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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Try not to puke when you look at the smug portrait of contempt for Democracy in the photo that accompanies this New York Times article by Robert Pear, Maggie Haberman and Reed Abelson. As the authors explain, President Trump has scrapped “subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people, the White House said late Thursday. His plans were disclosed hours after the president ordered potentially sweeping changes in the nation’s insurance system, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers…The twin hits to the Affordable Care Act could unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, sending insurance premiums soaring and insurance companies fleeing from the health law’s online marketplaces. After Republicans failed to repeal the health law in Congress, Mr. Trump appears determined to dismantle it on his own.” As Schumer and pelosi put it, ““It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” they said. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

In her op-ed, “Why Democrats need a 50-State Strategy,” Washington Post columnist and editor of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuval spotlights two critical Democratic campaigns for the U.S. Senate that are polling surprisingly well in red states — Doug Jones’s bid to win a U.S. Senate seat representing Alabama and Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s Texas campaign to take the senate seat now held by Ted Cruz. As vanden Heuval writes, “These are still uphill races. But both candidates are proving why, for Democrats to go from resistance to power, a bold 50-state strategy is critical. Even if the Jones and O’Rourke campaigns do not end in victory, there is clear value in mobilizing progressive voters and building the state and local infrastructure to compete in future races, particularly at the all-important state and local levels. On that front, the recent string of progressive victories in local elections nationwide, some in places where Democrats had not won in years, shows that there is a real desire for progressive solutions in every part of the country, including areas that many Democrats have unfortunately written off. ”

“White working-class people in our study felt disconnected from her because she representedthe political elite, “insiders,” and Washington DC. Her language and campaign appeared to forget about white working-class voters in preferencefor appealing to college graduates, minorities, and the urban middle class. The sense was that her life experiences and varied roles in politics—first lady, US senator, US secretary of state—confirmed her as part of the establishment and disconnected from real people rather than being qualified to run for president…During the 2016 election campaign, Clinton stated that some of Trump’s supporters were “deplorables” because of their xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic views (Jacobs, 2016). The sense that white working-class voters were racist jarred many in our study; they eagerly pointed out the ethnic diversity of family and friends, and how they supported work colleagues who were being subjected to racial and sexual harassment. Many had voted for the first black president in 2008. “Deplorable” became a form of cultural resistance against a sneering and out-of- touch elite…” — from the study, “The Other America”: White working-class views on belonging, change, identity, and immigration. Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, UK. by H. Beider, S. Harwood, and & K. Chahal, (2017).

According to Matthew Pennington and Emily Swanson of the Associated Press, “North Korea’s nuclear weapons development is spooking most Americans, and two-thirds of them say President Donald Trump’s war of words with the isolated nation’s leader is making the situation worse. Less than 1 in 10 thinks Trump’s comments are making it better…Those are the findings of a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, as tensions between the adversaries escalate and North Korea comes closer to its goal of having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the continental U.S.”

In  his post, “Did Voter Suppresion Give Trump the Election?,” Richard Prince writes at the Root: “A study from the battleground state of Wisconsin “estimates 16,800 or more people in Dane and Milwaukee counties were deterred from casting ballots in November because of Wisconsin’s voter ID law,” Patrick Marley and Jason Stein reported Sept. 26 for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel….“The study by University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Ken Mayerconcluded 16,800 to 23,250 voters in the two counties — the Democratic strongholds of Wisconsin — did not vote because of the voter ID law,” they wrote.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall quotes Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who says “The greatest threat to the next Democratic nominee for President isn’t white working class voters, but in fact our inability to cobble back and hold together the core of Obama’s back to back majority coalitions. The “protest vote” by millennials — HRC’s significant underperformance with younger voters, particularly younger voters of color — is actually where she was most notably off of Obama’s performance in the overall battleground aggregate…when you have between 6 to 9 percent of younger voters of color breaking 3rd Party in their ‘protest vote’ that kills the Democrat’s chance to reach Obama’s margins most notably in places like Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.” As for winning the votes of the white working class, Edsall quotes political scientist Bruce Cain to good effect: “The cultural problem is Democrats looking down their noses at blue collar work and flyover country. First, cut that shit out. Second, let’s get back to celebrating the work of those who fix pipes, install wind farms, etc. Many of us in Democrat bubble lands are just too full of ourselves. Also, let’s look at how to upgrade vocational schools and training to make it more prestigious, not places where people are relegated to because they cannot compete in a college prep curriculum.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in “The Democrats Pipeline Problem” at The Atlantic about the party’s disconnect between its older, white leadership and the increasing reliance on turning out people of color to secure electoral victories. As Brownstein notes, “…Hillary Clinton, the party’s 69-year-old presidential nominee, struggled to excite Millennial and minority voters despite the clear and present danger Donald Trump presented to almost all of the values they profess. “There is a great urgency for Democrats now to turn the generational wheel,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder and president of NDN, a Democratic advocacy and analysis group. “It’s a pragmatic, practical thing that the younger candidates are just going to do a better job of speaking to this emerging coalition that we have,” which “has not been turning out with the frequency and intensity that we need.” Yet younger and diverse leaders remain as rare as MAGA hats at the very top of the Democratic ladder…Democrats need to maximize both turnout and their margins among non-white and younger voters (who are themselves far more diverse than older generations of voters). Despite the provocation Trump provided, Democrats decisively failed on that front in 2016: Turnout among white and Hispanic Millennials disappointed, and it plummeted among younger African Americans compared with 2012.”

At The Plum Line, Paul Waldman also addresses the question shared by many Democrats, “Is it time for the Democratic Party’s old guard to step aside?” and observes “The answer is “Yes, but…” There are good reasons why all those leaders might step aside, or at least begin preparing to do so…Democrats should be looking for new leadership, but not because they need to do it if they’re going to win in 2018 and 2020. Both of those elections will turn mostly on how Americans feel about Donald Trump. They should do it because they’ll have to eventually no matter what, and it’s never too early to start preparing. But if it’s going to happen, younger Democrats are going to have to take a risk, step up, and convince people that they’re capable of carrying the party forward.”

So where do things stand in the Virginia Governors campaign, the marquee statewide political race of 2017? Geoffrey Skelley writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “A concern for the Northam campaign has to be the recent history of polling in Virginia and nationally that has missed some conservative voters. For example, the final RealClearPolitics average in 2013 showed McAuliffe leading Ken Cuccinelli (R) 45.6%-38.9%, with Libertarian Robert Sarvis getting 9.6%. Although McAuliffe led by 6.7 points, he only won by 2.5 on Election Day, 47.7%-45.2%. Some of that was Sarvis’ slide to 6.5%, as it’s likely that some Republican voters considering Sarvis came home to the GOP in the end (some of Sarvis’ purported voters probably failed to show on Election Day, too). In 2017, there’s also a Libertarian candidate, Cliff Hyra, though he looks set to win a far smaller share of the vote than Sarvis did. Nevertheless, Cuccinelli’s actual percentage was 6.3 points higher than his polling average while McAuliffe’s was only 2.1 points higher. We’ve seen this phenomenon in recent races, most notably some swing states in the 2016 presidential race, but also in contests like the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election. What Northam has to hope for is that with a different party holding the White House, the polls are either on the mark or they underestimate Democrats, not Republicans…While it’s true that Virginia polls were relatively on the mark in 2016, if Northam isn’t consistently hitting 50% in some polls heading into Election Day 2017, he will have good reason to fear a surprise.”

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