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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Those who were hoping for a groundswell of popular opposition to the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court are not going to like polling nuggets flagged by Dhrumil Mehta and Janie Velencia at FiveThirtyEight: “A C-SPAN/PSB poll found that 35 percent of likely voters can name President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, when asked in an open-ended question. Relatedly, an AP-NORC poll found that a plurality of Americans don’t have strong feelings about Kavanaugh as a nominee one way or the other.” But what will matter more to Senators in deciding if they will vote for confirmation of Kavanaugh is how the registered voters in their states feel about him, and there little or no data available for that. The Kavanaugh nomination is of such overarching importance that Democrats should still do everything they can to defeat it, without sacrificing too much of the time, energy and money resources needed for the midterm campaigns – a highly problematic challenge at best. Meanwhile, much of Kavanaugh’s history is being hidden from the public by his GOP handlers. The question for investigative reporters is, “Why?”

And speaking of the Kavanaugh cover-up, Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in The New York Times that ” The Trump White House, citing executive privilege, is withholding from the Senate more than 100,000 pages of records from Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s time as a lawyer in the administration of former President George W. Bush…The decision, disclosed in a letter that a lawyer for Mr. Bush sent on Friday to Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, comes just days before the start of Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Tuesday…Senate Democrats said this was the first time that a sitting president has exerted executive privilege under the Presidential Records Act in order to prevent documents from going to Congress during a Supreme Court confirmation process.”

The New York Times editorial “The Supreme Court Confirmation Charade” observes that “Republicans aren’t even pretending to do their constitutional duty. Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is refusing to let his colleagues or the American people see millions of documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary to President George W. Bush — a job he has called the most influential of his career in terms of his approach to judging. And in recent weeks, multiple senators have been personally helping the judge prepare by holding mock hearings…Republicans are licking their chops. Out with squishes like Anthony Kennedy, the court’s last true swing justice, and in with reliable soldiers like Judge Kavanaugh, who is likely to provide the key fifth vote to reshape large portions of constitutional and statutory law in a deeply conservative mold. That means, for starters, making it harder for minorities to vote, for workers to bargain for better wages and conditions, for consumers to stand up to big business and for women to control what happens to their bodies. It also means making it easier for people to buy and sell weapons of mass killing, for lawmakers to green-light discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, for industries to pollute the environment with impunity, and for the wealthy to purchase even more political influence than they already have.”

Labor Day seems like a good time to consider what little is known about Kavanaugh’s views on worker rights, which Steven Greenhouse does in his op-ed, “How Trump Betrays ‘Forgotten’ Americans” in The New York Times: “It doesn’t look as if Mr. Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, will be a friend to workers or unions. In an astonishingly anti-worker opinion in a case involving a SeaWorld trainer killed by an orca whale, Mr. Kavanaugh wrote in 2014 that the Labor Department was wrong to fine SeaWorld. Dissenting in a 2-to-1 case, he suggested that the Labor Department should not “paternalistically” regulate the safety of SeaWorld’s trainers because they, like tiger tamers and bull riders, were sports and entertainment figures who accepted the risk of injury in hazardous businesses that usually regulated their own dangers. His opinion had echoes of 19th-century state court rulings that factory workers assumed the risk of injuries from machinery that cut off their hands.” In other words, do owners of hazardous businesses have an obligation to protect their workers?  If Kavanaugh’s emails and records as white house staff secretary are ever released, no one should be shocked if they indicate his support of anti-worker legislation and nominees, as well as voter supression projects based on race.

Jonathan Chait’s “Trump Is a Snob Who Secretly Despises His Own Supporters” at New York Magazine explores a meme that may have utility for the 2020 campaign, if Trump stays in office that long. As Chait writes, “Conservatives have spent decades depicting liberals as coastal snobs. Entire campaigns were built from this theme, from Michael Dukakis’s “Harvard Yard boutique” to various Democrats failing to display the requisite enthusiasm for Nascar.” And yet, for all of Trump’s “vaunted populism, he is filled with contempt for average people in general and his own supporters in particular…Trump is the ultimate snob. He has no sense that working-class people may have equal latent talent that they have been denied the chance to develop. He considers wealthy and successful people a genetic aristocracy, frequently attributing his own success to good genes.” Chait is on to something here. The ‘Democrats are snobs’ meme has worked well for the GOP, and for Trump in particular, and yes some Democrats have helped it along, as in HRC “deplorables” comment — even though Trump and the Republican elites practice snobbery as a way of life. Successfully branding a political adversary as a snob provides powerful leverage because  everyone hates a snob. Democrats really ought to develop an ad campaign presenting Trump as the elitist snob stereotype he fits so well.

“There was always a false element in Trump’s common-man appeal. (The gender reference in that sentence is not an accident.) Limiting the working class with the adjective “white” is a large part of it,” writes E. J. Dionne, Jr. in his Washingon Post Labor Day column. “The core of Trump’s ideology, such as it is, has never been about class; his passion has always been for race, culture and immigration. Many post-election studies suggested that Trump’s voters were much more energized by these issues than by economics. Watch the typical Trump stump speech, and you will find that fear-mongering smothers any uplift and that falsehoods about immigrants outnumber truths about the challenges to middle-class living standards…Any politician who is serious about the working class needs to think about it as a whole — which means remembering how many wage-earners are African American and Latino. They have been hit as hard by deindustrialization as white workers and, in many places, harder…As David Cooper noted this summer in an analysis for the Economic Policy Institute, while 8.6 percent of white workers were paid poverty wages in 2017, the figures were 19.2 percent for Hispanic workers and 14.3 percent for African American workers.”

At The Plum Line, Paul Waldman touches on an often overlooked group conflict that influences today’s politics: “The version we live through, however, has its most direct roots in the 1960s, when liberals grew their hair long, danced to rock music, took drugs and had all the fun, while conservatives looked on in horror, contempt and more than a little envy…Ever since, barely a campaign goes by when we don’t replay the conflict between the hippies and the squares in one form or another. And it has often worked to the benefit of Republicans, who get strong support from older voters, including baby boomers of the Jeff Sessions variety, who ground their teeth in rage as they watched their free-spirited peers pile into vans and head off to Woodstock, vowing that one day they’d be in a position to lock those pot-smoking degenerates behind bars.” Ironically, an unknown, but probably substantial portion of the hippie generation actually became conservative Republicans over time– many, if not most of them, are now in their seventies. But the perception and it’s attendant resentments linger on in the likes of Jeff Sessions. The good news, as Waldman notes, is that today’s younger voters “can’t stand the GOP. According to a recent NBC/GenForward poll, only 26 percent of millennials have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 60 percent have an unfavorable impression. (The numbers for the Democratic Party were 44 percent favorable and 42 percent unfavorable.)” But there is reason to hope that today’s younger voters will turn out in more impressive percentages than did their predecessors.

In “Where did our raises go? To health care,” Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson flags a new study co-sponsored by the firm Willis Towers Watson and the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, a business group, which finds that “For the bottom 60 percent of U.S. workers, wage gains have been completely wiped out by contributions for employer-provided health insurance…The study focused on full-time, year-round workers from 1980 to 2015. It did not cover people who were unemployed or had government insurance (Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act)…For the bottom 50 percent of workers, employers’ health insurance contributions averaged 30 to 35 percent of companies’ total compensation packages. Companies also increased the premiums that workers themselves must pay to get coverage. From 1999 to 2015, worker premiums for a family plan more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars, from about $2,000 annually to almost $5,000…The problem is plain: We’d all like both cheaper health insurance and higher wages, but the way the health-care system is operating today, we might get neither. As insurance premiums get more expensive, inflation-adjusted (“real”) wages will continue to stagnate or decline.”

An oldie, but more relevant than ever bumper sticker:

If you know anyone who doubts the bumper sticker’s premise, direct them to this 2012 article in Forbes, ‘The Capitalist Tool.’

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