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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In their article, “The Suburbs Are Changing. But Not in All the Ways Liberals Hope” in The Upshot, Emily Badger, Quoctrung Bui and Josh Katz provide some insights into the force driving political preferences of the suburban voters who were so influential in the midterm elections. In this excerpt, they spotlight a demographic trend that is helping to reverse the damage done by the GOP’s gerrymandering project: “Many of the districts that flipped Democratic this year, particularly in Sun Belt suburbs of Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Orange County, have grown much more racially and economically diverse, defying conventional portraits of suburbia…“The imagination of the suburbs is stuck in a model that emerged in Orange County in the 1960s: Goldwater-Reagan voters, white-collar, conservative activists,” said Matthew Lassiter, a University of Michigan historian who has also studied suburban voters…The demographic change that Democrats hope will advantage them nationally — as long as Republicans continue to seem uninterested in courting minorities — is already well underway in these places.”

Writing at nbcnews.com, Donna Ladd, editor-in-chief of the Jackson Free Press, sees a ray of hope for Democrats in Mike Espy’s loss in the U.S. Senate rce in Mississippi: “Exit polls for the general election on November 6 showed the usual for our state — people under age 45 supported Democrat Mike Espy while people over 45 voted Republican…But this time, the volume of dissent to the status quo in Mississippi is louder than it’s ever been — including among many white natives — and that is going to make Republicans’ use of racist political strategies much harder in upcoming elections. Espy may have lost the race but, like successful battles first to end slavery and then Jim Crow in this region, his ideas may still win the war.”

WaPo syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. notes that “Espy, the first African American congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction, ran better than past Democratic candidates not only by producing an impressive turnout in predominantly black counties but also by cutting into Republican margins in more urbanized and suburban parts of the state. Hyde-Smith partly offset these gains with overwhelming margins in the white, rural counties that dominate politics in the Magnolia State…What’s striking is that the weakness of a Trumpified GOP among better-educated, suburban voters was on display in Mississippi, which no one expects to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate anytime soon…These middle-class and upscale voters produced a large new bloc of Democrats in the House of Representatives. Many of the newcomers came from traditionally blue states, but metropolitan districts in the red states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah and Georgia also fell their way. These victories helped account for the Democrats’ astonishing popular-vote margin of s ome 9 million in House contests , and they triumphed in districts that were once hospitable to a moderate brand of Republicanism that has been crushed in the Trump era. You could say that moderate and progressive Republicans now live inside the Democratic Party.”

Meanwhile, a big Democratic win in Oklahoma opens up the possibilities in the southwest:

At The Daily 202, James Hohman observes, “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wading into primaries in swing districts caused months of angry grumbling from the left, including a public rebuke from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and an onslaught of negative coverage from left-leaning outlets like The Intercept. But the leaders of the party committee cared more about winning the House majority than ruffling feathers, and it’s becoming clearer as the dust settles that their strategy succeeded.” Hohman notes that DCCC intervention, which included finding win-win strategies and ‘sweeteners’ for candidates to run in other races paid of in at least two California distrcts, one in Sacramenta, the other the the Central Valley. Credit the DCCC with smart navigation of CA ‘jungle primaries’ to benefit the party.

Elaine Kamarck shares some of the reasons why “Why Nancy Pelosi Deserves to Be Speaker” in her New York Times op-ed,  including “Even her detractors say that she’s best at one of the most critical, if not most critical, roles of speaker, which is to court votes and count votes. Counting is a lot more complicated than conducting a survey. It involves understanding the political challenges of each and every member of Congress and then devising a legislative package that can pass. Sometimes this entails compromise; sometimes this entails structuring the vote so that a member can cast a vote against an amendment and sometimes this entails allowing a member to vote against their party — if it already has the votes to prevail…in 2005, she played a central role in the battle against privatizing Social Security. For the Affordable Care Act, she united both the left and right wings of her caucus. Later, as minority leader, she managed to keep the caucus together enough to prevent the Republican Congress from chipping away at Obamacare…To court votes, an effective legislative leader cannot stick to an overtly ideological line. If she were rigid, she wouldn’t be able to hold together a caucus that consists of conservative “blue dogs” and “democratic socialists.”..Ms. Pelosi and her leadership partner Steny Hoyer of Maryland were a very big part of the reason that the party gained at least 39 seats. Mr. Hoyer recruited and campaigned with candidates from the purple or red districts where Ms. Pelosi was viewed as too liberal. She helped raise the millions to make it all happen. They both imposed a stern message of discipline on their candidates, downplaying talk of impeachment and focusing Democrats on pocketbook issues like health care.”

Good points all, but Matthew Yglesias makes a case at Vox that “Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker again. What Democrats need now is a TV talking head.” Pelosi is a great organizer but, Dems would do well to spotlight some younger members, if only for the sake of greater age diversity. As Yglesias explains, “Pelosi’s closest allies have never maintained that her great strength in politics is as a stump speaker or a high-energy television presence. Pelosi’s critics are a grab bag of conservative members, restive progressives, and newly elected members from swing districts — all of whom are united more by a lack of seniority in Congress than by a distinct ideological perspective. They don’t really have a coherent critique of her leadership or a different direction in mind; they just don’t want her to be a national lightning rod when a more effective messenger could represent them…Pelosi’s discursive style of speaking does not lend itself to sound bites. There are no viral Pelosi clips, no iconic Pelosi speeches, and no vast cheering crowds at Pelosi rallies. The speaker doesn’t necessarily need to be a high-wattage, charismatic public communicator. But — especially if she isn’t going to be those things — someone else has to step up.” Pelosi is not going to give up the most high-profile media opportunities that come to her as speaker. But she could designate several of the younger members to make announcements and do interviews on  occasions, which would also help convey an image of greater Democratic unity, just as Dems alow younger members to respond to the State of the Union speech.

Paul Waldman examines the difference between a political ‘centrist’ and a ‘moderate’ at The Plum Line. “A moderate may agree with liberals at some times and with conservatives at others,” says Waldman, while “a centrist is more committed to the fantasy that our problems have easy solutions if we’ll just put aside our party labels and get together to “solve problems.” But the idea that there are non-ideological solutions to our problems, solutions everyone will embrace if only they can throw off their team colors, is just wrong. Not in every case, but in most of them. When we decide how our economy should work or how our health-care system should be set up or whether we should pollute the air and water, we have to make not just practical judgments but value judgments too…And there’s a reason why liberals like me find centrists far more exasperating than conservatives do. Not only does the centrist position usually seem to be four parts conservatism to one part liberalism (look at the No Labels policy agenda if you doubt), but centrists take Republicans at their word when they’re plainly operating in bad faith.”

It’s a little early, but Nathaniel Rakich explains why “The Senate Will Be Competitive Again In 2020, But Republicans Are Favored” at FiveThirtyEight. “There will be at least 34 seats up for election in 2020, 22 of which are currently held by Republicans and 12 of which are currently held by Democrats — a stark contrast to the 2018 cycle, when Democrats were on the hot seat. That said, to make the kind of gains they need, Democrats will have to overcome the partisan lean of some fairly red states, plus successfully defend two seats of their own in Republican territory…My educated guess this far out is that Democrats’ best path to a Senate majority in 2020 lies in winning Maine, Colorado and Arizona, plus the vice presidency…In this scenario, either Jones would have to win or Democrats would also have to flip either Iowa or North Carolina. In a political environment where Trump remains unpopular and the Democratic presidential nominee wins by enough to have coattails, that’s not too hard to imagine. But barring a clear blue tinge to 2020, Republicans remain favored in the Senate for the foreseeable future.” But if the demographic trends noted above in the NYT article on the ‘burbs’ proceed apace – or accelerate – all bets would be off.

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. DRK on

    I always saw centrists as something more of an integralist, a realization that solutions on both sides are usually only part of the whole solution. I think a centrist is someone who is capable of finding the best way to combine the concerns of both parties and come up with the best solution for them.

    A moderate, on the other hand, often just chooses the lesser extreme of an issue, or so it seems. A lot of times they are simply economically conservative and socially liberal, without being libertarian.


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