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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Trump’s Electoral College victory in 2016 is often linked to his pugnacious statements regarding trade and American jobs. But things have gotten considerably more complicated, now that he has launched the opening salvos of what could soon degenerate into a trade war. As Erica Werner notes in “Ohio workers love Trump’s tariffs, and that’s making trouble for the GOP” at The Washington Post: “Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is running for reelection partly by touting his support for the president’s aggressive trade strategy and trumpeting his longtime opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals Trump rails against. That’s largely a boon in Ohio, where Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016. “I’m working with the president to make these tariffs work,” Brown said last week after addressing a gathering of Teamsters at a United Steelworkers hall in Akron…For Brown’s likely Republican opponent, Rep. James B. Renacci, Trump’s trade moves are a growing political headache, forcing the candidate to explain his own past support for trade pacts and his concerns about the tariffs…Renacci, like GOP lawmakers elsewhere, is being forced to explain to blue-collar voters why he supports free trade policies that are now out of step with Trump’s Republican Party…Similar upside-down trade politics could emerge in House races, too, in districts from California to Washington state to Michigan.”

Comments by Ari Berman, from his interview by Amy Goodman on ‘Democracy Now’ addressing Trump’s decision to ask Census repondents about their citizenship status: “…The census affects everything in American life, Amy. It affects how $675 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and localities. It affects how many congressional seats and electoral votes states get. It affects how local and federal districts are drawn. It affects the data that every institution in America, from corporations to universities to the military, uses to understand their populations. And so, if the census is rigged, if the census is manipulated, then all of American democracy is rigged and manipulated as a result…there has always been a tremendous undercount of people of color by the census. In the 2010 census, 1.5 million people of color were undercounted, were not counted by the Census Bureau. That undercount could be dramatically larger now under Trump, because immigrants are going to be afraid to respond to the census now. And so, what Donald Trump is doing is he’s turning the census, which is a constitutionally mandated act every 10 years, he’s turning the census into a tool of voter suppression and to a tool of nativist resentment. And that’s so shocking for our democracy.”

David Leonhardt sketches a major opportunity for Democrats in his column, “Asian-Americans, a Sleeping Political Giant” at The New York Times:“In a new piece for Washington Monthly, Saahil Desai suggests that Virginia can serve as a model for Democrats nationwide. “Democrats’ failure to mobilize” Asian-Americans, Desai writes, “has been a major missed opportunity.” Outside of Virginia, many other swing states and House districts — in California, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere — have meaningful Asian-American populations. In the last midterm election, in 2014, the nationwide turnout for Asian-American citizens was dreadful — just 27 percent, according to the census. That’s far below the rates for whites and blacks and virtually identical to the Latino rate…The six biggest Asian-American groups — which, in descending order, are Chinese-, Filipino-, Indian-, Vietnamese-, Korean- and Japanese-Americans — have varying opinions on nearly every major political issue (as these charts show). Yet not one of these subgroups leans Republican.”

How are Dems doing in the quest to level the playing field among America’s governorships in the 2018 midterm elections? Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley share some insights at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “On the gubernatorial front, Democrats seem better than 50-50 to win Republican-held seats in Illinois, Maine, and New Mexico. The GOP’s best targets are Alaska, where independent Bill Walker is unpopular, and open seats Democrats are defending in Colorado, Connecticut, and Minnesota, particularly if and when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) decides to try for a third, nonconsecutive term in the Gopher State (he appears likely to run). Democrats have several other prime targets, which is natural given both the environment and the immense amount of defense Republicans need to play on this map…We’ve previously said that the best way to judge 2018’s gubernatorial races is by which party wins a majority of five big states: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Republicans currently hold all but Pennsylvania…Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is an underdog against Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker in Illinois. Florida and Michigan are open-seat Toss-ups, and Ohio Leans Republican but should feature a competitive race in the fall. Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) seems like an increasingly good bet for reelection, as we explain in our next section.”

At The Fix, Eugene Scott flags a frequently-overlooked point in the ongoing discussion about class and politics in the U.S.: “The teacher boycotts making national headlines highlight the problem with the way many define class in the United States — especially “working class.”…But a lack of understanding about education and income often make addressing the economic woes of Americans like these teachers challenging. In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, analysts often conflated the working class with those who don’t have a college degree…But the teacher walkouts are a reminder that even professionals with master’s degrees in some of the country’s largest cities endure many of the same economic challenges associated with those in blue-collar jobs. This is perhaps why most — 54 percent — of white working-class Americans said investing in college education is a risky gamble, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic…According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for elementary and middle school teachers is $56,420 per year, while high school teachers earn an average of $58,170. The salary is comparable to some trade jobs, like plumbers ($57,070), electricians ($57,910) and food service managers ($57,250).” The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that about 3.6 million teachers are “employed in public and private elementary and secondary schools in 2007-2008.” Democrats might also think about the number of recent college graduates they know who are doing working-class jobs, including waiting on tables, walking dogs, baby-sitting and other such employment in the ‘gig economy.’

It is amazing how much the gun safety protests have accomplished in a short period of time. Check out Amanda Holpuch’s post, “Six victories for the gun control movement since the Parkland massacre” at The Guardian, which presents the litany of achievements of the movement, including: “Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, on 9 March signed a $400m bill to tighten the state’s gun laws while flanked by family members of students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The bill fell short of what campaigners had hoped for, a ban on assault weapons, but it did raise the age for buying a gun to 21 from 18, ban bump stocks and extended a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases to include long guns. Hours after it was signed into law, the NRA filed a federal lawsuit against Florida…The week after the Parkland shooting, US companies distanced themselves from the country’s National Rifle Association (NRA) amid public pressure. Hotel chains, car rental firms and home insurance businesses had offered discounts to members of the NRA but cancelled them in droves after the shooting.”

Helene Cooper’s “‘All It Takes Is One Mistake’: Worries Over Plan to Send National Guard to Border” at The New York Times” provides one of the more perceptive critiques of Trump’s ill-advised idea to put large numbers of American troops on the border we share with Mexico: “At the Pentagon, several officials privately expressed concern about being seen as picking a fight with an ally at a time when the military has plenty of adversaries — the Islamic State, North Korea, Russia, Syria — to contend with. Massing American troops at another country’s border, several current and former Defense Department officials said, would send a message of hostility and raise the chances of provoking an all-out conflict…“We are so lucky here in this country when you look at our borders,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, a retired veteran of the Iraq war. “We’ve got the Pacific on one side, the Atlantic on the other and allies to the north and the south. Mexico is not an adversary. Why would you present this offensive barrier to a friendly country?””

In his slate.com post, “It’s Time to Stop Yammering About Liberal Bias: The right has plenty of representation in the nation’s opinion pages,” Ositu Owanevu has a richly-deserved scold for conservatives, observing: “If, as conservatives have insisted over decades of uninterrupted complaint, the American people really are being indoctrinated into liberalism in their formative years at our schools and colleges and in their adult years by an oppressively slanted press, how exactly does one explain the American political situation in 2018, with right-wing control of the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, 33 governorships, and 32 state legislatures? If America’s citizenry really has been spoon-fed leftist propaganda for nearly 70 straight years, isn’t the reorganization of the United States into semiautonomous workers’ republics long overdue?”…Regarding charges that The New York Times, Washington Post and The Atlantic are examples of major media infected with liberal bias, Owanevu writes, “those three publications already employed, by my cursory and possibly incomplete count, 18 conservatives and libertarians writing regularly for them: David Brooks, Bret Stephens, Bari Weiss, Ross Douthat, David Frum, Conor Friedersdorf, Reihan Salam, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Megan McArdle, Marc Thiessen, Max Boot, Michael Gerson, Jennifer Rubin, Kathleen Parker, Radley Balko, Ed Rogers, and Anne Applebaum. The majority offer their takes frequently and freely without liberals on Twitter or anywhere else jeering in mass protest.”

A TDS staff post on Tuesday commented on TV shows about the working-class, noting that only one show, the edgy drama “Atlanta,” often spotlighted Black working-class characters. “ABC Scored With ‘Roseanne.’ But Where Are TV’s Black Working-Class Shows?” by Ira Madison III at The Daily Beast has more to say about that. As Madison notes:, “the easy answer could be to reboot shows like Sanford and Son or Everybody Hates Chris, two very good shows that depicted working-class black families. It’s worked well for One Day at a Time on Netflix, which has rebooted the Norman Lear comedy with a Cuban family. The show has tackled racism, PTSD, sexuality, the economy, and health care—all the issues that affect the working class…It might seem gauche, perhaps, for white executives to try and greenlight shows where the leads are lower-income black people. Perhaps they can only feel comfortable with affluent depictions of black lifestyles. But it’s absolutely necessary that we let all Americans see themselves, I mean, that’s the heartland strategy, yes?..Of course, that would require the media to focus as well on the people who are working class in America who didn’t turn out for Trump, minority and white ones—which is actually a majority of Americans. And the last time I checked, the electoral college didn’t log its Nielsen ratings.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    What proportion of those conservative commentators are supporters of Bannon’s strategy?

    Papers are full of liberals, libertarians and conservatives. There aren’t enough populists (progressive and rightwing).

    The debate over tariffs shows the one sided presentation of the arguments.

  2. Victor on

    Any tv show that shows glamorous lifestyles in expensive cities like New York, Washington, Los Angeles or San Francisco has little to do with normal America or even normal people in those cities.


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