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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Fix, Amber Phillips probes “Just how big of a hurdle is gerrymandering to Democrats’ taking back the House this November?,” and observes that “there’s one outsize hurdle standing in the way of Democrats’ sudden popularity: gerrymandering…After the 2010 Census, Republicans controlled enough state legislatures to draw new electoral lines in four times as many districts as Democrats did. And Democrats have been locked out of power in some swing states ever since. A new report finds they might not make it back to power without lines that favor them, and Democrats don’t have a reasonable chance to control the line-drawing process until after the 2020 Census…A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice calculates that Democrats are going to have to win the popular vote by a historically large margin — an estimated 11 percent —  to overcome Republican-drawn districts that were designed to keep them out. Winning by such a large margin is something no party has done in decades.”

Republican gynephobia extends well beyond their decades-long obsession with Hillary Clinton. In his USA Today article, “Exclusive: Nancy Pelosi targeted in more than a third of GOP House commercials,” Craig Gilbert notes that the GOP’s fear of women leaders is apparently getting worse: “Nancy Pelosi has long been a favorite target of GOP attack ads. But Republicans seem to be taking it to another level in this election cycle…The House Democratic leader has been featured in roughly one-third (34%) of all GOP broadcast ads aired in House races this year, according to data provided to the USA TODAY NETWORK by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), which tracks political advertising…That compares with 9% in all of 2016 and 13% in 2014.”

“Priorities USA, a progressive super PAC focused on digital advertising, has been encouraging Democrats to push a strong economic message,” notes Alexi McCammond at Axios. “But now they’re pushing for candidates to refocus that message to include health care: “Democrats need to seal the deal by talking about economic issues, health care being one of those,” said Josh Schwerin, the PAC’s communications director…Be smart: The real challenge for Democrats will be choosing a more moderate or progressive health care message. Voters are split 48-46 on wanting a national health plan and simply wanting improvements to the Affordable Care Act, according to a March Kaiser Family Foundation poll…But the timing of the expected insurance premiums increase could help Democrats; another Kaiser poll found health care costs are the top health care issue voters want candidates to talk about in 2018.”

“It feels like America’s working class has been losing the class war for as long as we can remember. But it has one wildly powerful, often forgotten tool: trillions of dollars sitting in pension funds. Might this enormous pool of capital be labor’s greatest weapon in its fight against the power of capital itself?..The awesome political potential of this money is the topic of “The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder,” a new book by David Webber, a law professor at Boston University. Even though organized labor has been getting its ass kicked politically for decades now, its vast pension funds can exercise an incredible amount of power—though their ability to do so is under continuous assault.” — from Hamilton Nolan’s “The Working Class Has a $3 Trillion Weapon. Are They Willing to Use It? at splinternews.com.

In his NYT op-ed, Thomas B. Edsall mines a vein TDS and its contributors have been working for a long time — the  political reality that Democrats must win a larger share of white working-class voters to build an enduring majority. Edsall focuses on the flaws in exit polling in the 2016 election, which were based on a sample that badly underrepresented white working class voters. He notes that a recent Pew Research survey “found that 44 percent, or 60.1 million out of a total of 136.7 million votes cast on Nov. 8, 2016 were cast by whites without college degrees — demographic shorthand for the white working class,” compared to the widely-cited Edison Research exit poll which was based on a sample with only 34 percent in this category. Edsall extensively quotes two TDS co-founding editors William B. Galston and Ruy Teixeira, whose Vox article “The math is clear: Democrats need to win more working-class white votes,” provides the critical insight that, had Clinton matched Obama’s share of white working-class voters, “she would have carried, with robust margins, the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa, as well as Florida and Ohio. In fact, if Clinton could simply have reduced the shift toward Donald Trump among these voters by one-quarter, she would have won.” For an in-depth look at the role of white working-class voters, also check out TDS’s “The White Working Class Roundtable,” which includes a dozen essays on this pivotal constituency.

So now, “China hits back at Trump, slaps new tariffs on U.S. goods worth up to $3 billion,” writes Alice Tidey and the Associated Press. It’s unclear how Trump’s trade war will effect the 2018 midterm elections. No doubt he hopes to pick up some votes for Republicans from working-class voters in November. But a humiliating walk-back by Trump may kick in well before 2020. Democratic candidates  may find a good balance in Conor Lamb’s winning strategy in PA-18, in which Lamb noted that it was time to“take some action to level the playing field here” and supported the steel tariff. As David Weigel noted at powerPost, “The unanimity in steel country stands in sharp contrast to how the tariffs have played in Washington and around the country. Trump’s surprise move has scrambled party loyalties, upsetting Republican leaders fearing a trade war and attracting the support of Democrats determined to win back working-class voters in the midterm elections.”

There are good reasons for Democratic candidates to support a soda tax hike, as noted by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media Democracy at Alernet: “The public health community – pediatricians, dentists, the American Heart Association and more – are energized to take action as never before on soda and other sugary drinks because new data is showing that consuming sugar in liquid form increases risks of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and obesity in a much more significant way than was previously known…If you are a Mountain Dew addict, get ready for this statistic. One study found that consuming just one to two sugary drinks a day increases your risk of developing diabetes a whopping 26 percent. Another study showed that men averaging one can a day of a sugary drink had a 20 percent increased risk of heart attack. Further, more than three-quarters of American adults are considered overweight or obese, and 30 percent of children.” The soda tax hike movement has been gaining traction recently, but the industry is fighting back in a big way. Still the moral case — and the statistics — strongly favor the tax hike.

After reviewing more than 100 elections since January 2017, FiveThirtyEight’s, Nathan Rakich sketches one of the key Democratic challenges for the midterm elections: “If 2016 represents a new normal, then the party would do well to prioritize suburban districts that moved from Romney to Hillary Clinton, such as the California 45th, Illinois 6th or Texas 7th. But if the 2012 map still applies, then Democrats might be better off targeting districts that voted for Obama before they defected to Trump, like the Iowa 1st, Maine 2nd and New York 19th. Guess wrong, and the party will end up spending valuable time and money in districts that are redder than they appear while lower-hanging fruit goes untouched…One thing the data does show is that Democrats are capable of winning districts of all kinds, even if it doesn’t always work out that way. That should reassure the party that there may not be a wrong answer when choosing which types of districts to target — at least when it comes to demographics. (Some other factor, such as candidate quality, may better explain when Democrats overperform and when they don’t.)”

“In the 2014 midterm elections, less than 20 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 turned out to cast ballots, compared to more than 40 percent of voters between 45 and 59, according to an analysis of survey data by the United States Elections Project, which is run by Michael P. McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida,” note Matt Flegenheimer and Jess Bidgood in “After Gun Control Marches, ‘It’ll Go Away’ vs. ‘We Are Not Cynical Yet,’” at The New York Times. “Recent polling suggests the gap could close, at least somewhat, this fall. A Quinnipiac University survey released in late February found that 54 percent of those 18 to 34 said they were more motivated than usual to vote, outpacing every other age group…New voter registration pushes, steered by teenagers, are well underway. Students are consulting with established (and adult-run) groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, founded and financed by Michael R. Bloomberg, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — with plans to discuss how to host their own candidate events before November or start clubs at their schools…Looking to history, fledgling activists are researching Vietnam-era student protests for context and inspiration. They are using words like “intersectional.” They are quoting favored lyrics from “Hamilton”: “This is not a moment, it’s the movement.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Francis A. Kornegay, Jr. on

    When will Political Strategy Notes address the challenge of the ‘Citizenship Question’ on the 2020 Census to Democratic Party electoral prospects? The fact that this is yet another and most sinister yet voter suppression tactic aimed at black and minority voters, especially, in this case, the immigrant sectors of the minority community?

  2. Victor on

    Ran and file Democrats and the liberal media should have used the occasion of Sarah Palin’s candidacy to make sexist attacks off limits. It didn’t happen. And the argument that Palin was particularly stupid is actually the worst example of double standards against both Republicans and women.


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