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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

What can Democrats learn from Emmanuel Macron’s impressive victory in France? Given the enormous differences in the political systems and cultures of France and the U.S., it would be silly to suggest that what worked there would also work here. But if any of the lessons are useful they might include that a young semi-outsider candidate can overcome the politics of fear. Oh, that’s right, we learned that already in 2008. Trump was rooting for Le Pen, who shared his xenophopic worldview. But he did, gasp, somewhat graciously congratulate Macron, who is more in the mold of Blair and Clinton. It’s hard to say what the economic reverberations will be, other than a short-term boost for the EU, which could help stabilize the world economy — at least for a while. Much depends on France’s MP elections next month. Le Pen got a third of the votes cast, so he will have to address some of the FN’s concerns to forge a working majority. “Even if the globalists have won today, it doesn’t mean that the populists won’t win tomorrow,” said Daniele Antonucci, an economist at Morgan Stanley. But there’s no escaping the conclusion of the New York Times editorial: “French voters were not seduced by nativist illusions and instead chose a youthful and optimistic president who believes that France must remain open, progressive, tolerant and European.”

In their New York Times article, “‘No District Is Off the Table’: Health Vote Could Put House in Play,” Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns update the bad news for Republcians: Democrats are recruiting challengers aggressively, even in conservative-leaning districts, importuning an eclectic group of could-be candidates that includes a Minnesota gelato baron, a former candidate for governor of Kansas and the mayor of Syracuse….“No district is off the table,” said Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the House Democratic campaign chairman, who vowed that Democrats would cast the widest possible net…The Democrats need 24 seats to recapture the House majority, and they believe the most straightforward path back to power is through the 23 Republican districts won by Hillary Clinton in November, as well as the dozens more where President Trump remains deeply unliked…All told, 80 House Republicans from districts Mr. Trump carried by 55 percent or less voted for the health law’s repeal. “Any Republican member of Congress in a seat that the president won by less than 10 points who isn’t concerned needs to be concerned,” said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster…Democrats are seizing the moment to seek out promising challengers, from blood-red Kansas to the blue-tinged suburbs of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and enticing them with the prospect of a political wave…Reflecting the emboldened mood, formidable candidates have already indicated they are likely to run — even in districts that Republican incumbents have had little trouble holding.”

Julian Zelizer of CNN has a warning for Democrats regarding the May 5th unemployment rate report — a decline to 4.4 percent: “With the economy having reached full employment, the best conditions in more than 10 years, many voters will be in good spirits about the status quo. Notwithstanding all the talk about the impact of the health care legislation, the bottom line to Americans’ pocketbooks will matter a great deal come the midterm campaigns…If conditions don’t change significantly, Republicans will benefit. President Trump and the GOP, whether they deserve it or not, will be able to claim credit for the recovery. (Presidents usually get the blame or credit for economic conditions, even if they don’t have a big impact on them.)” Zelizer is right that an improving economy can help the party in political power. But, if “full employment” means a job at a decent wage for everyone who wants one, the U.S. has a ways to go before we can trruthfully say our economy has achieved that standard.

At Common Dreams, John Atcheson also has a sobering thought for Democrats: “Here’s the timeline for leveling the playing field. Democrats would have to launch an effective attack on Republican legislators at the state level in 2018 and 2020, then wait for the census results and draw reasonable districts that actually represent the people. As a result, the first time Democrats could face Republicans without their Gerrymandered advantage will be 2022, again, assuming Democrats get their act together…Even more frightening is the fact that Republicans are just 2 states shy of being able to convene a Constitutional Convention and the Koch Brothers – funders of the Coup – are pumping money into an effort to put them over the top.”

Charles D. Ellison, Philadelphia Tribune Washington Correspondent notes a devious method Republicans use to suppress minority votes: “One such scheme, the Interstate Crosscheck System, worries observers like Dr. G.S. Potter of the Strategic Institute of Intersectional Policy. The anti-voter fraud system first created by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Koback in 2005, has grown substantially in size and scope – from its one-state origin to now 30 states. “It was designed and implemented by Kris Kobach, a well-known white nationalist,” observes Potter. “And [it’s] used to identify millions of black and brown voters specifically to deprive them of their Constitutional right to vote…As of 2016 the ICS has already worked rather meticulously, already identifying over 7 million voters for purging, more than 1 million of which were completely eliminated from voter rolls….Center for American Progress researchers highlight that “[b]ecause nonwhite communities share surnames more commonly than white communities—in fact, 50 percent of Communities of Color share a common surname, while only 30 percent of white people do—this leads to a greater number of flagged potential double voters, and thus a significant over-representation of minority voters on the Crosscheck list.”

Nate Cohn explains why “There’s Reason to Be Skeptical of a Comey Effect” in the 2016 election at The Upshot. Cohn cites the final Upshot/Siena College poll in Florida, completed the night before the Comey letter, which had Trump leading Hillary Clinton in the state, 46 percent to 42 percent. “At the time,” writes Cohn, “the poll looked like a bust. There wasn’t much reason to think the result was even in the ballpark. Mrs. Clinton was ahead by six points in national polls and ahead by a similar margin in states worth 270 electoral votes, suggesting Mrs. Clinton was probably up by a few points in Florida…it’s now clear that Mrs. Clinton was weaker heading into Oct. 28 than was understood at the time. Several other polls were conducted over the same period that showed Mr. Trump gaining quickly on Mrs. Clinton in the days ahead of the Comey letter. And the timing of these polls — particularly the gap between when they were taken and when they were released — has probably helped to exaggerate the effect of Mr. Comey’s letter on the presidential race.” Certainly, swing voters would have reason to be skeptical about an October 28th ‘surprise.” However, concedes Cohn, “It’s hard to rule out the possibility that Mr. Comey was decisive in such a close election. Mr. Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point.” And it doesn’t do anything to erase concerns about Comey’s motivation in releasing the letter.

In other endless, post-mortem news, we have “Why did Trump win? More whites — and fewer blacks — actually voted,” by Bernard L. Fraga, Sean McElwee, Jesse Rhodes and Brian Schaffner at The Monkey Cage. “Using data from the voter file vendor Catalist and information from the U.S. Census Bureau, we examine the change in turnout rates for different racial/ethnic groups between 2012 and 2016. Black turnout declined dramatically; white turnout increased noticeably; and Latino and Asian American turnout went up even more. In the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, those shifts were especially strong. How strong? Without those shifts in turnout from various racial and ethnic groups, these pivotal states might have gone not to Trump but to Clinton — giving Clinton an electoral college victory…Black turnout fell by 4.3 percentage points in non-battleground states in 2016 compared to 2012. But it fell by 5.3 percentage points in states where the election was decided by a margin of less than 10 points…But in Michigan and Wisconsin — two key Midwestern states where, to analysts’ surprise, Trump won — black turnout fell by more than 12 points…In the critical battleground state of Florida, white voter turnout jumped by 4 points — and black turnout fell by 4 points. Trump won Florida by a margin of just 1.2 points.”

It’s not just Jon Ossoff’s run for congress in GA-6 that has Democrats optimistic about regaining a foothold in Georgia. Greg Bluestein reports that “Democrats circle Atlanta statehouse seats where Trump struggled.” As Bluestein explains, “We told you earlier that a May 16 runoff for the state Senate District 32 seat vacated by Judson Hill of Marietta, a Republican, could become a test vote for the larger Sixth District contest on June 20: But other districts in Atlanta’s suburbs may make for easier Democratic pickings. And it could start with two soon-to-be-opened state Senate seats…David Shafer of Duluth and Hunter Hill of Smyrna both represent Senate districts that Hillary Clinton won in November. And both are vacating their seats to run for higher office…Fran Millar of Dunwoody is the third Republican in the Senate representing Clinton turf…In the House, the landscape is even friendlier to Democrats. Only two Democrats represent districts taken by Donald Trump…But 14 Republicans hold Clinton turf…State Rep. Rich Golick of Smyrna represents the “bluest seat of the bunch” – Clinton carried his district 55 to 41 percent. Three other GOPers are in territories that Clinton carried by double-digit margins.”

Democrats have had their share of fun ridiculing Trump’s tweets. But not so fast, argues Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), as Susan B. Glasser notes in her Politico post, “Do Democrats Need to Tweet More Like Trump? Chris Murphy looks—and tweets—like a man running for president.” Glasser reports that Murphy has “turned out to have a skill that the older, more experienced Democrats in the Senate do not: Twitter-trolling a president whose own genius for 140-character media manipulation has entirely transformed the idea of the presidential bully pulpit.” Glasser adds, “Murphy says he and others need to channel the “authenticity” that Hillary Clinton lacked on the campaign trail—and acknowledge the “fairly revolutionary mood” that brought Trump to power. Murphy’s tweets “are just me typing out legitimate, real, emotional frustration with what this president is doing and saying,” he tells me, “and I think as a general matter, more Democrats should do.”” Murphy is interested in leveraging the emotional power of twitter soundbites “Whoever the Democratic nominee is in 2020,” writes Glasser,”Murphy says, he or she “absolutely should learn from the Trump campaign that wherever you decide to fall with respect to ideology, you have to have a couple of big, easy-to-understand ideas if you want to become president.”

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