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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Zawn Villines’s post, “Authoritarianism Thrives on Demoralization: How to Fight Trump and Stay Psychologically Healthy” at Daily Kos (via the San Diego Free Press) suggests 15 ways to avoid activist burnout, including: “It’s time to stop pointing fingers at those who didn’t vote. Unless, of course, you want them to get even angrier and not vote again. It’s time to sway them, court them, welcome them into the party, give them a seat at the table, and when they’re ready, encourage them to run. We need everyone, and we especially need those who see what’s wrong with party business as usual.” Also, “Don’t waste your energy arguing with Nazis on Facebook. Don’t let your conservative family “devil’s advocate” you into a state of rage and panic. Don’t allow people to burn through energy you could spend on something useful” and “Stop Wasting Time Talking About How Bad Things Are or Will Be… spinning our wheels in panic about a future we can’t control only wastes energy. Do what you can to protect yourself, yes. But after you’ve done that, stop reading about how bad things are, stop trying to convince people how hopeless it all is, and get back to work.” To this last I would add, ‘Let go of political instant gratification – real social change can take years, even generations. Fight for the kids, their kids and coming generations. Be a happy, long-haul warrior.’

Here’s another great ad for Democratic congressional campaigns to learn from:

Eric Bradner has an update on “Democratic governors set to take on the bigger names in 2020 race” at CNN Politics. Bradner writes, “A handful of Democratic governors are wading into the early stages of the 2020 presidential contest…Three governors — Montana’s Steve Bullock, Colorado’s John Hickenlooper and Washington state’s Jay Inslee — each said in interviews at the National Governors Association summer meeting in New Mexico this week that they are considering 2020 runs.” Noting that all three governors have visited Iowa already, Bradner adds, “Two Democratic former governors — Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick and Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe — are also considering 2020 runs…the governors think they have a compelling case to make: While other Democratic leaders were in Washington criticizing President Donald Trump, they’ve enacted agendas designed to forcefully counter him on issues like climate change and health care.” All five governors have impressive track records and solid approval ratings in their respective states. Given the plummeting approval rates for congress, it seems increasingly possible that one of them, or another governor to come, will win the Democratic nomination.

According to judoka Masao Takahashi, Jiu-jitsu is “manipulating the opponent’s force against themselves rather than confronting it with one’s own force.” Perhaps Dems can deploy some political jiu-jitsu with an ad message that Republican domination of America’s major political institutions has produced only one legislative “accomplishment” — a multibillion dollar tax break for the wealthy. There could also be a Democratic meme/ad reminding voters that “The GOP has control of the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court, and the only health care “reform” they are proposing is taking away coverage for prior conditions. Pathetic.”

At The Plum Line, Paul Waldman works a version of this angle: “As much attention as we all give to the latest outrage from President Trump, polls have repeatedly shownhealth care to be at or near the top of the public’s agenda when it comes to the midterm elections. Republicans are clearly nervous: They are planning symbolic votes in the House on the same old GOP health-care ideas (health savings accounts!) as a way of dealing with Democratic attacks on the issue…Unlike many issues, with health care, Democrats can make a persuasive argument no matter to whom they are talking. To their own base, they can say, “Republicans tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away Medicaid from millions, and now they want to do even more to take away health security.” And to swing voters, they can say, “Look what Republicans have done to you. Your premiums keep going up, your out-of pocket costs keep going up, and now the Trump administration even wants to take away protections for people with preexisting conditions. They said they’d fix everything, and they failed.” For Democrats, Waldman argues, “as a piece of marketing, “Medicare for all” is dynamite. Everyone loves Medicare, and the idea of just giving it to everybody is incredibly appealing. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation pollfound that 59 percent of respondents favored “Medicare-for-all, in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan,” while 75 percent favored a Medicare for all plan that would be open to anyone but not required.”

When we talk about “checks and balances,” it’s usually in the context of our political institutions. This includes the three branches of government being designed to limit one another or other provisions of the constitution, such as ratification of amendments by the states. Could the GOP’s majorities also provide Democrats with a ‘checks and balances’ messaging opportunity? To restore healthy balance to our government, voting Democratic is the most effective thing a citizen can do in 2018. As Lee Drutman observed at vox.com, “There is no separation of powers without divided government.” It may seem a self-evident point, but it can’t hurt to encourage voters to think about it a little more. Dems could have a jiu-jitsu ad about one-party rule, and the responsibility of citizens who value balance and bipartisanship to vote accordingly: “The ulitimate force for ‘checks and balances’ is the voter” is a message that may resonate in the fall.

Despite gridlock in congress, Democrats have reason for hope in the state legislatures: “Since the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre in February,” writes Amber Phillips in her article “After Parkland, gun-control advocates see a turning point for new state laws” at The Fix, “gun-control advocates have said there is something different about the debate this year, an energy on the issue that is driving gun safety to the top of minds of suburban moms and younger, traditionally less engaged voters. How, or if, that affects the November midterm elections is to be determined. But there is an early manifestation of this newfound political energy: Gun-control advocates had their best year in state legislatures in recent history…Since the Florida shooting, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence counts 55 new gun-control laws passing in 26 states. That is far more success than they normally see, any way you measure it: in the number of laws, the variety of the laws passed and the bipartisan support a number of them had. Republican governors in 15 states signed bills gun-control advocates supported…It is hard to overstate what a shift this is from last year, where gun-control groups were focused on trying to stop states from allowing guns in universities in churches. But after Americans lived through three of the deadliest mass shootings in its history, it was the pro-gun rights side that was on the defense in state legislatures in a way it has not been before.”

Democrats had better be on high alert for voter “caging” projects by Republicans, particularly in swing districts. Li Zhou reports that “Voter purges are on the rise in states with a history of racial discrimination” at Vox. Zhou notes that “States are kicking a growing number of voters off their rolls in the wake of a 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidated a key part of the Voting Rights Act…The spike is notable. Between 2006 and 2008, 12 million voters were purged from voter rolls. Between 2014 and 2016, that number rose to 16 million — a roughly 33 percent increase…Voter purge rates in preclearance jurisdictions between 2012 to 2016 far outpaced those in jurisdictions that were not previously subject to federal preclearance. The report — which analyzed 6,600 jurisdictions and calculated purge rates for 49 states — concludes that as many as 2 million more voters were removed from voter rolls due to the higher purge rates in the preclearance states.”

James Downie explains “What really disturbs voters about Russia’s election interference” at Post Partisan.” Citing the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, Downie writes, “the poll also suggests that, in talking about the “Russia scandal,” Trump opponents should focus less on Russia and more on the election interference itself…Partisans support or oppose Trump depending on their political party, and independents are less concerned about the president’s performance than furor in Washington and the media would suggest. Clear majorities of Republicans approved of how Trump handled the summit and believe American leadership has “gotten stronger.” Democrats said the opposite. And for independents, only 38 percent thought the president went “too far” in supporting Putin, compared with 52 percent who answered “not far enough” or “about right.”…Trump opponents can be slightly relieved that independents didn’t side with Republicans. Overall, though, as The Post’s Scott Clement and Dan Balz note, “The findings indicate that while Trump was judged critically for his summit performance, the event has not at this time proved to be a significant turning point in his presidency.” If you wondered why even after Helsinki most Republicans avoided criticizing the president, this poll is your answer…But on one question — whether voters approve of Trump expressing doubt about whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 election — the numbers look different. On that query, 60 percent of independents disapprove — a clear majority. Furthermore, only 51 percent of Republicans approve of Trump impugning the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions and 31 percent disapprove. Yes, that’s still a majority in favor, but by Republican standards, 51 percent support for the president is astonishingly low. Remember, at the 500-day mark of his presidency, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans was nearly 90 percent. Other than George W. Bush post-Sept. 11, that’s the highest support for a president within his own party since World War II. Any issue where only half of Republicans support the president and nearly a third oppose is an opportunity to erode enthusiasm among his base…for everyone who understands that protecting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe is vital, this poll is a reminder to keep election interference itself front and center when making that case.”

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