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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein’s article, “What Liberal Organizers Are Seeing on the Ground in 2018” at The Atlantic spotlights the impressive activism of Working America, and offers a number of insightful observations, including: “Michael Podhorzer, who supervises Working America as the AFL-CIO’s political director, says the evidence suggests that suburban college-educated voters, particularly those who most revile Trump, will likely vote in large numbers in November. By contrast, the blue-collar whites who surged to the polls for Trump in 2016 appear less motivated to come out for other Republicans—just as many of Obama’s younger and minority supporters didn’t show up during the GOP landslide in 2010, his first midterm election. “In a peculiar irony,” Podhorzer says, “Trump may have something of Obama’s problem in 2010: If he’s not on the ticket, the surge voters are not going to come out and vote for congressional Republicans.”…And while support for the president in white working-class communities remains formidable, the Working America organizers say they have succeeded in moving some blue-collar Trump supporters, especially women, away from GOP candidates. They’ve done so by highlighting Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as well as the risk that huge deficits created by the GOP tax plan will eventually compel cuts in Medicare and Social Security.”

Brownstein continues, “But Podhorzer, Morrison, and Nussbaum all caution that recapturing the House this fall wouldn’t mean that Democrats have solved all of their problems for 2020. For starters, each says Working America’s experience indicates that, despite all of Trump’s racial provocations, Democrats still face a serious challenge improving on the lackluster minority turnout that hurt Clinton in 2016. In its canvasses, the group has found that working-class minority communities are no more, and may be even less, engaged than their white counterparts. All three say they see no sign this year of an uptick from the typical midterm-turnout decline among minorities—and no evidence that distaste for Trump alone will change the equation for 2020…The core of the Democrats’ problem, they believe, is that while many minority voters see Trump and the GOP as hostile, they are not convinced Democrats have ideas to meaningfully improve their economic condition. White blue-collar communities are even more skeptical. Among these working-class voters on both sides of the color bar, Morrison says flatly, “it is not credible to see the Democrats, broadly speaking, as a change agent.” The ominous result for Democrats? In all parts of the country, families that cite the economy as their top concern during Working America’s door-knocking visits prefer Republicans.”

NYT columnist Paul Krugman nails the GOP’s Kavanaugh confirmation strategy — and a good way for Dems to describe it: “At a fundamental level, the attempt to jam Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court closely resembles the way Republicans passed a tax cut last year. Once again we see a rushed, nakedly partisan process, with G.O.P. leaders withholding much of the information that’s supposed to go into congressional deliberations. Once again the outcome is all too likely to rest on pure tribalism: Unless some Republicans develop a very late case of conscience, they will vote along party lines with the full knowledge that they’re abdicating their constitutional duty to provide advice and consent.”

Democrats who want to see more passion from the party’s top leaders ought to be pleased with the  comments by Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker at the Kavanaugh hearings. Booker’s “I am Spartacus” moment drew predictable ridicule from the GOP, but voters who like a little moxie in political leaders — a frequently-cited concern many voters have about Democrats — have to appreciate Booker’s gutsy dare to the GOP to “bring it,” regarding their threat to expel him. Harris also showed plenty of mettle in her bulldogging Kavanaugh, who looked quite shaken by focused interrogation. Not many Republican leaders would welcome the chance to debate her.

Ed Kilgore’s “Most Americans Can’t Name a Supreme Court Justice” at New York Magazine notes that “A new survey of likely voters by C-Span, moreover, shows that 91 percent of them agree that: “Decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court have an impact on my everyday life as a citizen.” But asked if they could name any of the Court’s current members, 52 percent could not. This is not a new thing, to be sure: the same C-Span question back in 2009 showed 54 percent as unable to name a sitting justice.” Less depressing and more interesting, Kilgore notes that “82 percent of those who voted in the 2016 elections claim that Supreme Court appointments were important to their presidential vote. By nearly a three-to-one margin, respondents favored some sort of restriction on SCOTUS tenure (as opposed to the current lifetime appointments).”

In his New York Times op-ed, “Trump and the Koch Brothers Are Working in Concert: They disagree about trade, tariffs and immigration, but don’t be fooled. Neither side can get what it really wants without help from the other,” Thomas B. Edsall explains why Dems should not be suckered by talk that the Koch brothers have split with Trump: “In practice, the Trump-Koch alliance has been extraordinarily productive, and the alliance is the odds on favorite to win the battle to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, where he is likely to cement a conservative majority for the foreseeable future…Looking toward November, the Koch organizations are already committedto attacking incumbent Democratic Senators in Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida while looking at their chance of influencing the outcome in as many as 14 other races. In addition, the network plans to support Republican candidates for governor in Nevada, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Florida, a list that is expected to grow longer as the midterms heat up.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich and Nate Silver plug Silver’s concept of “elasticity” into the 2016 midterm elections. They note that “A state’s elasticity is simply how sensitive it is to changes in the national political environment. A very elastic state is prone to big shifts in voter preferences, while inelastic states don’t blow as much with the political winds…An elastic state isn’t necessarily a swing state, or vice versa. Think of the difference between a state that is decided by 1 percentage point every election (an inelastic swing state) and one that votes 10 points Democratic one year and 10 points Republican the next (an elastic swing state). In other words, elasticity helps us understand elections on a deeper level. Just knowing that both of those districts are competitive doesn’t tell you everything you need to know; for example, the two call for different campaign strategies (turnout in the former, persuasion in the latter).” Read the article for their take on particular midterm races.

Here’s how close the midterms are shaping up in Florida: “New Quinnipiac University polls of the gubernatorial and Senate races in Florida found that both are neck and neck, with voters almost evenly split between the Democratic and Republican candidates,” report Dhrumil Mehta and Janie Velencia, also at FiveThirtyEight. “That’s not all that surprising in a perpetual swing state like Florida. But here’s what did catch our eye: The vast majority of Florida voters are already committed to a candidate with about two months still left until Election Day. Only 3 percent of voters in the gubernatorial poll and 2 percent of voters in the Senate poll said they were undecided.”

Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In order for Democrats to win the Senate, they need to do two of three things: 1.) Win both Republican-held Toss-up seats in Arizona and Nevada; 2.) Hold all 26 seats they currently hold, several of which are in states that Trump won in landslides; or 3.) Win at least one Senate seat in a dark red state where Republicans are currently favored, be it Mississippi, Tennessee, or Texas. At this point, we might peg Democrats as slightly better than 50-50 to accomplish No. 1, but we’d put Republicans as a bit better than 50-50 to prevent Democrats from accomplishing No. 2 and even better to prevent them from accomplishing No. 3. So that’s why Republicans continue to be favored to hold the Senate, in our view. That said, the Democratic path to a Senate majority does not involve them doing something radically out of the ordinary to win: The presidential out party did not lose a single incumbent-held seat in any of the last three midterms in the Senate, for instance, and both Arizona and Nevada (if not the redder Republican-held states) certainly fit the profile of Senate battlegrounds the out party could win in a year like this one. In other words, if Democrats swept the closest races and captured a small majority, it would be surprising, but not shocking.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    What Liberal Organizers Are Seeing on the Ground in 2018″
    Cool, but on the not so positive feedback: I was hoping they would have asked why they felt that way about democrats credibility and policies vs republicans.
    I know they organized the people they talked to into groups that were supposed to be the default reason for their opinions but if that’s all there is to it then the answer you’re left with is finding a way to get the working class college educated and higher paying jobs by November 2018.

    If you need categories to understand how people are going to vote or how to talk to them directly you should let them self identify. you know multiple choice, creative is good so of course there has to be write in options. 😉 I probably shouldnt read these studies.

    Republicans are always talking about strength, security and loyalty. Be sure to explain how they are failing but also you can present progressive policies with those values and it would be true. Having a government that works for the people is America first. We should not be electing politicians who are there to dismantle our government and essentially drag it through the streets in chains for the country (and international community) to “look at your great king now!” That’s what invaders do.


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