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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Netroots Nation’s annual program begins today in Atlanta, and WaPo’s David Weigel has a good preview and backgrounder in his post, “Liberals gather in Atlanta to plan Trump resistance strategy.” As Weigel writes, “Former vice president Gore will speak about the threats to the planet from a president who dismisses climate change as a hoax hatched in Beijing. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will ring alarm bells about domestic policy. And 14 discrete sessions will discuss the best ways to fight the White House and Republican Congress. Jon Ossoff, the Democratic star who narrowly lost Georgia’s special House election in June, will also be there…This year, the focus for nearly 3,000 attendees was back on politics: How do they channel the energy of resistance into helping progressives win elections?” Schedule overview here.

Brian Barrett’s Wired post, “You Can’t Just Riff About Nukes” does make one wonder if CEO Trump has been watching too much Game of Thrones. Trump’s warning to North Korea does sound more like it comes from a ‘Thrones’ potentate, than a thoughtful leader of a great democracy. As Barrett writes, “Trump garnered international headlines Tuesday when he declared that any further threats from North Korea would prompt “fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” His bluster followed a Washington Post report that the Hermit Kingdom had developed a nuclear weapon small enough to deploy on a missile. Lest anyone doubt the president’s intentions, he followed up Wednesday morning with a tweet calling the US nuclear arsenal “far stronger and more power than ever before” and unjustifiably crediting himself with its renovation and modernization.”

Adam Nagourney’s New York Times article, “Democratic Fight in California Is a Warning for the National Party,” explores the ramifications of a leadership struggle for the helm of the state’s Democratic Party. “What we are seeing in California is similar to what we are seeing on the national level,” said Betty T. Yee, the Democratic state controller. “If we don’t do our work to really heal our divide, we are going to miss our chance to motivate Democrats.”…The fight pits Eric C. Bauman, a longtime party leader, against Kimberly Ellis, a Bay Area activist. Mr. Bauman won the election by just over 60 votes out of 3,000 cast at the party convention in May, but Ms. Ellis has refused to concede, claiming voting improprieties, like permitting ineligible people to vote for Bauman…Nagourney notes that “the stakes appear higher in this case. For one thing, California Democrats face a critical political challenge in 2018 as they seek to capture as many as seven Republican congressional seats, most of them in Southern California, a central part of the national party’s effort to win back Congress. California is heading into a potentially turbulent governor’s race next year as Mr. Brown — a widely respected, stabilizing force in Democratic politics — steps down after two terms. The party could also be enmeshed in a Senate race if Dianne Feinstein, who is 84, does not seek re-election next year…”

Also at The Times, Shane Goldmacher reports on the tricky Democratic divisions in New York state politics. Goldmacher quotes State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, who explains, “The winds shifted on Nov. 8. The No. 1 concern I hear from my constituents on the street isn’t Donald Trump. It’s what the Senate’s going to do, and how the Democrats can win it back.”Goldmacher explains, “Democrats hold 32 of the 63 seats in the Senate, yet Republicans control the chamber. The mechanics and math of bringing Senate Democrats together are complex: [State Senate Minority Leader] Ms. Stewart-Cousins leads a group of 23 Democrats, while Mr. Klein leads the breakaway group of eight. The 32nd elected Democrat, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, caucuses with the Republicans but has left the door open to rejoining the Democrats.”

Meanwhile in West Virginia, The Mountain Party is gathering momentum — to the growing concern of the state Democratic Party. But the Mountain Party may provide an instructive template for how Democrats can benefit from strategic voting by non-Democratic progressives, when the candidate is appropriate. As Parker Richards reports in The American Prospect, “The re-energizing of the progressive movement nationally has also helped the Mountain Party. Rhule noted that many of the party’s members and supporters worked for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, with many switching their registration to campaign for the Vermont senator, though most returned to the Mountain Party thereafter. (Sanders won every county in West Virginia during the primary, taking just 26,000 fewer votes than Donald Trump’s total in the Republican primary.) That newfound energy could help the party going forward, particularly if West Virginia Democrats do not adopt many of Sanders’s policies in the future—and there has been little evidence they will.”

Not to harp on Democratic Party divisions today, but we do have to keep it real. In that spirit, Clare Foran’s article, “The Democratic Party’s Abortion Dilemma” in The Atlantic provides an overview of the problems Dems face in navigating reproductive rights leading up to the midterm elections. As Foran observes in a nut graph: “The party’s willingness to support pro-life candidates isn’t novel, and prominent Democrats, along with the Democratic National Committee, have echoed the idea that there should be no litmus test. But that message is at odds with the direction pro-choice activists believed the party had been headed: They want to build on the gains their movement made in the platform by electing a firmly pro-choice majority to the House. Some activists fear, however, that the party is now treating abortion as a negotiable issue, rather than a core priority, as it attempts to broaden its appeal and win back seats in the midterm elections next year.”

There is some good news for Democrats in at least one state, as Ed Kilgore shares in his post, “Democrat Wins Iowa State Legislative Special Election in District Trump Swept” at New York Magazine. Kilgore notes, “A deceased Democratic House member, Curt Hansen, was replaced by another Democrat, Phil Miller, a veterinarian and local school board president. But Miller’s healthy 54/44 win over Republican Travis Harris was significant…this district (in southeast Iowa) is pretty evenly divided between registered Democrats and Republicans, making it an interesting test case. It’s one of those rural/small town Midwestern areas that swung heavily to Donald Trump last year (he carried the district by a 58/37 margin; Obama won it by a narrow 50/48 margin in 2012). So there’s no sign of any fundamental partisan realignment underway, at least down ballot.'” Further, adds Kilgore, “the GOP candidate tried to use transgender bathroom access as a cudgel against his opponent.” While, “It is unclear how the transgender issue ultimately affected the race, aside from the fact that it obviously did not work for Harris.”

“Even as the White House this week firmly insists President Donald Trump is determined to seek a second term, a new analysis of polling data shows that he’s caught in a three-way political squeeze in the states that tipped the 2016 presidential race, and will likely decide the 2020 contest…On one front, Trump faces undiminished resistance from minority voters, who opposed him in preponderant numbers last year. On the second, he is confronting a consistent — and, in many states, precipitous — decline in support from white-collar white voters, who expressed much more skepticism about him last fall than GOP presidential candidates usually face. From the third direction, Trump’s support among working-class whites, while still robust, is receding from its historically elevated peak back toward a level more typical for Republican presidential candidates — especially in the pivotal Rust Belt states that sealed his victory…These are among the key conclusions from a new analysis of the state-by-state Trump approval ratings released recently by the Gallup Organization. Those results, based on interviews with 81,155 adults in Gallup nightly tracking polls from January 20 through June 30, found that Trump’s overall approval rating had fallen below 50 percent in 33 of the 50 states.” — From Ronald Brownstein’s CNN Politics post, “In decisive Rust Belt, Trump’s approval is starting to look like Romney’s.”

At Vox, Jeff Stein explains how “The Obamacare repeal battle showed the power and limits of grassroots organizing.” Stein distills “Five lessons the Obamacare repeal fight taught resistance organizers,” including “1) Resistance bandwidth is limited and must be concentrated…”Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) similarly announced that he’d answer every reporter’s question about Russia by first talking about health care. “When reporters ask me a question about Russia, I now say, ‘I’m happy to talk about it, but you’re going to have to listen to me talk about the health care challenge ahead first,’” Wyden said…“The need for relentless pressure despite mind-blowing distractions is now clear,” said Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn.org. “But at the beginning of this, it wasn’t obvious at all. As the public and as activists, we weren’t used to these political explosions popping constantly from the White House. We really had to train ourselves to ignore them and keep our eye on the ball.”…In other words, activists learned that the Trump show may be flashy and impossible to ignore — but, faced with pending legislation, it’s vital to focus at the legislative mechanics.” Stein’s post should be required reading for all Democratic campaigns.

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