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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At New York Magazine, Frank Rich explains “How Democrats Can Win the Spin War Over the Trump Tax Cuts,” and notes “Already, the GOP’s biggest donors, the bill’s biggest beneficiaries, have been pouring money into campaigns to sell it to voters. It’s up to Democrats to get into the trenches with tough and clever counter-messaging that will explain in concrete and un-wonky terms why the bill is a disaster for most Americans. Mere scare words (eg., Nancy Pelosi’s invocation of “Armageddon”) will not reach those turned-off-by-Trump suburbanites who have been defecting from the GOP in special elections this year, from Virginia to Alabama…The midterms could well be a wave election but not if Democrats fail to make their case and instead repeat the Clinton campaign error of expecting anti-Trumpism to do most of the work for them. In that regard, I have to confess to being baffled by the prevailing liberal political spot on television these days — the ad in which the Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer calls for Trump’s impeachment. David Axelrod was exactly right when he called it “more of a vanity project than a call for action.” What is the ad’s point after all? As long as Congress remains in GOP hands, there will be no impeachment. Period. What anti-Trump voter (now nearly two-thirds of the country) needs to be reminded that this president is unfit for the White House? This ad amounts to little more than a masturbatory diversion, wasting time, energy, and money that could instead be poured into the blistering economic argument required to flip one or both chambers to the Democrats.”

In his article, “The Double-Edged Sword of a Party-Line Victory” at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes that “The tax bill likewise failed to win support from even a single Democrat. By historical standards, that’s even more striking than the ACA’s partisan shutout. In 1981, Ronald Reagan’s sweeping tax cuts drew support from 25 Democrats in the Senate and 113 in the House. George W. Bush appealed more narrowly with his 2001 tax cut, but even then, 28 House Democrats and 12 Democratic senators voted yes. But not even the 12 House Democrats in districts that supported Trump last year nor the 10 Democratic senators facing 2018 races in states he carried felt compelled to support this latest measure…To pass their bill, Republicans ignored the hostile polls, the unified Democratic opposition, and a succession of independent analyses showing the plan would massively increase the federal debt while generating minimal additional growth.”

From David Weigel’s article, “Democrats ready year-long assault against tax cut package” at PowerPost: “Democrats, routed but unified against the tax bill, plan to make it the centerpiece of a midterm campaign — one that may play out in a growing economy where the worst predictions about the tax cuts fall flat…Democrats are raring to point out the difference between what Republicans ran on and what they passed. The most memorable visual symbol of the tax-cut push, a hypothetical postcard to demonstrate the simplicity of the GOP’s tax plan, disappeared as Republicans put together a compromise that expanded the number of tax brackets and left many loopholes intact…The idea of the bill as a corporate giveaway was key to Democrats’ final pre-vote messaging, including a moment in the Senate debate when Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) flung open  one of the Senate’s doors and pointed to McConnell’s office to dramatize the influence of lobbyists…It will also be a key part of a 2018 campaign by the #NotOnePenny coalition, formed by progressives to oppose the tax cut. Next year, the coalition will up its media buy from $5 million to $10 million, hold 100 days of anti-tax cut events, and rally on April 15 in Washington “against tax policy that further rigs the economy in favor of the wealthy.”

Bryce Covert’s NYT op-ed “The Trojan Horse in the Tax Bill,” outs the Republicans’s long-term strategy: “…Now that they’ve succeeded in passing a tax package that will reduce government revenues so much, the ensuing cost will serve as the excuse to get everything else they want. They’ll count on our short memories to forget who created larger deficits in the first place. Those deficits will serve as the motivation to enact cuts they’ve sought all along. The tax bill isn’t just a regressive giveaway to corporations and the rich. It’s a Trojan horse with deep government reductions stuffed inside.”

“At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider resigning, including two who issued statements calling for the resignation two weeks ago and said they now feel remorse over what they feel was a rush to judgment,” Edward-Isaac Dovere writes at Politico. “Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who urged Franken not to step down to begin with — at least not before he went through an Ethics Committee investigation — said the Minnesota senator was railroaded by fellow Democrats.” It’s not impossible that Franken could still retract his resignation. But it looks like it would be a sloppy mess, since his replacement, MN Lt. Governor Tina Smith, has already been named, spoke at a press conference about it and is working with Franken to facilitate a smooth transition, reports Dovere. The Washington Post reports that Franken will resign on January 2nd. But it appears that Democratic leaders and rank and file will remain divided about whether Franken was treated fairly.

At The New Republic, Jeet Heer’s “The Democrats’ Risky Pursuit of Suburban Republicans” includes this skeptical observation: “There’s one very compelling reason to be wary of this pursuit of disaffected suburban Republicans: Hillary Clinton tried it last year….The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reportedly found that in the 2014 and 2016 elections, suburban voters were “inching away from Republicans, but too slowly to flip many seats.”…Suburban ex-Republicans are worth pursuing, but not at the risk of diluting liberal policy commitments. While opposition to Trump is helping to swell Democratic ranks, the truth remains that excessive centrism will dishearten core voters. Watering down the party’s identity only ensures more defeats further down the road, when Trump won’t be around to scare up an ad hoc Democratic coalition.”

At The Nation, Anna Heyward spotlights one of the largest organized groups supporting Democratic candidates and policies, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and notes that “24,000 people—70 to 80 percent of them under 35—who have joined DSA since November 2016.” Further, Heyward writes that “DSA is now frequently referred to as “the largest socialist organization in the United States,” with 32,000 dues-paying members…Today, the median age of DSA’s membership is 33, down from 68 in 2013…There are now more than 300 local groups—are experimenting with doing their own electoral campaigns, some with running local candidates. In the state and municipal elections across the country on November 7, 15 DSA members won their races, bringing the total number of DSA members in elective office to around 35, as high as it’s ever been.” Founder Michael Harrington’s slogan, “the left wing of the possible,” still serves as a sort of unifying principle. Most current members strongly supported the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders and generally share a commitment to vote Democratic. But there is a sizable faction that is open to forming or supporting a third, more leftist political party.

Rachel Maddow reports on a promising way to fight against gerrymandering:

Democracy: A Journal of ideas is running a symposium, featuring six articles on the topic, “What Is Red-State Liberalism?” Here’s a teaser on the “importance of red-state liberals” from the introduction by the editors: “First, they’re trying to uphold our values in some places where doing that isn’t easy…Second, their liberalism, while rock-solid, is nevertheless a little different from yours. Mostly, these differences aren’t about issue positions but come down to questions of sensibility and lifestyle. How does it affect a person to be in the decided minority, to have many conservative friends, to live outside the blue bubbles many of us inhabit?…We’re delighted that the package includes an important piece by Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor and agriculture secretary under President Obama. Vilsack offers up smart and specific steps progressives need to take to reconnect to rural voters and their concerns.”

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