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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

The editors of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas are running a symposium on “The Missing Progressive Infrastructure.” It features a dozen contributions from top progressive thinkers and political analysts, including: Heather Booth; Donna Brazile; Hahre Hahn; Ilyse Hogue; Sally Kohn; Maria Teresa Kumar; Scott Nielson; Faiz Shakir and Sarah Miller; Jonathan Soros; Zephyr Teachout; Michael Tomasky; and Vanessa Williamson. A sampling of the topics covered includes “Get Millennials to Run for Office,” “Culturally Competent Messaging, ” “Reaching White Women” and “A Group to Defend Government.”

Heather Booth writes in “State of the States” that “State infrastructure—especially grassroots organizing—is the weakest link of the progressive movement…To turn this around, we need to invest in grassroots networks around the country—both a 50-state strategy and a focus on building in key states where we can have an impact on redistricting in 2020…To do this we need to hire, train, and supervise organizers whose job it will be to find those who will vote for progressives. We need to be organizing both those we need to mobilize and those we need to persuade. We need to fund candidates for down-ballot races, to build our farm team and impact local politics. The Koch Brothers are doing this for every position from sheriff to school board. We need the political funding, not only restricted non-partisan money, to do the same—the amount of money is important, but so is the kind of funding to do advocacy and politics.”

Michael Tomasky writes in his contribution to the symposium, “My idea is for an organization that will defend government. On its face, that may sound so simple and fundamental as to be unnecessary…But think about it. We’ve seen 35 years of unrelenting assaults on the government, with millions of Americans persuaded that the federal government is their enemy; and yet, over all that time, no group has made its mark by defending the existence and functions of this federal government. Specific interest groups guard their turf—environmental groups defend green programs, anti-poverty groups argue for programs for the poor. But no one simply defends government.”

In a slate.com forum, “Can This Donkey Be Saved?,” Jamelle Bouie observes, “What Donald Trump did was match Clinton on the left on economic policy, at least rhetorically. So, if she proposed a $600 billion infrastructure program, Trump proposed a $1 trillion one. She said she would improve the health care system. Trump said he would, too. He also talked a lot about jobs and factories and vocally activated identities and showed signals of this is someone who cares about my economic standing. Here was a candidate offering both. And that I think was effective for Trump. The question is whether it would be effective in 2020, and I’m not sure because by then, Trump will be defending a standard-issue Republican economic program. So that knocks out one element of his appeal.”

Jonathan Chait writes at New York Magazine that “From a pure political standpoint, the Democrats have a win-win choice. They’ll gain if Trumpcare fails in Congress, and they’ll gain even more if it is signed into law. The only way they won’t score political points off the issue is if they join with Republicans to patch up the system. And yet many and perhaps most Democrats are probably willing to make this sacrifice for the same reason they took the risk of voting for Obamacare in the first place: They care a lot about health-care policy outcomes, and are willing to sacrifice seats to pursue them.”

Democrats, including former President Obama, have long been open to bipartisan amendments to Obamacare. Thus far, the only GOP leaders who are genuinely open to bipartisan twesking of Obamacare are some Republican governors. As Alexander Burns reports at The New York Times, “A once-quiet effort by governors to block the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act reached its climax in Washington on Tuesday, as state executives from both parties — who have conspired privately for months — mounted an all-out attack on the Senate’s embattled health care legislation hours before Republicans postponed a vote...More than half a dozen Republican governors, including several from states with Republican senators, expressed either grave reservations or outright opposition to the bill…”

Writing at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein sheds light on a facet of the Republican health care bills that could cost them substantial support from, senior voters: “…As the Kaiser Family Foundation shows in a powerful new interactive map, premiums under the Senate bill would soar almost everywhere for working-class 60-year-old adults. That’s partly because the Senate bill allows insurers to charge older consumers five times as much as younger ones—the ACA set a maximum three-to-one disparity—and also because the proposal provides less generous tax credits for coverage…The cumulative effect is overwhelming. For 60-year-olds earning $30,000, Kaiser calculated, premiums would rise relative to the ACA in every county across the nation except for two in Ohio. (Those exceptions reflect a statistical quirk related to current pricing, Kaiser said.) Premiums would likewise increase for 60-year-olds earning $40,000 in every county except for one of those in Ohio. Even for 40-year-olds earning $30,000, premiums would rise in over four-fifths of counties, Kaiser found…For 60-year-olds, the biggest rate increases would fall on many of the blue-collar, predominantly white counties that powered Trump’s victory…”

But, “Don’t be fooled: the Senate’s Obamacare repeal effort remains very alive,” warns Sarah Kliff at vox.com. “McConnell and his fellow Republican senators view this delayed vote as a temporary obstacle, not a death knell for Obamacare repeal. Senate leadership has reportedly set a Friday deadline for a new draft of the bill. The Congressional Budget Office could score it next week, setting up a mid-July vote..”

Some nuggets from “It’s Time for Medicare for All” by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich: “Some background: American spending on healthcare per person is more than twice the average in the world’s thirty-five advanced economies. Yet Americans are sicker, our lives are shorter, and we have more chronic illnesses than in any other advanced nation…Why is healthcare so much cheaper in other nations? Partly because their governments negotiate lower rates with health providers. In France, the average cost of a magnetic resonance imagining exam is $363. In the United States, it’s $1,121. There, an appendectomy costs $4,463. Here, $13,851. They can get lower rates because they cover everyone – which gives them lots of bargaining power.Other nations also don’t have to pay the costs of private insurers shelling out billions of dollars a year on advertising and marketing – much of it intended to attract healthier and younger people and avoid the sicker and older…ccording to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare’s administrative costs are only about 2 percent of its operating expenses. That’s less than one-sixth the administrative costs of America’s private insurers…”

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