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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Talk about ‘Clinton Derangement Syndrome,’ Associated Press reports that, eighteeen months after the 2016 election Hillary “Clinton Stars as Central Villain in GOP’s Midterm Strategy,” with big bucks being invested in ads ‘linking’ Democratic midterm candidates to her. What’s hard to understand is how Republicans think obsessing about HRC is going to win them any new votes in 2018, instead of branding the GOP as the yesterday party that is hopelessly constipated by their own misogyny. Yes, Republicans, by all means, invest vast sums of money, time and energy in a new round of Clinton-bashing, which will win you oodles of seats in the midterms.

The late Social Security and Medicare recipient, Ayn Rand still occupies a tender spot in the hardened hearts of Republican leadership, despite the fading fortunes of her acolyte, lame duck Paul Ryan. But a new, less atheistic guru has now arisen from the currents of modern conservative thought, reports Hugh Drochon at The Guardian: “American conservatives, especially among the country’s powerful Catholic minority (which includes six of the nine supreme court justices), have found a new champion for their cause in the Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen. His latest book, Why Liberalism Failed, has been critically acclaimed throughout the conservative press, with the prominent Harvard legal scholar Adrian Vermeule, himself a recent convert to Catholicism, declaring it a “triumph…Deneen never spells out exactly what these local communities might look like, but it’s clear that what he wants, in reality, is a return to “updated Benedictine forms” of Catholic monastic communities. Like many who share his worldview, Deneen believes that if people returned to such communities they would get back on a moral path that includes the rejection of gay marriage and premarital sex, two of Deneen’s pet peeves.”

In his syndicated column, “Where are the conservatives we need?,” E. J. Dionne also comments on the moral vacuum at the center of modern conservatism: “If conservatism in the United States has claimed to stand for anything, it is the idea that government authority should be limited. Conservatives regularly argue (especially when Democrats are in the White House) that the executive’s clout should be checked and that legitimate law enforcement authorities deserve our respect, particularly when they are investigating abuses of power…Any doubts that Republicanism and conservatism have given themselves over to one man, his whims and his survival were dispelled by the GOP’s use of the congressional oversight process to undermine a legitimate probe into a hostile power’s interference in our elections…There is an emptiness where problem-solving conservatism used to be…the corruption of American conservatism is the primary cause of our inability to have constructive debates that move us to resolve issues rather than ignore them…except for a small, honorable cadre of writers and think-tankers, the American right has taken itself out of the game. Our politics will remain broken as long as conservatism confines its energies to cutting taxes and defending a reckless president at all costs.”

From “America is still unprepared for a Russian attack on our elections” by The Washington Post Editorial Board: “As this year’s midterm elections approach, the country is still unprepared for another Russian attack on the vote, and President Trump continues to send mixed signals — at best — about what he would do if the Kremlin launched an even more aggressive interference campaign than the one that roiled the 2016 presidential race…In last month’s omnibus spending bill, Congress set aside more than $300 million for states to invest in hardening their election infrastructure. They have a lot to do. New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks election technology and procedures nationwide, reports that most states are using electronic voting machines that are at least a decade old, many running antiquated software that may not be regularly updated for new security threats. Though most states recognize that they must replace obsolete machines, not much has changed since 2016…Beyond voting machines, there are softer targets that are more exposed to remote hacking, including electronic voting rolls, vote-tallying servers and state elections websites. These are the sorts of electronic resources that Russian hackers seem to have infiltrated in 2016. There is no evidence the hackers changed anything, but there is also no guarantee they will not try in the future.”

Jared Bernstein argues “Why Democrats must, for the sake of the future, repeal and replace the Republican tax cut,” and observes that “The tax bill obliterates the revenue needed to protect those hurt by globalization and technological change. As we speak, conservatives are trying to disassemble the safety net and impose work requirements, regardless of whether remunerative work is available or feasible. Now that they’ve shifted revenue from the Treasury to their donor base, they are arguing that we can’t afford social insurance programs…Deficit spending can relieve the tension for a while. But, eventually, the tax cut, unless it is reversed, will erode the policy insulation that must both provide meaningful opportunity to those on the wrong side of the inequality divide and prevent the rigging of the system. Because once the system is rigged, rest assured that Trump-like characters will promise that its de-rigging depends on global insulation and nationalist racial/immigration policies…the opposition party must make repealing and replacing the tax cuts its top priority. And it must understand the point of doing so is not to cut taxes for those with less means, but to help those hurt by forces beyond their control to reconnect to the broader economy, which has long left them behind.”

“It’s been just 17 months since the election, and we have a completely new consensus among Democratic politicians,” Paul Waldman writes at The Plum Line. “A group of Democratic senators led by Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) has introduced the Choose Medicare Act, which would open up Medicare to anyone who wants it and isn’t already eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Individuals could get it through the exchanges and employers could put their employees on it instead of private insurance. In its basic structure, it’s extremely similar to the Medicare Extra For All plan put out by the Center for American Progress, the most influential liberal think tank. There’s also a plan to allow states to create a buy-in to Medicaid introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and a Medicare-X Choice Act from Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) still has his Medicare for All plan, which differs from these in that they emphasize that it would be voluntary, and private insurance would stay around as long as it can compete…These plans are not identical, and the details do matter — about how it’ll be structured, what will be covered, how it’ll be paid for, and so on. But the basic idea seems to have been decided. Here’s the most succinct summary I can offer: Open up an existing government health insurance program, either Medicare or Medicaid, to anyone who wants it…But even if we don’t have a consensus among Democratic policy wonks, we’re getting awfully close to a consensus among Democratic politicians, on that one basic idea.”

Trump is a fount of political distractions. But it may be that one that he can’t control could end up helping him, as Ronald Brownstein explains in his article “Why Stormy Daniels Poses a Problem for Democrats: The intense media focus on President Trump’s personal dramas hurts the party’s ability to sell its message to the voters it needs most” in The Atlantic. “As Brownstein concludes, “as in 2016, personal doubts about the president may not prove disqualifying for enough voters to provide Democrats a winning majority. By contrast, even without much media focus in recent weeks, polls show that most Americans now tilt slightly negative on the GOP tax plan and slightly positive on preserving the ACA. The election results in November are much more likely to turn on which side wins the arguments over those policies than on whether slightly more or fewer Americans than today consider Trump unfit for the presidency. In other words: For a sunny outcome this fall, Democrats probably need more health care and taxes—and less Comey and Stormy.” See Ed Kilgore’s take just below on Brownstein’s article, and note also Ruy Teixeira Facebook post, “Ron Brownstein has this exactly right in my opinion.

There is plenty of hand-wringing about whether or not young people will actually vote in November. “The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February sparked a renewed interest in gun control, with students who survived the attack leading rallies, marches, walkouts and campaigns for gun legislation. People across the country, and the world, participated in hundreds of events demanding action on gun violence…Now, leaders are hoping the momentum from the March for Our Lives movement will lead to a more enduring next phase: getting young people to the voting booth in November, an effort to change not just policy in Washington, but the people who set it,” writes Katie Zezima at The Washington Post. “NextGen America, a liberal advocacy group founded by hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, and gun-control advocacy groups Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety have announced an initiative aimed at getting 50,000 teenagers registered to vote ahead of the midterm elections in November…Groups from around the country are hosting voter drives at high schools and colleges, including during widespread school walkouts on Friday, the anniversary of the 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School. They are setting up voter-registration tables at gun-control marches and are working to galvanize the nation’s youngest voters around a single issue…The groups plan to mail voter-registration forms to 18- and 19-year-olds on their birthdays, target them with online voter-registration ads and, where legal, preregister 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. The focus will be on students who will reach legal voting age by Election Day 2018.”

It appears that one controversial reform is rapidly gaining traction with both parties, according to “Democrats say looser marijuana laws attract young voters, and some Republicans are catching on” by Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim. The authors write “As they gear up for the fall campaign, both parties are trying to energize their bases to turn out at the polls. For Democrats, who have embraced the most liberal platform in decades, marijuana reform is another issue they hope will enliven their core voters…“This motivates young people because it’s a question of freedom, of justice,” said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, part of a younger, more liberal generation of Democratic lawmakers…The percentage of Americans who support legalizing marijuana is nearly double what it was in 2000, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the fall. The poll showed a partisan divide, with most Democrats favoring legalization and a majority of Republicans opposed. But younger Republicans saw legalization as much more favorable than older Republicans…Former House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) recently joined the board of advisers for a company that cultivates and dispenses cannabis. Boehner was previously an opponent of decriminalizing marijuana…Recreational marijuana is legal for adults in nine states and the District. One of those states is Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner secured a major concession from the Trump administration last week…The White House said Trump will get behind legislative efforts to protect states that have legalized marijuana, even though that collides with the approach favored by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Did Ayn Rand pay Social Security and Medicare taxes? Of course she did. They are compulsory. There is no hypocrisy in using government programs you disapprove of when you are forced to help pay for them.

    • Watcher on

      There is hypocrisy if you use them and then loudly call them the Road to Serfdom, not to mention preventing other people from doing so. She needs to be crucified for this.


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