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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times op-ed “America is Not a ‘Center-Right Nation,'” New York Magazine Daily Intelligencer columnist Eric Levitz writes “…The Republican Party’s dominance has little to do with the American electorate’s “center-right” ideology. We know this for two simple reasons: First, the vast majority of that electorate has no ideology, whatsoever. And second, when polled on discrete policy questions, Americans consistently express majoritarian support for a left-of-center economic agenda…The political scientist Philip Converse first brought the first reality to national attention in 1964. In his classic essay “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics,” Mr. Converse demonstrated that only 17 percent of American voters could both correctly assign the terms “liberal” and “conservative” to the nation’s two major political parties and offer a sensible description of what those terms meant. The rest of the electorate did not understand politics as a fight over abstract theories of good government but rather a conflict between interest groups. Ordinary voters did not select the party that most faithfully represented their political philosophy — they picked the one that appeared to best represent their people, a group they might define with reference to class, region, religion, race or partisanship itself…while it’s true that fewer Americans self-identify as liberal than as moderate or conservative, this tells us almost nothing about voters’ policy views. “Moderates” do not actually display a preference for “centrist” positions, but merely for ideologically inconsistent ones.”

Levitz goes on to document strongly liberal public preferences for a range of policies and notes, “When we look past ideological self-identification to polling on discrete public policy questions, America appears to be far more center-left than center-right. In a recent analysis of Democracy Fund Voter Study Group survey data, the political scientist Lee Drutman found that 73.5 percent of the 2016 electorate espoused broadly left-of-center views on economic policy…Most voters cast their ballots on the basis of identity, not policy. And America’s rapidly changing demographics — and the right’s steadfast efforts to inflame and exploit anxieties about those changes — have made racial identity increasingly salient to white voters, particularly rural ones…Democrats have all kinds of ways of addressing this problem. One would be to cultivate the class identity of white voters by embracing populist rhetoric that paints “the billionaire class” as an out-group they can define themselves against. Another would be to invest more resources into registering nonwhite voters.”

Regarding the Mueller probe, “Statements from top Democratic officials in Washington suggested the party line is, at the highest levels, focused on putting the process ahead of the politics — to reinforce the guardrails rather than try to map out the road ahead….Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned against any kind of move by the administration to interfere with Mueller’s work. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, also urged bipartisan action in the event Trump moved to pardon himself or “any of his associates…the track record for political parties seen to be pushing for the removal of an elected leader for partisan reasons, both in this country and abroad, is not a good one. Republicans paid for their overreach in impeaching President Bill Clinton in late 1998. — From Gregory Krieg’s CNN Politics post, “Democrats’ Mueller strategy: Stay out of the way.”

That seems to be the case for Dems at the state level as well. At The Daily 202, James Hohman explores why “Ohio Democrats say talking about Mueller’s probe is not the way to win in 2018,” and notes that “While Washington elites are fixated on Robert Mueller, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party is doing everything he can to prevent his activists and candidates from becoming distracted by the special counsel and his next moves….“Let me just put it this way: We don’t spend a lot of time around here talking about Vladimir Putin and James Comey,” David Pepper said in an interview here Sunday. “I’m as frustrated as anyone by what Comey did and that Putin interfered, and Congress should get to the bottom of that, but if that’s what we talk about … we will lose again…My attitude is let’s fix the things we can fix, and the way we really win is by getting a core message that appeals across all 88 counties,” Pepper said.” What is that message? In short: It’s still the economy, stupid. Democrats feel like they can both galvanize their own base and win over people who voted for Barack Obama but defected to Donald Trump by prosecuting the case that the president has not delivered on his populist promises.”

What does the public think about the GOP tax proposals so far? Ed Kilgore has some polling data in his column at New York Magazine: “At this early point, the whole bill has some image problems, with the corporate tax cuts being a particularly hard sell. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey shows that only 25 percent of respondents think “Trump’s tax plan” is a “good idea,” with 35 percent adjudging it as a “bad idea,” and the rest undecided. A Morning Consult poll offers better overall numbers for the tax bill (48 percent supporting, 37 percent opposing), but shows only 39 percent favoring a corporate tax rate cut (with 41 percent opposing). And a CBS News poll indicates that a firm majority of voters favor a tax increase for “large corporations.”…It’s worth noting that just about all the big corporate priorities in this legislation are treated with suspicion, if not hostility, by the general public, even in the relatively upbeat Morning Consult assessment. Only 29 percent support a move to a territorial system for taxation of overseas profits, and a lukewarm 38 percent favor the ability to immediately write off business investment costs.

Gregory S. Schneider explains why “For the Democrat in the Va. governor’s race, victory may hinge on black voters,” and observes “African Americans make up about 20 percent of Virginia’s electorate, and a surge in black voting has been decisive in recent statewide elections. Democratic candidates were the beneficiaries, tilting what had been a reliably red state into full swing status…But that wave shows signs of ebbing, and some argue that the Democratic ticket led by gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam hasn’t done enough to energize black voters and ensure a big turnout against Republican Ed Gillespie…African Americans turned out to vote in the 2013 governor’s race at roughly the same rate as Virginians overall and made the difference for Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a narrow win. This year, African Americans are somewhat less likely than whites to say they are certain to vote or are following the race closely, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Tuesday. A new Post-Schar School poll finds Northam leading Gillespie 89 percent to 8 percent among black likely voters, almost identical to McAuliffe’s margin of 90 percent to 8 percent four years ago.” Among the criticism of Democratic leadership’s campaign in support of nominee Ralph Northam, Schneider writes that, while Dems have been investing in Black voter turnout in Virginia and President Obama  and other African American leaders have campaigned for Northam, “Democrats have been curiously low-key in pointing out that Fairfax, the nominee for lieutenant governor, would be the first African American elected statewide since Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.”

David Weigel’s PowerPost article “Democrats will lose unless they turn ‘rigged’ message back on Trump” cites a key concern foer Dems, looking toward the midterm elections: “Warning of a “weakening Democratic brand,” pollsters working for a progressive nonprofit are encouraging the minority party to run on a clear, populist platform in 2018 — or risk an election where voters don’t see them as alternatives to the Trump administration…“Trump is hated, but he is not collapsing and is stable on many parts of his identity and job performance,” pollsters Stan Greenberg and Nancy Zdunkewicz wrote in a polling memo prepared for Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a nonprofit organization. “Democrats must make the main choice in this election about how the Republicans in Congress have gone back on their promises on health care and protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”..The poll results, which were provided to The Washington Post on Wednesday night, revisit a pool of voters from the “rising American electorate” — young, diverse and less prone to voting — that was first studied in June. Since the summer, despite President Trump’s struggles, those voters told the pollsters that they’d become a bit less inclined to vote for Democrats in 2018. A 31-point Democratic margin shrank to a 21-point margin.”

Martin Longman’s Washington Monthly post, “Evidence in Jon Ossoff Election Is Destroyed” notes that “Georgia’s election system was sitting insecure on the internet for months and was easily accessible by hackers. The problem was discovered ahead of time and the state was taken to court in an effort to prevent them from using the unprotected system for the special election between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff.  But the election was held anyway and now we’ll never know if the results were legitimate.” Now that it has been revealed that computer servers were wiped clean, including back-up servers, at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system, there appears to be little hope that any theft of votes can be detected. Longman argues that “a well-designed hack would not be detectable even if all this information had been preserved and turned over for forensic analysis. The fact that all the evidence was deliberately destroyed right before it was going to be requested by a federal court is more of an acknowledgment of guilt than a necessary step in this kind of conspiracy.”

At Ars Technica, David Kravetz notes a new federal initiative to curb vote hacking: “This summer, DefCon’s “Voting Machine Hacking Village” turned up a host of US election vulnerabilities (PDF). Now, imagine a more mainstream national hacking event backed by the Department of Homeland Security that has the same goal: to discover weaknesses in voting machines used by states for local and national elections…That might just become a reality if federal legislation (PDF) unveiled Tuesday becomes law. The proposal comes with a safe harbor provision to exempt participants from federal hacking laws. Several federal exemptions for ethical hacking that paved the way for the DefCon hacking village expire next year…The bipartisan “Securing America’s Voting Equipment Act” also would provide election funding to the states and would designate voting systems as critical infrastructure—a designation that would open up communication channels between the federal government and the states to share classified threat information…”Until we set up a stronger set of protections for our election systems and take the necessary steps to prevent future foreign influence campaigns, our nation’s democratic institutions will remain vulnerable,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told reporters.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    FYI, President of Kennesaw State is Sam Olens, attorney general of Georgia until his appointment to Kennesaw in 2016. Olens’ appointment was opposed by KSU faculty and staff, and his selection process was the very model of unaccountable untransparency. He was the only candidate interviewed out of four applicants. Olens has a long history of supporting voter ID laws.

    One could almost thing someone wanted to maintain a close eye on the voting systems.


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