washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In Ruy Teixeira’s op-ed “The midterms gave Democrats clear marching orders for 2020” in The Washington Post, he shows why Democrats must do just a little bit better with white non-college voters: “Where Democrats succeeded, how did they succeed? And where they failed, how did they fail? The formula for success in the Upper Midwest seems clear: Carry white college graduates, strongly mobilize nonwhite voters, particularly blacks, and hold deficits among white non-college-educated voters in the range of 10 to 15 points. Unlike Hillary Clinton in 2016 (she was obliterated among white non-college-educated voters in state after state), Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota got all three parts of the formula right in the midterms…Brown in Ohio got it right, too. According to exit polls, he carried white college graduates by five points and lost white non-college-educated voters by a mere 10 points. Cordray lost white non-college-educated voters by 22 points. In a state where white non-college-educated voters make up well more than half the electorate, that was enough to sink him…Success against Trump in 2020 in the Upper Midwest will depend on repeating this formula. The necessity to keep down deficits among white non-college-educated voters, especially in rural and small-town areas, will be hard with Trump on the ballot. But the 2018 results show Democrats the way in the Upper Midwest.”

Teixeira continues, “The Southwestern success formula: Carry or come close to carrying white college graduates; gain strong turnout and support from nonwhites, particularly Latinos; cap the deficits among white non-college-educated voters in the low 20s. Democrats can get away with higher deficits among white non-college-educated voters because the nonwhite share of voters in these states is much higher than in the Midwest…In 2018, this formula worked in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and in the Arizona Senate race, with notably strong Latino support, but it failed in the Texas Senate race. Why? O’Rourke also drew strong Latino support, and his performance among white college-educated voters was quite good for a Democrat in Texas. But his deficit among white non-college-educated voters was a disaster: O’Rourke lost these voters by 48 points, according to the exit polls.” In the south, Teixeira notes, “Democrats need to be competitive among white college-educated voters in Florida, while avoiding deficits among white non-college-educated voters that reach into the 30s. In Georgia, Democrats must keep their deficit among white college-educated voters under 20 points and stop their white non-college-educated deficit from ballooning out of control…in Florida, the deficit among white non-college-educated voters was 30 points or a little higher and, in Georgia, the same deficit was a yawning 65 points. Whittle down those deficits, maintain nonwhite-voter mobilization and reasonable competitiveness among white college-educated voters, and Democrats have a path to victory in these key Southern states.”

“Beyond the failure of moderates,” writes Vann R. Newkirk in “The Democrats’ Deep-South Strategy Was a Winner After All” in The Atlantic, “the most compelling evidence for the viability of a progressive strategy comes from farther down the ballot. Across the country, progressive ballot initiatives fared surprisingly well. Indeed, measures against gerrymandering, in favor of medical marijuana, in favor of higher minimum wages, in favor of Medicaid expansion, and in favor of criminal-justice reform received broad bipartisan support in several states, and actually outperformed Democrats running for statewide office. In Florida, even as Gillum conceded early, Amendment 4—a ballot initiative restoring the right to vote to more than 1 million people in Florida who were previously disenfranchised due to felony convictions—passed a 60 percent vote threshold and will become law. Gillum championed that amendment…Medicaid expansion, the main policy foundation of Abrams’s campaign, passed on ballot initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah; minimum-wage hikes—part of all three of the Democratic darlings’ platforms—won in Missouri and Arkansas. Voters in Colorado, Michigan, and Missouri moved to take gerrymandering out of the hands of politicians. Other significant criminal-justice reforms passed in Florida and Louisiana…What this means is that though Gillum and O’Rourke may have lost—and Abrams may be on her way—voters across the country, even some in deep-red states, are amenable to the kinds of policies that the Democratic trio championed. And support for these policies is likely even stronger than Tuesday’s results show. Medicaid expansion polls well nationally and in states that haven’t adopted it, as do minimum-wage increases. The mechanisms needed to fund those programs aren’t quite so beloved, but as Tuesday showed, voters are voluntarily choosing to implement progressive reforms and to pay for them.”

In Nate Cohn’s “Weak Spots in Democrats’ Strong Midterm Results Point to Challenges in 2020” at The Upshot,” he writes that “Democrats can muscle their way through those disadvantages with a big enough win, like their seven-point advantage in the House popular vote. But white voters without a degree are overrepresented in the most important Midwestern battleground states. The most straightforward alternative for Democrats goes through Florida, which probably gave Republicans their most promising results last week.” Cohn adds, “To win the presidency, Democrats will probably need at least one of Florida, Arizona or Michigan, or else they’ll most likely need to win a state where they lost more decisively in 2016 — like North Carolina, Georgia or Texas. Democrats fell short, or seemed on track to fall short, in prominent races in those three states last week.”

“With the results of the November midterm elections, we have officially witnessed the end of Rubinomics,” Chris Hughes writes at The Nation. “Former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin was the ringleader of an incremental, neoliberal economics ascendant in the Democratic Party in the 1990s and through the Obama years. The Rubin school oversaw the deregulation of banking and finance, free-trade agreements with insufficient worker and environmental protections, and the dismantling of core parts of the safety net with Bill Clinton’s “welfare reform” of 1996…A new cohort of candidates this year chose to run on a clear, unapologetic economic progressivism as good politics and good policy. A new analysis found that two-thirds of the incoming Democratic freshman class in Congress campaigned on some form of Medicare for All or the expansion of Social Security. Nearly 80 percent campaigned on tax credits that benefit working families or on rolling back Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy. The election showed that the percolating economic progressivism of newly elected Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley was not just a flash in the pan—it’s a politics that works at the ballot.”

“Things are looking up for the Democrats, who are poised to grow their House majority in 2020,” Alex Shephard observes in his article, “Don’t Blow This, Democrats: Impeaching President Trump will only help the Republican Party” at The New Republic: “From infrastructure to health care (including Medicare for All), the party’s policy agenda is broadly popular. They may not regain the Senate until 2022, due to yet another unfavorable map in 2020, but impeachment talk would only make that harder, as polling suggests it would turn off the rural voters they need to win back seats in states like Ohio. In the meantime, the odds are only growing that the economic recovery will sputter, feeding the growing backlash against Trump and Republicans. And the GOP under Trump seems intent on appealing only to white men, a demographic that shrinks by the year.”

Some statistics from The Center for American Women in Politics: “A record number of women will serve in the U.S. Congress in January 2019, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers…In the 116th Congress, at least 125 (105D, 19R, 1 pending) women will serve overall, increasing the percentage of women in Congress from 20% to 23% at minimum. That includes the 124 (105D, 19R) women who have already been declared winners, as well as a guaranteed seat for a woman in an undecided all-female contest in the House (CA-45). There are five additional House races featuring a woman candidate that also remain too close to call (CA-39, GA-7, NY-22, NY-23, UT-4)…At least 102 (88D, 13R, 1 pending) women will serve in the U.S. House (previous record: 85 set in 2016), including a minimum of 43 (42D, 1R) women of color. Women will be at least 23% of all members of the U.S. House, up from 19.3% in 2018…At least 23 (17D, 6R) women will serve in the U.S. Senate (previous record: 23), including 4 (4D) women of color. Women will be at least 23% of all members of the U.S. Senate, matching women’s current level of Senate representation…9 (6D, 3R) women have already won races for governor in 2018.”

A pretty good video primer on voter purging from vox.com:

Congratulations to Carol Anderson on her book, “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy” making the Washington Post’s “Best Books of 2018” list: According the the summary blurb, “In a kind of sequel to her book “White Rage,” Anderson examines voter suppression tactics since the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that, she argues, account for the precipitous decline of black voters in the 2016 election. According to the Emory professor, that drop-off was not a one-time anomaly but rather evidence of a systemic hijacking of our democracy that involved purging voters, gerrymandering, instituting voter ID laws, closing polling places and preventing felons from voting. Her bleak conclusion: “In short, we’re in trouble.” Bloomsbury.” A longer review by Timothy Smith is here.

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

    • Chris on

      Glad to see that Democrats have stumbled upon their old values of being the “peoples party”. I’m especially thrilled to see the refusal of corporate (or corrupt) money. During elections the renewed efforts to contact everyone and to address their needs is commendable. BUT I’m not seeing any discussion of the incredible importance of “campaigning” on the local level between elections by actually acting in the interests of the constituents. These actions may not nessecarily succeed but they need to be made known to the constituents as well as the reasons for their successes and failures. For example the democratic house passed a minimum wage increases but the republican senate did not.

      If you find a way to let everyone know what your doing for them in-between elections then your job during the election in simple and easy.

      Dare I suggest that a better use of you election war-chest might be spent between elections.

      This strategy would set the Republican Party so far back they would be playing catchup for decades and would reform their agendas (for the better) to compete.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.