigation is underway.

It’s fallen to a courageous U.S. Senator from a red state, Claire McCaskill, however, to make the overriding moral case against the Gorsuch nomination: “I cannot support Judge Gorsuch because a study of his opinions reveal a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations. He is evasive, but his body of work isn’t. Whether it is a freezing truck driver or an autistic child, he has shown a stunning lack of humanity…Then there is Citizens United, the single most corrupting force in the history of politics in this nation. I cannot and will not support a nominee that allows dark and dirty anonymous money to continue to flood unchecked into our elections…I reject this nomination because Judge Gorsuch would continue an activist position that states that corporations have the same rights as people. The men who wrote our Constitution would reject that nonsense, since they were highly suspect of corporations as the tools of royalty. Corporations don’t cry or laugh or marry or worry about sending their kids to college. Judge Gorsuch’s allegiance to corporations disqualifies him from the highest court in the land…The President who promised working people he would lift them up has nominated a judge who can’t even see them.”

At The Nation, Joshua Holland provides additional arguments for the Demoratic filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination, including “…The White House and Congressional Republicans are currently on the ropes, reeling from the defeat of Paul Ryan’s awful health-care plan, and Politico reports that they’re “desperate for a win on Gorsuch.” Democrats shouldn’t give it to them without a fight. As the minority party, it’s probably not possible to keep that seat open until a legitimately elected president takes office, but sending them back to the drawing board for another nominee—and demanding someone more moderate than Gorsuch—would eat up more of the legislative calendar and further weaken an already unpopular president…Mitch McConnell was OK with an eight-justice Supreme Court for the past 14 months, and Republicans vowed to keep it that way by blocking Hillary Clinton’s nominee if she had won. They created the precedent, and Democrats would be foolish to “buck their base” and not follow the GOP’s lead.”

For a summation of the concerns about filbustering the Gorsuch nomination, read Alexander Bolton’s  Senators fear fallout of nuclear option” at The Hill. But the most regrettable thing is that McConnell’s refusal to give Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing has escalated rancor about Supreme Court nominations beyond measure and further crippled already diminished hopes for bipartisanship.

“After five days of early voting in the special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district,” writes Daniel Marans at HuffPo, “Democratic voter turnout has significantly outpaced that of Republicans…That is a good sign for Democrats hoping that the surge in liberal enthusiasm after the election of President Donald Trump will be enough to elect 30-year-old candidate Jon Ossoff. The seat opened up when Trump named former Rep. Tom Price to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services…Of the more than 8,100 people who have voted so far in the suburban Atlanta district, 44 percent were Democrats and 23 percent were Republicans, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a political science professor and election specialist at the University of Florida…McDonald’s end-of-week estimates are consistent with the findings of New York Times election expert Nate Cohn for the first day of early voting. Using a slightly different methodology, Cohn found that Democrats constituted 60 percent of voters of those who voted on Monday, compared with 28 percent of Republicans…It is important to note of course that early voting is not a rock-solid indicator of final election outcomes. Early general-election voting patterns in North Carolina and Florida, for example, appeared to favor Hillary Clinton, but she ended up losing both states in November.”

More evangelicals vote Republican than otherwise. But Scott Malone’s Reuters article, “Religious left’ emerging as U.S. political force in Trump era” flags a trend which presents a more complex — and hopeful — picture. As Malone explains, “Although not as powerful as the religious right…the “religious left” is now slowly coming together as a force in U.S. politics…This disparate group, traditionally seen as lacking clout, has been propelled into political activism by Trump’s policies on immigration, healthcare and social welfare, according to clergy members, activists and academics. A key test will be how well it will be able to translate its mobilization into votes in the 2018 midterm congressional elections…”It’s one of the dirty little secrets of American politics that there has been a religious left all along and it just hasn’t done a good job of organizing,” said J. Patrick Hornbeck II, chairman of the theology department at Fordham University, a Jesuit school in New York. “It has taken a crisis, or perceived crisis, like Trump’s election to cause folks on the religious left to really own their religion in the public square,” Hornbeck said…Although support for the religious left is difficult to measure, leaders point to several examples, such as a surge of congregations offering to provide sanctuary to immigrants seeking asylum, churches urging Republicans to reconsider repealing the Obamacare health law and calls to preserve federal spending on foreign aid.The number of churches volunteering to offer sanctuary to asylum seekers doubled to 800 in 45 of the 50 U.S. states after the election, said the Elkhart, Indiana-based Church World Service, a coalition of Christian denominations which helps refugees settle in the United States – and the number of new churches offering help has grown so quickly that the group has lost count…Leaders of Faith in Public Life, a progressive policy group, were astounded when 300 clergy members turned out at a January rally at the U.S. Senate attempting to block confirmation of Trump’s attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, because of his history of controversial statements on race. “I’ve never seen hundreds of clergy turning up like that to oppose a Cabinet nominee,” said Reverend Jennifer Butler, the group’s chief executive.The group on Wednesday convened a Capitol Hill rally of hundreds of pastors from as far away as Ohio, North Carolina and Texas to urge Congress to ensure that no people lose their health insurance as a result of a vote to repeal Obamacare.Financial support is also picking up. Donations to the Christian activist group Sojourners have picked up by 30 percent since Trump’s election, the group said…The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, which encourages alliances between Jewish and Muslim women, has tripled its number of U.S. chapters to nearly 170 since November, said founder Sheryl Olitzky.”

Timothy Egan’s New York Times op-ed ‘Trump’s Chumps” provides a compelling litany of Trump’s betrayals of his working class supporters. But he also offers some advice to progressives who are ready to write off this constituency: “In a New York magazine piece titled “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly,” Frank Rich wrote that white voters without a college degree, who went for Trump by 39 points, are never going to come around — no matter how much this president turns his back on them. An earlier piece, from the right, made some of the same points. “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good,” Kevin Williamson wrote in National Review. “So does OxyContin.”…The condescension, like the opioids, may feel good as well, but it won’t do anything to help the forces of reason and progress. The way to bring around the forgotten men and women is to remind them, every day, that Trump has forgotten them. And to give them something — say, Medicare for all, being pushed by the energized Bernie Sanders base — to back words with action.”

In her HuffPo post, “The Anti-Trump Movement In North Carolina Has The Potential To Flip The South: Activists say the state’s long history of protesting has prepared it for this political climate,” Juila Craven sees reason for Democrats to be encouraged by recent developments in at least one southern state: “Many people assume North Carolina is a Republican state, but the state Senate was under Democratic control from 1992 to 2011. Democrats also controlled the state House from 1992 to 1994, and again from 1999 to 2010. Only three Republican governors have led the state in the last 50 years, and North Carolina went blue for former President Barack Obama in 2008. But that was the first time since 1976 that the state had voted for a Democratic presidential nominee, and it went for Republicans Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Last year’s election was very close, however: Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just 3.6 percent. Activists say they hope flipping North Carolina can cause a ripple effect across the 14 states that constitute the South. Republicans below the Mason-Dixon Line currently control 24 Senate seats, 110 House seats and 180 Electoral College votes (167 of which went to Trump in November)…“If you fundamentally shift any of those states ― and they begin to vote in more progressive ways ― then you fundamentally change the American democracy and the landscape,” Rev. William Barber, the president of North Carolina’s NAACP, told reporters last year. An estimated 80,000 people participated in the 11th annual Forward Together Moral March on Feb. 11, which Barber led. This year’s march focused on the duty of participants to stand against the Trump administration and its policies ― such as repealing the Affordable Care Act ― as well as race-based gerrymandering and HB 2. An estimated 80,000 people participated in the 11th annual Forward Together Moral March on Feb. 11, which Barber led. This year’s march focused on the duty of participants to stand against the Trump administration and its policies ― such as repealing the Affordable Care Act ― as well as race-based gerrymandering and HB 2…“We march not as a spontaneous action but as a movement that stands upon deep foundations of organizing that have gone on for years, setting the groundwork for times such as this,” Barber said to the crowd at the march. “Four years later we realize we have been preparing all along for such a time as this.”

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