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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Michael Wines explores what it means that “Voting Rights Advocates Used to Have an Ally in the Government. That’s Changing” in The New York Times. In his lead graphs, Wines writes: “A new voter ID law could shut out many Native Americans from the polls in North Dakota. A strict rule on the collection of absentee ballots in Arizona is being challenged as a form of voter suppression. And officials in Georgia are scrubbing voters from registration rolls if their details do not exactly match other records, a practice that voting rights groups say unfairly targets minority voters….During the Obama administration, the Justice Department would often go to court to stop states from taking steps like those. But 18 months into President Trump’s term, there are signs of change: The department has launched no new efforts to roll back state restrictions on the ability to vote, and instead often sides with them…Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department has filed legal briefs in support of states that are resisting court orders to rein in voter ID requirements, stop aggressive purges of voter rolls and redraw political boundaries that have unfairly diluted minority voting power — all practices that were opposed under President Obama’s attorneys general.” The rest of the article provides an instructive update on the GOP’s voter suppression tactics, leaving leading to the inescapable conclusion that Democrats must win majorities in congress and state legislators and more governorships to effectively address the threat.

“The money and the machinery is there. It’s just that not enough of it is directed at Latinos. With total spending on the midterm elections expected to reach $4 billion, outside groups and super PACs have almost unlimited funds. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has pledged $30 million to take back the House. Liberal philanthropist George Soros has already spent $15 million. And Michael Bloomberg has promised $80 million. Yet none of the cash they have allocated has been earmarked exclusively for a major new initiative to reach Latinos. Bloomberg has been focused on gun control and Steyer on climate change—as well as impeachment. He has spent another $40 million on billboards in Times Square, town hall meetings, and TV ads urging the House to oust the president. “If he’d given Mi Familia Vota [a Latino group that works to register and mobilize Hispanic voters] that money, they would have registered enough Latino voters by now to turn Texas blue,” said Andres Ramirez, a veteran Democratic strategist. Yet most of these liberal megadonors “would scoff at Latino groups making this request,” he added. “They wouldn’t even entertain it.”” — From Adrian Carrasquilo’s “Democrats Are Taking Latino Voters for Granted: The party has the money and machinery. Why is so little of it going toward Hispanic outreach?” at The New Republic.

Dems are going to like the title of Ronald Brownstein’s latest article at The Atlantic, “The Ohio Results Point to Democratic Strength in 2018—And a Showdown in 2020: The party has a clear formula for victory in November: sweep America’s suburbs, and pick off a few other Republicans for good measure.” Says Brownstein: “Democrats will be operating with very little margin for error if they must win back the House almost solely by capturing white-collar suburban seats. Their path would be much easier if they could also win a respectable number of the Republican seats they are targeting outside of the major metro areas, including districts in upstate New York, northeastern and southwestern Iowa, downstate Illinois, California’s Central Valley, and Washington State, where Republican Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrera Beutler both showed weakness in Tuesday night’s primary…Democrats, and outside election handicappers, like their odds in several of those races (especially given the agricultural community’s unease over Trump’s ongoing trade wars). But Balderson’s big margins in such blue-collar and small-town counties as Marion, Morrow, and Muskingum are reminders of how strong a headwind Democrats must overcome in those places.”

Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson makes the case that “The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it” in his Washington Post column: “In November, many Republican leaners and independents will face a difficult decision. The national Democratic Party under Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer doesn’t share their views or values. But President Trump is a rolling disaster of mendacity, corruption and prejudice. What should they do?…They should vote Democratic in their House race, no matter who the Democrats put forward…Under Republican control, important committees — such as Chairman Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee — have become scraping, sniveling, panting and pathetic tools of the executive branch. Only Democratic control can drain this particular swamp…The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it in the House. In this case, a Republican vote for a Democratic representative will be an act of conscience.”

According to the NYT update, “Tracking the House Races to Watch in the 2018 Midterm Elections” by Alexander Burns, which presents data from the Cook Political Report, “There are currently 62 highly competitive seats — those considered a tossup between the two parties or leaning slightly toward one,” and “Right now, 10 seats currently held by Republicans are either likely to be won by Democrats or lean slightly toward them, while another two dozen Republican-held seats are designated as tossups — political coin flips that could just as easily break in either direction.” Further, “There are also more than 50 other Republican-held seats that are contested enough to make Democratic victory at least a plausible possibility. Many of those are in conservative-leaning suburbs and rural areas in the Midwest and West.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore draws from Andrew Levison’s Washington Monthly article “What Democrats Still Don’t Get About Winning Back the White Working Class,” and observes: “The most important thing right now for Democrats may be abandoning the idea there is any ideological template — progressive or centrist — for dealing with white working-class voters. Telling them to chow down on government benefits while abandoning their cultural viewpoints, as progressives sometimes advocate, is arguably condescending, and the common “centrist” approach of refusing to talk about hot-button issues is disingenuous. Connecting with these voters simply and authentically is also superior to a heavy-handed triangulating message that alienates “base” Democratic voters or college-educated suburban swing voters.”

“Campaign finance was once famously dismissed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, as being of no greater concern to American voters than “static cling,” notes Farah Stockman in “For Voters Sick of Money in Politics, a New Pitch: No PAC Money Accepted” at The New York Times. “But since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 opened the floodgates for unrestricted political spending, polls have shown that voters are growing increasingly bitter about the role of money in politics…The issue is now emerging in midterm races around the country, with dozens of Democrats rejecting donations from political action committees, or PACs, that are sponsored by corporations or industry groups. A handful of candidates, including Mr. Phillips, are going a step further and refusing to take any PAC money at all, even if it comes from labor unions or fellow Democrats.” It is proving to be a popular approach for Demopcrats, because “A recent Pew report found that 75 percent of the public said “there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations” can spend on political campaigns.”

Relying on small donations from individuals is more commendable than being financed by corporate interests. But Eleanor Clift reports at The Daily Beast that unrelenting pitches for money from small donors can get pretty obnoxious, as well. Clift quotes extensively from retired liberal journalist Roger Williams:  “He applauds Democratic efforts to go after small donations, but adds that “it’s the way they’re doing it is very aggravating. They lead with absolute panic time, panic time all the time. This election, whether it’s the most important one, I don’t know, but yes, I think it’s terribly important or I would not have given any money—but it’s NOT all about money and these people make it sound like it’s all about money…Further, you guys are supposed to be political pros. Your job is to win elections, which includes figuring out how to do so in races that are difficult. Whining about being outspent and groveling before people like me for a few bucks is not the way to accomplish that.  Do your G.D. jobs!”

If you were wondering why The Republicans stopped bragging so much about their tax cut, a NYT editorial explains that “The idea that the tax cuts were going to line workers’ pockets was always a mirage. Most people will enjoy only a modest and temporary tax cut — families earning $25,00 or less will save on average just $60 on their federal tax this year, and those making between $48,600 and $86,100 will save $930, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Families in the top 1 percent, on the other hand, will save an average of $51,140.”

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