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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Addressing the SCOTUS fight, Eric Levitz notes at New York Magazine that “Fortunately for Democrats, the arguments that could ostensibly sway Collins and Murkowski are roughly the same as those that the party wishes to disseminate to female swing voters in suburban congressional districts this fall: Supporting the Republican Party is a threat to your health, and every woman’s reproductive autonomy….Whether that message will do more for the Democrats than a high-profile fight over Kennedy’s replacement will do for GOP turnout is unknowable…The Democratic Party’s initial turnout advantage derived from its base’s eagerness to rectify a traumatic loss — and the Republican base’s complacency, in the face of triumph. In all likelihood, Kennedy’s replacement will be confirmed more than a month before the midterms. Conservatives will have locked in a far-right majority; liberals will be reeling from nightmare visions of Roe’s imminent demise. It isn’t hard to see how such circumstances could exacerbate the GOP’s turnout problem, rather than mitigating it….In the first generic ballot poll taken after Kennedy’s retirement, Quinnipiac University puts the Democratic lead at nine percentage points — three points higher than it was in early June.”

Although Democrats failed to prevent the enactment of one of the largest transfers of wealth from working Americans to the already-rich in history, a.k.a. the Republican tax bill, Dems do have an opportunity to make it a potent election issue.  As Seth Hanlon writes in “How the Tax Act Embodies the Republican Culture of Corruption” at The American Prospect, “Last year, Gallup found that 63 percent of Americans believed that upper-income Americans pay too little in taxes, and 67 percent believed that corporations pay too little. Last fall, as the tax push began to heat up, more than twice as many Americans wanted to raise tax rates on large businesses and corporations as Americans who wanted to lower them. Even most Republicans wanted to either raise corporate tax rates or keep them where they were. These preferences are not terribly surprising at a time when both after-tax corporate profits and inequality are at record highs…The end result was a tax law that, by slashing corporate taxes, imposing a broad-based tax increase on individuals, and sabotaging the health-care system, produces shocking results in the long term: By 2027, 83 percent of the benefits flow to the top 1 percent, while most households actually see their taxes go up. Only a political system deeply corrupted by corporate political spending could have produced such a result.”

Medicaid expansion is a leading midterm issue in Georgia and other states where Republicans have obstructed it. At The Upshot, Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist, provides an update, “Finally, Some Answers on the Effects of Medicaid Expansion,”which Democratic campaigns in these states may find of interest: “Since the start of Medicaid expansion, 77 studies, most of them quasi-experimental in design, have been published. They include 440 distinct analyses. More than 60 percent of them found a significant effect of the Medicaid expansion that was consistent with the goals of the Affordable Care Act…Only 4 percent reported findings that showed the Medicaid expansion had a negative effect, and 35 percent reported no significant findings…After the Medicaid expansion, insurance coverage improved and the use of health services increased…The evidence to date is — if anything — positive. As Olena Mazurenko, the lead author of the systematic review, wrote to me, “With dozens of scientific analyses spanning multiple years, the best evidence we currently have suggests that Medicaid expansion greatly improved access to care, generally improved quality of care, and to a lesser degree, positively affected people’s health.”

I agree with the argument that the Democratic midterm elections strategy can’t be all about Trump. At the same time, however, it can’t not be about Trump to some extent, given the congressional Republicans support of his worst policies and the statistical relationship between presidential approval rates and midterm election outcomes. All of which makes Pulitzer Prize winner David K. Johnston’s New York Times article, “How to Make Trump’s Tax Returns Public” of extra interest. Johnston writes of obtaining Trump’s tax returns, “The attorney general could, however, easily gain that authority. All that’s needed is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Police or the state Department of Taxation and Finance to make a request, and the authority would be granted to her…A state or county criminal investigation that begins with abuse of the Donald J. Trump Foundation need not be limited to violations of charity and election law. It can also examine his personal and business tax filings and, in the process, lawfully put his tax returns in the public record.”

Among the longer-term strategic considerations Democrats should be thinking about is adding a little sunshine to the ways ballots are counted across the nation. In his NYT letter to the editor, Jonathan D. Simon, author of “CODE RED: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy,” makes a frequently-overlooked point that merits consideration, regarding the way we count votes in American elections:If we want our democracy back — if we want to ensure that it is the people, not the programmers or hackers, setting our national direction — we must insist not just on the right to vote but also on the right (and the duty) to count those votes in public.”

Amanda Marcotte shines a light on the destructive distortions about immigrants that many Americans still embrace. As Marcotte writes at Salon (via Alternet), “…native-born citizens drastically overestimated how many immigrants there are. Native-born Americans estimated that 36 percent of the population were legal immigrants, when the reality is around 10 percent…less than 1 percent of immigrants to the United States are from North Africa, but respondents estimated it was closer to 8.5 percent. About 4 percent of come from the Middle East, but survey respondents put the number closer to 12 percent. Only about 10 percent of immigrants are Muslim, but Americans guessed it was over 22 percent. And while more than 60 percent of immigrants are Christian, respondents estimated the number to be less than 40 percent…Only 5.5 percent of immigrants are unemployed and 13.6 percent live in poverty, but native-born Americans put the numbers at 26 percent and 35 percent, respectively…Conservatives, unsurprisingly, had more distorted views than liberals. Low-skilled workers who work in industries that employ a large number of immigrants also had more distorted views. Interestingly, however, high-skilled workers who also had a large share of immigrant colleagues — such as computer programmers — while still off in their estimates, were closer to the mark.”

At npr.org Kelsey Snell and Scott Detrow see a healthy mix of both progressives and moderates invigorating the Democratic party, “Looking back at the party’s key electoral victories over the past year, many Democratic leaders see a theme: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, and Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb are all low-key centrists who campaigned on local issues and an overall message of competence and outreach…Joe Trippi, a top strategist on the Jones campaign, sees that approach as the best way for Democrats to take back the House. “When you get that confrontational tone, what you do is drive people to their corners,” he said…But while moderates are advancing in this year’s most critical House districts and Senate races, there’s no question that Democratic energy overall is shifting to the left…”We have had real success in moving the ideology of the Democratic Party to be a pro-worker party to stand up to the billionaire class,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said. Surveying the political landscape, the independent senator and his political advisers see a much different party than the one whose nomination Sanders ran for in 2016.”

Regarding the whole ‘civility’ flap, it wouldn’t hurt for progressives to be a bit more careful. I thought it was wrong for the Red Hen proprietor to kick out Sarah Huckabee Sanders — it’s the kind of thing that feeds the ‘liberal snob’ meme. One of the most powerful tools deployed by MLK was his militant courtesy, which he brilliantly leveraged to help change hearts and minds. At the same time, however, it’s hard to get all teary-eyed about Alan Dershowitz feeling “shunned” at The Vineyard, as a result of his defense of Trump. Any legitimate concerns about Trump’s civil liberties notwithsanding, he has almost single-handedly created a climate of unprecedented partisan animosity. If you defend a guy who mocks people with disabilities, spews nasty insults on a daily basis and calls for violence against our fellow citizens, don’t be shocked if your social circle shrinks. I’m all for more mutual civility between left and right. But the President has to set the tone.

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