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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article, “These Americans Hated the Health Law. Until the Idea of Repeal Sank In,” kate Zernicke and Abby Goodnough write “…After years of Tea Party demands for smaller government, Republicans are now pushing up against a growing consensus that the government should guarantee health insurance. A Pew survey in January found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have health coverage. That was up from 51 percent last year, and the highest in nearly a decade….The belief held even among many Republicans: 52 percent of those making below $30,000 a year said the federal government has a responsibility to ensure health coverage, a huge jump from 31 percent last year. And 34 percent of Republicans who make between $30,000 and about $75,000 endorsed that view, up from 14 percent last year.”

When it comes to the GOP’s failure to enact any significant legisation, conservative NYT columnist David Brooks says it about as well as it’s been said: “Over the past few decades Republicans cast off the freedom-as-capacity tendency. They became, exclusively, the party of freedom as detachment. They became the Get Government Off My Back Party, the Leave Us Alone Coalition, the Drain the Swamp Party, the Don’t Tread on Me Party…Philosophically you can embrace or detest this shift, but one thing is indisputable: The Republican Party has not been able to pass a single important piece of domestic legislation under this philosophic rubric. Despite all the screaming and campaigns, all the government shutdown fiascos, the G.O.P. hasn’t been able to eliminate a single important program or reform a single important entitlement or agency…Today, the G.O.P. is flirting with its most humiliating failure, the failure to pass a health reform bill, even though the party controls all the levers of power. Worse, Republicans have managed to destroy any semblance of a normal legislative process along the way…A party operating under this philosophy is not going to spawn creative thinkers who come up with positive new ideas for how to help people. It’s not going to nurture policy entrepreneurs. It’s not going to respect ideas, period. This is not a party that’s going to produce a lot of modern-day versions of Jack Kemp.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. mines a similar theme in his nationally-syndicated  column, “Why Obamacare won: Republicans spent seven years complaining without seriously thinking about health care.” As Dionne writes, “The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously…One Democratic senator told me early on that Republicans would be hurt by their lack of accumulated expertise on health care, since they largely avoided sweating the details in the original Obamacare debate after deciding early to oppose it. This showed. They had seven years after the law was passed and could not come up with a more palatable blueprint.”

And Paul Krugman underscores the importance of good intentions in making health care reform serve the public interest: “You can see this dependence on good intentions by looking at how health reform has played out at the state level. States that embraced the [Obamavare] law fully, like California and Kentucky, made great progress in reducing the number of the uninsured; states that dragged their feet, like Tennessee, benefited far less. Or consider the problem of counties served by only one insurer; as a recent study noted, this problem is almost entirely limited to states with Republican governors…But now the federal government itself is run by people who couldn’t repeal Obamacare but would clearly still like to see it fail — if only to justify the repeated, dishonest claims, especially by the tweeter-in-chief himself, that it was already failing. Or to put it a bit differently, when Trump threatens to “let Obamacare fail,” what he’s really threatening is to make it fail…So this isn’t about policy or even politics in the normal sense. It’s basically about spite: Trump and his allies may have suffered a humiliating political defeat, but at least they can make millions of other people suffer.”

Salon.com’s Amanda Marcotte makes the case that “Democrats are still chasing rural white voters, and it’s a strategy doomed to fail,” and notes that “the roller-coaster politics around health care really drive home how much Republican base voters view politics through a culture-war lens. Progressive policy is, however appealing in the abstract, is a secondary concern to the desire of angry white conservatives to exert or reassert their cultural dominance. Which goes a long way towards explaining the loathing of Obamacare: It was the “Obama” part, not the “care” part, that riled up the GOP base. Now that Barack Obama is gone, anger over the health care bill is rapidly receding…The problem for Republicans with Obamacare wasn’t that it offended some sense of fiscal conservatism. It’s that it was President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, and many white conservatives hated Obama because — simply by being black and intelligent and urbane and a Democrat — reminded them of the declining cultural dominance of conservative Christian whites like themselves. Electing Trump has allowed this group of voters to believe they are culturally ascendant again — and repealing Obamacare, which was always mostly about sticking it to the liberals, has lot much of its salience as an issue…The issue isn’t with Democratic policy, but with Democrats, who are perceived as snooty, educated, racially diverse city-dwellers, and therefore hated.”

Ryan Struyk and Grace Hauck present “Five poll numbers that should make Democrats uneasy” at CNN Politics. The one to worry about, in my view, is “A majority thinks Democrats don’t stand for anything other than being against Trump. Only 37% of Americans say the Democratic Party “stands for something,” while 52% say it just stands against Trump, according to the same ABC News/Washington Post poll. It comes at a time when Democrats are left without a clear figurehead and many, both inside and outside of the party, have criticized its leaders for lack of a clear message.” Thus far Democratic efforts to coin a message that resonates have been less than impressive. That’s got to change if Dems expect to do well in 2018 the midterm elections.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 143 counties across the U.S. that supported Obama in 2012, then Trump in 2016 indicates that 51 percent in those counties disapprove of Trump’s job performancer, while 44 percent in the counties approve of his job performance, reports Michael P. Buffer at The Citizen’s Voice. “In the poll’s 143 “flip” counties, 52 percent currently view Obama positively and 33 percent view him negatively. For Trump, it was 37 percent positive and 47 percent negative,” writes Buffer.”

“The truth can’t be repeated often enough: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which held its first meeting last week, is a sham and a scam. It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square…In short, the commission is a fraud on the American people, and a far greater threat to electoral integrity than whatever wrongdoing it may claim to dig up. From the NYT Editorial Board’s “The Bogus Voter-Fraud Commission.”

At Roll Call, Bridget Bowman reports, “The Pew Research Center found that nearly six in 10 women say they are paying more attention to political developments since President Donald Trump was elected. That’s compared to to 46 percent of men who said they are more attentive. More Democrats than Republicans surveyed also said they are paying more attention, the survey found…EMILY’s List, which supports women candidates who are pro-abortion rights, has heard from scores of women interested in running. A spokesperson told Roll Call in early Junethat the group had heard from 14,000 women interested in running for office from local to federal levels — more than 15 times the total number of interested candidates who contacted the group in the entire 2016 campaign cycle.”

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