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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Poltiical Strategy Notes

Jonathan Easley reports at The Hill that “Dems Have the Edge in the Health Care Debate.” Further, writes Easley, “A majority of voters trust Democrats more than Republicans on the issue of healthcare and most say that ObamaCare is working fine, according to data from the latest Harvard-Harris poll…The survey, provided exclusively to The Hill, found that 52 percent of voters trust Democrats to provide the best way forward on healthcare. Twenty-seven percent said they trust President Trump and only 21 percent said they trust Republicans in Congress, bringing the total GOP figure to 48 percent…In addition, 53 percent said they believe ObamaCare is working, rather than failing.”

Some Republican senators are apparently trying to have it both ways on health care reform– to appear concerned about the health security of their constituents, while at the same time throwing a little red meat to wingnuts in their states, as Jonathan Cohn reports at HuffPo. “GOP senators who have warned they can’t support legislation that produces big coverage losses ― including Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Rob Portman of Ohio ― all voted yes” on the ‘motion to proceed’ discussing Republican health bills. “So did Arizona’s John McCain…But hours after the procedural vote, the Senate took up the Better Care Reconciliation Act ― the proposal from GOP leadership that would leave 22 million more people uninsured, by CBO’s reckoning. McCain voted aye. So did Capito, Cassidy, Heller and Portman ― with the latter citing, as his reason, an amendment he’d helped obtain providing $100 billion in extra funding to help people pay their out-of-pocket medical costs…The bill needed 60 votes, because of parliamentary rules, and got just 43. Because everybody knew in advance it would fail, the vote was effectively a free one ― and potentially a chance for the likes of Capito and Portman to get some credit for supporting repeal, even if they end up opposing whatever comes up for a final vote when this week’s deliberations end.” It would be up to Democrats to expose this charade.

Of John McCain’s vote for the “motion ot proceed,” Ezra Klein writes at Vox: “McCain had the decisive vote — to say nothing of the moral and emotional authority of his dramatic post-surgery return to the Senate. He could have forced McConnell to run health care through the committee process. Everything McCain lamented of the Senate he had the power, in that moment, to improve…But McCain instead voted to continue the rushed, partisan process he said probably wouldn’t work, and probably shouldn’t work. He had the power to create the change he hoped to see in the institution he loves. Instead, he embodied and deepened its dysfunction.” McCain coupled his vote with comments in support of a more bipartisan approach to health care reform, and once again he failed to back up his rhetoric with action. As Klein concludes, “Our political system is built on the assumption that words have some meaning, that the statements policymakers make have some rough correlation to the actions they will take. But here, in the era of bullshit politics, they don’t. If this becomes the new normal in policymaking, it will be disastrous.”

‘Medicare for All” is a simple enough rallying cry for Democrats and progressives, in that many voters likely associate it with a single-payer system. But actually, that’s not the case, as Ed Kilgore explains in his post, “Why ‘Medicare for All’ Is a Misleading Term for Single-Payer Health Care” at New York: “Medicare is by design an “acute care” program. It does not cover long-term hospital stays or nursing-home care, and excludes some routine care (e.g., dental and vision care). Presumably a single-payer program designed to replace all or most private insurance would be more comprehensive than Medicare. Perhaps more importantly, from a political point of view, Medicare is neither free nor easy for beneficiaries,” since parts A, B, C and D have substantial out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries. “The more you look at it,” writes Kilgore, “the more “Medicare for all” is, well, misleading. And it is politically perilous to mislead people about sweeping new health-care programs…Maybe it’s time for single-payer advocates to place less emphasis on alleged simplicity, and more on health care as a right that Americans should enjoy universally and equally. It might avoid some hard feelings down the road.”

Slate’s Leon Nefakh weighs the pros and cons for progressives of Trump’s firing A.G. Jeff Sessions, not that liberal views on the topic matter in Trump’s making his decision one way or the other. As Nefakh writes,”There’s no question that the attorney general has been a very detrimental force to civil rights progress and has undermined civil rights for so many communities even in the short time he’s been attorney general,” said Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Civil Rights Division and the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “[But] I think it is really alarming that a president is attacking the Justice Department’s independence and its institutional mandate to ensure that no one is above the law…I think the concern for civil rights advocates is the way in which this fundamentally undermines the rule of law.” From a raw politics perspective, it’s likely that Sessions will leave by resignation or firing. But if he stays, he could do more damage to the Republicans as a constant reminder of Trump’s instability and bad judgement. Further, Sessions’s archaic war on marijuana could energize enough voters in some districts to vote Democratic. Either way, the spectacle dragging on can only hurt the GOP brand.

Regarding all of the fuss about the Democrats’ inability to come up with a slogan that resonates (e.g.  here, here and here}, it may be that crafting a party-wide slogan is a waste of time, especially for the midterm elections, when a one-size-fits-all approach is more likely to create problems for a big tent party than a unified message. Democrats rightly want the public to perceive their party as the one that advocates for working people. Voters want to feel that about candidates, but they are not going to be persuaded one way or the other by a windy slogan. The real message is up to the candidates, and it is best-expressed in their deeds, policies and attitudes. Calling attention to a big, unweildy slogan isn’t going to persuade many voters. The soundbites the candidates craft to describe their issues and their adversaries are probably more consequential than any party-wide slogan.

The plan behind the slogan, however, has merit. In his Washington Post Perspective article, “Democrats say they want to go after monopoly power. Here’s why that’s a great idea,” economist Jared Bernstein writes, “The part of the Democrats’ Better Deal plan that I find most interesting is the piece that would push back on monopolistic corporate power. It’s neither radical nor “left.” I can’t say if it’s particularly good politics (although their internal polling suggests it is). But assuming this proposal eventually grows into something real, it’s likely to prove to be increasingly important economic policy with significant benefits for working families….But whatever the cause, the fact that Democrats recognize and are showing interest in going after the problem is a good thing. And that’s not just my view. David Dayen, a hard-hitting, left-leaning journalist who’s often critical of ideas from the center-left, wrote that by going after “corporate power, and in particular monopoly concentration,” Democrats finally “hit the target.” Bernstein concludes, “If Democrats truly get back to trustbusting, they will be making a powerful, progressive statement about what and for whom they really stand.”

At The Nation John Nichols has a reminder that one Democratic President who railed against corporate power did rather well: “The greatest progressive populist campaign of the past century, Franklin Roosevelt’s 1936 reelection run on a anti-oligarchy platform that held out the promise of American social democracy, secured the greatest landslide win for Democrats…Roosevelt pulled absolutely no punches, declaring in one of the last speeches of the campaign that he was running not against hapless Republican Alf Landon but against the “employers and politicians and publishers” who defend “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering…Today’s Democrats must echo FDR’s old renunciations of “economic royalists” and align them with an 21st-century moral agenda…”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik writes about “the importance, to Democrats, of fielding as many credible challengers as they can…That’s because even if there is a positive environment for Democrats next fall, they are not going to knock off every clearly vulnerable GOP incumbent. Many Republicans who sit in districts that Hillary Clinton won last fall are proven vote-getters who ran well ahead of President Trump last fall, like Reps. Mike Coffman (R, CO-6), Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10), Dave Reichert (R, WA-8), and others. Democrats probably will have to beat some of these incumbents in 2018 to win the House — or hope that some decide not to run for another term, like Clinton-district Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL-27) — but defeating all of them is unrealistic. Hence, the necessity of expanding the map…At this point in the cycle, Democrats have more than 200 filed House challengers who have raised at least a small amount of money ($5,000 or more). That’s more than the combined total of Democratic challengers at this point of the cycle in the last four cycles, and way more than either party has had in midsummer of the off year over the last decade and a half.” Sabato reports that, according to  Crystal Ball’s ratings, “187 Republican seats and 173 Democratic seats are Safe. That’s 360 of 435 seats (83%)” currently, with 218 House seats needed for a majority.

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