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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Now that the dust has settled in the Virginia legislative races, the Republicans will hold very slim majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates in January, 21-19 and 51-49 respectively, while Democrats will still have the governorship. However, “the battle for the majority continues outside the election cycle,” reports Fenit Nirappil at The Washington Post. “Northam can offer incumbent GOP lawmakers jobs in his administration, creating pickup opportunities for Democrats. Then-Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) used that tactic in 1998 to erode Democratic majorities in the legislature.” Rarer still, but not unprecedented, would be successful inducements for red to blue to party-switching. More likely, Dems may be able to win support from a few Republican legislators for such increasingly popular reforms as paid family leave, Medicaid expansion, gun safety, more affordable education and renewable energy.

At The Boston Globe, Astead W. Herndon’s “Democrats seize on tax plan’s inequities” pinpoints a pivotal economic rip-off in the U.S. Senate’s tax proposals that Dems will be targeting in thw weeks ahead: “Though analysts say both the House and Senate versions would immediately cut taxes across the board for all income groups, only the tax cut to 20 percent from 35 percent for corporations is permanent in the Senate’s version of the bill.This, for taxpayers, would mean that after the temporary personal cuts expired in 2025, taxes for those in lower income brackets would actually increase, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and the Tax Policy Center…“Compared to current law, 9 percent of taxpayers would pay more in 2019, 12 percent in 2025, and 50 percent in 2027,’’ according to a separate study, by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a Washington analysis group.”

2018 could be the ‘Year of the Woman’ on steroids, with growing backlash to the culture of sexual harassment,” writes James Hohman at PowerPost. Hohman notes, “Democratic victories in this month’s off-year elections were driven by women. Exit polls showed a big swing in the party’s direction among married women and white women with college degrees…A bumper crop of women won down-ballot races. A nurse decided to run against a county commissioner in New Jersey because of an offensive Facebook post about the women’s march. She beat him…The filing deadline to run for Congress next year has not yet come in most states, and there are many highly qualified female candidates in crowded primary fields who are vying to take on male incumbents…Now there are dozens of high-profile cases of alleged sexual misconduct, from the U.S. House to state houses and from the military to the media. It stands to reason that this could lead to bigger backlash at the polls in 2018 and 2020 than we saw during what’s known as the Year of the Woman.”

While allegations of sexual assault and harassment have targeted both Republican and Democratic candidates and office-holders so far, most of the corrective measures are coming from Democratic leaders. But the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On Congress Act, also known as the ME TOO Congress Act co-sponsored by Democrats Senator Kirstin Gillibrand and Rep. Jackie Speier may draw bipartisan support. The proposal, which includes training provisions to prevent sexual harassment on Capitol Hill and change the process of dealing with complaints, has attracted roughly equal numbers of cosponsors from both parties to date.

Conservative scribe Byron York has a column on “Six scenarios for GOP disaster in Roy Moore Senate race” at The East Oregonian (via the Washington Examiner). The last of his disaster scenarios unfolds thusly: “(6) Doug Jones wins. This is a very real possibility, regardless of what the GOP does. What would it mean for the Senate’s Republican leadership? Just ask how hard it has been for the GOP to pass legislation with a 52-seat majority. It would become far harder with a 51-seat majority. Plus, losing the Alabama seat would make it easier — not easy, but easier — for Democrats to win control of the Senate in 2018. That would have profound effects. For example, President Trump could probably forget about putting another justice on the Supreme Court, should a vacancy arise. Trump and Republicans could forget about passing legislation, even with the lowered requirements of the reconciliation process. And Democratic committee chairmen would be running all the investigations of the Trump administration they like.”

Jonathan Chait offers this perceptive take on Trump’s manipulation of law enforcement concerns to gin up racial animosity: “Renegotiating trade agreements, building a wall, passing an infrastructure bill, or designing a replacement for Obamacare requires technocratic aptitude Trump (and, for that matter, his party) lacks. But sending crude signals of ethnic affiliation is a simple task, the only requirement for which is a lack of scruples…Examining Trump’s racial agenda is to have a glimpse into an arena where he is enjoying clear success. It is an arena in which the president can achieve his goals without competence. Indeed, incompetence is the surest way to achieve them. By tearing down effective law enforcement, and courting a backlash, Trump creates mutual anger from which he plausibly stands to benefit. As I argued, “A cycle of police abuse, enraged protest, and bloody crackdowns seems not only probable but — from Trump’s point of view — desirable.”

Plugging his new book, “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit,” at The Miami Book Fair, MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews blistered elitist Democrats in a painfully quotable way: “Ever since we started this Archie Bunker thing in the early ’70s, making fun of white working people, we kissed them goodbye. You make fun of people. You look down on them. They get the message…You call them ‘deplorables,’ they hear it,” Matthews explained. “You say they cling to their guns and their religion. ‘Oh yeah? I cling to my religion? OK. I’m a little person, and you’re a big person. Thank you. I’ll be voting for the other guy this time.” My hunch is that the portion of liberal Democrats who actually use condescending terms like “deplorables” is frequently exaggerated. But it only takes a few loudmouths to create a stereotype, and Matthew’s point still resonates.

Is the notion of an authentic working-class hero with progressive values coming from the shadows to win high political office a realistic possibility, or more of a romanticized fantasy? Dems could surely benefit by recruiting more candidates from the ranks of local union leadership. We do have such a candidate in union ironworker Randy Bryce, who is doing pretty good in his race against Speaker Paul Ryan, but it’s going to take a really strong Democratic tide in 2018 to carry him to victory. Working-class bard Rob Quist ran an energetic campaign for congress in Montana earlier this year, but was overwhelmed by his Republican opponent’s money. At The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner discusses the possibility of J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, becoming a candidate in Ohio. But Vance would more likely run as a moderate Republican (his wife is a clerk in the office of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts). There is some buzz urging social media star Trae Crowder to run for something, and if creative profanity becomes OK in televised political dialogue, he will be a shoo-in. But the best bet remains candidates from working-class backgrounds who have advanced through traditional politics, a credential already held by many Democratic state legislators and House members.

Jason Zengerle’s “The Voices in Blue America’s Head: For years, liberals have tried, and failed, to create their own version of conservative talk radio. Has Crooked Media finally figured it out?” at The New York Times Magazine reports on a promising initiative by a group of progressive agitators, including two former Obama speechwriters. For too long, Democrats and liberals have failed to adequately challenge right-wing domination of talk radio, which spoon-feeds propaganda to American workers during their workday commute and while running weekend errands. But this project is a podcast, which isn’t yet heard in most cars, owing in part to to a lack of enough cell phone towers in many areas, on the one hand, and the hassle of using your cell phone as a radio while driving, on the other. So far only some BMWs and Minis have user-friendly, built-in dashboard hardware that can receive podcasts in autos. When internet radio pre-sets start showing up on pick-up truck dashboards, it could be a game changer for political talk radio.

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    I wonder does Chris Mathews think the problem with Archie Bunker was that his bigotry was ridiculed, or that he was a working class white shown as a bigot? I don’t recall George Jefferson being an object of respect either. One side isn’t responsible for the ridicule. I’m sure Chris Matthews is familiar with social media, Fox News and Conservative radio.

    I thought white working class were against being politically correct/sensitive anyway. If you don’t want to walk on egg shells, don’t vote for politicians that will surround you in them, or something.

    What is conservative media doing to reach out and be kinder to the left (or whatever they’re calling anyone that isn’t voting Republican) so far it looks likes “being fair”, ignoring, lying about or giving a pass to policies that amount to various ways for all of us to go to jail or die.
    Because of this and how popular the current adminstration is, lets not forget their landslide victory: the urgency is for Democrats to focus on the people identified as core supporters, and try to win them over? And in the mean time leave everyone else and the country to the wolves? I suppose we could apologize for Archie Bunker.

    What happens to any group of people targeted by the government in this country happens to all of us eventually. Being a democrat willing to post pictures of yourself hunting on facebook doesnt strike me as a solution but maybe it is. Maybe it will save America.
    I think you can talk about working class or law enforcement issues and leave skin color, out of the conversation for whatever sort of conversations this site is advocating.

    As far as candidates go, I hope Democrats look at antiwar veterans, mail carriers, bus drivers, and public school teachers in particular or any combination of the aforementioned for future politicians.

  2. Jack Olson on

    There already is a liberal talk show, Sirius XM Progress. Unfortunately, it costs $16 a month to subscribe to the service which carries it. Meanwhile, anyone with an AM radio can tune in Rush Limbaugh and/or any of his conservative competitors like Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. That is, if he is willing to listen to commercials, which millions of people clearly are. AM talk radio is almost exclusively conservative in political content while late night comedy is almost exclusively liberal in political content. Therefore, the best way to improve the popularity of liberal talk radio would be for a popular late night comedian to try to transfer his popularity to the AM talk radio channels and see whether the listeners would find it a refreshing, attractive alternative.


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