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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Yesterday we posted an article about Michael Tomasky’s support for Brookings scholar Benjamin Wittes’ 18-point proposal urging a broad, bipartisan coalition against Trumpism. Now Jeet Heer, a senior editor of The New Republic has an article explaining why “A Grand Anti-Trump Coalition Is a Terrible Idea for Democrats,” which argues, “Wittes and Tomasky are half right. Opposing Trump’s authoritarianism and corruption shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” Heer adds, however, “But an anti-Trump Popular Front could only work in an ad hoc fashion on specific issues, like those outlined by Tomasky and Wittes. It can’t supersede partisan politics even on a temporary basis because success for the two major parties depends on energizing their respective bases, and nationwide elections are never more than two years away. To run on a depoliticized program of centrist anti-Trumpism would demoralize and demobilize Democratic voters, a lethal move for the left since Trump has been successful at mobilizing hardcore Republicans…We also don’t need to speculate on whether an anti-Trump Popular Front would work. It was attempted in last year’s election…The result of this outreach: Clinton outperformed expectations in traditionally Republican leaning suburbs, but underperformed among Democratic voters, a sufficient number of whom ended up voting for Trump, staying home, or voting for a third-party candidate, thus costing Clinton the election…The best way to take down the president is to strengthen the Democratic Party from within, not dilute it with fickle fellow travelers.”

Lawrence Lessig, Founder of Equal Citizens, sees some common ground among voters in a 2016 University of Maryland poll. Writing at The Hill, Lessig explains: “Ninety-two percent of Americans (95 percent of Republicans/89 percent of Democrats) believe “the government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.”…Further, 85 percent (87 percent-R/84 percent-D) believe Congress “does not serve the common good” and 89 percent (89 percent-R/90 percent-D) believe “corporations and their lobbyists have too much influence.” Finally, 91 percent believe “big campaign donors have too much influence.” (90 percent-R/91 percent-D). No statistician could look at those numbers and see any difference between Republicans and Democrats here. We do not have a government that represents us. On this, we are all essentially agreed…This unity might suggest hope. There is common ground to build upon. But the dynamics of American politics makes that building incredibly difficult.” Lessig names some candidates, including Beto O’Roark in Texas (challenging Ted Cruz for Senate) and Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Bliss, who are ready to help lead the way to reforms that will check the power of monied lobbyists

Celeste Katz has a Newsweek profile of Randy Bryce, who is running to upset Speaker Paul Ryan in his Wisconsin congressional district. Entitled “Is Ironstache the New Bernie Sanders? Meet the Ironworker who wants to Bring White People Back to the Democratic Party,” Katz notes “While Bryce is a longshot candidate—the district is heavily Republican and preferred Trump by about 10 points last fall—Democratic Party leaders and operatives are now seeking to replicate his brand of bootstrap pragmatism and Heartland patriotism…On the trail, Bryce can talk not only about working with his hands, but about serving in the military. Fighting cancer. Caring for sick parents. Filing for bankruptcy. Being a single dad. (As one Entertainment Weekly wag put it, Bryce was “genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs.” In the same vein, a strategist joked to Newsweek that Ward, the former Marine running in Virginia, “was basically created in a lab for other white men” who could potentially vote Democratic.)

Ed Kilgore has the skinny on the latest GOP scam in his New York Magazine article “Republicans Trying to Engineer a Government Shutdown They Can Blame on Democrats.” Kilgore discusses “reports that Republicans are mulling a maneuver designed to tempt Democrats into threatening (or even causing) a government shutdown over immigration policy.” It’s a Ryan-McConnell short-term spending bill designed to “avoid an intense spending fight before the end of the year that might interfere with the final maneuvering over a tax bill, and/or push Republicans into concessions they will later regret. But it would be advanced in hopes of getting Democrats to fight over whether they should deny votes to pass the stopgap measure out of fidelity to the Dreamers…More than likely all this gambit will accomplish is to buy Republicans a couple of extra weeks to figure out what they actually want and are actually willing to accept in spending negotiations…”

Rachel Bade, John Bresnahan and Sarah Ferris elaborate in their post, “GOP looks to jam Democrats in shutdown fight” at Politico: “Many Democrats have vowed to withhold their votes from any spending agreement that does not include a fix for the young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as minors. Democratic leadership sources have suggested that Pelosi and Schumer could back a one- or two-week CR. But they’re loath to move the deadline past Jan. 1….Still, Democrats may come under pressure to avoid a government shutdown over DACA, which does not fully expire until March. One House Appropriations Committee Democratic source said there could be some wiggle room in the party’s stance on DACA that could help avert a shutdown. The source speculated that while many Democrats are dead-set against a full-year spending package without an immigration deal, there may be fewer who would object to a CR into January.”

In his Washington Post column, “Our political foundation is rotting away,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. spotlights the danger of the public growing numb to Trump’s endless assault on human decency and integrity in politics. As Dionne writes, “Great nations and proud democracies fall when their systems become so corrupted that the decay is not even noticed — or the rot is written off as a normal part of politics …President Trump has created exactly such a crisis. He has not done it alone. The corrosion of norms and values began long before he propelled the nation past the edge, and his own party is broadly complicit in enabling his attacks on truth, decency and democratic values…We are so inured to the chaos and the lying that characterize Trump’s presidency that we see each outrage as little more than another passing episode on an ongoing cable news drama.”

There is lots of media buzz comparing sexual harrassment allegations against President Trump and Sen. Franken, along with arguments about whether one or both should resign. The most immediate question, however, is whether a majority of Alabama voters are going to get suckered on December 12th by the ‘everybody does it’ meme and send one of the creepiest senate candidates in U.S. history to Washington. One recent poll shows Republican Roy Moore up by 5 points. But it now looks like a write-in candidate, retired U.S. Marine Col. Lee Busby, could damage Moore’s chances by peeling away enough conservative votes. At Vox, Jen Kirby notes that “The Alabama secretary of state’s office issued instructions Wednesday on how to fill in a write-in ballot “due to a large number of requests…Write-ins candidacies also have an advantage in the age of social media, where, as Foley noted, word can spread fast and cheaply. This is Busby’s strategy, as he told the Washington Post.”

The New Republic staff writer Alex Shepard sees the politics of media distraction at the center of the debate on the tax bill: “With tax reform, Republicans are following a similar strategy, using non-stop crises as cover to push an odious bill through the House and Senate while the media plays Whack-a-Mole with the news of the day. They have also been abetted by a media that has failed to learn the main lesson of the Obamacare repeal effort, which is that the GOP is no longer a normal political party that is beholden to the welfare of voters. It has become so bankrupt that it is willing to use any means to pass unpopular, highly damaging legislation that will have little positive impact on anyone but a very thin slice of people at the top. But the coverage does not reflect that bedrock dynamic; instead we often see stories that focus on the GOP’s desperate need to pass “major” legislation before the end of the year, even if that legislation amounts to daylight robbery.”

Kyle Kondik argues in “House 2018: Less Than a Year Out, Race for Control Is a Coin Flip” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Overall, our ratings list 224 seats safe, likely, or leaning to the Republicans, 191 seats safe, likely, or leaning to the Democrats, and 20 Toss-ups. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Democrats can win about two-thirds of the Toss-ups (13 of 20), and otherwise let’s assume all the other seats go to the party they currently at least lean to. That would net the Democrats 10 seats, close to halfway to the 24 seats they need to get the majority. So Democrats need to push more seats into the more competitive categories, but as our ratings changes indicate, the playing field is growing.”

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