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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Could Al Franken’s resignation from the senate help to defeat Roy Moore? Don’t get trapped in a false equivalency snare here, because the magnitude and context of the allegations against Sen. Franken and Judge Moore are not the same. In fact, the difference in severity of the accusations may boost the vote  against Moore in the December 12th election. We can hope, at least, that some Alabama voters who have been on the fence about voting against Moore may now decide that Franken’s resignation signals an opportunity to set a higher standard of decency and dignity in the behavior of members of  ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body.’ Whatever happens in December 12th election, it will provide a symbolic metric for Alabama values in the minds of many. Kira Lerner reports at ThinkProgress that “The GOP for Doug Jones movement is real: Alabama Republicans are doing something they never thought possible: Voting for a Democrat.” Lerner notes that there is a “Republicans for Doug Jones” Facebook page with 2000 members. Those who want to support a higher standard of decency in the U.S. Senate can contribute to the Doug Jones campaign right here.

“Jones will also need solid turnout among African-American voters to have any chance of winning,” writes Geoffrey Skelley at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “If black voters make up about 25% of the electorate and Jones wins at least 90% of them, that would mean that Jones would probably have to win at least one-third of the white vote to have a chance of winning, assuming a small portion of the white vote goes for a write-in choice and accounting for a small percentage of other nonwhite voters who are Democratic-leaning. The most recent available exit poll in Alabama is from 2012, which found that Barack Obama won just 15% of the white vote. In 2008, the exit poll found Obama just won 10%, and in 2004, it found John Kerry won about 20%. Even when accounting for the potential error in such findings, it’s clear that it’s been a while since a Democrat won anywhere near one-third of the white vote in Alabama.”

Dahlia Lithwick has a thought-provoking column on the wisdom of Democrats “going high, when they go low” at slate.com. Read her whole article for context, but give some thought to this section: “My own larger concern is that becoming the party of high morality will allow Democrats to live with themselves but that the party is also self-neutering in the face of unprecedented threats, in part to do the right thing and in part to take ammunition away from the right—a maneuver that never seems to work out these days. When Al Franken, who has been a champion for women’s rights in his tenure in the Senate, leaves, what rushes in to fill the space may well be a true feminist. But it may also be another Roy Moore. And there is something deeply naïve, in a game of asymmetrical warfare, and in a moment of unparalleled public misogyny, in assuming that the feminist gets the seat before it happens…This isn’t a call to become tolerant of awful behavior. It is a call for understanding that Democrats honored the blue slip, and Republicans didn’t. Democrats had hearings over the Affordable Care Act; Republicans had none over the tax bill. Democrats decry predators in the media; Republicans give them their own networks. And what do Democrats have to show for it? There is something almost eerily self-regarding in the notion that the only thing that matters is what Democrats do, without considering what the systemic consequences are for everyone.”

Don’t worry too much about Franken’s seat going to a Republican any time soon. “Democrats Will Likely Hold Franken’s Seat, But Minnesota’s Not As Blue As It Seems,” reports Harry Enten at fivethirtyeight.com. Enten adds, “Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement (possibly Lt. Gov. Tina Smith) who will hold the seat through the 2018 midterm elections. In 2018, a special election will take place to determine who will hold the seat until the regularly scheduled election in 2020. Whether Dayton’s pick runs in 2018 or not,1 the eventual Democratic candidate will likely be favored to win that race — though it’s not a sure thing….The good news for Minnesota Democrats is that the political environment is, at this point, heavily in their favor. They hold an 8 percentage point lead on the generic congressional ballot.2 If that holds through 2018 — not a bad bet…”

In any case, it looks like the issue of sexual harrassment by members of congress is not likely to fade away anytime soon. As Jake Novak reports at cncb.com, “Remember, this harassment storm is far from over. There are a total of 264 harassment settlements made by the House’s Office of Compliance just since 1997. Many more Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem likely to be forced out as the pressure mounts to reveal the details of those agreements and the names behind them. There’s a potential thinning out of the incumbent ranks that could spell doom for Pelosi even if people like Rice weren’t challenging her.

It appears that Trump has handed his Democratic adversaries a shiny new cudgel in his decision to return public lands, including beautiful natural treasures, to the states. As Christopher Barron, an ardent Trump supporter, writes at The Hill, “President Trump announced that he will dramatically reduce the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Trump made the announcement in Utah, where both of these national monuments are located…During the Republican primaries, Trump…said, “we have to be great stewards of this land. This land is magnificent land. And we have to be great stewards of this land.”…Unlike the rest of the GOP field, who parroted the establishment talking points, Trump made it clear he would oppose efforts to return public lands to the states, saying, “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do with it…Now, despite these promises, Trump is choosing the Republican establishment over working-class Americans.”

Joining the fray, The Washington Post Editorial Board writes, “This single move constituted the largest ever reduction in protected federal lands. Then on Tuesday it emerged that Ryan Zinke, Mr. Trump’s fox-in-henhouse interior secretary, will recommend paring back or loosening restrictions on 10 more national monuments around the country…The federal government owns some lands that are simply too precious to permanently sully in pursuit of temporary economic gains. Bears Ears, with its spectacular canyons, buttes and unspoiled archaeological sites, is one such place. Grand Staircase, a natural wonderland of ancient topology and fossilized prehistory, is another. When administering such unique places, the government must err on the side of conservation.”

I think Tory Newmyer’s The Finance 202 post, “Democratic split on Wall Street threatens party’s economic message” may overstate divisions within the Democratic Party in calling out a “profound problem confronting the party as it struggles to refashion its message ahead of the 2018 midterms.” But Newmyer is more on target in saying that “Most Democrats think they have a potent case to make that Trump’s GOP pulled a bait-and-switch on voters by promising populism and delivering a cascade of breaks to financiers (read my colleagues John Wagner and Juliet Eilperin on how Trump is governing like a traditional conservative).”

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have a disturbing read at Vox, “The GOP is trying to pass a super-unpopular agenda — and that’s a bad sign for democracy: Political science (and common sense) says they ought to pay a price at the polls. They might not.” There’s a lot to worry about in this post, including, “They’ve gotten very good at distracting voters. Research on public opinion suggests that voters have relatively short memories and that voter attention is critical to vote choice. What voters are focusing on when they head to the polls may matter more than their more considered thoughts about the issues…Given Republican leaders’ control of Congress, as well as Republican voters’ fierce attachment to right-leaning media, Republicans now have much greater capacity than Democrats to shape the short-term political agenda. (The attention-grabbing capacity of the tweeter-in-chief surely doesn’t hurt.) This isn’t always a good thing for Republicans, but in the run-up to a fiercely contested election, the ability to direct attention away from unpopular policies and towards whatever stokes tribal loyalty could make the difference.”

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