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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s syndicated column, “The centrist heavenly chorus is off-key”  notes, “Among the myths that can steer us off course in the Trump era, three are particularly popular. First, that political polarization is primarily a product of how elites behave and not the result of real divisions in our country. Second, that a vast group of party-loathing independents can be mobilized by anti-partisan messages. Third, that Republicans and Democrats are becoming increasingly and equally extreme, so they should be scolded equally…All these pious wishes are false, as Alan I. Abramowitz’s latest book, “The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump,” makes clear. He provides a wealth of data in a compact package…As Abramowitz shows, most people who identify as independents lean toward one party or the other…Factoring out independents who tilt toward a party, “only about 12 percent of Americans have fallen into the ‘pure independent’ category, and these people are much less interested in politics and much less likely to vote than independent leaners.” Independents are plainly not some magical force that will call into being that centrist third party that looms so large in the imaginations of many pundits and fundraisers…Abramowitz’s data make clear that the two sides are not equivalent. Republicans have moved significantly further to the right than Democrats have moved to the left.”

From “Midterm Election Winners Could Determine Medicaid’s Future” at aarp.org: “For 53 years, Medicaid has served as a safety net for millions of people who needed assistance as their ability to care for themselves declined. In 2010, Medicaid’s health care role grew with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which called for the expansion of health coverage to more low-income families. So far, 33 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded the program…Seventy-four percent of Americans have a favorable view of Medicaid, according to a February tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). That may be due to Medicaid’s long reach. For example, the program covers 6 in 10 nursing home residents in America, a KFF report shows…Several states (including Utah, Nebraska and Idaho) may have proposals for Medicaid expansion on their ballots this fall…Whoever is elected as governor or to the state legislature could well determine whether a state revisits the issue.”

Jeffrey Peck’s op-ed, “No more softball, Senate. Ask Trump’s Supreme Court pick these questions” at The Washington Post provides a pretty good checklist of questions. Peck, a former general counsel and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Committee, writes: “The Bork, Kennedy and Souter hearings tell us that questions such as the following can and should be asked — and answered:…Do you believe the Constitution recognizes a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment? Is Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the court embraced this right, settled law?…Do you agree with Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. — whose seat Kennedy took — who wrote in Moore v. East Cleveland, “Freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment”? Do you consider it a “fundamental” liberty such that the government may interfere only for extraordinary reasons?…What factors would you weigh in determining whether a prior decision by the Supreme Court is settled law? Is Brown v. Board of Education settled law? How would you determine whether Roe v. Wade is settled law?…What is your understanding of “one person, one vote” under the 14th Amendment and its relation to state gerrymandering practices?…What examples would you cite of proper limits on the assertion of executive power by the president?” Feel free to add a couple of questions clarifying the nominee’s views on Citizens United and the right to join and organize labor unions. “Let’s have real hearings with enlightening discussion, not fake ones with vapid cliches,” concludes Peck. “The American people are entitled to know whether fundamental rights and liberties will be maintained, constrained or eviscerated.”

Don’t get too swayed by media drama about tonight’s hyped-up reveal of Trump’s SCOTUS nominee, advises Ed Kilgore: “You’d be wise to tell yourself “Don’t believe the hype.” The most convincing indications are that Trump is determined to keep the world in suspense about this fateful decision before revealing it Monday night on live TV in an approximation of the reality-show format he mastered long before running for president. It is, after all, what he did in naming his first SCOTUS nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in 2017, a process that avoided the usual chronic Trump White House leaks and involved some deliberate misdirection..it’s not just a matter of Trump repeating last year’s PR success: the less lead time media folk have to obsess about the actual nominee, the more the focus stays on Trump himself. And that’s how the 45th president likes it.”

“Globalization is an omelet that cannot be unscrambled,” writes Jared Bernstein at Post Everything Perspective. “That doesn’t mean that it’s all sunny-side up. Many people and communities have been hurt by exposure to trade, especially American-style, unbalanced trade, with little social policy to offset the losses of those thrown into competition with workers earning much lower wages. In fact, the denial of trade-induced wage and job losses by center-left-to-right-wing politicians was something Trump skillfully tapped during the 2016 campaign, enabling him to vanquish opponents who implicitly argued that Rust Belt voters simply weren’t smart enough to realize how much “free trade” has helped them…But the globalization omelet means that Trump’s tariffs won’t work. Why not? Because they target so many inputs into American production (“intermediate” and capital goods) and threaten, through retaliatory actions, lucrative international supply chains tapped by American exporters (follow the money soybeans). They will hurt more Americans than they will help, and, in most cases, the economics of replacing imported goods with domestic content won’t make economic sense. As Paul Krugman put it, “What’s notable about the Trump tariffs … is that they’re so self-destructive.”..It’s bad enough that team Trump doesn’t do anything to help those hurt by trade. Now, it is enacting policies that will hurt those helped by trade. They promised win-win; they’re delivering lose-lose.”

Instead, Bernstein recommends, “Two straightforward policies would help our exporters: Fight back against exchange rate manipulation and seriously beef up the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The former levels the playing field by taking action against countries that buy dollars to make our exports expensive in their currency and their exports to us cheaper in dollars. The MEP, which Trump zeroes out in his budget, is a Commerce Department agency that can help small manufacturers get a regional foothold and even find their way into global supply chains…To help the people and communities hurt by trade, we must invest some of the benefits of expanded trade into places where our persistent trade deficits and job outsourcing have undermined opportunities. In fact, this is entirely consistent with the rationale for expanded trade, even if it is largely forgotten by its contemporary proponents. These investments should take the form of direct job creation, significant wage subsidies, training for new jobs, infrastructure investment, and what economist Tim Bartik describes as “life-cycle skill development, including high-quality child care, high-quality preschool, K-12 education, college scholarships, and adult job training.” As he puts it: “better skills for local workers help attract and grow higher-wage jobs.”

At The Monkey Cage, “This might be the way to prove partisan gerrymandering, according to the new Supreme Court standard” by Bernard Grofman sheds light on the “successful challenges will not mean a whole state’s map must be redrawn. Rather, they will affect only a relative handful of districts — with some spillover effects, as adjacent districts will need to be redrawn…Partisan gerrymandering opponents will have to come up with different types of evidence than they presented in these two cases. In these cases, expert evidence on partisan gerrymandering has involved statistical evidence about the effects of the plan as a whole, especially as compared with a politically neutral districting process. However, in two other states, Maryland and Michigan, partisan gerrymandering challenges are already being considered that involve allegations of packing or cracking in particular districts ..Packing means concentrating one party’s backers in just a few districts, so they win by overwhelming margins. Cracking means dividing a party’s supporters among several districts so that party has a harder time winning a majority in each one. There are other tools, such as separating minority-party incumbents from their previous supporters…Here’s the problem: If evidence about gerrymandering must be district-specific, it will be necessary to identify exactly which districts were (unconstitutionally) cracked and which were (unconstitutionally) packed. That is not easy.”

For a deeper dive into the politics of partisan gerrymandering, check out at The Princeton Election Consortium’s research project on the problem. “We are engaged in nonpartisan analysis to help understand the causes of partisan gerrymandering, and develop tools to fix it through court action and through citizen-led reform efforts. For example, our amicus brief in one of this year’s Supreme Court cases was used by the Court in their decision in Gill v. Whitford. To learn more about that analysis, which can be applied on a state-by-state basis, watch our great explainer video. For a deep dive into why partisan gerrymandering has soared, see our piece in The American Prospect…We’re also taking the analysis to a local level. State supreme courts, citizen initiatives, and new laws can establish procedures and limits in ways that are specific to a state’s special circumstances. Understanding the connection between proposed laws and actual outcomes will require careful analysis and a major data-gathering effort.”


One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    To deal with the global rise of China and India the West must insist on rising wages in these countries.

    But that would actually make them become stronger and rise faster.

    So the other alternative is to reduce trade with them and increase trade among Western countries.

    The European Union has already responded positively to starting talks on reforming the irrelevant rules of the World Trade Organization.

    Every US trade partner is engaged in negotiations now.

    If this had happened under Obama (minus the rhetoric) everyone would be cheering.

    As a social democrat, I think the left has serious problems in dealing with facts these days.

    Currency manipulation and training may need to be tackled but the electorate was tired of Democrats’ promises to do so.

    The US Chamber of Commerce is posting Facebook ads criticizing Trump’s approach and the vast majority of comments are from Trump supporters basically using the kind of anti-corporate language of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

    The media, on the other hand, completely parrots the Chamber’s points. This is America’s broken democracy. Democrats must strike the right balance on these issues and so far the party hasn’t.


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