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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times Sunday Review article “Trump Is Beginning to Lose His Grip: It isn’t just white suburban women who switched to Democrats. Parts of rural and white working class America peeled off too,” Stanley B. Greenberg writes “America’s polarized citizenry took a break from intense partisan bickering to produce the highest off-year turnout in a midterm election in 50 years on Nov. 6. Is it possible that all that effort actually nudged us forward a bit?…Because the votes were counted so slowly across the country, we were also slow to realize that Democrats had won the national congressional vote by a margin greater than that of the Tea Party Republicans in 2010. In fact, Democrats overcame huge structural hurdles to win nearly 40 seats.” Greenberg cites a Democracy Corps’ election night survey for Women’s Voice Women’s Vote Action Fund and a study of the exit polls conducted for Edison and Catalist, which indicates that “Democrats did not win simply because white women with college degrees rebelled against Mr. Trump’s misogyny, sexism and disrespect for women. Nearly every category of women rebelled…Democrats got their wave in part because a significant portion of male and female white working class voters abandoned Mr. Trump and his Republican allies.”

Greenberg continues: “In 2016, the white working class men that Mr. Trump spoke most forcefully to as the “forgotten Americans” gave him 71 percent of their votes and gave only 23 percent to Hillary Clinton. This year, the Republicans won their votes with a still-impressive margin of 66 to 32 percent. But what was essentially a three-to-one margin was deflated to two-to-one, which affected a lot of races.” Given Trump’s betrayals on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax cuts for the rich, “it is no surprise that more than half of white working class men now believe that Mr. Trump is “self-dealing” and corrupt.The Democratic Senate candidates in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania called out the president on these issues and won by more than double digits…10 percent of 2016 Trump voters supported Democrats this year, and 40 percent of moderate Republicans either voted Democratic or stayed home…On Election Day, a stunning 54 percent of those who voted said immigrants “strengthen our country.” Mr. Trump’s party lost the national popular vote by seven points, but he lost the debate over whether immigrants are a strength or a burden by 20 points.”

“Democrats could not have picked up as many House seats as they did in 2018 without raising their share of the vote by four points in the suburbs, which have grown to encompass 50 percent of voters,” notes Greenberg. However, “Democrats made their biggest gains not there, but in the rural parts of the country. That was the shocker,” Greenberg writes. “Democrats cut the Republicans’ margin in rural areas by 13 points, according to the Edison exit poll and by seven points in one by Catalist. Democrats still lost rural America by somewhere between 14 and 18 points so that left Democrats in a pickle there. That had implications for the Senate, but it shouldn’t conceal the fact that Democrats actually made progress in rural areas…The Democratic wave exposed Mr. Trump’s vulnerability and suggests a less polarized country. In the face of his divisive campaign, parts of rural and working class America peeled off…I thought it would take Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020 for America to be liberated from this suffocating polarization, but it may have already begun.”

The Democratic hopes for 2020 are linked to a measure Florida midterm voters aproved, which will restore the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions who have served their sentences, “as long as the crime committed was not murder or sexual abuse,” notes Frances Robles in “1.4 Million Floridians With Felonies Win Long-Denied Right to Vote” in The New York Times. Robles adds that “the state created a potential pool of a million-plus voters overnight. Some experts suggested that a new stream of Democratic voters might emerge from the referendum, called Amendment 4, but others doubted that one party would automatically benefit.” However, “I do think that Amendment 4 is going to transform Florida forever, but nobody really knows exactly how and when, because nobody has a good understanding of what the political leanings are of 1.4 million people who have completed all the terms of their sentences,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.” robles notes that “Florida was one of just three remaining states — the others being Iowa and Kentucky — that prevented people with felony records from voting.”

In his New York Times op-ed, “Democrats, Don’t Procrastinate on America’s Health: If lawmakers hope to build on the Affordable Care Act and fix its flaws, they have to get to work now,” Public health expert Harold Pollack explores Democratic options for the next step in health care reform, and also shares some progress that will result from the 2018 midterm elections, including: “The Democrats’ House victories in the midterms are an important step in that direction. Medicaid will expand in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, thanks to ballot initiatives, and could expand in Kansas, Maine and Wisconsin, thanks to those states’ new Democratic governors-elect.”

Matt Viser explains why “In Mississippi, Republican concern rises over a U.S. Senate runoff that should have been a romp” at The Washingtyon Post: A U.S. Senate runoff that was supposed to provide an easy Republican win has turned into an unexpectedly competitive contest, driving Republicans and Democrats to pour in resources and prompting a planned visit by President Trump to boost his party’s faltering candidate. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith stumbled recently when, in praise of a supporter, she spoke of her willingness to sit in the front row of a public hanging if he invited her — words that, in the South, evoked images of lynchings. She has struggled to grapple with the fallout, baffling members of her party and causing even faithful Republicans to consider voting for her opponent, former congressman Mike Espy…In the first balloting on Nov. 6, Hyde-Smith narrowly topped the field with 41.5 percent and Espy came in second with 40.6 percent. Republican firebrand McDaniel came in third with 16.5 percent…The campaign is a test of both sides ability to get voters to the polls five days after Thanksgiving. There is only one debate, taking place on Tuesday…“We all know her 41 percent who turned out. We know who ours are,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic consultant working for Espy. “I doubt that many new people are going to be voting. It’s who can motivate their folks.”..Black voters make up 38 percent of the population in Mississippi, and Democratic strategists estimate Espy only needs about 30 percent of the white vote to win. On Nov. 6, an Associated Press voter survey found 57 percent of white voters supported Hyde-Smith, while 21 percent backed Espy and 18 percent voted for McDaniel. Some 83 percent of black voters supported Espy.”

The other part of Hyde-Smith’s gaffe is also revealing, as Paul Waldman notes at The Plum Line: “Hyde-Smith is in trouble again for saying out loud what we all know: ‘Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is facing backlash for her remarks once again after saying laws that “make it just a little more difficult” for some college students to vote are “a great idea.”…A video tweeted Thursday afternoon shows Hyde-Smith telling a small crowd in Starkville, Miss., that “they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”…Her campaign said Thursday that the senator was joking and that the video was “selectively edited.”…I’m sure she was making a joke, of the “Ha ha, isn’t it funny that this is what we do but we actually get away with pretending it’s not what we’re doing!” variety.” waldman adds, “This isn’t the first time a Republican has admitted that his or her voter suppression efforts are indeed about voter suppression; back in 2012, a state senator in Pennsylvania famously bragged that the voter-ID requirement Republicans passed “is gonna allow Governor [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” in the 2012 presidential election.” Waldman concludes, “wherever they have the power to do so, they’re going to redouble their efforts to put hurdles in front of the ballot box, particularly for minority voters. And they have a Supreme Court majority that will sign off on all of it.”

In the midterm elections, Democrats did a good job of avoiding major blunders, including the ‘circular firing squad’ trap. But conflict is inevitable in the big tent party, and now there will be some infighting  between House Democrats who support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker and those who want new leadership. In her NYT opinion article, “Go Ahead, Democrats. Fight Over Nancy Pelosi: Just get it out of your systems now, please,” Michelle Cottle argues that now is a good time to have that fight, and further, that some good can come out of it: “Why shouldn’t reformers press their issues now, when they have influence with leadership? While Ms. Pelosi is seeking their support, they can lobby for rule changes to empower the rank-and-file, to reform how chairmanships are assigned, to put in place programs aimed at nurturing young talent — or maybe even to extract a promise that she will step gracefully aside in 2020…Ms. Pelosi is a wily negotiator — one of the wiliest. She is not going to get rolled. But history shows that she does need a shove now and again to get her to embrace change. Better to have as many of these fights as possible before the new Congress convenes in January. At that point, the caucus will need to get focused and pull together for the real fights to come.”

Otherwise, it won’t matter much, according to Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, who makes a case that “Nancy Pelosi Should, And Will, Be Democrats’ Speaker Of The House” at HuffPo. As Creamer writes, “To succeed, progressives need a House speaker who is staunchly progressive, a visionary, tough strategist and an organizer. Luckily, there is an obvious candidate who fits that very description ― Nancy Pelosi.” In addition to her impressive track record of legislative accomplishments (shepherding ACA, Dodd-Frank, Recovery Act), “her connections with grassroots progressive organizations are unrivaled. She convenes regular calls with scores of those organizations to hear updates on their priorities and to share news from the House…Bottom line: The odds remain very good that the Democrats in the House will, in fact, be led by a strong progressive leader ― Nancy Pelosi ― during the next two critical years, when more is at stake than at any time in the last half-century.”

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