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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post syndicated column, “Here’s where Democrats are really picking up Trump voters,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “One bottom-line truth of American politics is that given the way the electoral college operates, Democrats need to reverse the flight of the white working class to President Trump’s GOP. Ohio is ground zero this year in testing the durability of Trump’s coalition…In [Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod] Brown’s quest for reelection, the appeal to workers is working. While Ohio swung from a three-point victory for Barack Obama in 2012 to an eight-point Trump win, Brown has enjoyed leads from 13 to 18 points over Republican Rep. James B. Renacci in three polls over the past month…Brown has a political advantage in the state’s once-thriving manufacturing regions because he has been a consistent critic of free-trade pacts such as NAFTA, an area of common ground with Trump.” Dionne also flags a key pro-worker appeal of Democratic nominee for Ohio Governor Richard Cordray’s ad campaign: “You shouldn’t need a college degree,” Cordray says, “to be part of the middle class.” Count on this to become a new national Democratic theme.”

“In an academic study of competitive U.S. House primaries from 2006 to 2014, we found that extremist nominees do considerably worse in the general election, on average, than moderates,” report Stanford political scientists Andrew B. Hall Daniel M. Thompson in their article, “Should Democrats rally the base or target swing voters?” at PostEverything. “The reason, however, may come as a surprise: It’s not that extremists turn off moderates in their own party. It’s that they fire up the other party’s base…In other words, when Democrats nominate more-extreme candidates, they can expect more Republicans to show up to vote against their nominee in the general election.” Analysing vote tallies fomr the 2006 and 2014 midterm elections, the authors found that “more-extreme nominees tend to win a substantially lower average of vote shares in the general election, tend to win the general election less often, and tend to increase turnout among voters in the opposing party.”

John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politic, argues in his article “Can Taylor Swift inspire young nonvoters to vote? You bet,” also at PostEverything: “The October surprise of 2018 might well be a perfectly timed Instagram post from Taylor Swift. Is it possible that she can do for Democrats what so many of her peers failed to do in 2016?..Her Instagram post Sunday referred to specific issues that millennials like her care about and connected them to Democratic congressional candidates in her home state of Tennessee, citing a voter registration website and a Tuesday deadline. Vote.org, the website she linked to, reported nearly as many new Tennessee registrants in the 36 hours after the singer’s post as in the entire month of September, and more than double the number from August…Candidates seeking to take maximum advantage of what is a quantifiable increase of interest among young voters in the final weeks of the campaign would be wise to follow Swift’s framework. Voting is not the habit for young Americans that it is for others, so it’s critical to remind them that in every congressional district and state on Nov. 6, guns will be on the ballot — as will jobs, health care, gender equity and empowerment, education, student loans and the kind of capitalism they want to see practiced in the United States…Swift already stands out from her peers as having the most politically diverse fan base among young Americans, and I would not bet against her helping register, empower and activate just enough of them to make a difference in November, for them and the country.”

“…You must build supermajority participation, because, as the election approaches, the opposition will succeed at stripping support from a key percentage of previous yes voters. All effort must be focused on what successful union organizers call “going to the biggest-worst”: spending all our time with workers who are undecided or leaning anti-union. The biggest mistake inexperienced union organizers make is spending precious time preaching to the choir, i.e., talking to pro-union activists…These conversations are hard, so people avoid the urgent and instead do the easy (and lose). In hotly contested districts, building a supermajority means identifying the neighbor, congregant or family member who can help hold or move undecided or shaky voters (strangers simply can’t do this) and making sure the conversations are happening. To win, forget wishful thinking and build to the number needed to win assuming you lose 10 points the days before the election.” – From Jane McAlevey’s New York Times op-ed, “Three Lessons for Winning in November and Beyond: What union organizers can teach Democrats.”

NYT editorial board member Michelle Cottle writes, “With Justice Kavanaugh now safely tucked into his lifetime appointment, there’s much less cause for conservatives to stay angry. And even if they’re stewing today, or next weekend, three-plus weeks is an eternity in politics — all the more in a political climate dominated by this endlessly dramatic White House. Thus, we see prominent Republicans, including the Senate majority leader and the head of the Republican National Committee, peddling the idea that if Democrats gain power in Congress, one of their top priorities will be to impeach Justice Kavanaugh. No matter that this claim has no factual basis — it plays perfectly to the Republican base’s enduring sense of victimhood…Which is why Democrats must resist the urge to follow Republicans down this spider hole, or that of any radioactive topic designed to inflame partisan passions…Thankfully, Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress seem to recognize this and are encouraging their members to pivot toward issues aimed at bringing more people into the fold.”

Every Democratic candidate should have a a solid talking point about climate change, because their Republican opponent probably won’t and it’s a growing concern that many voters share across the political spectrum. Toward that end “10 ways to accelerate progress against climate change: From pricing carbon to shifting diets, here’s what we need to prioritize now” by Eliza Barclay and Umair Irfan at vox.com provides a useful resource for crafting soundbites and short, coherent responses. Not all ten suggestions will work for every candidate and constituency, but several will, including: “2) Subsidize clean energy, and end subsidies for dirty energy…Renewable energy sources like wind and solar power have already become dramatically more affordable. In the United States, renewables are cost-competitive with fossil fuels in some markets…if your goal is to fight climate change, it makes more sense to keep giving cleaner energy sources a boost…The fossil fuel industry is meanwhile still getting a number of direct and indirect subsidies. In the US, these subsidies can amount to $20 billion a year. Globally, it’s about $260 billion per year. Getting rid of government support for these fuels seems like a no-brainer.”

Some “key points” from “The State Legislatures: More than 6,000 down-ballot races to determine control of states: Democrats poised to pick up seats and chambers but huge existing GOP majorities may help the Republicans maintain power in many places” by Tim Storey and Wendy Underhill at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “More than four of every five of the nation’s state legislative seats will be on the ballot this year…The usual midterm presidential penalty extends to state legislative seats, where the presidential party loses an average of more than 400 state legislative seats each midterm…On average, 12 chambers flip party control each cycle. Democrats should net chambers but may fall short of that average…One possible outcome in November is that Democrats pick up hundreds of seats but manage to wrest control in just a few legislative chambers because the GOP holds such big majorities in many states…The nation is likely to elect a historically high number of women state legislators. About one in four state legislators are women currently.”

In her ThinkProgress article, “Senate Republicans show their true colors on pre-existing conditions: Only one Republican voted to block Trump’s junk insurance plan,” Amanda Michelle Gomez notes, “Protecting people with pre-existing conditions isn’t a priority for Republicans — lowering insurance premiums is. Senate Republicans said as much when they voted Wednesday against blocking the Trump administration’s expansion of health plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions….All but one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), voted in favor of these bare-bones health plans. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who voted against Obamacare repeal last summer, and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) — perhaps the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election this November, who has been campaigning on protecting people with pre-existing conditions — declined to vote in favor of the resolution.”

We close today’s edition of PSN on a hopeful note from “The Kids Are Alright — And They’re Voting in the Midterms, Study Finds: Report shows young people planning to vote in historic numbers in 2018” by Stephanie Akin at Roll Call: “Young people, who typically sit out midterm elections, are planning to vote in potentially historic numbers in 2018, according to a report released Tuesday from Tufts University. People ages 18 to 24 are also receiving more campaign outreach and paying closer attention this year, potentially matching the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, according to a report from the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University…The survey of 2,087 people ages 18 to 24 found 34 percent were extremely likely to vote. Forty-five percent of those voters said they would vote for Democrats, versus 26 percent for Republicans.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    The best answer I can give to your question, Victor, is that the Democratic extremists of these years seem to be mainly in the unelected government. For instance, Obama’s Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said we needed to find a way to raise American gasoline prices to European levels, $9-10/gallon. Lois Lerner of the IRS saw nothing wrong with harassing the Tea Party by illegal means, then when called to account she said that to explain how she did her job would be self-incrimination. The architect of Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber, explained that lack of transparency is a great advantage in getting legislation like his brainchild enacted and he depended not on the kindness of strangers but on “the stupidity of the American voter.” So, to answer your question as best I can, it wasn’t so much elected officials like President Obama who were the Democratic extremists of these years, it was his appointees.

  2. Victor on

    Who exactly were the Democratic extremists from 2006 to 2014 and do the relate in any way to the progressives of our current era in ideas, style and geographical districts?


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