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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“An electoral strategy that prioritizes high-tech areas and inner-ring suburbs faces daunting demographic math when applied nationwide. It has left liberalism in a historically weak political position, write Lily Geismer, author of “Don’t Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party” and Matthew D. Lassiter, author of “The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South,” in their New York Times op-ed, Turning Affluent Suburbs Blue Isn’t Worth the Cost. “Democrats haven’t paid enough attention to the substantial policy costs of turning affluent suburbs blue. That focus has failed to reverse the downward mobility of middle-income households and openly favored upscale communities without addressing economic and racial inequality…The Democratic fixation on upscale white suburbs also distorts policies and diverts resources that could generate higher turnout among nonwhite voting blocs that are crucial to the party’s fortunes and too often taken for granted. It should not be that hard for liberalism to challenge the Republican tax scheme to redistribute income upward, and build on Mr. Obama’s important but inadequate health care reform, with policy solutions that address the real diversity of American suburbia.”

Thomas B. Edsall has an instructive column about the drastic decline of worker rights in America at The New York Times, entitled “The Class Struggle According to Donald Trump.” Edsall draws from a range of scholarly studies and sources to illuminate the ways workers are increasingy restricted by “noncompete” and no-raid” agreements that severely restrict the mobility of an estimated 30 million workers in the U.S. Edsall also recounts the devastating effects of “alternative work arrangements ” (24 million workers in “temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers”) mandatory arbitration and spreading anti-union policies in the labor force. As for the Trump Administration’s role in American worklife, Edsall writes, “Trump campaigned as the ally of the white working class, but any notion that he would take its side as it faces off against employers is a gross misjudgment. His administration has turned the executive branch, the federal courts and the regulatory agencies into the sworn enemy of workers, organized and unorganized. Trump is indisputably indifferent to the plight of anyone in the bottom half of the income distribution: look at his appointments, look at his record in office, look back at his business career and look at the man himself.”

Net Neutrality is history starting today. As Daniel Politi writes at slate.com, “The repeal of the rules known as net neutrality, which essentially prohibit internet service providers from giving preferential treatment to certain websites, is officially set to take effect on Monday. Lawmakers and state officials are working to try to reinstate the rules shortly so the change may not be long-lived but that doesn’t change the fact that starting June 11, internet service providers will be much freer to block, speed up or slow down access to certain content…Online protests are expected on Monday to call attention to the issue as activists focus on lobbying the House of Representatives, where lawmakers still haven’t taken up a measure that would restore net neutrality. The measure passed the Senate on May 16 but the House is still around 50 votes short. Democrats have been pushing for a vote to get everyone’s position on the record, thinking it could become a key issue in midterm elections.” Smart Democratic candidates will make sure their constituents know who to blame for this attack against free speech — Republicans.

Michael Scherer’s “Should Democrats find a Trump of their own? Political outsiders find little room in 2020 presidential field” at The Washington Post considers some possible “outside the box” presidential candidates for Democrats, including Starbuck’s departing chairman, Howard Schultz, talk show star Oprah Winfrey, Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, Disney’s Bob Iger, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and liberal financier Tom Steyer. Thing is, none of these potential candidates are far outside the corporate box. Cuban said last year that he would rather run as a Repubican. Schultz has even proposed cutting “entitlements” and opposes single-payer health care, which is becomming more popular with Democratic rank and file and elected officials. But credit the best quote in the article to Steyer, who says “As far as I am concerned, anybody who is thinking about 2020 is taking their eye off the ball.”

One of the GOP’s favorite targets is billionaire philanthropist, author and progressive activist George Soros, who has been a generous contributor to Democratic candidates and progressive causes, as well as a broad range of non-partisan humanitarian causes. In his Post Politics article, “‘I must be doing something right’: Billionaire George Soros faces renewed attacks with defiance,” Michael Kranish notes that Soros gave $25 million to mobilize Democratic voters in 2016 and plans to spend another $15 million supporting candidates this year. “This cycle, Soros has focused his political investments on congressional races and mobilizing voters on the left. His largest donation this year has been $5 million to Win Justice, a voter-mobilization group focused on minorities, women and young voters in Florida, Michigan and Nevada.” In addition, “His New York-based Open Society Foundations now spends $940 million a year in 100 countries, promoting values such as free speech and free elections.” Soros is arguably the most important and generaous progressive donor of our times, and the Democratic party would have a tough time of it, without his contributions as a counter-weight to the billions of dollars the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other conservative sugar-daddies have lavished on Republican candidates.

At The Plum Line, Paul Waldman writes that “the Trump administration has told the public that they want to make things much, much worse. Not only may health insurance continue getting less affordable, they even want to take away the pre-existing conditions protection you now enjoy, all while they’re working hard to destabilize the private insurance market…Indeed, polls have shown over and over again that the policy issue most on voters’ minds right now is health care. In Virginia’s 2017 elections, for instance, exit polls showed health care far and away the most important issue for voters, and those who said it was their top issue picked Democrat Ralph Northam over Republican Ed Gillespie in the governor’s race by a margin of 77-22 percent. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll also found that health care is voters’ top issue. As much as president Trump may dominate the headlines, the increasing cost of care is weighing heavily on voters…Take a moment to marvel at the position the administration has taken: They think insurance companies should once again be able to deny you coverage or charge you outrageous premiums because you have a pre-existing condition….If Democrats don’t repeat that sentence a thousand times a day between now and November, they’re nuts.”

Waldman takes a step back to ponder the irony of Republicans inadvertantly taking steps to discredit privatized health insurance and replace it with a more socialized system. “There’s an old Marxist idea that sometimes you need to “heighten the contradictions,” making the problems of the current system even worse so you can more quickly bring about the revolution that will replace that system with something better. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that today’s Republican Party is doing just that on the issue of health care, in the service of exactly the kind of big-government universal program they claim to despise…Republicans seem determined not only to make American health care more inefficient and cruel in every way they can think of, but to do it while making themselves as unpopular as possible. That could both bring about the political victory of their enemies the Democrats, and create the conditions for those Democrats to pass a universal coverage program. It’s quite an extraordinary strategy.” And if Democrats succeed, “it will be in no small part because Republicans made voters so disgusted with the existing health care system and afraid for their own health security that they’re willing to support radical change.”

In her post, “How Democrats plan to pitch their economic agenda in a strong economy,” at vox.com, Ella Nilsen writes,”Trump’s approval rating is at historic lows, but one thing he has going for him is a good economy. This is key to Trump’s message: He was elected in a wave of economic anxiety, especially in white, rural areas where manufacturing jobs had disappeared…Questions linger over how much a strong economy can help Republicans win in the midterms. That’s because historically, the economy matters much less in a midterm than it does in a presidential year… Take, for instance, the 2006 midterms, when the economy was good pre-2008 recession and Republicans were in power. They were still swept out of office by the Democrats. The opposite thing happened in 2014, when the economy was steadily improving yet Democrats lost control of the Senate and ceded ground in the House.” Trump’s penchant for rolling out daily distractions to deflect coverage of the Mueller probe may also crowd out “‘good economy’ stories.

Georgia’s Democratic candidate for Governor Stacy Abrams just got a nice gift from the GOP frontrunner, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, as Ed Kilgore explains at New York Magazine: “It’s not often that you see a seasoned politician go into a meeting with a political rival and insist he flipped-flopped on a key policy issue for dishonorable reasons. But that’s what Georgia’s longtime lieutenant governor and current gubernatorial candidate Casey Cagle did, according to a transcript published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ‘Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told executive Clay Tippins he supported “bad public policy” to deprive another rival of supposed help from an outside group, in a recording obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News…Cagle’s conversation with Tippins, who finished fourth in the race, took place two days after the May 22 primary in Cagle’s campaign headquarters in DeKalb County. It was surreptitiously recorded on Tippins’ phone, which was in his coat pocket.” Of course it remains to be seen if Georgia voters have a high enough tolerance for such shenanigans to elect Cagle or his clownish Republican run-off opponent, Brian Kemp, who has a couple of messes of his own to explain to voters. Either way, Abrams will enjoy the GOP’s demolition derby, and she could get a bump from swing voters, few as they may be in Georgia.

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Democrats’ agenda really needs to have better ideas for rural issues. Issues of monopoly in farming are not really addressed intelligently and comprehensively with practical ideas.

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