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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times column, “Democrats Are Running a Smart, Populist Campaign,” David Leonhardt writes, “…Democrats are more united than many people realize — and are running a pretty smart midterm campaign…Yes, there are some tensions on the political left. But these tensions — over Obama-style incrementalism vs. Bernie-style purism, over the wisdom of talking about impeachment, over whether to woo or write off the white working class — are most intense among people who write and tweet about politics. Among Democrats running for office, the tensions are somewhere between mild and nonexistent.”

“Today the Democrats unveiled a new plank in their Better Deal agenda, an anti-corruption platform that both depicts the broken nature of the political system and puts reform at the forefront of any campaign to give regular people a voice in our democracy. It brings together the anti-Trump and populist-economics messages in a way that makes them inextricable,” writes David Dayan in his article “Democrats’ New Midterm Approach: It’s the Corruption, Stupid” at The Nation. “The agenda has three main components: voting rights, campaign-finance reform, and ethics laws. Democrats have been focused on the first two for a long time; both are critical to restoring a democracy where everyone counts…With ethics reform, the Democrats’ focus is unusually prominent, most directly attacking the era of outsize Trump corruption. Much of the agenda codifies into law concepts that had been unwritten rules, and it strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, whose only weapon currently is a kind of moral opprobrium, with stepped-up policing authority. It includes requiring that any lobbying conduct be publicly reported—what Senator Chuck Schumer calls closing the “Cohen loophole”—rewriting the bribery statutes to more broadly encompass corrupt self-dealing, and cementing that the president is not exempt from conflict-of-interest laws.”

David Catanese has an update on “The Democrats’ Labor Pains” at U.S. News. Subtitled “How can unions rebuild their alliance with a party warming to free trade?” Catanese explains that “The problem for labor is finding politicians who will loudly carry this banner at a time when Democrats and even independents are warming to freer trade. An expansive issue survey by the Public Religion Research Institute in December demonstrated an arresting realignment on the issue…While 72 percent of Democrats favored free trade over more trade restrictions, only 49 percent of Republicans agreed with that laissez faire principle. Nearly as many Republicans – 45 percent – chose more restrictions…In March, a national Quinnipiac University survey found that while nearly three-fifths of Republicans backed Trump’s aluminum and steel tariffs, almost three-fourths of Democrats opposed it.”

At slate.com Osita Nwanevu has a perceptive riff on long term strategy for Democrats, and notes that “it’s well past time to consider whether it’s any less quixotic to believe that the deep problems of the American economy—rising inequality, stagnant wages, long-impoverished communities, a vast racial wealth gap, and more—can be solved by the same package of tax credits, job training, and cheapskate safety net policies the Democratic Party has been offering for more than a quarter-century now. It is moreover a certainty that the most urgent problem facing America and the world today—climate change—can only be addressed by significant and unprecedented state intervention in the economy…In sum, Democratic leaders are probably right to believe that they can eke out marginal victories with moderate candidates in the near term. But the threat of a 2010 will follow every attempt to recreate 2006 and 2008, and an electoral strategy dependent on moderate and conservative candidates will undermine efforts to pass the policies Democrats will ostensibly want to win elections for in the first place, as was the case with the ACA and other fights early in the Obama administration. As it stands, the Democratic Party is likely to do well in November whether it adopts a long-term vision for itself and the country or not. Winning the midterms will be relatively easy. Winning the century will be harder.”

Read Ed Kilgore’s “The Joy of Voting byMail,” in which he notes, “As Dave Roberts, a distinguished environmental writer who is a resident of all-voting-by-mail Oregon (a system also embraced by Colorado and Washington) notes, voting by mail ought to be strongly considered as the wave of the future nationally. It has raised voter turnout every place it’s been used. It’s cheaper than voting systems that rely on polling places and polling workers. It is attractive to all sorts of voters — particularly people who may not find it easy to take off work to stand in line during working hours on a random Tuesday — who value convenience. Indeed, there’s not much of a downside for abandoning the old system…It’s something for election reformers — especially progressive election reformers — to think about seriously, if not this year (where it’s largely too late to change anything) then before the crucial 2020 election that will determine control not only of the White House and Congress, but of the state governments that will dictate the next decennial round of redistricting.”

You may remembert that recent Ipsos/Reuters poll that got lotsa buzz because it showed a big, new GOP lead in the generic ballot? Well, Taylor Link reports that the “Outlier poll that showed GOP lead in the race for Congress abruptly shifts back to the Democrats” at salon.com. As Link explains, “A poll that helps survey the generic Congressional ballot no longer shows a dramatic lead for the GOP, a drastic shift that will crush conservatives looking for evidence of a feeble blue wave this upcoming November…The Reuters/Ipsos poll indicated last week that Republicans attained a five-point lead in the ballot, a drastic bump considering Democrats had a plus-three margin in the previous two polls. Right-wing pundits were absolutely giddy over the turn of events, as they shared the new poll on social media to their then-disheartened audience…That same poll Hannity was referencing released new numbers on Sunday, which now report a seven-point lead for Democrats…As it stands, Democrats maintain a six-point margin, according to a composition of polls made by FiveThirtyEight.”

In her Washington Monthly post, “A New Strategy for Democrats in the Old South,” Nancy LeTourneau nicely distills Democratic prospects in the Georgia govenor’s race: “In a state where only 30 percent of eligible black voters are registered, white people are projected to be a minority by 2025 and Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at an abysmal 37 percent, party politics in Georgia are changing rapidly. Will 2018 be the year that those dynamics are strong enough that a focus on mobilizing disenfranchised voters can help elect the country’s first African American female governor? That is precisely what everyone will be watching come November…The other dynamic that is important to recognize in this governor’s race is that the “establishment” Republican, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, did not win a majority of votes in yesterday’s primary and faces a run-off with Secretary of State Brian Kemp in July. It is actually the Republican side where extremists are pulling the contest pretty far outside the mainstream…This election in the old South state of Georgia was destined to be an uphill battle for Democrats no matter who won the primaries. But with a dynamic candidate like Stacey Abrams working to mobilize disenfranchised voters and Republicans attempting to out-Trump each other to win the primary, it will be a test-case for whether a new Southern strategy for Democrats is developing on the horizon.”

4 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    I remember when Senator Obama promised not to hire lobbyists if elected President. He said he would “close the revolving door” between government jobs and lobbying jobs. Then, once elected, he hired more than a hundred former lobbyists and by 2013 nearly forty former officials from his administration had gotten K Street lobbying jobs. The Democrats can talk all they want about “closing the revolving door” but I already know what that promise is worth.

  2. pjcamp on

    It would be a lot easier if the candidate for “first African American female governor” hadn’t industriously colluded with Republicans to do serious damage to the HOPE scholarship. What she did primarily damages African American students, and makes it abundantly clear that neither party has the moral high ground on what is probably the most popular policy in the state.


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