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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Read former F.B.I. Director James B. Comey’s prepared testimoney to the  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Among the better articles interpreting Comey’s prepared statement, read E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “Trump doesn’t understand how to be president. The Comey story shows why,” which notes “Here are the things Trump still doesn’t get: (1) Comey is his own person concerned with his own reputation and standing. (2) A president, unlike a despot, can’t unilaterally change the rules that surround a legal investigation. (3) People in government don’t work only for the president; their primary obligation is to the public. (4) Personal relationships matter a great deal in government, but they aren’t everything; Comey could not go soft on Michael Flynn just because Trump likes Flynn or fears what Flynn might say. (5) Because of 1, 2, 3 and 4, Comey was not going to do what Trump asked, even if this meant being fired.”

In his WaPo op-ed “I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey’s statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice case,”  Phillip Allen Lacovara sees it this way: “Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.”

“Sixty percent of U.S. voters believe President Trump did something illegal or unethical in his dealings with Russia, fewer than three in 10 voters believe he is level-headed and more than half say they disapprove of the way he is handling the economy, immigration and climate change, according to a poll released Wednesday…Those negatives, and more, contributed to a new low in the president’s overall approval rating as charted by Quinnipiac University. Only 34 percent of American voters approve of the president’s performance, while 57 percent of voters disapprove.” — from Cody Fenwick’s post at The Patch, “President Trump’s Approval Rating Falls To Lowest Point: Poll.”

Yet CNN’s Eric Bradner explains why “Even amid Russia probe, many Democrats see health care as their real winner,” and offers this quote: “I would encourage all of our candidates to make sure that health care stays front and center of the election,” said Guy Cecil, the chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.”The visceral, gut reaction that people have makes it more powerful than Russia,” he said. Further, adds Bradner, “No matter the outcome of the Russia investigation, “health care will be a cornerstone issue in 2018,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of the liberal blog Daily Kos. “It motivates the base like few other issues, and more and more, moderates are aligned with liberals,” Moulitsas said. “It’s a win-win.”” And, “When I’m talking to candidates,” [Democratic political consultant Zak] Petkanas said, “I tell them that they should be saying ‘health care’ five times for every time that they say the word ‘Russia.'”

Dave Weigel reports on a “resolution” of the incident in which congressman-elect Greg Gianforte assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The outcome is an apology by Gianforte coupled with a donation of $50K to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims.” Weigel adds that “Gianforte is still facing criminal misdemeanor charges in Gallatin County, Mont.” Even still, I have to wonder if Gianforte is getting off pretty easy and if the agreement will encourage more violence against journalists.

The Economist argues that “A surge in activism could reinvigorate the Democratic Party…Or perhaps sink it.” The magazine’s editors note “The energies unleashed by the Women’s March, the biggest political protest in American history, have been sustained. In even the most conservative places, including the lily-white northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, where [Republican Rep.] Mr Rothfus won in November with a big majority, established centre-left groups report massive increases in support and new ones are mushrooming. MoveOn, an online protest outfit with 8m members, says it has three times as many monthly donors as it had before Mr Trump’s inauguration. “This is what we were made for,” enthuses its director in Washington, DC, Ben Wikler. Primed by social media, and fuelled by ever-rising outrage at Mr Trump, the most successful new entrants are growing even faster…Pantsuit Nation, a pro-Clinton Facebook group started during the election campaign, had 3m members by the end of it. A report by the Centre for American Progress, a think-tank, reckons 140 new groups have been launched since then. The breakout star of the new activists, Indivisible, was launched by a pair of former Democratic congressional staffers in January, and now has 6,000 groups, in every congressional district, including 15 in Mr Rothfus’s…Indivisible followers swamp their local Republican lawmaker with pestering letters, jam their phone lines with inquiries, about their votes or intentions to vote, buttonhole them in public and organise protests rallies when they go to ground, as many now have…” However, cautions The Economist in the concluding paragraph, “For Democratic politicians vying to appeal to this massive and growing crowd of fired-up progressives, the answer may be to worry less about ideology and more about tone.”

Thomas B. Edsall makes a case that “The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought” in his NYT column, after reading some of the articles featured in The American Prospect/The Democratic Strategist roundtable “The White Working Class and the Democrats.” Edsall’s observations include, “Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions…What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide. Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and raceare in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets…Democratic pessimism today stands in contrast to the optimism that followed the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2012.” Unlike Republicans, however, Democrats are at least facing their internal problems with open dialogue and searching for solutions.

In his post, “Democrats Keep Losing, but They May Be on Track to Win” at The Upshot, Nate Cohn writes, “But even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018. They’re consistent with a strong Democratic showing in next year’s midterm elections, and they’re even better than what one would expect in a so-called wave election, like the one that swept Democrats into power in the House in 2006 and back out in 2010. It’s what the Democrats need to win the 24 seats necessary to retake the House next year…Even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018…Democrats need to win seats like Georgia’s Sixth, but they don’t need to win all of them…What Democrats really need is put these races into play. They have done that and more.”

So, “What does an early voting surge mean for Georgia’s 6th District?,” asks Kristina Torrez in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her take: “Adding to the suspense, nearly 8,000 voters have been added to the district’s voting rolls since the April special election. Experts say those are likely to be “high propensity” voters — meaning they are more likely to turn out to vote than skip the race. “The federal judge’s ruling to reopen voter registration was a game changer for the Ossoff campaign because it allowed him to hopefully expand the electorate,” Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson said…Johnson said the early voting numbers should favor Ossoff because Democrats traditionally do a better job of getting their voters to the early voting sites.”

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