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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Tony Pugh of mcclatchydc .com makes a case that “Voting at black colleges has tumbled. Can Dems fix the apathy in time for 2018?” and observes “Voter turnout among the estimated 300,000 students at HBCUs fell nearly 11 percent from 2012 to 2016, according to a national survey by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University. The decline, while consistent with a fall off among black voters of all ages in 2016, was a sharp departure…Certainly, the lower turnout reflected the absence of President Barack Obama from the Democratic ticket in 2016, a lack of enthusiasm for the new standard-bearer, Hillary Clinton, and a weakening of the longtime allegiance between the party and African-American youth. But the worst may be yet to come…If historic trends hold, Democrats could see black voter turnout drop 30 percent in 2018, resulting in 5.2 million fewer African-American voters, according to a report by the non-partisan Voter Participation Center and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake…In July, the DNC poured $1.5 million into the Virginia race. None of the money was used for television ads; all of it went toward mobilizing voters. Democrats more than doubled their grassroots organizing staff in Virginia from roughly 40 to about 90, locating most on or near college campuses and minority communities, the DNC said.”

Regarding the passage of the Republican tax bill, Sheryl Gay Stohlberg and Carl Hulse write at The New York Times that Democrats “believe that Republicans have made a political blunder because the reconfiguration of the tax structure — particularly new limits on the ability to deduct state and local taxes — will produce a tax increase for some voters who will be very unhappy when they realize it…“Today may be the first day of a new Republican Party — one that raises taxes on the middle class,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “The one thing Republicans always promised the middle class is ‘we are not going to raise your taxes.’” Only one Republican Senator, Bob Corker of TN, voted against the GOP tax bill.

Schumer also had this to say about the tax bill:

Karen Tumulty explores the nuances of “Another delicate challenge for Republicans: Reconciling House and Senate tax bills” at The Washington Post. Tumulty writes, “Lawmakers are expecting an intense period of work starting Monday as lobbyists descend on the conference committee that will negotiate differences between the two pieces of legislation. Of particular concern will be changes made hours before the Senate passed its final legislation early Saturday morning, when the Senate changed its bill to preserve a provision of the current tax code that sets an alternative minimum tax floor for very wealthy individuals. That provision would be eliminated in the House bill, and scrapping the alternative minimum tax has long been a priority for GOP tax writers.”

As for the political fallout of Michael Flynn’s plea deal, Harry Litman, former United States attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, writes in his op-ed “Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea: 10 Key Takeaways” at The New York Times: “It seems Mr. Trump himself directed Mr. Flynn to make contact with the Russians. If Mr. Flynn testifies to this — ABC’s Brian Ross is reporting that he will — it presents another impeachable offense along with the possible obstruction of justice. Even more, it brings the whole matter well outside the purview of the criminal courts into the province of a political scandal, indicating abuses of power arguably well beyond those in the Watergate and Iran-contra affairs…The basis for the possible obstruction charge against the president has been his efforts to get the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to shut down the Flynn investigation during a Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office, coupled with his multiple lies on the subject. Obstruction is plainly an impeachable offense: It’s the offense for which Richard Nixon was threatened with impeachment.”

At The Nation, Steve Phillips, founder of Democracy in Color and senior fellow at The Center for American Progress, argues that “Democrats Don’t Need Trump Supporters to Win Elections: The 2017 elections made clear that the Obama coalition is the majority.” Phillips believes the Virginia elections, in which Democrats won with only 26 percent of  white, non-college voters indicates that Democrats no longer need white working-class voters to win major elections. Phillips explains that “What happened in 2016 was not a mass defection of Democratic voters to Trump. What happened was a dramatic decline in black voter turnout (because of voter suppression, grossly insufficient investment, and overall lack of inspiration from the all-white Democratic ticket), combined with a splintering of the Obama coalition that saw statistically significant numbers of Democratic voters defect to the third- and fourth-party candidacies of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.” But a significant number of white working-class Obama voters switched to Trump in key states in 2016, and unfortunately, we are still stuck with the Electoral College, unless there is a Democratic landslide in 2018, and they get rid of it or increase the victory threshold. Phillips is right, however, in saying that Democrats need not tweak their message in a more moderate direction to win over white working-class voters. With just a little more support from this constituency, which was about 45 percent of the national electorate in 2016, Dems can insure a stable majority for years to come.

Susan Milligan’s “Return of the Rising American Electorate: In order to win, Democrats need to focus on new voters – and Rust Belt voters they lost in 2016” at U.S. News & Wortld Report tweaks the victory formula for Democrats in this direction as RAE (“Rising American Electorate”), plus some (not all, not even a majority of) white working-class votes. “Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., his party’s second-in-command in the House, reckons that there are 91 House seats in play next year, giving the party more than a fighting chance to pick up the 24 seats they’d need to take the majority. Part of that equation is motivating the Rising American Electorate and wooing back at least some of the disaffected white, working class voters (some of whom are now just as disaffected with Trump, Hoyer says)…”We believe our diversity is our strength. We’re the party of inclusion,” Hoyer says. But he stresses that the party needs to deliver a broader message about wages, jobs and the economy. “Are we concerned about our subsets? We are. Does the economy affect people differently? We know that to be the case,” Hoyer says. “But we know that all of them are interested in economic well-being. That’s the common thread that goes through us all.”…Hoyer says the plan is to appeal to all groups with a “make it in America” pitch.”

According to a new poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University,”With less than two weeks to go, support for Democrat Doug Jones stands at 50 percent vs. Moore’s 47 percent support among likely voters — a margin of a scant three points that sets up a nail-biter for the oddly timed Dec. 12 special election,” report Michael Scherer and Scott Clement. “Fifty-three percent of voters say Jones, a former federal prosecutor, has higher standards of personal moral conduct than Moore. In contrast, about a third of likely voters say Moore, who has cast his campaign as a “spiritual battle” with heavy religious overtones, has higher moral standards…Among the 1 in 4 voters who say the candidates’ moral conduct will be the most important factor in their vote, Jones leads, 67 percent to 30 percent…And Jones, whose strategy relies in part on peeling way Republican support from Moore, has the backing of 1 in 6 GOP-leaning likely voters. About 1 in 14 Democratic-leaning voters are backing Moore.”

At Campaigns & Elections, Deepak Puri discusses “How to Use Facebook to Nudge Low Propensity Voters to the Polls.” Puri, a co-founder of Democracy Labs, “a San Francisco-based non-profit that connects technical and media experts with progressive campaigns,writesHere are some of the lessons learned by DemLabs and Local Majority, a Democratic PAC…We discovered that it helps to use multiple targeting methods. We started with a list of LP voters from Catalist. This included people in four Virginia districts who had voted in 2016, but not in the prior gubernatorial cycle in 2013 election…This list was supplemented with more names using Facebook’s “lookalike audiences” feature. We wanted to focus our limited funds on the neighborhoods that really mattered. To do this, we targeted our social media campaign to certain zip codes in the district that we found through the Statistical Atlas…Videos perform extremely well on social media campaigns…The combination of compelling video with the precise targeting of social media is a powerful combination. We measured how many people saw the video and how many watched it all the way to the end. It cost less than $0.05 per viewer to have over 87,000 people watch the video message.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Jack Olson on

    If a high turnout of black voters is vital to Democratic victory and black voters won’t turn out if there isn’t a black candidate at the top of the ticket, then the solution would be to put more black candidates on the ballot especially at the top of the ticket.


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