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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

William A. Galston notes at Brookings, “..A report released today by the Pew Research Center shows that for the first time ever, Millennial and Gen X voters outnumbered Boomers and older voters, 69.6 million to 67.9 million. This gap will only widen in future elections…In the long run, this is worrisome news for Republicans. As of last November, fully 55 percent of Millennials identified either as Democrats or as Independents who lean Democratic. Given their liberal attitudes on social issues and experience-based openness to immigrants from other cultures, the first six months of the Trump administration are unlikely to have shifted their preference toward the GOP. Within the next decade, as their numbers and participation rates swell, Millennials will be the single largest cohort in the electorate. And if history is any guide, their early voting patterns will likely persist into their mature years.”

In his Washington Post column, “There’s no such thing as a Trump Democrat,” Dana Milbank writes, “It has become an article of faith that an unusually large number of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012 switched sides and voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. It follows that Democrats, to win in the future, need to get these lost partisans to come home…But new data, and an analysis by AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer that he shared with me, puts all this into question. The number of Obama-to-Trump voters turns out to be smaller than thought. And those Obama voters who did switch to Trump were largely Republican voters to start with. The aberration wasn’t their votes for Trump but their votes for Obama. It follows for Democrats that most of these Obama-Trump voters aren’t going to be persuaded to vote Democratic in future; the party would do better to go after disaffected Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016 or who voted for third parties…Democrats don’t have to contort themselves to appeal to the mythical Trump Democrats by toughening their position on immigration, or weakening their support for universal health care, or embracing small government and low taxes. What Democrats have to do is be Democrats.”

Paul Krugman’s column “What’s Next for Progressives?” should crank up buzz among Democrats who are getting focused on the nuts and bolts of health care policy reforms. Krugman considers the British, Australian and Dutch health care systems, and suggests: “the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums…And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change…I’d enhance the A.C.A., not replace it, although I would strongly support reintroducing some form of public option — a way for people to buy into public insurance — that could eventually lead to single-payer.” Krugman also argues “So if it were up to me, I’d talk about improving the A.C.A., not ripping it up and starting over, while opening up a new progressive front on child care.”

At The Fix, David Weigel muses over the failure of Democrats to respond effectively to questions about Nancy Pelosi: “…Democrats running in swing districts — including districts Hillary Clinton won last year — can rarely bring themselves to say whether they want Pelosi to be speaker again…I keep wondering why Democrats can’t find the escape hatch. Republicans have had similar problems with messaging very recently, and to a great extent, they’ve figured them out…In a word: They pivot. They start with the shared notion that the media’s questions are meant to hurt them, and they find ways to spin the question around…It baffles me that no 2018 Democrat can do something similar. Pelosi is unpopular; they can acknowledge right away that they disagree with her. But they never pivot to say that their opponents back Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), whose favorable numbers have tumbled to Pelosian levels, or Donald Trump, who’s tumbled even further. Seriously, I’ve never heard a Democrat do this — they’ve just internalized that Pelosi is unpopular, so they curl up as if hiding from a hungry bear.”

Weigel also provides some amusing insights, sitting in for James Hohman at the Daily 202: Noting that the Democratic Socialists of America voted to reject an exodus from the Democratic Party, Weigel writes, “The resolution failed — easily so. While the judgment of 697 delegates to a socialist convention might not seen like a major Democratic Party development, it was telling of something that frequently gets lost. Democrats, for whom self-flagellation starts at birth and continues after death, have been moving as steadily left as Republicans moved right in 2009, when they last lost power…The Better Deal, predictably denounced as thin, actually reflected how regulatory godmother Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and $15-or-fight godfather Sanders now steer the party.” As for the possible downside of Democrats moving left, Weigel concludes, “Would any of this backfire on Democrats?…Democrats lost in 2010, 2014 and 2016 to a Republican Party that had been through waves of purity battles; one that had, in 2016, appeared to be breaking apart. The ongoing Democratic argument, over the long run, is moving it left without doing notable political damage.”

“As a communications professional, I understand that the meaning of a message resides more in what’s received than what’s transmitted. Yes, Democrats need better messaging of our values…Democrats aren’t skilled at fitting our ideas onto the front of a cap…But we have metric tons of Republican misinformation, extreme gerrymandering and Trumpitude to battle, so messaging isn’t easy. I’ll keep shouting our platform with my increasingly hoarse voice and keep hoping the party’s bigwigs are working on strategies to connect with enough voters to win Congress in 2018 and the Electoral College (not just the popular vote) in 2020…As much as I resist Trump and his enablers with my full patriotic spirit, that’s not the only reason I’m a Democrat who works for Democratic causes and candidates. Our party has a better vision for the country than the regression, corporatism, corruption, incivility and oligarchy that Trump and the Republican Party offer.” — from John Sheirer’s latest column at The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

WaPo syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson urges Dems to think a little bigger than ‘A Beter Deal’: “I’m still waiting to hear the “bold solutions” that Democrats promise. I can think of one possibility: Why not propose some version of truly universal single-payer health care?…Yes, that would be risky. But it might generate real excitement among the Democratic base — and also grab the attention of some of the GOP’s working-class supporters. Incrementalism is not the answer. Democrats need to go big or go home.”

Focusing on the issue of afformative action, The Upshot’s Nate Cohn chews on the reasons why “polls can mislead,” including the difficulties in measuring enthusiasm, focusing on “the public” instead of swing constituencies, the effects of messaging and the reality that “elections aren’t simply about policy.” Cohn concluders, “Issue polling has its place. A government in a democracy should be aware of the views of the public. But if you’re strictly interested in electoral consequences, you’re probably a lot better off focusing on the president’s approval rating than the popularity of the president’s policy agenda.”

Since the Trump Administration has so many associations and flirtations with racist and’alt-right’ groups and leaders, Dems should be on high alert for ‘dog-whistles’ that try to gin up animosity toward pro-Democratic constituencies.Media Matters’ Cristina López explains how the White House uses dog whistles to appeal to the “alt-right,” and observes:  “it’s very hard to know what was going through the mind, and that’s why dog whistles are so insidious, because they can be used innocuously and they kind of give an out to whoever is using them to be able to say that’s not what I meant. The thing is that they are not meant for the general population — you’re throwing red meat for the well-attuned ear that has the context — the larger context where you want it to land. So dog whistles in that sense allow you to appeal to a certain part of the population that it wouldn’t be OK to appeal in a general speech, like the White House press briefing. But these groups are attune and they are listening. And, Stephen Miller is right now being celebrated in the corners of the alt-right, white nationalistic internet as a hero — as a hero for keeping the purity of the population of America by kind of trying to curtail immigration.”

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