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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

The don’t miss article of the day is “Enough Trump Bashing, Democrats,” a New York Times op-ed intwerview of Democratic strategust Joe Trippi, who guided the Doug Jones campaign to victory in Alabama and former Massachusetss Governor Deval Patrick by columnist Fank Bruni. There are many instructive quotes in the article, including this one by Patrick: “Republicans behave as if favoring a few will eventually help everybody. Democrats believe serving everybody serves the common good. The more we caste our approach in those terms — unifying, humble, enabling, responsive, about a better common future — the more we win, and deserve to win…If the Democrats fight for a big-hearted, pragmatic, forward leaning, fearless country, we will win.”

In his Talking Points Memo post, “Stop whining, Move Forward,” Josh Marshall brings an adult perspective to all of the fuss about who “won” the first act of the shutdown drama: “Listen to people talking this morning and you would think that Democrats surrendered their leverage and a major point of policy and suffered a damaging political blow. Neither is true. Trump’s high-fiving Stephen Miller and talking shit on Twitter doesn’t really matter as anything more than a head game. It’s conventional bully tactics. It doesn’t move votes. It only has an impact to the extent you bring to the table an internal drama about Democratic ‘toughness’ and forget that being in the minority is hard…The reality is that very few people whose opinions of things are not set in stone are even paying attention to the optics of this. The policy question – settling the Dreamers issue – is very important. But that remains to be decided as much as it was before. Get up, dust yourself off and realize that this is a skirmish in a larger political battle which will come to a head again in three short weeks…What to think about all this? Think that Democrats are fighting for key policy priorities with virtually no power. That’s not easy. It won’t be accomplished in a day. That’s an honorable position not a shameful one.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that Democrats “should be highlighting what the shutdown made clear. In mobilizing raw nativism, Trump and the Republican leadership underscored the extent to which they are hogtied by their party’s right-wing extremists. As a result, the GOP is incapable of temperate governance and compromise. The barrier to sensible legislation in Washington is not a left that lacks any institutional authority, but the hard-line right in the White House and in the House of Representatives…Republicans are crowing about “winning” the shutdown. But their victory will be short-lived if Democrats (and Republicans willing to work with them) shift the ground of the discussion from tactics to larger purposes. This is a long fight and, like it or not, the endpoint is Nov. 6. Only voters can change the balance of power.”

At Truthdig, Paul Street flags an essay by Nancy Fraser from “US Politics in an Age of Uncertainty: Essays on a New Reality,” a collection of left perspectives. As Street frames Fraser’s insights: “Hillary Clinton’s ignominious defeat marked “The End of Progressive Neoliberalism”—the defeat of “an alliance of mainstream currents of new social movements (feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism, and LGBTQ rights), on the one side, and high-end ‘symbolic’ and service-based business sectors (Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood), on the other.” This “real, if perverse political alignment,” Fraser explains, “developed in the United States over the last three decades and was ratified with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992” (and then reauthorized with Obama’s two terms, she might have added). Under its terms, “progressive forces are effectively joined with” financial capitalism, lending “charisma” and “gloss” to “policies that have devastated manufacturing and what were once middle-class lives.” While trumpeting outwardly progressive ideals like diversity and empowerment, the Clinton-Obama formation “bears a heavy responsibility for the weakening of unions, the decline of real wages, the increasing precarity of work, and the rise of the two-earner family in the place of the defunct family wage.”

Street also flags an essay frpom the book by sociologist and activist Charlie Post, Labor Notes founder Kim Moody and author Mike Davis, who ” demolish the ubiquitous media storyline that attributed Trump’s election to an uprising of enraged white “heartland” proletarians. None of these writers denies that a vast swath of “the white working-class” (WWC)—loosely and problematically defined as “whites without college degrees”—voted for Trump (as most WWC voters did for Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney) or that this reflected the Democrats’ neoliberal flight from working-class issues. Still, as Post, Moody and Davis show, it is lazy and factually incorrect to identify the WWC as Trump’s “base” and to see his election as the reflection of some great wave of white proletarian wrath…When we realize that “the many millions of people who did not vote … far outnumbered those who voted for either party in 2016,” it becomes clear that the biggest electoral story about the U.S. working-class in 2016 is that it sat out the contest between the two dismal capitalist candidates and parties, not that it made some (imaginary) wild shift to the white-nationalist right. Trump didn’t flip white working-class voters. The Democrats continued the long neoliberal loss of those voters.”

Ed Kilgore writes at New York Magazine that on Tuesday “the Florida Rights Restoration Initiative succeeded in securing the 766,000 certified signatures necessary to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot automatically restoring voting rights for people who have served their sentences (with the exception of murderers and sex offenders).” Kilgore cites evidence that “some 1.5 million Floridians—about 10 percent of the adult citizen population—are voteless, some because they are still serving sentences, but most because of felony convictions in their past. Among African-American men in the state, the number is north of 20 percent.” However, “some 1.5 million Floridians—about 10 percent of the adult citizen population—are voteless, some because they are still serving sentences, but most because of felony convictions in their past. Among African-American men in the state, the number is north of 20 percent.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel cites a warning for Democrats: “A Democratic pollster warned Wednesday that the party is not motivating lower-propensity voters at the levels it needs, putting gains at risk with poor messaging…“Democrats are setting themselves up to squander the opportunity Donald Trump is serving them on a silver platter because they aren’t motivating the Rising American Electorate to vote this fall,” said Page Gardner, the president of the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, which funded the poll…The poll, conducted by Democracy Corps and Greenberg Research, finds the generic Democratic ballot advantage at a new high — 49 percent support for Democrats to 38 percent for Republicans. That marks a gain from November, when the WVWVAF, warned that the advantage had tumbled to just five points…“Our prediction is that 40 million Americans who voted in 2016 won’t cast a ballot in the 2018 midterms — and to make matters worse, two-thirds of those drop-off voters will be members of the Rising American Electorate,” said spokesman Kevin McAlister at the time.”

Geoffrey Skelley of Sabato’s Crystal Ball sees Democrats in good position to benefit from a blue wave in November: “…Democrats certainly have reasons to be hopeful about a wave. In the Trump era, if we look at the races where no incumbents (Democratic or Republican) ran — 84 of the elections — the average Republican candidate ran five points behind Trump in the two-party vote. Considering the sizable number of Republican retirements in the U.S. House and the early signs of something similar in state legislative elections, GOP-held open seats will be a pivotal part of the 2018 arithmetic. Special elections made up most of the non-incumbent races (71 of the 84) as almost all special elections featured no incumbent (some elections in New Jersey and Washington state did include appointed incumbents). In those 71 specials, the average Republican ran 6.1 points behind Trump’s 2016 two-party percentage. In fact, according to left-leaning Daily Kos Elections’ new Special Elections Index, 2017 was the strongest Democratic year in special elections going back to the late 1980s. Additionally, it is possible that the environment will improve for Democrats: The average Democrat in 2017 specials with no incumbent ran 5.6 points ahead of Clinton’s two-party vote while the average 2018 Democrat has run 11.6 points ahead of her. However, there have only been five specials thus far in 2018, so the jury is still out on whether 2018 will be markedly better for Democrats than 2017.”

From Margaret Carlson’s post, “This Time, It’s Really the Year of the Woman:We’re seeing an unprecedented surge of female candidates. And they aren’t fans of Mr. Access Hollywood. The women of 2018 are about to undo the damage of 2016” at The Daily Beast:”Emily’s List says that since President’s Trump’s election, more than 26,000 women have reached out about launching a campaign. There are at least 79 women exploring runs for governor. The number of women in the Senate lining up to challenge Trump would more than fill the cramped room called the women’s gym. There is an increase of nearly 350 percent in those running for Congress.”

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