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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

As a group, veterans don’t seem to vote to any significant exent according to candidate positions on issues like veterans benefits. It may be that the best way for Democrats to court veterans is to encourage more of them to run as Democrats. In her New York Times article, “Democrats Court Military Veterans in Effort to Reclaim House,” Emmarie Huettman writes that “Most of the veterans serving in Congress are Republicans; of the 13 veterans in this year’s House freshman class, 10 are Republicans.” Now, however “about 20 military veterans who have announced that they will run as Democrats for the House of Representatives next year. Democratic Party leaders are aggressively seeking former members of the military in hopes of increasing their appeal among the sort of frustrated voters who elected President Trump — and winning back the 24 seats they need to regain the Republican-controlled House.”

At The Hill, Mike Lillis probes deeper into a much discussed topic in his post, “Dems divided on Trump attack strategy for 2018.” While nearly all Democrats advocate honing a better message, most of the disagreement over strategy seems to be about who to attack and how. There is lots of disagreement about how much to attack Trump and Republican candidates. But Lillis provides one quote that suggests a new approach that merits more discussion in Democratic strategy circles: “I don’t want to run against Trump,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said. “My recommendation is to run against the Republican Party, and I think our party has made a mistake by emphasizing too much Mr. Trump.” Dems should try a series of hard-hitting ads that focus more directly on branding the Republican Party, instead of just its candidates. At the very least, the idea should be tested in focus groups.

Ron Klain provides some salient insights about how Democrats might flip the meme about which party is really condescending to working people, and put it where it belongs, in his Washington Post article “To win the working class, Democrats need to start talking straight.” As Klein writes, “Trump’s economic message has been a kind flim-flammery where the carnival barker lavishes compliments on his audience while whispering to his sidekicks, “Can you believe they are buying this?” He extolled the virtues of “Buy American” while building his own projects with imported Chinese steel. He made immigrants the scapegoats for a wide array of economic problems, while applying for special visas to import foreign workers for jobs at Mar-a-Lago…It was Trump’s campaign that reeked of condescension when he told working-class voters that he alone could make sure that jobs shipped overseas come back. Trump’s presidency is erected on faux populism, as he claims to look out for “forgotten people ” while saying that only rich people are qualified to formulate economic policy and using the presidency to promote his family’s businesses. Appealing to working-class voters on false promises and flawed premises is not showing them respect: It is a condescending belief that with enough bluster and showmanship, you can get away with anything.”

Sarah Jaffe reports at Truthout on the activities of a new progressive political action group in Indiana: “We have been building this thing now for three months. We have got a small but growing base of dues-paying members. We have teams around operations and administration and around fundraising and around politics. We have been running a test canvas program to gear up for our first big canvas, which we will start on July 8 and go for three weeks. We did a daylong boot camp training for organizers in Indiana. People from all over the southern half of the state came. We did one action on Donnelly’s office around Medicaid cuts and infrastructure. We have been collecting Medicaid stories, getting videos of them, first person accounts that people, mostly mothers in the region, have written and trying to get them placed in national press outlets…A lot of this organizing is based on having long one-on-one discussions with people, what their lives are like, what they are interested in, what they are concerned about, what they are afraid of, what they are angry about, what they are hopeful for and growing relationships that way. That is both on the doors and ideally in follow-ups after people get knocked or called.”

At Daily Kos, Joan McCarter explains why “Tom Price’s Health and Human Services Dept. forced to admit Obamacare is doing pretty well,” and notes “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, part of Tom Price’s Department of Health and Human Services, is out with its report on the health of the insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act for 2016, and it’s pretty good…If not for the out-and-out sabotage by the Trump administration and the uncertainty created by its dithering over payments to insurers (not to mention the chaos Congress has created), the market would be going into the 2018 plan year very strong. As it is, it finished out 2016 in very good shape, and the Trump administration just admitted it.”

Democratic candidates and campaigns should make themselves familiar with the latest innovative reforms regarding campaign finance, and one of the best ways to do it is to read “Public Funding for Electoral Campaigns: How 27 states, Counties and Municipalities Empower Small Donors and Curb the Power of Big Money in Politics” by Juhem Navarro-Rivera and Emmanuel Caicedo at Demos. The authors observe that “Public campaign funding programs have been successful in diversifying the donor base of candidates in terms of class and race. In some places, these programs have also succeeded in diversifying the gender, racial, and class makeup of candidate pools. Among the other benefits they cite are more quality time with constituents and more women running for office. They credit the reforms with “reducing participating candidates’ reliance on large individual, corporate, and out-of jurisdiction donors, while providing incentives to reach out to constituents for small contributions.”

Generic Ballot Model Gives Democrats Early Advantage in Battle for Control of House, reports Alan I. Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crytal Ball. Abramowitz concludes that “On average, based on calculations from FiveThirtyEight, Democrats hold an adjusted lead of close to seven points on the generic ballot, mirroring that of the RealClearPolitics average. A lead of that magnitude would result in a predicted Democratic gain of close to 30 House seats, more than enough to regain control of the chamber. Given the model’s standard error of 11.6 seats, that forecast would give Democrats about a two-thirds chance of regaining control of the House…So keep an eye on the generic ballot polling for 2018. If Democrats maintain a lead in the high single digits, that probably indicates they will have a decent chance to win the House or at least significantly cut into the Republicans’ majority. A bigger Democratic lead, into the double digits, would make a takeover more likely, while a smaller Democratic lead — or a GOP advantage — would put Republicans in a clearer position to preserve their majority.”

Peter Beinart argues at the Atlantic that Democratic leaders must present an assertive challenge to Trump’s Korea policy. As Beinart writes, “Republicans tend to think Ronald Reagan proved that the way to deal with adversaries is through ideological denunciations, economic sanctions, and military threats. By contrast, Democrats—at least in the Obama era—emphasized diplomacy and international cooperation. Instead of seeking the capitulation of hostile regimes, they sought deals that involved compromise by both sides. They supported pressure only when it helped to bring such deals about…Not anymore. When I asked the veteran arms-control expert Joe Cirincione what today’s Democrats believe about North Korea, he answered: “A Bud Light version of the hawkish neocon view…What makes this so tragic is that the path Trump is on—with bipartisan support—is doomed to fail. Were Democrats willing to risk a political fight, they could offer a better way…The lesson of the Iraq War is that progressives must challenge the GOP’s hawkish maximalism regardless of the political cost. The lesson of the Bernie Sanders campaign is that grassroots Democrats hunger for authenticity, independence and courage. If there are dangers for Democrats who challenge the current hawkish discourse on North Korea, there are opportunities too.”

Enroute to making his point at cnbc.com that “Liberal firebrands may not be best hope for divided Democrats in the Trump era,” John Harwood notes of the electorate that “in 2000, they embraced George W. Bush’s vow to restore “honor and dignity” to a White House tarnished by Bill Clinton’s scandal.” But, ahem, let’s not forget that Bush lost the popular vote. We nonetheless hope that a majority of voters in the next couple of election cycles still want to “restore ‘honor and dignity’ to a White House,” because the options for those two qualities should be quite clear by then.

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