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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Greenberg: Mid-terms Can Launch New Era of Progressive Reform

In Stan Greenberg’s article, “How the US mid-terms could kickstart a new era of progressive reform” at Prospect, he provides an optimistic scenario for Democrats:November’s vote will almost certainly kick off a new progressive era of reform, much like the cluster of elections, starting with the 1910 mid-terms, which launched America’s first progressive era.” Further,

A new American majority has been growing now for some time. It is composed of black people, Hispanics and Asians, unmarried women and millennials. Already by the 2012 election, these Americans collectively comprised 53 per cent of the electorate, rising to 54 per cent by 2016, and by 2020 this majority should reach 56 per cent. What I labelled the “rising American electorate” was poised in 2016 to form part of a progressive coalition with the growing number of well-educated suburban voter and college-educated women, while also running respectably with white working class women. That coalition should have readily defeated Trump and put Democrats in power.

Yet, as Greenberg has noted eslewhere, Hillary Clinton’s failure to campaign energetically in white working class communities in Pennsylvania, Florida and the midwestern rustbelt proved a pivotal mistake, as Trump got enough votes in those areas to win the Electoral College. Greenberg believes both Clinton and Obama failed to “understand what was happening in America and the deep, persistent resentments caused by the financial crisis after 2008.”

With benefit of hindsight, Obama could have been tougher on the financial elites and helped to strengthen the Democrats’s brand as the party of working people. He was able to get re-elected anyway, thanks to his strong appeal to African American voters and his ability to win a larger share of white working-class voters than did Clinton, who had lost credibility with this consituency as a result of her associations with wealthy elites and decades of hammering GOP’s attacks on her character. As Greenberg explains,

Their own constituency of voters—and the US public more broadly—was incensed by the continued corporate dominance of American life. They were disgusted by over-paid CEOs who had betrayed their employees and their country, and by the corruption of Wall Street and Washington that rigged the political game, even as wages and wealth had crashed for most Americans. Obama bailed out the banks and auto industry and guaranteed the bosses’ bonuses, but did nothing for homeowners. Nobody went to jail.

Despite all of the impressive achievements of President Obama, including saving the economy from an all-out depression and the most significant health care reform since President Johnson, Obama was unable to provide the leadership needed to adequately strengthen Democratic credibility with the white working-class. To be fair, he faced the most intransigent Republican leadership in a generation, who refused all compromises, with their stated purpose of limiting his accomplishments. As a result,

Democrats lost among white working class voters in 2010 by 64 to 34 per cent, and by a similar margin among white seniors. They also failed to dominate sections of the vote where they should have cleaned up. Republicans won over 40 per cent of votes among millennials and unmarried women. Critically, turnout in these groups dropped or stayed flat in comparison to previous mid-term years.

In 2018, however, Greenberg argues that Democrats have a unique opportunity, because “All the ingredients that gave the Republicans a 2010 Tea Party wave are poised to produce a Democratic 2018 wave, with similar implications for Congress and state and local offices. These are the building blocks of a durable majority.” Greenberg notes further,

In the 2017 special elections, as well as in our most recent national polls, support for Democrats has reached over 90 per cent with African Americans, 65 per cent with Hispanics, 67 per cent with unmarried women and 75 per cent with millennial women. For all of them, the battle with Trump and Tea Party Republicans has made clear what they believe, what values are at stake and how much politics matters.

It sounds like a winning formula is shaping up nicely for Democrats. Assuming the “resistance” energy can be mobilized into turning out the voters who now see the Republicans as the party of wealthy elites who are ripping off working families, Greenberg’s informed analysis looks like a very good bet: “The coming wave could wipe away the Tea Party wave and counter-revolution. And that will mark the beginning of a new era of reform.”

5 comments on “Greenberg: Mid-terms Can Launch New Era of Progressive Reform

  1. pjcamp on

    “To be fair, he faced the most intransigent Republican leadership in a generation, ”

    To be fair, he refused to prosecute Wall Street bankers for wrecking the economy through fraud on a massive scale. And to be fair, he also took money away from the working class to make absolutely sure that no one on Wall Street lost a penny as a result of their fraud.

    To be fair, Obama screwed the working class vote all on his own.

  2. Victor on

    Hillary lost because she parroted Obama’s discourse about the economic recovery without presenting any new ideas. And because she was not Obama she couldn’t get away with it.

    Trump shows voters will hold their nose if they like a candidate’s proposals but dislike them personally.

    BTW, while it is good that the Democratic punditocracy is recognizing that Obama should have been more centered on the economy, it is also time to recognize that the ACA hasn’t worked as well as it was supposed to or that it has actually accelerated some problems.

    The ACA’s vulnerabilities weren’t just constitutional or regulatory. Healthcare costs and insurance and provider incentives are still fundamentally misaligned. Drug costs are still crazy. The question of the insurance model is a lot less important than recognizing that voters are right when they still think that the healthcare system is fundamentally broken. Access can’t be the only issue when it comes to the healthcare model, we need discussions about quality care.


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