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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Some findings from the Harvard University Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics Spring 2018 Youth Poll: Young Democrats are driving nearly all of the increase in enthusiasm; a majority (51%) report that they will “definitely” vote in November, which represents a 9-percentage point increase since November 2017 and is significantly larger than the 36 percent of Republicans who say the same. At this point in the 2014 election cycle, 28 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans indicated that they would “definitely” be voting. In the Spring of 2010, 35 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans held a similar interest in voting…Preference for Democratic control of Congress has grown between now and the time of the last IOP poll. In Fall 2017, there was a 32-point partisan gap among the most likely young voters, 65 percent preferring Democrats control Congress, with 33 percent favoring Republicans…Today, the gap has increased to 41 points, 69 percent supporting Democrats and 28 percent Republicans. “Millennials and post-Millennials are on the verge of transforming the culture of politics today and setting the tone for the future,” said John Della Volpe, Polling Director at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. “This generation of young Americans is as engaged as we have ever seen them in a midterm election cycle.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll indicates that Dems are gaining leverage from white senior voters. As Eric Levitz writes at New York Magazine, “Older, college-educated whites are among the most reliable voters in the nation. And in many of this fall’s most competitive districts, such voters account for nearly 10 percent of the population, according to Reuters’ analysis. Republicans were already at risk of losing the House due to shifts in turnout patterns, alone — but if those shifts are accompanied by significant defections among reliable GOP constituencies, the party could suffer historic losses up and down the ballot….“The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they’re losing ground there, they’re going to have a tsunami,” political scientist Larry Sabato told Reuters. “If that continues to November, they’re toast.”


Writing in Social Europe, Ruy Teixeira presents “Five Theses For A New Left,” one of which bears special urgency for Democrats in the U.S.: “2. The left must unite. This is not an option, but a necessity. The rise of the disparate new constituencies in the left’s new coalition has accentuated the possibilities for division. This is particularly noticeable in Europe, where left strength is frequently diffused across several different parties (social democratic, left socialist, green, left social liberal, left populist, etc.) that regard each other with suspicion. The failure to present a common front is madness. The era when one tendency like the social democrats could completely dominate the left and didn’t need allies is over. The same applies to the Democrats in the United States; there is no way the Clinton supporters or Sanders supporters or minority-mobilization strategists or reach-out-to-the-white-working-class advocates can take over the party and succeed on their own. To beat the right, a fractured left must unite, bringing all progressives together in effective alliances.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz provides data analysis “Explaining Support for Trump in the White Working Class: Race vs. Economics,” and concludes, “Data from a Pew Research Center survey conducted during June and July of 2017 show that six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the gap between whites with and without college degrees in opinions of the president was enormous. Non-college whites were far more likely to approve of Trump’s performance than white college graduates….However, this gap appears to have little or nothing to do with differences between the economic circumstances of these two groups. While whites without college degrees did experience far more economic distress than those with college degrees, economic distress itself appeared to have little relationship with opinions of Trump. Instead, the main explanation for the class divide in opinions of Trump among whites appeared to be differing views on race relations. White college graduates were much more likely than whites without college degrees to hold liberal views on the significance of racial discrimination in American society and opinions on the significance of racial discrimination were strongly related to opinions of Trump’s performance. Racial attitudes, not economics, appears to be the main factor producing strong support for Trump among members of the white working class.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Browstein notes that Paul Ryan once worked for the late Rep. Jack Kemp, who was instrumental in passing the MLK holiday legislation, and “throughout his career” Ryan “presented himself as a disciple of Kemp,” who also had genuine friendships with many African American leaders. However, writes Brownstein, “after Trump took office, Ryan blinked at confronting the president’s appeals to white racial resentments,” and he “leaves the party lashed to a volatile, impulsive leader who is systematically stamping it as a vehicle for white racial resentment, even as the nation grows kaleidoscopically more diverse.” In the end, Ryan’s coldness towards disadvantaged Americans had less  in common with the warm-spirited Jack Kemp, than another of his reported idols, Ayn Rand.

E. J. Dionne, Jr. also notes Ryan’s “youthful fascination with the philosophy of Ayn Rand. She identified with society’s winners and regarded ordinary citizens as moochers and burdens on the creative and the entrepreneurial…Although Ryan gave warm speeches about compassion, his biggest fear was not that the poor might go without food or health care but, as he once said, that the “safety net” might “become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”…He later backed away from Rand and acknowledged that the hammock was “the wrong analogy.” But his policies suggested that he never abandoned his core faith: If the wealthy did best when given positive incentives in the form of more money, the less fortunate needed to be prodded by less generous social policies into taking responsibility for their own fate.”

In The New York Times Sunday Review, Frank Bruni observed “Predominantly Republican and perversely gerrymandered, the Lone Star State is where Democrats send their dreams to die. Only 11 of its 36 House seats are in the party’s hands…But 2018 is shaping up as a year in which old rules are out the window and everything is up for grabs. Ryan’s planned retirement and the increasing disarray of the Republican Party illustrate that. So does Texas’ emergence as a credible wellspring of Democratic hope…Leave aside the Senate contest and Beto O’Rourke’s surprisingly muscular (if nonetheless improbable) bid to topple Ted Cruz. Several of the most truly competitive House races in the country are in Texas, which could wind up providing Democrats three or more of the 24 flipped seats that they need for control of the chamber.” Bruni spotlights several House races, which suggest that Democrats have some unusually-appealing candidates in Texas, in addition to all of the momentum that comes from the GOP’s lengthening string of embarrassments.

It appears that the president-in-waiting’s staff may not be quite ready for prime time. As John Wagner reports at PostPolitics, “As Vice President Pence prepared to head to Peru on Friday for the Summit of the Americas, his office advertised several events on his itinerary, including “a banquet hosted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru.”…One problem: Kuczynski resigned more than three weeks ago after becoming ensnared in a corruption scandal involving Latin America’s largest construction firm.” Wagner also notes a tasty typo in a recent Trump Administration statement, that “Air Force One became “Air Force Once” on the president’s public schedule.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    Seems like a link to this report would’ve been posted here at some time but if not, here it is.


    “What Everyone Should Know About America’s Diverse Working Class
    By Alex Rowell

    “For some, including President Trump during his campaign, “working class” has effectively become shorthand for white male workers in the goods-producing industries of manufacturing, construction, and mining.

    But in reality, the U.S. working class—defined for this analysis as participants in the labor force4 with less than a four-year college degree—is more diverse than ever and growing more so…”

    “The jobs that make up most of today’s working class are not those often referenced by campaigning politicians. Instead, when working-class Americans go to work, this work typically and increasingly involves providing services instead of producing goods. In fact, in 2015, more working-class adults—22 million—were employed in the retail industry than in the manufacturing, construction, and mining sectors combined. Additionally, work in the health care industry made up 9.8 percent of working-class jobs in 2015; this share is nearly four times larger than the 2.7 percent of working-class individuals who worked in health care in 1950, and it is larger than today’s working-class construction and mining industries combined.”

    “While service sector jobs make up the majority of working-class employment, they are often less desirable than jobs in goods-producing industries, typically paying less and being less likely to offer full-time employment…

    Workers in the professional services and retail trade industries—the former of which includes workers at hospitals, personal care facilities, and schools—make up the largest shares of the working class but are among the lowest paid, with the median worker in each industry earning $25,000 and $17,400, respectively. Conversely, while only 0.7 percent of working-class Americans work in the mining industry, they earn the highest pay by far, with the median worker bringing home $60,000 annually.

    The higher pay in goods-producing industries is in part due to the increased power that workers hold.32 Historically, manufacturing, construction, and mining jobs have been more likely to be unionized than jobs in the service sector”

  2. Victor on

    The 5 theses article was good regarding strategy (who are the principal elements of the new coalition), but weak on policy and historically inaccurate.

    None of the technological revolutions were well managed. The transitions were always disastrous for the masses. By the time things settled a new phase of technological revolution was underway.

    The post-WWII exception was an exception for different reasons, including a global trade monopoly and the rising threat of the USSR.

    The 5 theses seem to implicitly endorse open immigration and free trade. Good luck selling that and creating a working coalition at the same time. Europe has failed disastrously at the double speak of being for the working classes and suppporting free trade and supporting open immigration (as both of these have been practiced so far in neoliberal globalization).

    The precariat’s wages suffer from unfair wage competition just like industrial workers. They have the added problem of working with merchandising monopolies (whether Walmart or Amazon).

    Sabato’s article represents everything that is wrong with the Democratic party institutionally (ie as represented by Obama/Clinton).

    Having no ideas of their own of how to deal with globalization and increasing inequality, liberal Democrats resort to smears of one of the party’s biggest voting blocks.

    The relationship between libertarianism and populism is complementary. One says the state shouldn’t raise taxes and let businesses create jobs. The other says we need jobs not political correctness. Both mistrust the safety net. One sees it as inherently problematic, immoral and “too much” while the other sees it as disfunctional and too little (it would never be as much as good jobs).

    Sabato’s article is a misrepresentation and smear of the opinion of white working class voters: “racial conservatism — that is, believing that blacks not getting ahead have no one to blame but themselves”.

    The survey asked: “main reason” and “mostly responsible”. It didn’t ask “no one to blame but themselves”.

    If black and other minority voters were asked these same questions the answers would also probably diverge the same way between college and non-college educated voters.

    The black and hispanic working classes would also have internalized that they are responsible for their own condition. That is what capitalism teaches. It is also what Democrats implicitly say with all the talk about college and worker retraining.

    Colleges both explicitly teach and implicitly impose via political correctness the correct answer to this question. There is social desirability bias in the answer from the college educated.

    Other studies of racial bias do confirm higher implicit biases among the white working class, but also show that implicit bias is very much widely shared in society.

    The other problematic aspect of this article is that it has nothing to do with any policies at all.

    Trump is delivering on his policies regarding immigration and foreign trade.

    But he is not leading any racially based persecution of blacks.

    Trump’s attacks against the poor are race neutral.

    Whites don’t want the safety net because they would prefer to have good paying jobs than what passes for the the “welfare state” in America (ie very low levels of aid).

    They have also seen how indeed the bare safety net acts like a welfare trap (ie penalizing switching to jobs or getting married).

    The white working class isn’t stupid.

    White liberals are clueless.


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